HC Deb 19 November 1965 vol 720 cc1503-43

Order for Second Reading read.

11.6 a.m.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Anthony Crosland)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Perhaps I may ask for the indulgence of the House at this point, because the United States Commissioner for Education is in London today for only a single day and it seemed discourteous not to see him at all. I therefore beg the leave of the House if I excuse myself shortly after the completion of my speech.

I make no apology for asking the House to devote a little time to considering improvements in the conditions of service of the teaching profession. We all recognise the central place that the teacher holds in our society and in our national plans for improving the health, wealth and happiness of our people. Within the limits set by economic circumstances, we all want to do what we can to ensure a contented and adequate body of teachers. This Measure is a modest, but, I hope, significant step in that direction.

The Bill has two main objects. First, it reforms the legislation concerned with teachers' superannuation, which at present is in a highly unsatisfactory state, and, secondly, it provides enabling powers for the introduction of schemes of family pension benefits for teachers—that is, pensions for their widows, widowers, children and other dependants. I will deal with the first point first.

All superannuation schemes are inclined to be complex, but in teachers' superannuation for many years we have had the added difficulty that the scheme is contained in a complex and heavily amended series of statutory provisions. There are about 10 Statutes and nearly 100 Statutory Instruments covering teachers' superannuation schemes, and it would be next to impossible, as I know to my cost, for a layman to ascertain, still more to understand, the existing law.

The remedy that we propose in the Bill is to put the majority of statutory provisions now in force into a comprehensive set of superannuation regulations, so that the scheme can be comprised within a few documents which can be regularly consolidated and brought up to date. Apart from tidying up the law, this change will mean greater flexibility in dealing with all the complicated matters which have to be contained in teachers' superannuation legislation. In these days of rapid social change and pressure on Parliamentary time, it is no longer appropriate for so many details of legislation to be subject to the full procedure of an Act of Parliament; indeed, apart from the Civil Service, teachers' superannuation is the only public service pension scheme which is not now mainly on a regulation basis. The Scottish teachers, for example, have had their superannuation scheme largely in regulations for many years past.

Hon. Members will agree that we must strike a balance between freedom to make minor changes by means of Statutory Instruments and the complete withdrawal of the main provisions of the scheme from the full Parliamentary scrutiny provided by the different stages of a Bill. I hope they will agree that the proposals in this Bill strike the right balance. We propose to leave in the form of statutory enactments all the existing provisions which deal with the financial basis of the teachers' superannuation scheme—that is the rate of contributions, the arrangements for actuarial valuations, and the means of meeting deficits.

At the same time, the level of the main benefits which teachers will receive in return for their contributions is laid down in this Bill in some detail. This will reassure all the parties concerned that the basic arrangements cannot be changed without full consideration in Parliament. At the same time, the superannuation regulations for which the Bill provides must be the subject of consultation with teachers and local education authorities and will be subject to annulment by Parliament in the usual way. The associations representing teachers and local authorities have been consulted about these proposals, which have commanded a wide measure of agreement.

The Government are committed to reforming the law, and hon. Members will recall the Law Commissions which have been set up for this purpose. The proposals in the Bill which I have just described have a similar objective. As the White Paper on these Law Commissions pointed out, one of the hallmarks of an advanced society is that its laws should not only be just but should be kept up to date and should be readily accessible to all affected. I think we can claim that the Bill is a useful step in that direction.

The second object of the Bill is to provide a scheme of family benefits for teachers in England and Wales. Hon. Members will recall that I told the House on 13th July that, following widespread consultation, it was clear that the great majority of teachers and their employers were in favour of implementing the scheme proposed in the report of an official working party, to which I will refer again in due course. I said that I should take the earliest opportunity of introducing legislation, and we have introduced this Bill as early as we could in this new Session to redeem this pledge.

I am sure the whole House will be glad that we can now at last provide a scheme of pension benefits for widows and dependants of teachers, and I know that the House will facilitate a speedy passage for the Bill so that the scheme can be introduced as quickly as possible. The inauguration of the scheme involves considerable administrative complexity, but if the Bill were to be passed before Christmas we hope to introduce the scheme from 1st April, and, moreover, Clause 3 will enable us to pay pensions to the widows of teachers who die in service after the Bill receives the Royal Assent but before the regulations come into force—a distinct element of retrospection.

The report of the working party dealt with teachers in England and Wales. I emphasise this, because Scottish teachers, who are, of course, the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, already have a similar scheme which began to operate last April. Teachers are, in fact, the last body of public servants to be granted a widows' pension scheme.

The reason for this has been a prolonged disagreement—which the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hands-worth (Sir E. Boyle) will know of—about how the costs of a scheme should be met. I shall say a few words about this in a moment, but, behind all the negotiations and prolonged disagreements about cost, we are all aware that teachers die every day of the week and often leave their widows quite inadequately provided for. We receive some extremely sad letters in my Department, as the right hon. Gentleman will know, and I am sure the House will welcome these proposals which are designed to cure this long-standing deficiency.

I will now say a few words about the history of the negotiations on teachers' widows and dependants' pensions. There has been provision for such a scheme on the Statute Book ever since the Teachers (Superannuation) Act of 1956. This Act contained a Section empowering the Minister of Education to provide a scheme similar to those which already applied to employees in the National Health Service and in local government. These schemes are financed by means of deductions from the lump sum benefits payable on retirement or death under their main superannuation scheme.

Associations representing the majority of teachers, however, told the then Minister, Lord Eccles, in 1957 that they did not wish him to proceed with a scheme of this kind, and the Minister was not prepared to impose it. The teachers asked for a scheme like that applicable to civil servants, in which half the cost of widows' benefits is met by the Government as employer. Successive Governments have, however, been unwilling to accept this demand. They have regarded the Civil Service scheme as a special case, because it has always been non-contributory, and even the half cost of widows' pensions which civil servants were asked to bear involved contributions by employees for the first time. Successive Governments naturally considered the National Health Service scheme to be the proper precedent.

Moreover, the local authorities, who were concerned as employers of teachers, and who would normally have had to share the cost of any subsidy to which the Government might agree, were also unwilling to accept the teachers' demand. They had reached agreement some years previously with the large body of their employees who are superannuated under the Local Government Superannuation Acts for a scheme financed entirely by deductions from main scheme benefits, and they were not prepared to take action which might call this agreement into question.

For many years, therefore, there was an impasse. But in 1962 a working party in Scotland suggested a new approach to the problem, namely, that the scheme should be financed, not by deductions from main scheme benefits, but by annual contributions from the teachers. This would have the advantage not only of avoiding reduction in main scheme lump sum benefits, to which the teachers attach a particular value, but of attracting concessions available for annual contributions under the Income Tax Acts. As I have said, a scheme on these lines has been in operation in Scotland since April, 1965.

Meanwhile, the English teachers had been considering the Scottish proposals. A working party consisting of representatives of the teachers' associations, the local authority associations and the Government produced last February a report which outlined without commitment a detailed scheme on the lines of the Scottish proposals. This was considered by all the associations concerned; and, with the single exception of the National Association of Schoolmasters, they asked me to introduce a scheme on these lines.

I am sorry, naturally, that we could not reach complete unanimity. But it was clear from my consultations during the spring and summer that the great majority of men teachers and their employers wished to see such a scheme put into operation as soon as possible. I hope the House will agree, therefore, that I was justified in going ahead. Indeed, I think it would have been quite wrong in the circumstances to deny this benefit to teachers any longer.

I am aware that there are two respects in which this scheme does not fully meet the teachers' objectives. In the first place, the teachers' associations—the National Union of Teachers and other bodies—have never gone back on their declared preference for a scheme in which the cost is shared by the Government and L.E.A.S. I have already indicated some of the objections to this course. But I must point out that, although the scheme proposed is not technically a shared-cost scheme, since neither Government nor local authorities will actually contribute to the teachers' widows pension fund, the teachers, or at any rate the younger ones, will in fact receive almost as good terms as civil servants.

