§ 3.35 p.m.
§ The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill is designed to put in legislative form the proposals first published in the White Paper last autumn as they have appeared in the light of the very widespread discussions and debates which that White Paper evoked. In the words of The Times, the main proposals, having weathered the comments and criticisms which followed the White Paper, are embodied now in the form of the Bill. Therefore, though there are important variations from the White Paper, I think that I can best serve the House by saying that the Bill presents a scheme in which the main framework of the White Paper is reproduced, that is to say, a scheme offering a system of graduated pensions and contributions of a moderate size with provision for contracting out and with arrangements to concentrate the subsidy from the Exchequer particularly upon those with lowest earnings.
The House debated the White Paper in full in November, and we had a preliminary discussion of it, as the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) will recall, during the debate on the Address. I think, Mr. Speaker, that you would convict me of tedious repetition, or at any rate, of tedium, if I were for the third time to seek to take the House through the main framework of the proposals. I think that it will be more convenient, and that I can best serve the House, if I deal, first, and in greater detail, with the changes since the White Paper which appear in the Bill, and then deal with one or two of the major issues which arise out of the Bill, leaving my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, if he is successful in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker, to reply to any points that hon. Members may wish to raise.
There are three important respects in which the Bill differs from the White Paper. Two of the changes are connected with what is the underlying concept of the Bill—that this is a scheme based on a partnership between employer, employee and the taxpayer, designed to be, 888 on that basis, self-supporting and with contributions which would move in a predetermined proportion to each other. It is in that context that we have looked again at the proposal in the White Paper that the Exchequer contribution should be fixed at £170 million from the beginning of the scheme and right through.
The object in doing that in the original proposal was simply that the scheme, as hon. Members who have studied the Government Actuary's Report will realise, is only just in balance in its earlier years, but goes into more appreciable surplus later on. It was, therefore, thought more helpful to put in the full amount of Exchequer money to help the scheme in its early stages. But, in the light of the comments made in the House, in The Times and elsewhere, we feel that it is more in accordance with the spirit of the new scheme that the Exchequer contribution should also move in relationship to the other contributions, as is the provision under the present scheme.
Therefore, we abandoned the idea of a fixed £170 million and introduced a formula for the Exchequer contribution, the formula being that the Exchequer contribution shall amount to a quarter of the combined contribution of employer and employee at the flat rate minimum—going back, as the right hon. Member for Llanelly will recall, to the proposal of the 1946 Act—and should retain in respect of the self-employed the one-third of their contribution, which is the present provision.
That formula, if applied at once, would produce, not £170 million, but about £150 million. We therefore propose to retain the £170 million until such time as the formula will produce a higher figure; in other words, it is to be £170 million or the product of the formula, whichever is the higher. On present assumptions, it appears that this will happen by 1971–72, when the formula will produce £177 million.
The concept is of a scheme which is self-supporting and not running surpluses or deficits, taking one year with another, but, broadly speaking, remaining in balance. With that concept very much in mind, we have introduced a second change from the White Paper, the provision which now appears as the proviso to Clause 1 (2).
889 The main structure of the Bill provides for four quinquennial increases in contributions, the first beginning in 1965. As I have said, it is not our intention—indeed, it is one of the contrasts between our proposals and those of hon. Members opposite—to build up surpluses. It is certainly not our intention to take from the contributors more than is necessary to pay the benefits. But, as the assumptions on which the scheme is based are cautious and prudent, it may well be that the turn-out of the scheme will be more favourable to surplus than we have assumed.
The Bill therefore proposes that it shall be possible, by Order, to reduce each of the four quinquennial increases when the time comes. We do not propose that they should be increased. On this side of the House, we have always taken the view that charges on the subject by way of National Insurance contributions should be increased only by legislation. It is consistent with the spirit of the scheme to lay down the maximum for the quinquennial increases and to take power, if they are not necessary, to reduce them when the time comes. It is our view that the scheme should balance and that, in the event of either a decrease or increase in its income being necessary, that decrease or increase should be produced by a joint and proportionate movement of the contributions of all three contributors.
The third new matter is contained in Clause 6 of the Bill. That provides for an improvement in the increments which are earned by men and women who stay at work after pensionable age. As the House knows, the present position is that one has to work and contribute for 25 weeks after pensionable age to earn one increment of Is. 6d. There have been a number of complaints, while I have held my present office, of people who, having worked and contributed for 23 or 24 weeks and having fallen one or two contributions short of the amount needed for an increment, have felt those contributions to have been wasted—as, indeed, for that purpose they have been.
The first part of the proposal is to reduce the number of contributions required for the earning of an increment, and we propose to reduce it to 12. We propose to increase its value by allowing those 12 contributions to earn 1s. on the 890 weekly pension when the contributor retires and goes on pension. That provides for quite a substantial increase in the amount which can be earned by people who stay at work after pensionable age.
It takes the maximum which can be earned for a single man from 15s. to 21s. a week, and for a married man from 25s. to 31s. 6d. a week. In the case of someone who continues at work for the full five years, the total flat-rate pension he can earn—this has nothing to do with the graduated pension, which is additional—will rise to a maximum of 71s. a week for a single person, and, for a married man, 111s. 6d. a week.
§ Mr. Hunter
Will the increased increment come into effect when the Bill is passed, or will it have to wait until 1961?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I know that the hon. Gentleman wants to clear up that matter. I am coming to it, but I want to take these things in my own order.
The change is even more striking at the intermediate stages, where the change results from the interaction of the shorter period needed to earn an increment and the higher value of the increments themselves. To take a not untypical example: a man who defers retirement for two years and who, during those two years, does not work for some six weeks, during which he will not contribute, at present would draw 4s. 6d. extra. Under the Bill, he will draw 8s. extra, and if he has a wife he will draw 4s., instead of 3s., for her.
It will be appreciated that this is an improvement of the existing scheme. Here, I come to the point of the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter). Power is taken to bring in this proposal in advance of the main scheme, which is planned for April, 1961. This is possible because it is an amendment of the existing scheme; but it is an amendment which it is intended to carry on and to attach to the new flat-rate minimum under the future graduated scheme.
None the less, it comes very appropriately in the Bill. In the first place, it 891 will ultimately cost a good deal of money. In the first year, it will cost under £1 million, but the cost will steadily rise to £20 million in twenty years' time. It is exactly one of those proposals which would be, and would have been, difficult to accept, were it not for the fact that in the Bill as a whole we are putting the finances of the scheme right. We may look upon this as a kind of first fruit of solvency. It fits very well into the general picture of the Bill.
The investigations which my Department made a short time ago into the reasons for retirement showed that a substantial number of those who worked after 65 were those who were not in occupational schemes. This will help them. It will also help those, for whom some concern has been expressed, whose earnings are low, and who, therefore, would, benefit less from the provisions of the graduated scheme. It will fit very well in the future pattern and will enable an increased pension to be earned by those who are able and willing to continue at work.
It is not the only provision for increments. As we forecast in paragraph 65 of the White Paper, we propose to provide increments under the graduated scheme, too, both for graduated contributions paid after minimum pension age and also, on top of that, for graduated pension forgone because the contributor remained at work. We, propose to apply to additional graduated pensions after 65, and up to 70, the same formula as before; in other words, the pensioner will receive the "bricks" we talked about in the November debate at the same rate and same value as before he became 65, although, actuarially, contributions made at that age are a better bargain for him.
We propose, as I have said, to treat pensions not drawn as additional graduated contributions. In the case of a pension not drawn, there is no counterbalancing employer's contribution, and it is, therefore, necessary to treat pension forgone as a contribution for both employer and employee, thus producing addition pension at half the rate that it would earn if it were an actual contribution.
Although they help considerably, the proposals about increments help only that 892 substantial number of people—they include more than half the men now retiring—who stay on and earn increments. However, we all appreciate that there are others who, for one reason or another, are unwilling or unable to continue regular work after pensionable age. Nevertheless, many of those people can do a certain amount of work and what they can earn in addition to their pension is affected by what we all know as the "earnings rule."
The whole purpose of that rule is to protect the retirement principle. It is clear that if there were no earnings limit it would be possible to go through a form of retirement one day and resume full earnings the next. I do not wish to enter into a long argument on the retirement principle today. It has been accepted by Beveridge and by the Phillips Committee and its abandonment would cost over £100 million a year almost entirely in pensions paid to people in full employment. The purpose of the earnings limit is solely to protect the retirement principle. Therefore, there is no reason for keeping it any lower than is necessary for this purpose.
For retirement pensioners and widows the present earnings limit is 50s., with 6d. in the 1s. for the next 20s.; and for widowed mothers it is 60s., with 6d. in the 1s. for the next 20s. This has been so since 1956, when, for retirement pensioners, the limit had increased from 40s. Since 1956, the average earnings have risen appreciably and the latest figures show an increase for men of some 30s., and of 16s. for women.
In the light of this, the Government have been giving consideration to the earnings limit and, during the last day or two, in accordance with the provisions in the National Insurance Act, I have sent to the National Insurance Advisory Committee draft regulations which will have the effect of increasing the earnings limit for retirement pensioners and widows from the present 50s. to 60s., while preserving the 6d. in the 1s. for the next 20s. above that.
The House will recall that in 1956 widowed mothers were treated slightly differently for the purposes of the earnings limit, the figure being 60s., with 6d. in the 1s. on the next 20s. The draft regulations which I have submitted to the National Insurance Advisory Committee 893 propose to raise this 60s. to 80s. and, on top of that, to preserve the 6d. in the 1s.
The effect of these regulations, so far as retirement pensioners are concerned, will be to raise to £6 the amount which can be earned before the pension is extinguished—and the House will recall that, in the case of a married man, this does not affect the wife's pension on the husband's insurance unless she is earning on her own. For widowed mothers the amount they can earn will rise to a figure of £7 before their own personal allowance is extinguished and we are preserving the provision under which the allowance continues to be paid in respect of her children, whatever her earnings may be.
Perhaps I may say in parenthesis, that the allowance in respect of children, which, including the family allowance, is 20s. for the first two and 22s. for any subsequent children, is practically double what it was less than three years ago. I hope that this will help as a complement to the provision in respect of increments we are making for those who do not retire from work, by helping a little in respect of those who find it necessary to retire.
§ Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)
Bearing in mind that there is now quite an amount of unemployment, did the Minister consult the trade unions before deciding to give these increases?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am always available to anybody, unions or otherwise, who will give me the advantage of their advice on matters for which I am responsible. If the hon. Gentleman is asking whether I suggested to them what I was going to do, the answer is,"No". This is a decision which has to be taken on the responsibility of the Government of the day; and it is taken after the Government have ascertained the feelings and views and particularly the facts about earnings which in their judgment, bear upon that decision.
I can deal briefly with one or two Clauses in the Bill about which I might be charged with remissness were I to omit to mention them. Clause 12 and the Second Schedule are designed to deal with the situation of certain public services where there is one service, but many employers. Local government provides one example, and education, perhaps, another. It would, plainly, be very inconvenient for the working of a service of 894 that kind if some employers were to contract out and others did not. It would affect the mobility of people within those services. It is, therefore, proposed that the Minister concerned with them should, after consultation with those affected, and if he thinks it right to do so, make regulations taking unto himself the power to act as the employer simply and only for the purpose of contracting out and of matters connected with it. I think that that would be a convenient method of securing that there is only one decision in this matter in each service.
Clause 15 is designed to help those who run private schemes to modify them in accordance with their decision either to contract out or to try to live alongside the State scheme, if they desire to do so. It follows closely the provisions of the similar Section in the 1946 Act. On the question of provisions for the appointed day, as I have already mentioned in another context, the desire is to bring this Measure into effect in April, 1961. The move to the collection of graded contributions makes it convenient that it should take effect at the beginning of the financial year.
Now I will pass to one or two issues arising on this Bill. The first relates to contracting out. That is dealt with in Part II of the Bill. Indeed, the Bill, in relation to its reasonably modest length, gives a disproportionate amount of space to this subject. That is perhaps because over the rest of the Bill we are able largely to use the machinery of the 1946 Act, whereas model machinery for the new concept of contracting out has to be provided in this Measure.
In contracting out we follow the lines of the White Paper that there should be three necessary conditions: that the scheme is solvent; that it offers pension benefits in respect of the period of employment concerned equal at least to what can be earned in the State scheme at the maximum during that time; and that benefits up to that level at least are preserved on change of occupation.
Various methods of preservation are open, apart from the obvious one of frozen pensions, and I think that contracting out may be facilitated, particularly in the early stage in respect of schemes which do not at present embody the preservation of rights by the fact that the alternative will be to make a payment 895 equivalent to the difference between the contracting out contribution and the maximum contribution under the State scheme when the employee leaves his contracted-out employment. I do not think that sufficient attention has been paid outside to the importance of that payment in lieu as a means of facilitating contracting out though I am sure that its significance has not been lost upon right hon. and hon. Members in this House.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
The right hon. Gentleman has said that contracting out provides an alternative scheme with at least the benefits provided under the national scheme. Does that mean that an alternative scheme must be provided with widows' benefits?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
No, it relates only to pension benefits, not for pre-retirement widowhood. This is a pensions scheme parallel to the pension provisions of the State scheme. The equivalency must be like against like—pension benefit against pension benefit—or comparison would be difficult, if not impossible.
During the last 24 hours a statement has been issued by an organisation of employers dealing with the conditions of contracting out and suggesting that they are unduly onerous. Most of the points in that statement are frankly, Committee points, if not points for consideration when it comes to making regulations under the Bill. But there is one point involving contracting out about which it might be convenient if I said a word now. The statement objects to the fact that the amount of pension preserved when an employee leaves contracted out employment must be equivalent to the maximum he could have earned in that time in the State scheme, even though he had earned less than £15 a week and, if he had not been contracted out, his pension rights under that Scheme would have been much smaller.
This is an important provision-naturally, I sympathise with any criticisms upon it—for several reasons. It is important to secure—I shall come later to the question of the individual right of option to contract out—that if, as the Bill proposes, an option lies with the employer, no one who is contracted out against his will shall, from the point of view of pension, be a penny worse off. That is secured by this provision, which 896 also secures the preservation of the rights to which many of us attach considerable importance. It also secures compensation to the man of lower means who, because he is contracted out, might find himself contributing more to the State scheme than he otherwise would.
In return, he will, in these provisions, get, when he leaves that employment, the pension rights which he could only have earned in the State scheme at the maximum. I should have thought that a scheme which makes these simple calculations possible to employers, would help them by absolving them from the necessity of keeping records of earnings over many years. The importance of this part of the scheme may not have been appreciated.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
In connection with statutory occupational pension schemes, after the consultations have taken place between the Minister and representatives of organisations of local authorities and employers and the terms have been agreed upon on the basis of either remaining in their own schemes, of being transferred, when will the point be reached when the employee, as on former occasions, will have the right to decide once and for all the option whether he or she proposes to remain in the existing scheme or be transferred to the State?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am coming to that, as I said I would. The question of individual option has nothing to do with the position of people in other schemes where membership is not compulsory. That is a matter which is not affected in one way or the other and remains for ordinary negotiation between those concerned.
Let me come now to the question of the individual option because there has been a genuine misunderstanding about it. Both under the Bill and under the proposals of hon. Gentlemen opposite no question of any option arises unless the employer causes it to arise, and unless there is an employers' scheme brought up to the standard for contracting out. Indeed, unless an application is made, nobody has an option. Therefore, we start on the basis that no question of individual option for the population as a whole, whether in or out of private or 897 State schemes, can arise. The conception that it could has quite unwittingly been created.
The problem remains, however, and after considerable reflection we are clear about it. Contracting out must be on the employer's application, after consultation, and on his responsibility. The problems which arise when one departs from that procedure are illustrated clearly by the researches of a fellow worker in the same field, the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). He is no doubt appropriately described as the Labour Party's "pensions expert" because he gave advice in that capacity to the Fire Brigades Union in the November-December, 1958, issue of its publication, the Fire Fighter. The hon. Gentleman was perfectly clear about his proposals. He said:The Labour Party insists that, even where an employer decides to apply for the right to contract out, each of his employees must retain the right to choose between(a) remaining in the private scheme,(b) joining the National scheme, or (c) joining both and paying both contributions.The hon. Member goes on to say:… we make it a condition for the approval of private schemes that they should not be made 'a condition of service',That sounds all very well, but the practical question remains whether, on these terms, there would be any contracting out. In the first place, hon Gentlemen opposite may say that the scheme which tries to contract out cannot make membership a condition of employment; but it is a fact that insurance is the necessary taking together of averages or, if I may quote my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), "bringing the magic of averages to the service of the millions." Insurance schemes are only persisted in if they do this, and do not involve what is called in insurance circles opting against the scheme, that is, accepting none of the good risks and all the bad ones. A condition of the sort mentioned by the hon. Member would be very likely to mean that there would be very few applications for contracting out by private schemes.
I will take the hon. Gentleman's other proposal, which is that each person has to do one of these things: remain in the private scheme, join the national scheme, or join both. It sounds very attractive until we analyse it. In 898 such a case the employers would have a look at their scheme and decide whether their people could afford to pay both sets of contributions. If not, they would have to decide either to reduce or make an end of their scheme, or to apply to contract out of the State scheme and modify their scheme accordingly. But how on earth could an employer decide this without knowing which option his employees were going to take?
There is a third alternative, if hon. Gentlemen will forgive my violation of English language. If the employee has the right to join or leave both schemes, presumably the schemes are optional for the employee but compulsory for the employer. The view I would take would be that, in these circumstances, there would be very little contracting out indeed, because the initiative which, it is accepted, must lie with the employer, both to start a scheme and to bring it up to contracting out, would hardly be likely to be exercised under such stringent conditions.
Let us see what happens. The object of contracting out, both in the hon. Gentleman's scheme and ours, is to preserve private schemes from damage. If the option is made so unattractive that the scheme is not persisted in, shall we not get precisely that damage to the private schemes which the hon. Gentleman and this House would regret. I expect the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) would not regret it, because he said in the White Paper debate:I am not a great friend of the private schemes, for obvious reasons, and particularly of private schemes instituted in the steel industry to try to win the steel workers away from their allegiance to the Labour Party and in their belief in socialisation of the steel industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th November, 1958; Vol. 595, c. 231.]It strengthens the thought that many of us on these benches have had for some time, that the Labour Party scheme, with its very high element of subsidisation of the lower-paid worker by the better paid, could not and would not have effective contracting out, because, on an individual basis, a highly subsidised scheme of that sort would result in the contracting out of the subsidisers and the leaving in the scheme of the subsidised. The more we go into the scheme of contracting out, the clearer it is that there would be considerable administrative difficulties, 899 and that it would be virtually impossible for the Labour Party's proposals to follow what the hon. Member for East Coventry said in his article in the Fire Fighter on this matter.
The hon. Member answered a number of questions in this article. It is accompanied by a most agreeable photograph of the hon. Member, which, it would be almost ungallant to suggest, was taken some years ago. He answered these questions in his capacity as a Labour Party expert. He said:If a scheme contracts out of National Superannuation, the employer and the employee will continue to pay the present flat-rate contribution to National Insurance and there will, therefore, be no increase of contribution.In answer to Question 5 in this document, he said that two important conditions for firemen, who, I think, he assumes will contract out, are:We propose to raise the basic rate of flat-rate old age pension to £3 for a single or widowed person….The suggestion there is that there will be an increase in the flat-rate benefit, but no increase in the contribution for the contracted-out person. The hon. Member shakes his head, but this is what he wrote to the firemen:and there will, therefore, be no increase of contribution".The document"National Superannuation", on the other hand, which I understand, contains the proposals of the Labour Party, says, on page 39 thatthe contributions of those employees who opt to remain in private schemes would be increased in order to ensure that they pay their share towards the improved flat-rate benefit to which they are entitled".Perhaps, when he speaks, the hon. Member will tell us whether what he told the firemen, or what his party document told the public, represents the intentions of the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I have given way a number of times. Perhaps the hon. Member will try to catch your eye later, Mr. Speaker.
I now turn to the reasoned Amendment, as Parliamentary courtesy demands that I should describe it, which has been 900 placed on the Order Paper by the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) and his right hon. and hon. Friends:That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which does nothing to improve the lot of existing old age pensioners and fails to provide for a fully comprehensive national superannuation scheme.Reasoned Amendments are a device by which Oppositions seek to give themselves an excuse for voting against something which they know they wish to concede. The Leader of the Opposition, in his usual amiable way, on Thursday described the Bill as "a paltry Bill". I am bound to return the compliment and say that this is a very palty reasoned Amendment and a very much less robust one than that moved by the Opposition in the debate on the White Paper. Perhaps that indicates the ascendancy of Middlesbrough, East over Coventry, East. I do not know.
Let us compare the two Amendments. The one which was put down for the debate on the White Paper called for raising the existing retirement pension immediately. Where is "immediately" in this one? It merely says:does nothing to improve the lot of existing … pensioners".The one put down for the debate on the White Paper referred to the need for maintaining purchasing power in the future. Where is that? That has gone. Finally, the one put down for the other debate said that there should be:a fully comprehensive system of national superannuation which will abolish poverty in old age."Abolish poverty in old age"has also gone. So perhaps this is not so much of a reasoned Amendment.
The Amendment raises one issue, or, perhaps, one-and-a-half issues. It might be convenient if I deal with them now. The first is the question of the existing pensioner. The House starts from the basis that the record of my hon. Friends on this matter is immeasurably superior to that of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I do not need to remind the House of the three successive increases in the rate of benefit, totalling £1 for the single pensioner, made since 1952, compared with the 4s. in 1951 for some of 901 the pensioners, and nothing for the unemployed or sick, for which hon. Members opposite were responsible. I also do not need to remind the House of the increase—
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
—made just a year ago almost to the day.
To use the words of the hon. Member for Coventry, East in the debate on the White Paper, when he said that a 10s. increase is a big increase, this was a big increase of 10s. for a single person and 15s. for a married couple and raised the amount to a higher level than before. Since then the increase in retail prices has moved by no more than two points and the fact remains that what the pension will buy today is substantially more than it was at any period in the term of office of hon. Members opposite—6s. in the case of the single person and 9s. in the case of a married couple.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
In giving those figures and mentioning the 10s. of a year ago, has the right hon. Gentleman taken into account the withdrawal of tobacco tokens?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
If the right hon. Member wishes me to mention the whole of the details of last year's Bill it will take a long time and I do not think that it would oblige him or his hon. Friends.
The fact remains that the real value of the pension today is 10s. 8d. for the single person and 14s. 5d. for the married couple above the level to which right hon. Members opposite had just raised it when they made their increase for some pensioners in October, 1951, and they raised it to a level which one must assume they thought to be the right one. In the light of that it really is not good enough for hon. Members opposite to talk as they did in the debate on the White Paper, or to talk about a "destitution" pension, as the hon. Member for Coventry, East put it. It is a curious commentary of hon. Members opposite that they should denounce us for doing only 20 per cent. better than they did. Of course, this is an over-simplification—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member must obey the rules of order. We cannot have two hon. Members on their feet at the same time—
§ Mr. Speaker
—nor, when I am speaking, must another hon. Member rise. It is necessary to secure the consent of the hon. Member who is speaking before proceeding to interrupt him.
§ Mr. Lawson
On a point of order. Is it not also necessary that we should have fair presentation of a case, and not this version, Sir?
§ Mr. Speaker
Opinions differ violently about what is a fair presentation of a case, on both sides of the House. The point is that if an interruption or intervention is made it should be made only if the hon. Member who is speaking gives way.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
If it will pacify the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson), I will say that, of course, contributions have been increased. That I understood to be the monotonous point he was making. It is understandable in an insurance scheme—and there is no party issue on this because all parties have followed the same line—that if benefits are increased, so are contributions. I did not give way to the hon. Member, although I heard his intervention, because I did not think it would facilitate the debate—[Interruption.]— and his later intervention rather confirms me in that view.
This important issue is over-simplified again, as in the White Paper debate, by those who seek to suggest that the basic National Insurance pension is the only resource of the great majority of pensioners. Perhaps 1 million are now in receipt of occupational pensions; half the men now retiring have increments on their basic pension; many have savings. The House knows well the great increases in savings there have been in recent years under the present Government.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Failing all else—the hon. Member again is trying to assist me—there is National Assistance. 903 The House and he will be glad to know that the latest figures show the number of retirement pensioners on National Assistance as 20.3 per cent., as against 24.7 per cent. at the end of 1957.
Any change on these questions of rates is, of course, quite alien to this type of Bill which, as the House knows, is de-signed to deal with the machinery. On the Bill which came into operation a year ago, I explained that we were considering changes in the machinery, but that we were not prepared to delay helping the existing pensioners while the necessarily lengthy process of dealing with the machinery took effect, and that this Bill is now the machinery Bill following the rates Bill. When I was asked why, I explained that this was not the sort of Bill to deal with rates. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Can hon. Members imagine anything more calculated legitimately to infuriate the pensioner than to enact proposals to increase rates in a Bill the main part of which cannot come into operation before April, 1961?
I explained to the House at some length during the White Paper debate that, as we explicitly say in the White Paper, we intend, and it is our duty, to keep the main basic rates of benefit under review. There is nothing in the Bill which makes that task more difficult. On the contrary, it makes it much easier. To put the finances right is a necessary condition precedent, I should have thought, for any further advance, and I should have thought that to compare our record with that of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite should satisfy those outside of the value of our assurance. I would say this to right hon. Gentlemen opposite: those outside are more inclined to judge people and parties in this matter from what they did in office than from what they said in Opposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad that that lesson has been learned.
