§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.13 a.m.
§ Mr. Frank Taylor (Manchester, Moss Side)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
My good fortune in drawing a high place in the Ballot led me to give considerable thought to an attempt to introduce a Bill which would be of the greatest interest to the largest number of people, and in this case the people concerned have always deserved support and our utmost consideration, and who need our help. I feel that the Bill is a worthwhile one. We should applaud it in principle. It should not raise any antagonism. It is not a propaganda promotion, but a Bill with which I am sure the vast majority of Members cannot fail to agree privately, and I hope that hon. Members will be fair-minded enough to applaud the Bill publicly.
Before deciding to introduce the Bill I considered approximately 100 others, many of which were sent to me by interested parties, some from constituents in Moss Side and some of which I already had in mind, but in the end this Bill stood out as a "must". It concerns public service and Armed Forces pensions and, accordingly, does not cover all pensioners. I thought it advisable to lay down clear limitations in the Bill so as to give it a greater chance of success. However, I do not consider in any way that Armed Forces and public service pensioners are the only ones deserving of merit. I hope that when the Bill becomes law, as I am sure it will one day, the benefits will be spread over pensioners throughout the whole range of pensioners. I am sure that the automatic rights of other pensioners will then be recognised.
At this stage, I wish to express my sincere thanks to my right hon. and hon. Friends who have been kind enough to sponsor the Bill and have helped me in my work on it up to this point. I want to express my gratitude to them for their advice and assistance. I have received more offers of sponsorship for the Bill than I have been able to accept, bearing 746 in mind the limitation on the number of sponsors to which I am entitled. My gratitude goes out also to those who have offered to be sponsors and those outside the House who have been so kind and helpful in their generosity and assistance. I particularly want to express my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden), who will endeavour to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, towards the end of the debate and, if successful, will deal with any unanswered questions and outstanding points.
I present the Bill feeling certain that its contents will become law at some time, and the earlier the better. I present it with the thought that the time has arrived for the House to display a proper degree of humanity towards pensioners and to leave the matter no longer in abeyance. I appeal to the House to set about helping the pensioners now, and not to condemn thousands of them to live out their lives at a level which we all know to be quite out of keeping with the standard of living that was theirs when they first received their pensions.
Now for the contents of the Bill. I submit that the Bill is important, is simple, is very short and, I hope, clear. I do not propose to use much of the time available to me in quoting cases—often harrowing cases—of unfairness, outright poverty and shameful conditions in which so many pensioners have to exist—pensioners who appear to have been forgotten by society. From my extensive mailbag on the subject I will quote only a few cases.
There is one concerning a member of the Royal Air Force who retired in 1961 and who tells me that personnel of the same rank who retire this year will receive a pension of 40 per cent, higher than his. A naval officer—a captain—tells me that after 20 years' service an officer retiring today receives a pension which is 50 per cent, higher than that of a similar officer retiring in 1920.
I received a letter from a widow who missed her pension by just four days after 25 years of happily married life, and another from a retired teacher aged 78, who pointed out that malnutrition is no respecter of persons, and that that is what she suffers from because of her pension having been allocated many years ago, and because it has not 747 risen at anything like the advance in inflation. I have had a letter from a disillusioned pensioner who retired in 1954 after 25 years' service, and who received a pension of £270. He is still receiving that pension. There is a similar case of a policeman who retired in 1955, after 25 years' service, on a pension of £303, and who is still receiving that pension, although the cost of living has risen by 44 per cent.
I am sure that every Member—certainly every Member present today—will know of similar cases, or even worse ones, illustrating the unfortunate unfairness that exists between one set of pensioners and another. There are thousands of such pensioners throughout the length and breadth of the land, and their cases make nonsense of any claim that the present system is fair or acceptable.
Then there is the vexed question of pensions of widows, which I understand are fixed on the basis of one-third of their husband's retirement pay. When we consider the married men's allowance for Income Tax purposes we must agree that time and again Chancellors of the Exchequer of both Governments have taken the view that two can live comparatively cheaper than one. If so, it is clear that one cannot live cheaper than two, as the situation in respect of widows' pensions would suggest. It is not good enough for the Treasury to declare that two can live cheaper than one while another Department takes the view that one can live cheaper than two.
Hon. and right on. Members will know the limitations within which the Bill has had to be drafted, but for the benefit of persons outside the House who may be less knowledgeable about Parliamentary procedure I would point out that it would be out of order for me to attempt in the Bill to stipulate increased pensions. This is why the Bill seeks to require only a review of pensions at regular intervals, so that the facts may be publicly known—the facts about the continuing erosion of pensions by the process of inflation and the inequality that arises because of the different rates of pension.
It is acknowledged that a number of pensions reviews have taken place since the last war. In this debate I do not 748 wish to enter into arguments as to whether these reviews have been adequate, but I want to make it clear that they have been spasmodic and that the pensioners concerned have never known whether their own cases have been under serious review, or any review at all. For the pensioners there has been uncertainty at all times.
There is a strongly held opinion that pensioners stand a chance of being considered for a review only if they set up an active powerful campaign coupled with the utmost political pressure which they are able to exert. I notice that when a pension increase takes place, the announcement is usually accompanied by appropriate words of sympathy towards the pensioners from the Minister concerned when he explains the intended increase, an increase which, alas, is usually effective some rather long time ahead.
But such words of sympathy do not adequately provide compensation for years of worry about how to live on a pension outmoded by current events and inflation, not knowing whether an increase is being considered, or is likely to be considered, or even whether there is any thought of consideration. Retrospective words of sympathy do not provide, an adequate substitute for the assurance which the Bill would give.
The Bill would give the assurance that a review takes place regularly and is completed within a known fixed period. Serving members of the Armed Forces are now established as entitled to regular reviews of their salaries, but pensions represent a continuation of remuneration for services during working life and surely pensioners should carry the same rights to the same consideration. Secondly, and perhaps more important, the intention of the Bill is that categories of pensioners should be reviewed one against the other. In this, perhaps, lies the greatest source of discontent, because there are grave anomalies and numberless instances of chronic variations between one class of pensioner and another.
The same problem is prevalent in industry, of course, and almost everyone can look over his shoulder and find someone who appears to be better off. This automatically breeds discontent and is a cause of strikes and trouble throughout 749 industry. The same is true of pensioners so many of who can look over their shoulders and see other pensioners comparatively better off. While the same thing applies to industry from airline pilots upwards or downwards, pensioners cannot threaten to ground their aeroplanes and they cannot paralyse the docks and they cannot disrupt commerce by go-slows. They cannot effectively hit back against unfair conditions, and the Bill is designed to help them.
The reviews which would take place following the passing of the Bill would help to do away with these and many other anomalies, and it is time that that happened. I want to make it clear that there is nothing in the Bill which would prevent any Government at any time, if they thought fit, from giving a measure of relief to pensioners, to any class of public service or Armed Forces pensioners. It is quite clear that there would be no question whatever of the Government having to wait for the next review before considering any urgent cases which might arise.
It might be complained that the Bill would give rise to the creation of yet another committee, yet another body to discuss our fate, but while that complaint is valid, there are many reasons for the Bill which would outweigh that slight deterrent. There is no doubt that the common justice which the Bill would give to pensioners would outweigh the relatively minor cost of the Bill and the committee, and there are already dozens of Parliamentary committees with which we could happily dispense, without loss and, indeed, with advantage, to make way for this.
The machinery envisaged by the Bill is for a small commission to be set up, the smaller the better, with a high degree of independence. It would have the duty of reporting regularly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer every two years. The first review would need to be completed within two years and reported before the end of January, 1970. The Chancellor would have to place the reports before the House within one month of receipt.
Apart from that duty, the Bill would give the commission the right to inquire into existing pension entitlement, after consultation with the Treasury, but in no case is it intended that this action would in any way interfere with exist- 750 ing organisations concerned with pensions. The commission would have the power only to recommend to the Government of the day and the Government of the day could decide to act or not to act. But that decision would be made in the light of the fact that the findings of the commission were then public knowledge.
I can foresee considerable advantage, for all Governments have the very difficult and often impossible task of trying to mete out justice and attach the right degree of priority to the claims for pensions which they receive. There is, of course, never enough money to meet all the claims and seldom enough to meet all needs. Priorities often go wrong because of the variations of the strength of claims submitted by the bodies concerned, and no Government should be placed in the position of having to be judge and jury, as is the case with pension claims. A great deal more justice is likely to emerge and be seen to emerge if the Government are presented with an impartial statement of fact and with unbiassed recommendations from an independent body.
There is little reason to suppose that staff associations or similar bodies would feel that their powers were being usurped by such a commission. On the contrary, at present there is broad dissatisfaction with the way in which pension claims are dealt with. Furthermore, staff associations are concerned primarily with their own association members and, quite naturally, make the most of their claims, whereas an impartial commission would be able to grade claims into the proper degree of priority. Moreover, staff associations are usually concerned with their own active working members and although some of them give considerable attention to retired members, that consideration is likely to be at least secondary. This commission would be concerned only with pensioners and would have no right to inquire into the conditions of existing public service or Armed Forces personnel. The commission's rôle is to deal entirely with pensions.
I do not propose to dig into the past, or to quote from previous debates touching on this subject, but there have been numerous statements from right hon. and hon. Members opposite expressing 751 the view that the present system is unfair and unsatisfactory and that some means should be found and implemented so that the system of lobbying by public service pensioners to secure justice should be made unnecessary, and that we should build into our legislation express provisions to secure this. Similarly, from this side of the House there has been continuous and strong support for the principles of the Bill whenever they have been ventilated in the House.
There is much public concern about the need for the Bill. Since my selection of subject was made public, I have been inundated with letters and made aware of the full extent of the interest and deep concern not only of pension associations, but individual pensioners, including a surprisingly large number from my constituency of Moss Side, and I am sure that this applies throughout the Manchester conurbation as well as to other parts of the country. It was very clear to me that while many civil servants may retire to Bath, Bognor, or Bournemouth, and many Armed Forces personnel retire to places such as Camberley, Aldershot or Farnham, the vast majority of pensioners are scattered throughout the country.
Universally, the letters which I have received have been bitter about pensions and critical of Parliament in general and Her Majesty's Treasury in particular. My Moss Side correspondents were chiefly not of senior rank in either the public service or the Armed Forces. Accordingly, they had been relatively generously treated in their pensions, but not one pensioner was in receipt of a pension which corresponded with the purchasing power prevailing when the pension was originally granted. All had fallen by various degrees as a result of inflation. Some of the letters that I received from pensioner constituents were classic examples of brevity coupled with a typical clarity. They were letters which expressed the writer's thoughts bluntly and in true Lancashire fashion.
I will not embarrass the HANSARD reporters by reading them, but the important thing was that these letters provided clear evidence of widespread discontent, which is aggravated still further by the current situation. In no sense is this a political Bill and I beg hon. Members to keep the debate on a con- 752 structive level. I am not concerned with what hon. and right hon. Members of any side of the House may have said in the past. The Bill is today, the consideration of it is today, and I beg that today's judgment be on the needs of public service and Armed Forces pensioners.
I am convinced that the vast majority of Members are in favour of the principles of the Bill and that the only resistance to be expected would emanate from the Treasury because of the issue of possible costs. I would dearly love to see the institution of a process to tie pensioners at once to the cost of living. I am a realist and I appreciate that this cannot be done at once and that any Government would feel compelled to resist such an expensive proposal.
That is why this Bill is designed so that the facts are first discovered and presented, with recommendations. Then mature consideration can be given by the Government to the Commission's Report and it will be for the Government to decide how far it is practical to proceed. My Bill tries to make a positive move to achieving this state of affairs, which, it is hoped, will in due course provide justice for pensioners.
The present system of leaving it to each category of pensioner to fight their own battle with such weapons as they may have is degrading to them, and to the Government. The biennial review of Service pay and pensions under the Grigg system is an improvement, but it is still unsatisfactory because there is no consultation with the pensioners. No trade union would willingly accept a wage award from a body upon which it was not represented. That is precisely the position in which the pensioners are placed.
Our pensions for State employees do not compare very well with those in other countries. I was recently in Belgium and in discussing this state of affairs I found that the statutory provisions about pensioners appear to be far more liberal than those here. It is a salutory point for us to remember that other countries are more generous towards those who have worked for them. It is time that we ceased to push the pensioner about as if he was of no consequence whatever and time that we recognised our responsibilities.
753 The Bill seeks to give the public service and Armed Forces pensioner the right to have his case stated. That is all. At the moment he is judged as to the adequacy of his pension and related benefits by a tribunal which sits in secret so far as he is concerned. It publishes no evidence as far as he knows, and it announces a decision only when a pension increase takes place.
This is surely wrong. The pensioner is entitled to the right, through official machinery, to have his case fairly, openly and properly submitted, and to be assured that his case will receive just consideration. I beg every hon. Member here who has an open mind on the subject to let his heart and his conscience guide him. To those who have so far felt committed to reject the Bill may I ask for a last minute review? There are hundreds of thousands of pensioners and others outside this House who would fervently welcome this Measure. May I express the sincere hope that the House will not disappoint them.
§ 11.35 a.m.
§ Mr. A. H. Macdonald (Chislehurst)
It is a privilege to be called so early in a debate of this importance, and also to follow what I would describe as the dignified and moderate speech that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Frank Taylor). I want to assure him that I, too, could quote cases from my constituency, just as he could have done, and as many other Members no doubt could. I will have to disagree rather profoundly with him about the methods which he proposes for dealing with this problem, but before I enter into this disagreement I would like to say that I entirely endorse and agree with his motives in bringing forward this Measure. He is performing a great service in calling attention to this grievous problem. I was particularly interested to hear his references about the conditions prevailing in continental countries. Maybe we can learn from this, and I am sure that this information will be very useful to us.
It seems that the presentation of a Bill of this nature is becoming something of an annual event in this House, because I remember a similar Bill about this time last year. If it is to be an annual event, then so long as I have the privi- 754 lege of catching your eye, Mr. Speaker, I hope to make an annual speech, comprising a two-pronged attack. There is, first, a criticism of the Bill which, through its methods, appears to be misconceived, although I entirely approve of the motives. Secondly, there is a criticism of the Government, of a succession of governments for their long failure to act and render annual Bills of this kind unnecessary.
Although I accept the motives behind the presentation of this Bill, I cannot think that its methods are really desirable. I appreciate that the Bill takes this form because it is not practicable, in a Private Member's Bill, to introduce proposals for increasing taxation, and therefore a proposal for a periodic review is the next best thing. In my opinion, it is a very poor substitute. The concept of a review as laid down here implies some kind of negotiations. A number of retired officers live in my constituency, and some of them have written to me about this Bill. It is not appropriate that they should be required to enter into some kind of negotiation and make representations to this Commission. I do not see why they should be required to do this for something which I regard as a matter of right.
When the pension was first granted it was one of a particular value, and it is right that its value should be maintained. What I would like to see, as the hon. Member mentioned, is an absolutely automatic procedure for linking this kind of pension with increases in the cost of living. I would like to see the introduction of the concept of parity, and I would not be well satisfied with anything less than that. It is not possible to introduce that concept in a Private Member's Bill, and a review is the next best thing. But it is a poor next best, because even if the review takes place on the lines suggested the result will still be only a recommendation made to the Government, whatever their political complexion.
The hon. Gentleman objected to the Government being judge and jury in this matter. Even under the Bill, the Government would still be judge and jury, because it would be up to them to accept, or not to accept, or to amend the recommendations. I greatly fear that if the Bill were approved we might well think 755 that we had done something practical, but I take leave to doubt whether anything practical and constructive might have been done if all we did were to create a body which might make recommendations which the Government, whatever their political views, were not obliged to accept but could turn down altogether or accept only in part.
The concept of parity, linking the pensions we are discussing and any other pensions to increases in the cost of living, is the only thing which will deal fundamentally with this problem. The hon. Gentleman said that our object should be to tie pensions to the cost of living. Only the Government can do that. Therefore, I turn to the second prong of my remarks and to comment on the failure of successive Governments to deal with this problem. I say "successive Governments" because, like the hon. Gentleman, I do not wish to dwell on the political aspects, although I should like to say a little about them later.
When a pension was granted to the retired officer or retired civil servant, it was a pension of a given value. If its value has been eroded by increases in the cost of living, surely it is no more than reasonable that the drop in value should be replaced by increments of the appropriate size to restore the value of the pension to the value which existed when the pension was first granted. I cannot think that there is anything inequitable in that suggestion.
When first granted, the pension had a given value. Presumably, that was the value which the pensioner was thought to deserve and which the country reckoned it could afford. It is the original value of the pension which should count. If, due to inflation, the value of the pension drops, an increment in pounds, shillings and pence does not increase the pension in any sense; it simply maintains its value. I have never understood the argument which is sometimes put forward that we cannot afford the increments which would be required under this system. If we could afford pensions of a certain value originally, presumably we can continue to afford pensions of that value and to maintain them by increments in pounds, shillings and pence. I cannot see how it can be argued that we cannot afford it at some 756 subsequent time when it was conceded originally by the grant of the pension that we could afford it then.
The retired members of the forces fought honourably for this country, as the hon. Gentleman said, and we should treat them with proper dignity and have an automatic procedure. But many retired members of the Civil Service also fought honourably for their country, and some of them in my constituency, as I know, with distinction. Therefore, they should be treated with dignity.
The hon. Gentleman claimed that Members on the benches opposite have expressed general support for this proposal. I found a little doubt creeping into my mind when he said that, because it is a fact that when the Opposition were in office they concertedly turned down a proposal of this kind. I do not wish to dwell too much on that, because there is nothing dishonourable in a Member changing his mind in response to representations which may be made to him by his constituents.
However, I wish to dwell for a short time not on the past but on the future. I notice that on Monday of next week we are to have a debate on bureaucracy. We are now talking about retired civil servants who used to be members of the bureaucracy, and, with all respect, it does not lie in the mouths of hon. Members opposite to come here on Monday and to talk about swollen bureaucracy——
§ Mr. Macdonald
Very well, Mr. Speaker; I will bow to your Ruling. It seems to me a little unfortunate, however, that, in view of the criticisms to which I may not refer, the practical remedy proposed is this little Commission so that there is criticism during the working lives of these people but that when they retire all the hon. Members opposite propose is this second best little commission to keep them quiet until they are dead. That is not the remedy which I should like to see at all.