Their contributions of 2 per cent. per annum will, in effect, be reduced through Income Tax relief to about 1.4 per cent., compared with 1¼ per cent. payable by civil servants; for civil servants, tax relief for this purpose is specifically denied. Moreover, some of the benefits in the teachers' schemes—

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

Is the 1.4 per cent. figure an average figure for all teachers? I think I am right in saying that in the White Paper on this scheme the figures are set out for men earning not more than £1,000 a year and so on and those earning between £1,000 and £2,000 a year. I wondered whether the figure was an average figure for the profession as a whole. It would be useful to be clear on that point.

Mr. Crosland

I am almost certain that it is an average figure, but I will have the point checked and my hon. Friend the Minister of State will confirm this when he replies to the debate.

As I was saying, some of the benefits in the teachers' schemes are better than those available to civil servants; and the Government and local authorities will, as the House will see from the Bill, in fact, be making a significant contribution by bearing the costs of administration, which are heavier in a complex scheme of this type than they would have been for the simpler scheme suggested in 1956.

Apart from this general desire for a shared-cost scheme, I know that the teachers' associations were particularly anxious that some help should be given to their older members, and they suggested that if the Government could not share the cost on a permanent basis, they might at least provide a "once for all" subsidy for teachers over, say, 45 or 50 years of age. Representatives of the N.U.T. came to see me and pressed this point most strongly; and it was a main factor in the rejection of the scheme by the N.A.S.

This suggestion of a subsidy for older teachers was, in fact, considered fully and sympathetically by my predecessor, but he came to the conclusion that he must reject it for good reasons which I fully support and which are, in fact, set out in the working party's report. In the first place, the scheme was mainly devised for younger teachers; it was inevitable that the cost would fall more heavily on teachers who had made no payments until the end of their careers.

Moreover, the capital cost of a subsidy would be, at the most modest estimate, several million pounds, and it would be payable only to teachers in certain age groups, that is, those over 45 or 50 and not retired. The final consideration was that teachers who had made already private arrangements to provide for their wives might not be able to afford additional contributions under the new scheme, even to attract the Government subsidy, and thus it would, in a sense, have helped the improvident rather than the provident.

Taking all this into account, my predecessor felt—as I do—that, with the many options available to them, the position of teachers due to retire within the next few years was not unfavourable, and he did not see—and I do not see—how the Government can justify singling them out for exceptional treatment. The Secretary of State for Scotland shares this view, and the Scottish scheme is in operation on this basis.

I now turn to the individual clauses in the Bill, which Members will see is, fortunately, a comparatively short one. Clause 1 authorises me to make a comprehensive set of superannuation regulations which will supersede all existing legislation except that relating to the basic financial provisions which are to be reserved in the way I have described. We shall, of course, include in the superannuation regulations all the existing provisions in the scheme except for a few points which it may be desired to vary or omit after consultation with the teachers and local education authorities.

Clause 2 deals with the effect on the old law of the change to the new legislative basis. Neither Clause will immediately affect existing legislation, but as soon as the Bill is passed we shall begin to prepare the superannuation regulations. This is bound to take some time and we shall, of course, consult all the associations which may be affected, as provided for in Clause 1. It will, therefore, be several months at least before the new regulations can be established.

The regulations will prescribe an appointed day on which they will come into force with the consequences indicated in Clause 2. They will supersede all the existing legislation, with the exception of the reserved points. When the new arrangements are fully in operation the teachers' superannuation scheme will, by and large, be contained in a single set of superannuation regulations. Apart from these there will be only a few Statutory Instruments dealing with certain extraneous matters, together with this Bill, and the few portions of the existing statutes that will remain unrepealed; and these enactments we hope to be able to consolidate soon after the regulations are made.

Clause 3—and this is the second objective of the Bill—provides enabling powers for a separate set of regulations providing for the payment of pensions to widows and other dependants of teachers. The schemes will be financed by contributions paid by the teachers, mostly by deduction from salary, but in some cases by surrender of lump sum benefits payable under the main scheme. These contributions will be paid into a fund which will be managed by a board of management on which teachers will have a majority. The fund will be invested and valued by the Government Actuary in the usual way. If, as we hope, he advises in due course that there is a surplus, we may be able to improve the benefits or reduce the contributions.

Clause 4 makes additional new arrangements for teachers who maintain membership of the teachers' superannuation scheme by paying contributions while their ordinary service is discontinued— usually while teaching overseas. At present their contributions are based on the salary for their last service in this country. If they do not return to ordinary service owing to death, breakdown or retirement their benefits have to be similarly based. This, with rising salaries at home, can be severely detrimental. The Clause remedies this by providing, with immediate effect, that both contributions and benefits should be based on the salary the teacher would have received had he continued in his former employment.

The new arrangement has been recommended by the National Council on the Supply of Teachers' Overseas, on which both teachers and local authority are represented. It has been strongly urged on me by the Minister of Overseas Development and bodies concerned with recruitment of teachers for overseas posts, because the present arrangements inhibit the recruitment of experienced teachers approaching retirement. Hon. Members will be aware that, in spite of the shortage of teachers in this country, it is the Government's policy to promote the employment of British teachers in developing countries overseas, and I am happy to be able to propose a new provision which will assist in this way.

Clause 5 re-enacts an existing provision about the obtaining of superannuation benefits by fraud. I am happy to say that this provision is used rarely, but it has been included in the Bill because the subject matter is not suitable for regulations. The Clause will come into force on the passing of the Bill.

The remaining Clauses are merely formal and deal with such matters as finance, interpretation and repeals. As one might expect in a Measure of this kind, the Bill contains some fairly lengthy Schedules. I need hardly say anything about Schedules 2 and 3, which relate to the amendment and repeal of existing enactments, but I should say a few words about Schedule I, which deals with the superannuation regulations.

Part I of the Schedule lists the provisions which I am bound to include. These, in fact, are the provisions about benefits of which, as I have explained, we feel the teachers ought to have some guarantee in the statute. It lays down in detail how the main benefits, the pensions payable on age or infirmity grounds, should be calculated, and reproduces the provisions at present incorporated in the 1956 Act.

Superannuation Acts and regulations tend to seem very tedious, technical and dry as dust matters, holding very little interest except to those immediately affected. But to those concerned with its administration, a superannuation scheme is a very human matter concerned with issues of life and death, of breakdown in health and of ordinary age retirement which can, to many, be a profound emotional experience. The Department's superannuation files contain many moving human stories, many of them sad—the letters from a woman who is suddenly widowed, or a teacher faced with a breakdown in health and loss of earning power —but others joyous, such as the honoured retirement of a teacher who has given long and faithful service to his local community. I am happy to be able to introduce a Measure which will make a significant improvement in the superannuation arrangements for teachers, and I commend it to the House.

11.26 a.m.

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

My hon. Friends and I unreservedly welcome the Bill and will co-operate fully in seeing that it has as speedy as possible a passage through the House. I, too, would like to apologise for the fact that it will be difficult for me to stay through the whole of the debate, and, therefore, at the outset I prospectively welcome the new Minister of State to our debates. There has been a change-over of functions within the Department. I recall paying on behalf of this side of the House a sincere tribute to the other Minister of State when we last debated education—between 3 and 5 o'clock in the morning just before the Recess—and I am sure that all my hon. Friends will wish warmly to welcome the new Minister of State to these debates.

The Bill is, I agree, the sort of measure which may not attract as much attention in the Press and outside as a number of other measures in the Gracious Speech. Nevertheless, it is one of very real importance in human terms, and I endorse what the Secretary of State said on this score.

