§ (1) Within three months of the appointed day the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall appoint a Pensions Review Board which shall consist of five members.
§ (2) (a) For the calendar year one thousand nine hundred and sixty three, and for each second succeeding year, the Pensions Review Board shall submit to Parliament a report relating to pensions payable to each class of persons to which this Act applies and also relating to pensions payable to all pensioners of the Armed Forces and their widows to whom increases in pension are payable by Prerogative Instruments after the appointed day;
§ (b) for each such calendar year as is referred to in subsection (a) of this section the Cost of Living Advisory Committee shall, by reference to the normal expenditure of persons in the United Kingdom over the age of sixty years, compute for use by the Pensions Review Board in the preparation of the report referred to in the said subsection a special index of retail prices, to be known as the "Pensioners' Index of Retail Prices";
§ (c) every such report as is mentioned in subsection (a) of this section shall contain such recommendations for increases and adjustments in the pensions to which it refers as in the opinion of the Pensions Review Board are necessary to take into account the following factors:
- (i) in relation to any particular class of persons such as is referred to in subsection (a) of this section, any difference in the amounts of pensions payable to different members of the said class which is solely attributable to a difference in time between the dates on which the pensions first became payable as aforesaid;
- (ii) any variation in the Pensioners' Index of Retail Prices since the last such report;
- (iii) any other matter, which in the opinion of the Board, is relevant to the amount of the pension payable to the members of any such class as is mentioned in subsection (a) of this section.—[Mr. Wade.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
The purpose of the Clause is to provide for the carrying out of a biennial review. It is an adaptation of the provisions of a Private Member's Bill which I introduced in the last Session—on 27th March of this year. The Bill, which I introduced under the Ten Minutes Rule, was unopposed. I hope that that indicates that it had general 1144 support, although I regret to say that at a later stage it was obstructed by the Government and was eventually killed.
The proposals in this Clause, which are on similar lines to those in the Bill, have a wide measure of support from various pasts of the House. I believe that many hon. Members realise that the way in which these Pensions (Increase) Bills come about, rather haphazardly, is not entirely satisfactory.
I should first explain that the Clause applies both to the pensions of former members of the Armed Forces and their widows—which do not come into the Bill but are referred to in the Explanatory Memorandum—and also to public service pensions. In both cases there is a real need for a more objective test, and there is a growing recognition of this need.
In the Second Reading debate, when referring to the public service pensioners, the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), who speaks with authority on the subject, had some interesting observations to make. He said:…there are good reasons for thinking that the present system which we have enshrined, if that is the right word, in public servants pensions Bills is not a satisfactory one and that we ought to give very careful consideration"—and then he made some reference to the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) who had spoken on similar lines—to the possibility of some more satisfactory arrangements.Then, when referring to the existing method, he said:One might describe it as a fire brigade method; an ad hoc method; a hit-and-miss method. Is it not time that we considered whether it is possible to devise some proper businesslike system which will provide for periodic reviews when necessary by some appropriate machinery of a suitable character applying recognised criteria?In winding up the debate the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead) also referred to the subject. He said:I said in a previous debate that there was something repugnant in the spectacle of pensioners of any category having to come from time to time virtually cap in hand to plead for some measure of justice and relief, and devoid of any stronger means of pressing their claims, having to depend upon the degree of sympathy which they could enlist in this House to exert pressure upon the Government who eventually, reluctantly and inadequately 1145 responded with some small grain of comfort, the value of which began to erode from the very moment at which it was conceded.Later he called for a review at regular periodic intervals, and said:A biennial review has been suggested and would seem to be an appropriate one."— [OFFICIAL RFPORT, 9th November, 1962; Vol. 666, c. 1339–98]This Clause is an attempt to translate into practical terms the sentiments expressed in various quarters. I acknowledge that it does not go so far as some would wish. It does not go as far as I would wish, but I have deliberately drafted it in such a way as will provide the greatest possible chance of it being accepted by the Government, and that is what I am hoping for.
The Government have already turned down the principle of parity which has been advanced with great force by Sir Gerald Gibb and others; the principle that if two public servants retire at the same age, having reached the same position and having had the same responsibilities, they should receive the same pension. I also understand that the Government will not accept the principle of an automatic escalator. Some of the societies which have written to me are much in favour of an automatic escalator. It is the view of N.A.L.G.O. But failing that, they would support the idea of a regular review, at any rate as a first step.
I wish to make clear that the review I am advocating does not rule out the opportunity of parity or an automatic escalator. Parliament can still adopt either of those principles. While the position would remain open, this review would ensure that the subject was brought before Parliament at regular intervals of two years. I believe that that has the support of many influential bodies representing a great number of pensioners of various categories.
By way of a preface to an outline of the objects of the Clause may I say something which has been said many times, and heard on many occasions by occupants of the Treasury Bench? I am not asking that every point of detail in the Clause be accepted. It may well be that there is some criticism over points of detail. It is the principle with which I am primarily concerned. The 1146 object of the Clause is first to set up a Pensions Review Board. This is to be done within three months of the appointed day. I suggest that there should be five members although there is no magic about that figure. I think that five members would be a suitable number.
In subsection (2, a) there is a provision that the first report should be completed by the end of 1963. I think that a reasonable request. Subsequent reports could be made every two years. Subsection (2, a) defines the class of persons to which this should apply. The intention is that it should cover all public service pensioners, and those who have served in the Armed Forces, and their widows who come under the Prerogative Instruments.
I am not entirely happy about the wording of the Clause. But if the Government are prepared to accept it in principle, I have no doubt that they could assist over the actual wording of the definition.
Subsection (2, b) proposes that the Cost of Living Advisory Committee should provide a special cost of living index for the benefit of the Pensions Review Board. This would be the Pensioners' Index of Retail Prices.
The Cost of Living Advisory Committee does very important and valuable work, and it seems appropriate that it should be asked to produce this special index for the elderly. The ordinary index, which has been referred to many times in our debates on the Bill, is not entirely satisfactory as a test of the cost of living of the elderly. For example, one would not regard motor scooters and perambulators as part of the normal annual expenditure of an elderly retired person.