After I was elected, the very first deputation which came to see me was a deputation of retired civil servants. They asked me if I would support them in their claim for parity of pensions. 757 This was the policy of their association which they wanted me to support. It is the policy of my union and, therefore, how could I possibly refuse to support them in their claim? This is why, with regret, I cannot support the practical proposals put forward in the Bill, although I heartily support the motives behind them.
The Bill certainly recognises a grievous defect in our system, but I cannot think that the system of regular reviews is the appropriate remedy. I hope that when my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury replies he will say that the Government accept the principles underlying the Bill. I am sure that many of us have had constituency cases, not only on the pensions of retired civil servants and members of the forces, but on pensions generally and have put them to the Government and have been told about a review which seems to have been going on for a very long time and which, I understand, is still going on. I can hardly wait for it to be completed.
Although it is true that in recent years advances have been made in our social security provisions, we have made them bit by bit. Each review creates anomalies in, so to speak, the section next door who have not yet enjoyed the benefits of the review. Therefore, a general review is long overdue and is anxiously awaited. I wish that I were in charge of the review. I reckon that I could sort it out and put some practical principles into effect. But, failing that happy day, I hope that we shall hear something about the early date when the review is to be completed and about the inclusion in it of the pensions of retired civil servants and members of the forces, linking their pensions automatically with increases in the cost of living.
It has been the procedure that Governments of different political completions have at irregular intervals introduced Bills in order to make amendments and improvements in the pension arrangements for civil servants and members of the forces. I suppose that they are well enough in their way, but I cannot regard Measures of that kind as laws. They are administrative acts that come through the House and take the form of law, but as I understand it, a 758 law is something that is permanent and which lays down regular principles that do away with the necessity of such small administrative acts coming here again and again to be dealt with.
That is why I so much dislike the past procedure and why, with all respect to the hon. Member, I still feel a certain dissatisfaction with his proposal for regular reviews. It would mean a regular tinkering with the problem, but I could not be satisfied with less than some permanent legislation to deal with the problem once and for all and for ever, and so make it quite unnecessary for it to be looked at in this way again and again.
§ Mr. Frank Taylor
I have listened intently to everything that the hon. Gentleman has said, and so far as I can see every word he has said has been in favour of my Bill. If he has made any criticism, it is that the Bill does not go far enough. In the absence of any sign of movement from the Government benches——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We have every sympathy with the hon. Member, but he cannot make a second speech on his intervention. He must be brief.
§ Mr. Taylor
Would not the hon. Member agree that everything he has said has been in favour of the Bill, with the sole exception that it does not go far enough? Surely, that should be good enough for the present.
§ Mr. Macdonald
I would not dissent very much from that intervention. I am heartily in favour of the principle behind the Bill. It is true that it does not go far enough, and I understand the reasons for that. My objection to it lies in my feeling that if it were approved we might think that we had done something when, in fact, we would not have taken action to deal with what I regard as the fundamental flaw in our existing arrangements. That is why I cannot accept the Bill.
I hope that it is not unreasonable to recognise that there is a problem and to applaud the hon. Member for drawing attention to that problem, but to disagree with the methods he proposes because I do not believe that they go far enough, but he is absolutely right to draw attention to the problem. The more of us who can bring pressure on the Government to bring forward permanent 759 legislation the better I shall be pleased—[Interruption.] I have no shame in saying this. I said it last year, and if a similar Bill comes forward next year I shall say the same thing again—and again and again, Mr. Speaker, as long as I catch your eye. I want permanent legislation to deal with this problem for ever.
§ 11.53 a.m.
§ Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
The hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald) did not produce a logical argument. He said that he recognises that there is a very serious problem and that it should be tackled, but because everything cannot be done at once he is in favour of doing precisely nothing. I do not know whether that is a fair paraphrase of his argument, but that seemed to me to be what he said.
I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Frank Taylor) has again introduced this Bill. He made an excellent and commonsense speech, and I agree with every word of it. I hope that the Bill will get a Second Reading. I have a very strong suspicion that, for one reason or another, it will not get a Second Reading, but I hope that I am proved wrong.
I am sure that the Bill will be welcomed by hon. Members on both sides, because its objects conform with the aims and ideals in which many of us believe. I will give it my heartfelt support. It represents a small but important step towards fair dealing by the State towards its pensioners, and offers a safeguard to those pensioners at a critical time, when all our judgment is too easily distorted by short-term difficulties and when long-term problems are apt to be neglected, with detrimental results. The neglect or inequitable treatment of public service and Armed Forces pensioners has damaging implications, in the long term, for the country as a whole.
There is no argument about the hardship suffered by many of these people. That is agreed on both sides, and the hon. Member for Chislehurst clearly stated that as his view. Especially is this true among the elderly. In addition, there are too many anomalies in the present situation.
760 During the past two years there have been startling revelations about the extent of poverty in the country, side by side with affluence, in spite of the vast sums of money that are paid out through the social services and the general high level of income in a country one can simply describe as being a middle-class country. Some of these pensioners are among those in genuine and dire need. I do not want to give the House too many examples, but one or two will serve to underline the position.
The first example is that of a widow whose husband was a captain in the Seaforth Highlanders, holder of the Military Cross and the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Mentioned in Despatches. He enlisted in 1897, and was discharged in 1932 after 35 years' service. He died in 1955. His widow gets four guineas a week. That, Mr. Speaker, is terrible.
Another example is that of a Grenadier Guards man. He joined the Guards in 1907, was commissioned in 1915, and retired in 1932 after 26 years' service. He returned again to serve his country in 1939, and retired after the war as a lieut.-colonel with 34 years on the Active List. He is now 81. He commuted half his pension to educate his children, and he got no terminal grant. His pension is £7 10s. a week, and he has the gravest anxieties about his widow when he dies. Who can blame him?
There is the case of a Lieutenant, Royal Navy, holder of the M.B.E. and Mentioned in Despatches. He served on the lower deck from 1914 to 1930, when he was commissioned. He retired in 1949 after 35 years' service. He got no terminal grant. His pension is £6 10s. a week.
Those are just three examples from the hundreds that must have come the way of many hon. Members, and which we could so easily quote. They are fairly typical.
Since 1935, when the cost of living regulator that applied to pensions was discarded, many older pensioners have waged an unceasing battle against rises in the cost of living. The cost of living has risen under all Governments: I do not seek to make a party point of it, because all Governments have tried to 761 live to a greater or less extent with inflation. The point of the Bill is to alleviate anxiety by ensuring that pensions are regularly reviewed by an independent commission. The facts must no longer be brushed under the carpet. Other considerations may prevent the Government of the day from implementing all the commission's recommendations, but it is important that there should be public knowledge of any changes of pensions that are desirable, and the circumstances in which the changes are made or are not made should also be publicly known. That position would be achieved by the Bill.
We cannot be proud of Britain's record in this respect. Although the position is complicated by varying situations elsewhere, including the whole question of State retirement pensions, most countries of Western Europe—and the United States as well—either adjust all public service pensions to keep them in line with current rates, or tie them to the cost of living. Comparisons cannot be wholly accurate, because they bring in, as I have said, the question of retirement pensions, but the careful comparison I have made shows that, broadly speaking, we do worse by our pensioners than do most Western European countries.
Here, because our system has been subject to piecemeal remedies only, and has not been put on a proper footing—there being no provision for automatic and regular review such as the Bill would provide—our public service pensioners have to exert what little pressure they can on the Government to give them, at sporadic intervals, an increase that only temporarily narrows the gap between the value of the pension when first granted and its present value, and which only temporarily narrows the gap between their pension and the pension that someone with equal service gets who has most recently retired.
In my constituency there is a large number of these retired people living along the coast, in Rottingdean, which is just in the neighbouring constituency, Saltdean, Peacehaven, Newhaven and Seaford, and so on. Therefore, I get many letters on this subject and I feel very strongly about it. Indeed, I know how valiantly and carefully many of these people have to manage in order to eke 762 out their small incomes. Apart from the costs of food and fuel and transport and other necessities, rates have risen very sharply indeed, and all these factors have combined to make life extremely difficult for the public service and Armed Forces pensioners today.
I am not suggesting that this is a new problem. It has been a problem right through the years, I suppose. No Government have really tackled it satisfactorily. It is no answer to talk about the rise in National Insurance benefits and I hope that the Minister will not make too much of that. Many of these people are too old to qualify for National Insurance benefits anyhow. Nor can we glibly pretend that entitlement to a supplementary pension is an adequate or complete answer. Not only is it understandably repugnant to many of these people to seek this help, but in any case it provides merely the meagre income necessary for survival.
This is not good enough. Fair pensions in terms of purchasing power in relation to length of service and rank should be theirs as of right. That is what they feel—as of right. I want to emphasise those words. Under the terms of their employment part of their emoluments are deferred while they worked and are payable as pensions and it was deferred out of their earned income, and for tax purposes it is treated as such. To withhold part of their pay at one value and pay it later at a far lower one without adequite recompense amounts, frankly, to a swindle. Who will deny the validity of that view? It is very strongly held. Yet this is what we do.
I will give just one further example. A lieutenant-commander who retired on the pre-1919 rate of pension gets hardly more than half that of a lieutenant-commander who retires today, in each case after maximum service—I think, about 55 per cent. I could give many other examples as well.
There are also a great many anomalies, generally bearing most harshly on the elderly. Many hon. Members will agree. We have all known of many cases.
The Conservative Party, when in office, made a start in ironing out some of these anomalies. I make no bones about it; in my view, we did not do nearly enough. However, in 1956 we started doing more 763 for the longest retired, and in 1962 we gave a special increase for the over-seventies. That was something, a step in the right direction. Although we had every reason to expect that the present Government would introduce dramatic improvements in the Pensions (Increase) Bill in 1965 we were disappointed, but we on this side of the House were glad that the 1956–62 pattern was followed and that the same trend continued. I think that this was a good thing and entirely praiseworthy.
Many of us were particularly pleased at the time when we were told that greater improvements would follow. I quote from the then Financial Secretary:It is a holding operation—and we hope and believe that it will be non-controversial for that reason—until we are in a position to make bring forward proposals for a more radical solution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 1456.]Well, my hon. Friend is making a modest proposal towards a more radical solution, and I hope that it will get a Second Reading.
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury described the State's obligation towards its former employees in terms which I am sure express the view of the whole House. This was during the debate on the 1965 Bill. Let me quote a brief extract:We are responsible for the management of the public services and are, therefore, concerned to see that public service pensioners do not, as a result of inflation, suffer hardship—whether in absolute terms, if their pensions will no longer buy the necessities of life—or relative hardship, if their pensions will no longer give them the standard of living which they had earned through their years of service and to which they had reasonably looked forward when they retired."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 1352.]That is an admirable concept and we want to see it carried out. Far too many pensioners today have to worry about the necessities of life and have little hope of enjoying the standard of living which they had reasonably looked forward to in retirement.
I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I say a few words about broken promises, though I do not want to harp on them too long. He was admirably non-controversial on a subject which ought to be non-controversial, but controversy does arise, and will arise today if the Bill does not get a Second 764 Reading, and, therefore, I should like to take this opportunity of reminding the House of a few of the promises made.
The whole country now understands that a large proportion of the promises made in general at the last two General Elections, by the party opposite—I do not want to dwell on them—have not been kept, but other pledges were given which were far more precise and binding. The Government have flatly denied that a firm promise of parity for public service and Armed Forces pensions was ever made. It is enough to say that it would be difficult to find any public service or Armed Forces pensioner who is not confident that such a clear commitment was made by the party opposite. I have certainly never met one. Indeed, many thousands of public service and Armed Forces pensioners—tens of thousands of them—believed these promises, and many of them Conservatives, who, in the 1964 and 1966 elections, voted Labour. I do not believe that they will ever do so again.
Parity apart, two clear pledges were given to public service and Armed Forces pensioners in writing and speeches by the Prime Minister and other members of the Government. One promise was that their pensions would be linked to earnings or to some economic indicator. That was a definite promise. Secondly, it was promised that pensions would be kept under regular review. If the first promise cannot be carried out, the second promise can easily be carried out by passing the Bill. It was a promise made by the Labour Party.
During the election campaign, in October, 1964 the Prime Minister wrote to a constituent:Since we feel the position is a positive disgrace, we have persistently brought this matter up in the House of Commons and criticised the Government for its meanness. We have also called for public service pensions to be linked to some economic indicator so that pensioners are not only compensated for rising prices but also receive their full and fair share in rising national prosperity.The present Minister of Housing and Local Government, then Chairman of the Labour Party, wrote to the Officers' Pensions Society thatpensions will be linked to earnings.He went on—and I particularly want it on the record—You will know that we are favourably disposed towards the principle of parity and that 765 we would open negotiations with interested bodies to see how reforms along these lines can be introduced".No such negotiations have ever been opened.
§ Sir T. Beamish
Why not? We would like to know.You will know that we are favourably disposed towards the principle of parity".That is simple English and quite easy to understand.
So as not to take up too much time of the House I will not give a lot of quotations from pledges made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), pledges which were given with the full authority of the Government, and a pledge of parity. He himself was under that impression. I know that this has been denied by the Treasury. I am not very impressed by that denial, I must say.
The Prime Minister also gave a pledge on public service pensions, that they would bereviewed so that they would keep their full purchasing power instead of being eroded as they have been in recent years.In other words, he was saying that the Labour Party would do much better than we did, but it has not done any better. Here is an opportunity for the Government to take a modest step forward by allowing this Bill a Second Reading.
The Pensions (Increase) Bill, 1965, was essentially a holding operation. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury said that it wasessentially a holding Measure, awaiting the outcome of the fundamental review of social security."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 1353.]Can we be told today about how this review of social security is going? When shall we have an announcement about it? Will it cover this whole question of the public service and Armed Forces pensioners satisfactorily?
In the same debate in November, 1965, the then Financial Secretary assured the He use thatthere is a section at the Treasury which, with great skill, goes into these matters and is carefully watching the whole time the position of pensions in relation to other factors, in particular changes in the cost of living. As soon 766 as the gap has widened to a point when it is felt that the matter should be brought to the attention of Ministers, that is done."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 1461.]The truth is that, since 1945, these pensions have been reviewed on average only at intervals of about three and a half years. It is perfectly clear, therefore, that it has been of a haphazard character. Furthermore, reviews by this special section of the Treasury have been done behind the scenes, and any recommendations which it has made to the Government have not been made public. Indeed, one does not even know when a recommendation has been made, and sometimes pensioners have had to wait too long because there has been no regular review. The Bill would have the effect of introducing regular reviews.
That brings me to my last main point, because here I want to say a special word about Armed Forces pensioners. A Government concentrating on short-term measures, some of them taken in panic, do not always pause to consider their long-term effects, or to protect our real national assets. One such asset is the high quality of the men and women who serve the country in a civilian or military capacity. As a nation, we shall only continue to attract men and women of high quality and real integrity if the State behaves as a good employer towards them during their service and after they have retired.
All three branches of the Armed Services are now suffering from low morale and serious disruption following the four drastic cuts which have been made. This, naturally, colours their attitude to this Measure, which they hope to see passed.
In 1966, 72 per cent, of the officers who left the Services did so by their own wish before retiring age. Many young men do not always weigh all the pros and cons or study minutely their pension prospects when choosing a career. Old age seems a long way off. But when they see parents and grandparents living in penury, after long careers in the Services, and when in turn they are thrown out of their jobs in mid-career, it does not encourage others of the right calibre to enlist and follow in their footsteps.
However small our forces, we cannot afford to have disgruntled or second-rate 767 people. We must have the best. It is unrealistic to pretend that men in then-forties and fifties can easily find suitable alternative employment, and this is especially so for officers. Their age is against them. They are "too old at 40". The jobs to match their experience and qualifications often are not there, and, however willing they are to start at the bottom, those jobs are given to younger men.
During the years when there were no terminal grants, many officers commuted part of their pensions to meet immediate family commitments, to put a deposit on a house, or try to make better provision for their widows in case, as statistics show is likely, they themselves died first. Today, terminal grants have eased the position. But thousands of men with young families and heavy commitments discarded by the Services in middle age are facing great anxiety about the future. Their uncertainty hinders them in making wise decisions, and we all remember the bankrupt fruit farms and chicken farms that were a feature of axeing the Services in the past.
Most Service men of non-commissioned rank retire at a younger age and find it easier to fit into civilian life. On the other hand, civil servants usually retire at a greater age than most officers and are better able to enjoy their retirement and their pensions. Serving officers face a special problem.
At this point, perhaps I might say a brief word about the attitude of the Conservative Party at previous elections. So far as I know, we have never promised parity. It is something which can be achieved only by steady steps. At this moment, it would be cynical and irresponsible to promise it. Certainly, I am not doing that, nor could I, in any case, because I can only speak on my own behalf. None the less, the principle of parity is an ideal towards which we should all try to work.
In 1964, the Conservative Party made three promises which would have been honoured had we been elected. It promised to bring all public service and Armed Forces pensions up to the 1956 level, plus subsequent increases. It promised to make increases in pensions payable at 55 instead of at 60, as they 768 are now. Both those would have been important steps forward towards parity, because they would have helped in a sizeable way to narrow the gap. Thirdly, it promised to ensure that these pensions would be subject to regular review.
This modest Bill would give effect to the third of the proposals which we made. It would set up a commission to keep these pensions under continuous review and report to the Government at not more than two-yearly intervals. The commission would also, after consulting with the Government, investigate particular aspects of existing pensions and would provide a far better chance of dealing with some of the anomalies, of which I have given a few examples.
It is, therefore, a measure which must surely appeal to all hon. Members. I am reasonably confident that, by the end of this debate when all the arguments have been heard, the Government will welcome the opportunity of demonstrating to all public service and Armed Forces pensioners that, in spite of present difficulties and the sacrifices which the whole country is asked to accept, they will not be forgotten and, when times improve, using the machinery of this Bill, justice will be done to them and seen to be done to them.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I would remind the House that almost every hon. Member present in the Chamber is seeking to join in this debate. Reasonably brief speeches will help.