Looking back to nearly three years as Parliamentary Secretary and again to two years as Minister, I think that I answered more letters from hon. Members on superannuation matters than on any other subject. We should not be in any doubt about the importance of this subject to teachers—not only to those in distressing circumstances but to all teachers who have retired; one might say to all public servants in this country. The Minister will no doubt agree that this is particularly true at a time of rapid economic growth and when general living standards improve. Superannuation matters are of particular importance to people who give a lifetime of service in a profession, particularly when that profession is of vital importance to the community.

The Bill has two main purposes, although I will also comment on Clause 4, which is also of considerable importance. The opening Clauses simplify the administration of the teachers' superannuation scheme and make the law on teachers' superannuation easier to understand. These Clauses combine 10 existing Statutes and 100 Statutory Instruments in the One set of regulations. I will not comment on these provisions at length, except to say that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the importance of seeing that our laws are not only just but up to date. In any rapidly changing society there will always be a great deal of need for legislation which, as it were, brings the law into consonance with reality and brings it together so that it can be more easily understood.

The most important part of the Bill is that contained in Clause 3, where the Measure provides for the establishment of an agreed scheme of pensions for teachers' widows and dependants. There will be general agreement that the absence of a suitable provision for teachers' dependants has been a serious gap in the conditions of service of a profession of such great importance to the community. Perhaps this is all the more important now that we have had equal pay for a number of years. I have always thought that following the introduction of equal pay it was of particular importance to try to get agreement on some scheme for providing for teachers' dependants. As the right hon. Gentleman said, for many years now teachers have been asking for a widows' pension scheme which should be a shared-cost scheme. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman emphasised that the difficulties of such a scheme have always been stressed, not only by the Government but also by the local authorities. This was not a matter on which it was possible to get agreement among the educational partners. It is because of this that, after 1957, the subject was, as it were, in suspense for a number of years.

In July, 1962 we had the Report of the Working Party on pensions for widows and other dependants of teachers in Scotland. The Report was published just after I became Minister, and it was felt in the Ministry that this really suggested an entirely new approach to the problem of financing widows' pensions; the approach which suggested that financing should be based, not on deductions from the benefits payable under the main superannuation scheme but on additional annual contributions which would attract tax relief.

Following publication of the Scottish Working Party's Report, representatives of the teachers' associations in England and Wales sought a meeting with me to discuss the question of pensions for teachers' widows in England and Wales. On that occasion I reaffirmed the difficulty of the shared-cost scheme, but suggested that perhaps progress could be made on the lines of the Scottish Report. I did not commit the Government in detail at that time, but I did, as it were, urge that a feasibility study should be made. The local authority and teacher associations set up a working party which, in July 1963, proposed as a basis for discussion a scheme broadly similar to that suggested by the Scottish Working Party. They asked me, as Minister at that time, to appoint an official working party comprising representatives of the Department, the Government Actuary's Department, local authority associations and teachers organisations to prepare a detailed scheme which should include elements based on the proposals in the Scottish Report.

Hon. Members may recall that during the debate on the Remuneration of Teachers Bill in 1963 I gave a hint that I thought at that the time had come to make progress on this subject, and I remember the keen ear of the present Patronage Secretary detected the inwardness of what I was saying; he said that he thought it the most useful contribution I had made to the debates on that particular Bill. There was then a sense that the time had come for a forward move on this front.

It was in March last year that I announced the appointment of an official Working Party to prepare a scheme, and the working party published its report in February of last year. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I wish that this could have been a unanimous report; I regret that the teachers associations were not absolutely unanimous on the subject. Nonetheless, bearing in mind the back history of the matter and the fact that there was so much agreement, the right hon. Gentleman has been abundantly right to take action at once, and to introduce legislation at the very start of this Session.

I would emphasise that although this is not to be a shared-cost scheme, the terms of the proposals in the working party's scheme compare not too badly with the Civil Service scheme. The right hon. Gentleman is also right in pointing out that the Government will be very much concerned in the matter. The Bill provides that a fund should be established into which all contributions should be brought and from which widows' and dependants' pensions should be paid. The fund will be managed by a board of management set up by the Secretary of State. The only direct cost to the Exchequer will be the cost of administration. There will also be administrative expenses incurred by local education authorities which will be met out of general grant.

None the less, I stress that, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, with the Income Tax reliefs this will not be too bad a scheme. Above all, for the first time, as I understand it, the Department of Education will be thoroughly involved in this matter—it will be concerned with the administration and will answer hon. Members' letters and Questions on the subject. It is a new departure, and a new addition to the range of matters of which the Department of Education will be taking cognisance. In that sense, also, this is a really important Bill from the point of view of the teaching profession.

I do not want to comment at length on the details of the scheme because to do so would not be appropriate in connection with what is virtually an enabling Measure. I entirely understand the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman for its not being thought possible for the Government to give a subsidy, as it were, to help the older teachers. Equally, perhaps we on this side would be rather more than human if we did not point out the contrast between what the right hon. Gentleman has just said and what the present Minister of Pensions said when the Scottish Bill was going through the Scottish Grand Committee a year or two ago.

In December, 1962, the right hon. Lady said: The Secretary of State ought to consider very carefully the position of the older teacher. …He should ensure that the cost in respect of past service by teachers is borne by the Chancellor."—[OFFICIAL REPORT.] The right hon. Lady, referring to the fact that the details should be set out in regulations and not in a Bill, said: Such scurvy treatment will certainly not help to raise the status of the teachers, nor help to recruit those we so desperately need." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 11th December, 1962; c. 18–19.] Incidentally, I noticed that the right hon. Lady put in a very brief appearance this morning at the start of this debate. She may now feel that her language on the earlier occasion was just a little exaggerated, and anyway I am glad that we have this Bill, and I am sure that its form is entirely reasonable.

Before I come to Clause 4, I hope that I shall not be trespassing on the indulgence of the House, and that I shall not be out of order, if I refer to one matter, not in the Bill, which is very relevant to the whole question of teachers' superannuation. I hope that before the end of the debate the Minister of State will be able to say something on how the official Working Party is getting on exploring the issue of a superannuation scheme for part-time teachers.

When the Secretary of State made his speech at the Isle of Man conference, outlining his 14-point action programme, he very rightly said: We shall not get the married women back unless we provide enough opportunities for part-time teaching. We already owe more than most people realise to part-timers. Last year, they represented, in terms of their full-time equivalent, nearly one half of the year's net increase in the teaching force. But we can and must do still more. The question is: How? We must get their pay and pensions right— and this is my point No. 7. We can extend to part-timers the pension rights that full-time teachers already possess. With the support of the teacher and local authority associations I am setting up an official working party to explore how best and how quickly we can do this. I regard this as a matter of real urgency and importance, and we should be wrong, as a House, to grant a Second Reading to a Bill on teachers' superannuation without asking from the Government some statement on how this matter is going. Everyone here knows that the problem of teacher shortage today remains the No. 1 educational problem, and it is our No. 1 priority to cope with it.

I take the opportunity to say that during recent years the colleges of education have been increasing more rapidly than any part of our system of higher education. The colleges have made a magnificent achievement in admitting 29,000 students this autumn. In terms of input into the profession the colleges are doing magnificently, and it is true to say that successive Governments in recent years have given this aspect of education a very high priority. But the great problem is that of wastage—of rapid outflow from the profession. This pinpoints the very great importance of getting back married women returners when their family commitments permit. This, in turn, emphasises the great importance of working out a superannuation scheme for part-timers.

I venture to comment, though I may be wrong, that I have always thought that such a scheme for teachers who are less than half-time would be very difficult to work out. Equally, I have for a very long time believed that a superannuation scheme for half-timers or more should be practicable. In view of the great importance of teacher supply—I merely instance in passing the present difficulties in Birmingham—I hope that the Minister of State will be able to tell us how the Working Party is progressing.