It would be helpful, as one of the criteria, to have this special cost of living index, but that alone would not be sufficient. It is sometimes contended that to relate these pensions solely to cost of living is not satisfactory, because at the particular time when an increase is to take place the cost of living may not have been going up. I recognise that, but under these proposals there would be at least two criteria—one, the special cost of living index, and the other a comparison between the original 1147 pension, plus increases, with the present or current pension of persons retiring from the same position.
In addition, the board would be entiled to bring forward any other relevant information it thought fit. What I have in mind is that the board would select a number of representative categories of pensioners and, at the conclusion of its report, would indicate the figures in four columns. The first column would show the original pension—I suggest that it might go back as far as 1935, but I have an open mind on that. The second column would show the increases, in the third there would be the special cost of living index, and the fourth would show the current pension. Once this procedure had started it would be comparatively simple to keep it up to date, and we should get a very much clearer picture than we now have.
I think that such a procedure would bring to light many anomalies and inequalities. We are here dealing with quite a wide range of pensioners—retired postmen, local government officers, civil servants, teachers, members of all ranks of the Armed Forces, and their widows. Some of the most striking cases of hardship occur among the widows of members of the Armed Forces. There is that extraordinary differentiation between what are known as existing widows and future widows. Those who lost their husbands before 4th November, 1958, are treated quite differently from those whose husbands died later.
That is quite anomalous, but I understand that it will still remain when the new provisions dealing with the Forces are introduced. I have a letter on that subject from the general secretary of the Officers' Pensions Society, in which he says:Even with the increases which are going to be awarded, and the £20 for those over 70, many will still be on National Assistance.I therefore suggest that the Pensions Review Board should collect this information and produce a report, which might be published as a White Paper, and which would include its recommendations. Parliament would then have to face up to this subject every two years.
I have considered possible objections. I have studied very carefully the 1148 Financial Secretary's reply in the Second Reading debate. I am giving what I hope is a précis of his argument. As I understood it, there were two points. First, if there were a regular review it would be in some way a derogation from the authority of Parliament. My answer to that is that the recommendations made by the Pensions Review Board would not be mandatory.
Secondly, it was argued by the Financial Secretary that there is some rigidity where increases are related solely to the cost of living. I have dealt with that point and shown that under my proposals there would not be rigidity. There would be at least two criteria by which to judge what the proper increases should be.
There is one other general objection which I have met. It is argued that, if we are so concerned about public service pensioners, what about other pensioners; ought we not to be doing something about them? There is a very simple reply. A number of public service pensioners, particularly some of the most elderly, are in receipt of no other form of relief. Many of them are not entitled to old-age pensions. The pension which they receive, even with increases, has not kept pace with the rise in the cost of living. It is right that we should be concerned with the welfare of public service pensioners.
There is a more important point. If the principle of the biennial review were adopted, it could be applied to a wider field of pensions. I believe that it would benefit all pensioners. It is true that the review might be of a somewhat different nature. I have referred to the four columns. In the fourth column one could not very well include "current pensions". Instead, one would have to have some assessment of the rise in national prosperity in which one would wish all pensioners to share. That is not impossible. I am dealing with this in very general terms because I do not want to stray beyond the Clause. I emphasise that there is no conflict of loyalty. The fact that we are concerned about public service pensioners does not mean that we are not concerned about other pensioners. Surely the plight of all these pensioners should not be dependent on 1149 the amount of pressure that is exerted on the Government at any one time or on such extraneous circumstances as the approach of a General Election. That is wrong.
In conclusion, I should like to quote from my own speech. I do not often inflict that on the House. In introducing my Private Member's Bill I said this:Hon. Members are in real difficulty. There are so many causes which are brought to their notice. An appeal may be launched on a subject such as this. Motions are tabled and speeches made, and then, perhaps, something is done, possibly inadequately, by the Government and the whole subject then passes from the Parliamentary limelight into the shadows. It does not follow, however, that the anomalies have all been remedied, or that others will not arise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March 1962; Vol. 656, c. 1025–26.]That is the situation which we have reached today. Very soon the Bill will become law, but it may then pass out of the Parliamentary limelight. Anomalies will still remain and the circumstances may he forgotten. It is to prevent that that I ask for this periodical review, this review every two years. I am not asking the Government to accept every jot and tittle for the wording of the Clause. I ask for it to be accepted in principle. I ask for a firm assurance that the principle of a periodical review will be accepted by the Government. I shall not rest content with anything less than that.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
I am very interested indeed in the new Clause. Although I agree that the wording of it could, perhaps, be improved, I am absolutely certain that the principle underlying it is most important. It is one which the Government should accept. I wish, first, to quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT what was said by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on Second Reading, because this is extremely interesting. He said:At first sight, coming somewhat new to this matter, I think that this idea has considerable attractions.That is a move in the right direction. If we really offer an attraction to the Financial Secretary I feel that we are making quite a good step forward. He continued later:…even if there is no relevant precedent for a review of civil public service pensions 1150 after specified and fixed intervals, that does not conclude the matter. What really matters is the merits of the case.That really is a wonderful assertion because I cannot think of any case which has better merits. Because Treasury Ministers must find an objection, he went on to say:The main objection to such a review is that it would import a rigidity into the procedure which, at the end of the day, would not be in the interests of the pensioners themselves. I will explain why.Under the existing procedure the Government keep the position of public service pensioners under review, and can intervene at any time with a measure of relief without having to wait for a fixed and specific date to arrive."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1962; Vol. 666, c. 1405–6.]Of all the cynical observations I have ever heard from any Treasury Minister, that is beyond description. Indeed, at this late hour I must try to restrain my language.
My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury had been busy using as an argument on a previous Amendment that it was three years and five months to the day that the new Pensions (Increase) Bill was to become law. Meanwhile, if I had any faith at all in what the Financial Secretary was trying to tell us—that we need not accept the proposed new Clause, that we could be certain that these public service pensioners and the pensioners of the armed Services would be more sympathetically dealt with by the Treasury and Parliament than under the review procedure proposed in the Clause—I would not waste my time making a speech because I would say, "Thank God. At last we have got some sense into the Treasury."