Let me come to the famous 10s. which they now offer. Of course, it is not 10s. for both partners of a married couple; it is 5s. each. There is a further point, which I do not think has been drawn to the attention of the public, and which is raised in the document "National Super-annuation" on page 36—I refer to the revised edition as opposed to the orthodox. I refer to the one where the sums are correct. It says: 904… we believe that the pensioners have the right to know our precise intentions… All existing pensioners, male and female, in receipt of the basic rate then in force, will be eligible for the full increase, subject only to the contribution conditions now in force under National Insurance.At the bottom of page 37 there is a note that the model scheme excludes from this increase altogether single women between 60 and 65, and it says that this is a matter on which full public discussion of this difficult issue will be helpful. When hon. Members look at the model scheme they will see that it is clear that this increase is not offered in the model scheme to women between 60 and 65 but only to men and women of 65.
What is more important, when hon. Members look at the tables at the back they will see it explicitly stated that the scheme is costed on that basis. When they talk of it being right that pensioners should know the precise intention of the parties, it is also necessary for us to be quite clear whether the statement qualified by a footnote in Part I, or the model scheme on which the financial calculations are based in Part II, represents the intention of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Taking these things together, I think that most people will be a bit doubtful about this 10s.
The reasoned Amendment also refers to the need for a comprehensive scheme of national superannuation. The word "comprehensive" is almost an "idea word" of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. How a scheme which affects every employed worker can be described as other than comprehensive I leave to the dialetical exhibitionism of the hon. Member for Coventry, East. What is important is that this reasoned Amendment should not obscure the issue on which the House is being asked to vote, or the effect which it would have if those who supported the reasoned Amendment turned out to be a majority. What they would be doing would be to make sure that we went no further—not even to Committee—with a number of proposals which, I think the House will appreciate, people outside would like to see go forward.
Those who vote for the reasoned Amendment will be voting against a reduction of 2s. 10d. in the contribution for the worst-paid employed people and a reduction of 1s. 7d. in the man's own contribution. They would be voting 905 against the introduction for the first time in this country of a scheme of graduated contributions and pensions. They would be voting against proposals to put the National Insurance Fund on that sound financial basis which must be the condition precedent for further progress. They would be voting against increasing the increments for those who continue at work after pensionable age and against adopting a system of contracting out which will spread and encourage the perservation of rights in private schemes.
The facts will be on record for hon. Members to explain; and, believe me, to state that they voted on a reasoned Amendment will not free hon. Members from having to say why they voted against things which the great majority of our non-political fellow-countrymen want to see done.
The great difference between these proposals and those to which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite more or less adhere is the scale. The scale of the proposals determines what I think is the great difference between us. Ours are proposals which will not bring back inflation and the proposals of right hon. Gentlemen opposite are plainly inflationary.
Let me remind the House of what they involve. They involve 5 per cent. from the employer on all earnings, without limit, that is, 1s. in the £ tax on all earnings in the United Kingdom. They involve 3 per cent. from the employed person earning up to £2,000 a year and 8 per cent. up to £2,000 a year for the self-employed, involving a total contribution from the self-employed of just on £3 10s. a week at £2,000 a year down to 17s. 10d. a week at £8 a week.
These are plainly inflationary, and if hon. Members will not take that from me, let them take it from "National Superannuation", which states, on page 119, that these additional costs would be shifted on to the consumer. Or let the House take it from the hon. Member for Coventry, East, who told the West of Scotland trade union delegates on 21st November, "It will be an inflationary scheme".
§ Mr. Boyd Carpenter
I have the cutting here if it will assist the hon. Member, although I hesitate to inflict the whole of his exuberant eloquence on the House. This is a quotation from the Glasgow Herald of 22nd September, 1958. He said:It will be an inflationary scheme and it will produce disaster if people try to add to their wages the cost of their superannuation contributions.He said that it would be inflationary.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
No. The hon. Member forgets his eloquence. He said:It will be an inflationary scheme and it will produce disaster if …
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
It is no use the hon. Member trying to argue this from a sedentary position. Let me read what the hon. Member is reported as saying and leave it to the House to judge. He said:It will be an inflationary scheme and it will produce disaster if people try to add …
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The proposition is quite simple. The hon. Member is making two points. He says that it is an inflationary scheme and, as a second and separate proposition, he says that this inflationary scheme will produce disaster if people try to get the money back. I am not arguing that he is saying necessarily that it would be a disaster. I am arguing that he is on record as saying without qualification that it is an inflationary scheme.
§ Mr. Crossman
It is a pity that the Minister should try to extract from this Press report a totally misleading impression. I was making it perfectly clear in that speech that people have to pay for their old-age pensions—I wish the Minister would support me in this—and that we shall have inflation if people are not prepared to pay for them. I bitterly regret that the Minister should try to distort my words and make something totally different from them. I said that this will be inflationary and that it will lead to disaster if people are not prepared to pay their contributions without trying to get the money back in increased wages. The Minister knows perfectly well what 907 I said and it only shows the barrenness of his argument that he has to revert to that type of sheer misrepresentation to try to finish a lengthy and very unsatisfactory speech.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The hon. Gentleman has, I think, convicted himself out of his own mouth. He has convicted himself, because it has brought home to him that he has not appreciated the fact that he said two things—that it would be an inflationary scheme and—he repeated the word at that Box, as the House will recall—and that it would produce disaster.
I am not arguing on the second point, of disaster. But I am not going to let the hon. Gentleman get away with the first. The hon. Gentleman, when he said that, was quite right. He said no more than is said in "National Superannuation". He has said no more than he himself and his friends put on page 119 of this document, when they said that these massive contributions would be shifted on to the consumer. If that is not inflation, nothing is. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should get so excited at his own commendable frankness—and I agree entirely with the theme of his speech—when he said that if people seek to get back National Insurance contributions by increased earnings, it will cause difficulties. But that is a secondary point, as the hon. Gentleman is adroit enough controversially to know.
§ Mr. Crossman
The Minister ought to try to be fair on this. He has put a full stop in the sentence. It was perfectly clear what my sentence meant. I have said this many times before and I repeat it at this Dispatch Box, that we on this side of the House are very conscious of the fact that if one were to try to levy a rate of contribution so high that people would react by raising wages, then that would lead to inflation. I have emphasised all the way through that it is essential that we should not levy a rate of contribution higher than the worker can appreciate and higher than he is willing to pay. In submitting that to the trade unions in Scotland, I was, quite rightly, I think, emphasising the need for self-restraint and emphasising how they could wreck our scheme if they chose to increase wages to pay contributions. For 908 a Minister of the Government who should be concerned with saving and with paying all old-age pensioners deliberately to misinterpret this into two statements instead of one, is a dirty trick.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I have nothing to withdraw, because I have done nothing but quote the hon. Gentleman's words.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
On a point of order. In accordance with the courtesy and traditions of the House, when a quotation is made by a Minister of what an hon. Member is alleged to have said, which is denied by that hon. Member—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] May I put it to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker that, in circumstances of this kind, the tradition of the House is for the Minister to say that he misrepresented the hon. Member and apologise.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
My understanding was not that the hon. Gentleman said that I had misquoted him. He differed from the interpretation that I put upon what he said. If I had misquoted him I would, of course, have accepted at once his assurance that he was misreported. If he accepts that these words which are here are what he spoke, I am as entitled as any other hon. Member to put what seems to me, in my judgment, the natural interpretation upon them.
§ Mr. Crossman
I would have thought that even the Minister was not entitled to punctuate my speech as he wishes and to insert a full stop where it is quite clear that I was using a single phrase—it will cause inflation and disaster to do a certain thing. He puts a full stop after inflation and says that I have stated that the scheme will cause disaster. I have not seen this Press report in the Glasgow Herald. It is quite clear what I meant. The Minister insists on misinterpreting this and attributing to me the statement that the scheme would be inflationary, full stop. That is not what I said and I ask him to withdraw the accusation.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Of course, if the hon. Gentleman said that he was mis-reported, I accept that, without qualification. If the hon. Gentleman states that he was not misreported, then I do not feel bound to accept his interpretation of what he said, although, of course, I accept his interpretation of what he meant.
I am stating that if, in this report—I have not seen it—there is a full stop after the word "inflationary," then the paper is wrong; but there was not, and that is why the Minister was grossly distorting what I said.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
It is quite clearly within the recollection of the House that the way in which the Minister read this statement was to imply that there was a full stop. I therefore ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as this document has been quoted from, whether you will give a ruling that it should be published in full in HANSARD.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I made no statement that there was a full stop, and indeed, hon. Members will remember, if they followed the grammar, that I read out the word "and"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I hope that the House will accept the ordinary construction of an English sentence. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] All right.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
Apparently the point of order is where the full stop came or did not come. That is not a point of order, although I would very often like to move for a full stop in this place. I cannot possibly insert punctuation in a report. It is not my business.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Further to that point of order. I made a request to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that this quotation should be published in full in HANSARD, so that hon. Members and the public could read it. I respectfully ask whether you will direct that that shall be done.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It is not a State document that we are talking about; it is a newspaper report.
§ Mr. Griffiths
May we have an assurance from you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the quotation from that newspaper will appear in HANSARD exactly as it is, without any full stops being inserted?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
It has not a full stop and is not going to have one, so 910 far as I know. I accept, of course, the hon. Gentleman's statement of what he had in mind, with which, I may say, I wholly agree. I think that it was unnecessary for him to get as excited about this as he did, because it is quite clear from "National Superannuation" itself that the argument that this matter will be inflationary is accepted by hon. Gentlemen, particularly by hon. Gentlemen associated with the document.
Let me read this passage on page 119 which, so far as I know, has no additional full stops in it:We have, however, assumed that the contributions are wholly 'shifted' on to consumers. As a result there is no loss of profits taxation attributable to the contribution".The matter on which this heat arose is, I think, a simple one, because it deals with the scale of the two schemes before us, between the scale of the large scheme that will have contributions which, as I have said to the House, are inevitably inflationary, and a scheme such as ours which, because of its moderate size, is designed to avoid inflation.
I think that right hon. and hon. Members opposite gravely misjudge public feeling when they think that the public want, even in the guise of a pensions scheme, a new dose of inflation. On the contrary, I am sure that they are heartily sick of that, and that they desire a scheme for pensions on the lines of this Bill—non-inflationary, modest in scale, practical in application, and designed to meet the real needs of the situation. The Bill meets these needs and I think that it will not be unappreciated by those outside whom it is designed to benefit.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. H. A. Marquand (Middlesbrough, East)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which does nothing to improve the lot of existing old-age pensioners and fails to provide for a fully comprehensive national superannuation scheme.In the last half hour of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance raised the temperature, and lowered the tone, of the debate. It will be my endeavour to get back, as quickly as possible, to discussing the Government's Bill. Before approaching that in more detail, let me say that we have, of course, deliberately 911 put down this Amendment after careful thought. We are well aware that when reasoned Amendments are put down against Second Readings of Bills those who put them down are afterwards accused of wanting to delay the Bills in question. They are accused of all sorts of things. We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving us a catalogue of what the Tory Central Office will say about our action in putting down this Amendment. We have done so deliberately.
On at least three previous occasions when the right hon. Gentleman has introduced legislation we have facilitated its passage. We have debated it and have advanced our criticisms. We have discussed the Measures in Committee, and have endeavoured to improve them. But at no point have we obstructed or attempted to delay them. It therefore comes rather ill from the Minister to accuse us of those tactics today. Whenever a Bill has contained a substantial improvement in the conditions of existing pensioners we have, even though we thought it did not go far enough, given it full facilities. That cannot be denied.
Today, we have put down this Amendment because the Bill makes no improvement of any substance whatsoever. We say "immediately", because we are dealing with a Bill that comes before this House this very afternoon. It is now that we want this improvement in the conditions of old-age pensioners to be put in the Bill—this afternoon—the moment we read it. There is, therefore, no need to say "immediately" in addition to that—when it is so obvious that we want it in this Bill, and want it immediately. Our reason for putting down the Amendment is that the Bill is too bad to pass without reasoned protest.
We had a full debate on the White Paper, and all sorts of valuable and constructive criticisms were put forward then. I do not intend to repeat them all. I only want to say that we are very sorry indeed that the Government have not taken the advice we gave, that they have not acceded to the request we made at that time that they should have come forward with a better Bill.
This Bill makes only three changes in the scheme originally outlined in the White Paper, and the right hon. Gentle- 912 man has told us what they are: a change in the calculation of Exchequer supplements: a power to modify in future the increases in contributions; and an improvement in the increments to be earned by postponing retirement. They are, after all, only minor changes. They do not alter in any way the basic structure of the Bill—and I notice that one of the Minister's hon. Friends who knows a good deal about this subject is nodding.
I shall say something more later about these proposals, but what I want to say at the outset is that the Government have ignored a great opportunity. Having put forward their proposals, having received a very cold welcome for them not only from this side of the House but from many others interested in this question, the Government really should have thought again. They should have said to themselves, "We have in front of us a great opportunity. We could now put on the Statute Book a new scheme of pensions that would go down in history as honoured as did the Beveridge scheme in its time."
They have ignored their opportunity. They could have looked at the example of the United States and Germany, where great new comprehensive schemes of social security in old age, on an entirely new basis, have been adopted and put into practice. They have not done that—not a bit of it. All they have sought to do, as I shall seek to show, is to modify the existing National Insurance scheme in the interests of the Income Tax and Surtax payers.
Any new, and, I repeat, comprehensive scheme—although the Minister does not seem to like the word, even though it explains itself quite plainly—of superannuation in the year 1959 would provide two main things. First, that a larger share of the real national income should be given to those who have already retired, and to those who are to retire in the near future on minimum pension—a larger share of the real income. The right hon. Gentleman has repeated certain figures about cost of living but, at best, those figures show only that the pensions now paid give the same real share of the national income as was provided by the Act of 1946. If it is anything better, it is very slight indeed; and that is after twelve years.
913 In the meantime, it is undeniable that the national income has greatly increased. We need not argue about how or why it has increased. It has increased. Surely, when the real national income has so largely increased—we see it all around us in the form of all kinds of new amenities that did not exist in 1946, after a great war—the time has come, not merely to keep level with what was done in 1946 but to go beyond it, not only in money terms but in real terms.
It is for that reason that in the first part of our own proposals we demand this increase in the real share. We have never claimed, although the Minister seemed to suggest that we had, that all existing retirement pensioners are living in abject poverty. On the contrary, one of the major arguments in the superannuation pamphlet we have put before the public is that there are two nations in old age. At least half of the retirement pensioners now live in reasonable decency and comfort—of course they do—but we want to draw attention to those who do not.
There are large numbers—as the right hon. Gentleman himself said, approaching half of the total of retirement pensioners—who do not draw any increments. They consist largely of workers who have worn themselves out in the heavy industries. Those working in the heavy industries, and in similar work, cannot hope to continue their employment after the age of 65, and so earn increments.
I have no doubt that some of my hon. Friends will have something to say about the improvement in the earnings limit which the right hon. Gentleman announced, but I do not want to expand upon that now. The improvement in the earnings limit will help certain pensioners, but it will not help those pensioners who need help most. How can it help the elderly man over 65 years of age who has retired from heavy work in the blast furnaces, the steel industry, the coal mines or shipbuilding? Already, at the age of 65, he finds himself worn out and his chances of light work in an industrial town like Middlesbrough, Sunderland and the other places which the Prime Minister visited recently are almost nil. Such things cannot' help, and we want to help.
914 Moreover, these things certainly cannot help the very elderly pensioners. They are the people who are worst off. We sometimes read about the old ladies and gentlemen living and dying alone in abject poverty, surrounded by miserable sticks of furniture and with almost no bedclothes. These old people long ago exhausted any money which they managed to put aside for their own welfare. They have found it impossible to replace worn out clothing and furniture, and they find it difficult to get out to the shops to buy the goods which they ought to have.
We say that these pensioners could and should be helped as soon as possible. If in so doing we have to help those who are not so greatly in need, that cannot be avoided. Help to the existing old-age pensioners cannot be denied. We have asked for it again and again. I am sure that they will be anxiously listening tonight to the radio to hear what news there is from the House of Commons. The news will be, "No; nothing for you".
Therefore, if there were no other reason for doing it, we should be obliged to move an Amendment and record our disappointment with the Bill. Of course, such a provision as the one I have mentioned could have been put in the Bill. This is a National Insurance Bill. It could have been incorporated in Part I of the Bill, and Part II could have dealt with what would happen in 1961. If it had been in Part I, we should not have tabled a reasoned Amendment against it and it might have been easier to get the Bill through, If that provision had been in Part I we should not have voted against the Second Reading.
That is one form of advance which is imperative at this date in the twentieth century, when by our work and enterprise and past saving we have provided a real increase in our national income which expresses itself in motor cars, television sets and all sorts of luxuries for some, but which has not reached to the lower end of the old-age pension scale and has not touched in any way, except, perhaps, by the private charity or occasional benevolence of kindly neighbours, the very old, the people who have lived on this pension for so long. We plead again for them this afternoon.
The second reason why the right hon. Gentleman could have seized the opportunity to introduce a new pension plan 915 upon a more generous and more imaginative basis is that the need has arisen somehow to provide every citizen with what so many citizens are already provided with. The middle classes, such as executives, civil servants,-"teachers and local government officials, have, in addition to their basic retirement pension, a superannuation scheme related to their earnings while in employment. If it can be done for them, why not for all? It is being done in the United States of America, Germany and France. Why cannot we do it? Yet such a scheme is not to be provided. This was a chance to do it, but the chance has been missed. I know that the Bill makes a pretence to do something of this sort, but it is only a pretence because, first, it deliberately excludes from the opportunity to earn superannuation in addition to pension 7 ¾ million workers earning less than £9 a week. The remainder receive a very bad bargain indeed.
Let nobody say that the Bill is an imitation of the Labour Party's pension plan. The Prime Minister frankly denied that it was, and he was right. This is not a pensions Bill at all. It ought to be called "Finance Bill No. 1", because it is the precursor to "Finance Bill No. 2"which we shall get, no doubt, in April or May. That this is a bad bargain for those who are to be entitled to some form of graduated pension in addition to their basic pension is agreed by people who might be expected, to put it no higher, to support the Government.
For example, the Life Offices' Association and the Associated Scottish Life Offices do not like the Labour Party's plan, because they fear that it will injure their business. Perhaps they have reason for not liking it, but we think that they are mistaken. One would expect these organisations to support a plan brought forward by a Conservative Government. Yet these organisations state:There are … disturbing aspects about this graduated element. The Life Offices have stressed the desirability in a basic-needs scheme, financed on pay-as-you-go lines, of some degree of quick maturity of benefits, that is to say, some arrangement to enable those middle-aged or older to receive on retirement a substantial proportion of the full graduated pension benefits. This element is missing from the proposed scheme".The British Employer's Confederation, as I am sure the Minister of Labour has 916 not omitted to notice, has made this statement:… the graduated benefits contemplated in the Government's proposals will not, generally speaking, represent nearly as good a bargain to the employer and the employee in relation to the graduated contribution paid as could be obtained from a life assurance office or under a properly established private pension scheme".Why is the Government's plan, supported, we are told, by some element of subsidy from the Exchequer, worse than one which can be provided under a private scheme? The Life Offices' Association and the British Employers' Confederation know what private schemes provide, and nobody can dispute their expertise in this sphere. Why is it that what is proposed is worse than people could buy outside? The simple answer is that a large part of the graduated contributions is not to go to the credit of those who pay them, but is to be used to help the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his plan to reduce taxation.
We examined this point during the last debate, but it is now set out very clearly in the Report of the Government Actuary, which we did not have at that time, and I therefore make no apology for repeating the argument. I sometimes wish that we had blackboards or cinema screens on which we could exhibit figures, but we do not have them, so I must ask hon. Members who have the document in front of them to look at Table 2 in page 7 of the Government Actuary's Report. Table 2 deals with the Exchequer liability, the amount of money which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to raise by general taxation in order to help the pension scheme.
Exchequer liability arises in two ways. First, there is the supplement payable in respect of contributions. Secondly, there is the duty to meet any deficit between contributions and benefits. The total of those is correctly called the net Exchequer liability. Unfortunately, the totals are not added in the Report. If hon. Members will look at the column headed "1961–62" and add together the figures of the Exchequer supplement plus or minus the deficit of income over expenditure, making the total of what the Exchequer will have to provide in that year, they will find that under the present scheme in 1961–62 the Exchequer would have to provide £261 million. If the 917 Bill goes into operation, however, the net Exchequer liability will be only £162 million. The Government are reducing it in that way and getting rid of £100 million, in round figures, of their liability.
In 1966–67, the net Exchequer liability would be £348 million. If the Bill goes into operation it will be down to £157 million. The only point at which the net liability reaches the magic figure of £170 million, which has been so much talked about, is in 1976–77, when, under the present plan, if it remains unaltered, the total Exchequer liability will be £508 million. It will be reduced then to £170 million, but thereafter it falls again to £145 million, £151 million and £101 million for each of the separate columns.
§ Mr. Denzil Freeth (Basingstoke)
Is it not a fact that any excess earned in any year on the scheme as proposed will be added to the National Insurance Fund and will not reduce the liability of the Exchequer?
§ Mr. Marquand
That is what I am saying. Most of this liability is, of course, notional, but the net liability is a real figure. This is the sum which has to be found by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Under the provisions of the Bill, as set out clearly and frankly in the White Paper, the net liability of the Chancellor is to be reduced by the graduated contributions. The actual basic contributions are immediately to be lowered and to stay for ten, or fifteen years at a lower level than they are at present. The net liability of the Exchequer, however, is to be sharply reduced. Evidently, the only way in which that can be done is at the expense of those who pay the graduated contribution. That is why those who pay the graduated contribution will get a worse bargain than they would have got had they gone out and bought privately on the market, as the Life Offices' Association says.
This is supposed to be a pay-as-you-go plan for pensions. Let us look as what those earning between £9 and £15 a week are to pay and where the money is to go. We find this in Appendix I of the Actuary's Statement, in page 10 of the White Paper. In the 1981–82 column, for example, it will be seen that the income 918 contains graduated contributions from employed persons of £193 million and from employers of £198 million, making a total of graduated contributions of £391 million. The benefits, however, as shown in the lower half of the table, are £63 million. Twenty years hence, these graduated contributors will be paying £391 million. They will be receiving £63 million. If we look forty years hence, at the last column of the table, the total paid in by the graduated contributors will be £537 million and their receipts £199 million. This is where the money is coming from to reduce the Exchequer liability.
The figures prove definitely what I said in a previous debate, that this is not a plan for pensions. It is one more regressive fiscal device to relieve the wealthy. Instead of raising money by Income Tax, which takes fair account of individual, family and other responsibilities and circumstances, it substitutes a levy on the middle range of working-class incomes with no regard whatever to the circumstances of the individual. The Bill itself states that no regard shall be had to these various circumstances which entitle one to earned income relief and that kind of thing. All that is wiped out deliberately. This is a levy upon the middle range of working-class incomes with no relief for individual circumstances. It is class legislation of the worst possible kind.
I have already quoted what the British Employers' Confederation said about a bad bargain. The Life Offices' Association says very much the same thing in page 5 of its document, from which I have quoted. It states:for those now young and for future entrants to the scheme the joint contributions of employers and employees would be considerably greater than the commercial cost of the pensions. After the four quinquennial increases the joint contributions would be more than double the commercial cost of the combined flat and graduated pensions and this would apply for all new entrants thereafter.This is an utterly bad bargain which no businessman would consider for a moment.
How can the right hon. Gentleman expect us, in these circumstances, not to draw special attention to his failure to provide a genuine and comprehensive scheme of national superannuation? I admit that to check the mounting net liability of the Exchequer would not be 919 unreasonable if the cost of doing so were spread equitably over almost the whole body of earnings, but to eliminate it by transferring the burden on to a selected band of earnings in the middle range of working-class incomes is utterly and absolutely wrong.
Any pension plan should not only be equitable in contributions and benefits. It should strive to give the pensioner some protection against the erosion of the real value of the pension as the result of rising prices. The Minister claimed that our plan would be inflationary. What I am entitled to ask him is in what way his plan protects the pension from inflation. He said that it was non-inflationary. That was as far as he could go, even himself, making the best he could of his plan. Why has he made no provision for protection against inflation? Without arguing about who did this in 1931, who did that in 1951 and that sort of cheap stuff, we all know that pension contracts entered into before the war yield the saver when paid today only about one-third of the real income which he expected to receive.
What are the Government doing about that to try to prevent it for the future and to insure against it? If they are absolutely confident that we will have a Government for twenty years—and they hope we will—of their party, and if they are confident of their ability to stop inflation for ever thereafter, why not put an anti-inflationary device in the scheme? It would cost them nothing.
Of course, nobody else is confident that that will happen. We say that, in view of the long experience from 1939 up to 1959 of the erosion of the value of contracts freely entered into in 1939, the pensioner today has a right to ask that there be built into any scheme some sort of protection against inflation.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
Why does the right hon. Gentleman say that? Nobody can ensure that in any sphere of life. Does he suggest that if I save £100, I can do anything to ensure that in twenty years' time it will have the same value? This applies even more so in the case of a country. Obviously, in a world of inflation, it is impossible for that to be ensured.
§ Mr. Marquand
I am delighted to have that question and I shall answer it. I need not answer it out of my own mouth. It may be answered from an authority which the hon. Member may regard as greater than mine. I certainly agree that the authority which I shall quote is more expert than I in these matters.