§ 12.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Palmer (Bristol, Central)
As one who has had a somewhat intermittent life as a Member of the House of Commons in the sense that I have represented three constituencies, I think that I can claim to have taken a considerable interest throughout my Parliamentary life in this matter of public service pensions. Because of that, I welcome the sincerity of the speech made by the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Frank Taylor).
There was, however, one aspect of his speech which I am sure was not intended, but which seemed a little unfair. He suggested that trade unions and staff associations regarded the claims of their retired members as being somewhat secondary to those of their members who are at work. That has not been my 769 experience, and I speak with some knowledge of the position. For two years, I was President of the National Federation of Professional Workers and very much in touch with affairs of staff associations in the public service, such as the National and Local Government Officers' Association and the Civil Service unions. I know something of the feeling within my own union and staff association which, although a small body, is nonetheless fairly important one in its own field, the Electrical Power Engineers' Association.
In addition, the National Union of Teachers and other teachers' organisations take great interest, as everyone knows. It is not fair to say or even suggest that those of us who are active in the work of unions organising what are usually called professional or staff employees, with pensionable employment, are indifferent to the claims of our retired members.
Apart from where our hearts naturally take us, there is the sheer logic of what happens these days to memberships of trade unions and staff associations. People are living longer and one finds an increasing proportion of members within such a body are retired people for it is not usual for a staff association or trade union to ask its members, when they leave their employment, to leave the union or the association. Nowadays, they are a very strong voting force within trade unions and staff associations and, naturally, they expect the responsible executives to pay attention to the claims of the retired members.
Two problems have been touched on this morning.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the point about staff associations and their retired members, I would like to ask a question. When staff associations are negotiating for pay increases, do they, at the same time, negotiate for pension increases for their former members?
§ Mr. Palmer
The hon. Gentleman has a good point. They would like to, but the usual difficulty is that pensions, as such, are non-negotiable in the sense that, speaking of the electricity supply industry about which I know something as typical, the pension schemes are contributory occupational schemes. The funds out of which the pensions are paid are 770 not the trading revenues of the employers. Therefore, much as the unions would like to negotiate for their retired members as well as their present members, pensions do not come within the terms of reference of the negotiating bodies.
But trade unions, and staff associations particularly are finding that increasingly they are making an impact by argument because they have more pensionable members, and reason upon the superannuation thinking of the employing bodies. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the average union would dearly love to negotiate for its retired members as well as its current members.
I want now to come——
§ Mr. Michael Hamilton (Salisbury)
I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman's speech with great interest. My only regret is that the Treasury is not represented here. I wonder whether the hon. Member can persuade his own Government to see that the Treasury is represented.
§ Mr. Palmer
It is physically very difficult for me to make a speech in the House and, at the same time, go out and find a Treasury Minister. However, I imagine that this will be attended to in a moment.
The point I was about to make was that there are two issues in the matter of pension values once people have retired. First, that pensions should ideally keep pace with changes in the cost of living. In other words, they should retain what is implied in the terms of any pension scheme, namely, their purchasing power.
Another equal issue, which was referred to earlier, is of a man retiring with a pension related, because of the provisions of his scheme, to the pay that he was receiving when at work. However, after he has been retired for about 10 years, he may well find that his successor in the same job is enjoying a pension expectation, because of the effect of inflation and the increase in wage and salary levels in the meantime, at a considerably higher rate.
Therefore, it is not just a question of adjusting pensions according to changes in the cost of living; it is equally important to consider the view that pensions should be adjusted according to changes in the current level of salaries and wages. 771 Obviously, that latter is a much more difficult and expensive thing to do, but both points of view are under active consideration these days by those who are responsible for die leadership of trade unions and staff associations.
I note that the Bill confines itself to… all pensions and retired pay covered by the Pensions (Increase) Acts and by Royal Warrants.Why the sponsors of the Bill with their good intentions, which I fully accept, did not cover the nationalised industries I do not understand. They could have done so in the drafting of the Bill, had they so wished. However, they have, in fact, exempted a very wide range of those who work in the public services.
I think that they accept the fiction which was contained in an Answer given to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond), who was then speaking for the Treasury, when we debated the last Pensions (Increase) Act, 1965. I have taken his words from HANSARD:The nationalised industries have full power to make their own arrangements for pensions and increases in pensions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November 1965, Vol. 720, c. 1354.]Yet in truth, when proposals for pension changes are brought forward for nationalised industries, they are all subject to approval by Ministerial regulation. In the case of electricity supply, the sponsoring Minister is the Minister of Power. In going to the Ministry of Power, the proposals go to die Treasury.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
On a point of order. It is now about 10 minutes since we have had a Treasury spokesman present. It seems both discourteous to the House and yourself, Mr. Speaker, and particularly the hon. Gentleman who is addressing the House, that his voice should not be heard by the Minister who is intended to be here to hear the argument. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.]
§ Mr. Speaker
This is interesting and I have heard something like it before. However, it is not a point of order for Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. Palmer
I join with the hon. Lady in wishing that there was a Treasury Minister here, because I am anxious myself to put one or two points to him.
772 I was making the point that it is a fiction that the pension arrangements in the nationalised industries are not subject to Treasury control.
The present position in the electricity supply industry—I think this applies to all the nationalised industries with the possible exception of the railways—is that, when a Pensions (Increase) Act is approved by Parliament, it is the practice of the management to apply increases to their own pensioners in line with the increases granted by the Pensions (Increase) Act. This permission has to be obtained from the sponsoring Minister under the Regulations laid down under the Act and it is usually granted after discussion.
However, there have been one or two curious incidents. There was one incident in 1955, I think, when we had a Conservative Minister, a Member of the other House, Lord Mills. I cannot remember the name of his spokesman in this House. I think that it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), but there may be some hon. Members opposite who were present in that debate. It was discovered that such was the control of the Treasury over pension arrangements in nationalised industries that permission had been granted for the ex-local government pensioners in electricity supply to have the increases, while the other pensioners who, had it not been for nationalisation, would have been under the supervision of private companies, were not to have the increases.
After a debate in the House the Ministry relented, but this was an example of the very strong influence that Treasury Ministers can have over pensions, even in nationalised industries. My relevant point here is that it is a great pity that the opportunity presented by the Bill to make changes does not extend to the question of improvements in pensions in the nationalised industries, which it could easily have done.
The central proposal of the Bill is to set up an independent commission. In this respect, it is quite inadequate to meet the situation. The present situation needs a much more radical solution. What makes me curious about the proposal to set up a commission is the sight of so many Conservative Members expressing a keenness to establish a new 773 bureaucracy—because the Bill would set up a small bureaucracy. Presumably the commission could not function without officials, and in the matter of making pensions reviews it would need a fair collection of expert officials who could stand up to and argue with the Government and Treasury experts.
It is curious that at a time when many hon. Members on this side of the House ere beginning to wean themselves from bureaucracy, hon. Members opposite should propose a new if small instalment of it.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
Surely the people who will be concerned could be the same people as those who deal with pensions increases Bills that we have from time to time?
§ Mr. Palmer
In that case we would not be making any change. The experts who advise the Government on Pensions (Increase) Bills are Treasury officials and, therefore, Government servants. If the Commission is to be independent, as is proposed, it must have its own independent duplicate officials. If hon. Members opposite think about it they will see that my argument has considerable substance.
The Bill proposes an independent commission, but nobody has considered how it will get its evidence or check it, and how the strength of argument of the commission is to be made of such a quality that it can sustain itself in a discussion with Treasury officials.
Apart from that, the proposal is a weak one, and a poor one. It rejects the possibility of achieving the most radical solution to the difficulty of inadequate pensions, especially in relation to purchasing power. The hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) should have studied an Answer which his right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) gave in 1962, when the proposal was brought forward before. The right hon. Gentleman was speaking as a Conservative Treasury Minister and argued against the idea, saying that it would constitute only "another link in the chain" and another obstacle to achieving a common practice in respect of pension improvements.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
Did not my right hon. Friend the Member 774 for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) say that he would be willing to consider possible ways in which the question of pensions could be considered from time to time?
§ Mr. Palmer
All Governments consider the question. I am not here to defend Governments in this matter. On public service pensions, I have had reason to criticise Governments of the Conservative Party and of the Labour Party. All Governments claim that they review the level of public service and Armed Forces pensions from time to time by means of Pensions (Increase) Bills; that is nominally regarded as a method of review. Presumably, when the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames was talking on the occasion to which I have referred he was speaking from what was, and unfortunately still tends to be, a standard Treasury brief.
In my view, there should be a radical solution to the problem—and in this respect I would like to claim the verbal adherence of all the main political parties, because the view that I wish to put forward is having more and more support from staff associations and trade unions. Pensions schemes should be so arranged, in the first place, by their financing, that pensions increase automatically after retirement. It is not just a question of arranging them according to changes in the cost of living or in salary values, after there has been a long examination of such changes; the proper final solution is for the pension to have an increasing value as retirement proceeds.
If we are to do that we must get away from the idea that occupational pension schemes are an act of charity, either on the part of the Government or of beneficient employers. Many public service schemes are contributory schemes in which the employer directly invests, and in these days employees, especially salaried staffs, are more and more conscious of the value of this investment and what it amounts to and does not amount to. They tend to look upon pension schemes as a matter of personal investment, and contrast what they get from a pension scheme with what they might get if they made their own arrangements. Insurance schemes often contain endowment principles and 775 provisions, and there is no reason why such arrangements could not be part of normal occupational pension schemes.
As for the other public service schemes—whether they be Armed Forces schemes or pay-as-you-go Civil Service schemes—they amount to deferred pay. The pension is simply deferred pay. The man who takes a job in the Armed Forces or in public service, to which he usually gives his working life, he knows that because there is a pension at the end the salary that he is paid is adjusted to take that fact into account. For this reason the radical solution—and the big failure of this Bill is that it does not provide for it and could not provide for it—is so to arrange schemes that pensions will increase after retirement.
If someone tells me that this is not possible I can only answer by saying that an increasing number of private enterprise schemes now contain a built-in provision for the pension to increase after retirement. I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury return to the Chamber, because I want to put a point to him which concerns his Department. In a sense the built-in arrangements for pensions to increase after retirement have already had Government approval. For arrangements of this kind to rank for Income Tax concessions it is necessary that the provisions of the relevant schemes should satisfy the Inland Revenue. I am told that quite a number of schemes for improving pensions after retirement are now being put forward in the private enterprise sector and they are being approved by the Inland Revenue for tax concession purposes. In other words, they are approved pension schemes.
I find curious by contrast, therefore, the Government's attitude to these matters in the public service and, in particular, in the nationalised industries. We have been told that the nationalised industries are supposed to make their own arrangements, but, in fact, they are not able to do so because of the terms of the nationalisation Acts. When similar schemes are put forward in the public service, they are looked at rather coldly by the Government.
About two years ago, the staff trade unions in the electricity supply industry 776 put before the Electricity Council a scheme for arranging staff pensions so that, after retirement, the pension would steadily increase by a fixed percentage per annum. I understand that it would have been the first major scheme of its kind in the nationalised sector of the economy. It was approved by the Electricity Council, and discussions are at present going on between the Electricity Council and the Ministry, which, in effect, means the Treasury, as to the feasibility of the scheme.
The scheme is perfectly viable financially. There is no doubt about that. However, I have a shrewd suspicion as to what the outcome will be. The discussions have been going on for a long time—I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary is aware of them—and I suspect that the answer will be that the electricity supply industry will have to wait for the general review of social security. If that is the case, I can only say that, as we have been waiting——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not pursue that matter in too much detail but will come to the Bill.
§ Mr. Palmer
I accept your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I touched on the matter because I consider that the Bill ought to have gone further so as to include within its scope pensions paid within the nationalised industries, as they are equally public service pensions.
The point I am anxious to make to my hon. Friend is this. Why is there that contrast between private industry and publicly owned industry in the matter of cost of living compensating arrangements under pension schemes? The only explanation can be that the Treasury is anxious to keep everything within the public sector moving in line. But that is not a satisfactory or a rational answer.
There is the further point that we ought to be told what is proposed for a new Pensions (Increase) Bill. I have already explained why I believe that the proposal in the Bill is largely unworkable and, to be effective, would require an additional bureaucracy. Moreover, it does not provide a radical solution.
In these circumstances, if the Government propose to advise the House to reject the Bill, when may we expect a 777 new Pensions (Increase) Bill? The last Act was passed over two years ago. At that time, assurances were given that a new system would be brought in as soon as possible to take the place of these intermittent reviews by the unsatisfactory process of Pensions (Increase) Bills. All Governments have given that promise.
One supposes that the Government are not ready. In addition, because of the country's economic difficulties, there may well be problems of resources. I do not know, but I suppose that that may be used as an explanation. In that case, and more especially in the light of devaluation and its effect on living costs, the case for having a interim Pensions (Increase) Bill fairly soon is surely strong.
May I say, finally—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I appreciate that many hon. Members opposite are anxious to speak on the Bill, but they will recall that those who spoke earlier appealed to hon. Members on both sides to take part in the discussion, and I am sure that they would not wish to monopolise it. As has been said, this is not a party question so they ought not to complain if I have gone in some detail into a matter of great interest to many public service pensioners.
I accept the good intentions of the sponsors of the Bill. This is a matter on which we can all make common cause. However, after the best objective examination which I can give to its provisions, I believe that the mechanism proposed is poor and that a much more radical solution is urgently needed to help a hard pressed section of the community.
§ 12.46 p.m.
§ Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
I shall be brief, because I could hardly avoid repetition if I did otherwise, having spoken on this subject now for twelve years. I did not add my name to the Bill, not because I did not wish to be a sponsor, but because I felt that others would like the opportunity to do so.
I need not remind you, Mr. Speaker, that from its very origin this matter has not been a party matter. I have the references here. I shall not give them, but I remind you, Sir, that in 1956, when I was fortunate in being able to play a part from the back benches 778 in bringing about a pensions increase, as I had the honour of being a member of a certain Committee, this very question was raised, and we had the strong supporting views of the late Mr. Chuter Ede, of the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), and, by no means least, of the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. Horace King).
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. That may have been so, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman must not pray in aid the support of Mr. Speaker.
§ Sir L. Heald
I am sure that you would want the history to be accurate, Sir. It was agreed that the hand-to-mouth system which we did a lot to remedy in that Bill would continue unless we had some permanent arrangement of the kind now proposed. That was in 1956. I can add to my list, because in 1964 the last Chancellor of the Exchequer asked this question:Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that there is a growing feeling that hon. Members should not have to importune Ministers on this sort of matter every time? … Does not the Financial Secretary think that it is time that the Government took into account the growing arrangements existing in the public services and elsewhere. … Is he aware that there is a strong and growing feeling that there should be a similar arrangement for a regular review of the pensions of public servants?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1964; Vol. 695, c. 202.]Perhaps one of the reasons why the right hon. Gentleman is now Home Secretary is that he might have found it rather awkward to reply to this debate. As everyone knows—it is greatly to his credit—he was closely concerned for a good many years with police matters, and it was that interest which had brought him into the matter.
When we came to the General Election, I and many others thought that back benchers had at last succeeded in getting across to both Front Benches that they ought to have the courage of their convictions, get away from what the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) called the standard Treasury brief, and do something about it. We gave a pledge that if we came back we would introduce some sort of permanent system, including a review, and the present Government did the same. Therefore, we felt at that time that we really had got the point across. Why have not we done so?
779 As I have said several times, this is not a party matter; it is a fight between backbenchers on both sides of the House and the Treasury Ministers. They cannot escape from their straitjackets. It is right to remind the Financial Secretary of the position his predecessor left him in. In 1965 the then Financial Secretary got out of the matter by saying:As the House knows, a comprehensive review of the social services is being undertaken. It would accordingly have been quite futile for us to have tried to make a radical review of the system …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 1450.]What has happened about that?
In 1967, he told us much the same thing; he told us not to be in too much of a hurry as the Government would do something about it some time. In 1965, he had said that the whole thing could be done by a section at the Treasury, and my comment on that in the 1967 debate was that one could imagine no more perfect description of this slipshod machinery. I was supported by the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner) who said:the staff associations in the Civil Service and other trade unions representing civil servants tried through the Trades Union Congress to impress upon the Treasury that it really was time that this old practice was abandoned, the practice by which, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) reminded us, it was left to civil servants to draw the attention of the Treasury to the existence of a widening gap."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1967; Vol. 740, c. 930.]Back benchers on both sides of the House agree that something should be done. It is notable that the only two hon. Members opposite who have spoken so far both said that they agreed with the fundamental principle; their only objection is that the Bill does not go far enough. Therefore, what I said has been demonstrated to be true. All that is needed is a little more pressure from all sides. We know that back benchers are influential people today and can get things done, and this is where they should be able to do it.
Much as we should like to listen to one of the famous, brilliant and lengthy performances by the Financial Secretary, I hope that in this case he will confine himself to the one word, "Yes".
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Horner (Oldbury and Halesowen)
I very much appreciated the opening speech by the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Frank Taylor) in presenting the Bill. The non-partisan spirit in which the problem has been presented to the House will be echoed from this side of the House.
But I regret that the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) is not here. He spoke feelingly about the position of the senior officers of the Armed Forces and quoted at length from various statements by people who now hold high positions in the Government. I must point out on behalf of hon. Members on this side of the House that in 1963, the last year of the Conservative Administration, I was a member of a body representing retired public servants, both in the Civil Service and local government, who told the Treasury that there should be new arrangements for the review of public service pensions and that machinery should be established which was designed to ensure that there was a regular, periodic review.
We suggested, somewhat modestly, that that period should be three years, and that there should be an attempt to relate the new arrangements to movements in living costs and improvements in living standards generally. The factors which must be taken into account in any revision of public service pensions should not wholly relate to living costs. We all welcome the general uplift of standards which is going on throughout society, and therefore it is not merely a question of relating the pension to statistics based wholly on retail price indices, and so on.
