HC Deb 08 June 1959 vol 606 cc759-68
Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I beg to move, in page 20, line 44, at the end to insert: (c) for enabling the registrar to defer the issue or variation of such a certificate so as to enable the relevant election to be further considered in the light of any representations made by persons to whom notice of the election is required by regulations to be given or by organisations representing any such persons. This Amendment was put down as the result of a discussion in Committee and to meet an undertaking which I gave there. We had a debate upstairs on the situation which might arise in the event of an application for a certificate for contracting out by an employer being objected to, or opposed by, a number of his employees. We had a very wide-ranging discussion on the general principles involved. There was some fundamental difference as to whether the ultimate decision being with the employer was a view which could and should be sustained.

I am satisfied that the only practical method of handling this problem is for the application to be made by the employer, and, as I said in Committee and as was generally agreed in Committee, it is not only obvious that no sane employer would decide to press the matter against the wishes of a substantial number of his employees, but it is also a matter in which the normal process of industrial discussion and negotiation should take place.

In Committee, the point was put to me that that process of discussion and negotiation might not be able to take place once an application had been made to the Registrar, if the Registrar on such application felt that he had no discretion but forthwith to issue a certificate. It is our desire that there should be time for discussion and reflection. On examining the text of the Bill, it seemed clear that the doubt which I expressed in Committee as to the effect of the Bill as framed was well-founded, in other words, under the Bill as it stands, if the conditions prescribed are in fact satisfied, the Registrar will have no option but forthwith to issue a certificate.

In implementation of the undertaking which I gave, I have put down this Amendment, which will make it quite clear that in these circumstances the Registrar has power to defer the grant of a certificate so as to allow those processes of discussion between employers and employed to take place. I think myself, and I think that it was generally the view of the Committee, that it is extremely unlikely that any serious division of opinion will arise at this stage.

As the House will be aware, before an employer applies to the Registrar for a certificate, under conditions to be prescribed under regulations to be made under the Bill, he will have to give notice of his intention to those concerned. That will give them a chance to express a view and for discussions to take place.

As I have said on several occasions during our discussions, pension schemes are regarded by sensible employers as part and parcel of industrial relations, and the last thing that any sensible employer would want in this connection is to do something which would cause trouble, difficulty and disagreement among those whom he employed.

The situation with which the Amendment is designed to deal will therefore be rare, but I think on further consideration that it is wise to provide for it and to give the Registrar the flexibility and freedom of manoeuvre which will enable him to defer his decision on the certificate when he is made aware of the fact that there is a difference of opinion. That is what the words of the Amendment are designed to do, and I am advised, in fact do.

Mr. Crossman

The Amendment uses the words: relevant election to be further considered". Does that mean to be further considered by the Registrar?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

It is clear that the purpose of the deferment is to allow the election to be considered by the parties.

Mr. Crossman

Even at this late hour, I think that we should spend a few minutes on this Clause. I want, first, to thank the Minister for keeping his word and for carrying out as far as he possibly could the undertaking which he gave in Committee. However, as he said, he has been prepared to make a concession on an issue on which there was a fundamental difference between the two sides of the Committee and which was also mentioned on Second Reading. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that the question of what we call "the right of option" for those contracting out for the individual was a matter which was raised on Second Reading and which was clearly of major importance.

My hon. Friends and I are in some difficulty because, while not questioning your wisdom, Mr. Speaker, you decided not to call an Amendment on which we would have raised the issue of Clause 12. I must point out to the House that it is Clause 12 which gives the employer the sole right of election. The Minister was very candid about it. As the Bill stands, it is the employer who decides whether to apply for the certificate and it is on the employer's application that the Registrar decides.

Although I appreciate what the Minister has done—he has written in some slight further guarantees and has guaranteed that there will be a postponement if there is positive evidence of grave dissatisfaction in an industry—the further consideration is to be by the parties concerned and our difficulty is that the employer will still have the final decision. What we are seeking is the right of joint decision.

In this connection, I must say that the Committee stage of the Bill was of very great value to us. It enabled us to think out the matter and to see how extremely difficult is the matter of contracting out and of permitting the right of option. Some people—I was certainly one—two or three years ago started with the view that we should insist on the individual being permitted complete freedom to opt in and out of State or private schemes as often as he liked. I think we have been convinced that the type of individual who was to-ing and fro-ing would do it in a State scheme or a private scheme. That kind of individual idiosyncrasy could not be tolerated in any rational scheme of superannuation.

10.0 p.m.

Equally, we have managed to convince the Minister that merely to give the employer the right of election is a grave risk. I shall come later to deal with the kind of business about which I think the Minister is rather optimistic. It is not only the employer. There are other classes which lay down the right of being in or out of a scheme. In the Civil Service, for example, a Minister can be appointed to decide for all the employees of the Department. Whether school teachers are to be in or out is to be decided not by the school teachers or local authorities, but by the fiat of one Minister. Whether all Ministry of Health officials and anybody working with the Ministry of Health are to be in or out is to be decided by the Ministry of Health, or the Minister of Health.