Lastly I take up what the right hon. Gentleman said on the subject of Clause 4. On these occasions we all approach "Clause 4" with a certain gingerliness. I expect the right hon. Gentleman feels the same when he finds himself using those words. Nevertheless, Clause 4 in this Bill I think a thoroughly valuable Clause. I say this as one who last year had the privilege of leading the United Kingdom delegation to the Commonwealth Educational Conference at Ottawa. Since then I have had the opportunity of travelling in India last Christmas, and of visiting Zambia and Kenya this summer, and I know how vital a matter is the provision of specialist manpower, of teachers not least.

If one considers Zambia today one is sorely tempted to draw a contrast with what is happening there as compared with Rhodesia next door. In Zambia the story is a very happy one of 120 new secondary school classes this year, another 120 next year and 120 in the year after that. There is a tremendous rate of expansion going on. This means that the provision of technical manpower of all kinds is of high importance, especially for teachers who can be seconded. I pinpoint especially what I call the seeds of seed corn, those who can help to lay the foundations of a more expanded system of teacher-training for the future. I hope that in this context Clause 4 will be of value. I do not think the House should be in any doubt as to the high importance of this form of technical assistance among the many aspects of aid with which we concern ourselves.

I hope I have not trespassed beyond what is proper on these occasions. I repeat that we on this side of the House give a warm welcome to this Bill, which deals with a subject with which we ourselves were very much concerned when in office. The initiatives in 1963 and 1964 have borne fruit in a Measure which represents a real step forward. We should do all we can to speed the passage of this Bill through the House.

11.42 a.m.

Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)

I am sure the Bill will be welcomed in all parts of the House. I congratulate the Government on finding an opportunity so early in the Session to deal with a matter which has been of great concern to teachers over a long period of years. As my right hon. Friend said, this is a comprehensive Bill which relates to 10 Statutes and 100 Orders and will simplify the procedure for ascertaining teachers' entitlement to superannuation benefit, which I imagine will be welcomed by the Department of Education as well as among teachers' organisations.

Clause 4, to which the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) referred, is extremely important. I suppose that the feature of greatest interest and greatest cheer for teachers as a whole is that contained in Clause 3, namely, the scheme for pensions for teachers' widows, orphans and dependants. The idea of this scheme has been pressed for many years by teachers' organisations. As one who has been a serving teacher, I can say that it has excited a great deal of interest among present serving teachers. There is great credit due to the Government for introducing this scheme at this time. It is an illustration of the very considerable interest and concern which the Government have for education as a whole. I shall refer to proposals made on this scheme in the report of the Working Party in February, 1965. The Working Party was set up as a result of the initiative and following discussions on the part of the right hon. Member for Handsworth. The proposals contained in the scheme represent for the young teacher very good value for money. It is true that an extra 2 per cent. of a teacher's salary will be deducted to cover benefits and teachers generally would have been much happier if they had not to contribute 2 per cent. of their salaries for this purpose. Even taking that into account, the scheme represents a good bargain for young teachers.

As my right hon. Friend pointed out, the 2 per cent. qualifies for Income Tax relief and this will help to diminish the burden placed on a teacher's income. The scheme will certainly relieve the need for the young provident teacher to provide death benefit by entering some private scheme. If at present he enters a private scheme he will be obliged to pay a premium amounting certainly to 2 per cent. of his income, and probably considerably more.

The statutory scheme has an advantage over any private scheme. The benefit if eventually required by a teacher's dependants, his family or widow, may not be required particularly early. It may be required 20 or 30 years after orginal entry to the profession. The benefit then will be determined, not by the original contributions which the teacher made as a young man or woman, but by the average salary at the time of death. This is a benefit which no private scheme can equal.

I am quite sure, as a result of inquiries I have made, that most young teachers will welcome the opportunity of entering the scheme and qualifying for the benefits provided. For older teachers the scheme is not so attractive. As has been pointed out this morning, in order to qualify an older teacher must make a back payment of contributions. That back payment will represent a hefty outlay and will become greater the older the teacher becomes.

I have looked at some figures which deal with this aspect of the problem, and I understand that if a teacher aged 50 with 10 years of service left decides to enter the scheme he will be required to pay, in addition to his 6 per cent. And 2 per cent. of his income for current benefits, a further 7 per cent., making a total of 15 per cent. of his salary. If he wanted to qualify for the full benefits he would be obliged to pay 15 per cent. of his salary until retirement. This is a hefty contribution to ask any man or woman to make.

If a teacher were older than 50 with less service to fulfil he would not be permitted to pay a greater amount out from his current salary because, according to the scheme agreed by the working party, 7 per cent. would be the maximum he would be allowed to pay in addition to the 6 per cent. and 2 per cent. This would mean that a teacher of 59 years of age who wanted to enter the scheme would have to sacrifice two-thirds of the lump sum to which he is entitled on retirement. That is a great sacrifice to ask any teacher to make. The result would certainly be that many older teachers would not join the scheme.

I have discussed this matter with many older teachers and I have not yet met one who is enthusiastic about joining the scheme. Only last evening I was at a National Union of Teachers' function in my constituency, at Chingford. I took the opportunity of talking to a number of older teachers and I found that, while they all recognised the great benefits which will accrue to younger teachers, they thought the benefits were not sufficient to justify their joining the scheme themselves, particularly as the more provident of the older teachers in many cases have already made private arrangements.

Effectively, this scheme, if the older teachers do not join, will not cover the whole profession for many years. Most widows are the widows of older teachers. Therefore, for a considerable number of years, unless the older teachers join, there will be a number of people who will not qualify for benefit.

It is true that the main teachers' organisations have come out in support of the scheme and will greatly welcome the Bill, despite the reservations which they have expressed. It is only fair to say that most of the teachers' organisations accepted the proposals relating to older teachers only because they felt that once again there might be non-agreement, as a result of which no scheme would be introduced. It was with this in view that the teachers' organisations for the most part came out in favour of the scheme.

I recognise that there are many difficulties involved in financing the buying of back service by older teachers. However, consideration should be given to the ideal solution of the Minister making a once and for all payment to help older teachers to buy their way into the scheme. If this is not possible, would it be possible to make some concession for older teachers, because unless this is done I repeat that many older teachers will not join? When eventually older teachers die, the upkeep of their widows and dependants will remain a charge on one sector of the public expenditure or another—either the National Assistance Board or some other body.

My right hon. Friend said that a Government subsidy to buy in the older teachers would provide for the improvident older teacher. I make the point to my right hon. Friend that somebody must provide for the dependants of the improvident teachers. We cannot leave them in a situation in which the sins of past omissions are visited on their heads when a tragedy has occurred. Teachers are entitled to be covered, because they are a very vital section of the working population. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend, despite the Working Party's report, and despite what he said this morning, to look again at this aspect of the problem, because if it were possible to make some concession we should win great approval from the whole profession and should do something of very great merit.

Despite the point I have raised about older teachers, I think that the scheme as a whole represents a great social advance. No one knows the grief of losing a partner in life until it happens. Nobody knows the full impact of the tragedy of children left with only one parent. The addition of grinding penury to the unspeakable grief and loneliness of widowhood must be prevented at all costs.

It is in this spirit that I welcome the Bill. I am not merely concerned in the long run with teachers. I want to see all workers and all useful members of the community able to enjoy these benefits. I regard the scheme as a step forward which we hope that every member of the community will be entitled to ultimately. The Government deserve great credit for including these proposals in their present programme, particularly in view of the very difficult economic circumstances which we know the Government have had to face during the course of the last year. I do not want to make party political points on this occasion, but we can imagine circumstances in which a Government might have said that, because of the economic circumstances, it was impossible to introduce a scheme of this description, however much merit it might have had. Teachers everywhere will recognise the credit due to the Government for pushing aside any arguments of that type that might have been urged upon them and going ahead with this very good scheme.