But it does not mean that at all. I challenge the Treasury Ministers to set out in HANSARD from the date of the last Pensions (Increase) Bill the number of Questions, speeches, Ten-Minute Bills and Motions which have been addressed to the Government in the hope of trying to get them to deal with the eroded pensions of those who are covered by the Bill. If they did that it would take up several pages of HANSARD.
As I said, the statement of the Financial Secretary, from which I quoted, represented the most cynical comment that it has been my ill fortune to hear in all the years I have been in the House of Commons. Regarding "rigidity" 1151 about which he spoke, the Financial Secretary as an individual is extremely charming. He is also extremely young. He has not lived as long as a great many people and he is probably unaware that the basic widow's pension has not altered for a hundred years. Yet Parliament has survived all this time and nobody has done anything about it.
Unless we have a review of some kind, or some assurance from Treasury Ministers, the public service pensioners and the pensioners of the Armed Forces of the Crown will be dependent upon the executive. The Financial Secretary spoke in his usual fluent, delightful and vigorous way but he made his statement in July because almost the whole House was behind the Motion moved at that time and the House said that something had to be done. He made that statement because tempers were well up in the House after we had been arguing for nearly three years that the position of these pensioners was becoming worse.
I agree absolutely with the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade). It is most unfair to have the position of public service pensioners and pensioners of the Armed Forces covered by the same cost of living index that applies to other people. I make the point that I have made before in arguing very ineffectively. I do not think I am ever effective. I never seem to get my way. It takes ten years at least to win a battle, and some battles one never wins at all. I shall be dead before some of them are won.
I make the point again that it is the cost of heating, lighting, food, rates and rents that goes up for these people. They are not covered by what are called consumer durables in the cost of living index, whatever they may mean. I suppose they mean prams and other things to which reference has been made. It is absolutely intolerable that these people should be dependent upon the working up of a Parliamentary agitation. I do not trust the Treasury one little bit. I cannot for the life of me see why we cannot arrive at some suitable arrangement.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) has argued this point very forcibly. I only wish he had argued it when he was a member of the Government. He may have done so and been turned down. 1152 I do not know. But the time has come when Parliament should have the right to assert what it wants. There is no use having a Parliamentary democracy if occasionally we cannot have our own way. Even if the new Clause is not drafted in terms acceptable to the Minister—and I can hear him in my mind talking of the weaknesses of the Clause—I hope that we shall not have the same dreary arguments advanced again and that my right hon. Friend will not turn down these widows who had no increase in their basic pensions for a hundred years until 1952 and received one then only because food subsidies had been reduced.
If this idea was attractive to the Financial Secretary only a fortnight ago, it must remain attractive today. He could not accept an Amendment earlier because we have a Pensions (Increase) Bill every three years and five months, but he cannot repeat that argument now when we say that this matter should be kept under review. I will not detain the House any longer, but I feel very strongly on this matter and no ordinary speech will satisfy me if my right hon. Friend does not feel favourably inclined towards accepting the new Clause.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
The proposed new Clause arises from the views expressed on both sides by almost everyone who spoke on Second Reading. There was a general feeling that this should be the last Pensions (Increase) Bill of its kind, that we should get off this dreary treadmill under which public service pensioners have to await a succession of Bills of this kind coming before the House and that we should get away from the process whereby, as soon as one Bill is safely passed and victory is won, all the pensioners' organisations have to start once again lobbying Members of Parliament or pressing the Government for the next Bill in two, three or four years' time. Every hon. Member, therefore, is bound to feel initial sympathy for the proposals put forward by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) in the new Clause.
I doubt, however, whether the Clause does what most hon. Members, on both sides, urged the Government to try to do on Second Reading. It does not take the increases in public service pensions outside the legislative process. It does 1153 not take them off the House of Commons treadmill, which was my main motive and that of others who spoke in the debate.
The Clause has considerable merits. It would provide the House of Commons, when the next Pensions (Increase) Bill comes before it, with extremely authoritative ammunition to throw at whoever occupies the Treasury Bench on that occasion. That, however, is a different point and not the really important one which we had in mind. Therefore, I would rather see the Government heed the points that were made during Second Reading, go away, think about them and consult the various organisations who have an interest in these matters and try to come out with the kind of proposals outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), which would enable the House of Commons to dispense with having to deal with this matter at regular intervals as the years go by.
I agree with the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West, that the Clause does not go as far in dealing with the pensions problem as many of us would like. I am still substantially attracted to seeing a society in which the pensions and superannuation problem is finally dealt with on the principle of parity so that the pension somebody earns during his working life not merely keeps up with the rise in prices after his retirement but keeps in step with the earnings of those still in work doing the kind of job that a pensioner did while he was still part of the working community.
As I said to the Minister on Second Reading, however, I agree that this cannot be done for the public service pensioner in isolation. Public service pensioners are a special group in this problem, because the Government can use them to set an example, to blaze a trail, to give a lead to other people in pensions. But before one could aim for the general principle of parity being accepted, one would need to seek to do this for the whole range of people in retirement.
I suppose that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West is as conscious as anybody else that the kind of interesting and useful proposals which he puts forward for a special cost of living index for pensioners should be applied equally to the general body of people on retire- 1154 ment pensions, most of whom are in an even more difficult position than the public service pensioner.
Although I find much merit in the Clause, I suggest that for these reasons it would be better if the matter were dealt with by the Government considering the unanimous view of the House, consulting the interested organisations and then bringing forward more detailed and final proposals than can be put in a Clause of this nature.
§ Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
I am in the pleasant position of agreeing substantially with what has been said by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson), a position I have not found myself in on previous occasions. I am obliged also to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) for what he kindly said about me and for his attempt to carry into practical effect the suggestions I have made on previous occasions. But I cannot support the detailed method he suggests, and I think it is only right to recognise that he himself appeared to be saying that he was not suggesting that this Clause could be put into operation as it stands. I do not intend to go into details, because certain criticisms have already been made and I should be surprised if my right hon. Friend did not make more.
