§ 10.14 p.m.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)
I beg to move,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Local Government (Travelling Allowances, etc.) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations, 1962 (S.I. 1962, No. 935), dated 4th May, 1962, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th May, be annulled.
It may be for the convenience of the House if we take with this Motion the Motion in the name of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Local Government (Financial Loss Allowance) Regulations, 1962 (S.I., 1962, No. 941), dated 7th May, 1962, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th May, be annulled.
§ Mr. Hoy
The Regulations, which deal with allowances payable to those engaged in local authority work, are a step in the right direction, but we do not regard them as any more than that. All hon. Members will be aware of the great difficulty that local authorities have in getting members to fill vacancies on local councils. This is reflected in the great difficulty that the different parties have in finding candidates to fill these vacancies. This difficulty is being experienced more and more throughout the country.
Added to that is the fact that many local councillors feel that too often they have to take responsibility for decisions made by the central Government and not by local authorities, and they find it all the more onerous to undertake those duties. It does not matter which party considers this problem, whether it is the party opposite or ourselves; these difficulties are there, and more and more local authorities are making calls on the time of members who are prepared to serve upon them. In consequence, a considerable section of the business community cannot find time to serve on local authorities, which are all the poorer as a result.
1302 We on this side make no secret that we are also having difficulty, because we are in the main dependent on people representing us who have to earn their livelihood. It seems to us most unfair that people in this category, who are willing to give of their services, have at the same time to suffer financial loss for doing so. If we are to restore local authority to the virility which it is entitled to expect, then we in central Government must do something about it.
These proposals are a slight improvement, but frankly they are not good enough. The Government have boasted that wages and earned incomes today are much higher than ever before, but I think they want to get rid of the cry about never having had it so good because this, apparently, does not apply to local authority representatives. The Government have always made great play in economic and employment debates and in their financial returns, published by the Ministry of Labour, of the fact that the average earnings for men amount to £15 6s. 10d. per week. But according to the Government the worth of a councillor is about 10s. per day less than that of the average man, because, although they make an estimate that even if he is only average his earnings will be at least £3 per day, under these Regulations they are prepared to give a councillor only £2 10s. as compensation for loss of earnings.
It seems to me, and I am certain to most hon. Members, that this is very difficult to sustain. If a man were better than average then obviously his loss would be all the greater. The fundamental fact is that, even if he were only average, the Government are prepared to pay him rather more than 10s. less than he would have received if he were in normal employment. This is no encouragement for people to serve on local authorities. I think that the House is entitled to know from the Government tonight why this figure was fixed. Surely the least that we might have expected was that the Government would have fixed it at 3 guineas and made it comparable with the earnings of the average worker. Apparently it has been decided not to do that, and the Government will have to give a good reason for making this differentiation.
1303 It is not only a question of cash but of how local authorities are to be run in future. If they are to be the local authorities we all want them to be, this House should make it possible for the best representatives to be sent to them, and to treat them worse than the average person gives them no encouragement. That is the central point of our case against these Regulations.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
I want to add just one or two points to those put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy). These Regulations will affect councillors on the largest authorities most seriously of all. On those authorities, councillors have to attend two, three and sometimes four days a week, and it is there that these men will suffer very substantial losses. The larger councils do very important business. They are responsible for administering tens of millions of pounds a year and services employing very large numbers of people. Theirs is a highly responsible job, and if we are to maintain the good name of our local authorities, and encourage the best type of citizens to give their time to this work, we should certainly not ask them to suffer what are sometimes fairly substantial losses.
I know—and I am sure that most hon. Members will have had similar experience—of men who would make first-class councillors, who would like to do the job, who would like to be councillors, but cannot undertake the work, because it means very severe loss. It is difficult to get municipal candidates, and I know that people in the party opposite are in the same condition—[HON. MEMBERS: "They are worse."] I do not know whether they are worse, but the position is difficult. The loss may not mean so much to those in the party opposite, because many of them can afford to do the work as it is, but for ordinary working-class men and women who seek to do this work, who are anxious to serve the community, and who have the knowledge and ability to do so, a sum of 50s. a day is far too small in present conditions.