Although they may not have been put so eloquently or with such force, the points made in the debate today were put to the Tory Government in their last year. The answer was that they had no intention of pursuing such a course. The Trades Union Congress, the channel through which the representations were made, was also informed that it was not the Government's intention to introduce a Pensions (Increase) Bill. I do not point this out in any partisan spirit but in order that the record should be put straight, to establish clearly that, 781 if the party opposite wanted to do this before leaving power, some very good arguments were presented to them a year before I hey left office by the people qualified to speak on behalf of the retired civil servants and public servants.
§ Mr. W. H. Loveys (Chichester)
The hon. Gentleman is ignoring the point made so well by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) about the three very definite election pledges made by this side of the House.
§ Mr. Horner
That was not the point in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech, with which I was dealing. I shall turn to it in a moment. If my point has not got home, I had better emphasise it. I was saying that the Conservative Government, in their last year of office, were presented with arguments by people elected by retired civil servants and pub-lice service pensioners to deal with the very problem the House is now considering.
It has been suggested that this is becoming a sort of annual procedure, that we are making our annual speeches. If so, nobody must accept blame for that except people who have sat on the Government Front Bench and made various statements over the past year or two.
I beg the Financial Secretary not to regurgitate the arguments that we have heard in the past. I think that the House is now prepared to accept this, but I do not think that the Bill itself is the way. The people who would form the body that it is proposed to set up would be lads doing a man's job. The Government must do the job. I do not believe that any Government would accept the establishment of an extra-governmental or extra-parliamentary body of the kind envisaged in the Bill.
The Government have told us time and time again that they have in readiness plans which will ensure regular reviews. We ought to hear how far the plans have gone. This is a matter which bridges both back benches. We are all deeply concerned with these problems which have been put to us as Members of Parliament and in our past associations and services. So I think that we back benchers are entitled to hear from the Government how far examination of the 782 problems has gone. We earnestly hope to hear something concrete today.
I urge the Financial Secretary to bear in mind that a growing number of public servants are desperately anxious and concerned, because it is two years since there was a pensions increases Act. If another pensions increases Act is in the offing, I hope it will be accompanied by constructive proposals and by an undertaking that the Government will carry out the promise given to the Trades Union Congress and others who have been in contact with the Treasury in the past three years that we shall get away from the unsatisfactory arrangements of the past which have so often produced injustices, belated action and inadequate adjustments, that the Treasury will live up to its promises by giving us the advantage of regular reviews, and that those reviews will be based on other considerations than simply cost of living indices.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
May I assume from what the hon. Gentleman is saying that he favours the principle of the Bill and, therefore, that he will support it and help to amend it in detail during the Committee stage?
§ Mr. Horner
No; I think it is a bad Bill. I have a very long standing association with the public services, throughout my adult life, and I do not believe in leading members of the Fire Service up the garden path. I do not believe that the proposed commission would do the job. We must be blunt. I am used to speaking bluntly to people and used to having people speak bluntly to me.
We have had from the Government an undertaking that they will introduce measures to remedy some of the worst deficiencies of the present arrangements. It is up to the Government. I hope they will do something very shortly, if not today. It is two years since the last pensions increase Bill came before the House, and so the House is looking forward to the measures that we have been promised will be put into effect. We are entitled to have a clear and honest exposition from the Government Front Bench today as to how far the Treasury have taken the matter. We have been told for some years to expect revised arrangements. I hope that we shall have a workmanlike and sensible revision. I 783 do not believe that the Bill is a workmanlike and sensible proposition, and I would never support it.
However, I acknowledge my gratitude to the hon. Member for Moss Side for presenting us with the opportunity to remind the Government of the undertakings that they have given, and I earnestly hope that before the debate finishes we shall be told something so that we can go back to our constituents and service associates and say, "Yes, advances are being made. We are getting away from the old discredited arrangements which have been so strongly condemned by both sides of the House, and the Government's undertaking will be made good."
§ 1.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)
Perhaps I may, without presumption, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Frank Taylor) upon introducing the Bill and express the hope that it will have a Second Reading. I am sure that the House as a whole will feel that the way in which he presented his case was admirable. He stressed particularly that this is a matter which cuts right across party lines. He asked particularly that feelings of political antagonism should not be aroused. I shall endeavour to ensure nothing I say conflicts with his wishes.
The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner) and other hon. Members opposite have failed to appreciate the cogent point that my hon. Friend made, that a review body of the kind proposed would have the advantage of regular reviews and the advantage that the reviews would be seen to be carried out. Not one hon. Member has suggested that these are not very important advantages.
I think it important to put forward the view of the Opposition on the Bill, although it is a Private Member's Bill and private Members must make their own decisions on it. I think it relevant to quote a statement made in the Conservative Party document "Putting Britain Right Ahead", published in 1965, which was reaffirmed in our 1966 manifesto:Service pensions should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that they maintain their purchasing power.784 In our manifesto we went on to pledge ourselves, if elected, to institute two-year reviews of these pensions to make sure that they maintained their purchasing power. We also made further proposals with regard to bringing pre-1956 pensions up to the 1956 level with the appropriate increases since then. This Private Member's Bill goes as far as a Private Member's Bill could to implement what was a generally felt view on the whole subject, and, therefore, I congratulate my hon. Friend and support him in what he has said in putting it forward.
I would stress that the Bill is not restricted to considering only cost of living increases. It allows other factors to be taken into account. That is a very important point. Also, what has been rather overlooked in the debate so far is that provision is made in the Bill for examining particular anomalies which exist in public service pensions. I do not think that anyone would dispute that those anomalies exist. There is a case for an impartial examination of them so that a view representing all the public service pensioner associations and others can be put forward by an impartial body and presented to the Government. This is very important——
§ Mr. Palmer
Would the hon. Gentleman deal with the point that I made, with which none of his hon. Friends have dealt, that a Commission of this kind, to be effective—it is very expert work—would need a very considerable staff?
§ Mr. Higgins
I will certainly come to that point later. I would merely observe at the moment that one must look at this in the context of the Government's other proposals, such as the proposal that the Prices and Incomes Board should keep under continuous review Armed Forces pay and pensions. The proposal that my hon. Friend is suggesting is a very great deal more economic than many of the measures which the Government are adopting, which are open to other objections. I suggest that my hon. Friend's suggestion is a very economic way of attaining his objective and that the Government's inferior proposals could be more expensive.
I stress that my hon. Friend's proposals are very moderate. I want to emphasise particularly my hon. Friend's point that 785 he is not proposing that there should be an automatic link between the cost of living and the level of Forces' pensions but, rather, that the review body should collect views on the subject regularly and should then present them to the Government of the day. The Government of the day and Parliament would retain control as to deciding on the date when the increase should be made. The important thing is that the pressure should build up. I stress most strongly that the question of the cost of living is of grave concern to the constituents of all hon. Members.
As to the effect of inflation, this group of people constantly find that their real standard of living is being eroded and, at such time as the Government of the day give them an increase, their standard is somewhat restored, only to begin to decline once again. These people never know from month to month, almost, when the process of erosion is likely to be offset. As a result, they experience a great deal of uncertainty and, not suprisingly, their various associations feel obliged constantly to bring their plight to the attention of hon. Members.
It would surely be far better to adopt my hon. Friend's suggestion and to have a regular review, thus providing the opportunity for regular representations to be made. The fluctuation in die real standard of living of public service pensioners would be bad enough if they were all moderately well off. However, many of them, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) pointed out, are in very straitened circumstances indeed. Therefore, the present irregular procedure is all the more unsettling and causes them, in their years of retirement, a great deal of concern and unnecessary stress.
The second respect in which the Bill is very moderate is that it does not imply the acceptance of the concept of parity. It is well known that there are very considerable objections in principle to parity. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes said, this has always been made clear by hon. Members on this side of the House. The principle of parity would mean that existing public service pensioners should receive the same pension as that applicable to their rank or grade today. But the adoption of the principle of relating existing pensions to the pensions of those most recently re- 786 tired runs into the difficulty that those retiring at the moment in a particular grade, although nominally they have been doing the same work as those who retired earlier, may well have been doing very different work. The current rate of pay and pensions for any grade is inevitably affected by recruiting considerations, current responsibilities, qualifications and so on.
I think it is quite wrong for hon. Members opposite, who would go far further than my hon. Friend does in this moderate Bill, to say, "We think that you should go much further. You should provide for an automatic link with the cost of living, on the one hand, and go all the way on parity, on the other. However, we cannot go as far as supporting the Bill". This is in many ways a contemptible attitude. I hope that those hon. Members who would go further than my hon. Friend or myself will feel in honour bound obliged to support this very moderate Bill. This ought to be clarified at this point in the debate. I very much hope that hon. Members on both sides will feel able to support the Measure.
§ Mr. Palmer
It is a perfectly logical argument that we are advancing, namely, that the Bill is going in the wrong direction and would put another impediment in the way of getting what we want.
§ Mr. Higgins
I do not see the slightest logic in that. If the hon. Gentleman reads the speech he made, he will find that he did not argue that point in his speech. He should accept that this proposal would introduce a greater element of certainty and would relieve these pensioners of stress, because they will know from day to day whether a review is likely to take place, when it is likely to take place.
I turn to the reply made in the debate on 3rd February last year by the predecessor of the Financial Secretary. On that occasion a similar Measure was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr). The then Financial Secretary pointed out that such a body would be advisory only. This is so. However, the fact that the review would be regular and that people would know that it was being carried out is surely a matter of great importance. So is the question of publicity, because one 787 of the problems which people in this kind of circumstance face is that often the matter goes on from week to week, from month to month, getting worse and worse, and it is difficult for them to generate sufficient pressure for them to bring their reasonable claims before public attention and the House of Commons.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
Would not such a procedure also make it much easier for back benchers to exercise pressure on all Governments if we had the Commission's recommendations?
§ Mr. Higgins
I agree. This is a most important aspect of the proposal. This is one of the elements which should commend it to the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer). He said that pressure could be brought to bear by back benchers. It is very difficult to do so at any given moment of time. There is always a case for putting off the review a little longer. Once there has been a review, it is all the more easy to say that something should be done about it. My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth is absolutely right.
There is a question which I ought to ask the Financial Secretary at this point, because it is now over two years since any action was taken on this matter. If we are to be assured that the matter is under continuous review, will he tell us when it was last discussed with him, or with his hon. Friend who is responsible, and when we are likely to have a decision on it? Otherwise we shall have no idea of whether anything is happening behind the scenes. I hope that the Financial Secretary will tell us what proposals the Government have.
I come to my final point, because I am very anxious not to take up too much time. I know that my hon. Friends have many constituency cases which they wish to bring to the attention of the House and wish to make a number of further points which have not yet been raised. I want to make one point with regard to the suggestion that this is a matter which should be referred to the National Board for Prices and Incomes, which seems to get lumbered with any problem which the Government find unpalatable and on which they are anxious to delay action. It is important that it should be appreciated that this is not 788 the type of matter which can be legitimately dealt with by the National Board. The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen expressed the hope that the Financial Secretary will not regurgitate earlier arguments. I agree with the hon. Gentleman at any rate as to that. It would be very unfortunate if we were treated to the same tired and extremely thin argument that we heard last year. In view of my suspicion that a new argument about the National Board will be trotted out, I think it right to anticipate it.
If I may say so with respect, my hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side was inaccurate in one respect. It is no longer true that members of the Armed Forces who are still serving members can be assured that there will be a relevant and regular review, of their pay and pensions. It seems from the Government's reference of these payments to the National Board that there is no longer to be a regular review on the basis of the Grigg proposals. On 13th December last my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) pointed out that the Government of the day had not gone along with this Grigg proposal on the remuneration both of those still serving.
The Grigg Report said:It is, however, essential that inflation should not be allowed to eat away the real value of Service emoluments, and we therefore recommend:—(i) that there should be an automatic biennial review of pay which should take account movements in civilian earnings over a range of occupations to be determined by agreement between the Treasury and the Service Departments.And at the bottom there appears this comment by the Government:The Government agree that Service pay and pensions should be reviewed regularly at intervals of no more than two years.So far as we can establish it—and it has been difficult to establish—the Government have now thrown that overboard and are to rely on the Prices and Incomes Board. It is not something which can legitimately be passed to that Board. Clearly, the right thing is to maintain the Grigg procedure on pay and enthusiastically to support the kind of proposals about pensions being made today.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
Will my hon. Friend make it clear that the pensions review to which 789 the Grigg recommendations referred is a review of pensions on leaving the Services initially and not to older pensions, which is what we are concerned with today?
§ Mr. Higgins
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I was about to make that point, but my hon. Friend has expressed it far more cogently and probably more briefly than I could hope to do. The Grigg procedure does not cover people who have already retired, but is concerned with pensions only at the moment of retiring. That is another reason for supporting this Bill.
I hope that we shall not have the Financial Secretary's usual amiable answer saying that he agrees with everything we say but that the powers that be above him have told him that he is quite mistaken in his view and he therefore feels obliged to do what they suggest. I hope that we shall not have that kind of amiable reply at which he is so adept and which is a technique which I frequently admire. I hope that he will give a sympathetic reception to the Bill and will feel able to suggest that it has a Second Reading. It covers a very serious and important matter involving a great deal of human anxiety which arises not only from the fact that pensions are eroded by cost-of-living increases, but also because there is uncertainty about at what stage the matter is likely to be reviewed by the Government, and even whether it is likely to be reviewed at all.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Harold Lever)
I should like to join with other hon. Members, and I am sure that I am expressing the opinion of both sides of the House, in congratulating the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Frank Taylor) on having the good fortune to win so high a place in the Ballot and the perspicacity and sense of purpose which made him select this subject and bring it once again before the House. I echo the compliments which he has received on the moderate and yet firm way in which he has presented the interests of pensioners today.
I shall not restrict myself wholly to the Bill itself. So far as it is proper for me to make more general comments, I shall do so, but I hope that hon. Members will bear in mind that we are dis- 790 cussing whether we should give the Bill a Second Reading. I hope that, when I have commented on that, nobody will doubt whether I share the views of both sides of the House about die need to do something about the problem of public service pensions, with which I shall deal in more detail later. We must first address ourselves to our task today, which is to decide whether we should give the Bill a Second Reading.
It is all very well for hon. Members on both sides of the House—and I sympathise with them—warning me not to regurgitate the arguments which have been used before. I am supposed to listen to arguments which have been repeatedly used before and which I have read in my preparation for this debate, but not to use the contrary arguments, however logical, which may have been used in dealing with the subject matter of the Bill. I must do my best, although I will not claim to any special originality in the presentation of the Government's case.
The House has already had outlined to it, not only in admirable form today, but on other occasions, the serious nature of the problem of public service pensioners, and we are all aware of it in its many manifestations. The hon. Member's remedy is to appoint a body to review the situation at two-yearly intervals, not, as the hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) pointed out, a body with power to do anything, not a body which would provide any automatic increase, even if it recommended it; that would still be left to the Government and the House.
However well intentioned, the hon. Gentleman's proposal is to reproduce in public activity a body which already exists in government and which constantly keep this situation under review. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh, but the fact is that it is kept under review not only by the Government. Frankly, these are not particularly esoteric or obscure facts. They are facts which are kept under review by most hon. Members, most of whom know all the fundamental facts.
What sort of remedy is it which exclusively relies on bringing into being another fact-finding body? We do not need a fact-finding body to prove what is wrong with the present system and we do not need a fact-finding body to 791 tell us of the hardships in which so many of these pensioners have to live. These facts, alas, are all too well known and having some body or other raising and arguing this matter every two years, and expressing opinions about it, would have no more effect than the House of Commons regularly expressing opinions about it, as so many hon. Members do.
The first fatal flaw in the Bill is that it sets out to do something which is not fundamentally relevant to the problems of these unfortunate people, and anyone who suggests that any significant step forward would be achieved by reviewing the facts at two-yearly intervals, annually, or in any other way, under-estimates the knowledge of not merely the Government, but the House of Commons; for the facts of this matter have been thoroughly canvassed and are thoroughly well known.
§ Sir R. Cary
If this internal scrutiny goes on continually, thus obviating the need for what the Bill suggests, why does not the House hear something from the Vote Office about the conclusions and findings of the reviews?
§ Mr. Lever
Even in his Bill the hon. Member for Moss Side does not ask for any such continuous process. He asks for a review every two years, or something of that kind.
But hon. Members know from past debates that the Government have made their views known at intervals. It is not enough for me to say that I advise the House not to accept the Bill and that, while I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for offering an opportunity to hon. Members to express strong views on the subject, the Bill's proposals are not of any significant advantage in dealing with the problem, not merely because the hon. Gentleman has been inhibited by the rules of order from urging an increase in pensions, but because the proposals in the Bill are merely to find out facts when the finding of facts is not the problem.
Setting up a body to review this problem would be a decision not to take a decision. Moreover, everybody must see that if we are to get an increase or a change of system in dealing with public service pensioners, this is a job to be done by the Government, as my hon. 792 Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner) rightly said. What we have to have is the Government deciding on workmanlike and sensible provisions in a systematic way to deal with the difficulties of public service pensioners when, as seems to be an inevitable process of our times, inflation tends to erode the value of pensions.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
The charge that the hon. Gentleman is making is that this will simply be one more fact-finding body. It is stated quite clearly in the Bill, in the Preamble and in the Clauses, that it should make recommendations.
§ Mr. Lever
It would find facts and express opinions. Frankly, neither the finding of facts nor the expressing of opinions, because that is all that the recommendations would be from such a body, are really relevant to the problems that we have to face here.
We do not need facts or opinions on the subject, because we have the facts and most people have their opinions. What we really need is a system, as opposed to hand-to-mouth methods, of increasing funds from time to time, when the Government sees the effects of erosion on the pension. I thought that the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) was absolutely right in protesting about the present system. What is fundamentally wrong about it is that it is a hand-to-mouth system. It does not provide any organised systematic basis upon which any Government determines what alterations in pensions should occur. This Bill would make no improvement in that respect.
The only improvement, if it can be called improvement, that would occur would be in respect of the process of fact-finding and opinion-forming taking place within the Government. It would instead take place in some external Commission. To me, and every hon. Member is entitled to his opinion, that is not an advantage but a serious disadvantage. I reject entirely this all too common tendency, when Governments have responsibilities, to shelve them by setting up mechanisms, by trying to off-shoulder duties and decisions which are essentially for the Government to take.