It would be unfortunate if the debate on this very valuable Clause put forward for discussion purposes were to deteriorate into discussion on detail and then the subject were to disappear squib-like after my right hon. Friend has produced a number of detailed objections. That would be a dangerous thing. We are all concerned with the fact that, on the Second Reading, there was a remarkable consensus in the House that a more satisfactory and permanent arrangement must be seriously considered by the Government.
With all friendliness, I am bound to say that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary did not pay very much more than lip-service to that in his reply. He was good enough to say that all that had been said would be considered. But that is not a very extensive commitment because one rather hopes that everything said in a debate is always considered. On this occasion we want something rather more than that.
1155 We want an assurance that the file is not put away in a cupboard with a sigh of relief, "Thank goodness! Now we have another three years and five months before we need bother with that again." If we could conclude the Committee stage on a note of real hope that the matter is to be considered seriously by the Government, we should all feel that something really worthwhile had been achieved.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
I do not think that one should make apologies for detaining the Committee on this very important matter. After all, the pensioners we are discussing have had to wait three years and five months. One of the penances which the Front Bench must bear is listening to long speeches from various hon. Members, including the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), who spoke so eloquently, as she always does on this subject. I hope that when the time comes she will allow her heart to guide her feet into the right Lobby.
This Bill does not go to the heart of the problem because, as many hon. Members have already said, the increases provided under it will be continually eroded by the rise in the cast of living, as increases under previous Acts have been eroded. It is time that we got round to thinking of a more permanent solution to the problem. Although the new Clause does not do more than provide a first step in this process, it would ultimately pave the way for the automatic escalator Which my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) wants.
This would do two things, both of them good. First, it would take the whole subject of public service pensions outside the arena of politics. This is a view of the subject which public service pensioners thoroughly endorse. We should endorse it, too, because it is entirely wrong for anybody to make political capital out of the hardships of these pensioners. We do not like doing so and we should be only too pleased if we did not have to discuss this matter in the House of Commons, and it should be taken outside. What is not provided by the new Clause and I men- 1156 tion it only to illustrate that it may provide the first step in the process of getting towards such an automatic escalator.
Secondly, it would also be a good thing because it would avoid having to take up Parliamentary time, as at the moment and as we have done so many times. This could all be done outside Parliament. I do not subscribe to the argument 'that it would be a derogation of Parliament's authority, because there are many things which are decided outside the House of Commons, and quite properly so, and this should be one of them.
A biennial review would command the wholehearted support of Civil Service pensioners themselves. I quote from a letter from the Staff Side of the Civil Service National Whitley Council:Successive Governments have found it necessary to legislate for Pension Increases and there will have been seven Acts between 1944 and 1962, inclusive. On every occasion the Acts have been preceded by intensive lobbying and campaigning. The Staff Side believe that those who have given long service to the State ought not to have their standard of living in retirement dependent on the out-come of activity by pressure groups. The Staff Side very much hope that the Government can be persuaded to give an undertaking that pensions will be reviewed biennially.That is what we are asking and I hope that the Chief Secretary will say that that is his intention.
I should like to quote a brief extract from the Civil Service Pensioner, which is the journal of the Civil Service Pensioners' Alliance and which amplifies the letter which I have just quoted. It says:As the older pensioners know from bitter experience, the benefits provided by the Acts of 1944, 1947, 1952 and 1956 proved to be ephemeral. They were wiped out by the subsequent falls in the purchasing power of the currency.If we go on as now, the same will happen to the 1962 increase. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give an undertaking that he will accept the principle if not the detail of the new Clause.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary may remember that on Second Reading I interrupted him to ask what would be the cost of bringing about parity, and he said that it would be £90 million, 1157 which is a very large sum of money. In rejecting the new Clause, as I feel he must because of its drafting, will he give some indication that the Government intend to move towards parity before they start putting up later pensions? There is still so much leeway to be made up by the older pensioners before we start increasing the present rate of pensions that we ought first to dedicate ourselves to getting nearer to parity for those who are already pensioners before we start increasing the pensions of those who are coming into the Civil Service, or the other public services.
I know that this is a major task, but it is very important that we should bear in mind that one of the greatest services we can render to pensioners is to ensure that inflation is kept well and truly under control. Obviously we do not want to increase the pensions bill so much that it accelerates inflation. But, because we are dealing with such a large sum of money, it is important that we should aim to ensure that those who have been left behind the greatest distance are allowed to catch up a great deal more before further increases are given under the terms of service of those coming into the Civil Service and the Armed Forces.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
On an earlier Amendment the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) responded with some asperity to my opening observations that the Amendment was well-intentioned. He thought that that was rather discourteous. I must therefore forbear from addressing observations to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) but say, none the less, that I am glad that he put forward his proposal, and that he put it forward as he did, not as being of itself a specific proposal which really could be operated, but as a peg on which to hang a discussion on the lines of what was said on Second Reading.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am glad the hon. Gentleman said that, because it will force me to risk a rebuke from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) for being squid-like. I think that that was his observation, and I have since sent for the catalogue of the Natural History Museum so as to work out exactly what that is. But it will mean that I have to deal with the hon. Gentleman's proposal in substance, although I understood him and his hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) to say, I thought with some fairness, that they saw limitations in this as a proposal and wished more to discuss the issues which arise on it. But I will pay attention to what the hon. Gentleman said, and certainly, as is my duty in the circumstances, seek to deal with the specific terms of the new Clause as well as with the wider issues which he and other hon. Members have attached to it.
My first point is to pick up what was said by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson), who is no longer in his place. The essence of the discussion on Second Reading, from both sides of the Committee—and I was present throughout the Second Reading debate apart from a short interval for what the Royal Air Force would call landing to refuel and re-arm—was an expression of some dislike of the procedure which had been followed on this Measure and on its predecessors and in particular the need, as it was seen, for agitation and discussion by outside bodies and for subsequent legislation by this House.