It is interesting to note the expenses paid to those who use their cars on local authority business. They are 1304 treated very generously, and it is probably true to say that most of the men who use their cars for council business make a profit from it. By and large they are the better off people in the councils. This means that the man who is better off is treated more generously than the man in an ordinary job with a family to care for and who probably does not have a car. There must be something wrong with a Government which considers local authorities in this way. The result is that one is encouraged to be a councillor if one is well off. If one is not well off, however, one gets mean treatment.
Anyone considering our local authorities today must be concerned about the question of obtaining councillors of the right calibre and character, and it is becoming increasingly important that we should find people of this type. I am surprised that so many men and women are prepared to do this work, even though it means that many of them will suffer hardship as a result. One answer is to ensure that they are, at least, not out of pocket. We do not want a man to say to his wife, "I am sorry but I am going to the council. I shall lose £1 or £2 as a result and you must take less housekeeping." People should not be placed in that position.
In this connection, I should like to know from where the Government got their figures, especially since they are not in accord with their own estimates of the average national weekly income. Why were the figures not made higher? Why not 35s. and £3 10s.? I hope that we shall receive an answer to these questions because, while we are pleased to welcome any increase, we feel that the figures should have been higher.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I need not add much to what my hon. Friends have said because the essence of this problem is the same both sides of the Border, in England and in Wales.
I am not sure that we have always experienced in London the same difficulty over finding candidates as that to which my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) referred, although I should think that that difficulty may occur particularly in some of the smaller rural authorities where all 1305 the difficulties we are discussing are added to because of problems of travelling and time.
One thing stands out clearly from what my hon. Friends have so far said; that the figures, even as the Government propose to amend them by these Regulations, are very modest indeed. It is quite clear that an active councillor is bound to be out of pocket. That is not at all desirable, although I can see the argument for not wanting to create a situation whereby anyone might be tempted to become a councillor for motives of profit. If anyone enters local government for that reason today he is soon disillusioned, and I do not suppose that anyone does.
Nevertheless, it is not desirable that an active councillor should be out of pocket and we were right to raise this matter if only to remind the country of the immense volume of unpaid work that is done—and at a loss. I doubt whether even today the ordinary member of the public fully appreciates the quality of the service that is rendered to him by people who are prepared to serve on local authorities. Quite apart from the loss that we are discussing, the fact that what one can claim for loss of earnings will not in most cases equal the earnings that one is really losing, there are opportunities for overtime work that one has to abandon; there is the fact that since one is felt by one's employer not to be wholeheartedly devoting oneself to one's employment, one's chances of promotion and advancement may be endangered.
I accept that if a man decides that he has a vocation for public work he must be prepared to make some sacrifices, but I am sure that ever since the 1948 Act we have dealt ungenerously with local councillors and I rather regret that the Government did not take this opportunity to go a little further.
We accept—and to that extent we welcome them—that these Regulations are going some way, but the Government might have taken the opportunity to go a little further. My hon. Friend suggested a figure of 3 guineas. That would be the same as is paid to Members of another place, and I am sure my hon. Friend will realise that that would not quite do. Guineas, after all, are for 1306 gentlefolk. Ordinary people like ourselves must be content with pounds and shillings. My hon. Friend tells me that he thinks that if it is worked out on the basis of wages, the correct figure should be something like £3 5s. That would perhaps put it in a more suitable plebeian form for local councillors.
Certainly the Government ought to look at the significant point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East about the anomaly that arises when we compare these allowances with allowances that are paid for travel by means of a car. I cannot believe that it was ever intended to create that situation. I think that is another reason why the figures in these Regulations might have been a little more generous.
