HC Deb 20 January 1965 vol 705 cc363-8
Mr. Boyden

I beg to move Amendment No. 20, in page 10, line 27, at the end to insert: (b) so far as appears to him necessary or expedient for giving full effect to a transfer of activities in accordance with section 3 (1) to (3) of this Act, provide, in the case of a local Act or Act confirming a provisional order. (after such consultation with any authority or body having functions under the Act as appears to him to be appropriate) for the repeal or amendment of any provision in that Act which affects the predecessor and make transitional, supplemental or incidental provision in connection with any such repeal or amendment; and The Amendment gives power to amend local enactments consequentially on the transfer of activities effected by the Bill. For example, it will be necessary to amend one or two local enactments concerning nature conservancy. There are good precedents for dealing with this in this way, for example, several Acts referring to Milford Haven Conservancy.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Neave

I beg to move Amendment No. 22, in page 11, line 15, after (1), to insert (a).

The Deputy-Chairman

I think that it will be convenient for the Committee to discuss at the same time Amendment No. 23.

Mr. Neave

That will be convenient. It will be noted that Amendment No. 23 reads: … shall apply to officers and other persons recruited by the Science Research Council subsequent to the coming into effect of the provisions of section 3 (2) of this Act, in so far as they are employed on activities taken over under that subsection from the National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science. Under Clause 3 the activities of the National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science are taken over by the Science Research Council. My Amendment, I think the Joint Under-Secretary will agree, is of great importance to the recruiting of scientists for the future tasks of that organisation. Its purpose is to ensure that they will continue to enjoy the same pension schemes as under the Atomic Energy Authority.

The objects and functions of the National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science is to provide universities and others with nuclear physics facilities on a national basis. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it has attained a great name in international circles with the work which it has done for nuclear physics. The Rutherford High Energy Laboratory, which is its principal establishment, is in my constituency, and with the staff of the Atlas computer laboratory there are altogether 1,200 scientists, engineers and technicians employed there.

Without my Amendment those now employed there would retain the same pension rights under the Atomic Energy Authority pension scheme as they now enjoy, but unfortunately paragraph 4 is so worded with reference to the date of transfer to the Science Research Council that future entrants—scientists, technicians and engineers—will not enjoy these pension rights, but will be under Civil Service conditions for pay and pension.

I seek to amend the Schedule on the grounds that there are good scientific reasons for the recruitment of the type of scientists and workers we require at the Rutherford High Energy Laboratory that new entrants should enjoy the same pension rights as the staff enjoy now. It must be remembered that the Rutherford Laboratory is next door to the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell and originally a staff of about 300 was seconded from the Authority. These are two adjoining organisations with similar jobs.

In view of the nature of the research they do and the work they do for the country in nuclear physics, I feel that they should continue to enjoy the same facilities. It was agreed in 1958 that the A.E.A. conditions of service should apply and N.I.R.N.S. has actually adopted the A.E.A. conditions except that it has a separate Whitley Council.

On the question of pay and pensions in the Civil Service, which new entrants would join, the position is that salaries at present are 7 per cent. above the Civil Service scale and there is no analogy with established or non-established civil servants. The staff contribute 6 per cent. of salaries to superannuation funds. Benefits are nearly identical with those in the Civil Service except that they are based on actual salary before deductions for on contributions and are, therefore, 7 per cent. higher than the Civil Service equivalent—that is, the pension is based on 107 per cent. of salary. All these considerations are extremely important in recruiting personnel for N.I.R.N.S. I think that the Under-Secretary is well aware of this and is receptive to my argument.

11.45 p.m.

There is quite strong feeling about this among the staff side at N.I.R.N.S. and those responsible for its future establishment. Its work is growing. I have said that the staff has increased from 300 in 1958 to 1,200 today, and it may be a good deal larger in the next few years.

There are advantages to N.I.R.N.S. at present in that, under the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority's pension scheme, one can withdraw from the scheme below the age of 50 on much better arrangements than one can under the Civil Service schemes which new entrants would join if the Amendment were not accepted. There are other provisions under the U.K.A.E.A. schemes such as assisted house purchase and loans for this purpose to employees.