The first point, as the hon. Member for Dundee, East and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey have said, is that this proposal would not obviate that in any degree whatever. All that it would do would be to put, as it were, another link—the five more or less wise men of the Pensions Board—into the chain. It would still no doubt be the wish and desire of outside bodies, as in a free society they are entitled to do, to approach hon. Members. It would still be the view of hon. Members who felt strongly about this that they should indulge in the traditional and proper activity of harrying Ministers, and it still would be necessary for 1159 Ministers, when convinced of the desirability of the move, to produce legislation, whether precisely on the lines of this Bill or not. Therefore, whatever may be the merits or demerits of the hon. Gentleman's proposal, it does not begin to meet the general point to which he referred and to which hon. Members devoted a good deal of the Second Reading debate.
In view of what the hon. Gentleman said, I should like, first, to isolate and deal with the specific proposals, and then come back, without straying beyond the bounds of order, to the broader issues which have been discussed.
I do not find this proposal at all attractive. I am not quite sure what these five men would have to do. The terms of reference proposed are extraordinarily vague and broad. Nor could anything such a body did absolve the House and the Government from their responsibility for our former employees; nor, equally, absolve us from our responsibility to the taxpayers, on whom we have to impose burdens in order to discharge our duty to our former employees. These are real considerations.
The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West said that this would ensure the matter being brought before Parliament every two years. I do not know where the hon. Member has been in the last two years, if he seriously thinks that his proposal is necessary in order to secure that. In truth, my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) was much more on the ball when she challenged me, in her own inimitable style, to produce a report of the number of Motions, speeches and Questions put on this very subject. Whatever arguments there may be for the proposal, the idea that it is necessary to have it in order to secure that this matter comes before the House every two years does not seem to be a tenable one.
The point is that hon. Members—rightly, in my judgment; I have raised the question myself at another time, and fully appreciate the rightness of it—raise it far more frequently than every two years. There is no force whatever in the hon. Member's contention.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West) rose—1160
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I only hope that the hon. Member will not go west. I want to deal with the proposal of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West, first. The pretension that this review by some outside and, in a technical sense, completely irresponsible body, would really be necessary to bring this matter before the House does not stand up.
Then there was the suggestion about an index. In a previous capacity I often listened with sympathy to criticisms made by hon. Members on both sides of the House about the retail prices index in the context of very poor people. But this is not such a proposal; this is a proposal for an index—as I understand it—related to all people in the United Kingdom, rich and poor alike, who are over 60 years of age. I do not know whether this would produce anything very different from the retail prices index; I am not at all sure that it would. But what help would such an index give when we are dealing with pensioners some of whom are on very low levels of income and others on quite substantial ones?
What we are concerned with in the Bill—and what this Pensions Review Board would be concerned with—are the pensions not only of retired postmen and policemen but retired Permanent Secretaries. I do not believe that an index of the kind suggested, even if it differed from the retail price index—which I doubt, although I would want to go into the matter further before expressing a definite view—would be of very much help in deciding, at the same time and by the same criteria, what the rates of pension for a retired Permanent Secretary and a retired postman should be. Nor do I think that the element of rigidity which this would undoubtedly bring into the process would necessarily be helpful to the pensioners.
My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary referred to this matter in the Second Reading debate, although it exposed him to my hon. Friend's criticisms. If we have a fixed biennial review by this outside body—a review that must take place automatically—it might well follow a 1161 considerable period of stability of prices and moderation in increases of income. This hoard, in order to discharge its terms of reference, might make a number of recommendations, or none at all. Immediately afterwards there might be a slide in prices, and it might add to the complications of moving—and make it more difficult for a Government to move—if, only a few months before, there had been a report from this board of a negative character. The truth of the matter is that the time of these changes is often dictated by all sorts of circumstances—the movements of prices, and earnings and the rest—which will not necessarily fit into a rigid timetable. I am not criticising the period of two years as opposed to three years or five years or one year. I am doubting the validity of a rigid timetable of this sort.
The Committee may recall that the Insurance Act of 1946 contains a provision for a quinquennial review. I doubt whether many hon. Members will think that that has had the slightest effect on the level of benefits. Any given fixed time almost certainly does not come at what is the right time for a move. I was responsible for presenting one quinquennial review to the House, which, so far as I remember—I say it with all modesty—raised astonishingly little interest.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The hon. Gentleman has given me my case by saying just that. Nothing does happen as a result of these periodic automatic reviews. That is my point and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing me to it with greater brevity than I have shown myself capable of.
May I come now to the broad issue to which I think that the Committee attaches some importance. I join in the tributes to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey for his experience and work in this sphere. He said that he was looking for what he described as a more permanent and satisfactory method of dealing with this matter. If I may be wholly negative for a moment, I hope that the Committee will feel that this proposal is not such a method. In parenthesis I should like lo quote some words on the general 1162 subject from my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). During the war he said:Committees which are advisers or consist of persons without administrative machines and Departments at their disposal and without responsibility for making good any decisions to which they come, are an encumbrance from which I am sedulously endeavouring to free our system.The Committee could have identified the author had I not given his name from the force and clarity of the language.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
No. When I made that quotation I anticipated that some hon. Member might be so injudicious as to make that intervention and I am grateful to the hon. Member for enabling my forecast to be proved correct. They play a quite different role in advising on different matters, as the hon. Gentleman——
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
—if he would care to study the matter, would rapidly find out for himself.
The broad issue is a difficult one and I do not want the Committee to be under any illusion about this. If one rejects the idea of parity as I have said frankly that 1 do—I do not think that it is fair to the taxpayer or to the community as a whole—one has to exercise some judgment at some point between that and, as I said on Second Reading, the other extreme of saying that any help for these people is a matter for the General social services. One has to exercise that judgment on the basis of their difficult problems and sufferings and the extent to which it is right to relieve them at the expense of other people who may have problems and be suffering. No system of review which excludes both sides of the equation makes sense.
I would not claim, for that reason, that the present procedure is necessarily right. As we all appreciate, it causes difficulties and embarrassment and perhaps a certain waste of time on problems of one sort or another. But I can promise my right hon. and learned Friend and the Committee that I have taken note of the clear views expressed during 1163 the Second Reading debate, and I will endeavour to find whether some improvement in our system is possible.