§ Mr. Lever
I am not allowed to range as widely as hon. Members opposite apparently wish to invite me. I would be happy, whenever it was relevant, to discuss any application of the doctrine that I am now formulating. I see the duty of providing justice to public service pensioners as being essentially a duty devolving upon Government and requiring direct government decision. It cannot be shouldered off to external bodies. But the facts are already known and expressed opinions already given.
§ Mr. Higgins
The hon. Gentleman has put forward a most cogent argument against the Prices and Incomes Board, and it is not irrelevant because Armed Forces pensions—when a person is retired—are covered. He is therefore quite in order in answering the remarks of my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Lever
It depends which area we are dealing with. I am not saying that a Government should not, in certain circumstances, attempt to get facts which are not known. I am speaking of this particular Bill. Its effect would be to gather facts already known and express opinions that we have heard from many quarters and are hearing from many quarters all the time. [Interruption.] I am asked: how do we know that the Commission would find out no new facts? The answer is because the facts of the pensioner situation are very fully known to the Government and to most hon. Members.
What are the Government doing about the problem? I am sorry if this sounds like a dissertation, and if hon. Members have heard it before, either in this or in any other debate, I cannot help it. It must be said that we are in a situation where it is not facts and opinions that are needed but resources, which we can apply to particular purposes. That is why this is essentially a decision for Government, because only Government can exercise the responsibility of balancing the different claims of the community upon the public purse. It is idle to assign it to a narrow body which would naturally Dome back with a very sympathetic report about the conditions of pensioners, and recommend increases, or tell us what we already knew about the decline in the value of pensions in the intervening two years, and so on.
794 What we must have is an appraisal by the Government of the available resources, and the priority, as arising in relation to these particular claimants, upon public resources. No one should deceive themselves into talking, as it were pre-war guff today. Today the question is not whether we shall give something to someone, whether the Treasury are too mean to do it, and whether we ought to organise a sort of united popular front on the back benches of both sides against the Treasury. The Treasury is not limiting the amount of resources that are being distributed. The Treasury's function is to ensure that the total of those resources is not exceeded in the paper demands which we give out. That does not add to the amount of resources. It merely adds to the mischief of inflation, from which we have already suffered, and of which this problem is one aspect.
§ Sir T. Beamish
The hon. Gentleman is talking as though setting up this Commission would take the decision out of the Government's hands. It would do nothing of the sort. The Government would still have to decide on their own priorities, and the hon. Gentleman knows that perfectly well.
§ Mr. Lever
That is why the Commission has no meaning. The only kind of commission with meaning would be one with power. A Commission without power in this sort of situation, where the facts are known and opinions have been expressed, is not important. What we need is for the Government to assess, and they do their best, what resources they have available, and how serious is the priority of the claim of the public service pensioners at any given time on those resources.
This is no different for this Government. It was the case with previous Governments in recent years. Their problem was one of resources, not of facts or opinions. The problem is who should get the first claim on these resources. As the buying power of these pensions is eroded, every Government, including this one, have to get to the point where they say: "This erosion has reached a point where we must act and allocate some resources to the public service pensioners by a further increase". We have long passed the days of pretending in this House that either party, on this sort of 795 issue, has the exclusive prerogative of being the repository of the social conscience of the nation.
I am sure that every hon. Member has spoken with real sincerity in an anxiety to achieve improvement. It must be faced that at this time every improvement we make for one person can only be made at the cost of something being taken from another. It is precisely this kind of decision which is for the Government. It is a very hard decision; and it is quite idle, although very tempting, to gang up against the Treasury. The Treasury does not decide the amount of resources available for pensioners. The Treasury merely applies the logic of decisions taken by Government as a whole as to the allocation of the resources we have.
If we were hoarding resources, releasing too little spending power, we might be criticised; but no one has suggested that that is the situation. What is needed is not facts and opinions but a judgment about priorities over claims upon resources. How do the pensioners stand in this respect? We have said that if further action appears justified before the social security review is completed, we shall take what action is needed, if necessary in the form of a further increase measure in the traditional pattern, without waiting for the result of the review.
This is the short-term remedy to the situation—the remedy which Governments propose when they see that the erosion of the buying power of these pensioners has reached a point where action simply must be taken. Governments have relied on these hand-to-mouth, ad hoc statutes to deal with the problem, and at present, until we have the social security review, that is all that I can promise.
I am asked when this will be. I must give the background of the Government's information on this subject. I have to say quite frankly that in assessing the priority of resources, i.e. have we reached a point where we have to put this claim ahead of others, we are of the view that the point has not yet been reached where a further Bill could be justified.
The last Act came into effect on 1st January, 1966. The effective date of the previous Act was 1st January, 1963. Between those two date, the cost of living 796 rose by just over 11 per cent. The 1966 Act gave increases ranging up to 16 per cent. In other words, between the two Acts, there was a rise in the cost of living of 11 per cent, and the 1966 Act gave increases which considerably exceeded the cost of living increase which had taken place since 1st January, 1963. Since it took effect, the cost of living has risen by a further 6 per cent. only. Moreover, over 90 per cent, of public service pensioners also draw the National Insurance pension, or will do so when they reach retirement age, and they stand to benefit from the up-grading which took effect last autumn.
Those figures do not support the claim for early action in our present circumstances. In some abstract situation of ample resources, ample means and easy circumstances, nobody would be happier than I to announce a Government decision to upgrade these pensions at the earliest possible date. But, on the facts which I have given, the Government must hold the view that, in our present circumstances, we cannot promise any further increases in pensions; and it is not likely, I am afraid—it would be misleading for me to suggest it—that a case will be established for further increases in public service pensions this year. Beyond that I cannot go.
However, I repeat the pledge that we have this matter continuously in mind and that we are continuously weighing up, in terms of priorities, the claims of public service pensioners against those of other claimants with a view to bringing in, if necessary, another Act.
The hon. Member for Worthing claimed that I have a habit of agreeing with the Opposition, but regretting that the claims of my political superiors exercise an intimidating effect on me, which I openly avow to the House, and which prevents me from taking action which I believe to be correct. Such is not the case. I have made my position clear. I am as sympathetic, and honestly sympathetic, as any hon. Member, but I must make it plain that in the circumstances I could not personally recommend the degree of priority for an increase which would take effect any sooner than I have indicated.
What of the general situation? I do not want to introduce any harsh note of 797 party political controversy into a debate which has been free of it.
§ Mr. Horner
Would my hon. Friend clear up the issue about regular reviews and the abandonment of the procedure for Pensions (Increase) Bills? Did I hear him aright when I thought that he said that pension increases must await the announcement of the Government's general review of social security?
§ Mr. Lever
I was about to come to that point.
Hon. Members are aware that transfer from one side of the House to the other tends to produce an impatient perfectionism on the part of those who are governed. On the other hand, it tends to produce a well-briefed complacency on the part of those who were formerly critics of the Government. That is probably a necessary feature of any democratic system. But I cannot pretend to be an admirer of any Government in the delay which has taken place in establishing some permanent system for dealing with this problem.
It is certainly high time that something was done to establish a permanent, systematic way of dealing with it. Nothing is less attractive than to have an invitation to importuning, of the kind that we hear in the House and outside, because of the irregular system which we have and which depends on ad hoc legislative provisions of the kind I have described, when the cost of living has risen so much that we feel we should intervene.
However, the Government have rightly taken their stand in saying that we could not possibly announce a permanent system until we have had the results of the social security review. Hon. Members may ask when that will be. It will certainly be in time so that we may expect legislative action to take place in this Parliament—that is to say, in this period of Government. The Government will, in the ordinary expectation, legislate on the findings of the social security review. That being so, we must await that review before we can possibly envisage a permanent structure to deal with public service pensions. I cannot see that these pensions are essentially absolutely apart from other social security and pension arrangements. They should all be looked at together.
798 I should like, finally, to say a few words about inflation in relation to these pensions.
§ Mr. Palmer
Would my hon. Friend deal with the special position—I think that it is relevant—of the occupational pension schemes in nationalised industries which are indirectly subject to Government control? When these industries propose to make increases on a regular basis out of their own resources, why should the Government accord different treatment to them as against the treatment accorded to purely private enterprise schemes?
§ Mr. Lever
My hon. Friend wants me to go in some detail into what I was dealing with generally. When the Government evolve and legislate for a system to deal with this problem on a permanent, systematic and acceptable basis, they must have regard to the general social security arrangements which prevail—not only those initiated directly from public funds, but those applying to the nationalised industries and those private industry arrangements which, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, get a certain amount of tax encouragement and require Government approval and a certain sacrifice of revenue by the tax system in order to support them. The Government could not conceivably at this time act separately on this matter until they were able to review the whole question of social security arrangements.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen will not regard this as a mere regurgitation of an old argument. It is an absolutely compelling argument. Whatever has been said in the past, we are fairly proximately awaiting the outcome of the social security review. It is not as if I am talking of some distant horizon. We expect it in the not too distant future and we will expect to evolve comprehensive legislation on it. It is not something put off for an indefinite future date. I believe that that is the way in which the House would want the problem to be dealt with, not by a mere mechanism which repeats in inadequate form what at present exists.
We are dealing with a problem which is one of the by-products of the inflationary erosion of currency values which we have seen over the last 20 or 25 years. 799 I am not sure that any Government of any complexion has fully taken it on board that what happens in an inflation is not that wealth goes out the window, but that one person's buying power goes out of his pocket into another man's pocket; and very often the pocket from which it goes is the pocket of the worthiest and most devoted public servants in the community and it goes into the pockets of far less meritorious people.
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
The hon. Gentleman made out a case for priorities in Treasury resources. Is he now saying that what the Treasury gives to sport, the arts and foreign aid should continuously be put in front of what is given to public servants?
§ Mr. Lever
I do not know the purpose of the hon. Gentleman's intervention. Is he really saying—it is a perfectly reputable point of view, though not one that I would be anxious to espouse—that until we are able to meet in full the optimum demands of pensioners, old people, sick people, and the like, the Government must not spend a penny on the sports, or art or overseas aid? If that is what he says, I can only say that it will be a very drab and dull country that must await all the artistic and cultural trimmings until we have satisfied to the full all the more fundamental bread-and-butter needs of society.
§ Mr. Lever
The hon. Gentleman can tell my priorities, because mine are those of the Government of which I am a member. I therefore know perfectly well that in a society with whose bread-and-butter fundamental requirements we are by no means yet satisfied, it is still necessary, in the meantime, to make some allocation to sports, to the arts and to cultural and philanthropic activities of all kinds. It would be a dreadful, dull and demeaned country that had to postpone all these things until it had satisfied to the full all material needs.
§ Lord Balniel (Hertford)
I apologise for not being able to attend all of the 800 debate. The Financial Secretary said that he expected the outcome of the social security review at a time for which he used the rather vague phrase—"the not-too-distant future". He will appreciate that we have waited a very long time. Can he give an assurance that comprehensive social security legislation will be introduced in the next Session of Parliament?
§ Mr. Lever
I cannot give an assurance on the exact timing. All I am telling the House, and I am doing so in good faith and in complete sincerity, is that we are expecting the outcome of the social security review in the not too distant future. I would not like to pin down the time. If the noble Lord wants me to be a little more exact, without pinning me down, I may say that I would hope that it would, perhaps, be within the next 12 months, or so, or not too long after that. But I cannot commit myself to a date for the social security review to be completed—it is a very comprehensive review. Nor can I commit myself or the Government to a date when appropriate legislation will be formulated and put before the House. All I am telling the House is that the social security review is about to be completed.
The social security review was not brought into being in order that we should read the result and take it away for light reflection. We put it in hand in order to bring about comprehensive social security legislation, and this we intend to do. When we do it, the House can be well assured that we will bear well and firmly in mind the claims of these pensioners, who have served their country and the public very faithfully for long periods for, in many cases, not very adequate reward. They certainly have a very strong claim for early attention by us when the review is completed and we are able to undertake the necessary comprehensive legislation.
§ 1.53 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)
The House has enjoyed listening to the Financial Secretary—perhaps because he has a rather chaming and coaxing speaking voice—but what he has said will give cold comfort to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Frank Taylor). As I, too, have the privilege of representing Manchester, I 801 should like to congratulate my hon. Friend on his humane, clear and informative speech. One of the most likeable things about the House of Commons is that it has a short memory for a bad speech but a long memory for a good speech. My hon. Friend made an excellent speech, and I hope that his future contributions will be of the same texture.
One of the grievances felt on both sides of the House is that hon. Members hear nothing at all about the review that goes on internally in the Treasury and within the economic departments of the Government. It ought to be within the compass of the Government occasionally to lay a paper at the Vote Office so that we may know some of the considerations and findings. Last year, the hon. Gentleman's predecessor in office said:I can assure hon. Members that the constant review of public service pensions is a reality. I was somewhat sceptical—as I often am when assured that a matter is constantly under review—but when I came into my present office and assumed responsibility for these matters, I discovered how much of a reality that review was.The Financial Secretary rather denied that flowing from that constant review was sufficient material to be given to us through the Vote Office on which we could share in the opinion-forming——
§ Mr. Lever
I do not like to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he said that I denied that there was such a continuous review. In fact, I confirmed that there has been such a continuous review, and I have just given him the basic facts that the review has thrown up and which influence Government in deciding when they may act.
§ Sir R. Cary
That is when the Government arrive at that point, but they are not there yet, and from that statement I can extract only cold comfort.
I remind the hon. Gentleman that on 3rd February last hs predecessor in office also said:I am sure that the House will understand that no Government could bind themselves automatically to accept the recommendations of a body of this kind—".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1967; Vol. 740, c. 982.]I remind the hon. Gentleman that precedents do exist. When our own emoluments and pensions were to be reviewed, did we not delegate to the Lawrence inquiry work that we should have done ourselves? It was on the recommenda- 802 tions flowing from that inquiry that this House acted, and the present circumstances of hon. Members—and I speak as the trustee of the Members' Contributory Fund—were based wholly on those recommendations. There are, therefore, precedents on which the Government of the day could delegate to an outside body a review which should not only be directed to opinion-forming but should be entitled to make recommendations to a Government.
The Financial Secretary commented on the statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) that this matter was not so much between the proposer of the Bill and the existing Government of the day but a continuing running battle between back benchers on both sides and the Treasury. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman heard that most miserable exchange that took place in Ian Trethowan's television programme "Change or Decay", in which Lord Butler and Lady Sharp—known to so many hon. Members as Dame Evelyn Sharp at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government for very many years—talked on this very subject? Hon. Members who heard that programme were intrigued by the opinions expressed by Lord Butler condemning the present machinery of Government. Deep down in that machinery of Government there is need for urgent and vital reform.
Lord Butler, one of the great mandarins for the past forty years, who knows the instruments of Government, condemned the inadequacy of the machinery of Government, and he sweepingly condemned it as being a cause of administrative and legislative delays. They spring from the present inadequacy of the machinery of Government, and that was confirmed by Lady Sharp, a well known and famous civil servant. I think, in view of that, and until the reform of that machine comes about, this battle between back benchers on both sides of the House and the Treasury is likely to continue.
I have the privilege of sharing common ground with my hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side in representing the city of Manchester, and I share it, too, with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. So, in conclusion, I would quote a letter from that city. My hon. 803 Friend did not produce any constituency matters from the city in support of his Bill. Of course, the evidence flows in from all quarters of the country. However, I should like to quote just one short, cogent letter:I wish to draw your attention to the ever decreasing value of my police pension. I retired from Manchester City Police on 16th May, 1930, after 26 years' service, on a pension of £208 per annum. An increase of the pension brought it up to £450 at present My rent has increased for the same house from 7s. 3d to 32s. 9d.While the pension doubles the rent quadruples.I was born on 30th April, 1883, so do not enjoy an old age pension. My wife has a retirement pension in her own right of £4 14s. per week. We manage to live, but replacements of furnishings and household goods is a great strain. Through no fault of my own, except that I was born too soon, I am not entitled to an old age pension. I ask you to further our cause in Parliament.Those last words, "I am not entitled to an old-age pension"—because of his age—will be of particular interest, I am sure, to my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins), who, on 16th February, will be bringing another Private Member's Bill to this House to bring into the national scheme something like 175,000 of our citizens who have no old-age pension whatsoever because they were too old to come under the Act and so are placed in a special category. The public service pensioners and the Armed Forces pensioners, who are among the 175,000, are a special category and a small minority. Not only have their pensions been eroded, but they were too old to join the national scheme, and they draw no national pension whatsoever.
I commend to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that when he and the Government consider the financial provisions of that Bill which is to be brought before us on 16th February by my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing they will give warmer and better consideration to that Bill than they propose to give to this Bill this afternoon.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ Mr. W. O. J. Robinson (Walthamstow, East)
I confess that when I came in at the opening of the debate this morning I hoped I might catch the eye of the Chair, but as speaker after speaker rose I became increasingly hesitant about seeking 804 to do so, because I am one of those with the perhaps rather old-fashioned idea that one ought not to join in a debate unless one has something new to say.
I am, however, rather tempted to pursue my original intention by the remarks of the hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) who, I thought somewhat unkindly and contrary to his usual disposition, chided hon. Members on this side by saying that if they expressed sympathy with the object of the Bill it would be wrong of them, perhaps hypocritical of them, then to vote against it. It is because I want to make my own position in relation to this Bill clear, a position which, I am sure, is shared by many hon. Members on this side, that I shall break self-discipline and join in the discussion.
Let me, first, join with all those hon. Members who have expressed their congratulations to the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Frank Taylor) first upon his having been fortunate enough to secure a place in the Ballot, secondly, upon his having chosen a subject of such great human interest and of so much concern to people in the country, and thirdly, upon the persuasive and reasonable way in which he advanced his case to the House.
I want to say, as every hon. Member has—and I make no excuse for doing so—that I have every sympathy with the general object underlying this Bill. It is obviously to ensure that the value of pensions, of all descriptions, shall not be eroded by increases in the cost of living and by other circumstances with the passing of time. I echo the view which was expressed by an hon. Friend of mine when he said that he hoped the Government would not stick strictly all the time solely to questions of the cost of living but would so devise machinery that it would be possible for pensioners not only to have reimbursed to them increases in the cost of living but to be able to share in the rising standards of living of people at work.