I will quote from the advice given by Mr. V. R. Jackson, Pensions Officer of the Unilever Organisation, which is a very big organisation having pension schemes, for which it is responsible, not only in this country,,, but in many countries throughout the world with different forms of national schemes in the various countries in which it operates. Mr. Jackson says definitely that he thinks it can be done. He says:So long, therefore, as a State pension scheme confines itself to the basic level of provision which I think the graduated proposals in the White Paper can be said to do, then I am in favour of the pensions being index-linked.He says later that a State pension should be broadly linked to the average earnings of wage earners as a whole, and he goes into some detail on how he thinks it can be done. There is the answer to the hon. Gentleman. This is the answer which we gave in our plan for national superannuation. We said that we should protect the basic pension against inflation, and we suggested that one way of doing it was by an annual review, based upon an index of the needs of the pensioners, with an annual rise in pensions to correspond with any rise in prices that took place. We believe that it could be done, as I said in the last debate, by the streamlined method used by the National Assistance Board. Perhaps if the hon. Gentleman does not like that, he could use Mr. Jackson's method. People who have thought longer about this proposal than he has done can be satisfied that this can be done.
§ Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)
Whereas the right hon. Gentleman has quoted exactly Mr. Jackson's views, would he not agree that, later in the conference at which Mr. Jackson spoke, some equal experts strongly disagreed with him that this was either necessary or practicable?
§ Mr. Marquand
That is fair enough, and the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) will be able to say 921 why he does not agree. I am concerned only to explain that I think it can be done, and I am quoting good authority. I believe that we should take the risk, if risk there be, that is involved.
The proposal which we made was of an annual review, with the measuring of the basic pension by a special index, and the raising of the basic pension to ensure a minimum real income of adequate dimensions, and this is what I said at the beginning of my speech. The alternative method is that suggested by Mr. Jackson, which is also suggested by Professor Titmuss, which came in the second part of our superannuation plan, for what are called dynamic pensions. I believe that it can be done and think that it ought to be done, and those who believe that it can be done and think that it ought to be done cannot possibly accept the proposal before us this afternoon.
Furthermore, in the long run, however pensions may be financed, the needs of the retired population can only be met in the end out of the current production of the nation at the time they draw their pensions, whatever we do about contributions during their working lives. If the payment of pensions is not in itself to produce inflation, then we must arrange that an increased quantity of goods shall be available when the pensions are paid. That requires investment, not mere money saving, but real saving, saving in the form of steel works and electricity generating plants and great ships to carry our goods, and all that kind of thing. The translation of a surplus accruing in the early days of a pensions plan into capital goods which will yield an increased volume of real wealth later on is, in my opinion, the way to do it.
That opinion is emphatically endorsed by Mr. Jackson, whom I have already quoted, and it is part of our plan. Our proposal is that there shall be an accumulation of some surplus in the early years of the superannuation scheme which could be invested in precisely these forms of capital investment. Mr. Jackson says, and this may well be a warning to the right hon. Gentleman:Moreover, I feel strongly that if we promise ourselves benefits in the future, without taking positive action to provide the means for the payment of those benefits, then, not to mince words, we are perpetrating a fraud upon generations to come.922 I do not see anywhere in the Bill any provision for such investment.
The reason why the Bill is so puny in its proposals and offers people a worse bargain than they can get at present, is not only that it is a tax device to enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer next April to distribute some "divi", but also that the Government have no confidence in their ability so to expand the economy that goods will be available for a better scheme when these pensions come to be paid. They have no confidence in their ability to do that, but we have confidence in our ability to do so, and it is an integral part of our whole economic policy that there has to be substantial savings. So we appeal to people when they defer their wages in the form of contributions not to make new wage demands. We propose to entrust the savings to the trustees who will ensure that these savings are translated into the real investment necessary to produce the goods which they will want to consume when eventually they draw their pensions.
As I have said already, the right hon. Gentleman, if he really believes in his own policy, could afford to put in a safeguard against inflation. If he really believes that it will never happen, he could do that now; and if he wants to do something for the pensioner, let him provide for contributions as a form of saving and translate that into investment instead of a mere shift of revenue to enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to save it up and give it away next April.
There are very many other matters contained in the Bill on which one would want to comment, such as the question of contracting out, but I will leave them to my hon. Friends, and particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), who was often referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. I only want to say how much I agree with the British Employers' Confederation in its statement thatthe Confederation regrets that there has not been a longer interval since the publication of the White Paper for the examination of these proposals.It has been a very short interval indeed since the White Paper was produced, and it was interrupted by the Christmas holidays. The British Employers' Confederation, which has plenty of machinery at its hand for consulting its members all over 923 the country, and ability to co-ordinate its members and bring them together to discuss and examine this matter, is not satisfied that the time is long enough. Why? What is the hurry? Pensions are not to be paid until 1961. That is the hurry. What is it all about? I think I have indicated already what the reason is.
The reason is that the right hon. Gentleman wants the Chancellor to have on the Statute Book a guarantee, as he thinks, that he will not have to meet this additional Exchequer liability in years to come, and, therefore, he will be able to say "Now, the position is so good that we can make a give-away Budget for the Income Tax and Surtax payers once again"—just as in the case earlier, though the right hon. Gentleman was not the Chancellor at the time, they gave away the money they took from the children's bread and milk and from the various subsidies which helped the old-age pensioners to maintain their standard of living in the past.
If they do this, if indeed this is what happens, if the Bill goes through unchanged and without any alteration, or is pushed through the House of Commons at excessive speed, as we fear is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman—if all these things are done, and if, at the end, we get a boom and bribery Budget, we shall know that this has been done deliberately for the advantage of the party opposite.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Tiley (Bradford, West)
It is a real privilege to follow in the debate the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand). I am sure that the House has listened to a very reasoned argument against the Bill. We shall, of course, employ our own debating powers in the course of the day to show how wrong the right hon. Gentleman is in so many ways. First of all, we were told that there are scarcely any changes from the White Paper in the Bill and then we had enumerated to us three important improvements on the White Paper.
It is a great pity that when we are discussing matters which affect all our people we should keep on citing as examples countries whose economies are so different from ours. It is no good standing at the Dispatch Box and quoting the United States or Germany, because 924 their economies are completely different from ours. We have a population of about 30 million more than we can feed ourselves. America does not have that problem. Neither does Germany, and the essential feature of every measure of economies or finance which we discuss in the House should have that point in mind. Everything that we do here that increases the cost of our goods means that we produce a greater chance of unemployment, a greater chance of inflation and more than a chance of these pensions which we are now promising never coming to the people who are now working to pay for them. The sooner we bring to our minds, in comparisons that we make between this country and others, the fact that we need to export or die the better for all of us.
Hon. Members opposite are always harking back to 1946 and the problems which existed then. They are apt to forget that one of the most important things that any country or any business needs when it intends to rebuild its fortune is orders from abroad. In 1946 and during the following five years there poured into every type of business in the country orders galore. The present Government and the Conservative Party, in the seven years or so of their administration, have faced an entirely different situation. More than that, we have been paying our way in exports and have not been living on borrowed dollars. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, we are paying, through the efforts of our workers, the interest on dollars borrowed by a previous Government, and we are paying more back than we borrowed, because hon. and right hon. Members opposite devalued the £. We are paying for the result of that action.
It should be stated that we wish to discuss this very important problem without each side of the House trying to compete one with the other as to who has done most for our old folk. I am not proud of anything that we have done on either side of the House since 1946 for our pensioners, but I should be bitterly ashamed to sit on the other side of the House and remember what went on in the years 1946 to 1951 in the matter of provision for the old folk.
I thought it, to say the least, impertinent of the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East to point to the Bill and 925 attempt to show how certain people are paying out of their higher incomes to subsidise the pensions of the lower-paid workers, because sitting alongside the right hon. Gentleman is the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) whose pension scheme, which is the Labour Party scheme, provides, over and above a weekly wage of £11, for an increasing subsidy of the lower-paid pensions. A great amount of what would be paid in by the man and his employer under that scheme would subsidise the lower-paid contributor. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Coventry, East is apparently giving his assent to that. Why should the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East point to this as a deficiency in our scheme? The great difference between the two schemes is that ours does not do it so much and so heavily and unfairly as hon. Members opposite would wish to have it done.
§ Mr. Marquand
Does not the hon. Member appreciate that what I was saying was that, although there is this element of subsidy in the Government scheme, the greater part of the subsidy will go not to any pensioners but to Income Tax payers?
§ Mr. Tiley
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I shall deal with that point in the course of my speech. I should have declared an interest in this matter at the beginning, because I am engaged in the business of insurance, though I can say quite frankly that I am neither a specialist nor an expert. I have quite deliberately not read communications from the Life Offices' Association over the past few months, because I did not want to be too heavily prejudiced in our debates here. I gather, however, from the quotations made from those communications by the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East that if one extracts the graduated portion of the contributions and one does not take the pension as a whole, it is possible to build the case which the right hon. Gentleman made.
It should have been pointed out, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) said, that there were at the meeting to which reference has been made people as clever as Mr. Jackson who opposed him completely; and when he said that we must prepare for future years by expansion of investment it was never his intention that the money should 926 be in the hands of a political party for investment.
It has been my experience that I have never seen a pension scheme introduced which everybody did not criticise. The scheme is torn into shreds by all the people who are to be members of it. Everybody criticises it. The old directors always say when they see the scheme that it is too dear. The young directors, who have grown up in the firm from the shop floor, always think that the scheme is not ambitious enough. The firm's secretary and accountant say, "We shall be killed by all the clerical work." The old men say to each other in the canteen, "There is very little in this for us." The young men, looking at the distant age of 65 with something of the frozen look that Ike gives to Monty, think the scheme of no interest to them. The married women wonder what all the fuss is about because they think that the old man has the whole business tied up with his half-crown to the "Pru", and the young women think that they would rather have proposals for marriage than proposals for pensions.
Then, after many months of negotiations and after the scheme has been torn to shreds, altered, and amended, it is eventually launched. Hon. Members can depend upon it that next day the managing director at his club will have a drink with somebody who has done a scheme quite as good at half the cost. Let us not be dismayed about the battle and about the onslaught on our scheme, but there is one important golden rule which is applicable to all schemes. Schemes must not be too costly as they affect either the contributor or the employer. When we examine the costliness of the Socialist scheme we begin to appreciate my right hon. Friend's proposals. What a difficult job it was! My right hon. Friend was not dealing with one scheme, he had to take into account 40,000 schemes. What a problem, what a dilemma, and what a complicated Bill.
I must confess that in nearly four years of service in this House I have looked forward to the day when I might find a Bill which I could reasonably understand, and I had hoped that this would be it. How disillusioned I am. Indeed, when I read the Explanatory Notes at the beginning of the Bill, I wondered where was the explanatory note to explain the Explanatory Notes. I will say for my 927 right hon. Friend that he knows his Bill, and we shall expect to learn more about it during its Committee stage.
During the course of this speech I do not want to deal with many technical points because we shall discuss the Bill in detail in Committee, but I want to make one or two general comments. For the first time we can applaud the Minister for reducing the weekly contributions of the lower paid workers. This at last is a step in the right direction. We have heard Chancellor after Chancellor at the Dispatch Box, and shadow Chancellor after shadow Chancellor at the box opposite, bemoaning the fact that it is difficult to help the man who does not pay Income Tax. Here my right hon. Friend has found an effective way and the contributions of the lower-paid workers are happily reduced.
I have a comment to make about Clause 5. All of us, on both sides of the House, welcome the change in the earnings rule as it affects the widow, who has been sorely oppressed by this rule, and I am glad therefore that an upward change is being made. In Clause 5 we enable a widow who has reached pensionable age, and retired, to receive half the graduated benefit which her husband had earned, in addition to any graduated benefit earned by her own contributions. Surely this is a little bit mean? The graduated benefits have been dearly bought, taken as a separate thing, and it would not cost a lot of money if the widows could receive the full benefits instead of half. After all, this is one of the insurance principles which we on this side of the House must not overlook. Nearly all the private schemes in the country, in the event of death, would return almost the whole of the contributions to the widow of the man who died, and it is right that they should do so. These contributions have been made out of earnings. We might look at that point to see if an improvement can be made to the Clause.
It is a fact that industry and industrialists throughout the country are upset at the amount of clerical work. The British Employers' Confederation has issued a circular to all of us mentioning the two points stressed by my right hon. Friend. These are important criticisms by an important confederation. It is our business to find the simplest way 928 administratively of putting the Bill on the Statute Book. I do not say this unkindly, but if we have an important mission on this side of the House it is because of our wider experience in administration. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Gentlemen opposite also have many advantages, on average, through their closer associations with the unions and so on. I am being fair. If we have an important mission to pursue it is to ensure that things are done administratively as economically and efficiently as possible. Personally, I have been appalled since I came here at the amount of administrative work we impose year by year on industry. All this is a burden on those who are working in the factories, the real men and women of toil, the producers in our land.
I know the Minister will listen to the criticisms we make and, if we can amend the Bill during the Committee stage to improve administration, I know he will be glad. We ought to be a little cautious here. It has been my experience since I came to this House that many people shout "Object", and when we ask why we find that we are left on our own. The objectors cannot say why they object, and they are gone when we need them.
The great attractions in the life office schemes have been twofold. The first is that the life offices have done all the clerical work, even as far as keeping the records and sending them once a year to be audited. All that has been done for industry. Secondly, the deductions have been fixed for fifty-two weeks without alteration.
These are clerical problems with which we shall deal during the Committee stage, but the Government have a mission to pursue in this respect, too. In recent years we have gathered together the most complicated pensions legislation that any country could possibly have, and the Chancellor should be asked to simplify much of it in his Budget. Last year he cleaned up several dirty little things that existed and got rid of them. Here is an opportunity to enter the pensions field as regards several Sections of various Finance Acts. Solicitors and accountants and boards of directors are kept busy considering questions on which they should not have to spend time, and the work at the Board of Inland Revenue must be a positive nightmare. It is not 929 fair either to the Inland Revenue staffs that they should have to make decisions which are not governed completely by our Acts of Parliament.
So the Government can help to simplify the administrative work, and I think also that the insurance companies can do a little themselves. It would be a very good thing if a central bank could be created for frozen pensions. This could deal with the contracting out and in, without money changing hands; it could make the calculations and so on, so much easier. The frozen pensions could be put to a man's credit there until he reaches the age of 65.
Since there are 90 or 100 life offices all dealing with this matter, they could themselves create a central paying agency for pensions. We know that competition is important in industry, in insurance and in our economic way of life generally. I would not wish to keep out competition from the normal field of insurance, but since we are always grumbling at the gas and electricity boards for having two sets of accounts, two sets of books and two kinds of meter readers, it ought to be possible for the life offices to centralise the method by which they will be eventually called upon to pay millions of pensions.
The Bill leaves out the self-employed. I think that is right and that it is in their favour. Since, however, the Minister did not mention this point, I will merely make this passing reference to them so that they will not think they have been forgotten. As I pointed out in a previous debate, it is a fact that they are able to do much better for themselves in the open market. I thought it rather strange on the occasion of the previous debate, when this topic cropped up, to see the readiness with which hon. Gentlemen opposite jumped to their feet to show that they did not wish to join the fantastic Socialist scheme. I thought that they would all, as self-employed people, want to aim at the biggest contributions possible. Evidently this was not so. They want to legislate for everybody else but they say, "Include me out".
There was a debate on the subject of pensions in another place a few weeks ago, and the plea was made that we ought to take it out of party politics. It is impossible to do that. It is not that either side of the House disagrees with the pro- 930 vision of pensions, but there is a real division on how it shall be accomplished. I have never been able to understand why hon. Members opposite are so cruel to the workers. They do not want the workers to possess anything themselves. The workers must not possess a house, and they must not possess a pension in their own name. Hon. Members opposite want to take everything from the workers and put it in the name of the State.
People resent deductions from their wages, and especially do they resent deductions when they lose control of the money. I should have thought that experience with post-war credits was sufficient to make all of us suspicious about the Government collaring any more of our earnings and savings. Ever since I left school I have felt that the Government had one hand in my pocket. I know what the Government are doing and have got used to that, but I am trying to make sure that the Government do not get a hand in the other pocket.
Man is a hunter and wishes to acquire and possess things of his own. He wants his savings in his name and not in the name of any Government. In our last debate the hon. Member for Coventry, East spoke about a man who in 1919 put £100 in the Post Office and left it there and said that by now it amounted to £381. He compared the man who put £100 into ordinary stocks and shares, which had risen over those years to the value of £3,086. That is a very interesting comment, and a very important one, because our problem today is how we are to let the workers take a share in the industrial expansion which is to take place in the next twenty-five years. With the Labour Party's pension scheme the larger contributions will be put into something out of the control of the man himself and at the end of twenty or thirty years they will produce a smaller investment yield than Post Office savings. If it is done by means of Post Office savings and the man dies, the widow can go to the Post Office and get the money, and if the widow dies, the savings will still be there for the children.
We are being asked to divide on something about which we disagree completely and vociferously with the Opposition. In its scheme the Labour Party would conscript our savings and confiscate many of them. I shall be very glad to support my right hon. Friend in the Division 931 Lobby so that our constituents may see that the value of the pension is to be maintained by a commonsense Bill.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
If I may say so in a friendly way, the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) is an engaging mixture of simplicity and guile. His speech was littered with naiveties and provocations. If one were to follow all that he has said it would be difficult to get back to the Bill. The hon. Member began by throwing off a few unjustified criticisms of the Labour Party. Then he said, "We do not want to pursue this question of who did how much for the old people and when. We want to consider how we are to deal with them now."
The reference to the past which the hon. Member made reminds me of two tiresome parts of the Minister's speech. I know that a certain degree of intellectual dishonesty is tolerated in the House. I regret it. I believe it to be an insult to the intelligence of our constituents, and I believe that one day our constituents will rise against it, because intellectual dishonesty is deception, and deception should not be tolerated in public life.
The Minister knows full well that the period of the Labour Government from 1945 to 1951 and the period of office of the Conservative Government since 1951 are two distinct periods in international and economic history, and to relate the two at this stage is intellectually dishonest. The right hon. Gentleman should realise that whether the Labour Government, as some of us claim, laid the foundations of the economic expansion of this country, or whether there has been a fortuitous development of our resources and an increase in our wealth, the fact remains that the nation is able to do better for the old-age pensioners today than it could in 1945 and in 1946. The old people are the one section of the community who have not got trade unions, who have not got boards of directors and who have not got the resources available to those engaged in current activities to take their share of the rising national income. They depend on public opinion and on the good will of this House. That is why we have very special responsibilities towards them.
There was an opportunity which the Government could have taken, in intro- 932 ducing the Bill, of announcing where they propose to stand in the future in relation to the real purchasing power of retirement pensions. I do not believe that it would be inflationary to guarantee the old people an adjustment of their money pension in order not only to preserve but even to expand the real value of their pension. They constitute the one section of the community to which that guarantee could be given. The trade unions do not need a guarantee; they are going to exercise their industrial and political power to obtain their increasing share of the national income, and if inflation has to be stemmed and curbed the Government can do it over the whole economy and not select one section to bear the burden.
The other tiresome episode in the right hon. Gentleman's speech was his inability to read English and to make an intelligent interpretation of comments. I watched the faces of some hon. Gentlemen opposite, and they were as sick of it as I was. It ill becomes a Minister not only to resist the persistent denial of the hon. Member who made the speech that an erroneous interpretation was being put upon his words, but to persist with enthusiasm and conviction upon an interpretation that the words themselves did not bear.
I have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man) and others of the Labour Party in relation to the Labour Party's proposal for superannuation emphasise time and again that that scheme, and, indeed, any scheme of superannuation and superannuation payments, depends upon the willingness of the community to give up something in current consumption for storing up in terms of investment or the expansion of the economy for later distribution of benefit in the form of superannuation payments. That is elementary. Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not think that we are so economically illiterate that we do not understand the essentials of a scheme of the dimensions of that put forward by the Labour Party.
I also deplore the haste with which the Bill has been put forward. I have certain responsibilities in the trade union movement among a very large section of white collar workers. There has been no opportunity to consult those whose interests are directly involved. Why could we not have been given a little 933 longer to find out what reactions have been and to examine the complexities with great care? It is not enough to say that the White Paper of October gave us several months for reflection and consideration.
Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman made the specious claim that the scheme had weathered the criticisms and comments made since the White Paper was published. However, people have not had an opportunity of carefully considering the Report of the Government Actuary, because it has been published for only a matter of days. That is where the truth lies and it is from that that we can see what the scheme means. It is quite wrong for the right hon. Gentleman to refer to the Bill as a matter of machinery. It is fundamentally changing the whole financial structure of National Insurance.
The hon. Member for Bradford, West, who spoke with his great knowledge of insurance, referred to the reduction in the contributions for the lower-paid workers who will still continue to pay for the standard benefits under the scheme. He said that that was a step in the right direction. What he did not say was that the reduction in contributions at that level is achieved by a transfer of the cost at that level to the workers slightly higher up the scale, irrespective of their ability to bear the increased charges.
For many years to come, the scheme will be redistributive in character. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) that this is not really a pensions Bill and that the primary motive behind it has not been to provide graduated pensions for those receiving higher rates of pay. I do not believe that the social philosophy of right hon. and hon. Members opposite would lead them to a scheme of that kind, unless there were considerable financial interests at stake. That I believe to be the clue to the Bill.
The fundamental condition of the Bill is that the Exchequer contribution of the future will be substantially reduced and the burden transferred from taxation to contributors. The contributors who will bear the higher cost are those earning more than £9 a week. I grant that the increased charge on those getting more than £9 a week will be proportionate up 934 to a point, but it will not be progressive. It is one of the features of our system of direct taxation that it is progressive. This matter gets to the root of our disagreement about the Bill.
What is paid in graduated contributions will go to no fund, reserve or otherwise, or investment, productive or otherwise. It will go direct from the pockets of the graduated contributors to the pockets of the retirement pensioners. There is nothing in between. In other words, it is a form of taxation on those getting more than £9 a week, mitigated by the promise that in due course those who pay the extra will have their pensions related to the higher contributions which they have paid, although those higher pensions later on will be wholly dependent on the willingness and ability of the contributors of that time to bear the higher cost. That is a faithful summary of the essentials of the Bill.
We should examine what evidence there is available—and it is not much—of the amount of subsidy towards basic pensions hidden in the graduated contribution. Men who are to be contracted out will pay 1s. 7d. a week more for the same basic pension as those who are contracted in. Where an employer applies to contract out of the scheme, he is imposing on the workers in his vocational superannuation arrangements an additional charge of 1s. 7d. a week for the existing basic pension. A man who is contracted out pays 1s. 7d. a week, and the employer 1s. 3d. a week, more for the basic pension compared with a man who joins the new graduated scheme.
There is an anomaly in this connection. A man getting £11 a week—as the Economist pointed out last week—and who is brought into the new scheme, will pay only 1d. a week more than the man earning £11 a week who is left out. Thus, for 1d. a week more contribution, a man on £11 a week will earn an extra pension of 13s. a week, if his membership of the scheme goes from age 18 to the age of retirement, 65. That is extremely anomalous. The details are given in the Economist on page 238 of the issue of 17th January.
This kind of anomaly and all the paraphernalia of contracting out and the administrative difficulties connected with it make one wonder whether for a marginal scheme of additional pensions 935 of this kind there is any justification for contracting out. That is a view which is probably not generally held, but the anomalies of those who will be in and those who will be out and the difficulties of going in and out, and all the other problems of contracting out, are out of proportion to the differences in benefits and burdens of those in and out of the scheme.
If one were introducing a scheme of much greater dimensions, one which provided very much more substantial benefits and which went further up the scale and where contributions were proportionately heavier up the scale, it would obviously be necessary to make provision for contracting out, since it would be difficult for both employers and workers to bear the double burden. However, in this case there is already provision for employers to modify vocational schemes in order to adjust them to the new circumstances.
If there is to be contracting out—and it seems to be the general view that there should be; although I believe that it is probably unjustified for the miserably small approach to the problem of graduated pensions shown by the Bill—the workers in the schemes concerned should have more say in whether they are to contract out. In the Bill the right is given to the employer to apply to the registrar, and if the scheme satisfies the conditions, the registrar can grant a certificate of contracting out. Presumably, the workers in the scheme may have no deciding voice, they may not even be consulted.
In these circumstances, should not a majority of those directly concerned in the scheme decide whether they should come out or stay in? The employer is not as much concerned as one might assume, because he can adjust the two schemes. He can adjust his own scheme to the national scheme, or he can adjust his own scheme to contracting out status and encourage his workers to stay out. He can manipulate the vocational scheme to suit whatever decision is arrived at by his workers without much, if any, additional expense to himself. I am sure that the House cannot rest satisfied when thousands of workers in these vocational schemes may have no voice in what is to happen to them, and it is left wholly to the employers.
The earnings rule to which the Minister referred must, in my opinion, be retained 936 in some reasonable form; at all events, so long as we have a scheme which is a substantial combination of Exchequer contributions and personal contributions from employers and workers. The lifting of the earnings rule money limits, announced by the Minister, is to be welcomed. Possibly they could have gone a little higher. That is a matter which we might consider after the report of the National Insurance Advisory Committee is available.
Finally, I wish to refer to another remark about administration made by the hon. Member for Bradford, West. There is a great deal of administration in the Bill. I doubt whether hon. Members, or anyone else, yet fully appreciates the complications of administration which will arise. I will mention one in my own sphere. Are these graduated deductions to be admissible tax deductions under P.A.Y.E.? In my opinion, they will have to be, unless the House legislates to the contrary. At the moment, for flat-rate contributions, it is comparatively easy when doing the Income Tax coding to make a standard allowance for National Insurance contributions as a set-off against tax liabilities, because we all know what they are. But under this scheme there will be workers going in and out of the graduated zone. There will be some in all the time with a fluctuating remuneration, and no one will be able to say at the beginning of the financial year what the tax set-off should be for the National Insurance contributions for that year.