I conclude by raising two small points of detail on which perhaps the Government spokesman will be able to comment. First, under the Act of 1948 no allowance of this kind is payable to a parish councillor in respect of an approved duty done within the area of the parish of which he is a councillor. I suppose the reason for that exception was that it was assumed that that would be a duty so much on his doorstep that there could not be a substantial loss of earnings. But I should like the Government to tell us whether they are satisfied that it has proved in practice just to make that exception. Have they any evidence that, in fact, parish councillors could at times suffer as serious a loss as is suffered by any other councillor through doing duties inside the area of their parish for which these allowances are not payable?
The other is a tiny point. We have Scotland and England represented here tonight, and I see at least one hon. Member from Wales. But there is no hon. Member present from Cornwall. What is the position of members of the council of the Isles of Scilly? I ask for this reason. That particular council is not mentioned in the Act of 1948 as one of those in respect of which these allowances shall be payable. I presume that some subsequent enactment has extended the operation of the 1948 Act to the council of the Isles of Scilly, but frankly I do not know where it is done and by what legal authority it is done. Perhaps the 1307 Government could clear up that small but, for the councillors concerned, I should amagine, not unimportant point. I expect that the answer is that they are all right, but it is not immediately clear from studying the Statute that they are, and I should like to be reassured on that point.
I hope, therefore, that we shall hear from the Government that although they are not going very far, they recognise the need to keep this figure under review, and to see that they do not lag too far behind the actual losses that men who do this valuable work will incur.
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
In moving the Motion, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) mentioned a fairly recently published figure of £15 6s. as the average weekly adult industrial wage. We are, however, discussing primarily a group of people who form a subsection within that average figure, because it includes people employed in public services, on the railways and in other sectors, who do not always lose money when they have time off for council work.
The figure that we should consider more closely for comparison is that for all manufacturing industries, in which people are employed on an hourly, daily or weekly basis. It is from that sector that we get the majority of our local councillors and other public representatives who lose money by having time off to attend council meetings or meetings of other bodies whose allowances are based similarly to those of local authorities.
Twelve months ago, in April, 1961, the average adult male earnings for all manufacturing industry were 15 guineas a week. Bearing in mind that the general figure quoted by my hon. Friend has increased by 5s. a week over the 12-month period, I have no doubt that the current figure for manufacturing industry for April, 1962, which has not yet been published, is around 321s. or 322s. a week.
My hon. Friends have argued correctly that one should be prepared to pay by way of financial loss. It has not been stressed sufficiently that we are talking about financial loss, making up money actually lost, and not simply a payment which is made to all members of local 1308 authorities just because they spend four or eight hours in total at a council meeting. In another place, the payment is made irrespective of financial loss to cover expenses incurred, but we are discussing the reimbursement of people who, by virtue of having time off from work, lose money. The least we can do is to ensure that the amount which is paid to somebody who loses between four and eight hours' work due to local authority business is at least level with the average of about 320s. a week, which is the current average earnings of adult males in manufacturing industry.
It could safely be claimed that the vast majority of members of local authorities who work in manufacturing industry and are forced to lose money because they have time off to attend council meetings, who are public-spirited enough to seek election and undertake public work, are in many cases above the national average. In general, the same sort of person rises above the average level in his trade, industry or profession. We are merely arguing that they should receive reimbursement for financial loss at least on the average level.
There are two things which make it difficult for a person in hourly, daily or weekly employment to serve on a local authority. I have served on a local authority for the last 13 years and have never had to claim financial loss allowance, because, fortunately, I have been either working for a public corporation or a political party or serving as a Member of this House and, as result, I have not lost income by having to attend council meetings.
There are, however, a large number of people who would like to undertake public work but who experience two difficulties. The first is to persuade their employer to let them have time off to undertake the work. That is difficult enough, and one understands the action of employers, particularly those in a small way of business, who cannot afford to have a man disappear for one or two days a week.
Even if an employee can overcome that difficulty, he is faced with the possibility that for every day he has off during the year for council work, doing public duty as the representative of people in the area who have elected him to carry out that duty, he is liable to 1309 lose a least 10s. a day. He needs that to keep his wife and family, pay his mortgage and hire-purchase, buy food and clothing and generally live.