It is not necessary, of course, for every hon. Member to say that he knows of cases of hardship. Each and every Member undoubtedly from time to time receives letters from pensioners, not only public service pensioners, about the difficulties and hardships which are occasioned by the time lag between an 805 increase in the cost of living and reimbursement to them by a rise in their pensions. I look forward, as do all hon. Members, not alone on this side, I am sure, to the Government's implementing their proposal that pensions as a whole should be geared to rises in the cost of living and to the increasing standard of living.
I always listen with very great interest to my hon. Friend representing the Treasury. He will forgive me, I am sure, if I say that I was a little disappointed that he could not announce that there would be the introduction of this new method of calculating the pensions within a short while. I accept his arguments and the facts which he advanced, which suggested that there was no great need for the introduction at this stage of a Pensions (Increase) Bill because the increase in the cost of living since the last rise in pensions had been comparatively—it is only a question of comparison—low.
I take comfort, too, in the fact that he indicated, I believe, that the Government hope certainly to produce the review of social security which is taking place, and with which this must be linked, during the lifetime of this Parliament. May I tell him that this to me is cold comfort, because I hope it will be introduced well within the remaining three years this Government will be here, but I realise the difficulties, and I think he will know, as, I think, most of my hon. Friends do, if not hon. Members opposite, that I am normally a patient man, and I do not and will not share in the expression of impatience about certain matters as my hon. Friends have done. Many of us who have taken that attitude will, however, be a little impatient if we have to wait as long as three years for the automatic adjustment of pensions.
Reference has already been made to the fact that, really, this Bill—very much of it, if not its entirety—was introduced last year. I have read the debate which then took place. It was almost a year ago to the day from today. I had the privilege of being called to speak on this subject, because it was of considerable interest to me. I was, perhaps, more fortunate on that occasion in being called immediately after the hon. Member who was submitting that Bill, a very much more comfortable position to be in than 806 to be called at this late stage of the debate. I must say, in looking at the debate of that time, that I think that every argument which could conceivably be canvassed in support of that Bill or this was then advanced.
I was tempted to repeat the arguments which I advanced against the Bill on that occasion—and I emphasise the words "against the Bill"; they were not against the principle involved in it—when I made some play with the actions and statements of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in power. However, that was a year ago. Since then I have gained another year's experience in the ways of Parliament, and I hope that I am that much wiser.
I have come to realise that there are certain actions and views which are almost endemic to the Treasury Bench, and that it is an occupational disease for the Treasury to feel unable immediately to introduce these sorts of Measures. It always promises them in the future. However, I want to take this opportunity of telling my hon. Friend that I shall probe and push for the implementation of the proposals that he has in mind.
In examining the Bill, one has to consider two questions. The first is whether it is right that, in the adjustment of pensions, one should give priority to particular classes of persons and pensions in advance of others. The second matter is whether the machinery in the Bill is necessary, adequate and proper for implementing its proposals.
On whether or not it can be argued that there is some justification for the public services and the Armed Forces having priority when it comes to any review of pensions, the telling argument was advanced by means of an interjection that, if the Government accepted this proposal, it might be an example to others to use it as a lever to press for reviews in other directions. However, I am wondering whether other people who are waiting for a review of their pensions would regard it as right that the public services and Armed Forces should take priority. There are many others who are receiving occupational and even National Insurance and social security pensions who feel that their difficulties are greater than those in the Armed Forces.
807 Another argument which might be advanced is that, in the public services and Armed Forces, mechanism already exists for increasing pensions, and in that respect I would refer hon. Members to the Pensions (Increase) Acts. The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) suggested that Governments had been tardy in bringing these forward, and I thought I heard him say that there had been an interval of something like 3½ years between them. However, when I last spoke on this subject, I was able to do some research, and I found that Pensions (Increase) Acts have been introduced on as many as six occasions since 1952. If my arithmetic is right, that works out at an average interval of 2½ years, and not 3½.
It is said that there is always a degree of uncertainty about the introduction of a Pensions (Increase) Bill, and that is right. We must wait for the Treasury to decide that the time is right or that there is a necessity for the introduction of such a Bill. But does that uncertainty deter hon. Members who feel that the Treasury is being tardy from using every pressure to persuade the Treasury that it ought to take action now, rather than in the future? I do not accept that back bench hon. Members are frustrated by the fact that changes in pensions depend upon the introduction of a Bill by the Treasury.
I pass now to what I regard as a more important part of the Bill, and I want to consider whether the machinery devised in it is desirable or necessary. In that connection, I want to make a suggestion, from which I hope that the hon. Member for Moss Side will not dissent, that this is a procedural or machinery Bill, and that it is right that we should look at the machinery and the procedure which is laid down. I suggest to the hon. Member for Worthing that he cannot criticise the Government if we recognise and accept that an illness exists and then disagree with the medicine which it is suggested should be applied to remedy it.
It may be of some comfort to hon. Members opposite to know that I have a phobia about increasing the number of departments in Government and public administration. Having been in public administration for many years, I am extremely reluctant to agree to any increase 808 in establishment, and I would not agree to it unless and until I was satisfied that the work which the new body was to be asked to undertake could not be done equally satisfactorily in other directions.
I agree that what the proposed commission would have to decide is not questions of opinion. It would not have to express opinions about whether or not it would be nice for pensioners to get increases. It would have to examine facts over a wide range of circumstances and report to the Government, and, necessarily, its review would have to be factual.
As my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary has pointed out already, there is abundant machinery in the Treasury and other Government Departments for determining whether or not increases have occurred in the cost of living which would justify larger pensions.
It must be borne in mind that this is not the first review body to be set up. There have been a number of others, not all of them achieving the success which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite hope will come from this one. It is said that if an independent review body reported to the Government, they would be under greater moral pressure to accept its recommendations. I know that my hon. Friend will forgive me, but I find it difficult to associate moral pressure with the Treasury, whoever happens to occupy the Government benches.
It is also said that it would enable back bench hon. Members to be armed with much heavier sticks with which to beat the Government, and that, if they say this respectable review body pointing the way to the necessity for an increase, the Government would have to accept it.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
My hon. Friend does not associate the Treasury with morality, and perhaps some hon. Members do not associate us with compassion. Would he say that morality is concerned with writing the cheques, or ensuring that there is money in the bank to meet them?
§ Mr. Robinson
I thought that I had made a mistake in introducing morality into the debate, because I am not an expert on it. But it is very nice to be high-minded at someone else's expense, I agree, and it would be very difficult for my hon. Friend to say that he wants to 809 help pensioners and to find that the bank balance would not permit it. I agree, that that would be a futile exercise.
It is also suggested that the presence of the review body and the findings of fact which can be established elsewhere would enable back bench hon. Members to press harder and compel the Treasury to accept its recommendations. However, I do not accept that there is any restriction on the efforts or energies of back bench hon. Members, and I am always delighted to see the importuning of back bench hon. Members on both sides against the Government.
I am not sure whether it was today or previously, but another argument which has been advanced is that pensioners would feel much happier if they knew that an independent body would be looking into these questions. The old tag has been used that this would enable justice to be done and be seen to be done. It is becoming rather a hackneyed phrase, and I think that it is in grave danger of being over-played, because some people are more concerned with seeing justice appear to be done than ensuring that it is done, and I know that my hon. Friend is determined to see that justice is done when the opportunity arises and when it is appropriate.
I am not sure whether it was included in the Bill which I had the opportunity of discussing last year, but one provision in this Bill to which reference has been made by only one hon. Member so far is that which concerns the right of the Commission to investigate and inquire into the effect of Statutes upon individual cases.
I view with alarm the amount of work that will be created if every pensioner who feels that for some reason or another, through maladministration, he has not received the entitlement which is his due and is thereby unable to apply to this independent body. I feel sure that, with the operation of Parkinson's Law, any demand of that description will lead to a corresponding demand for an increase of staff in the Commission, which I would be reluctant and unwilling to see.
There was another opportunity for this idea being implemented. We now have a Parliamentary Commissioner who has the duty—rather restricted in my 810 view—of examining and reporting upon cases of maladministration. I remind hon. Gentlemen opposite and my hon. Friends that we decided, although we welcomed generally the appointment of the Parliamentary Commissioner, that we would take out of his hands any question dealing with action concerning superannuation or other personal matters connected with the Armed Forces or the public service. The House having refused to allow the Parliamentary Commissioner to intervene in this sphere of operation, it seems to me there is no reason why it should be implemented through another Commission which, though perhaps responsible to Parliament, has not so much direct access as the Parliamentary Commissioner.
In conclusion, I agree entirely with the sympathy underlying the introduction of the Bill. But, with all sincerity and after close examination of the problem, I cannot accept that the machinery designed for the purpose is either a necessary or good form of machinery. I rest content—at least for the moment—with the assurance which has been given by my hon. Friend, that the Government will implement as speedily as possible provision for automatic review of pensions in the light of increasing cost of living and other circumstances, not only for the narrow area of public service and the Armed Forces, but for everyone in the country.
§ 2.22 p.m.
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
I shall be very brief. I endorse what has been said by so many of those non. Members who have welcomed the Bill, because I unhesitatingly welcome it. My noble Friend, Lord Wade, when in this House, introduced a similar Bill in March, 1962. Its purpose was to set up a Pension Review Board to review public service pensions every two years. Unfortunately, probably one of the most consistent things about the House is the fact that this Bill, or a Bill like it, stays permanently on this side of the House. Like a baton that is passed from party to party, it remains resolutely on these benches.
I want to take up one or two of the points which have been made from the Government side, in particular, by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever). He thought that we 811 did not need facts in this field. He produced the theory that the Government have to govern by the allocation of resources and priorities. I think that he over-idealises the pattern of Government decision-making. I do not think that Governments sit down and make rational judgments on the basis of facts To a large extent, all Government decisions are made according to the strength of pressure groups.
What I want to ensure is that the balance against retired public servants is redressed. I believe that a commission set up to argue for them and make definite recommendations would ensure that their pressure group was strengthened.
The hon. Gentleman has also suggested that there is no need for this commission, because the Government are constantly reviewing Public Service pensions. My view is that this commission, by working in public, would save these people from the feeling that they were being crushed underfoot by inflation.
Concerning the point made by the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. W. O. J. Robinson) that there was no need for these things to be carried out in public, the only Government which works in secret is bad Government. If it is a good Government, it does not need to shun publicity.
The Liberal Party—I am not trying to make party points—was the first of the three major political parties to come out in favour of the principle that public service pensions should be upgraded regularly to restore their purchasing power. This Bill would provide machinery whereby this could be done. I agree that the Commission would only make recommendations, but it would increase pressure upon the Government to implement those recommendations.
There are two very important principles which are not incorporated in the Bill, and I fully understand why they could not be incorporated. The first is the principle of parity, which has been discussed by some hon. Members already. It is fundamental that all public servants should receive the same pension for the same service regardless of the date of that service or the date of their retirement.
812 The second is the principle of dynamic pensions; that pensions should be upgraded in line with current salaries of public servants.
I realise that no private Member could get away with introducing either of those principles into a Private Member's Bill. But I also believe that both these principles should be incorporated into any future legislation which the Government may have in mind. I hope, too, that these principles will be introduced as part of that review of the social services which we are constantly being promised. Neither of these principles could be introduced in a short time. It should be part of a seven-year period of changeover in our social security system.
We believe it is wrong that public service pensioners should have then standard of living eroded by inflation without any protection. I want to see this Commission able to stand up for them and to be seen to be taking their part. I also want to see occupational pension schemes incorporating the dynamic pension principle. Some of these schemes already do this. In the private sector there is an ability to be far more flexible in relation not only to the cost of living, but to existing salaries. I want to see the Government having greater flexibility in their own public service sector.
In the United States of America, public service pensions increase automatically with an increase in active pay. There is no reason why we should not do the same thing here. Most European countries, although they do not go that far, ensure that public service pensions rise automatically with the cost of living.
I hope that the Bill gets a Second Reading. I share some of the doubts that have been expressed by other hon. Members on this side that it will do so, but I cannot see how the Government can refuse to accept something which does not even bind them to action. This commission will merely recommend. It will not force the Government to take any decision, but it will strengthen the pressures that this group of people are able to exert on any future Government decisions. It is merely a recommendation.
It is to bring forward an unbiased statement of the facts concerning public pensions and public pensioners. After all, 813 many of these people, like those on fixed incomes, have no trades unions to ensure that they are not continually left behind in the rush to keep up with inflation. They need this commission.
I cannot see why the Government, who, after all, are constantly telling us that they want to act on the best possible professional advice, should refuse to set up a body which will provide them with just that.
As for those hon. Members opposite who have explained their reasons for not supporting the Bill—explanations, I must admit, which I find extraordinarily inadequate—of course, the Bill does not go far enough. I have never yet seen a Bill which went far enough. That excuse can always be made for not supporting a Bill. The Financial Secretary said that the commission would not mean anything because it would not have power. It would mean a great deal to the public service pensioners concerned, and they are the people who count. It is for their sakes that I hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
I apologise to the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Frank Taylor) for not being present when he moved the Second Reading of his Bill. However, I have been present throughout most of die subsequent debate. The House should be grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing this matter forward, because it has enabled us, not only to examine the specific proposals contained in the Bill, but also to consider the general problem of pensions as it affects all pensioners and not merely those with whom the Bill is concerned.
We had a similar debate about 12 months ago. I spoke during that debate. I have not substantially changed my opinion since then. When I take part in debates in the House I am conscious that I must not act merely as an automaton and always stand four-square behind my own Front Bench. There have been several occasions during my membership of the House when I have not supported the Government. If today I incline towards supporting the Government's view that the Bill should be rejected, I hope that it will be accepted that my attitude stems from a fairly careful balancing of the pros and cons.
814 I received a letter only this morning from one of my constituents asking me to support the Bill. I have not yet had time to reply to my constituent, but when I do so I shall seek to justify the position I am adopting. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) chided us with having gone a long way in sympathy—with having shed crocodile tears, so to speak—and then calmly announcing that we shall not support what could be held to be an all-party proposal.
I must warn my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary that, on matters concerning the pensions of Servicemen and others covered by the Bill, and also old age pensioners who are feeling the pinch now, and who are likely to feel it much harder in the coming 12 months consequent upon the internal effects of devaluation, he will not for all time be able to rely on hon. Members on this side slavishly to support the Government in resisting what is tantamount to sectional pressure on behalf of a small proportion of the community, because that is what the Bill is mainly concerned with.
The letter from my constituent, who is aged 85, states that he retired from the Army in 1920 after 21 years' service, the last four years of his service being in the rank of R.S.M. His pension is £3 3s. 6d. a week, whereas a man retiring now in that rank would receive a pension of about £10 a week.
I believe that there is an urgent need to examine the question of parity and comparability. As a trade union education officer and an active member of the National Union of Railwaymen who has argued in favour of parity and comparability as affecting the pensions of railway workers, I would uphold this principle in general. There is no greater cause of discord than when a man thinks that he has been unjustly treated in this way.
My correspondent goes on to refer to a new Bill—here I crave the indulgence of the Chair—designed to grant pensions to those over 80 who were too old to qualify for a pension. I shall have a great deal of sympathy for such a Bill if it comes before the House. Unless someone persuades me to the contrary during the course of the debate on such a Bill—one must always leave a little chink in one's intellectual armour to enable one to respond to new ideas—I cannot say now 815 that I shall be four-square behind the Government if they seek to resist what I consider to be a very necessary interim measure. It is not good enough for any Government spokesman simply to turn aside all sectional pressures for improvements in pensions by saying, "This comes within the ambit of our general review of social security when we get down to it". Many of us believe that we shall be very lucky if that review takes place within this Parliament.
I support the Government in their resistance to this proposal, because I believe that the Bill is concerned with a small section of people who I am not prepared to support at present. Many hon. Members, and particularly hon. and gallant Members, who have had experience in the Armed Forces, naturally tend to be sympathetic to their old colleagues and comrades in arms, whereas those of us who came to the House with a background in industry have very much in our minds the plight and problems of our old comrades in industry. I have not heard during this debate any special pleading to suggest that the nation owes a greater debt to ex-Service men as such than it does to workers who have retired from industrial occupations, particularly from occupations such as that which I formerly held.
I was a shunter in a marshalling yard all through the London blitz. I do not think that anyone would be prepared to argue that I was not then exposed to as much danger as, or that I and my colleagues were not called upon to display courage of a similar quality to, those who were fighting or who were in administrative jobs connected with the Armed Forces. I am therefore glad that, at any rate in my hearing, no such special pleading has been advanced. In days long ago it would have been valid to argue that those who went abroad, especially those who exposed themselves to greater dangers than those to which an industrial worker would normally expose himself, were owed a special debt by the nation and there was therefore a special reason for their receiving special consideration, even in times of economic difficulty.
§ Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
The hon. Gentleman has applauded the 816 fact that there has been no special pleading on behalf of Armed Forces pensioners. There is special pleading only to the extent that those who have served in the Armed Forces—officers who come to retire—tend to retire at a much earlier age than those who work in other occupations. Therefore, the likelihood of the erosion of their pensions in retirement is much the greater, because their retirement extends over a much greater period.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Yes, but by the same token it could be argued that, because retirement from the Services comes at a much earlier point in life, a person is able-bodied enough not to be completely retired from work. Indeed, people who think of retiring in their forties or fifties do not usually envisage a period of idleness thereafter. That situation is very much part and parcel of the kind of life on which a person embarks when going into the Services. One of the things which makes it worth while is the opportunity to build up financial prospects to make that special position possible. Therefore, the argument is evenly balanced, and, in a discussion of this kind, it is something of a double-edged sword.
We cannot consider this Bill without having in mind the general picture of pensions for all workers, wage earners and salary earners alike. There have been references to the part which the trade unions have played. One hon. Member suggested, quite wrongly, that trade unionists or trade union negotiators were not much concerned about the plight of their pensioners or old members and did not, therefore, involve themselves in negotiations with employers on this question. I did not think that the reply on that point given by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) was altogether adequate. The situation varies considerably, but, for the most part, trade unions and their representatives are very much concerned. The question may not always come within the ambit of the normal negotiating machinery, but there is often provision, as there is in the railway industry, for special committees within which representatives of both employers and trade unions argue and concern themselves with superannuation schemes and possible improvements from time to time.