Does this mean, then, that at the tax year end we are to have 12 million or 15 million adjustments of the coding notices for the previous year? Or is a change to be made in the law so that the tax set-off shall not be for the contributions of the current year but those of the previous year, in order to make administration easier?
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
Does my hon. Friend hold the view that the graduated schemes will change politically those in the Truck Acts?
§ Mr. Houghton
That is taking me out of my depth. I will stick to Income Tax for the moment.
Another difficulty arises over the need to translate monthly pay into weekly pay 937 to decide whether or not a man is in the graduated zone. Some of these things are positively frightening when one considers the work that will have to go on in counting houses and tax offices. I will not detain the House longer on those matters, because they are more suitable for closer examination during the Committee stage.
I do not believe that the Bill is the real challenge which it should be to the problem of providing for old age in the Britain of tomorrow. It is not enough. When the hon. Member for Bradford, West seeks to differentiate between the position of this country and, on the one hand, that of the United States and, on the other, Western Germany, I ask him to reflect on the state of the West German economy ten years ago. We may regard America as a country with vast resources, not over-populated and without our economic problems. But surely Western Germany has pulled itself up by its boot straps in the last ten years and has shown a remarkable zest for economic recovery and social advance. For us to say that we must be behind a country which was defeated in the last war, a country which at present is dismembered and which faced a far greater economic struggle than we have had to face in the last ten years, is to get the whole thing completely out of proportion.
The challenge which the Government have failed to make is yet to come. The only party from which it can come is the Labour Party, which has its own scheme. Despite the weaknesses of that scheme, it has shown a bold approach to the problem of providing for people who are no longer able to contribute to the national income.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
If the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) accuses the Minister of intellectual dishonesty and economic illiteracy, he must not complain if I accuse him of home-made self-righteousness. He failed to take account of a number of relevant considerations in the criticisms which he made. The hon. Member, as did other hon. Members, made great play with the absence from this scheme of any link with the cost of living. Mr. Jackson was quoted as being in favour of that proposition. It is, however, fair to point out that if there had been a link when the scheme first started the old-age pensioner 938 would have been infinitely worse off by its application than by the opportunities taken by successive Governments to change the basis of the day.
The hon. Member also said that the lower-paid contributor got away with 1s. 7d. less than his counterpart only by reason of the fact that graduated contributions from better-paid people were being used for that purpose. What he completely overlooked was that the weight of assistance from the Exchequer is being brought to bear primarily on the lower-paid worker and not at all on the person earning £15 a week; so that the benefit may go where it is most needed. It is only right that that should be mentioned.
§ Sir S. Summers
I do not wish to give way to the hon. Member, because there are other hon. Members who wish to speak and there is nothing in what I have just said about which the hon. Member need interrupt me.
I welcome the news from the Minister about a change in the earnings rule. I am not confident that I heard him aright, and if I describe wrongly what he said, perhaps for my benefit and for the benefit of others my right hon. Friend will correct me. I understood him to say that a widow would be able to earn 20s. more and that the 6d. in the 1s. thereafter would be raised, but a man would be able to earn only 10s. more without prejudice to his pension.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
My hon. Friend invited me to interrupt him and, for the sake of accuracy, I will take advantage of his invitation. The proposal in the draft Regulations to the Advisory Committee is for an increase of 10s. for the retirement pensioner and widow and of 20s. in respect of the widowed mother.
§ Sir S. Summers
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that information. I echo the comment made by the hon. Member for Sowerby. In relation to an increase of 30s. in the average rate since the earnings limit was fixed, it seems rather modest to increase the limit by 10s., making a still bigger gap than prevailed when the earnings limits were last made between the amount which can be earned and the average 939 wage. I hope that at a later date opportunity will be found to give further thought to that arrangement.
I welcome the three changes in the Bill in comparison with the plan of the White Paper. I have never been one of those who regarded increments as providing very much effect upon the proportion of people who decide to defer retirement. The vast number of people prefer to stay on if they are physically capable and are not induced to do so by the size of the increments which will accrue to them by so doing. Nevertheless, I welcome it, not the least because those who are well enough and are willing to stay on will have a better pension than otherwise and, if they are willing to stay on until 70, the increase by this change of 6s 6d. per week will be a very important contribution to their needs.
I am glad that the additional contribution over five years may be reduced by the Minister if it is not needed. We may well find that the figures given to us were on the cautious side and we may well have a larger surplus than is provided for. If that be so, the power given in the Bill to reduce the additional quinquennial contributions may be valuable. I am glad also that the Government have changed the basis for establishing Exchequer contribution. If a certain percentage for a partner in the scheme, namely the Exchequer, is fair, there is no reason why that should be kept down to a ceiling, as was the case in the White Paper. I am glad that that plan has been changed.
I want to allude to an aspect of this subject which has not been referred to today and which is not easy to express. It is assumed in the plan that earnings will increase by 2 per cent. per annum. Some people expect them to increase more, but that does not alter my argument and merely strengthens what I wish to say. There is a fixed grid of those who are full participants in the graduated scheme namely, those earning from £9 to £15 a week. The average wage earner gets about £12 10s. a week; and if the 2 per cent. increase goes on such a participant will, at the rate of 2s. 6d. a year, be able to reach the ceiling in 20 years.
That brings out graphically the effect of applying the scheme as laid down. It means that more and more people will come up against the ceiling and that the 940 average man will be at the point at which his graduated contribution can go no higher in a comparatively short time. The two consequences of that trend seem to have escaped comment. One is that if the Exchequer contribution is to be concentrated on the lower paid participants by design, and if more and more of those people come up against the ceiling, the question of how the Exchequer contribution is to be concentrated becomes increasingly complicated.
Secondly, the graduated principle loses its effect as a smaller and smaller proportion of the population is within or below the ceiling of the grid. What does this point prove? Surely it means that more account should be taken of the increase in the earnings than has been taken. In particular, do we not need to provide in the scheme an opportunity to raise the grid perhaps in five or ten years' time by an amount no doubt to be determined hereafter but for which provision should be made now, rather than have all the complications that will arise if that provision is not made.
To keep matters more or less in balance, if wages are to go up, a grid of from £10 to £16 in ten years' time may be directly related to a grid of from £9 to £15 now. Those who are more familiar with this matter than I am will no doubt consider what will be the effect of any changes in the grid such as I have referred to.
The surplus in the scheme may well prove to be more than has been provided for. The rise in earnings, assumed to be 2 per cent. per annum, may go up. In the last debate I gave reasons for believing that the 2 per cent. would be considerably more in practice.
In the Actuary's Report are figures showing the effect at different periods of an increase of that percentage. The hon. Member for Sowerby did not think it was worth while making provision for people to contract out. I have expressed the view that far fewer people will contract out than has been provided for. If fewer than 2½ million do contract out, the balance in favour of the scheme will grow.
Thirdly, provision is made in the figures for an estimated unemployment of 3 per cent., yet we hear much criticism about present unemployment which is at a 941 lower figure than that now. If it is assumed that we shall soon improve the present percentage we shall surely have a considerably higher figure in the reserves than has been provided for. Even in 40 years' time the graduated part of the plan represents only one-sixth of the total cost of the whole pension proposition. If the reserves grow, it will be very tempting to change the scheme. My own comment on that is to try to bring out that the cost of the basic pension being five-sixths of the whole compared to only one-sixth for the graduated figure, the increased reserves should be retained for use with the basic rather than the graduated figure.
I would now turn to the document from the British Employers' Confederation referred to by the Minister. I find it difficult to see why an occupational pension scheme which seeks to contract out must, for all its members, provide benefits as good as those of the State scheme at £15 a week. It means that to contract out an employer must pay to people earning £10 a week benefits which they would get at the £15 level in the State scheme. Mention has been made of the need to give a greater voice to the individual when considering whether the scheme of his firm should or should not be contracted out. It is only right to point out, however, that he would be in no worse position if contracted out than he would be at £15 a week under the State scheme. So, on those grounds, he has very little criticism if he is taken out with only limited consultation. My point, however, is that it is difficult to see why such a severe test as that is necessary for contracting out.
It also has a bearing on the position of the person working in a firm which has a pension scheme that passes the test who, after some years, leaves that firm and goes to another. I understand that unless the pension he has earned in the occupational scheme in that firm is assured the firm has to pay into the State pool the sums relevant to the highest-paid person in the State scheme, the £15 a week man. One would have thought, in the absence of the ability to maintain his pension earned whilst in that firm's employ, it would have 'been sufficient to have paid the sums he would have earned in the pool if the wages he actually earned were taken as the basis and not the maximum. 942 No doubt at a later date further consideration could be given to that point.
Lastly under this heading, I ask the Minister to take kindly to the suggestion made by the Confederation that it should not be necessary for employers to take individual account of the contributions they make on each person's behalf so long as they give a certificate that they have matched the total contributions due in any particular period from the firm on behalf of those concerned. It undoubtedly would cut out a great deal of individual book-keeping in the firm if individual cases could be cut out. There are many aspects of this business on which one could comment, but I know that others wish to speak and I hope that when the Committee stage is reached these points will be given serious consideration by my right hon. Friend.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)
The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) is obviously well informed on this subject and has made a very constructive and helpful speech. I am glad that his speech was not full of allusions to financial balance, because that theme dominated the speech of the Minister to a great extent. Every few minutes the Minister spoke about "putting the financial side of the scheme right", and of a "sound financial basis.". It seemed to have become an obsession with him to avoid any increase in the Exchequer deficit.
I suggest to the Minister that, although obviously the contributory part of an insurance scheme is important, the most important basis of any form of social insurance is the taxable capacity of the nation. That is an asset which is always available and always increasing. Even if there were some extraordinary, sudden hyper-inflation which wiped out everyone's savings, there would still be the taxable capacity of the nation, which could completely underwrite any scheme in future. So this timid preoccupation on the part of the Government with reducing Exchequer deficits has no real foundation in economic facts.
This timidity has produced this very inadequate, almost derisory, Bill. One could certainly say that the Government have laboured and produced a ridiculous mouse on this occasion. As we have just 943 passed to the feast of Robert Burns, one could say:Wee sleekit, cowrin', tim'rous beastie!I am not saying that the Minister is a"tim'rous beastie"—in fact, I shall suggest later that he is a person of considerable audacity—but this Bill is unenterprising and timid.
One has only to look at the Actuary's Report to see that a boy of 18 who enters the scheme now and earns £15 a week solidly for the rest of his life will, by the time we reach the year 2008, get a pension of £6 a week. The Government Actuary himself admits that wages are likely to rise by 2 per cent. per annum, so wages by 2008 will be about £30 a week on that basis. Surely such a pension would have very little practical effect. In actual practice, wages have increased by 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. in value since the war. If that ratio continued we could think in terms of wages approaching £50 a week by the time we get to 2008, so the suggested pension under the present scheme seems rather exiguous.
No doubt the Minister will argue that, as these graduated contributions and benefits are based on a percentage of earnings, that will rectify itself with the passage of time, but that does not make allowance for the fact that there is a ceiling of £15 to this scheme. I should like him to tell us what is to happen when most workers' wages reach £15 a week. We shall then be back on a flat-rate pension under this scheme and the whole graduated element will have disappeared completely.
Although it is rather timid in some ways, there also seems to be something approaching knavery in this scheme. My right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) gave some figures from Table 2 of the Actuary's Report, which indicated that very large reductions were to be made in the Exchequer deficit entirely at the expense of workers who earn between £9 and £15 a week. It seems that the Minister is running through the working population throwing alms to a few and picking the pockets of most. In Table 3 of the Actuary's Report, for instance, we see that there is going to be a reduction of Exchequer deficit of £169 million in 944 1961 and of £368 million in 1981. That money is not to come from wage-earners who receive less than £9 a week because they will be paying less. Therefore, it must come from wage-earners of between £9 and £15 a week.
§ Sir S. Summers
I am sure the hon. Member has overlooked the fact that those with more than £15 a week are still to contribute.
§ Sir S. Summers
Perhaps I did not make the point clear. The hon. Member keeps talking about the people between £9 and £15 a week, but in fact those above £15 a week without limit will contribute. They will be treated as though they are receiving £15 a week.
§ Mr. Cronin
I am suggesting that those in the scheme receiving wages of between £9 and £15 a week will receive rather inadequate benefits and, as a consequence, will pay a large part of the Exchequer deficit which will be saved. To bring the matter to a rather finer point, I have obtained some actuarial figures from a very reputable firm of actuaries. I cannot quote the name of the firm because professional anonymity is an important part of the actuary's code. I should be happy to give the Minister the name if he is interested.
These figures are based on standard insurance practice and on a person earning £15 a week and, therefore, paying an additional contribution of 7s. 4d. Actuarial figures are based on prevailing rate of interest, and these are based on a rate of interest of 4 per cent., which is quite modest, because insurance figures are often based on rates of interest of 5 per cent. and 6 per cent. these days. We want to be fair to the Minister.
On the assumption that he is earning £15 a week and paying an additional contribution of 7s. 4d., a man entering the Government scheme at the age of 18 will receive a pension of £2 1s. whereas under actuarial practice, at 4 per cent. interest rate, he will get a pension of £5 3d. A 945 man entering the scheme at the age of 30 will receive an addition to his pension, under the Government's scheme, of £1 10s. when he reaches the age of 65, but under ordinary commercial insurance practice he would receive a pension of £2 16s. A man who entered at the age of 40 would receive an addition of £1 2s. to his pension under the Government's scheme, but if he made the same contribution to a commercial insurance scheme he would receive £1 11s. 1d.
§ Mr. Cronin
Certainly. I was reluctant to bore the House with too many figures. For a man entering the scheme at the age of 50, the addition to his pension under the Government's scheme would be 13s., whereas under ordinary commercial insurance figures he would get 14s. 5d. I would like to help the hon. Gentleman. If a man enters the scheme at the age of 60, the addition to his pension under the Government's scheme is 4s., whereas under an ordinary commercial insurance policy it is only 3s. 8d., but it is necessary to go to the age of 60 on entering the scheme before the Government's scheme is worth while in terms of ordinary commercial insurance practice.
The Minister may argue that the scheme is redistributive. We want to know who is receiving the redistribution. Under the Labour Party's scheme it is the lower-paid workers, whereas under the Government scheme it is the Treasury and therefore the Income Tax payers, the Surtax payers and commercial firms who pay tax.
The Minister's scheme has certain typical Conservative electoral characteristics about it. He is making a gift before the election in the form of reduced rates, and the increased rates will be introduced after the election. This is a well-known Government habit. Age may not wither Conservative Governments, but custom certainly stales their infinite lack of variety.
§ Mr. Gower
The hon. Member said that the scheme gives money to the Treasury. Does he not recall that his right hon. Friend admitted that a Labour Government would have to face the fact 946 that the existing scheme, introduced by the Labour Government just after the war, is in such a financial state at present that some provision would have to be made out of the new scheme to meet deficiencies arising in the present scheme? All that the right hon. Gentleman objected to was the method by which it was being done.
§ Mr. Cronin
I think the hon. Member has selected a very small part of my right hon. Friend's speech.
This scheme has an enormous advantage to insurance companies, because it competes so badly with them. It is interesting to look at the other people who gain from the Minister's scheme. First of all, employees would obviously gain because there is a reduction of 1s.7d.in their contributions. That is their immediate gain in the weekly rate. But the employer also gains 1s. 3d. for every employee. Thus, the more people he employs the bigger is his gain. If he employs 100 people, his gain is 100 times 1s. 3d., and if he employs 1,000 people it is 1,000 times 1s. 3d. But employees do not gain on the same scale. Their share of the booty is very small.
§ Mr. Freeth
The hon. Member has referred to a firm with 100 employees. In considering the firm of 100 employees, all earning more than £11 a week, will the hon. Member also pour forth tears of sorrow for the employers, who have to pay out more in contributions?
§ Mr. Cronin
I leave all those tears of sorrow to hon. Members opposite.
If the Minister will look at Clause 10 (1, a) he will see that it refers tothe end of an insured person's service in a non-participating employmentand says that he isentitled to a refund of any payments made under the recognised superannuation scheme".I should like to know what happens to the interest on the money which has been collected by the employers on behalf of the employees. The Bill does not make that at all clear. The impression which one gets is that the employer himself pockets the interest. I hope that at some point the Minister will make the point clear. Interest forms a very important part of insurance schemes, and towards the end of the period of payment it amounts to nearly as much as half the total fund available. What the employer 947 does with the interest on the money he has collected is of considerable importance to the employee.
The Minister made an announcement this afternoon that there would be a rise in permitted earnings. He was applauded by some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite and it seemed at first sight an act of generosity. But as soon as one looks at the employment situation one realises that it is nothing of the sort. What are the prospects of an old-age pensioner increasing his earnings these days? All over the country old-age pensioners doing part-time work are being sacked right and left on account of falling production. This is a typical illustration that when the Government open the stable door we can be pretty sure that the horse is too sick to move. It would have been interesting had we been able to hear from the Minister that he had consulted the National Insurance Advisory Committee, but this rather high-handed action was taken without that.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
In accordance with the National Insurance Act, 1946. these regulations have to go in draft to the National Insurance Advisory Committee. I said that in the last day or two I had submitted them to the Committee. The hon. Member may not have heard that in my speech.
§ Mr. Cronin
It would perhaps have been more appropriate if the Minister had made the announcement after he had received the advice of the National Insurance Advisory Committee.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Perhaps the hon. Member is not familiar with the procedure which involves advertising by the Committee of the fact that it has received things of this sort, so that it can invite comments. It would therefore be impossible for me to conceal my well-doing for more than about 48 hours.
§ Mr. Marquand
The right, hon. Gentleman will recollect that he submitted to the N.I.A.C. some time ago the whole question of the earnings rules and that the Committee's opinion at that time was that there should be no change.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I think the right hon. Gentleman's recollection is at fault. Following consideration by the Committee there was in fact the improvement 948 made in the 1956 legislation which followed, and I think went a little further than, the Committee's recommendation.
§ Mr. Cronin
It is in any case a difficult matter which requires careful study. There are arguments for raising the permitted earnings rate, but these arguments tend to shrink in times of substantial unemployment like the present.
A bolder Bill would have been an excellent opportunity for increasing savings on a substantial scale. Some hon. Members have spoken about the undesirability of forced savings. There is no doubt that the savings of this country are quite inadequate and that what we are putting aside for capital re-equipment is derisorily small compared with that of other countries. Recently the U.S.S.R. produced their seven-year plan and they envisaged an increase of capital equipment of 81 per cent. to 84 per cent. over the next seven years. In this country we are this year achieving a substantial reduction on last year, which is certainly nothing of which we can be proud.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) has spoken of the undesirability of employers having the complete initiative in contracting out of this scheme. I hope the Minister will also note that in Clause 12 it appears that the Minister concerned has the complete initiative in respect of employees contracting out in his Department, which could lead to some very unfortunate conflicts between employees and some civil servants at some future date.
I will not prolong my speech, as I know that many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. In conclusion, I should like to point out, without any apology, the desirability of increasing the basic rates of retirement pensions at the earliest possible moment. First of all, there is a sound economic reason, in that it would increase spending and be the most beneficial tonic we could possibly make for the recession which this country is going through at present. It would not have the same electoral advantage as a decrease in the standard rate of Income Tax, which is probably coming in the next Budget, but it would certainly help the people who need helping most.
There is not only the economic reason but also the obvious reason that these 949 people are suffering very considerable distress. The Minister pointed out—and his figures were quite right—that retirement pensioners now are receiving in real terms more than they received in times of Labour Government, but I do not think it is fair to make a comparison between now and those very difficult financial times immediately after the war when we did not know whether we would go bankrupt as a nation without the most concerted efforts—efforts which, fortunately, were very successful.
There is one other reason why it is particularly desirable that old-age pensioners should have help now, and that is a qualitative reason. The man who is an old-age pensioner now is the man who in the inter-war years spent most of his time unemployed, unwanted and living a life of under-nutrition. Those are the people who in their old age are receiving exactly the same treatment. I ask the Minister to remember that while we are debating this matter this evening all around us are gigantic quantities of these unfortunate people in ill-heated houses, under-nourished, unwanted and miserable. Will he do something to help them?
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)
I think the country as a whole has much for which to thank the Members of the Opposition who have brought out so plainly in their work and speeches the difference in philosophy between the two parties on this most important matter. I have an embarrassing choice because there have been so many things I have heard today with which I disagree that I cannot possibly cope properly with them all.
I should first like to stress the changing nature of the situation. Here we have a situation in which three vital factors in the vast picture are changing rapidly. Earnings are rising, savings are rising and occupational schemes are growing. This is the picture against which has to be seen the criticism made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin).
I agree with him entirely that savings and investment are vital. As has been said by Members on both sides of the House in this debate, on the rate of investment depends our power to do anything, let alone anything adequate for pensioners 950 in the future. I should like to examine how the ideas put forward by both sides respectively will help or hinder the investment which we all want.
I have spoken of a rise in earnings, savings and occupational schemes. What will this result in? As earnings grow, the income of the scheme will grow, permitting all sorts of discretions by the Government of the day in dealing with contributions or benefits or with taxation. As savings grow the investment behind all the services for the pensioner will grow, too. As occupational schemes grow, so human benefit to the pensioners grows also. With occupational schemes under the Government proposals goes transferability, at the highest level laid down by the Government, and also the human comfort to families in knowing that if death occurs before retirement there is a return of contributions.
I recognise that those concerned with occupational schemes have to take very delicate and difficult decisions on whether or not to contract out. Those who decide to contract out must recognise, as I am sure they will, that they will be in competition with a protean Government scheme that can change its standards at any time in the future. Let us note that the Tory proposals do, at least, plainly state that there will be a two-way option for all time in the future to contract in or contract out, whereas the Socialist proposals hedge on this. It is stated in "National Superannuation" on page 43, that they cannot be sure that always in the future there will be option to contract out.
I can see why the Socialists have to provide this hedge because, as we all know, the burden of contributions on those who receive above average earnings are so heavy under the Socialist proposals in order to subsidise the lower paid that if they allow opting out freely they would lose, as the Minister so rightly said, the subsidisers and keep only the subsidised. Let us remember that the Government proposals guarantee the two-way option continuously.
The occupational scheme which decides to contract out will presumably have made sure in order to deal with the protean Government potential that it has a handsome margin of actuarial income over its basic requirements with which it can at any time bring its own benefits up 951 to any reasonable benefits that any Government in the future may introduce.
My view is that many schemes that decide not to contract out will indulge in what I hope will be a growing insurance practice in this country and bring in what I hope will be even more popular than the top-hat system, and that is the top-up system, which will enable more private and public employers to stay on top of the Government's basic and graduated scheme with the additional element expressed in nominal money terms or percentages of final salary, which will always be welcome to the employee.
Another possibility which may very well take place is that many occupational schemes will take advantage of the discretion given in the Bill to split their schemes in two between all those who, temporarily in most cases, are earning less than £11, because most people earning less than £11 will probably, in the next five years, be earning over £11, and another scheme for those earning larger sums which may well be more suited to contract out. This is the changed situation, and I suggest that within a very short time it will result in the problem of those who are to retire in some years from now being solved.
We are left to deal with the interim problem which, of course, in human terms is an immense and very serious one. Here I should like to try to bring out what I suggest has been latent in the speeches of hon. Members opposite—a difference in philosophy. I, for one, and, I am sure, my colleagues, do not think that the Government should do all the saving for the citizen, or all the investing for the citizen. The basis of the Socialist scheme is that saving for an adequate retirement standard of living is to be compulsory—and compulsory through a Government scheme.
How are the fruits for this distribution of wealth to be obtained? They are to be obtained by Government investment. I do not say that the people controlling Government investment, or any fund set up by a Government, so long as it lasts, would wish ill to the community—very obviously not—but Government investment maximises the chances of mistakes of judgment and mistakes of bias, whereas I believe that the more we can disperse investment decisions the more likely we are to make the right decisions—as well as, 952 sometimes, the wrong decisions, though the wrong decisions will not then of course necessarily be enormous.
Let us also remember that the two sides of the House disagree strongly about the taxable capacity of the country, but I am glad to see that in page 9 of its publication the Socialist Party recognises—There is a very real limit to the amount which the taxpayer, and that includes the working-class taxpayer, is prepared to pay in tax.The pamphlet goes on to say that if too much of the tax element is left in their insurance scheme any Socialist Government would have to restrict their taxation for other very desirable things, such as education.
Surely, it is absurd to continue to tax people in order to provide the same people with the benefits for which, at a certain level of earnings, they can perfectly well pay themselves. The basis of the Tory Party's scheme is to desubsidise these people as they rise above a certain level, and the tax benefit coming from that does not go only, as is implied and as has been claimed by hon. Members opposite, to those with massive earnings of their own. In eight Budgets, the Tory Government have given concessions to the mass of taxpayers on seven separate occasions and have only on one occasion given a concession to Surtax payers. Here I may say that I hope that it will not only be direct taxation that will benefit. I want to see indirect taxation reduced as well.
The fact is that the position between the two parties is a matter of balance, of degree. There can be too much paternalism. I believe that the Socialist scheme has far too much paternalism in it. I recognise that there may be far too little paternalism and that that, too, can be a danger which must be avoided, but I believe that the Government scheme with its graduated payments possibly strikes the balance in between.