However, I want to reiterate my plea to the Minister to review the position of older teachers. This scheme is a very great advance, but it could have been even better. It may be said that half a loaf is better than none, but a whole loaf is better still.

I recognise that the scheme will not bring about a tremendous rush of new applicants to enter the profession, but it will certainly help to improve the attractiveness of teaching, which one increasingly realises is a very vital sector of our economy in which the shortage is becoming ever more acute in some spheres. We shall be able to overcome the problem of teacher shortage only if we can improve the position of teachers. The advance which the Government propose this morning—another advance in the education sphere—is part of the policy which the Government promised before the election and are now loyally fulfilling of improving the position of teachers and placing much greater emphasis on the importance of education in the community.

I hope that there will be a later opportunity to consider some of the aspects of the Bill which I have raised and also other aspects which I do not intend to deal with now. I hope that teachers themselves will study the proposals, which will be given a great deal of publicity as a result of this debate. I hope that teachers will recognise the great merits attached to the Bill, despite the fact that in certain respects it falls short of the ideal which some of us at any rate would wish it to attain.

11.58 a.m.

Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to intervene for a very few moments in this debate, because it is now some ten years or so since I first began to take a marked interest in teachers' pensions and superannuation generally. In those days the then Government introduced a Measure which was unacceptable to the profession. I took up the cudgels on behalf of the profession, because I believed that it was an unfair Measure and did not conform with promises which had been made to the profession in the past. That Measure was withdrawn and another, which was accepted by the profession as a whole, was introduced; and as the Minister said this morning, this second Measure made provision for dependants' pensions. Unfortunately the profession has never been able to agree to operate those provisions. I therefore welcome this Bill very much, first, because, as the Minister has said, it consolidates many Measures, and secondly, because of Clause 4, which I have long advocated, for I believe that of all the aid to developing countries which we can give, none is more important and valuable than human technical aid, and Clause 4 will certainly help towards that end.

But, above all, I welcome the Bill because at long last it makes provision for teachers' dependants, and I congratulate the Minister on his good fortune in being in a position to be able to introduce it. I am glad that teachers as a whole have agreed to the terms of the Bill. I regret that the National Association of Schoolmasters, which represents a very substantial proportion of male opinion in the profession, has not so far agreed, but I agree that the Minister was fully justified in going ahead even without that agreement.

There are one or two points that I should like to put to the Minister of State, whom I welcome to his new appointment. They concern anomalies, which will be well known to the Ministry. They adversely affect the return of teachers to the profession, which is of such vital importance to us today. The Minister of State will be aware of these anomalies, but I hoped the passage of this Bill might provide an opportunity to correct some of them. If a retired teacher returns to full-time teaching for even a single day he may have his pension deducted for that day and be out of pocket. If such a person returns to work in any other sphere, to any other job, or even to teaching in a non-State-aided school his pension is not affected.

On returning to part-time teaching a teacher may earn up to a maximum amount per quarter without affecting his or her pension, but the quarter is not a school quarter; it is a quarter which depends upon the teacher's birthday and so varies from teacher to teacher. The teacher is not allowed to average whatever he receives for part-time teaching over the whole year: so that in the winter months when the demand for part-timers is greatest it is sometimes necessary to employ two or three teachers for the same class, so that no one teacher shall exceed his permitted maximum.

Then there is the question of contributory service. Whereas full-time teaching —even supply work for one day a week— can count as contributory service, part-time teaching even up to 25 hours a week cannot. All these anomalies deter re-recruitment of married women whom we very much wish to draw back into the profession when, as my right hon. Friend rightly said—and I underline it— family commitments permit.

Then there is the minor anomaly of marking examination papers. It is minor but it is very ridiculous. If a teacher marks examination papers for an examination board which is not State-aided his pension is not reduced. Thus if he marks for the Northern University Joint Matriculation Board, which is not grant-aided, his pension is not affected. But if he marks examination papers for a London University Board which is grant-aided, his pension is reduced. I would ask the Minister whether this and the other matters to which I have referred may be considered during the passage of this Bill to which I again offer a warm welcome.

12.5 p.m.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

I should like to follow the example of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) and keep my remarks to a basic minimum. I should, first, like to add my welcome to the Minister of State.

This is a very useful Bill, which I hope will be amongst the first to receive the Royal Assent this Session. Clauses 1 and 2, which are for simplification, codification and co-ordination, will perhaps be resisted by a few in the legal or accountancy professions. Clause 3 extends the scope of existing provisions, and it will receive wide support. Whilst Clause 5 may be necessary in law, I doubt whether it will be invoked, except rarely.

The Secretary of State said that the Bill would be of real assistance to those who retire after long and faithful service in the teaching profession. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) spoke of the continuing need to bring legislation up to date, and this is very important. In spite of the general air of agreement and support, those who are concerned with education legislation are in the main little Olivers. No matter what is given, we always ask for more, and I think it is right that we should do so.

May I add my own small share of exhortation and advice, particularly as the right hon. Member for Handsworth was allowed to open the door in this direction by referring to something which is not in the Bill. There is an illusion that the teaching profession is divided into two main sex categories—men who enter for a full-time career, and women who enter the profession for a pre-marriage career. This is an illusion which is reflected in the provisions for superannuation benefits for the teaching profession. The proportion of women teachers who give a lifetime of service to teaching is greater than is normally supposed by the majority of people. Certainly we hear at times of those who join the profession, give two or three years' service and then marry and leave, but this is counterbalanced by the large number of people—men and women —who give a lifetime of service.

While I would not disagree with the need for any of the Clauses in the Bill, particularly Clause 4, I believe there is a need for a Clause 3A and a Clause 10. There is a situation, which is not assisted by the Bill, though the hopes of many people were raised when they read the title of the Bill. I refer to the fact that the pension which a teacher receives in 1965 depends to a great extent on when he retired. A teacher who retired in 1939 needs the same amount of money for food, clothes and lighting as a teacher who retired in 1964. Yet the actual pensions in terms of hard cash are very different. I should like to know whether in this Bill or in future legislation such as has been forecast in the Queen's Speech some thought could be given to the amount of pension received by the teaching profession at this date, irrespective of the amount of money which was paid in. This may go some way towards solving the difficulties that many people experience.

This, however, in no way diminishes my welcome and support for the Bill, though I think my right hon. Friend would be a little disappointed if we did not ask for more than is actually contained in the Bill.

12.9 p.m.

Mr. Richard Hornby (Tonbridge)

I offer a brief but none the less warm welcome to the Bill.

There are, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) said, two main grounds on which one bases that welcome. The first is that it is for the people affected a genuine social advance. It represents an improvement in their conditions of work. Secondly, it is an important factor in recruitment. I do not want to over-emphasise this point, for I think it is true to say that one should not necessarily imagine that the passage of this Bill will make a marked difference to the recruitment figures. Nevertheless, at any time such as now, when we are looking for 100,000 or more extra teachers, it is important that conditions of employment should be comparable with what is going on elsewhere.

In industry and many other fields terms of service in matters of pensions and coverage of dependants, and so on, are being improved all the time, and teaching has greater need to attract and hold its present proportion of people coming out of the universities, to hold on to the people coming out of colleges of education, and to hold within its ranks those who are already teaching but who may from time to time in periods of shortage of skilled people be tempted to go elsewhere. It is important, therefore, that conditions of employment should be as comparable as possible to what is happening elsewhere.