817 We must, as I say, direct our attention to the overall picture of pensions and the problem of their erosion by inflation, the arch-enemy of the pensioner. Most workers are shut out from any decent pension arrangements altogether. This is why the social security review and the introduction of the Labour Party's superannuation scheme is so long overdue. Only through a decent State superannuation scheme can most people be given the opportunity to build up some sort of credit for the autumn of their lives.
A year ago, I spoke of the position of building trade workers who change their employer so frequently that they cannot, in the service of one employer, build up any great credit under a contributory scheme half paid by the worker and half by the employer. It is necessary, therefore, to have free transferability of pension credits. It is possible to have transferability between one private scheme and another, but there has as yet been no reference in this debate to what we dubbed the great swindle, the graduated pensions swindle, brought in by the Conservatives.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The debate is fairly wide, but the hon. Gentleman must keep his remarks a little more within the compass of the Bill.
§ Mr. Bidwell
No—to focus attention on the realities of the proposal now before the House in order not wholly but, at least, partially to justify the Government's attitude. There is a mass of matters still to be examined. Nevertheless, I say to my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary that we on this side are becoming a little impatient of hearing so much about a future social security review. The introduction of an all-embracing pension scheme to improve the position of all workers is long overdue.
My hon. Friend pointed out that we are not here considering the creation of new resources out of which we could meet what would logically follow from either this Bill or any general proposal to improve old-age pensions. We must at this stage consider only how we could 818 take resources from one place in order to give them to others, notably to the aged. Our concern as a nation is to create new resources out of which retired people must have their just share.
It should be said that there is a far greater fund of sympathy on this side of the House towards the general body of pensioners than there has been historically on that side. The suggestion which I put to my hon. Friend, which will not endear itself to most hon. Members opposite, is that he should have a close look at the T.U.C.'s proposal for a 3 per cent. wealth tax on estates over £20,000——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We cannot traverse the whole economy in this debate. The hon. Gentleman must talk about the Bill.
§ Mr. Bidwell
I accept your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. It is a pity that we cannot do that today because the two matters are so closely interrelated. Nevertheless, I appreciate the need to keep the debate within the narrow compass of the Bill itself.
In conclusion, I re-emphasise the main theme of my speech. We on this side have considerable sympathy with the intention behind the Bill but we do not regard it as sufficient. It is not right for hon. Members opposite to accuse us of a dishonourable attitude when we say that, although going a long way in sympathy, we are not disposed to vote for it. We shall vote with the Government today, fairly solidly, I think, but with the proviso that there is a great deal of substance in the proposals before us and there is great force in the wider clamour for decent treatment of the aged.
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Mr. W. H. Loveys (Chichester)
Although the speech of the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell) was interesting, it is clear that the steam has gone out of the debate to a large extent now that the Government spokesman thought it necessary to join in so early.
At the beginning of his speech, the Financial Secretary said that he would claim no originality in the way he presented the Government's case. When I heard that, I knew that he was determined to kill the Bill by lack of Government support. He went on to say that there was no doubt about the need for 819 something to be done for public service pensioners, but he immediately qualified it by saying that there were no resources available. At that point, the hon. Gentleman got himself into difficulty when he spoke of the priorities for the resources which are available. I am sure that, in his heart of hearts, he cannot believe that the people about whom we are concerned, the pensioners covered by the Bill, are very far down in the scale of priorities.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Frank Taylor) on his good fortune in the Ballot and on choosing to introduce this Bill. I have spoken on every public service pensions increase Bill since I became a Member, and on every occasion I have been very conscious that the debate should not take place in the way it did. It always seemed to me wrong and most discourteous to those who have served the country for public servants for so long that their pensions can be increased only by Act of Parliament, with all the lobbying and the debate that must take place. They are the last who should be expected to have to come cap in hand for periodic reviews, yet they are the only section of pensioners, other than those receiving the ordinary basic retirement pension, who must do so.
We are concerned with a section of the population who have no powerful union to represent them and no powerful negotiating body. They have strong associations representing their interests as well as they can, but they cannot be considered negotiating bodies. Professional people and those engaged in industry, commerce and agriculture all possess strong negotiating machinery for those who are still in work, and who have reaped great benefits in their standard of living over the past few decades. When we consider that, it seems to me a disgrace that the retired public servants and other retired people who have suffered most by increases in the cost of living, caused to a large extent by the working population being better off, have no independent body to keep their pensions under review.
It has been said that it is inevitable that those who are in work today should benefit proportionately better from increased living standards than those who 820 have retired. I have never been able to accept that argument. We recognise that the needs of the retired may not be as great as those with young families and other commitments in some respects, but I cannot believe that we have our priorities right when those who did exactly the same job some years ago are penalised by having such a lower standard of living than their immediate successors.
The Bill cannot deal with the problem of all pensioners. A Private Member's Bill cannot be a Pensions (Increase) Bill, but it deals with those pensioners to whom the House has particular responsibility. That is the point which the hon. Member for Southall did not seem to realise. He talked about industrial pension schemes and so on, and asked why we should feel particularly for the type of pensioner with which the Bill deals. It is mainly because we are the people responsible for public servants, the House is the only place that can help them. It has particular responsibilities, and it is only to us that they can turn.
We are asking only for a review body to be set up, to see that those who have retired from the Armed Forces and the public service are treated in a manner which their service deserves and which will bring them into line with the benefits received by other members of the community.
§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Ellis (Bristol, North-West)
Before I entered the House I was for many years a civil servant, and, consequently, I am rather interested in the Bill. Many real problems are raised in a debate of this kind, but I want to make a differential——
§ Mr. Frank Taylor
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member who has not listened to any part of the debate to enter it and spend time towards the tag end of it?
§ Mr. Ellis
Perhaps I may be permitted to say in reply to the hon. Gentleman's remark that I heard the contribution of my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary this morning, and I heard some of the hon. Gentleman's speech. Various constituents have written to me about the matter and I have made myself available today.
821 I was being called out of the Chamber earlier to do some important business, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be prepared to hear some of my points. I have given a great deal of thought to the matters raised in a debate of this kind. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will get his vote at the end of the day. I do not see why he should not, and I do not think that he should be too concerned. Perhaps in my humble capacity I may have a little to offer him.
I regard the question of pensions as, largely, having two aspects. One is the duty that the State owes to its older citizens when they retire. I should like to see the whole pension system directly linked to the cost of living. This matter is touched on in the Bill, in respect of those to whom it applies. As the nation's economy and standard of living improves, I should like more and more pensions legislation to be linked to that central principle, so that when a person sets off through life he can be sure that, whatever happens to him, when he reaches retirement age he will have a satisfactory pension. He will be in the happy position of knowing, whether he likes to save or to run his budget in a way that will meet day-to-day demands, that he has contributed fairly to a decent living pension, which he will receive near the end of his life. That is important because, whether in the category of public service and Armed Forces pensions or any other type, one always meets the constituent who asks, "Is it fair that I have tried to save a little bit and am stopped from having supplementary pension"?
This is a very real problem and a pertinent point. I do not think that the House can tackle the problem by trying to pick out the real needy at this stage. To decide whether people of the ages with which we are concerned have not enough to live on because they wasted their substance or were ill and it is through no fault of their own would require the judgment of Solomon, and I do not think it is a practical plan. But I hope that as we go forward we can have a policy that will link pensions directly with the cost of living.
Like hon. Friends of mine who have expressed sympathy with the Bill, I shall not be able to support it in the Lobby because it seeks to set up a Com- 822 mission. I do not think it necessary to have a Commission to advise. We all know the central problem. It is a question of how much the economy can afford and how far we can go forward. We must turn our attention to linking the pension to the cost of living.
There is another point which requires altogether different consideration. I refer to men who have spent perhaps 22 years in the service of the country and come out of the Forces at a comparatively early age. Such men still have a considerable amount of work left in them. It is true that such a man has sacrificed in his service to the country the ability that he might have had of advancing himself in civil life and reaping the reward of his endeavours over a continuous period. A constituent told me that he retired a considerable number of years ago from the Royal Navy and since then had had very little increase in pension. He said, "I did my service for 22 years expecting that it would be worth a certain amount when I came out". He had expected it to be enough to pay his rent, but he told me that it was no longer sufficient for that purpose.
I do not think the Labour Party need take any criticism from the Opposition in this context. Over the whole range of pensions the Labour Party has a very good record and the Labour Government have a very fine record. However, I hope that the Financial Secretary will recognise that there is a great need on the part of some Service pensioners and that this question ought to be looked into as a matter of social justice. We ought to begin considering the establishment of a sane and comprehensive retirement policy which will take into account not only the matters dealt with in the Bill but matters over the whole field.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
I am surprised that during the debate nobody has mentioned the principle involved——
§ Mr. Ramsden
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Frank Taylor) has already sought your guidance on the course which the debate now appears to be taking, namely, that a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite who have not attended the earlier stages of the debate seem to be coming in and preventing my hon. Friend from getting the House to reach a decision on the Bill that he is seeking. Is my hon. Friend entitled to any protection from you?
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman must consult the records. This is not unknown in the history of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. English
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The comment made by the right hon. Gentleman was not true in my case. I have been listening to part of the debate.
Hon. Members opposite promoting the Bill are proposing a form of government which is very frequent in the United States—the government of many agencies by commissions appointed by the Executive. The type of commission which is frequently found in the United States is exactly the sort of commission which is proposed in the Bill. But one cannot just produce in this country a commission of the type that is used in the United States. In the United States the Executive is separated from the Legislature, and it is an Executive which is almost all-powerful, and so there are good reasons why the Legislature may on occasion wish to create commissions—to try to reduce the power of the Executive. The object of such commissions in the United States is just that.
§ Mr. English
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. The purpose of the Bill is to set up a Commission with a function which, at the moment, is the function of the Executive and Legislature in this country. The first paragraph of the Explanatory Memorandum says thatThe object of the Bill is to establish an independent Commission …I would have thought that that paragraph, together with the Schedule to the Bill— 824 which is devoted to the constitution of the Commission—would make it difficult for any hon. Member opposite to say that that is not the object of this Bill.
I do not know of any Commission of precisely that type in this country, although I know of many in other countries. Presumably the object is to take some power out of the hands of the Executive and put it into the hands of an independent Commission. If that is not the object, what is it? The idea of the hon. Member for Moss Side is presumably to ensure that pensions are increased more rapidly under the scheme he proposes than is the case under the present system.
When enunciating a new principle of this type it is highly relevant to consider what is involved. I do not wish to see commissions of the American type dealing with public service pensions, or anything of that character, because such commissions tend to get into the hands of the vested interest concerned—and I do not use that term in any pejorative sense. I am referring merely to the body of persons who have a financial interest in the matter. The vested interests concerned tend to dominate such commissions. That is the experience of other countries.
I have many criticisms of Her Majesty's Treasury—not of the incumbent on the Front Bench at the moment, but of the Department of which, perhaps, he is an unwilling representative today.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
It is kind of my hon. Friend to exempt me from any ill-feeling that he may have for my Department, but I regard it as a great privilege to represent that Department.
§ Mr. English
There is an old adage that no man who has ever been Financial Secretary to the Treasury is ever the same man again. I hope that that is not true of my hon. Friend, since I have long appreciated his talents——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The happiness or unhappiness of the Financial Secretary is not what we are discussing.
§ Mr. English
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I was deviated from my point, which is that the vested interests concerned—and I am not speaking in the pejorative sense—tend to dominate commissions of this type. I do not believe that the Treasury 825 is wholly dominated by the vested interests of the pensioners who are dealt with in the Bill.
Secondly, apart from the detailed point about the nature of the Commission, I would criticise the limited scope of the Bill. The Bill is entitled the "Public Service and Armed Forces Pensions Review Bill", as though the Armed Forces were not in the service of the public. I have never been able to distinguish between the functions of the public service on the one hand and the Armed Forces on the other. But I did not draft the Bill. The lion. Member for Moss Side entitled it in this way, and thereby singled out the Armed Forces.
In our complex economy the public service is much broader than merely the holders of office under the Crown, which are the words which should appear in the Title of the Bill. The Bill appears to mean that a commission should be set up to deal with the pensions of persons who have held office under the Crown, with the possible exception of Ministers, but the public service is considerably broader than that.
In any complex modern economy, the public service includes a variety of people. You have said, Mr. Speaker, that we should not stray too far from the scope of the Bill and I assure hon. Members that it is not deliberate ill-will, but a genuine belief of hon. Members on this side of the House that one of the things wrong with our economy is the non-transferability of pensions and the lack of equality of rights and conditions of service in all sorts of employment.
I see no reason why, as the Bill would provide, the man who merely looks after the door of the Foreign Office, valuable function though he no doubt performs, should get a particular form of pension, whereas a man who does the same job in an office block or a factory should not. The same applies to an executive or anyone in a lesser capacity in the public service. I would wish to see every person in the United Kingdom who by his work contributes to the public service in the broadest sense, the service of the country, get the pension to which he is entitled, whether serving under the Crown or not.
Whether, as is not mentioned in the Bill, a man leaves the service of the 826 Crown to work in some other employment, or comes from that other employment to serve the Crown, surely we all serve the country in our different capacities.
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
I want, first, to join with others in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Frank Taylor) on introducing the Bill and on his admirable speech doing so. I agreed with him that I would endeavour to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, towards the end of the debate in order to answer any questions and deal with any issues which had been raised during it. I have risen now because it is perfectly apparent that the debate as such has come to an end and that those who have recently come into the Chamber do not seek seriously to discuss the merits of the Bill, but clearly have other motives for speaking.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth)
On a point of order. Is it in order to devalue in advance the contributions which hon. Members on this side of the House hope to make?
§ Mr. Speaker
When the hon. Gentleman says something out of order, I shall call his attention to it.
§ Sir J. Eden
I think the hon. Gentleman fully understands the point I am making. It is not given to many hon. Members to be fortunate enough in the order of the Ballot to be able to introduce a Measure which for that reason stands a very good chance of reaching the Statute Book. I take the view that in those circumstances, if hon. Members broadly agree with the principle of the Bill, they should give it the opportunity to go forward to later stages where such details as were advanced during the earlier part of the debate can be more fittingly and properly discussed.
It is quite another matter if hon. Members opposite find the principle objectionable. Then they should certainly use whatever means are available in order to oppose the Bill and see that it does not make further progress. It has been made perfectly clear to all who have stayed throughout this debate that hon. Members opposite have been all too eager to admit their sympathy for the Bill and have made it quite clear that 827 they support its basic principle. Most have gone from there to say that the one reason why they cannot vote for it at a later stage is because it does not go far enough—in other words they are seeking to extend its provisions, to be more comprehensive, and cover a wider range of people.
This is something within the Title of the Bill, which could be done in Committee. In itself it is not a justifiable reason for voting against the Bill on Second Reading. It was interesting, to hon. Members on this side of the House, to see how the views put forward from the back benches opposite differed substantially from the views advanced on behalf of the Treasury by the Financial Secretary.
He made it clear that his main opposition to this Measure was that he already concluded that the Government had as much material and information and all the mechanics that they required to deal honourably by our public service and Armed Forces pensioners. Therefore, he was against the establishment of a Commission at all, feeling that there was already in existence ample machinery for dealing with the problem.
While one can understand that view to some extent, although I disagree with it, there is no justification whatever for the verbal gymnastics that we have had from so many hon. Members opposite who have come in in order to obstruct the further progress of this Bill.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham)
The hon. Member has spent six or seven minutes impugning the motives, or something very close to that, of hon. Members on this side of the House. Would he not agree that a perfectly valid reason for not wishing to see the progress of the Bill is that we do not wish to see the problem attacked piecemeal, however much sympathy we may have with the motives of hon. Members opposite?
§ Sir J. Eden
There are various points of view which have been put during the debate. The Financial Secretary said that the first fatal flaw in the Bill was its requirement on the Commission to report every two years. He felt that this was too limited a requirement, particularly in the light of the continuous reviews which we are told take place in the Treasury.
828 I do not say that the hon. Gentleman has not studied the details of the Bill; I am sure that he has. I would ask him, therefore, to refresh his memory by looking at subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 2. Subsection (1) makes it clear that it shall be the duty of the Commission to keep all pensions under review. That is no different from what it is claimed already takes place in the Treasury. Subsection (2) calls on the Commission to report not later than 1st January, 1970—that is, the end of the first two-year period—but thereafter at intervals of not more than two years. It limits the maximum period in which a report may be made after 1970. This is a quite important point in the light of the hon. Gentleman's observations.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
I hope that I did not fail to make my point clear. What I regard as the fatal flaw in the Bill is that it would establish a Commission which would have only a power to review. It was not the intermittent character of the power to review which troubled me.
§ Sir J. Eden
This is the dilemma in which hon. Members opposite have found themselves. Some of them were concerned that the Commission would not have the power of compulsion associated with it and others were concerned, as the hon. Gentleman is, that it would have only the power to recommend.
I think that all hon. Members on this side of the House are perfectly clear that the purpose of the Commission is to provide in public the Government with the facts of the situation as it currently affects the pensioners in the categories to which the Bill refers so that this impartial information can be clearly seen to have been collected in order that the view of this independent body may be heard by all interested. In that way, one might judge the degree to which the Government were honouring their duty in serving the interests of these pensioners. The Commission, therefore, certainly will have the power to recommend in public.
Of course, it will need a staff. I know full well that the Government have said that there is to be no net increase in the Civil Service. This is not the time to debate that point; that opportunity will be given to us next week. Our view is that the Civil Service should be reduced. 829 The Commission need not have a substantial staff, but in so far as there is need for a staff—and I accept that there is—then one would hope that the degree to which the Treasury is already employed in this continuous review could be made available to assist the Commission in its work. If there is to be a reasonably regular period for reporting, it may well be that the staff working on the review can be reduced.
