HC Deb 04 April 1967 vol 744 cc145-8

Order for Second Reading read.

8.41 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Niall MacDermot)

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

With the best will in the world I think it is difficult to make this Bill sound interesting. I think that almost my first task as Financial Secretary was to move the Second Reading of its predecessor, the 1964 Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. I said then that it was a modest Bill, and this one is, if anything, even more modest.

But however modest, I think it serves a useful purpose. It really has two main purposes. First, to make a number of minor changes to improve the superannuation position of small groups of staff in certain public services, or to establish superannuation arrangements where none existed before. Secondly, to cover gaps and remedy technical defects which have come to light in the legislation which governs the superannuation of staff in those services.

It really is almost impossible to make anything that is truly a Second Reading speech on a Bill of this nature, because the Bill, by its nature, is really a collection of Committee points. I shall not weary the House by going through the Bill and seeking to explain all its provisions at this stage. If there is any particular point on which any hon. Member seeks further explanation, if I have your leave, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House to speak again, I shall be glad to deal with it.

Perhaps I could refer briefly to one or two points. Clause 1 is perhaps unfortunately of somewhat topical interest, because it provides power to grant annuities and allowances to civil servants in compensation for injuries which they may have sustained as a result of civil disturbances, whether or not they were actually on duty at the time of receiving the injury, and some civil servants, particularly those serving abroad, may be liable to such injuries.

For many years such awards have been made, but recently legal advice has called in question the propriety of doing so on the ground that these awards under the existing law should be made only when the injury was sustained while the person was on duty at the time. This extension will now rectify the position and make it clear beyond doubt that these awards can be made in respect of injuries received at any time, whether or not the person was actually on duty. We propose to make this in a sense retrospective to apply to all injuries received after 14th July, 1949, as that is the effective date of the section which the Clause amends.

Perhaps I should refer briefly to the provisions which give a right to superannuation benefits where, at the moment, none exist. They are to be found, first, in Clause 9, which provides for the payment of pensions to full-time presidents or chairmen of industrial tribunals. Until recently these have been part-time appointments, but as a result of the increased jurisdiction conferred under the Redundancy Payments Act, the Selective Employment Payments Act and the Docks and Harbours Act it has been found necessary to make a number of full-time appointments. Clearly we cannot expect to find people of the appropriate calibre to serve full-time in these positions unless we provide for their superannuation.

Similarly, Clause 14 empowers the Secretary of State for Scotland to grant superannuation benefits in respect of service as a full-time commissioner on the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland. Clause 10 makes a small extension in the scope of the superannuation scheme to which Members of the House contribute. At present the scheme provides for the payment of a pension to children up to the age of 16, or up to the age of 22 where they are still engaged in full-time education. The trustees of the scheme recently proposed—and I readily accepted their suggestion—that the scheme should be amended so as to permit the payment of life pensions to the children of deceased Members who are incapable of earning a living because of permanent physical or mental disability.

Finally, Clause 13 enables the Home Secretary to apply the Police Pension Regulations, suitably amended, to police cadets. The intention is that this power should be used to extend the injury provisions of the Regulations to cadets when they begin to share the special risks to which policemen are exposed.

That may be all I need to say in outlining the provisions at this stage, but I shall be glad to try to deal with any other points which hon. Members may wish to raise. I commend the Bill to the House as being, although a modest Bill, a useful one. The net cost of the provisions—and I am afraid it is a lengthy Bill, owing to the technical nature of its provisions—is expected not to exceed £60,000 a year, and may fall below that amount.

Although the scope of the Bill is not very wide, and it will affect relatively few people, its provisions will be of the greatest importance to those few people. I hope that the House will agree that the Bill is not of a controversial nature, and that it may be given a Second Reading.

8.47 p.m.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher (Finchley)

I am glad to be able to start the summer session by agreeing with the Financial Secretary. I do not expect that this agreement will last long, in view of the Budget which we shall have before us next week. I agree that this is a very modest but welcome Bill. It is so modest that many pension organisations which would normally be active in this sphere have not even heard of it. I hope that they will look at it before the Committee stage. I agree that it is also modest in its financial provisions. I note, however, that it takes about 22 pages of close printing to spend a net sum of about £60,000. I hope that that does not augur ill for the length of the Finance Bill that we shall have after the Budget.

I agree with the Financial Secretary that the Bill consists of a series of miscellaneous provisions with no connecting principle, and that its details, in each separate provision, would be far better dealt with in Committee. It is the kind of Bill which, when I was in another Department, would have been referred to as a "rag-bag" Bill, in which, apparently, instructions would have been given, "There are a lot of new changes which need to be made. Put them into a Bill, providing it does not cost very much." Whoever has drawn up the Bill has done his job very well.

I am sure that I carry the whole House with me when I say that further and more detailed discussion should be left to the Committe. We accord the Bill the welcome that it deserves.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).