Imagine someone earning about the average figure—between £15 and £16 a week—being forced into the position, as some would be, of serving on a county council or large county borough council and having to be prepared not only to give up a large amount of time but to face the prospect of losing £1 a week. That is what it means if a man has two days a week off to work for the London County Council, Middlesex County Council or other large county councils, or Edinburgh or Glasgow as Royal Burghs in Scotland, or large county boroughs in England and Wales.
This is the first time we have dealt with this matter for four years, and presumably it will be four or five years before we can deal with it again. We must expect a man to lose £1 a week for the privilege of serving the community which has elected him to public office. That is not good enough. We would all agree that we do not wish to make it profitable for a man to serve on a local authority. But in this country we always seem to go completely to the other extreme and make sure that it is as difficult as possible, so that a man must be prepared to make financial sacrifices to serve the community.
I stress that we are entering into a period of change in local government. At present the problem of financial loss is not a very great one in medium-sized, small and many of the larger non-county borough and urban districts. The vast majority of their meetings can be held in the evening, and, therefore, the vast majority of their members— although there will be some on shift work—do not suffer financial loss. But there is difficulty now in county boroughs, large county councils and some large rural districts where meetings have to be held during the day.
It will be four or five years before we can deal with the matter again. If the Government's policy is carried out, during that period we shall see great changes in local government. We shall see the creation of the Greater London Council. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has said that there is not so much difficulty in 1310 London in obtaining candidates to fight elections. I agree completely. It is possible to find very good candidates in London to fight elections on behalf of the Labour Party; but there are many other people in London who would be exceedingly good Labour Party candidates but are unable to stand because of the present financial position.
The London County Council is comparatively small compared with the type of authority that hon. Members opposite are proposing to set up. It is possible for a number of people in the London County Council area to travel to County Hall for a meeting and return home in four hours, thus taking half a day. But if someone has to come from Uxbridge, Billericay, Potters Bar or Orpington— where he will probably have difficulty in getting a train—it will be most unusual for him to take only half a day off to attend a meeting. It will require a full day for nearly every meeting.
If some of the draft recommendations go through, outside London we shall see a considerable increase in size by way of population and area of local authorities. This will probably—I hope it will not—lead to a greater proportion of local authority meetings being held during the day than now. At present the vast majority of ordinary urban and non-county borough councils in rural and semi-urbanised areas need not necessarily have any meetings during the day-time, but with mergers of rural districts and non-county boroughs and county boroughs, as visualised, and with the difficulties of rural transport, many larger local authorities may well decide to have an increasing number of meetings during the day. We shall then face the financial loss problem to a far greater extent among second-tier authorities than at present.
As the matter is being dealt with now, we should try to achieve a favourable position which will minimise—one cannot eradicate it completely—the hardship which some members of local authorities will have to suffer. We always tend to put the elected member of a local authority in an invidious position. He has to bumble along and pick up the job as best he can. He is open to public criticism for a large number of things and in many instances he is unable to reply. We expect him to be 1311 prepared to lose money in order to carry out these public duties.
I hope that the Government will be prepared to have another look at the Regulations. I have no doubt that they have discussed the matter with the local authority associations, with the T.U.C. and with other interested bodies, and I hope that they will tell us the attitude of those bodies to what is proposed. Many of them, no doubt, may have accepted what the Government are putting forward tonight. But I think that the figure, as my hon. Friend said, ought to be between 3 guineas and 65s., and I hope that the Government will, on reconsideration, be a little more generous than they propose to be at present. After all, it is not their money that is being spent; it is the ratepayers' money. I am sure that the majority of ratepayers would not want a man to lose money through carrying out a public duty on their behalf.
§ 10.46 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith)
In the light of what has been said this evening I am glad to have this opportunity of explaining to the House the Government's policy and the principles behind it, because it seems to me that there has been some misunderstanding about the purposes of these allowances. I was particularly glad to hear what the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) had to say about the hard work that is done by those who serve on local authorities.