I recognise that the Bill does not offer the same advantages to the older teachers as to some of the younger ones. I am no expert in this field, but I believe that this is always a problem with the introduction of any contributory pension scheme. The fact is that arguing for the best is arguing in enmity to the good. This is a good Bill. It is an advance, and I am sure that the Secretary of State did right to go ahead with it. We have to face the fact that we cannot take the whole mouthful at once. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman took the right course, although one recognises that the Bill does not offer exactly the same benefit to people of all ages.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth referred to part-timers. I recognise that they are not covered in the Bill but I hope that we shall have a progress report on the possible application of pensions to them, because I believe that we shall be increasingly dependent for a prolonged period on part-time service in teaching. I am not thinking of part-time in terms of people who come in for a few days but rather of people who may come back to teaching part-time at 35 years of age so that one may have about 20 years of part-time teaching from them.

As for Clause 4 and the provisions affecting overseas teaching, I entirely agree with the importance of this type of technical assistance, as has been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden). It is immensely important that members of the teaching profession when engaged to do this valuable work should not suffer financially in any way as a result. I do not believe that the standards of teaching in this country suffer by the loan of their services. More and more in other fields of employment, in industry and commerce, I believe that employers are looking to ways in which they can refresh the experience of the people whom they employ by giving them an insight into something outside the normal stream of experience.

I welcome this interchange in the universities and in Government service. I do not believe that our schools will suffer. On the contrary, I think that they will gain considerably by a steady stream of people going out to countries overseas for two or three years and coming back greatly enriched by what they have been able to see and do during that period. I welcome the Bill and I wish it a quick passage through the House.

12.14 p.m.

Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)

I hope that I shall not be considered presumptuous if I associate myself with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) in welcoming the new Minister of State for Education and Science. I also will be brief in my comments and I do not wish to be repetitive of remarks already made. I should like to concentrate on four points about the second main objective of the Bill, that of making provision for teachers' dependants.

I very much welcome this provision, but there are one or two things which deserve some attention. It has already been remarked that this proposal will not involve the employers directly. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have commented on this. One appreciates that local authorities would not agree to sharing contributions, and here again there is an additional point for the case that local authorities should be relieved altogether of responsibility for teachers' salaries. It might have been easier to make this provision if that had been done.

Equally, in this sphere we are repeatedly moving into inconsistencies in that not long ago we passed a dependants' Measure with reference to widows of Members of Parliament to which the State contributes. We are in danger here of creating a whole series of different categories. While we appreciate that the Government are at present engaged in a general survey of social security, this is something which they should look at. Admittedly the contributions made are allowable for tax but this has varying effects. I have had some statistics prepared on this point. The contribution is at the rate of about 2 per cent. and while the tax is deductible the effect varies. The Minister quoted an average payment of 1.4 per cent., but I think that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth, in his intervention was correct in making the point that this was an average and not what applies at the lower end of the scale.

If someone is earning £2,000 a year he will certainly benefit, but this arrangement will not benefit the average school teacher to the same extent, where the top non-graduate increment point is £1,400 and where good honours graduates receive £1,620 under the scales agreed by the Burnham Committee on 29th July last. It is true that some heads of departments will qualify for full Income Tax relief, but they are a minority. It is a little inequitable that those earning £2,000 a year will have a net outlay of only 1.18 per cent. of salary whereas those earning less than £1,000 will have a net outlay of nearly 1.6 per cent. of salary.

I associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) on the question of the older teacher. Yesterday we were talking about parity of public service pensions. This is an extension of the same problem. Here again we are allowing the problem to build up and accumulate still further. One grants immediately that the cost of making any complete contribution to bring into account the past service of the older teacher would involve a heavy burden. The hon. Member for Epping quoted it as 15 per cent. of salary, and I imagine that that would be some sort of average because it would vary according to the salary.

Mr. Newens

As I understand it, in the report of the Working Party the maximum percentage allowed is 7 per cent. of salary in respect of back payments, which, added to the existing 2 per cent. for current benefit, plus the 6 per cent., makes 15 per cent. as the maximum permitted in the agreement.

Mr. Russell Johnston

I take the point. The calculations which I had prepared seemed to show, for example, that a teacher with 19 years' service would have had to pay about 10.8 per cent., which was not as high as that But the hon. Gentleman, I gather, was quoting the maximum.

Although the Minister is quite right to say that the cost of making this up, which is the whole problem in public service pensions, would be immense, one wonders whether a contribution could be made to alleviate it. I associate myself, at least in part, with what the hon. Member for Epping said. Although it is inevitable, in existing circumstances, that the Minister will reject a completely new look at it, it may be that he will sympathetically consider the possibility of mitigating the full effect by some sort of percentage allowance. We ought not to go on building up this problem, which already worries so many of us, making it worse for future Governments and future generations.

While the agreed rate payable is generally reasonable, I feel that we should look at the rate for widowed mothers more carefully in the future. Widowed mothers are in a special category, and the benefits suggested here are, perhaps, not sufficiently high. We ought to look forward to a much higher rate for the widowed mother particularly. Her responsibilities are so various and she is very often widowed at an age when, not having had prior experience, she finds it very difficult to secure other employment.

I conclude by again welcoming these provisions. I congratulate the Government on giving the Bill such early priority in their legislative proposals this year.

12.22 p.m.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)

I rise with some trepidation to make my first speech on the subject of teachers' superannuation. When I entered the House ten years ago, this topic was an urgent one, as was reflected in my mail. On this occasion, I have not had a single letter. The arguments seem to have given way to broad agreement, and I have so far noted nothing of importance in the education journals. Even so, the subject is a formidable one especially for someone who has, perhaps, strayed from the farmyard into the rich and exciting pastures of education because there are so many Members of Parliament with professional qualifications in the educational world. They form an important group in the House, the foremost among them, of course, being yourself, Mr. Speaker. I understand that, if the General Election had given the Labour Party a rather larger swing, we should have had another large tranche of teachers added to their present strength so that they would have become the largest single group.

In the debate on the last Bill nine years ago, no little anxiety was revealed about the effects of service here on teachers' superannuation rights. The present Government Chief Whip had to be reassured by the then Minister, now Lord Eccles, that he would be able to put himself right should the chances of political fortune return him to teaching. These fears proved groundless. Many of the participants in that debate are now Ministers at one level or another in the Foreign Office, the Home Office and elsewhere. Of course, some relief of their anxiety may have come, as the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) said, from the fact that we now have our own pension fund to which there is a significant Government contribution.

The debate has had certain conjectural features because, as with most enabling Bills, we cannot at this stage judge in detail what we should most like to examine, namely, the end product. I, too, welcome the removal of multifarious and ever-changing detail from the Statute Book, and I disagree with the view of the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance that it was a pity to put teachers' superannuation in Statutory Instruments. As hon. Members have emphasised, this method must provide more flexibility and a quicker response when changes are needed. But I enter the caveat that it means that the House of Commons itself will have little chance to amend subsequent regulations, which, coming before us under the negative procedure, can only be prayed against as a whole, and, of course, often at a late hour. It is important, therefore, that the Minister should obtain the maximum advance agreement between the parties interested, and I think it desirable not to lump together in the same Order too many different aspects of superannuation matters. I hope that we shall have a separate chance to judge and criticise, and perhaps vote upon, the scheme for widows and children and the scheme for dependants when they come forward.

On the main provisions for superannuation, I emphasise the request made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle). We hope for an early decision and action on the question of pensions for part-time teachers. Part-timers are playing, and will continue to play, a most important role, and we must do all we can to encourage and hold them in the service. Satisfactory pensions and other arrangements are bound to operate as an added incentive for teachers to start and to stay in part-time service as long as they can. As many married women will be concerned, I hope that such part-time teachers will be eligible also for any dependants schemes which may follow the Bill. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden), I stress that arrangements for measuring part-time service need to be flexible; such matters as half days should be aggregated to make full days, and so on, without too much difficulty.

