HC Deb 29 February 1960 vol 618 cc817-9
16. Dr. King

asked the Minister of Health whether he will reconsider his decision that, as from 1st April, 1960, those who voluntarily leave the staff of the National Health Service will receive no interest on the superannuation payments they have made.

15. Mr. C. Royle

asked the Minister of Health to what extent he now proposes that interest will no longer be paid on returned superannuation contributions of officers leaving the National Health Service.

17. Mr. McKay

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the discontent of large numbers of the National Health Service staff, who were compelled to join the Superannuation Scheme at 18 years of age or over on a contributory basis and were informed that if they left voluntarily they would have their contributions returned plus interest, on being informed that a regulation is to be made, with effect from 1st April, 1960, to abolish the payment of interest; and if he will make a statement.

32. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Minister of Health if he will now reconsider his proposal to amend the National Health Service (Superannuation) Regulations in such a way that officers who leave the service voluntarily will no longer receive accrued interest on their returned contributions.

35. Mr. Kelley

asked the Minister of Health if he is prepared to amend the draft National Health Service (Superannuation) (Amendment) Regulations, 1960, in order to make provision for the payment of interest on all contributions made before 31st March, 1960, by persons who voluntarily withdraw from the service at any future date.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I am at present considering further representations I have received from the interests concerned.

Dr. King

I am glad to hear what the Minister has said, but is he aware that while this change may be justifiable from the point of view of new entrants coming into the staff of the National Health Service, if he insists on making a change for the older ones he will he breaking faith with the members of his staff?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I will certainly hear what the hon. Member has said in mind, but we have on the other hand to consider the general context of this, which is that nearly £80 million of the actuarial deficit is being found by the taxpayer, and this proposal is the only contribution which the employee is being asked to make and amounts to a little under £1 million.

Mr. McKay

Why is the Minister selecting this particular group of staff of the National Health Service for worsened conditions? Is he altering the conditions of any other section of the staff of the Service? One would have expected better conditions, particularly as that is being considered for the highest paid section within the National Health Service, that is, the doctors. Why is the Minister in these circumstances reducing or trying to reduce the conditions of this section?

Mr. Walker-Smith

This arises out of the actuarial deficit which the Government Actuary found to exist at 31st March, 1955, in the National Health Service superannuation scheme for England and Wales. Over £70 million has been found for this purpose, which is a generous thing on the part of the taxpayer towards the employees. If this proposal is proceeded with at the end of the consideration, it will, of course, only bring this scheme into line with the normal local government scheme arrangements.

Mr. Robinson

At the same time, will it not bring it out of line with the pension provisions in the nationalised industries, and since this is going to produce only about £1 million, spread, I gather, over about 20 years, is it worth the Minister's losing the good will of the Health Service employees for such a small sum?

Mr. Walker-Smith

What the hon. Member has suggested is a point I should like to check before committing myself to an answer, though it may well be the case that the nationalised industries operate in the way that he suggests. On the second part of his supplementary question, I appreciate the force of his argument about the smallness of the sum, but he in turn will, I am sure, recognise that if it had been a large sum then the argument could have been put the other way, that owing to the largeness of the sum it was of an oppressive nature and for that reason ought to be reconsidered.

Mr. Marsh

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that, in view of the fact that all these staff on engagement are issued with an abstract of the National Health Service Regulations which tells them quite clearly that if they retire before the 10 years are up they will receive interest on their returned contributions, this would be, if not legally, at least morally a breach of contract?

Mr. Walker-Smith

That is the point I am studying now, which is the strongest point which can be made for the hon. Member's side of the case.