I should like to dispose of the two questions which the hon. Member asked me. First, I will deal with the point about financial loss of members of parish councils serving in their own area. The hon. Member wondered why these members were not covered by the Regulations. The reason is, so I am informed—this is an English matter and I am only a Scotsman, although perhaps I should not say "only a Scotsman"— that parish council duties are, in general, very much lighter than other local authority duties. It should be possible for members of parish councils to perform these fairly light duties without incurring any financial loss and there should be no question of hardship. Where a parish councillor performs 1312 approved duties outside his parish, financial loss allowance is available. I hope that satisfies the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
It does not quite satisfy me because I knew all that already—we all did. We know that that is the reason why parish councillors were excepted for jobs done in their own parish. What I was asking was whether the Government are satisfied that parish councillors are not having to bear an injustice.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I understand that there has been no great volume of complaint, and we are fairly well satisfied that things are working well.
Now perhaps I can turn to the other end of the Kingdom—to the Scilly Isles. If the hon. Gentleman will turn to Section 146 of the 1948 Act, he will find that that Act applies to the Scilly Isles. That answers his second question.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) who moved the Motion, started, as I hoped, in the right frame of mind by saying that this was a step in the right direction. But he then proceeded promptly to withdraw that and said that it was not nearly good enough. It is easy enough for the hon. Gentleman to say that and then to ask for more. He was, to a very large extent, repeating the arguments made by his hon. Friends approximately five years ago, the last time that this matter was discussed. He did not, I would say, carry any more conviction this time, though he and his hon. Friends have been gestating the matter for five years. The record of the Government is, in fact, pretty good.
The financial loss allowance in its present form was introduced in 1948, following upon the Report of the Lindsay Committee. By implementing that Report the then Labour Government showed, I think, that they accepted the basic arguments in the Report. But from what has been said, it seems to me that perhaps this is no longer accepted by the party opposite. I shall have something to say about that later.
The allowances in 1948 were fixed at 10s. where four hours or less working time was lost, and 20s. where more than four hours was lost. By 1953 it had become clear that to have the amount permanently fixed by Statute in this way was not a satisfactory method of dealing 1313 with this type of allowance, and so the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1953—for which we are indebted to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)—amended the original 1948 Act to allow the amount of the allowances to be varied by Regulation. As a result of this new power, the amount of allowances paid for loss of earnings for a period of four hours or less was raised in 1954 to 15s. and for over four hours to 30s. In 1957, the amounts were again raised to 20s. and 40s. and the present Regulations give a further increase to 25s. and 50s. Thus, as the House can appreciate, the rates have been reviewed and increased at fairly regular intervals. The Government cannot be criticised for not doing something in the matter fairly regularly. From 20s.—the hon. Member for Leith should not laugh like that—in 1948 they have been increased to 50s. in 1962.
As a result of this periodic upward progress the minimum payment for loss of earnings is now two-and-a-half times what it was 14 years ago, which does not seem to me to be altogether bad going. But in view of what has been said and the criticisms which have been made of the adequacy of the allowances, I should like to go back to the principle behind these payments, because it seems to me that the Opposition must have changed their ground. As the House knows, the whole question——
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
If the Parliamentary Secretary insists, as he is doing, on going back to the beginning, will he go back to 1929? It was in 1929 that provision was first made for having loss allowances for county councillors in Scotland. If the hon. Gentleman does that, I think he will find that at that time the maximum sum available for financial loss allowances was 15s. and it was substantially in excess of the average wage.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I have had an opportunity to read the speech which the hon. Gentleman made on the last occasion and of which he has given a very correct synopsis. But the party opposite accepted the recommendations of the Lindsay Committee and the approach of the Committee to the question of allowances for councillors is contained in paragraphs 40 to 45 of its 1314 Report. There the Committee says that it appears to begenerally accepted that local government should be carried on by men and women giving their time and trouble without recompense or personal gain.