At this stage, I cannot possibly foreshadow to the House whether that is so, and, if so, what shape it will have. I can only promise to attempt a task—let us be frank—which my predecessors have not succeeded in achieving, because it is a fact, as the Committee knows, that this procedure we are now following is that which has operated, not only since the war, but during the war, and twice after the war of 1914–18. It would, therefore, be a rash man—and, perhaps, somewhat dishonest to the Committee—who promised that he would be able to produce a better solution.
I am quite sure that this new Clause is not a better solution. With due respect—and I respect the motives with which it is brought forward—it would make the position worse. But that does not mean that I regard the position as satisfactory—I do not. I shall endeavour to find a better one, which will enable the consideration of all these very human and important matters to be a little more smooth and a little more effective, in some ways, than is the present procedure. I will try to do that, and I give that undertaking to the Committee.
In the meantime, I hope, as I say, that we may be able to put this Measure into operation. I hope, and believe, that it will go a long way to solving the personal problems of many of the people about whom we are concerned.
§ Mr. Houghton
The undertaking that the right hon. Gentleman has given will be welcome to both sides of the Committee. I think that it is a genuine undertaking, and I am sure that we can rely on the right hon. Gentleman to pursue it, and see what he can do. We are obliged to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) for giving us the opporunity, albeit at this late hour, of considering these important matters further before parting with the Bill, but I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is not the solution I would seek, and I do not think that it would have given satisfaction to all members of the Committee had the Chief Secretary said that he was prepared to accept this proposition.
1164 The new Clause does not take the responsibility away from the House of Commons. We should have to look at the reports of this body when they were made, there might be differences of opinion between those who represent the interests of the pensioners and the recommendations of the committee or commission, and it might conceivably complicate rather than facilitate the consideration of the legitimate interests of the public service pensioners, although we can all join with the hon. Member for wanting something different and something better.
When I consulted the authorities on what might be in order in a new Clause to the Bill, I found, of course, that no new Clause that committed the Government and the House to future expenditure would be in order, and the hon. Member has had to frame his new Clause in such a way that there is no commitment in it at all, except to present a report, upon which the Government and the House would exercise their own judgment.
During Second Reading, and in the Committee last Friday, I put forward the definite hope—which, I think, the right hon. Gentleman's statement has to some extent met—that there will be discussions between the parties concerned in the hope of finding a better solution. The right hon. Gentleman has rejected the concept of parity, which is a short term for adjusting pensions already awarded to the level of those being currently granted for comparable status and length of service. If, however, those now serving in the public services expressed a strong desire to have this principle applied to their pensions when the time came—if, in other words, they were anxious that a much better solution should be written into the structure of their superannuation scheme on agreed terms—that might change the situation greatly. I have no wish to pre-judge that issue. It is for them to say, and decide on whatever terms might be on offer in return for such a fundamental change in superannuation arrangements.
I think we should give all concerned the opportunity. An interval will elapse before a further Bill can be introduced. There could conceivably be a change of Government, in which case I can safely promise that there will certainly be a 1165 new initiative in this matter. In one way or another things might happen which would enable the House of Commons to consider this matter in more satisfactory form in due course.
In the meantime, my considered opinion is that it would be undesirable to impose at this stage the criteria, method and timing in the new Clause. Having expressed the hope that those concerned will get together and see if a better solution can be found, it is undesirable that we should then proceed to find a solution ourselves. I believe that the frequency of the review may not necessarily be the most important thing. I fully understood what I was saying when I interjected during the right hon. Gentleman's speech and said that on the quinquennial review of the National Insurance Scheme nothing happened. It is conceivable that nothing would happen after this. If the criteria are settled, the frequency of the review will probably take care of itself. If one is agreed on the factors to be taken into account, if certain changes have taken place a review falls due. If they have not taken place, a review has not fallen due. A review for review's sake, whether those changes have taken place or not, is not necessarily the best way of doing this job.
In that respect those bodies which have urged upon us that we should advocate a biennial review have perhaps put the cart before the horse. I should prefer that we should get a clearer understanding of the considerations to be taken into account in making the review and how far they are to operate automatically, how far specific known changes constitute ground for review. For example, it could be said—I do not advocate this, but it is a hypothesis—that when the Ministry of Labour's index of wages has moved so many points there are prima facie grounds for review. Then one waits until the movement has taken place to the specified extent before a review is undertaken, and that is not necessarily after the lapse of a given time. I am not advocating that as the criteria, but merely for the purpose of illustration.
If the Chief Secretary's undertaking comes to nil and if, for one reason or another, no better method is found, then Parliament will have to return to the 1166 matter and probably take a hand in finding the solution. Meanwhile, I hope that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West will not press the Clause to a Division. The united view of the House on Second Reading, and in Committee when discussing the various Clauses, has been unmistakably expressed. The Chief Secretary has acknowledged that he has noticed the mood of hon. Members and that is significant.
It would have been a different matter had the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West had the solution all tied up with red tape or whatever tape it is that the Liberal Party use for package deals. But we have not got that and there are flaws in the Clause, as the hon. Member will be the first to recognise. It is vague and I now point to one weakness in it. The Pensions Review Board must take into accountin relation to any particular class of persons such as is referred to in subsection (a) of this section, any difference in the amounts of pensions payable to different members of the said class which is solely attributable to a difference in time between the dates on which the pensions first became payable as aforesaid:But it does not say where the datum line is to be. If any board must take into account the gap between the level of pensions granted in the past and the level currently awarded for the future, I should like to know how far the existing gap will be taken into account to begin with. That is an important consideration in this connection.
We are also getting mixed up with other interests and matters when we are asked to consider the creation of a Pensioners' Index of Retail Prices covering the whole of the country. Even if it covered public service pensioners there are obvious difficulties about it. Anyway, I am not too sure whether the retail price index is necessarily the right criteria. It depends on what basis one is to approach the question of the periodical adjustment of occupational pensions.