To sum up the argument for the Amendment, if paragraph (4) remains un-amended, future entrants will be on Civil Service conditions for pay and pension. They will, of course, be the servants of the Research Council, but they will continue to work immediately alongside the A.E.A. at Harwell, and there may be very serious staffing difficulties. I ask the Under-Secretary to consider seriously what I am saying. On superannuation, there is no analogy with established and non-established staff, as I have explained. At present, they have common estates, common stores, common library facilities through N.I.R.N.S. and the A.E.R.E., at Harwell, and, moreover, the staffing of the N.I.R.N.S. is closely related to the universities. I am sure that there will be great difficulty in recruiting.

A good example of what might happen is that the Medical Research Council unit, at Harwell, is on Civil Service scales, unlike the Atomic Energy Authority, and it is having tremendous difficulty in recruiting all kinds of staff, scientific, secretarial and administrative. Secondly, scientists of the same grade in M.R.N.S., which serves the universities, should have the same rights of transfer as in other non-Government organisations. They should be free to move into industry and they should not be restricted by the Civil Service rules. There is no doubt that their scope would be narrowed under this transfer if all those newly recruited became civil servants.

It is the Government's job to provide the best possible facilities for scientists, and this is being done in terms of equipment at the Rutherford Laboratory, but pay and conditions are very important, too. There are very sound scientific reasons why the Under-Secretary should look again at this whole matter and, I hope, accept the Amendment. It is of great importance for the future of the National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science.

Mr. Boyden

I was glad that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) paid the tribute he did to the National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science. The Government agree with him in that very much indeed.

As to the case which he argued so well on the pay and conditions which he advocates for many of his constituents, the difficulty is that, if the Government endorse for new entrants the particular conditions appertaining at the moment to the N.I.R.N.S., they will, in fact, be perpetuating an anomaly. While we have given a categorical assurance that the existing staff will be in no way worse off, the Government are not in a position to undertake this preferential treatment for new staff recruited to the N.I.R.N.S.

The A.E.A. scheme and the N.I.R.N.S. scheme is a contributory scheme under which the employee's contribution of 6 per cent. of salary, which is conditioned to Civil Service salary, is offset by a comparable 7 per cent. increase in salary to make up for the pension contribution. The result is that N.I.R.N.S. and A.E.A. staff have superannuation paid on 107 per cent. of salary instead of 100 per cent.

It is this anomaly which the Government feel they cannot agree to for new entrants. The conditions of service—merit awards, leave, transferability and everything else of that description—will be comparable and this anomaly for new entrants would not be justified.

The Amendment would go too wide. It would create a specially privileged group of technicians, executives and clerical staff. The Government are anxious to have transferability all the way through between the research councils and Government Departments and that would be hindered for new entrants by the Amendment. We must resist it.

Amendment negatived.

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill, as amended, be now considered.

Mr. Graham Page

I wish to register a protest that we should now be about to consider the Bill on Report when it has been amended in Committee. On the Order Paper it was stated that the Bill would be dealt with in Committee. There is no mention of further stages. It has been amended by the Government in six respects in Committee. The House, as a House, will not have time, if we proceed to Report stage now, to consider those Amendments and perhaps to put down further Amendments.

This is really treating the House with lack of consideration after the Government have amended the Bill in Committee. They produced the Bill to the Committee in an incomplete state and had to amend it. One Amendment included a very important Section of a previous Act. This sort of thing should be considered carefully before we proceed further. If we do go on now we will not have the opportunity of tabling further Amendments consequent upon those made in Committee. It is surely normal to allow the House time to do that when a Bill has been amended in Committee.

Mr. Boyden

There has been considerable time in which to put down Amendments and I would have thought that there has been plenty of opportunity to do so. The Government Amendments have not aroused controversy. Indeed, one of them went some way to meet objections raised on Second Reading. There are a great many precedents for pursuing this course and I hope that we can now proceed.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, considered accordingly.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

11.54 p.m.

Mr. William Yates

This is an extraordinary speed with which we have to rush through the Bill. If this is modernising the House, then it is a new technique of which the Opposition must take account. All we can do, of course, if it is the wish of the Government, is to proceed tonight. I realise that the purpose of the Bill is to provide Mr. Cousins with a job, and that the money will be found for him to do that job. All I can do is congratulate the Government on having prepared the Bill at such speed to satisfy one of their first placemen.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.