§ Mr. Galbraith
If the hon. Gentleman would keep quiet, and give me an opportunity to say something, instead of being so anxious to speak from a sitting position, I should be very grateful to him.
The Committee says, in paragraph 41 of its Report thatsuch voluntary work must involve sacrifice:This is what was said by the Committee and it was accepted by the party opposite when they were in power. The Report continues:and indeed it would lose its savour if it did not; sacrifice of some other interests or hobbies, and also of income, or of chances of increasing income.These are the words in the Report. They are not my words.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I am very glad to know that I have the concurrence of the Opposition Front Bench. But on the other hand the Committee goes on to say that it is wrong for this sacrifice to extend as far as hardship. What the Report said is—and here I am quoting from paragraph 66—It is not reasonably possible to attempt to meet the full loss of the professional or business man or the higher paid workman or to deal exactly with cases where attendance might mean an exceptional loss; and we agree with the principle submitted to us in evidence that the intention of the allowances should be to prevent hardship without necessarily leaving the recipient in exactly the same financial position as if he had remained at his work.That certainly was not the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Acton.
§ Mr. Reynolds
I have some connection with Acton, but Islington, North is my constituency. The hon. Gentleman is referring to the higher-paid professional 1315 executive and the skilled man, but I based the whole of my argument on average adult earnings in manufacturing industry.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I apologise to the hon. Member for getting the name of his constituency wrong. On that point I was wrongly informed. Later I shall deal with the particular point he made.
What the Lindsay Committee was saying was that allowances should be an insurance against hardship, not an alternative to salary or wages, which is what I think the Opposition are seeking to turn these allowances into. Here I come to the point raised by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds). It is obvious that as standards rise the allowances to prevent hardship will not necessarily rise in proportion; because higher standards of living will provide all sorts of luxuries which allowances based on hardship cannot possibly satisfy. No one has suggested that the professional man should be recompensed for all he may lose by undertaking public work. The argument which applies in his case must also apply in the case of the working man, particularly now that the wages of the working man are so high relative to the subsistence level. Like the professional man, he too has to accept some sacrifice if he wishes to serve the public. But, although some sacrifice is inevitable in public service if it is to remain service and not become an alternative form of employment— which I am sure no one wishes—on the other hand there should not be hardship. That is something that we should try to avoid.
I recognise, as did the Lindsay Committee, that a delicate judgment is necessary to get the right figure. We think we have got it and it is clear that the Opposition do not think that we have got it. I do not think it is fully appreciated by hon. Members opposite that the rates of financial allowance are not meant to be equated with wages. They are meant to bear a sufficient relation to wages to prevent any individual suffering hardship, but not to be a substitute for wages. When one looks at the figures which the Government are proposing I do not think it can be argued that anyone getting up to 50s. a day could be said to be in need or suffering 1316 hardship. A lot of figures of one kind and another have been produced, but I am afraid that I must decline to join issue on them——
§ Mr. Galbraith
The hon. Member did not allow me to finish the sentence. I was saying that I must decline to join issue on these figures because they are to a large extent irrelevant today. What we are seeking to do is not to make an exact arithmetical computation between high earnings and these allowances, but to prevent what should be a reasonable sacrifice becoming a hardship. In our view anyone getting 50s. a day cannot be said to be suffering hardship, although he may be, and probably is, making a very substantial personal sacrifice.
§ Mr. Galbraith
That does not matter. The principles in that Report are the principles which have guided the Government. Here I should like to support, as I did in my opening remarks, what was said by the hon. Member for Fulham. In case anybody reads the debate afterwards—I do not suppose anyone will—and gets the wrong impression, and thinks that the Government are unsympathetic to those who serve on local authorities, I emphasise that the Government are very conscious of the important work carried out by local authority members and realise that it makes great demands on their public spiritedness. On the other hand, as hon. Members know who serve on local authorities, despite an undoubted element of self-sacrifice, there are rich rewards of personal satisfaction which come from giving public service of this kind, and that fact also has to be taken into account.