What would be absolutely fatal would be to think of giving to the pensioner with the one hand while taking it away with the other by inflation. Let us not forget that the Socialist scheme not only risks inflation by its contribution increases, pension increases and tax increases, but at the same time it proposes increased taxation to meet health charges, prescription charges, increased health contributions, subsidies on milk and bread—in 953 relation to which so much blame is put on us. The result could only be a massive inflation that would ruin the export trade and remove the benefit of any increase given to the pensioners in the meanwhile.
I have spent rather more time than I had intended on the wood, so let me now concentrate a little on one or two trees. We are all, of course, wondering whether we should not be giving more to the retired at the moment. I am glad that hon. Members opposite have conceded that pensioners are better off today than they were ten years ago. I agree that ten years ago the country was recovering from war and was facing rearmament, but what has happened is that not only has the standard of living of the pensioner increased under the Tory Government but, quite rightly, our expectations of what the standard of living of a pensioner should be has increased very notably also according to the conscience of the country.
Nobody, however, can abolish poverty overnight without causing grave evils of inflation and other damage to the economy. Regrettably, the Socialist proposal of a 10s. increase would rescue from the National Assistance Board only one-third of those who, in retirement, claim supplementary pensions today. I do not want to see the National Assistance Board the recourse of people in old age at all; but poverty is sometimes caused by ignorance, and I think it very interesting that the most thorough surveys of old people have revealed large numbers who were not claiming from the National Assistance Board the help to which they were entitled. So often we hear that the old people do not apply because of pride. So far, I have not found anyone in that category, although I agree that some may exist, but surely the large number who do not claim fail to claim out of ignorance—not pride. It is comforting to learn that in Salford several hundreds were advised to apply for it who had been entitled to it for several years.
I thought it interesting that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) and those, who followed him, whilst stressing so much the benefits the Government should have given and the benefits, as they think, that their own scheme provides, fail to 954 mention the cost involved in their own or any other scheme alternative to that of the Government. I believe that the Socialist scheme threatens inflation, and such inflation as would really endanger any increase they might be able to give, not just because the contribution of the individual employee is raised—although that might be a factor, as the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) may concede, if the employee claims increased wages as a result; not just because of taxation going up, but mainly because the employer is to have to pay so much more in contributions that he will, as the Socialist scheme expects, put up his prices.
The combination of increased contributions, increased taxation and increased prices without a single ounce of extra production must surely be inflationary. That is a view expressed very forcibly in another place very recently by the gentleman whose name we commonly associate with this social matter of pensions. We should remember that when assessing the two schemes.
Before sitting down, perhaps I may be allowed to try to demolish one other tree growing on the other side. It has been said several times that the Government scheme offers a bad bargain for those paying graduated contributions. There has been, it is true to say, a cri de coeur from the British Employers' Confederation that the Government's scheme is a very tough one with which to compete. That does not sound as if it gives bad value for money. On the other hand, there has been telling criticism from the Life Offices Association, which claims that its members could give double the value for new entrants. It was to that case that the hon. Member for Loughborough referred.
It is, however, fair to say that the Life Offices Association was talking about new entrants; and not only new entrants now but new entrants twenty years hence, and not only new entrants in 1980, but after four full quinquennial increases had, presumably, been levied by the Government. We know that the Government have now taken power not to levy the four quinquennial increases—who knows whether those increases will be exacted in full at all? Let us, therefore, see how the two ranges of values compare. Even 955 if the Life Offices Association were anything near right—and here it is not—we see that the Government's scheme redistributes in the graduated field not according to income but to age. It is quite true that the young get less good value than the old. But the young, if history is any guide, will be continually getting uncovenanted benefits in the future, probably at the expense of the current generation of young people. The value of a graduated contribution depends on the age of the contributor. The older person gets excellent value for his money, but the younger person is not treated as well. The scheme, however, will probably change a great deal in future if history is any guide.
I believe that every criticism levelled by the Opposition has all sorts of satisfactory answers, and that in general the Government scheme is admirable and should be supported because it strikes a balance between too much paternalism and too little paternalism and because, while benefiting pensioners of today by increasing the increments, by its raising of the earnings rule and by its avoidance of inflation, it leaves room for the great expansion of occupational schemes which I welcome and which I hope will continue to grow in future.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
I agree with the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) that this is a formidable Bill. It is formidable for anyone who has to read it and even more formidable for anyone who has to try to understand every Clause.
I certainly do not propose to refer to every Clause, but I should like to draw attention to some of the underlying principles. There are numerous points of detail upon which the Bill might well be criticised. Some of them are of major importance. For example, the re-distributive element is difficult to justify. In any national scheme one must expect some redistribution of income as between those who pay and those who receive, but it is unfair that one class—namely, those earning between £12 and £15 a week—should bear a disproportionately high share of this burden. That is a point which deserves further consideration.
§ Sir K. Joseph
Could the hon. Gentleman explain what he means by redistri- 956 bution? I do not quite understand what he is saying.
§ Mr. Wade
Furthermore, I think that the opting out arrangements will give rise to many anomalies and difficulties. They will create some serious headaches for employers. I notice that the provisions take up 11 pages of the Bill, but I am not sure that the House appreciates that all these opting out arrangements have been made necessary only by the introduction of the compulsory graded pension. I regard this as one of the fundamental issues.
When the Government's scheme was first announced, my immediate reaction was that from a Treasury point of view it seemed to be sounder than the Labour Party's plan. However, it appeared to be a cautious compromise between the existing system and the Labour Party's proposals. Although there are many divergencies in detail, I do not see any fundamental difference between the Government's proposals and those put forward by the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Wade
I do not expect either the Government or the Opposition to agree with me.
I listened with great interest to the Minister in the debate on the Address on 29th October, 1958. When he was dealing with the need for tackling the potential deficit on the fund, I thought that he was on firm ground, but when he outlined the principles which, in his view, underlay the Government proposals, I did not think that he was so convincing. Hon. Members will remember that during the debate there was an interchange of view between the Minister and the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) with reference to applying compulsion in a discriminative scheme. The Minister said:The hon. Gentleman knows and the House knows that these questions of compulsion upon 957 the individual are in a modern society matters of degree and of judgment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1958; Vol. 594, c. 172.]That is fair enough, but I think that the difference between the two plans is one of degree rather than principle. Both introduce the compulsory graded pension, and the architects of both schemes seem to assume that it is the proper function of the State to ensure that when Mr. Jones retires he shall receive more than Mr. Smith, according to the wages which they earned during their working lives, rather than merely ensure that neither Mr. Jones nor Mr. Smith should find himself in the unfortunate position of being forced to live on National Assistance or below a certain minimum level.
It is true that the Government's scheme does not go as far as the Labour Party's plan. I recognise that; but does anyone seriously believe that this is the end of the story? I do not think that it is. The Minister has shown great skill in stealing some of the Labour Party's clothes with which to dress up his plan, but this plan, if adopted, can be so easily treated as a first step towards something much more ambitious and eventually towards the State taking over the whole responsibility for superannuation. It may be that the hon. Member for Coventry, East will welcome that, but before deciding whether that is a good idea, and welcoming it, we should consider what kind of future we are looking forward to.
I was interested in the observations of Lord Beveridge. I am not suggesting that everything that he says must be accepted as the law of the Medes and Persians, but he is one to whom we should listen with respect on a subject such as this. I had the opportunity of hearing him in London on 11th November, 1957, and he made rather similar observations in another place more recently. He said:I do not see why everyone in the country should be taxed so that those who earn most wages at work should automatically get larger pensions when old. I prefer all citizens to stand together with equal basic provision against want at any time and to be free and responsible for managing their own affairs above that.The point which we have to consider is whether that idea is outmoded. I know that hon. Members on the Opposition side and apparently hon. Members on the Government benches think that it is outmoded. Do we look forward to the day 958 when it will be the normal duty of the State to ensure that Mr. Smith shall receive more than Mr. Jones, or vice versa? Or do we look forward to the day when voluntary saving will be so far advanced that it will be necessary only to ensure that there is a basic minimum and the remainder left to voluntary saving? That is the point at issue.
If the first view is correct, this is a step forward, a social advance. If, however, the second view is correct, the Government's plan, embodied in the Bill, is merely a complicated financial scheme to deal with an economic and financial crisis and is not a social advance at all. I and my colleagues take the second view. We believe that this introduction of compulsory graded pensions is unnecessary as well as extremely complicated. Incidentally, it is a very complicated edifice that has been built up to provide comparatively small graded pensions at this stage.
I do not want to spend all my time on destructive criticism. We should strive to achieve five objectives. I do not propose to quote figures and calculations; they are contained in the report of a Liberal committee on pensions which, I understand, will be published tomorrow and of which I have an advance copy. If, however, I am challenged on the figures, I am quite willing to give them.
The first objective should be the provision of an adequate basic pension. There are far too many people today on National Assistance. It was never intended that anything like so large a proportion should have to rely upon National Assistance. Therefore, it is essential that there should be an increase in the basic pension.
Secondly, there should be some safeguard against inflation so far as it affects old people who rely on pensions. Obviously, everyone cannot be made secure against inflation, but there is a special case for the pensioners. It is true that another period of inflation of the kind that we have had since the war could wreck any scheme, but it does not follow that no attempt should be made to safeguard pensioners from the effects of inflation. There should be regular periodic reviews, at least every two years, and the pension should be linked to a special pensioners' cost of living index. Obviously, the pension cannot be expected to rise and fall with the cost of living during 959 a year, but if there were periodical reviews with the pension linked to a special cost-of-living index, this would have many advantages, one of them being to help in taking the issue out of the realm of party political pressures. It would help to provide some kind of objective test.
Thirdly, the public should know what they are paying for and how it is being provided. As long as we have a mixture of the Exchequer grant and a poll tax, it is extremely difficult to get the general public to understand or even to think in terms of what they pay being related to what pensioners receive. I am inclined to favour the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), that we should introduce a graduated social security tax for providing the whole of the money, replacing both the contributions and the Exchequer grant.
Does the hon. Member mean that he wants to have the graded social security tax and a flat-rate pension?
§ Mr. Wade
That is a fair enough point. The answer is that there are some who should make contributions, but who are below the Income Tax level. The contribution might be small, but it is perfectly fair that workers should make some contribution even if they do not come up to the Income Tax paying level. Pending this major reform, however, the Exchequer grant should be utilised in helping to provide the cost of the pension scheme. I suggest that there should be a maximum contribution, graded downwards, and this grading downwards would be made possible by the Exchequer grant. That, however, would be only a stopgap measure.
Fourthly, those who have reached retirement age and are willing to work should not be discouraged from doing so. I welcome the raising of the earnings level, but I do not regard this as adequate. 960 All too often one hears of people who have reached retirement age and who feel deterred from earning because they do not like forgoing part of their pension. No amount of explanation about the benefits they may gain from continuing to work—benefits in the form of increased pensions later—will overcome that psychological difficulty.
We have had more than ten years in which to study the earnings rule. The time has come for a much more radical reform than that proposed by the Minister. The time has come when the earnings rule should be abolished. I am quite aware of the cost and this has been taken into account in the report to which I have referred—
§ Mr. Wade
I was coming to that. I appreciate the consequences of abolishing the earnings rule. It might be carried out immediately or over a period of years by gradually raising the limit until there was no difference between the retirement age and the qualification for the old-age pension. I would be willing to see a distinction retained in respect of tax allowances, but the difference in the pension would eventually disappear.
That would have three advantages. First, it would get rid of the irritation caused by the earnings rule. Secondly, it would get rid of some of the evasion that takes place. Thirdly, it would help to solve one of our social problems—that is, the need for facilitating change of job when people have passed the peak of their mental and physical ability. It would provide some sort of cushion for those who have reached a stage when they should move on to employment less onerous, and, perhaps, less well paid, and make way for younger people.
I realise that all this is controversial and I am obliged to the House for listening so patiently to me. The fifth objective is to bridge the gulf between those who have the advantage of occupational schemes and those who have not. I think that we all agree that there is a gulf and that we must try to bridge it. Where we differ, however, is on the need for introducing compulsory graded pensions to achieve it. I should like to deal with the 961 ways in which it can be done voluntarily, but it would take too long. More can be done in the way of tax reliefs and I would make a distinction between voluntary schemes which have provision for transferability and those which have not.
Secondly, I should like to introduce certain proposals put forward by my colleagues and myself on the Finance Bill and known as the "own as you earn" proposals, which could be linked with a scheme to encourage saving for old age. I think there also are various amendments that could be made to the Finance Acts, and particularly to Section 22 of the 1956 Act. The point I want to make is that those who believe that this gulf can be bridged only by the introduction of compulsory graded pensions are, in my view, taking too pessimistic a view of the potentialities of developing voluntary saving encouraged by the State.
To sum up, I would say that the objections to the Bill are threefold. It does not provide any assurance that there will be an adequate basic pension. It retains, and it must inevitably retain, the earnings rule. Thirdly, it provides for compulsory graduated pensions. It is for these reasons that my colleagues and I feel that we must vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. Of course, that does not indicate for one moment that we agree with the latter part of the Amendment tabled by the Opposition. It would seem that both hon. Members opposite and Members of the Opposition differ from us in that they wish to retain the earnings rule, and wish to introduce compulsory graded pensions. But the majority is not always right; sometimes the minority is right.
Even if my views are not accepted by hon. Members opposite or by hon. Members of the Opposition, they will perhaps concede this point. This new scheme will put a great burden on industry. It will involve a lot of time, worry and expense. If I were an industrialist, which I am not, I think I should say that all this trouble, this extra time, expense and clerical work, might be worth while if I felt quite sure that in the future Governments would not be subjected to continual political pressure to change the scheme. It seems to me that there is very little hope of that. This scheme leaves this Government and others wide open to political pressure for constant and 962 frequent change, and I think that to be inevitable where we have a proposal which is not based on any clear principle.
I have no doubt that the Minister has given a great deal of thought to the Bill, and that much care has been taken in drawing it up. It may be that, by now, the Minister has become very much attached to the Bill, but the only advice that I can offer is that he should get on at once with dealing with the problem of the old people, and that it would be wise to scrap the Bill and to try again.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Denzil Freeth (Basingstoke)
I think we were all interested to hear the views of the Liberal Party on this question. We shall certainly read tomorrow the detailed proposals of the Liberal Party, but we could not glean very much of the details from the speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade). I did gather, however, that his party is proposing that there should be a flat-rate pension and a graduated contribution.
As the hon. Member doubtless knows, this is the system at present used in Israel, where it was devised with the simple idea of financing the pensions that had to be paid to large numbers of elderly immigrants who, naturally, had never paid any contributions, but I never met anybody in Israel who did not consider that a graduated contribution and a flat-rate pension were anything other than completely unjust in themselves and only defensible in view of the peculiar circumstances of that country.
§ Mr. Wade
Does the hon. Member agree that, both under the existing system and under the scheme proposed by the Government, that will still be the case, so far as the provision of Exchequer grants out of Income Tax is concerned? Certainly, under the present system that is so, because the payment by Income Tax is graded and the receipt of pensions is at a flat rate.
§ Mr. Freeth
Of course, every element of subsidy is an element of grading. On the other hand, it is quite impossible to state whether the Exchequer subsidy comes from direct or indirect, from progressive or non-progressive taxation Basically, I think that graded contributions and flat-rate pensions are an unhappy alliance.
963 The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West said that he regarded the Government's present proposals and the Labour Party's proposals as being the first steps on the way to eliminating private pension schemes, and I thought I saw on the faces of a number of hon. Members opposite a degree of agreement with the hon. Member, although I agree that the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man) shook his head. I think that there are many hon. Members opposite who regard private schemes with something like abhorrence, and who would very much prefer the State to do the job. I think that one of the great merits of our scheme is that it does not attempt to have any deleterious effect on the growth of private pension schemes; indeed, I believe that it will have the very opposite effect.
One thing which we are seeking to do, which hon. Members opposite regard almost as a sin to attempt to do, is to attempt to eliminate the very large deficit which will occur in the present fund in the next ten or twenty years. Member after Member on the Labour benches opposite has risen and told us that the Bill was really Finance Bill No. 1, the sole aim of which, if I may quote the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand), was to give a "divi" to the taxpayers in the Budget, or to do what another hon. Member referred to as to save money for the Chancellor to give away.
Quite frankly, I find the idea of the Chancellor giving money away when he makes tax remissions wholly repugnant. It is not the Chancellor's money that he gives-away. It is money owned by people who earned it, and the Chancellor is merely taking a little less from them.
The whole idea that the Bill will, in a mystic way, relieve the fund in the financial year 1959–60 is wholly erroneous, because the financial effect of the Bill will only appear in the financial year 1961–62. Therefore, whether the Bill is introduced or not, whether it advances quickly or slowly through Parliament, it will have no effect at all on the financial provisions which the Chancellor will have to make for 1959–60, which, of course, include a deficit of about £14 million and the Exchequer contribution of £125 million.
When we come to the Exchequer contribution to this fund, one has a difficult 964 choice to make. It is a question of not too little and not too much. We are proposing that, over the next two years, the Exchequer contribution should rise by about £45 million to £170 million. The Labour Party's scheme proposes that in the first year the Exchequer should contribute about £289 million; in other words, a difference of 6d. on the Income Tax.
I think it is a very bad thing that one should propose a scheme which can only function by increasing taxation, but, certainly, it should completely disprove the allegation of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) that Labour Party policies do not mean increasing taxation. If they would put up £125 million more than the Government are proposing as the Exchequer contribution, it could not do otherwise than result in a higher taxation base throughout the whole nation.
It is said, and has been said by hon. Members opposite, that the old should have a greater share of the national wealth. How does one decide what such a share should be? One surely has to consider the number of young children and the number of old people and the share of the national wealth one should give to education and to the old and to the sick. I find this a kind of social service theology which bears no relation to reality at all. What we have to try to do, as the national wealth increases, is to give greater purchasing power to the old people. One rejoices that that has been proved to be possible during seven years of Conservative rule.
We had at one moment of the speech by the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East a cleverly painted picture of gloom, of old people dying alone and in poverty, surrounded by miserable sticks of furniture. We all know that happens. We all know the lot of loneliness, and that lot will not be alleviated by any pension Bill from either side of the House. It is a different question altogether. Even if we assume that at present the position of the aged is anything but enviable, quite frankly, it will not be so profoundly altered by raising the basic pension from 50s. to 60s., and that certainly will not reduce appreciably the number of old-age pensioners who at present draw National Assistance.
965 I remember the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East talking about the vast amount of luxuries for some that exists in the world today, such as motor cars and refrigerators. He seemed to imply that if the Labour Party's scheme of national superannuation came into being these luxuries would be open to 'the great mass of retired aged. They will not be able to buy very many motor cars on the difference between 50s. and 60s. a week.
Then we have the age-old problem of the Labour Party in opposition guaranteeing the purchasing power of the pension in the time of inflation. If we are to put the basic retirement pension on a kind of cost-of-living escalator, are we to do the same with National Insurance contribution? Otherwise, the two will get completely out of step. We cannot put up the pension automatically as the cost of living rises unless we are prepared, at the same time, to put up the contribution, and I have not met anybody who has been willing to popularise that side of the question.
Graduated pensions, of course, are excellent. People have them in the United States, as the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East said, but the right hon. Gentleman did not mention that in the United States there is no State or Washington subsidy at all. Let it be said quite firmly that our scheme is, first, a comprehensive scheme. Hon. Members opposite are constantly stating that contributors earning under £9 a week are excluded from our scheme. As their contribution is reduced from 9s. 11d. to 8s. 4d., it is extraordinarily difficult to see how they are excluded.
Then we have the argument about the fact that the National Insurance Fund would be running into profit and would have a surplus on some of the years of the 1960s. I remember the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East pointing out that in 1960–61 it was expected that there would be an excess of income over expenditure of £8 million, and he quoted some of the other years from Table 2 of Report by the Government Actuary on the Financial Provisions of the Bill. It was rather odd that he studiously avoided Table 3, on page 7 of the Report underneath the table which he quoted, which shows that until 1976, if yearly averages are taken, the scheme runs at a very small deficit, but nevertheless at a deficit.
966 I should like to deal with two of the differences between the White Paper and the Bill—the increase in increments on delayed retirement and the increase in the Exchequer contribution. I have always thought that for somebody aged between 65 and 70 a period of 25 weeks was a very long period for which to guarantee to be able to work, and a very long period to go through before any appreciable benefit accrued to one's pension.
I had a case in my constituency not long ago of a man of 68 who worked for 20 weeks out of 25 and then found that his contributions were not counted to him by the Minister for righteousness' sake, and he received nothing for them at all. I therefore strongly welcome the proposal to shorten the qualifying period from 25 weeks to 12, and I also rejoice that my right hon. Friend has found it possible to propose not merely an increase in the total extra increment from 3s. to 4s. per week but, in the case of a married couple, from 25s. to 31s. 6d. for five years.
I wonder whether it is widely known in the country that, in the case of a married couple, if a husband works until 70, he retires on a pension of £5 11s. 6d. a week. It is a fairly sizeable sum against the background of the hours we spend referring to pensions in terms of 50s. a week for a single man. I am glad that that provision has been added in the Bill, because this plan takes effect before 1961 and I hope that people will be benefiting from it at the end of the current year.
Secondly, there is an increase in Exchequer contribution, and here I think we have pitched it about right between the very high figure in the Socialist scheme and the present figure which is a little low. I particularly rejoice that some method has been found to provide that the Exchequer contribution may increase as the national wealth increases.
The main effects of the Bill will, of course, be wholly admirable. I think that the National Insurance contributor will continue to receive, as he does now, a really first-rate bargain for the money that he pays. If he earns under £9 a week he will pay less and get the same in pension. If he earns between £9 and £ 11 he will pay less and get more, and it is only at over £11 a week that a person pays more and gets more. I do not think that the contributions that have to be made are unduly high. After all, if a man earns £15 a 967 week he will pay under the Government scheme 13s. 5d. in contribution. It will be 14s. 4½d. under the scheme associated with the name of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) and, for the man earning £20 a week, it will be as high as 17s. 4½d. under the Socialist plan.
I believe that the graduations are fair when it is remembered that any State scheme has to have some kind of redistri-butive effect, at any rate to take care of the old entrants. My right hon. Friend, in the debate in the House on 29th October, said of the pensioner under the Socialist plan:… it will be seen that he accumulates 1s. of pension for every £35 of graduated contribution paid as compared with the £30 which produces a similar amount of pension under the White Paper proposals."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1958; Vol. 594, c. 167.]I think that the graduation side looks good, at any rate in relation to the Labour Party's plan.
Very little has been said so far today about the self-employed. I know that a number of self-employed people feel that they are being put into a special and depressed class by this Bill. Frankly, I do not think so. One always has to remember that the self-employed have no employer and, therefore, if they were to enter into the graduated part of the scheme, they would have to provide not only the employee's contribution but also the employer's contribution as well. Certainly, they are no worse off, and they still get their share of the Exchequer subsidy needed to keep the present pension scheme in balance.
It is well worth pointing out to them what would happen if the self-employed went into some such graduated scheme. If one takes the Labour Party's proposals, a self-employed person earning £12 a week, who now and under the Government scheme will continue to pay 12s. a week, would have to pay 24s. 2d. A self-employed person earning £15 a week, instead of the 12s. he now pays and will continue to pay under the Government scheme, would have to pay as much as 29s. Now, 29s. out of £15 is a lot to pay by way of a National Insurance contribution. I believe that we are far more right to make them contract out of this scheme and then to have and use the freedom, which the hon. Member for 968 Huddersfield, West was praising a little while ago, in order to enter into some of the schemes for which such large taxation relief is being given by the 1956 Finance Act.
We then come to the question of what effect the Government's proposals will have on the economy as a whole. I think I have shown the House that the burdens placed on the employee are not so high as to make him demand substantial wage increases, as I believe he would demand under the Crossman plan. I do not believe either that the increased contributions from the employers are such as to have a deleterious effect. For the £20 a week employee the employer has to pay 12s. 1d. under the Government scheme. He would have to pay 20s. a week under the Labour Party scheme.
I think that this very high employer's contribution would have two deleterious effects upon the economy as a whole. First, I believe it would act as a disincentive to the employers to pay adequately their higher executives, their research staffs and so on. We all know that such people tend to filter across to America and other places where pay for such grades is higher and direct taxation is less. Secondly, I believe that the very high employer's contribution would result in higher prices. As we all know from page 119 of their yellow book, that is recognised by the sponsors of the Labour Party's scheme.
One final word on a detail, the detail of the people with fluctuating earnings. If people have a bonus which is paid each half year and during the rest of the year are paid at, let us say, £10 a week, are they or are they not to be given the chance to contribute and to receive the graduated contributions and the graduated pensions attributable to their annual maximum salaries divided by 52 weeks?
This is one of the problems which was raised by the British Employers' Confederation, and I would very much like to know why the document they sent round to all hon. Members so speedily rejects the idea of taking a period—half a year or a whole year—during which the employee remains in the employment of the employer, and averaging across the relevant number of weeks that person's total remuneration in order to get what we might call an effective average weekly wage for graduated pension purposes. I 969 hope very much that my right hon. Friend will find it possible to do something here.