It is important to distinguish between occupational and National Insurance pensions. These are part of a long-term contract and the level at which they are to be maintained depends upon a clear understanding of the terms of the long-term contract. It is, therefore, important that those who are serving should take a positive interest in this matter, for it 1167 is not solely a question for those who have already retired.
This brings me back to where I started. It is fundamental to the real solution of this problem that those who have yet to retire should be brought into the consideration of the conditions on which their own pensions may be adjusted when the time comes. That opens up some wide considerations which are of great importance to the interests concerned, but I do not think that the Chief Secretary will shrink from them and I hope that other people concerned will not shrink from them, because that is the way of finding a better solution.
If the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West presses the new Clause to a Division I cannot recommend my hon. Friends to support it. It is not that we are not in full sympathy with the whole idea of a more satisfactory review of pensions but that I think it would be unwise at this stage to seek to impose this solution when we have the Minister's undertaking that he will use all his endeavours and his resources, which are great indeed, to find a better solution.
I hope therefore that the Committee may pass on to the final stages of the Bill without disrupting what I think is the Committee's unity and our desire to have better arrangements made. In that way probably lies greater hope of a solution than if we press an unsatisfactory new Clause upon the Committee.
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I cannot share the touching faith of my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) in the Minister's intentions and his promises. We have had so many promises of one kind or another from the Government Front Bench that I think most of us have long lost count of them by this time. I cannot go along with my hon. Friend in his examination of the technical difficulties of the Clause. All I can say is that there is an acceptance that time erodes pensions. The speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) dealt clearly with that point and therefore I need not indulge in too much reiteration.
The Clause seeks to set up an advisory board which will make biennial reviews. 1168 It is true, as the Minister says, that it might not be desirable to have too many advisory committees with no administrative responsibilities. But the right hon. Gentleman cannot get away with his flippant brushing aside of the fact that the Government have begun a programme of setting up advisory committees without administrative responsibilities, which include the National Economic Development Council and the National Incomes Council. I do not want to add to review committees but we know that periodically in the House we are subjected to all forms of agitations and pressures from pensioners' associations. The value of the proposed Pensions Review Board would be that its findings would crystallise the grievances of pensioners at a given time.
It might be true, as the Minister said, that a review board might take a decision and because of the relative stability of prices would suggest that there was no case for an increase in pensions and within a short time prices might slide—by which I assume the right hon. Gentleman meant they might rise considerably—and consequently a case would arise. The right hon. Gentleman then said that the review board not having recommended an increase, although there was a change in the circumstances, the Government would have some difficulty in saying at that time that in view of the changed circumstances they would alter the pensions. That is absurd in the extreme, because if such a set of circumstances arose I feel sure that the House of Commons would readily grant to the Government the opportunity of redressing a situation which no one foresaw and which the review board certainly could not see when it considered the pensions position.
Both the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby were able to show the defects in the Clause. I want the possibility of a review of pensions periodically and not have to wait, as the Minister said earlier on an Amendment, three years and five months after the introduction of the last pensions increase of this kind. It is essential to find a method of quicker reviews, particularly when many pensioners are feeling the pinch.
Even if there are defects in the Clause, in view of the complex Clauses 1169 which we have had to deal with in various Bills presented by the Government in the last two years, on which some of us have enjoyed ourselves in Committee in asking explanations of the complexities, it should not be beyond the imagination of Parliamentary draftsmen so to draft a Clause incorporating the principle of the new Clause as to ensure that the Clause has teeth.
The right hon. Gentleman has come to the Box, as he does so often, in an admixture of blarney and flippancy and said that be has a lot of sympathy with the hon. Member who submits an Amendment or new Clause. If he has sympathy with the Clause, it would be quite possible for Parliamentary draftsmen to frame a Clause incorporating the desires of the Committee and the principle of the present one.
I have no faith in the right hon. Gentleman's promises. If hon. Members on the Government side want action of any kind on the issues with which we are dealing, the only course for them is to tie the right hon. Gentleman down to something and, if necessary, go into the Division Lobby in support of the Clause.
§ framing a Clause of this nature when one does not have the aid of Government draftsmen, but that is not the point at issue. The real issue is, what will the Government do? I found the Minister's reply disappointing and, on this occasion, I found the observations of the hon. Member for Sowerby disappointing. It is not as if this were a new point which had not been raised before. It has been studied for some time. I like to think that the Government gave thought to it when I introduced my Bill during the last Session.
§ At this late hour, I do not propose to reply in detail to the Minister's arguments except to say that the Clause was framed in its present form partly in the light of the Government's rejection of the idea of the automatic escalator and also to point out that the Minister missed an important factor in the reviews, namely, the comparison between current pensions and pensions awarded in past years. The real issue, however, is what the Government will do. There is a matter of urgency here and the right hon. Gentleman's answer did not amount to anything like the firm assurance for which I was asking. In the circumstances, I cannot withdraw the Clause.
§ Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 3. Noes 73.1171
|Division No. 6.]||AYES||[11.55 p.m|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Loughlin, Charles||Mr. Wade and Mr. Bowen.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Emery, Peter||MacArthur, Ian|
|Aitken, W. T.||Errington Sir Eric||McLaren, Martin|
|Allason, James||Farr, John||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)|
|Barber, Anthony||Finlay, Graeme||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)|
|Batsford, Brian||Fisher, Nigel||Mawby, Ray|
|Biffen, John||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Grant-Ferris, R.||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Green, Alan||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hastings, Stephen||Percival, Ian|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Hendry, Forbes||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Cooke, Robert||Holland, Philip||Pym, Francis|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hughes-Young, Michael||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Corfield, F. V.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kirk, Peter||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Dance, James||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Elliott, R. W. (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Loveys, Walter H.||Temple, John M.|
|Tilney, John (Wavertree)||walker, Peter||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Webster, David||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Turner, Colin||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|van straubenzee, w. R.||Wise, A. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Chichester-Clark and Mr. Peel.|
§ Schedules 1 to 4 agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment.