1317 The object of the Regulations is to make it a little easier and a little less of a sacrifice to the person who feels a calling for public service to undertake such work. As in the past, in deciding a figure we have had regard to prices, the cost of living and other matters which have been mentioned, but we have not made the precise arithmetical calculation which the hon. Member for Islington, North asked us to make. What is proposed is obviously not the last word —and I hope that that remark satisfies the hon. Member for Fulham. There have been changes before and there will probably be more changes in the future, but an increase of 25 per cent, now does not seem to us to be unreasonable in the circumstances.
The hon. Member for Islington, North asked what local authorities had said about this. It may interest him to know that with the exception of a body of which he may never have heard—the Convention of Royal Burghs—the new allowances have been accepted by the local authority associations and trade unions who were consulted. Even the Convention of Royal Burghs ended their letter by saying that though they were disappointed they were not disposed actively to oppose the figures.
We believe that the proposed allowance is not ungenerous as a protection against hardship, and, as that has been the Government's aim in framing these Regulations, I ask the House to reject the Prayer or, better still, in the light of what I have said the hon. Member may be willing to withdraw it.
§ 11.4 p.m.
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
I felt sorry for the Under-Secretary of State during his speech because he was making every effort to deal with the historical background of the problem rather than face up to the realities of today. Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice and service are essential, he said, in local government. We know that. The hon. Member has had no experience of local government.
§ Mr. McInnes
I was along with the hon. Member's father in local government and I served more years than his 1318 father. I can speak with a wealth of experience. It is not a question of an eight-hour day in local government or of being paid £2 a day for eight hours or more. I have been at local government meetings which have lasted 17 or 18 hours. I did not get overtime.
What is the situation today—not at 16th May, when these Regulations came into operation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) said, a councillor gets 40s. The Ministry of Labour Gazette for February of this year contains an article summarising the average earnings during October, 1961, in the manufacturing industries, the type of industries from which we recruit a considerable proportion of our local authority representatives. The average weekly earnings in the manufacturing industries in October, 1961, were stated to be £15 17s. 10d. Therefore, from October of last year to May of this year someone employed in the manufacturing industry who served as a councillor suffered a loss of 13s. a day.
Is it not a sacrifice to lose 13s. per day for perhaps three or four days a week? Is it not sacrifice if the person attends the council for perhaps 10 or 11 hours a day, as sometimes happens in places like Glasgow? Is not that sacrifice and service? I did not appreciate the Under-Secretary's jibes about service and sacrifice. I wish he would face reality. The situation until the Regulations came into force was that councillors were in the main suffering to the extent of 13s. a day. That is why we oppose the Regulations. Some day I hope to be able to congratulate the Under-Secretary. As usual, he has come here with a mean and miserable little Measure with no reality about it. He does not face the situation which exists.
Like my hon. Friends, I vigorously oppose the Regulations. I hope that local authorities will express their disapproval, as I believe they will, and I also hope that some day the Under-Secretary will come to the House and face the realities and prescribe an amount which will be in accordance with the needs of the situation.
§ 11.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Hoy
We listened with interest to the Under-Secretary's speech. We do not find it altogether satisfactory. The 1319 hon. Gentleman should remember that when this procedure was introduced in 1948 it was a new procedure for a considerable part of the country. Only in the last 14 years have we had experience of how it has worked. The hon. Gentleman argued that there may not be great financial hardship for people who may have to serve on a local authority for at least two or three days of the week and lose at least 13s. for each day they serve. He has a different idea of hardship from my hon. Friends and myself. It is wrong to ask a man who is earning an average of £15 a week to give up 13s. a day for the privilege of serving on the local authority.
However, the Under-Secretary said that he would keep this under review. All I can say on behalf of my hon. Friends is that I hope that the reviews will not take too long. I hope that they will not take as long as four years. As I said earlier, this is a step in the right direction, but no more than that. In view of what the Under-Secretary has said—we do not agree with it, but we think that it is a step in the right direction—I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.