I was also immensely impressed by the proposal of the British Employers' Confederation that they should raise then-percentage of the total contributions payable under the National Insurance scheme from the present 84 per cent. or 90 per cent. to 100 per cent. I think that it would simplify administration very much, and simplification in a scheme which, as the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) reminded us, will involve a great deal of administration, cannot fail to be a major asset.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
I have listened with considerable interest to some of the things we have heard from the opposite side of this House during the debate, especially to those references, just made by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth), as to the inflationary effect there is bound to be, so we are told, if a pension scheme such as that put forward by the Labour Party were introduced in this country. At the same time we are asked to believe that the Government are sincere in their protestations that they want to see the spread of private occupational pensions. What I should like to have explained by someone opposite is why it is that in a State pension scheme high contributions are likely to be inflationary, in fact are going to be so, and that a similar contribution paid by, the Government hope, almost the same number of people into private occupational schemes is not inflationary. That is what we are asked to believe.
We are also told that employers will pass on pretty well the whole cost to the consumer. That may be so in some industries, but I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that there are some good employers today in almost all kinds of industries who are already making contributions to pension funds on behalf of their employees. Other employers, not so good, are not making these contributions. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite sincerely believe that because those other employers have to find some more money that the ordinary price mechanism of the market will allow them suddenly to increase their prices, whereas the employer who is already paying the contribution will have no need to increase his prices? If hon. Gentlemen opposite really believe 970 in free enterprise, I think that to a large extent this could, in theory at any rate, according to their beliefs, cancel itself out.
We have also been told during this debate of some of the differences that exist between the two sides of the Chamber on this issue. I believe that the main difference has been missed. The main difference is that we on this side of the House have been looking carefully at this problem for the last six years. It is well over three years ago now that there was set up the committee which prepared the policy document "National Superannuation", of which my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) was chairman.
We on this side of the House really believe that people should have a' pension in retirement which bears some reasonable relation to their earnings during working life. I have yet to hear from anyone speaking from the Treasury Bench that the people on the other side of this Chamber really believe that same thing. They seem to believe, as far as I can judge, that only certain types of worker should get this type of benefit and that others should rely entirely on a State superannuation scheme. I agree very much with my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) when he says that this Bill is not really a pensions Bill, but the first Finance Bill of the year. I hope to refer to that point again in a moment or two.
Some eighteen months ago now the Labour Party presented the proposals contained in the policy document "National Superannuation". We were attacked on all sides. We were told by the insurance companies that this was no good because it was not properly founded. We were told that a proper pensions scheme must have a proper actuarial basis. The Tory Party said it was quite wrong, that a State scheme did not need a fund of this kind. It is apparent that at that time at any rate the Tories and their friends in the insurance companies had two separate points of view.
We were then told, also by representatives of existing pension funds, that the proposals in the Labour Party document were so good that a large number of 971 lower-paid workers in existing pension funds would be tempted to contract out of the existing fund and into the State fund. At the same time we were told by Mr. Oliver Poole, who was chairman of the Conservative Party at that time, that the Labour Party's proposals were half pie in the sky because, he said, they only promised half pay on retirement in the year 2010. We have now got a Government scheme which does not promise anything like half pay on retirement to any of the contributors, yet we proposed to go up to that level at any rate by the year 2010.
I should like to have a look at the way the proposals that we have from the Government affect one or two groups of people who are involved. We have the 7¾ million people earning under £9 a week. Despite the references which have been made to this as a comprehensive scheme, they are not included in the Government's proposals. Whether or not it is maintained that the scheme is comprehensive, I insist that these people receive nothing from it except a reduction in increases in contribution which the present Government have imposed on them over the past few years. It is audacious of the Conservative Party to claim that they are giving these people something by reducing their contributions when it was they who imposed the increases over the last few years. But the decrease in contribution is only a temporary measure; it will go up again over the next twenty years.
It is a bad thing that these people should be left out of any wage-related pension scheme. The fact that they are left out makes me believe that the Conservative Party is not interested in providing wage-related pensions. It may be said that people can make their own arrangements for wage-related pensions, but these 7¾ million people are the very ones who would find it most difficult of all to make additional arrangements for retirement. In any event, they would find it most difficult to save during their working life. We ought to be concentrating on these people and enabling them to get a little more when the time comes for them to retire. The Government are excluding them from any benefits from this legislation on their retirement.
§ Mr. Reynolds
A lot of industries have been contemplating pension schemes since the publication of the proposals of the committee of which my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East was chairman. I shall believe that a large number of farm employees will get pensions when the National Farmers' Union starts its scheme and when we see how many farmers are prepared to allow their employees to join it.
I should like to have a look at those who are earning under £9 a week and are in an existing pension scheme which is able to contract out. They will get no benefit whatever from this legislation. They will get no reduction in contribution. In fact, they are promised that over the next twenty years their contribution will rise by 3s. 11d. as between employer and employee. They will get no extra benefits, not even a reduction in contributions, but they have a threat of a 9d. a week increase in contribution every five years once the scheme comes into operation.
Then we have those who have to foot the bill, those earning over £9 a week, who are included in the Government's scheme. Between them they will have to pay £196 million in the year 1961–62, rising to £391 million in the year 1981–82. I know that the main reason for the Bill is to get this extra money out of this group of National Insurance contributors. An attempt is then made to sweeten the pill by promising at some time very far in the future slightly higher benefits in return for these higher contributions.
We then have the 5 million people— 2½ million public servants and 2½ million other persons in occupational schemes—who will, the Government think, contract out of the scheme. They will have to continue paying the same contribution, but they will also have to pay increases of 9d. a week in later years with a total extra contribution of 3s. 11d. in twenty years' time, without the promise of a single penny extra in benefit.
Then there is the existing pensioner, to whom the Amendment refers, who is 973 promised absolutely nothing by the Bill and who will have to continue, if he has no other resources, to rely on National Assistance. This compares unfavourably with the idea of doubling the standard of living in 25 years' time, which only a few months ago we were assured was Government policy.
Those who really benefit under the Government proposals are the taxpayers, particularly those in the higher income groups. They will be relieved from finding a total of £79 million in the year 1961–62, rising to £420 in the year 1981–82. So we have this relief for the "general body" of taxpayers. If we have learnt anything from hon. Members opposite in the past few years, this will mean benefit for the higher income earners at the expense of those earning £9 a week who are in the new scheme.
I want to look at what will happen to the 4 million persons at present in occupational pension schemes which the Government assume will not apply to be or will not be approved as an alternative to the proposals contained in the Bill. We are told that there are 6½ million people outside the public service in occupational schemes, but the Government assume that only 2½ million will apply to opt out. What will happen to them? I assume that some of them will have to pay double contributions. I fear that in other cases the employer will say that as he has to pay an increased contribution to the National Insurance scheme he will not continue with his private scheme, saying, "It is either not good enough or cannot be recognised as an alternative". The employer will then have to pay his contribution to the State scheme. Will an employer be prepared to pay a contribution to the State scheme and at the same time continue with his own private scheme which is not recognised as an alternative? There will be difficulties for a large number of people in this respect.
I hope that at some stage we shall have an assurance from the Government that they will provide some protection for a worker at present in a scheme which is not recognised as an alternative and which the employer decides to wind up. I see no reason why we should not provide that where an employer is proposing to wind up an existing scheme the Registrar, who will be given certain 974 duties under the Bill, should have the task of approving any plan which an employer has for winding up a scheme not recognised as an alternative. Otherwise we shall have workers who have been many years in a scheme and have been looking forward on retirement to obtaining a few pounds a week from it, in danger, as a result of the Bill and because the scheme is not recognised as a satisfactory alternative, of losing everything to which they have been looking forward. The Government must find some way of protecting such people. Several hundred thousand may be affected.
With regard to approved schemes as alternatives to the Government scheme, the position in relation to the general principle is fairly clear at the moment, but we ought to know sooner or later, the sooner the better, what will be the position of a person who is not in an approved occupational scheme but has a satisfactory personal arrangement for his retirement with a private insurance company, a policy of some kind which will give him a reasonable pension when he retires. There is no employer to decide whether he will contract in or out of the scheme. It is a personal arrangement between an individual and an insurance company. In many cases it might be a good pension. Will such a person be allowed to opt out of the Government scheme? Will similar facilities be given to someone paying the same amount of money to an insurance company not for a pension but for a substantial lump sum when he retires? How will such people be affected? They have a right to know. So far as I know, no such information has yet been given.
It will be a little hard on them if, having made adequate private arrangements and worked out how much they can afford to pay, they are called upon to pay additional money into the State scheme, whereas if they had been a member of an approved occupational scheme where the employer decided to opt in they would have been excused paying an additional contribution to the State scheme.
I hope that when the time comes for approving occupational schemes as satisfactory alternatives, the Minister will insist that a widow who is over retirement age and whose husband had been in a 975 private scheme should be bound to get some benefit from that scheme. At present, most private schemes leave it to the husband to declare that he wants a portion of his pension allocated to his widow. If a private scheme is to be approved as a satisfactory alternative, provision must be made for the widow, otherwise when the husband dies and the pension dies with him the widow will be left in an extremely bad position. In many private schemes, nothing can be done for the widow. It must be compulsory on the individual to allocate part of his pension to his widow.
When this matter was put to the Minister earlier, he treated it as a reference to widows under the age of 60, but there must be some provision in private schemes for widows over the age of 60 if those schemes are to be approved as satisfactory alternatives to the proposals contained in the Bill.
Another point on which I wish to question the Minister concerns a statement he made on 29th October when he told the House that one of the advantages of the White Paper proposals was that it became possible to concentrate the contribution of the Exchequer in greater degree on those who, because their earnings were lower, would otherwise have more difficulty in making pension provision for themselves.
That was an interesting statement. It said, in other words, that the Exchequer grant towards the scheme would be concentrated on providing pensions for the lower paid workers. I wondered how the Minister worked that out. In reply to a Question which I put down on 10th November, he said that the figures no longer applied because the scheme no longer depended on those funds. He said that he would expand the point in the debate on 11th November, but in that debate he merely repeated his claim that the Exchequer subsidy would be used more to help the lower-paid workers.
I cannot see how that is worked out. We know exactly how much it costs, actuarially, at present to provide an insured contributor with the present level of benefit. For someone who joins the scheme at the age of 16, 168.6d. per week has to be paid in order to provide him with present benefits when he retires at 65. He may be entering the new scheme at 16 or 18 and earning less than 976 £9 throughout his working life. If he is to receive no subsidy, he obviously has to pay 168.6d. per week. He will actually pay 139d. when the scheme starts, a sum which will rise every five years thereafter, so there must be a Government subsidy of 29.6d. per week.
On the basis of those figures, I cannot see how the Minister makes out that he will get more subsidy in future than has been the case in the past, since at present the Exchequer pays to the National Insurance Fund 29d. per week per contributor. Thus, the only additional subsidy which the lower-paid worker will get in future will be 6d. per week, yet the Minister and other hon. Members opposite have claimed that the new scheme enables a greater subsidy to go to the lower paid worker. The figures show that that subsidy will be increased only by .6d. per week.
Of course, we know that the extra money will go not to the lower-paid worker but to where it has been going for many years to meet the emerging costs of pensions, not of the lower-paid worker, but for pension benefits paid for by higher-and lower-paid workers in the past. If the Minister intends to repeat his claim that the Exchequer subsidy will be used for lower-paid workers, he should give the figures to show how that will be done. I shall otherwise maintain that it is intended to meet the emerging costs which we know it is intended to meet.
The main point about the Bill is the paltry nature of the benefits which will come from it. About 40 per cent. of contributors will be included in the wage-related portion of the Government's proposals, the other 60 per cent. being excluded because they are earning less than £9 a week, or because they are members of approved schemes. In forty years from now, the average wage-related pension on top of the existing flat-rate pension will be £1 0s. 6d. a week.
It must be realised that at present the National Assistance Board is paying about 1 million pensioners an average of 16s. 8d. a week, so that all we have under the Government's proposals forty years from now is that 40 per cent. of the pensioners will receive 4s. a week more than National Assistance beneficiaries are getting at present. The statement that this is purely a taxation Measure and not a pension Measure is borne out by that fact alone.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
The benefits from the Bill have been only slightly mentioned and yet deserve some repetition. I stress the value of the relaxation of the earnings rule for existing retirement pensioners. This is something which many of us in all parts of the House have advocated for a long time. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has found it possible to permit this relaxation. I equally appreciate the decision to relax the earnings rule for certain widows with family responsibilities. That is a matter of tremendous importance.
I want to mention a point about increased increments for those who defer their retirement. Only this week I asked my right hon. Friend to reconsider the amounts of the various disregard I suggest that his decision to increase the increments for deferred retirement increases the need for a review of the disregards. If a man is to be persuaded to defer his retirement, some of the increased increment which he earns should be disregarded later.
A major criticism from hon. Members opposite has been that the Bill's superannuation proposals are too limited an advance. On the other hand, the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) said that that advance was possibly too much. I have much sympathy with his view. I wish that our experience of the last twenty or thirty years had made it unnecessary to introduce the Bill. In other words, I wish that private, occupational and industrial schemes had so spread throughout industry that it was possible for us to contemplate a future in which those schemes would effectively cover 99 per cent. of the population.
In reply to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West, I would say that our experience has shown that there is today a substantial number of people who may not at any time be covered effectively by any of these schemes. I accept the suggestion made by the hon. Member that more might have been done by successive Governments to stimulate the extension of these schemes by adjustment of taxation and so on. But nevertheless it seems that there is a nucleus of the population who, so far as we can see, cannot be expected to enter into some of these schemes. Therefore, it appears that we have—I 978 hope only temporarily—to provide accommodation in this Bill for the benefit of this section of the population. I am glad that the Bill represents a limited advance in this direction. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), I favour the private scheme raher than an extension of the State scheme.
The hon. Member for Islington. North (Mr. Reynolds) asked why hon. Members on this side of the House thought that a large State scheme on too ambitious a scale was likely to be inflationary. He asked why the smaller private industrial schemes had not proved inflationary. I suggest that the chief reason for that contrast is, first, that they have been introduced gradually. It has been a piecemeal process. The State schemes envisaged by the Government and by hon. Members opposite are likely to be introduced at once, and so the impact of private and industrial schemes would be less than that of such schemes.
Another reason why a lot of these private schemes would be less inflationary is that many of them have been funded with invested money. A definite sum of money has been invested from which a large number of pensions have been produced, but in neither of the schemes advocated by the two major parties in this House is there a proposal to fund the money. That is a deficiency in those schemes, and for that reason they would be likely to be more inflationary than the private schemes. Because the one advocated by the party opposite is on a more grandiose scale, I submit that it would be likely to be vastly more inflationary than the Government scheme.
It is unfortunate that the party opposite produced their proposals regarding superannuation at a time when they were also proposing to nationalise industry in bits and pieces; not in the form of the traditional nationalisation which they preached in the past and which was applied to some industries immediately after the war, but a new kind of back-door nationalisation That has increased the distrust of their proposals felt by hon. Members on this side of the House. Hon. Members opposite may object to that interpretation, but I think we may be forgiven for holding that opinion because their two proposals were put forward contemporaneously.
979 Remarks which have been made about existing pensioners are relevant to this debate, and I accept what has been said by hon. Members opposite. But I am glad that my right hon. Friend has made clear that it will still be possible to increase their pensions. Had he inserted something in the present Bill regarding pensions, it might have been interpreted by pensioners as indicating that their rights would be deferred until the date when the Bill became operative. But my right hon. Friend made clear that in the future as in the past, whenever the need appears to be in accordance with the facts at his disposal, he will review the rates again. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will recognise that fact, because in some of their speeches the impression has been given that, because there is no proposal in this Bill, the door is closed to the possibility of any increase in rates of pension. My right hon. Friend has effectively killed that suggestion, and I hope that fact will receive considerable publicity.
This legislation represents an advance, it may be a limited advance, in a sphere which is comparatively new. I hope the need for it will prove to be of a temporary nature and that the tendency so far apparent for our private schemes to consolidate and extend will continue. I hope that the introduction of the Government's scheme will not prejudice that extension of private schemes. Subject to that reservation, because I deem the future of private schemes to be of great importance, I have no hesitation in supporting this Bill.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I am glad the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) is in the Chamber, because I wish to refer to some things he said during his humorous and interesting speech. The hon. Member infused some typical Yorkshire humour into the debate which, as a Lancashire man, I was happy to hear. He expressed some serious thoughts, also, of which the House should take note, not because he said them but because they were wise sayings. The hon. Member said we were dealing today with a very serious problem, and I agree. He referred to the confusing, conflicting, bewildering pieces of legislation which we are called upon to administer, and I agreed also about that.
980 It is now fifty years since we embarked on the State pension scheme, and during that time we have added pieces of legislation calculated to assist the old-age pensioners. Despite all the statesmanship which has been brought to bear on the question of pensions, we have not yet, I regret to say, evolved a system which provides an adequate pension or put on the Statute Book legislation which the man in the street can understand. The time has come when people responsible for drafting legislation should concentrate on making it as easy as possible to understand and simple for the ordinary man in the street to understand. We are now proposing to introduce legislation relating to pensions in the form of a Bill which, even though it may be amended before it reaches the Statute Book, will not be easily understood by the workers and employers who will be affected by it.
There are, in my opinion, three units within the State responsible for the care of the old. There may be more, but three were laid down in 1909. There is the State, which is first; industry, which is second; and the workers, who come third.
I have often expressed with great emphasis that it is the duty of each individual worker, whatever his vocation, be he a street sweeper or a town clerk, to do his best for the State in which he lives and has his being and for the industry in which he earns his livelihood. It is also the duty of the State and of industry to protect him from poverty, want or penury in his old age. That is a philosophy in which I have believed from 1919, and I still maintain that it is true. If the Government and the House of Commons, whatever their political complexion, fail to do that duty, they are failing in the great responsibility that rests upon them.
We are faced with the Bill. I was hoping profoundly that it would be totally different from what it is. My first complaint is that it makes no provision for the existing old-age pensioner. Today four and three-quarter million people will have to be satisfied after the Bill reaches the Statute Book in its present form. They have been looking forward with great expectation for a Bill, promised by the Government, which would at least give them extra assistance. I find that such is not the case, which I much regret.
981 It is true, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), that the Bill does not exclude the present old-age pensioners. I would warn the Minister. I have here the report of a deputation that the Minister met early in December. He gave a degree of contentment and satisfaction to the deputation, which represented the old-age pensioners. At the conclusion of the deputation he asked its members not to discuss the details or talk about the interview because he had no better promise to give. I am not saying that the Minister did wrong, but I say emphatically that if a Minister of the Crown makes a promise to the accredited deputation from an organisation such as the Old Age Pensioners Association, that promise should be honoured. Otherwise a satisfactory reason should be given why it has not been honoured.
The right hon. Gentleman made great play, in his 66-minute speech, to which I listened with rapt attention, with the White Paper. He said that, as a result of the debate on 29th October, the Government had to a very large degree met the criticisms. I want to refer to only three paragraphs in the White Paper, since my time for speaking is limited. The first quotation I will give is from paragraph I, which states:Her Majesty's Government's study of the wider problems of provision for old age has now reached the point at which the Government are ready to put forward their views to the country and to state the lines on which they consider future development should be based.Is the Bill the embodiment of the considered judgment of the Government? Does the Bill in its present form reveal what the Government will do for the existing old-age pensioners?
The White Paper goes on, in paragraph 2:How best to make proper provision for the old is one of the biggest social problems of our time.We agree upon that. The problem will become greater with the advancing years. All the papers that have been published—by the Economist, the Labour Party or the Tory Central Office or by well known thinkers—prophesy that in a few years the problem of dealing with our old-age pensioners will be more acute because of the longevity of the people. I have been saying that for a number of years. How true it is that both the 982 Labour Party and the Tory Party have failed to realise their full responsibility to the old folk.
The White Paper then says:It is vital, too, in considering public policy on this subject, to ensure that state action does not undermine the personal responsibility of each of us to make such provision as we can for our own old age.Decent British citizens do that, without being told by the Government, if they are in a position to do so; but, as has already been stated in the debate, many of the people for whom we are pleading lived during the interval years when they could not make provision for old age. Why? Because their wages were below a certain level, many of them were working for meagre wages and could not make provision for old age.
The White Paper proceeds, in paragraph 3:It is indeed one of the most encouraging features of the present position that many people—and an increasing proportion—have rights and obligations in respect of pensions over and above their rights and obligations under the state scheme of National Insurance".One could go on quoting from the White Paper to prove that the Bill which we are now debating falls very far short of putting into legislative form what was contained in that document in October, 1958, and debated in this House on 29th October, 1958.
My time is ending, but there are two complaints I have to make. One is that the Bill does not make any immediate provision for assisting old-age pensioners, who now total 4¾ million. We are finding that an increasing number of people are compelled to go to the National Assistance Board, because of economic circumstances, to secure supplementation of the basic pension. It was If million in 1956. It is true that the number was reduced, but now it is increasing because of the economic position of the old folk due to the rising cost of living and the lowering of the value of the pound.
I hope, after what has been said by the hon. Member for Barry, that the Minister of the Crown who is charged with the responsibility of replying to this debate will give the House and the nation—and the old-age pensioners—a categorical assurance that immediately the Bill is on the Statute Book the Government will tackle the question of increasing 983 the basic rate of old-age pension from £2 10s. for a single person to £3 10s., and for a married couple from £4 to £6.
I shall not deal with the figures, which have all been very interesting. They can be analysed and will reflect no credit on the scheme proposed in the Bill. The one thing uppermost in my mind is that we are not doing the job we ought to do by excluding, or allowing to be excluded, the existing old-age pensioners. I beg the Minister to give serious consideration to that very important aspect of the provision for old age referred to in the White Paper of October, 1958.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
This is not the first time that I have had the privilege of following the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) m our debates about old-age pensions, and I do so again today with equal pleasure.
The hon. Gentleman was not quite right, in his concluding remarks, when he said that the Bill does not include anything at present for the old-age pensioners. My right hon. Friend, when he opened the debate, mentioned the two items he was able to include in the Bill, as I know the hon. Gentleman will concede, namely, the relaxation of the earnings rule for men and widows with children, and also an increase in the increments and the easier calculation of increments which is to take place and will be implemented before the provisions of the rest of the Bill become law.
The Bill is not designed to be the type of Measure which the hon. Member for Ince asks should be introduced at present. It is not designed to deal with the amounts which the pensioner shall receive. It is, as is frankly conceded, a Bill about the machinery for pensions in the future, which charts the course which pensions legislation is intended to take.
Here, unfortunately, I must part company from the hon. Gentleman. His and my idea about how pensions should in future go are not, I think, quite the same. I believe that, as the Welfare State is developing, the future of all the services which the State provides, pensions not least, should take this course. We should concentrate far more upon providing a basic minimum for those who need it, but we should not continue to increase benefits for those who can equally well pro- 984 vide them for themselves. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) said earlier, there really is no logic in the State taxing heavily to provide for its citizens benefits which they can quite easily pay for themselves.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Would the hon. Gentleman apply that argument to the higher civil servants?
§ Mr. Kershaw
I should apply it to anybody. I am not saying that we should not have graduated pensions. If people wish to buy graduated pensions for themselves, by all means let them do so. I shall have some good things to say about that in a few moments. I am arguing now that, in the provision by the State of social services of various kinds, of which pensions, which we are now discussing, are one, the State should have as its object the provision of a basic minimum for those who cannot afford to provide themselves with anything else, but should not tax the population to pay for benefits to those who pay the taxes.
The Bill, in laying down the future course of pensions in this country, fits into that pattern which, I believe, should be the future pattern for all our welfare services.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I think that the hon. Gentleman did not take my point. For retired officers, retired civil servants, and so on, what the State does now is to tax people to pay their pensions.
§ Mr. Kershaw
Certainly, in the case of public employees who have to be paid pensions, the Government must raise taxes to do that. In that respect, the Government are not acting differently from a private employer. Those pensions are regarded as part of the wages it pays to its employees during the time they are in active service.
I am speaking of the provision of State pensions for everybody, irrespective of whether he is State-employed or not. In that matter, I believe that we should concentrate only on the basic pension and should not raise too high taxation on the rest of the community to provide a larger pension for those who are perfectly well able to provide it for themselves. I believe that the Bill achieves that object of helping those who cannot help themselves and leaves to the indi- 985 vidual who can help himself the opportunity to do so.
The main criticisms of the Bill offered from the benches opposite today seem to be of two kinds. The first is that it is too small a scheme to merit the attention which we bestow upon it, and the second that the contributions are too high. Those criticisms seem to be mutually antagonistic to some extent, but in regard to the first I think that I have shown that even if the scheme is too small for some people it should not be made any larger. I would think it a retrograde step to provide very large pensions for those who desired them.
The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) gave us a preview of the Liberal Party's pamphlet on pensions. The Liberal Party apparently intends to provide a large basic pension with a graduated tax. I disagree fundamentally with that, both in respect of the graduated contributions and the provision of a large basic pension to everybody, irrespective of need. It is even more wrong than the scheme of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman).
I find a connection between the publication of the Socialist Party's proposals on nationalisation by the back door and the publication of its pension scheme, which is designed to provide a very large surplus in the first years of its operation. If my suspicions are unworthy, it is the short interval between the publication of those two schemes that is the reason for my entertaining them.
I was interested to hear the two alternative versions put forward by hon. Members opposite of what should be done with the accumulated fund to be found under the Socialist pension scheme. The hon. Member for Coventry, East said that it would be a backing against future inflation, but the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) said that we must match the investment which Russia is putting into capital goods. He proposes to use the fund for that purpose. Those are two very different purposes, and if the proposal made by the hon. Member for Loughborough were put into operation it would certainly mean that the Government were utilising the pension fund to enter industry in a very large way. That would be exactly the method of nationalisation which is in future to be adopted if the Socialist Party is again elected. My suspicions are, therefore. 986 shared by the hon. Member for Loughborough.