This is an extreme concentration of decision. The fact that in the Amendment the Minister has tried to come some way to our side shows that we have persuaded him that it was an extremely dangerous thing to give this tremendous power of decision on contracting out. On the other hand, we have come towards the Minister in one particular. I recognise that it is not practicable to say that the first decision shall not be that of the employer. After all, it is his scheme and his money, and he has ultimately to decide. In putting it informally to the Minister it may be sensible to say that there should be no right of consultation or ballot unless and until after an interval there has been evidence of dissatisfaction among those in the scheme.

I appreciate the thought the Minister has given to this matter, but nevertheless he grossly underestimates the possible differences between employee and employer for one simple reason. The Minister talks as though the interests of all employers will be identical, but the more we study the Bill the more we realise that, by and large, the better off employee would be interested in contracting out and the worse off employee would be interested in contracting in, and there would be a wide band where it would be doubtful whether it was in the interests of the employee to be in a Government scheme or a private scheme. This is part of the trouble of the Government plan. There will be this wide band of workpeople, stretching from the £9 to £12 a week level, where it may be extremely difficult to tell whether it is in the interests of a group of employees to be in or out.

Let me consider the position in a firm grading down from £15 to £8 a week. I must emphasise to the House that the employer will have the power to say: "You in; you out; you in; you out". It will not be a single decision of all in or all out. The employer will have the power to adjudicate between individual employees or groups of employees being in or out. I think the Minister will agree that I am fairly interpreting the meaning of his Act.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Gentleman has referred to the right of the employer to adjudicate, but the necessary conditions for contracting out include the provision that such a man must have preserved to him the right, if he is contracting out, of the equivalent to the money earned in the State scheme over the period.

Mr. Crossman

The scheme has the conditions laid down in the Act, but I have consulted actuaries, and situations will arise where it will be difficult for employers to decide whether it is best to have their employees in or out. It has been made clear that the interests of the employer may by no means coincide with the interests of the employee as to whether they are inside or outside the State scheme. It is that kind of problem where we feel that something better than merely saying that discussions must take place is essential. For the first time we are giving private employers the right to carry out a social service previously undertaken by the State. If we give them that right and deny to those employees the benefits of the State scheme, we must be absolutely certain that they are benefited by being in the employer's scheme, and the best way of knowing that is to allow them to have the right of option.

Although we agree that the individual right of option is hopeless, we believe it to be essential to write into the Clause an implication that the election should take place by the employer and the employee, and not merely by the employer. Although we appreciate the Minister's efforts, because we want to register our disapproval and feel that we have not got a satisfactory solution on this vital issue, I advise my hon. Friends to record their vote in the Lobby if the Minister does not give way.

Mr. Mikardo

I intervene to utter only one sentence. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that half an hour ago he made a case against my Amendment on the ground that it was inappropriate, in a National Insurance Bill, to cover questions of industrial relations and fifteen minutes later, he made a speech arguing for his Amendment on the grounds that it was good for industrial relations; it therefore follows that if there was any validity in the right hon. Gentleman's first speech he was talking out of the back of his neck a few moments ago.

Mr. T. Brown

It is true to say that the Minister has honoured the undertaking he gave in Committee, but if I remember rightly he then said there would be a time limit. The Amendment provides for no time limit. If the Registrar is to have the power indefinitely to withhold the issue of a certificate, or to vary its terms, it will be to the disadvantage both of the employer and the employee. Will the Minister extend the undertaking he gave? If he will not do that, will he provide for a time limit in the regulations governing the duties of the Registrar? There should be a time limit either of six or twelve months, while negotiations are taking place. If

it is left an open question negotiations could go on indefinitely, to the disadvantage of the State, the employer and the employee.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 184, Noes 147.