We must try to remove all these marginal discouragements. This general proposition applies very much to part-time work by retired teachers. More than any other category of teacher, they may be able to relieve the overall shortage by coming back to part-time service. The difficulty here is not only the effect of the earnings rule in general but the particular education anomalies to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West referred. The abatement of a retired teacher's pension if he engages in teaching or other employment in State schools is undoubtedly a disincentive. It seems manifestly absurd that he should suffer a less severe reduction in pension if he works in some other private activity, including private teaching or examining other than in State-aided work. In general, it must be right that teachers should be encouraged to continue at the work for which they are best qualified and in which they are most needed, namely, teaching.

I hope, therefore, that this whole subject is being considered by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in his current review of all aspects of pensions and National Health and Insurance benefits, and I am encouraged in this by what was said yesterday by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on the subject of public service pensions. It needs looking at. As my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) stressed, this type of abatement at present taking place in teachers' pensions is becoming out of tune with the best modern practice. I think that our public service and teachers' pensions should draw nearer to the best practice in private schemes and that retired teachers should be encouraged to go on making their contributions to the educational service.

I welcome Clause 4 which encourages teachers to go overseas without suffering this previous marginal disincentive. May I, in particular, stress what my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge said not only about the importance of their service to the developing countries but also about the great benefits which they themselves may derive from this refreshment of their experience in work quite different from their experience in this country. They will have the chance of communicating this new enthusiasm to the benefit of their pupils who, in turn, may well be inspired to go on voluntary service overseas.

The most important innovation of the Bill is undoubtedly the provision for widows and dependants. I welcome this new pension scheme for widows because it promises to be the end of a long road. Here I think we owe much to the skill and initiative of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hands-worth. In fact, it seems that we have reversed the old song's travel arrangements. We failed in the Teachers' Superannuation Bill, 1956, to make much progress along what might be called the high road to widows' pensions—on the same lines as some other local authority employees, by surrendering part of their lump sum retirement payment. The Scots, similarly blocked, took the low road to the Treasury by devising this scheme of teachers' contributions which attract Income Tax relief, and they have arrived at widow's benefits before us. The hon. Member for Inverness makes a very good Scottish guide along that road. I should like to pay tribute to the care with which the Working Party has gone into these schemes and has produced what seems to be viable and flexible suggestions.

I should like to ask the Minister of State one or two questions on that point. Could he say whether the widows' scheme and any dependants' scheme will be available, in the same way as the main superannuation provisions are, for teachers in approved non-teaching employment and also in schemes for schools other than maintained schools? Secondly, at the top of the scale which is proposed in the Working Party's report, might we not consider the situation of teachers with the highest salaries, who might well wish to make better provision for their widows than seems possible under the suggested scheme? For example, a teacher retiring after 40 years' service with a qualifying salary of £2,000 can provide his widow with only one-third of the £1,000 pension —namely, £333. Many such teachers might wish to make a greater contribution. At the other end of the scale, is not the suggested figure of £114 rather too low as a minimum pension for a widow?

Allied to that is the question of the high cost for older teachers, which, as the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) stressed, is a hefty burden, of buying in their past service. I wonder whether the Minister still feels unable to consult his colleagues again to see whether some contribution could be made to meeting this rather heavy extra charge. After all, in the Conservative Party's Bill of 1956 the Government then provided a credit for the teachers superannuation fund of no less than £340 million in order to repair an actuarial deficiency. That credit has since attracted each year a sum of no less than £12 million interest. I would claim that as some evidence of past generosity by the Conservative Government. Perhaps the present Government would look again at that difficulty.

I hope, too, that the dependants' scheme will be especially useful to women teachers and to those with responsibilities to parents and close relatives. Again, most of us would like to know when that scheme is likely to be promulgated. I realise that the running of the scheme and the collecting of all the information represents a formidable task for the Ministry of Education. Equally, however, I welcome the fact that the Ministry will be in direct communication with the teachers on many of those most personal subjects. It is the fashion at the moment to ask the Government, and I am tempted to ask whether the operation of this scheme will be entrusted to the Ministry's computer.

It seems to me that teaching is the key profession whose members' dedication and competence can unlock and inspire the unrealised potential of the younger generations. We need them to succeed in doing this in order to carry us on from 1970 to the end of the century and beyond. We want teachers to have and to communicate to their pupils a sense of satisfaction in work well done. For this we need as far as possible to relieve them from distracting anxieties, especially those concerning retirement and the continuing provision which they would like to make for those who are dependent upon them.

Subject to any Amendments which may be thought desirable at a later stage, I believe that the schemes projected under the Bill should fulfil a long-felt need. I hope that they will operate to hold teachers in the service, and to attract newcomers and re-entrants, and that there will be the least possible delay in making our hopes for improved conditions of service a reality.

12.37 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Edward Redhead)

May I, for the benefit of those hon. Members who entered the Chamber later, repeat the apology which my right hon. Friend expressed at the opening of the debate. My right hon. Friend very much regrets that, owing to another pressing engagement which he could not avoid, he was unable to remain for the rest of the discussion.

When he began, the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) said that he had entered on this subject with a great deal of trepidation and I am sure that he will appreciate that, being precipitated so soon after my advent to the Department of Education and Science into such a complex matter, I share his degree of trepidation about it. Nevertheless, I am consoled and comforted by the very kindly personal references of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) and others who welcomed me to this position. It is true that the right hon. Gentleman paid very generous tribute to my predecessor in office, but he then did it in the early hours of the morning, between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. At any rate on this occasion we are able to discuss this matter in easier circumstances.

I do not propose to detain the House unduly long as the general purposes of the Bill have been so warmly welcomed on both sides of the House. It is highly gratifying that the right hon. Member for Handsworth, on behalf of the Opposition, and other hon. Members have given an assurance of their unreserved welcome for the Bill and of their full co-operation in seeking to carry it on to the Statute Book at the earliest possible moment.

I am sure that it is right and proper that in the major Clauses, Clauses 1 and 2, we should seek at long last to simplify this wholly complex business which at the moment is baffling not only to those who come as laymen to the problem— indeed, it is more baffling than any superannuation scheme which I have seen in any sphere of the public service—but even to those who are accounted experts in the field and who have the task of administration. There is no question but that this will make greatly for ease of administration, and I am sure that it will be welcomed by the teaching profession in making it easier for an individual to find out with a little more exactitude where he stands and what are his rights and opportunities in this connection.

It has been rightly said that Clause 3 represents the rectification of a very serious omission in the superannuation arrangements for the teaching profession. I am delighted that there is such a general welcome to the fact that at long last there has been agreement on this subject and that a scheme of widows' and dependants' pensions is possible. I am very glad that it has been so warmly welcomed in all parts of the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) who, among others, welcomed the Bill said, rightly, that for the younger members of the teaching profession it represents a superior opportunity to that which could be obtained by any means in a private scheme. I am sure that it will go a very long way to ease the burdens of those who are rightly concerned to make provision for eventualities of the kind which the scheme is designed to meet.

The Working Party of February, 1964, produced this proposal. The right hon. Member for Handsworth emphasised that this is not a shared-cost scheme. He clearly understood that my right hon. Friend has taken the same view as he himself took when in office—that, having regard to all the circumstances and the precedents, a shared-cost scheme was not a reasonable possibility. I am glad to have his assessment of the position.

Of course, the Department which will have to control and supervise this very important aspect will be bearing the administrative expenses, and the local education authorities will likewise bear their share. In that sense a contribution is being made. It will be appreciated that the Department will be faced with the necessity for some increase in staff. I hope that no hon. Member in the future will point a finger of scorn or criticism at the Department in that respect. Having welcomed the purpose of the Bill, hon. Members must accept that we must have the human agents to administer it.