We have also discussed whether the Socialist scheme is inflationary. I believe that it must be, whatever the hon. Member for Coventry, East told his trade union audience in Scotland. It seems to me that it follows, as night follows day, that if the very large contributions to be exacted from contributors under the Socialist scheme are put into operation the individual will demand an increase in wages to meet his commitments.
Secondly, if the employers' contribution also rises, that increased contribution must find its way into the costs of whatever is sold. Indeed, the Socialist pamphlet says that the cost will be passed on in the prices charged by any employer who is at present operating on a very close margin. If his costs are sharply increased he must put up his prices in order to stay in business. The Socialist scheme is, therefore, bound to be inflationary, both from the psychological and the purely economic point of view.
It is the primary duty of this country not to be involved again in the kind of inflation from which we have suffered in the past twenty years, and the greatest measure of protection which any Government can give its old-age pensioners is to ensure that they do not have to suffer the privation and misery which inflation has brought them in that period.
I do not believe that it is possible to have a built-in remedy against inflation in any pensions scheme. I know that Mr. Jackson, in the pamphlet mentioned by the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand), said that to some extent it is possible to have a built-in provision in a pensions scheme against what he called moderate or mild inflation, but that view was strongly disagreed with by other commentators and I wonder whether it is any good. Putting provision against inflation in this Bill would be doing so only for the look of things because, however cleverly the Bill was drawn, if we had inflation the value of the pension would fall.
I do not think that a built-in provision which may have to operate in an inflationary condition of economics would achieve the objects we have in mind. Nor would it take pensions out of politics. The fact that the pension would go up 987 with a rise in the cost of living and, presumably, would go down if the cost of living went down, would by no means remove it from the party arena. We should have the fundamental difference on which I touched in the earlier part of my remarks, that those on this side of the House believe in a basic pension while hon. Members opposite believe in a much larger pension for all whether they need it or do not need it.
I welcome very much the relaxation in the earnings rule announced by my right hon. Friend. I should like to be able to agree at first sight with those who have said that we should entirely abandon the earnings rule as it has become out-of-date, but I cannot do so. When I know that the abandoning of this rule would cost £100 million a year in pensions paid to those who, by definition, have a larger pension than the basic amount, I cannot at this stage advocate the abandonment of the earnings rule entirely. I know how popular that would be with a great many people, but I believe it would be giving a benefit to those who are not on the base line of pensions need, and £100 million to them rather than those who need it most is something we could not support.
I believe that consideration should be given in future—we should all start thinking about it now—to whether or not it is possible to raise the retiring age. Both parties are perhaps inhibited from doing that at present by reason of past promises made on the basis of retiring at 60 and 65, but, as we are living longer, the time has come to consider raising the retiring age. That would be of great importance to the future of the pensions fund. It would also encourage people to go on working, as they are now able, because of better health. It would increase the happiness and the health of the population.
I welcome the increased increments given today. I believe that they will be welcome to those who, in the past, have had some very disagreeable experience in paying 24 or 23 contributions without getting any benefit therefrom. The Bill charts out a sound route for the future and I give it my wholehearted support.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)
Although I have sat through the debate since the 988 Minister opened it, I shall be very brief in my speech. Therefore, I shall not follow along the lines of the speech of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw), except for one point. If there were any attempt to raise the retiring age it would meet strong opposition from hon. Members on this side of the House. The retirement age is 65, and we would certainly resist any attempt to raise that age.
I wish to speak briefly and mainly on the Amendment. The Minister was very clear, as he generally is, in giving details of the Bill and, as the Bill can be dealt with in Committee, I shall devote my remarks mainly to the Amendment. Pensions is a subject to which I have given some study, and especially sympathetic study in relation to old age pensions. Therefore, if, like my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), I make a plea tonight for old-age pensioners, it is because, with him, in the House I have urged their claim to a proper pension.
This Bill, which is now before the House for Second Reading, does nothing to improve the lot of existing old-age pensioners and fails to provide a proper scheme of national superannuation. When reports first appeared in the Press that the Government intended to introduce a new pensions scheme, it filled me with hope that it would follow similar lines to the Labour Party's pensions plan and finally, over the course of years, would provide a proper pension which would abolish poverty, want and hardship in old age. To my deep disappointment, the Government's pensions plan lacks courage, imagination and an appreciation of modern needs.
Old-age pensions were commenced on a modest scale nearly fifty years ago. There were some Jonahs even at that period who wailed that we could not afford it and that it would cause inflation. Anyone who studies the reports of the public debates of 1910 and 1912 on pensions will see that there was opposition in those days even to the modest pension of 5s. a week. That pension was subject to a means test and was non-contributory.
Since that time, nearly fifty years ago, there have been many changes made by National Insurance. At no time for many people did these changes abolish poverty 989 in old age, and during my brief time in the House hon. Members on both sides have had to plead for increases for old-age pensioners because of their need and their poverty.
It is estimated that a retired person wishing to maintain a proper standard of life needs a pension equal to 60 per cent. of the income he received when working. Men and women who have spent their lives working in industry and commerce should not suffer poverty and worry in their old age. Provision is already made for a number of people under private superannuation schemes, and many of my hon. Friends and I have always encouraged these private schemes. They make for good industrial relations, and many trade union officials have negotiated with industrial firms a joint pensions scheme.
It is estimated that one person in three is covered by private schemes. We should also bear in mind—and I am certain that the Minister does—that not all industries are suitable for private arrangements. Some industries do not allow for private schemes of the type which have been mentioned in the debate.
This means that two-thirds of the nation have to depend upon National Insurance for their old age, and therefore we need a national scheme which will fully cover their needs in retirement.
I feel that the Government have missed a great opportunity by failing to bring in a plan which would have commanded the support of all hon. Members and also of public opinion in the country. The Minister has attacked the Labour pensions plan, as he is entitled to attack it. It has been attacked by other hon. Members opposite. I feel that I am, therefore, entitled to give some examples from the Labour plan in order to compare it with the Government's plan.
Under the Bill, there are five million old-age pensioners who get no increase at all. Their pensions are to remain at £4 a week for a married couple. Under the Labour pensions plan existing pension would go up to £4 10s. a week for a married couple. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth) virtually sneered at an increase of 10s. a week, but for people on a small income, 10s. a week is often quite a large increase.
May I give the House other examples of the difference between the Govern- 990 ment's National Insurance scheme and the Labour pensions plan? There are some millions in this country who earn £9 a week or less. Though he pays contributions all his life, a married man will still receive only £4 a week under the Bill, whereas under Labour's pensions plan he would receive £6 a week— £2 per week more.
A married man earning £12 a week, after paying contributions all his life, receives £5 a week under the Government scheme. Under the Labour pension plan he would receive £7 a week. The married man earning £18 a week under the Government pension scheme receives £6 1s. a week. Under the Labour pension plan he would receive £9 a week. Under the Labour pension scheme, the old-age pensioner is safeguarded against any rise in prices of food, rent, heat and clothing. There is a shield in our plan against inflation.
In the Government scheme there is no safeguard against inflation. The Labour pension scheme of "National Superannuation" aims, in the course of time, to give to the pensioner retirement on half pay. Even so I do not regard our scheme as the complete Utopia, but it lays the foundation stones towards that ideal. In the years ahead for this nation, there must be rising standards for all.
Social changes during this century have changed living standards. Living standards have gone up and the living standards of old-age pensioners must be included. Provision for retirement must be a reality and freedom from want established. This National Insurance Bill does not provide for these ideals. In my view, it is more a scheme for shifting the cost of pensions from the Treasury to the contributor than providing proper provision for old age.
I trust that at an early opportunity Labour's pension plan can be established to provide eventually a pension scheme which will provide full security for the people of this country to enjoy retirement in the evening of their lives.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) for allowing me a few minutes to make just one point. I am sure that he will acquit me of any discourtesy if 991 I do not follow him in his remarks. In any case, I was fortunate enough to speak in the debate on the White Paper, and I gave then my reasons for supporting the Government's policy, which apply equally to this Bill to which I give, also, my unwavering support.
The point which I want to raise is, I think, a fresh one. I do not think that it has been raised in any of our discussions up-to-date. It is an extremely important one which, incidentally, would apply, I think, equally to the more ambitious Labour plan of superannuation as to the Government's scheme or, indeed, any scheme which had graduated benefits based on graduated contributions, with an option to contract out. I refer to future policy with regard to abatement.
Perhaps I may remind the House that abatement is the principle whereby all persons who enter the public service after some date in 1948—the dates vary slightly in each profession—are liable to have their public service pension abated by an amount equal to the National Insurance pension when they receive the latter. For example, the civil servant who retires at 60 on £500 a year may find five years later that his pension has been reduced to £370 a year, if the present rate of National Insurance pension remains as it is. Even more remarkable is the case of a sergeant in the Army who goes out at the age of 40 on pension of £2 14s. a week and who, twenty-five years later, may find his Army pension cut to 4s. a week when he draws his National Insurance pension.
I want to be perfectly fair about this. It has not happened yet. The history of the application of this principle of abatement is very curious. It was originally defended by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton)—whom I see in his place—in, I think, 1946, by arguments that, I must say, have never convinced me in the very least, although, in fairness, I must add that they do not appear to have been opposed by my party at that time. Unfortunately, I was not a Member of this House then, or I would have had something to say about it.
When the then Labour Government originally fixed the level of abatement at 26s. a week that was, in fact, the rate 992 of the single person's National Insurance pension. The House will recall that in 1951, shortly before they left office, the Labour Government raised the pension to 30s.. but the abatement level was left at 26s.
I regret to say that during the seven years of office of the Conservative Government they have not taken the opportunity, in any subsequent National Insurance Acts, to abolish this principle. On the other hand, they have not raised the abatement, and although the pension has gone to 50s. a week the abatement level is still 26s. Like a sleeping dog, it has been left to lie, but, like a sleeping dog, it could be very dangerous to certain people if it were suddenly to awaken.
The point is that any future Government would, as I understand the present law, be perfectly entitled to increase the abatement level right up to the maximum of the pensions that we are now considering, including the graduated element; and to say that they were acting in strict accordance with the letter—perhaps, even, the spirit—of the law. It seems to me that if there is any serious chance at all of that happening it will have a profound influence in making all those who are at present in the public service wish to contract out of a scheme of this nature. I do not see how it can fail to do so.
We have not yet, of course, been told how the decision will be made by the various responsible Ministers as to whether or not public servants are to come into the scheme. Presumably, it will be done in consultation with the Whitley Council and the Burnham Committee, as the case may be. What will happen in the Armed Forces we have yet to learn.
This is not a trivial matter. We are dealing, perhaps, with 2 million or 3 million employees. I realise that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance is not responsible for this particular policy, but the Government are responsible, and I therefore suggest that before we come to the Third Reading of the Bill we should be given some indication of the Government's future intentions.
It is also a very curious thing that this matter is not referred to, I think, in the Labour Party's papers and pamphlets on superannuation. I put it to the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. 993 Crossman), who is about to address the House, that it is up to the Opposition, too, to state their policy. Meanwhile, I merely repeat that the idea of paying higher graduated contributions is unlikely to appeal to the millions of our public servants if there is any chance of the higher benefits being abated in this way.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I should like to start, if possible, with an uncontroversial remark. It is that those of us who feared that this debate might be an anti-climax after the debate on the White Paper have had a most pleasant surprise. I think that the standard of debate to which we have listened and the standard of precision on both sides have been considerably higher than on the previous occasion.
It looks as though we have had time to reflect, and what is not surprising is that reflection has not brought us together but has tended rather to make sharper and clearer the differences between us. Reflection has even produced a Liberal pensions programme—or rather not exactly a programme but an attitude, which we were surprised to see managed to find no real difference between our plan and the Tory plan and, for one moment in this debate, brought the Minister and I together.
§ Mr. Crossman
I was glad to hear the views of the hon. Member this time, and we were instructed by them. Although I did not learn as much, I was interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley), and I learned a great deal from the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth), but I do not think I am being prejudiced when I say that the most powerful contribution came from two hon. Members on this side of the House, namely, from my hon. Friends the Members for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) and Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds). They produced a most formidable indictment of the Government's scheme.
When we were discussing the White Paper it was still possible to have doubts. I think that those of us—certainly this 994 applies to myself—who on first reading described the White Paper as a counterfeit or bogus imitation of the Labour Party's plan were under-estimating how bad it was. On reflection, we now realise that if we were to call this Bill a swindle we would not be exaggerating. It is a deliberate attempt to persuade the people that some improvement in pensions is being carried out and that, for instance, wage related pensions are being introduced, when, as has been conclusively shown by my hon. Friends, the whole aim and object of the Bill is a fiscal arrangement to reduce the Exchequer liability and to redistribute the burden of pensions so that it falls predominantly on the middle range of wage earners.
That case has been overwhelmingly made out from our side. We expect the Minister of Labour, when he replies, to take this indictment seriously and to answer it, if he can. For the Minister's convenience, I thought that I would try to summarise our indictment, not in a negative form but in a positive form, by telling him what I regard as the five prime requirements for any pensions scheme and then to show how the Government's scheme fails in each requirement.
It seems to us that the first requirement is universality. A sound scheme must include everyone and ensure that everyone, in addition to a flat rate pension, qualifies for a superannuation pension as a member either of a good private scheme or of the national scheme. That would be our definition of the requirement of universality.
Secondly, we insist on transferability and freedom of choice between the Government and private schemes which contract out. Thirdly, we insist on parity between the private and public sector—that is to say, the national scheme must be as good as private schemes and must be permitted by the Government to be competitive with decent private schemes.
Fourthly, the bill must be fairly shared between Exchequer, employer and employee. Lastly, and most important of all, any long-term measure for reforming the pensions scheme must include a fair deal for existing pensioners. At the conclusion of my speech, I shall show why I regard the inclusion of existing pensioners as absolutely essential to the health of the long-term scheme.
995 I do not think I need waste much time on the principle of universality. There is no dispute in the House about it. There could be nothing less universal than the Government's new graded pension. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North pointed out that it excludes all present pensioners, everybody earning under £9 a week and self-employed persons. The graded benefits will apply to less than half the working community.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby, I cannot help asking myself why this colossal, elaborate administrative structure, to which a number of right hon. and hon. Members have called attention—and it will be a complicated thing to have all this contracting in and contracting out—should be created for the sake of a pitiable increase in the benefits of a segment only of the working class. It is very difficult not to believe that this plan started in the Ministry as a quite good superannuation plan, and there then occurred one of those battles in which the Treasury came out the victor against the Minister.
If that was so, it would explain why the Minister has been so singularly bad tempered in presenting his Bill. I cannot believe that any Minister of Pensions could think very much of the Bill. If it was being put forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he could be glowing in self-congratulation on what he had achieved, but for a poor—or, shall we say, ambitious—Minister of Pensions, even a well-intentioned Minister of Pensions, to come to the House with this pitiable swindle of a Measure must be a sad disappointment for the right hon. Gentleman.
Before leaving the question of universality, I want to repeat one request to the Minister of Labour which I made in the previous debate, when I called attention to certain facts about the position of widows' pensions. I pointed out that in public pensions schemes—municipal or national, for example—widows' pensions were included but that in most private insurance schemes there was only a cash payment. I want to know whether it will be made a condition for a scheme to contract out that it shall include an adequate widows' pension. Secondly, we begged the Minister to reconsider the provision he proposed 996 to make for widows in the Bill. It is a mean provision, and I expected that there would be an opportunity to improve that part of the Bill.
I now turn to the conditions for contracting out, and particularly transferability. This is a technical subject. I start by referring to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) about abatement. I fully agree with him. It is extremely important for the Government and for the next Government to disclose their views about abatement as it affects several million people in the Civil Service. I hope to hear from the Minister of Labour whether the Government are thinking about this.
I will say what we think, for we have been consulting on this subject for many months with the relevant trade unions. We have said to them that we were talking informally and could not, of course, bind the future Labour Government, but that it seemed to us fairly clear that in the scheme that we should introduce in our amending Bill in a few months' time one basic principle would be the universality of a fixed flat-rate pension—the £3 a week pension guaranteed against inflation—which everybody would draw. Since that was an essential element in our scheme, it seemed to us clear that if there was to be a contracting-out scheme for civil servants it would have to be re-negotiated with the Treasury and, in that re-negotiation, I would strongly advise civil servants to study our book and to use its argument for liquidating the problem of abatement and having a settlement of it more satisfactory to themselves.
Now, I come to the much more important problem of transferability. As we said in the debate on the White Paper, we welcome the conversion of the Government to the principle of transferability of pension rights. I want, however, to repeat a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), not today but in the debate on the White Paper, when he pointed out that although the Government had accepted the principle of transferability they had accepted it in only a moderate and halfhearted manner. All that is transferred if a person moves from a private to a public scheme or from one private scheme to another is the element in his private pension rights equal to the maximum to 997 which he would be entitled under the Government scheme.
I would like the Minister of Labour to explain why, only that element of a private pension right equal to the maximum available under the Government should be transferred. In our philosophy of transferability, we believe that all pension rights should be regarded as deferred pay. We believe that the whole basis or philosophy of pensions is that one agrees with one's employer—whether it is the State or a private person does not matter—not to draw all one's wage and that a certain proportion of it is put aside to be used in one's old age. In this case pension rights are earned. They are something which one acquires and, if one acquires them, one can transfer them. We shall certainly include this in our Bill—providing that in future all pension rights of private schemes that are permitted as alternatives to the national scheme must be fully transferable in the sense that all the rights which each man has acquired are his and go with him whenever he changes his job and however often he changes it, so that at the end of his life he has a total of accumulated pension rights for every week—indeed, for every day and for every hour—that he has worked.
We are assured by the world of insurance that this definition of transferability is perfectly practicable and that it is something which could quite easily be done. Indeed, we have already got it as between the municipalities. It is already a fact that in large areas of industry people move with their total pension rights. We therefore ask the Government to reconsider the Clause. We ask them whether they cannot introduce the full principle of transferability as part of the Bill and at least do one big, positive action in the course of this mean little Bill.
Now I come to the much more difficult problem of the right to choose between the Government and private schemes. I should like to tell the Minister, and also the Minister of Labour, that since the issue of the White Paper, and since he made what I thought was a very reasoned and thoughtful contribution on this subject, we have considered the problem raised with the very greatest care. We agree with him that there are a number of quite serious administrative problems about laying down a purely 998 abstract right to opt. Quite clearly, we could not have a person opting as often as he liked—a dozen times a year in and out of every possible scheme—and there certainly must be a limit to the right of the individual to play hanky-panky with the scheme.
Nevertheless, we think it is intolerable to introduce a kind of Clause such as Clause 12. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite have read Clause 12, which lays down, for instance, that the Minister of Education, provided he has had a little consultation with the unions, shall decide whether or not school teachers shall all be in or out of the scheme. I suppose the Minister of Housing and Local Government is going to decide whether all local government officials in one fell swoop are in or out of the scheme, after consultation. In our view, this is a violation of freedom which is utterly intolerable.
We also realise that there are difficulties. Clearly, we think that there must be a once-for-all individual option at the start of the scheme, and I think that some of my expert advisers will know far more about that than I do. I am told that there are one or two precedents for a once-for-all option, such as in the Local Government Act, 1929, and the National Health Service Act, into which was written in a once-for-all option after which one had to stay put. I should like to have that considered, and I agree very much with what one of my hon. Friends said—that after this option what we have to find is a proper democratic method of considering this problem. It may well be that that is the method of the majority decision, and not a pure individual right. We are thinking about this, and we recognise the difficulties of this particular problem.
Now I come to the third of my tests, which I laid down to be parity between the national and private schemes. Of course, the really interesting fact about the Government scheme is the deliberate way in which they have contrived to introduce a wage-related pension scheme and make sure that it is a shabby, poor little scheme, inferior, as they themselves admit, to any that an insurance company could give. Why have they done that? The secret was really given in a charming speech by the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), a constituency 999 where insurance seems to be hereditary. The hon. Member told us quite frankly that, after all, we have to consider the healthiness of private superannuation and the insurance companies, and the hon. Member for Basingstoke was almost as frank when he said that the great virtue of the Government's scheme was that it did not upset or disturb the insurance companies.
I suggest with great respect to the Minister that, although one ought to take the greatest care to be strictly fair to all private schemes, one is entitled to demand genuine parity for the national scheme. We ought to try to get a satisfactory position, a balance which is absolutely fair, giving no advantages to either side. We have worked very hard in our scheme to work out something which is genuinely fair, and if people can show me that it is unfair we are perfectly prepared to consider any objections which indicate that.
People have said that we subsidise the national scheme. It is quite untrue, because the Exchequer grant does not even cover the basic £3 a week, and no penny of Exchequer money goes to somebody in the national scheme that does not equally go to somebody in a private scheme drawing a £3 a week pension.
We have taken the most scrupulous care in preparing our scheme to give a fair deal to private enterprise in superannuation, but the Government, charac-teristicly enough, have quite deliberately swung the whole pendulum against national enterprise. They have made it quite certain that it will be mean and beastly. They have it quite certain that to compel a man to pay these contributions and get these benefits is an insult to that unfortunate person.
Here I should like to have some answer from the Minister of Labour to the remarkable figures which were quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand). He did something which I cannot do. He added up the figures in Appendix I of the Government Actuary's Report and reached the interesting conclusion that the contributions of the people who pay for grading, the £9 to £15 a week people, come to £391 million in 1981 and the benefits to £63 million. And in the year 2001–2 the contributions will be 1000 £587 million and the benefits will be £199 million. This in a pay-as-you-go scheme which claims to raise each year in contribution what is paid out in benefit in the same year! That type of levying of contribution with no relation to benefit makes a mockery of the word"superannuation".
We are determined in all we do to be scrupulously fair to both sides. I know that there are a number of people opposite who feel that the great advance that we intend towards national superannuation would be a blow to the insurance world. I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) would confirm that when he made the last great advance in National Insurance the insurance companies came quivering with the feeling that they were all going to be made bankrupt. Frankly, insurance companies are not made bankrupt if we enable people to become insurance-minded. If we systematically teach people to make provision for old age and give them facilities to do that in a private or in a national scheme, if we educate people to insure for old age and provide half-pay on retirement, I believe that most people will not be content with what we have given and will take out further insurance, either through a private employer's scheme or through their own individual enterprise, as millions of people do today.
It is a most short-sighted attitude on the part of the insurance companies to say that they want a mean, miserable national scheme, because that discredits insurance. Frankly, the Government scheme discredits the idea of insurance and has been received with considerable embarrassment by the insurance companies. They have had to cheer, but what a faint, embarrassed cheer it has been from the Life Offices and from the Scottish Life Offices. The only cheer has come from the Economist, which discovered that the Government hereby were saving hundreds of millions of pounds a year to the Treasury. There is my third test by which the Government fail altogether. They fail because their scheme fails to keep a balance between the private and the public sector in superannuation.
I come now to the fourth test, the fairness in paying the bill, a test linked, of course, with the previous one of parity. 1001 We all know the aim of the Government plan. They made it clear in the White Paper. The Government's aim is to see to it that Exchequer liability over a period of years is greatly less than it was estimated to be, and that that liability is transferred to a section of the contributors. I want to make it quite clear from our side that we are not opposed to the principle of redistribution in old-age pension insurance. We think it fair that those who are better off should contribute rather more than those who are worse off. It is a good sound Socialist principle, and we are not ashamed to have written that principle into our plan.
So we do not object to the Government saying,"We are going to see to it that the contributions of the poorest people go down and those of the better off people go up. The principle is all right, but they have applied the principle in the most outrageous way. For they have applied the principle below the £15 level. Of course it is true that anybody who earns £50 pays up to £15. But if we stop contributions at the top of the line—on the £15 wage band—we put the whole weight of the burden on one section and eliminate, or greatly lessen, the burden for those with from £15 to £50 or £60 a week.
The whole difference between the Government scheme and ours is that ours is all-embracing, including everybody up to £2,000 a year, whereas under the Government scheme people only help to contribute towards reducing the Exchequer deficit up to the level of £15 a week.
One of the most interesting sentences in this new document is the assertion of the Government's conversion to"Pay as you go". I often wonder what would have happened if we had produced a"Pay as you go"scheme two years ago. By jove, what we would have been told about how any insurance scheme must be funded! But, having produced a funded scheme, and having shown that a funded scheme can do great things for capital investment, we scared them out of that. So now they take to"Pay as you go", which means be swindled as you go, because what people in this middle wage band get is almost nothing compared with what they pay.
I also want to mention something which has not been mentioned in this debate but to which my hon. Friend the Member 1002 for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) referred in the debate on the White Paper. The Government's method of estimating how much a contributor gets is by saying that on each £15 of his earnings credited to him he gets 1s. pension. It is what they call the "brick" method. Under the Government scheme, if a person earns a brick a year each brick of £15 earns 1s. a week pension. So if he earns one brick this year at the age of 15 he gets a pension 45 years later of 1s. a week, although by then the cost of living may have doubled. This is the fallacy of trying to make a pay-as-you-go scheme a contributory scheme.
The only honest pay-as-you-go scheme is a scheme financed by taxation such as the Australians have. There is no nonsense about it. It is paid out of the Budget like the National Health Service. Quite literally you pay as you go. Each year so much is collected off the taxpayers' money and handed out to the pensioners. If, however, the scheme is operated on the principle of contributions, we are swindling the unfortunate contributor. We are saying to him, "All you will get in forty years time is £I and not the equivalent purchasing power of a 1958 £ in the year 2005".