Those hon. Members who have opposed the Bill have done so on grounds of mechanics or machinery. Some even go so far, curiously enough, as to question why we are concerned with these categories of pensioner. That point was very well answered, not only by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoc), but by my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Loveys), both of whom reminded the House that we hon. Members have a particular and peculiar responsibility for the public servants of the Crown.
We are concerned in this Bill, as we were when my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) introduced a similar Measure last February, with special categories of pensioners. We are concerned with pensions of the Forces and the retirement pay of officers. We are concerned with the pensions of civil servants, local government officers, teachers, police, firemen, of those employed in the National Health Service and of Overseas Service pensioners to the extent that the United Kingdom Government are responsible for their pensions
These are the public servants who find themselves in a very special form of relationship with the Government of the day. It is for that reason that they find it more than ordinarily invidious that they should have to engage in a constant campaign to draw sufficient attention to their needs to force the Government of the day to take some action to increase their standard of living.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson
If the hon. Member believes that, and there is some sympathy on that side for his case, why does he not press for a straight increase rather than this roundabout proposal for a review Commission?
§ Sir J. Eden
As the hon. Member has been in the House for some time, he will know that very strict limits are imposed 830 on private Members seeking to introduce legislation. Further, though from time to time it is obviously open to any hon. Member to draw the attention of the Government of the day to the needs of particular categories of individuals, and to ask for increases to meet them, the basic purpose of the Bill is to devise a method by which we can get away from having persistently to mount a sort of pressure operation of that kind.
Whilst these pensions have certainly been under continuous review, it is a fact that since the war, taking Service pensions as an example, there was, first, a period of six years, and then periods of four and a half years, three and a half years, three and a quarter years, and then three years of continuous inflation before the Government of the day found it necessary to take steps. Interestingly enough, the intervals have been getting shorter. We are now clearly moving towards the two-year period that we have spelt out in the Bill as being the maximum desirable period. For that reason, too, the Measure should commend itself to the Government.
Some hon. Members have condemned the Bill for not going far enough, but I do not think that they have gathered from its terms just how far it really does go. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) has already made fully clear, the commission would also have the power to examine all anomalies that exist in the whole inherited structure of public service and Armed Forces pensions. In this context, regard would obviously be had to the position of those who had retired at a very early stage, and also to the very serious position in which the widows of retired officers in the Armed Forces now find themselves.
We somewhat lightly refer to "these anomalies", but that phrase, as everybody well knows, refers to those in a grievously difficult situation, a grievously difficult situation in which many people now find themselves as a direct consequence of the fact that their pensions have been tied to a scale which no longer bears any relevance at all to the purchasing power of the £ or the standard of living which is current among people in employment.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
My hon. Friend will be aware, of course, that, in addition 831 to people from the Armed Services, this applies to other pensioners of other public services, and that it affects the police, who have written on this matter, as has the National Association of Retired Police Officers—many others besides the Armed Services?
§ Sir J. Eden
Yes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for emphasising what I pointed out earlier in my speech. It does cover all those categories. The House recognises the special responsibilities which my hon. Friend has in this regard.
Reference was made earlier to the Grigg Report and how the Grigg Report recommended that a biennial review of Service pay and pensions should take place. It says in paragraph 116:We have already recommended that there should be a biennial review of pay. We consider that this review should cover pensions also …My hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins), I thought, was fully justified in questioning the extent to which the Government are likely to honour any provisions for a regular review in the light of that recommendation, against which they have already taken steps, having refused to honour the Grigg Report in that regard.
The Grigg Report also had a lot to say about existing pensions, of those who are already retired, and I think that hon. Members would be interested to hear what paragraph 53 has to say. Paragraph 53 of the Grigg Report was particularly referring to retired Servicemen, and I think it sums up in such a concise form the main reason for our anxiety that this Bill should have a Second Reading that I will, with permission, read it to the House. It reads as follows:In recent years, however, pensioners have found their income eroded by steady inflation, and once a Serviceman goes, his retired pay is revised only on purely eleemosynary grounds. This last grievance is expressed with particular force by the Officers' Pensions Society and the Retired Officers' Association—representing not only recent pensioners but those who retired between the wars. The lot of these servants of the Crown is indeed unenviable; in as much as they retire younger, they are even worse off than most other pensioners, since their retired pay is subject to the effects of inflation over a greater length of time. Many of them belong to families with a long history of service in the Armed Forces and, as they point out, their present plight is not much of a 832 recommendation to their sons and grandsons to maintain the family tradition.The effect and impact of the retirement pension on recruitment is an aspect of the problem on which we have been able to touch only very briefly. Nevertheless, it is a very important one which, even in the present atmosphere of retrenchment and cutting back on the manpower in our Services, the Government should not pass over too lightly. There is a great tradition of service in this country which generally goes on from one generation to the next in families. If the Government deal badly by its public servants, they will destroy the foundation of this voluntary public service at its very roots.
I am still an optimist, and the reason for my optimism is the letter which has already been brought to the attention of the House by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes written by the present Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition. Referring to the position of public servants, he said:The position is a positive disgrace, and we have persistently brought this up and criticised the Government for its meanness. We have called for public service pensions to be linked to some economic indicator so that pensioners are not only compensated for rising prices but also receive their full and fair share in rising national prosperity.That was written towards the end of 1964, and there was a General Election in October of that year. The Government have had ample time in which to implement that pledge, but we are told by the Financial Secretary that it has to wait an indeterminate length of time into the future while the social security review is carried on. There is no prospect of any early conclusion of that. Equally, there is no prospect of the early introduction of a Pensions (Increase) Bill.
In those circumstances, it is right that there should be some machinery outside the immediate orbit of government by which one could see clearly the extent to which the value of pensions awarded to public servants in the past has been eroded by the inflation of the present.
I hope, therefore, that the Prime Minister will be persuaded to honour his pledge, and I am certain that in an attempt to do it, in spite of the speeches which we have heard from the benches opposite, hon. Members will be only too ready to support my hon. Friend the 833 Member for Moss Side to give his Bill a Second Reading and allow it to proceed to Committee. I indicated when I rose to speak that the debate proper has now come to an end, and I hope that the House will now see fit to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. English
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, can he explain why the Bill covers some local government servants but not others?
§ Sir J. Eden
These are all public service officials who have their pensions and retirement pay increased by Statute or under Royal Warrant, or a special instrument of that kind.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth) rose——
§ Mr. Frank Taylor
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for yet another hon. Member on the benches opposite who has listened to very little of the debate to intervene with the express intention of killing the Bill by talking it out?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Is is perfectly in order for any hon. Member to take part in the debate if he has not done so already.
§ Mr. Anderson
May I, therefore, rephrase what was to be my opening remark and begin by making the plea that I hope my intervention will not be considered discourteous either by yourself, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or by the sponsor of the Motion.
If one wants an earnest of my interest in this subject, normally on a Friday I am with my constituents. I apologise for not being here earlier. My absence was due to the weight of constituency responsibilities and other matters pertinent to my responsibilities in the House. The fact that I am here is an earnest, if one is needed, of my own interest in the debate.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether this weight of constituency res- 834 ponsibility has suddenly dropped from him at 3.30 this afternoon? If it is still waiting for him, why not go back and continue to deal with it?
§ Mr. Anderson
If the hon. Gentleman would prefer, I can, after the debate, illustrate to him what I have been doing up to the present time in the hope of convincing even him that I have been engaged on proper constituency responsibilities.
I can begin with a constituency point. I represent a retirement area in Monmouth. That is understandable, because of the real attractions for people both scenically and otherwise. Therefore, I have often been subject, as I am sure many of my hon. Friends and certainly hon. Gentlemen opposite have been, to the very justified plaints by former members of the public service who feel particularly aggrieved at the way they have been treated over the years. I say "over the years", because this is clearly a principle which is not relevant simply to an attitude adopted by this particular Government. Had hon. Members opposite felt so deeply about this point earlier, surely they should have forced the adoption of this principle of a review commission on the leaders of their own party when they held the responsibilities of Government.
§ Mr. J. C. Jennings (Burton)
Some of us have a long memory about the fight concerning public service pensions. When we were in power we pressed our own Government time and time again. With what result? With the same result as hon. Members opposite who have been pressing their Government for many weeks past and have failed. This is the fate of both sides of the House, so there is no need to recriminate against hon. Members here for what they nave failed to do when in power and who are trying to remedy this deplorable situation. Now it is up to the Government to do what they accuse us of not doing.
§ Mr. Anderson
I cannot dispute the elephantine memory of the hon. Gentleman opposite. My sole point is that if it is a point which is relevant against my own party when in power, it is a point which was equally relevant against the Conservative Party when they held responsibilities. Therefore, this should 835 temper the bitterness with which we on this side of the House are assailed when in Government. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will at least accept that.
§ Sir John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)
I think that there is a point of difference. The present Prime Minister actually made a pledge. He said that he wanted to see this done. That is not true in the case of our then Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Anderson
We can have this to-ing and fro-ing all the time. One can accept this pledge as an earnest of good will in a way which was not shown, but I do not want to make party points about it.
I represent a retirement constituency. I have been bombarded with letters from aggrieved individuals, some from former police officers who are the particular concern of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) and some from former members of the Armed Forces. I speak, too, as a former civil servant—indeed, in the same service, the Diplomatic Service, as the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell), who intervened a short time ago.
Arising from my experience under the Crown, I have the deepest regard for the qualities of, and the contribution made to Britain by, the type of people about whom I am speaking. I have received many pleas—some from widows, some from the associations concerned. It is an act of political courage on my behalf, in view of the weight of constituency opinion, for me to say today that I oppose the Bill in principle. The stand I am taking will not be a popular one, given the nature of the constituency that I represent.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
Will the hon. Gentleman accept it from me that it would be an act of great political courage, which we might perhaps expect of him, if he would now terminate his speech and express his aversion to the Bill by going in to the Lobby against it, instead of prolonging the debate?
§ Mr. Anderson
I have some valid points of principle to make against the Bill. I ask the hon. Gentleman to contain himself a little and listen. Then perhaps he will appreciate the points which I hope to raise.
836 The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) said that an hon. Member who said that he was in favour of the Bill in principle and spoke against it on points of detail only, in that it did not go far enough or did not cover sufficient of the public service, should go into the Lobby in favour of the Bill and then seek to amend, and perhaps to extend, it in Committee. I am speaking now because I oppose the Bill in principle. I hope to show why I do so. Before doing so, I want to make one or two I hope not too nasty points against what the hon. Member for Hallam was arguing.
§ Sir J. Eden
The hon. Gentleman has my constituency wrong. Although I should be delighted to represent Hallam, I am particularly honoured to represent Bournemouth, West.
§ Mr. Anderson
I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman bears a striking physical resemblance to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn).
§ Mr. Anderson
I come to two points of principle. I shall now forget my argument against what the hon. Gentleman for Bournemouth, West was arguing. My first point is as to the use of the Private Members' Bill procedure for a Bill such as this. I am not a fully-fledged constitutional lawyer, but my understanding of the Private Members' Bill procedure is that it is used for Bills primarily of a non-financial nature. This Bill is an indirect way of putting forward what is essentially a financial matter. This is the point that the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West made when he said that he could not, under the rules of procedure, suggest a straight increase in the existing pension levels.
Surely the whole purpose of setting up such a review procedure is that there would be an outside pressure group—an independent body—whose recommendations the Government would be morally bound to abide by. The whole purpose is to increase pension levels. That makes this a subtle, indirect form of financial Bill. No Government could accept this form of review procedure on a financial subject, because this matter of the level of pensions, for both public service pensioners and for retirement pensioners, is 837 relevant to the whole financial policy of the Government. No Executive would be willing to disgorge from its sphere of responsibility the responsibility for pension levels.
If we were to start by having this independent commission, where would we stop? One could equally well have an independent review procedure for State retirement pensions. The point made by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary is relevant here: we might come to a question of priorities. Professors Townsend and Wedderburn showed in their book how many retirement pensioners rely soley on their retirement pensions. A convincing intellectual case in terms of priorities could be made for giving attention to this sector rather than to public servants, however sterling the contribution they have made.
To set up a commission procedure——
§ Sir T. Beamish
The Government have just submitted Service pay, pensions and gratuities to the Prices and Incomes Board. That is exactly the opposite of what the hon. Gentleman is now arguing. He says that it cannot be done. It has just been done.
§ Mr. Anderson
I may have misheard what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said. Is it a question of pay rather than pensions?
§ Mr. Anderson
That partly meets the point made by the Opposition themselves. If pensions have been submitted to the Prices and Incomes Board, the Government will be half morally bound to honour the recommendations of the Board. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is a half moral?"]
My basic point is that the Opposition could have introduced a review procedure in their own years of power. Second, this is a question peculiarly within the purview of the Executive which no Government would leave to the Private Members' Bill procedure. The final arbiter will be the electorate. It is they who will look at the pension policies of the parties in power to see which has hon- 838 oured its pledges on pensions. When that day comes, when the record of this Government on pensions is set alongside the record of right hon. and hon. Members opposite, we shall have no cause for shame. Our record regarding all grades of pensioners is good. It is certainly good in comparison with that of the Opposition.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Arnold Shaw (Ilford, South)
I shall not apologise to hon. Members opposite for getting in rather late in the debate. Perhaps I may say, in passing, that I am a regular attender on Fridays, and that I am delighted to see opposite so many hon. Members who feel that they had to come along for some reason or other which is, perhaps, beyond my ken.
For me, as for so many of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite, this subject is one of moral interest. I, too, have been approached by constituents with problems and questions connected with the matter we are discussing. The Bill itself suffers to some extent by repetition. In February last year, an hon. Member opposite brought a similar Bill before the House. I congratulate hon. Members opposite on their pertinacity in bringing it forward again. This however, does not detract from certain merits in the Bill, which hon. Members on both sides recognise. Those merits are pertinent today, they were pertinent last year, and they were pertinent many years ago.
The cost of living has been rising for quite a long time. It was rising steadily during the period in office of the party opposite, and in spite of the demands of certain back benchers the Government did not act in any way during all that time. Therefore, we consider the Opposition rather mealy-mouthed in demanding today that the Government should accept a Measure which they have turned down time and time again.
However, there is no reason to suggest that during the lifetime of the present Government—certainly when it is returned to office after the next General Election—a Measure far superior to anything in the Bill will be presented to the House and, I am certain, carried by a large majority. I hope that the Opposition will not oppose it merely because it emanates from this side of the House. 839 At times the debate was very similar in many respects to that of February last year. A number of points were raised and repeated——
§ Mr. Shaw
I appreciate the desire of hon. Members opposite to have the vote. I am sure that they will have it, and that the House will make a decision on the Bill today. But I cannot understand the objection of hon. Members opposite to a debate on such a Measure going the full length. Such an important Bill should have a full debate. Time and again on a Friday I have seen Measures as worthy as this, to which a good deal of time and attention has been given, talked out, not on the merits of the Bill——
§ understand that it is not his intention to talk the Bill out?
§ Mr. Shaw
I do not know I am not looking at the clock. I am saying that the Bill has certain merits, but there are objections to it, many of which have already been expressed by my hon. Friends. To me, the most important is to the proposal to set up what amounts to another Civil Service empire. Time and time again I have heard hon. Members opposite attacking the Government for the increasing multiplicity of civil servants. Yet here we have within the Civil Service——
§ Mr. Frank Taylor rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 114, Noes 138.841
|Division No. 34.]||AYES||[4.0 p.m.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Gresham Cooke, R.||More, Jasper|
|Astor, John||Grieve, Percy||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Balniel, Lord||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Neave, Airey|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Gurden, Harold||Nott, John|
|Bell, Ronald||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Biffen, John||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Pardoe, John|
|Blaker, Peter||Hastings, Stephen||Percival, Ian|
|Boardman, H.||Hawkins, Paul||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Body, Richard||Hay, John||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Heseltine, Michael||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Braine, Bernard||Higgins, Terence L.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Brewis, John||Hill, J. E. B.||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Hooson, Emlyn||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Hordern, Peter||Scott, Nicholas|
|Burden, F. A.||Howell, David (Guildford)||Sharples, Richard|
|Campbell, Gordon||Hunt, John||Silvester, Frederick|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Iremonger, T. L.||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Smith, John|
|Costain, A. P.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Stodart, Anthony|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Kirk, Peter||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfieid||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Longden, Gilbert||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carehalton)||Loveys, W. H.||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Emery Peter||Lubbock, Eric||Walters, Dennis|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Fisher, Nigel||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maddan, Martin||Wright, Esmond|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Maude, Angus||Wylie, N. R.|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Mr. Frank Taylor and|
|Goodhart, Philip||Monro, Hector||Sir John Eden.|
|Albu, Austen||Bidwell, Sydney||Boyden, James|
|Anderson, Donald||Binns, John||Bray, Dr. Jeremy|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)|
|Barnes, Michael||Booth, Albert||Buchan, Norman|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Boston, Terence||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Horner, John||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Irvine, Sir Arthur||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Chapman, Donald||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Coe, Dennis||Janner, Sir Barnett||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Coleman, Donald||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St.P'cras, S.)||Rankin, John|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Cronin, John||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Judd, Frank||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Ledger, Ron||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Dell, Edmund||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Dewar, Donald||Lee, John (Reading)||Ryan, John|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Lestor, Miss Joan||Shaw, Arnold (llford, S.)|
|Dickens, James||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Luard, Evan||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||McCann, John||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||MacColl, James||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Ellis, John||MacDermot, Niall||Skeffington, Arthur|
|English, Michael||Macdonald, A. H.||Snow, Julian|
|Ennals, David||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Taverne, Dick|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Marks, Kenneth||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Foley, Maurice||Marquand, David||Varley, Eric G.|
|Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mellish, Robert||Wallace, George|
|Gardner, Tony||Mikardo, Ian||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Weitzman, David|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Moyle, Roland||Whitlock, William|
|Hamling, William||Murray, Albert||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Harper, Joseph||Newens, Stan||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||O'Malley, Brian||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Hattersley, Roy||Oram, Albert E.|
|Hazell, Bert||Orbach, Maurice||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Palmer, Arthur||Mr. Ernest Armstrong and|
|Henig, Stanley||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Mr. Neil McBride.|
|Hilton, W. S.|
§ It being after Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Friday next.