Division No. 122.] AYES [10.8 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Gresham Cooke, R. Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh
Aitken, W. T. Grimond, J. Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Nairn, D. L. S.
Arbuthnot, John Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Neave, Airey
Armstrong, C. W. Gurden, Harold Nicolson,N.(B'n'm'th,E.&Chr'ch)
Ashton, H. Hall, John (Wycombe) Noble, Michael (Argyll)
Atkins, H. E. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) O'Neill, Hn.Phelim(Co. Antrim, N.)
Balniel, Lord Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Osborne, C.
Barber, Anthony Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Page, R. G.
Barlow, Sir John Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Barter, John Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Partridge, E.
Batsford, Brian Hesketh, R. F. Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Pitt, Miss E. M.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Powell, J. Enoch
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Hirst, Geoffrey Price, David (Eastleigh)
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Holland-Martin, C. J. Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Bingham, R. M. Hope, Lord John Profumo, J. D.
Bishop, F. P. Hornby, R. P. Rawlinson, Peter
Body, R. F. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Redmayne, M.
Bonham Carter, Mark Horobin, Sir Ian Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bossom, Sir Alfred Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Renton, D. L. M.
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.) Ridsdale, J. E.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Roper, Sir Harold
Brewis, John Iremonger, T. L. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Sharples, R. C.
Bryan, P. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Shepherd, William
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Burden, F. F. A. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Chichester-Clark, R. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Speir, R. M.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Kerby, Capt. H. B. Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n.S.)
Cole, Norman Kerr, Sir Hamilon Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Cooke, Robert Kimball, M. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Kirk, P. M. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Lambton, Viscount Storey, S.
Corfield, F. V. Leavey, J. A. Studholme, Sir Henry
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Leburn, W. G. Summers, Sir Spencer
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Cunningham, Knox Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Currie, G. B. H. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Dance, J. C. G. Lindsay, Martin (Solihull) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Deedes, W. F. Linstead, Sir H. N. Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
de Ferranti, Basil Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Loveys, Walter H. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Donaldson, Cmdr. G. E. McA. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vane, W. M. F.
Doughty, C. J. A. Macdonald, Sir Peter Vickers, Miss Joan
du Cann, E. D. L. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster) Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Emmet, Hon. Mrs Evelyn McLean, Neil (Inverness) Wade, D. W.
Errington, Sir Eric Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Farey-Jones, F. W. McMaster, Stanley Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Fell, A. Macmillan,Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley) Wall, Patrick
Finlay, Graeme Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Ward, Rt. Hon. G. B. (Worcester)
Fisher, Nigel Maitland, Cdr.J.F.W. (Horncastle) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Fletcher-Coolie, C. Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Webbe, Sir H.
Freeth, Denzil Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Webster, David
Gammans, Lady Markham, Major Sir Frank Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Garner-Evans, E. H. Marlowe, A. A. H. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
George, J. C. (Pollok) Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Gibson-Watt, D. Mathew, R. Woollam, John Victor
Glover, D. Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.
Glyn, Col. Richard H. Mawby, R. L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Graham, Sir Fergus Maydon, Lt-Comdr. S. L. C. Mr. Brooman-White and
Grant, Rt. Hon. W. (Woodside) Medlicott, Sir Frank Mr. Whitelaw.
Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Ainsley, J. W. Hamilton, W. W. Palmer, A. M. F.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Hannan, W. Pargiter, G. A.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Hayman, F. H. Parker, J.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Paton, John
Awbery, S. S. Herbison, Miss M. Plummer, Sir Leslie
Bacon, Miss Alice Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Popplewell, E.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Holman, P. Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.) Houghton, Douglas Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Blackburn, F. Howell Denis (All Saints) Probert, A. R.
Blenkinsop, A. Hoy J. H. Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Blyton, W. R. Hughes Cledwyn (Anglesey) Randall, H. E.
Boardman, H. Hughes Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Redhead, E. C.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Reynolds, G. W.
Bowles, F. G. Hunter, A. E. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Brockway, A. F. Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Skeffington, A. M.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Jeger, George (Goole) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Carmichael, J. Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Johnson, James (Rugby) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Champion, A. J. Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Snow, J. W.
Chapman, W. D. Kenyon, C. Sorensen, R. W.
Coldrick, W. King, Dr. H. M. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Lawson, G. M. Sparks, J. A.
Crossman, R. H. S. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Spriggs, Leslie
Cullen, Mrs. A. Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lewis, Arthur Stonehouse, John
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Lindgren, G. S. Stones, W. (Consett)
Deer, G. Logan, D. G. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Diamond, John McAlister, Mrs. Mary Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Dodds, N. N. McCann, J. Sylvester, G. O.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. MacColl, J. E. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Edelman, M. McKay, John (Wallsend) Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Nest (Caerphilly) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Thornton, E.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mahon, Simon Warbey, W. N.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Mann, Mrs. Jean Watkins, T. E.
Finch, H. J. (Bedwellty) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Weitzman, D.
Fitch, A. E. (Wigan) Mayhew, C. P. Wheeldon, W. E.
Fletcher, Eric Mikardo, Ian White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Foot, D. M. Mitchison, G. R. Wilkins, W. A.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Moody, A. S. Willey, Frederick
George, Lady Megan Lloyd(Car'then) Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Williams, David (Neath)
Gibson, C. W. Moyle, A. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Greenwood, Anthony Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R, Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) Woof, R. E.
Grey, C. F. Oram, A. E. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Oswald, T. Zilliacus, K.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Owen, W. J.
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Padley, W. E. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hale, Leslie Paget, R. T. Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons.
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

The last Amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson), has not been selected by Mr. Speaker. Third Reading, what day?

Mr. Lawson

On a point of order. The Amendment in my name deals with a matter which is most important to Scotland. The Bill is an insult to Scotland and—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. Mr. Speaker has not selected that Amendment.

Mr. Lawson

Further to that point of order. How are we who are Scottish Members of Parliament to deal with a Measure which deliberately insults Scotland? Are we not allowed to put this matter right?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Not tonight, anyway.

Bill to be read the Third time Tomorrow.