I tell the Minister that we took a lot of trouble over the scheme. Finally, we borrowed from the Germans their system of dynamic pensions, in which it is possible to revalue year by year the contribution paid in so as to ensure that the pensions have the purchasing power of the year in which they are paid out and not of the year in which the contribution is paid in. That principle is essential to any contributory scheme which claims to be fair to the contributors. Why is it not in the Government scheme? Because, as my hon. Friends have said, the Government scheme is not really a superannuation scheme, it is merely a device for transferring the fiscal burden.
Now I come to a rather unpleasant point which I must mention. The only real attack on our scheme in this debate has been the charge that our scheme will be inflationary. As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North pointed out, all the Tories here believe in private schemes. If private employers contribute 10 per cent. and take 5 per cent. off the employeee that is 1003 apparently non-inflationary, but the moment we do that through the State for the agricultural worker, it becomes inflationary. Why? Because the insurance companies run one and we run the other. That is the only difference.
It is the sheerest humbug, and therefore I resented what the Minister tried to do to me when he chose, quite coldbloodedly, to stop reading a sentence in the middle. He has been kind enough to give me the cutting. He read a sentence of mine and said that I had already admitted in a speech in Scotland that our scheme is inflationary. The Minister quoted:… he said, 'It will be an inflationary scheme'"—At this point an hon. Friend of mine interrupted, and I said"Read on."I will now read on. It will interest my hon. Friends to hear how much distortion takes place. I said:… will produce disaster if people try to add to their wages the cost of superannuation contributions. You cannot get something for nothing in this scheme.'All that would happen if they tried to recover their contributions by wage demands would be that prices would rise and old people would suffer again.This is a voluntary scheme and it will work only if you voluntarily decide to refrain from pushing wages up …'To say that that speech admitted th,at our scheme was inflationary is as near to total distortion as a Minister should ever get. I would not have minded the Minister doing it, but having done it he refused to withdraw it. I. ask him now whether he is prepared to admit that that was a sharp trick and that he should not have done it.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I do not want to quarrel with the hon. Gentleman on the construction of words used in a report of his speech. I say to the House—I know the House will accept it from me—that I quoted from his speech in all sincerity in the belief that the construction that I put upon it was right, but if the hon. Gentleman tells me that I am wrong I am perfectly prepared to accept his construction, and if he feels that I have misrepresented him, I am only too happy to withdraw any argument that may have been based upon it.
§ Mr. Crossman
That is a characteristic apology. I accept it.
1004 In conclusion, I want to say something on the question why the Government did not include anything for the existing pensioners. I gather that the argument is that one first has a scheme and later on puts into it an increase in the existing pension. If I were to ask the Minister of Labour whether an increase is in the offing, I suppose he would tell me that he could not anticipate his right hon. Friend's Budget. I note with what care the Government are saying,"It is open to us at any time to raise the old-age pension."I suggest to the Minister of Labour that when we are dealing with the problem of the existing pension it is not fair to hold the matter over in this way. Why not state what we think the country can afford to pay the pensioners?
When we have decided, as we believe, to pay them £3 a week, is it not essential to guarantee that sum against any variations in the cost of living? We are told that the cost of living has been kept very steady in the last two years. We have made a rough calculation, and it is true that there has not been the whittling away of the pension to the degree that there was previously, but it still remains true that the pension of 50s. which was introduced is worth 1s. 2d. less today. I expect that the hon. Member for Basingstoke would say,"What does that matter?", but to swindle people on small marginal incomes out of 1s. 2d. is a scandal.
We believe that there should be written into a Bill—it will be written into our Bill—a Clause under which the value of the pension will be automatically adjusted year by year to maintain its purchasing power. If one wants to increase the real value of the pension, to allocate a larger slice of the national income, one needs a Bill. If we merely want to ensure that the old-age pension, like the Army pension, as recommended by the Grigg Report, retains its purchasing power—we insist that it should first be raised to £3, and it should then be maintained at that level—why cannot this be done? There is no difficulty about writing it into the Bill. Can it be that the Government prefer to keep pensions as something electorally attractive? Can it be that they care more about postponing this until the last moment? If so, they are showing their hand. We believe that it is still vital to get poverty abolished.
1005 We believe that it is possible to get this written into an Act of Parliament so that the old of today are given at least an adequate pension, and the old of the future are given the far better basis which we can assure. We believe that that is possible. We know that the Bill will not do it, and because the Bill departs from all the five principles of a decent insurance scheme we shall go into the Lobby against it tonight.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour and National Service (Mr. Iain Macleod)
I agree that this has been an excellent debate. There are two reasons why I am delighted to take part in it, even though the Bill comes from another Ministry. The first is that, as Minister of Labour, I have a deep interest in all pensions schemes. They are closely linked to good industrial relations and I have been delighted to see the growth of occupational pensions schemes over the years. The second reason, as many hon. Members who took part in the debate will know, is that when I first came to the House I never missed attending, and rarely missed speaking in, a pensions debate, and I am very happy to find myself doing that again today.
When nearly all the speeches consist of many questions, it is extremely difficult to try to answer them all, but I will do my best and try to isolate one or two themes, since, on Second Reading, we can talk about not only what is in. but what is not in, the Bill.
Several hon. Members mentioned the position of the self-employed. The case for including them was put most cogently in a leader in the Manchester Guardian on 25th October, but there is a convincing answer to all the points which were made. It is an obvious enough point, but most important of all, that by definition a self-employed man has no employer and, therefore, the return of pension he can get cannot be buttressed by the employer's contribution.
I recognise, too, that the Labour scheme said that the matter would be given further thought. As it stands, to take a domestic example which was pointed out in our last debate on pensions, a Member of Parliament will have to pay about £140 a year in contributions. Although I am not an advocate of the secret ballot in 1006 industrial relations, I would not mind seeing the result of a secret ballot among us on that proposition.
The Manchester Guardian made the perfectly valid point that the 1956 Finance Act has been of great value to the self-employed, but of little comfort to the odd job man and the freelance gardener, who rank in that category. That is true. For obvious reasons, the assessment on the self-employed has to be made annually. Obviously, an annual assessment of such casual earnings would be a formidable undertaking.
Even so—and I hope that the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) will follow this point carefully—we find that for the mass of the self-employed there is no satisfactory way of assessing annual earnings for this purpose. It might be thought that the Inland Revenue assessment of profits for Income Tax purposes would do, and, of course, we looked at that first. However, it will not do.
For example, for technical reasons, some business costs are allowed for deduction against trading accounts, while others are taken into account for tax allowance. That makes no difference to the final tax liability, but it markedly affects the contributions payable, since those would be levied on a gross assessment. There are many other difficulties. I am always reluctant to plead administrative difficulties, but in this case I believe them to be very serious. They include matters such as the carrying forward of a loss to be offset against future profits, the time lag in assessing business profits and the possibility of such assessments being revised a long period, up to six years, afterwards.
If another entirely new method of assessment had to be found it would, of course, be extremely costly. So the Manchester Guardian, in the leader to which I referred, came to the conclusion that the best answer would be to allow the self-employed to make voluntary payments into the scheme at the level which they themselves decided they could afford.
At first sight that has an obvious attraction, but it seems to me extremely difficult to admit this sort of principle. Naturally, this option would be exercised by those who could obtain the most pension for the least contribution and I cannot see any Chancellor of the Exchequer agreeing to this proposition. The hon. 1007 Member for Coventry, East asked me a good many questions and perhaps I may be allowed to ask one back. I ask it purely out of interest in this matter. In his article in the Fire Fighter he contemplated that it was possible for a man to join both schemes and pay both contributions; it seems to me that either the man pays voluntarily himself without the employer's contribution, or that he compels the employer to pay twice.
I do not know which the hon. Member has in mind, and he may not be ready to answer that point at the moment. If the first, it is open to the objections which I have made, and, if the second, it would, of course, inevitably kill any conceivable chance of the employer applying for a scheme to be contracted out. For all these reasons I believe that this is a sphere in which it is best to leave people to make their own arrangements. I have a feeling that if, with the resources of the Government behind him, the hon. Member for Coventry, East could look again and give further thought to the proposals which he realises are necessary, he might well come to the same conclusion about the self-employed that I now put to the House.
My next point was referred to in a number of speeches; it was referred to by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton); by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) in an admirable speech; by my hon. Friend from Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) and by other hon. Members. It refers to the different aspects of the problem of contracting out. In the time available to me I cannot deal with the whole of that problem, but I wish to discuss one aspect of it which is of particular interest to me as Minister of Labour, the question of the mobility of labour.
We lay down three conditions which are familiar to the House; solvency, the principle of equivalency at the maximum and the principle of preservation of rights at the maximum. I step aside for a moment to answer a point put to me by the hon. Member for Coventry, East about widows. My right hon. Friend dealt with this point in response to an interjection during his speech. It is not a condition for contracting out that there should be an equivalency in widows' benefits. The comparison is with the personal pension 1008 in the occupational scheme vis-a-vis the personal pension in the State scheme, but in the State scheme at the maximum.
I am sure that the Minister was right in saying that the full significance of this proposal for making equivalency at the maximum has not yet been fully understood. All these matters may be controversial, but after a great deal of thought we came to the conclusion that this is the only way of contracting out that will work. I do not believe that what is proposed in the Labour Party scheme for contracting out will work but, with all its difficulties, I believe that our scheme can work; because the provisions of the Bill—this is of the first importance—ensure that a worker need not hesitate to leave employment which is insurable under the graduated part of the State scheme for non-participating employment for fear that when the time comes he may be worse off for pension purposes. It is not possible that he will be worse off.
One aspect has been particularly criticised by the British Employers' Confederation and it was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) and my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth). I do not think that the employers are being quite as generous as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke. We are dealing with a point between £9 and £15 and the 4¼ per cent. Their suggestion is that the employer should simply double the amount assessed on his employees when he pays over the contribution. If we could do that, it would be an enormous gain in simplicity.
I do not want anything I say to close the door upon this suggestion, as I think this is something well worth studying. Obviously, it would be a tremendous saving in the administrative labour of the employer in bookkeeping if it could be done. Although I want to make one or two tentative points about it, or perhaps even against it, the matter can be discussed in Committee and I do not want my answer today to be taken as a final Government"No"to what is administratively a very attractive proposition.
The difficulty I see is that then the fund would forgo the employers' share of a graduated contribution where the employee was not liable to make one. 1009 One might think that this does not apply to many people but, in fact, it applies to a surprising number, approaching ¼ million pensioners in employment at more than £9 a week. It breaches a very important principle to which trade unions and this House attach great importance. That is that, throughout the history of National Insurance, whatever case there may be for not collecting contributions from an employee the employer should always be liable for his share of it. This seems a genuine difficulty, but one that is worth examining to see whether we can come a little closer together.
§ Sir S. Summers
My right hon. Friend referred to ¼ million people retired and in employment. I think that that was my right hon. Friend's phrase. Since the Bill is concerned with retirement pensions, perhaps my right hon. Friend can explain how that anomaly arises.
§ Mr. Macleod
I am talking about people who are over the final pension age, over 70 for men, and over 65 for women, who would not have to make any contribution and for whom the problem of the employers' contribution would somehow have to be solved.
The hon. Member for Coventry, East was right when he said that a matter in dispute between us was the linking of the pension with a new index which was more closely related to pensioners. I want to say something about that second aspect, because I have a particular responsibility for the Retail Prices Index. When we published the results of the household budget inquiry this point was raised, but the Government took the view—I must say I hold it firmly—that the Retail Prices Index comes into so many wage matters and matters of industrial relations that it would be confusing to have two indexes, if we can avoid doing so.
As the House knows, the Retail Prices Index is something which we take a great deal of trouble to make as accurate as we can. We take no fewer than 120,000 calculations every month. I believe this to be the most accurate Retail Prices Index in the world. There have been changes over the years—I want to put this point entirely without party bias—in the pensions of 1951, 1952, 1954 and 1958; and only in 1951 was the increase inadequate, judged by the standard of the Retail Prices Index.
1010 The point was made that if we concentrated more on the needs of pensioners, and more strictly on food, clothing, housing and fuel, we should have a very different picture. In fact, the picture would not be as different as some of the advocates of this method think. It is possible to calculate this matter with some exactitude, as some hon. Members know from the figures I put before the House about four years ago. They were published separately and were not included in the index because the three-quarters of the household's income came from Government sources.
If we take those households—I am helping the Opposition's case, because not all pensioners are as poor as that—and apply the figures to the whole band of pensioners, we find that the 30s. pension of October, 1951, to which I have referred, would have an equivalent weight today of 41s. 7d. against the 50s. pension. Certainly there is a difference, but not one, I think, which destroys the general validity of the argument, which essentially is that it is better to have these rates under continual review at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and the Treasury than to have an annual automatic review.
The point that the hon. Member for Coventry, East is so fond of making about the Grigg Committee Report is in this context something of a red herring.
§ Mr. Crossman
The point we are making about the automatic review is that the delay is caused by the cumbrous machinery of legislation. That is what we protest against. We want this written into the Bill, so that adjustment can be made without legislation.
§ Mr. Macleod
I understand that, and, of course, this can be discussed in detail at the appropriate stage of the Bill; but I am not sure that the pensioners would, in fact, benefit—that, after all, is what we want—from such a provision. It would be tempting to leave them where they are on an automatic review and not to give them the increase in real standards which we want to see, and which has happened to them over the years. A good way of looking at this was in a point made— [Interruption.] There has been an increase in the past years, particularly the last seven years, but we would like to see it more.
1011 The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand), in his speech this afternoon, raised the question of what proportion of the national income—or, to use the jargon we always use, what sized slice of the national cake—has been devoted to retirement pensioners. We can calculate the figures from 1949, and I should like to put them on record. In 1949, it was 2.45 per cent.; in 1950, 2.37 per cent.; in 1951, 2.31 per cent.— all were going down—in 1952, which may or may not be a coincidence, it went up to 2.46 per cent.; and in 1957 it was 2.67 per cent. Although we have not got the figures for 1958, I expect those to be higher than before. The argument is still sound.
Why, then, is the hon. Member for Coventry, East so keen about this? I do not believe that if this had been written into the 1946 Bill the pensioners would, in fact, be as well off now as the figures I have given show they are in practice. I can offer one reason to him. He knows that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said in 1946—these are strong words and the right hon. Gentleman knows them very well—"This is undesirable and impracticable."The Leader of the Opposition had the main responsibility for the Bill of 1951, which was the only Bill which went against the trend. I think that the hon. Member for Coventry, East is doing a little insuring and trying to save himself from his hon. Friends. Of course, there is a case for arguing that what should happen is precisely the converse of that.
The improvements announced by my right hon. Friend today were, I think, generally welcomed, although rather tepidly by the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East. He proceeded then to a popular fallacy—which, I think, worth correcting—when he said that these are of little value to people in the heavy industries. If he will study the Departmental Report—I am sure he knew it and has forgotten this part of it—published in 1954, he will find it very remarkable in reasons given for retiring or continuing at work what a high percentage of those in what are called the heavy industries stay at work.
The graph is extremely revealing. It shows, for example, that only 26 per cent. of those in mining and quarrying take their pensions at 65, whereas no less than 1012 63 per cent. in local government do so; and there are comparable figures in many other industries.
§ Mr. Macleod
Of course they are. The hon. Member is making my case against the case of his right hon. Friend.
This comparison has been attempted many times in the debate and in the previous debate on the White Paper. Whether the object of the exercise is to praise, or whether it is to denigrate the Government scheme, I do not believe that it is possible to make a short comparison between this scheme, or, for that matter, the Labour Party scheme, and either that of the United States or that of Germany. When we were studying these matters we looked at the schemes in Germany and in America, as, I am sure, did the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters. I do not know which side of the House started to work on this matter first, but we have been at work, it seems to me, for years and years on these proposals.
It is not possible to make a true picture of the comparison—as I think the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) sought to do in the debate on the Reply to the Address—between this scheme and the American scheme if we simply try to convert at the rate of 280 dollars to the £ the comparable figures in the two schemes, because we must take into account, first, the relative purchasing value of the dollar and the £ and, secondly, the different level of industrial earnings.
A more important point comes into the comparison constantly made—in favour of the German scheme—between the Government scheme and the German scheme. That has been done, I think, three or four times today, and it was developed at some little length by the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East in the debate on the White Paper in November. He was twice challenged on the point, but he failed to give the contributions for the scheme put forward by the Federal Republic of Germany. In fact, the social security contribution there—and this does not include payments towards education or a National Health Service of the sort we have here 1013 —total 27.1 per cent. of earnings. That would mean that, on average male earnings in this country at present, a contribution of about £3 10s. would be required. This is about twice what even the Labour Party think is right.
I think that nobody will argue for a moment that this scale of contributions would be even remotely tolerable in this country at present, and, therefore, any comparison between the German scheme and our scheme, or to be fair even the Labour Party scheme, is wholly vitiated by that fact. Incidentally, the finances of the German scheme are already under very serious consideration and there is some question whether a further contribution, which seems to me impossible, or an added subsidy will be required.
It is fair to compare the Labour Party's scheme and the Government's Bill, and this has been done over and over again. Many criticisms have been made of our plan and many of the plans put forward by the Labour Party, but I believe that nearly all of the serious criticisms of the scheme can be boiled down to one major complaint against each scheme. I do not ask hon. Members to accept that the criticisms are right, but I ask them to agree that this is the main criticism made against each of the two schemes. Hon. Members opposite say, about the Government scheme, that although it puts right the finances of the old scheme, it then goes on to take far too small and far too timid a step forward. That is the main criticism—that it is a little mouse of a scheme. The criticism of the Labour Party's scheme is that the contributions would prove to be so heavy as to be insupportable and that it would turn out to be a signpost to inflation.
This matter was discussed in a very important speech, with which the House is familiar, by Lord Beveridge just before Christmas, and these were exactly the criticisms which he made of the two schemes. I think it is fair for me to say that, in so far as it related to the Exchequer contribution at £170 million, his criticism of the Government's scheme has to some extent been met by the Bill. I cannot resist adding that he said that although he disliked the Government's scheme he disliked the Labour Party's scheme, if possible, even more. We quote Lord Beveridge often enough in these debates, and if we appeal to Caesar then 1014 we might on this occasion listen to what Caesar says.
I do not expect that the two sides of the House will accept that he is entirely right in the criticism of their scheme or our scheme, but let us accept that in this matter of National Insurance there is truth in what Lord Beveridge has said about our two schemes, which, I would remind the House, is the kernal of the criticism made about this Bill and the Labour Party scheme.
Even if there is truth in these criticisms, although they may not be the whole truth, I still believe that our proposal is by far the better of the two, for the one thing that wrecked the Beveridge proposals was the inability of the Government, whatever they may have professed, to hold prices stable in the post-war years. I think that at all costs we must not risk that inflation again. So we have this Bill for which we are asking a Second Reading.
The main distinction between Governments and Opposition is that Governments can produce Bills and for the moment, while in opposition, the Opposition can produce only pamphlets. I do not complain in the least that the Opposition intend to vote by the well-known device of a reasoned Amendment against the Bill tonight. The position of the Liberal Party is a little more obscure for, if I gather rightly from what their spokesman said, they are going to vote for the first part of the reasoned Amendment and against the second part. It will be an interesting Parliamentary exercise to see it carried out.
§ Mr. Macleod
I have not time to give way.
It is true, also, that this argument will not finish tonight; it will go on to the General Election. That is wholly right. I feel that I have tried to keep my comments on an even-tempered keel throughout. Sooner or later, there must come the moment of decision. It is wholly right to debate this question, take it to the country and argue the case there, but it would be quite intolerable, apart from being administratively impracticable, if, over the years, between the parties as they change, this question of pensions for 1015 the old people was shuttlecocked backwards and forwards.
Sooner or later, in my view, and, so far as I am concerned, the sooner the better, there is bound to be a measure of all-party agreement on what everyone in the House wants to see, and that is the
§ highest possible measure of pension that we can afford for the people of our country.
§ Question put. That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 305, Noes 259.1019
|Division No. 22.]||AYES||[9.57 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Doughty, C. J. A.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Drayson, G. B.||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||du Cann, E. D. L.||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Duncan, Sir James||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Duthie, W. S.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)|
|Ashton, H.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Erroll, F. J.||Johnson, Eric (Blaokley)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Baldwin, Sir Archer||Fell, A.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)|
|Balniel, Lord||Finlay, Graeme||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Barber, Anthony||Fisher, Nigel||Kaberry, D.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Forrest, G.||Keegan, D.|
|Barter, John||Fort, R.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.|
|Batsford, Brian||Foster, John||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Kershaw, J. A.|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Freeth, Denzil||Kimball, M.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Kirk, P. M.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Gammans, Lady||Lagden, G. W.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Gibson-Watt, D.||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Glover, D.||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Leavey, J. A.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Godber, J. B.||Leburn, W. G.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Goodhart, Philip||Legge-Bourke, Mal. E. A. H.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Gough, C. F. H.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Gower, H. R.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)|
|Body, R. F.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Grant, Rt. Hon. W. (Woodside)||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Llewellyn, D. T,|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Green, A.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon, C. (Sutton Coldfield)|
|Braine, B. R.||Gresham Cooke, R.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon, Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Longden, Gilbert|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Gurden, Harold||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Bryan, P.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Harris, Reader (Heston)||McAdden, S. J.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Campbell, Sir David||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry|
|Carr, Robert||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hay, John||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (portsmth, W.)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||McLean, Nell (Inverness)|
|Cole, Norman||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Conant, Mal. Sir Roger||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hesketh, R. F.||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Maddan, Martin|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W.(Homcastle)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hobson, John(Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Mathew, R.|
|Crowder, Petre (Rulslip-Northwood)||Hope, Lord John||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Hornby, R. P.||Mawby, R. L.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Horobin, Sir Ian||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon, Dame Florence||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmld, Sir Henry||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Deedes, W. F.||Howard, John (Test)||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Digby, Simon wingfield||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hutohison, Miohael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Neave, Airey||Ridsdale, J. E.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Rippon, A. G. F.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Noble, Michael (Argyll)||Robson Brown, Sir William||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Roper, Sir Harold||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Turner, H. F. L.|
|O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Russell, R. S.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Orr-Ewing, C. Ian (Hendon, N.)||Sharples, R. C.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Osborne, C.||Shepherd, William||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Page, R. G.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Partridge, E.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Peel, W. J.||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Wall, Patrick|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Speir, R. M.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Pitman, I. J.||Stevens, Geoffrey||Webster, David|
|Pitt, Miss E. M.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Pott, H. P.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Storey, S.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Studholme, Sir Henry||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Profumo, J. D.||Summers, Sir Spencer||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Ramsden, J. E.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Rawlinson, Peter||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Redraayne, M.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Teeling, W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Remnant, Hon. P.||Temple, John M.||Mr. Legh and Mr. E. Wakefield|
|Renton, D. L. M.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Abse, Leo||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Albu, A. H.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Deer, G.||Hunter, A. E.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Delargy, H. J.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Diamond, John||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Dodds, N. N.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Donnelly, D. L.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Baird, J.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Balfour, A.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Janner, B.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Edelman, M.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D, P. T.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Benn, Hn. Wodgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)|
|Benson, Sir George||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)|
|Beswick, Frank||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)|
|Blackburn, F.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Fernyhough, E.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Finch, H. J.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Boardman, H.||Fitch, Alan||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Bonham Carter, Mark||Fletcher, Eric||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Forman. J. C.||Kenyon, C.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Boyd, T. C.||George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||Lawson, G. M.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Gibson, C. W.||Ledger, R. J.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Gooch, E. G.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Grey, C. F.||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Lewis, Arthur|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Grimond, J.||Logan, D. G.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Hale, Leslie||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Champion, A. J.||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||McAllster, Mrs. Mary|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hamilton, W. W.||McCann, J.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hannan, W.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Cliffe, Michael||Hastings, S.||MacDermot, Niall|
|Clunie, J.||Hayman, F. H.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Coldrick, W.||Healey, Denis||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||McLeavy, Frank|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hewitson, Capt. M.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Cronin, J. D.||Holman, P.||Mahon, Simon|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Holmes, Horace||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Houghton, Douglas||Mallalleu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Mann, Mrs. Joan|
|Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement (Montgomery)||Hoy, J. H,||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Mason, Roy||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Randall, H. E.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Rankin, John||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Messer, Sir F.||Redhead, E. C.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Reeves, J.||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Reid, William||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Monslow, W.||Reynolds, G. W.||Thornton, E.|
|Moody, A. S.||Rhodes, H.||Timmons, J.|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Tomney, F.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewls'm, S.)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Mort, D. L.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Usborne, H. C.|
|Moss, R.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Moyle, A.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wade, D. W.|
|Mulley, F. W.||Ross, William||Warbey, W. N.|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Royle, C.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Weitzman, D.|
|O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Short, E. W.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Oliver, G. H.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Oram, A. E.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Oswald, T.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Owen, W. J.||Skeffington, A. M.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Padley, W. E.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)||Wigg, George|
|Paget, R. T.||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Snow, J. W.||Willey, Frederick|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Sorensen, R. W.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Sparks, J. A.||Williams, Richard (Openshaw)|
|Parker, J.||Spriggs, Leslie||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Parkin, B. T.||Steele, T.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huytoel)|
|Paton, John||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Peart, T. F.||Stonehouse, John||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Pentland, N.||Stones, W. (Consett)||Woof, R. E.|
|Plummer, Sir Leslie||Strachey, Rt. Hon, J.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Prentice, R. E.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Probert, A. R.||Swingler, S. T.||Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Pearson.|
|Proctor, W. T.|
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).