There has been comment on the problem of older teachers, in particular by the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) and my hon. Friend the Member for Epping. Naturally, one's sympathy is always excited in considerations of this kind, but I should like to emphasise what the hon. Member for Ton-bridge rightly said—that this is always a problem when one introduces a scheme of this kind, for one cannot possibly go back and repair what has been lacking over the years. The best that one can hope to do is to ease the path as reasonably as possible and to provide for the future.

I must emphasise in this connection that this scheme is designed primarily for the younger teacher. It was inevitable that the cost of entering such a scheme at a late stage would fall very heavily on teachers who had made no payment until the end of their career. I can only repeat that the capital cost of a subsidy, on the most modest estimate, would be several millions of pounds and that this form of subvention would be concentrated on a limited age group. Clearly this would be difficult to defend, particularly having regard to the fact that in the absence of any such provision some teachers, with a hard struggle, have sought to make provision for their widows against the possibility of their own early decease by a private scheme, and because they have already entered that commitment they would not find it possible, even with a subsidy, to opt to come into a scheme of this character.

They would therefore derive no benefit and it would, in the sense of what my right hon. Friend said, be a gift to the improvident rather than to the provident. We have looked at this very carefully. The remarks, which have been quoted, of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance when she was sitting opposite, were, I am sure, an expression of her sympathy in the matter and it is a sympathy which we all share.

I have been asked to comment about the situation, which we recognise to be extremely important, on the operations of the Working Party on the superannuation of part-time teachers. The first meeting of the Working Party has already taken place, the issues have been defined and progress will be made as rapidly as possible. It is the full intention to press on with this, recognising the importance of any contribution which can be made to the relief of the teacher shortage. I was glad that the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged the progress which has been made in other respects. We attach equal importance to progress in this field. We are also anxious to ensure that the operations of the Working Party on the superannuation aspect shall run in parallel with the Burnham Committee's deliberations on remuneration of such part-time teachers. Clearly, the two things have to move in parallel.

It is refreshing to find a Clause bearing the number "4" being so universally welcomed in this House. I shall resist the temptation to widen the discussion in this regard but undoubtedly the Clause is a valuable contribution facilitating a form of very valuable aid to overseas countries. It is clearly right, and I am glad that the House generally has welcomed it, that those who give this kind of service, which we are so anxious to facilitate, should not in consequence be at a loss or have any serious disadvantage with regard to their pensions. This Clause is well merited.

Mr. Hornby

Will the Minister of State clear up one point on Clause 4? The last sentence of the Explanatory Memorandum states that no net additional cost will be entailed by Clause 4. Perhaps I have failed to understand it. However, I find it slightly confusing in that pensions will be available to people going abroad on the basis of a salary which they may not, in fact, be receiving, so that someone, surely, must be carrying the cost of the gap.

Mr. Redhead

But correspondingly the teacher's contribution will be based upon the notional salary rather than on the actual salary. In one respect, one can say that he is making his own contribution so that there will be no net additional cost as a result of the operation.

The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden), in sharing the expressions of welcome to the Bill, referred to a number of anomalies which he hoped we might have an opportunity to consider further. Some of them can perhaps be raised in Committee and I shall not go into the intricacies and finer points of detail, for that would be inappropriate on Second Reading. We are not seeking to change the fundamental existing superannuation provisions but to codify them and render them in regulations which will be comprehensible. They will be enshrined in these regulations altogether instead of being in a multiplicity of Statutes. This will enable all aspects to be considered and any faults remedied with much greater speed than is possible now, when we are bound to think in terms of legislative amendment before anomalies can be rectified. Of course, I do not commit myself necessarily to agreeing with what the hon. Gentleman said about the anomalies he referred to but it is fair to say that this system will be capable of examination and remedy infinitely better than the present.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) said that I would not be surprised that those who welcomed the Bill would nevertheless ask for more. I appreciate that attitude in so far as I have so often in the past found myself in the position of welcoming a new scheme but still wishing to press for more. One always hopes for improvement.

My hon. Friend referred to the rate of pension of those already retired. I am sure he will agree on reflection that this Bill is not the appropriate ambit to think in terms of this kind. The subject is tied up with the more general aspects of pension increase in the public service and one which would not be right to cater for within the compass of this Bill, with its rather limited purpose.

I do not want to follow the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) on the subject of relieving local authorities of expenditure on teachers' salaries. That would not be an appropriate subject for discussion now in the context of the Bill. But I confirm that the figure quoted by my right hon. Friend in respect of tax relief—1.4 per cent.—is the average net. Obviously, it could not be applicable to any and every case. The rate of tax of an individual will vary to such a degree that there are bound to be degrees of variation in the measure of relief earned by the individual. This is an average figure and it is fair to make the point that such relief, which is not open to civil servants in their scheme, makes the teachers' scheme, as the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged, in every way comparable and in some respects even better than the civil servants' scheme. I do not want to go into detail but I think that anyone who examines it will have to agree in that respect.

The hon. Member for Tonbridge said that it was always difficult when opposing an enabling Bill of this character to apprehend the end-product. Again I emphasise that the basic fundamental provisions for superannuation remain. We are not changing them. The regulations will embrace them in so far as they do not already reside in the Statutes. It is not the purpose of the Bill to change any of the existing provisions but to provide for a new form of machinery whereby, in future, changes may be made, if agreed and acceptable to this House, in a way that will be much easier and much more readily varied.

The hon. Gentleman expressed the view that in so far as this move gives the House very little chance of amendment of the eventual regulations, such amendments should not be embarked upon without every effort being made to secure the maximum agreement by consultation with those concerned. I readily give that assurance. It is an obligation under the Bill that, in framing a regulation or amendment, there shall be full consultation and I assure the House that, obviously, it would be the earnest desire of the Government to secure the maximum degree of agreement before any amendments of that character were made by way of Statutory Instrument.

The hon. Member also referred to the question of abatement of teachers' superannuation. Here again, as he rightly said, this is not a position unique to teachers and is a more general problem. He referred to the current review of the social services being undertaken by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I will draw my right hon. Friend's attention to this matter in so far as the reference is appropriate.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether the widows' and dependants' scheme will be available to those who are in non-teaching or other posts and are brought into teachers' superannuation. The answer is "Yes, it will be available to them." He also asked whether provision might be possible for those teachers who are at a higher salary rate and who might desire to make rather better provision for their widows than is contemplated in the scheme. I can only say now, without commitment, that this can and will be examined.

The hon. Gentleman also raised the point as to the question of whether or no the widows' pension minimum rate is adequate. This in course of time will be looked at but I must point out that it is one of the merits of doing the thing in this way, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, that if, in the result of the first period of operation of the widows' and dependants' scheme, our actuarial valuation showed that there were a surplus in the fund to be set up, it would be open to consider either a reduction of contributions or an improvement of benefit. This clearly is one of the advantages of operating the scheme in this way and for the future we will naturally look for such possibilities. To my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby, who said that more would be asked for, I would reply that, having got the machinery and the fund, it is always open in future to look at these points.

The hon. Gentleman also asked when it is hoped to bring the scheme into operation. My right hon. Friend indicated that, given a speedy passage of the Bill—of which we are happily assured by both sides of the House—it is our hope and intention that it should operate from April. A great deal of work will be involved, as everyone recognises.

Having said that, I would like to again express my gratification for the manner in which the House has welcomed the Bill. I am sure that it represents a real social advance not only in aid of the teachers themselves but in the contribution it can make in education, for all of us recognise that the status of the teacher is of tremendous and increasing importance in the community and that we need to do everything we can to attract people into the profession in order to meet the fundamental needs of the future of the nation and to ensure that our education is not only well based but that the quality and number of our teachers is requisite to carry us forward to the advance for which we all hope.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr.Whitlock.]

Committee upon Monday next.