§ 12.4 a.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Anthony Barber)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I must, first, thank the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) and the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead) for their courtesy and for the way in which they have handled our debates on the Bill. Both hon. Members play a prominent part in our discussions on the Finance Bill and I hope that this new air of sweet reasonableness augurs well for our debates next April.
Indeed, hon. Members on both sides of the House, not least my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), have made contributions of which I can say that not one has sprung from any motive other than to do the right thing by public service pensioners.
If most hon. Members have asked that the Government should do more, that is not surprising, but we have been considering a Bill which is admitted on both sides to be, if not the most generous, the best ever, and when one takes into account the similar increase for the Armed Forces, the total cost will be more than £22 million.
While I am thanking all those who have taken part in our discussions, it might not be a bad thing also to thank the taxpayer who, at the end of the day, will have to foot the bill. But I do not believe that the taxpayer will begrudge the charge which is being made on him when it is realised that the Bill not only follows precedent in the provisions of Clause 1, but breaks new ground in two very important respects. First, in Clause 2, by directing the increases in that Clause to the older and smaller pensions, and, secondly, by providing for pension increases paid from the Exchequer for certain retired overseas officers.
I do not believe that the House would wish me to let this opportunity pass without also paying tribute to those officials not yet of pensionable age who have guided my right hon. Friend and myself through the labyrinthine structure of public service pensions.
1172 Finally, before I sit down, I should like to correct the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) on one point. During our discussions in Committee he cited the case of an inspector of taxes who retired very early in life on grounds of ill-health, and he went on to tell the Committee that the gentleman concerned lived to be 90 only by doing no more work. I have since checked on the point made by the hon. Gentleman, and the gentleman concerned lived to be 101.
§ 12.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Houghton
I thought that there was something more remarkable about that inspector of taxes than reaching the age of 90, which in our family is comparatively young, because five members of my family have gone over 90, but nobody has gone over 100. This was a remarkable case, and I am sure that we are all glad to know that those who retire early enough from the Inland Revenue are assured of long life while those who stay on die at their desks.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Financial Secretary for their courtesy and patience throughout all the stages of this Bill. It has been an experience in which hon. Members of good will on both sides have combined to impress the Government with a point of view which I hope they will be able to meet later.
In general, as I said on Second Reading, the Bill is the best of the Pensions (Increase) Measures so far, though I think it must be admitted that in many quarters it is felt that the older pensioners still lag very far behind current standards and there is considerable anxiety about the future, which, of course, is bound up with the undertaking given by the right hon. Gentleman.
Talking about undertakings, it is the Chief Secretary's job to give undertakings, not mine. I have given none, and certainly none about sweet reasonableness when, later, we come to the Finance Bill and other Measures on which more contentions and differences between the two sides might emerge. It is conceivable that something of that kind may happen next Monday, but, there again, we must wait and see.
1173 There is one point on Clause 3 which, I hope, the Minister will look at again. The Financial Secretary may have had representations since Friday from the Overseas Service Pensioners' Association about the effect of Clause 3 (4), and I have been sent an illustration of how that subsection operates. Since it is a photographic copy of something handed out by the Department of Technical Cooperation I assume that the information I have is correct.
The conclusions one can draw from this appear to be as follows. Let us assume that a pension is payable in respect of service in Nigeria. No matter where the pension is payable, a pensioner resident in the United Kingdom will get the increase provided by the Bill. No matter where the pension is payable, if a pensioner is resident in Nigeria he will not get the benefit of the Bill's provisions. Whether he will get the benefit of the provisions if he is resident elsewhere than in the United Kingdom or Nigeria depends upon where his pension is payable.
In the case of a pension payable in the United Kingdom, if the pensioner is resident elsewhere than in the United Kingdom or Nigeria he will get the benefit of the Bill; if the pension is payable in Nigeria and he is resident elsewhere than in the United Kingdom or Nigeria he will not get the benefit. If the pension is payable elsewhere than in the United Kingdom or Nigeria, and he is resident elsewhere than in the United Kingdom or Nigeria, he will get the benefit.
At this time of night I cannot add all that up, but it certainly seems as though the place of payment of the pension governs the question whether pensioners, in certain circumstances, get the benefit of the Bill's provisions. Speaking on behalf of the Secretary for Technical Cooperation, the Minister said that in all these cases the pension could be made payable in the United Kingdom. That may be the remedy available to anyone who would be disadvantaged by having the pension payable elsewhere.
That is as far as I want to take this matter. I have made the point, and I feel certain that the representations of the Association, together with the information, are available to the Minister. If not, I have them here. Probably between now and the final stages of the 1174 Bill in another place the Chief Secretary will look into the matter again and see whether there is anything that needs to be amended in subsection (4). It may be that it was the intention to do it in this way. If so, there must be some justification for it, but I cannot see what the reason is at the moment.
I am sorry to inflict this on the House in the Third Reading debate, but it is the last opportunity that we shall have. I now take leave of the Bill, with an expression of thanks for what is in it. In my opinion, it does not go far enough to meet the reasonable requirements of those living in retirement from the public service. Many of those affected were underpaid for years, and their pensions reflect that underpayment. The pension increases do not restore what they have lost over a long time.
There has been a big change in the level of pay in the public sector in recent years, as a result of the investigation and recommendations of various bodies and commissions. The introduction of the principle of fair comparisons in fixing pay in the public sector, especially in the middle and higher ranges, has led to substantial increases in pay. I have some extraordinary examples of the disparity between pensions payable now and those payable only six years ago, in respect of similar jobs with similar responsibilities, where big changes in pay have produced a big gap between the two levels of pension. That is where I think that a substantial grievance of many pensioners lies. Although the addition for age will modify that sense of grievance to a slight extent, it does not go far enough.
We have gone over the Bill and its Clauses almost time and again, and there can be no more to be said. We are grateful that the Measure has found a place so early in the Session. I am sure that it will bring a welcome relief to many tens of thousands of pensioners. Although at this time they will no doubt be safely in bed, and probably fast asleep, I hope that they will spare a thought for the House of Commons, which is still taking care of their interests.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.