HC Deb 24 June 1968 vol 767 cc115-32


Paragraph (4) of regulation 8 (Widow's pension) of the Regulations of 1954 shall have effect as if for the words 'one-third' there were substituted the words 'one-half'.—(Mr.Moylc.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Roland Moyle (Lewisham, North)

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

Mr. Speaker

I suggest to the House that with this proposed new Clause we discuss all the other new Clauses which are, I think, linked in their topic. The hon. Member has moved the first new Clause, but he can speak about all the new Clauses, which are: new Clause entitled "Further opportunity to exercise option"; new Clause entitled "Increased benefits for certain service beyond the age of 60"; new Clause entitled "Modification of provisions as to re-employment of pensioners"; new Clause entitled "Children's and dependent widower's pensions"; new Clause entitled "Dependent widower's pension", and new Clause entitled "Interpretation of last two foregoing regulations".

Mr. Moyle

That course is certainly convenient to me, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that it will be convenient to the House.

I would have sought to table these Amendments earlier had my attention been drawn to the superannuation provisions in the Bill but, as that was not done, I had no alternative but to table them at this stage.

I am not a superannuation expert, but I have taken part in the consideration of superannuation policy in industry and have represented the personnel function on various committees, so that I am not entirely without understanding of the issues raised by the Bill and of some of its omissions.

If we apply certain tests to local authority superannuation provisions, a fair minded person must come to the conclusion that these provisions are much less favourable to the employees than are many similar schemes in the public service. My own judgment in the matter is fortified by the knowledge that the staff of the Greater London Council probably hold the same point of view. In particular, that point of view is held by the National Union of Public Employees, over whose interests in this House I have come to watch and with which I am fairly closely connected. It is a union which has a long and successful practice of looking after the interests of local authority employees in London, organising those employees in London, and improving their terms and conditions of service.

One test of a pension scheme is the level of the employee's contribution. On this test it will be found throughout the public service that the highest contributions are in local government and in the teaching profession. If we apply the test of the ratio of employers' fixed rate contribution to employees' contribution, that ratio is lowest in local government and in the teaching profession. Another test is that of dependants' benefits in respect of married men. Again, the level of these benefits is lowest in local government. Looking at the proportion of cost borne by married men in this respect, we find that the whole cost is borne by contributors only in local government and in the National Health Service. Finally, we have the test of minimum age at retirement on pension. In this respect, those in the nationalised industries are worst off, but they are followed very closely by local government male employees, and local government women employees are the worst off of all.

Therefore, by quite a comprehensive list of tests the pension schemes of local authorities—and these include the Greater London Council superannuation scheme —are rather worse than those in other parts under the public service. Local government employees, who once led the way in superannuable employment in public service outside the Civil Service, have slipped back considerably.

It is my contention that this situation ought to be radically altered and we now have an opportunity to alter it in the case of the Greater London Council employees. It is short-sighted to maintain the existing dispensation. Superannuation has traditionally meant provision during working life for the unfortunate, in some cases, onset of old age, and to provide security against it. Nowadays, the best schemes are moving into an era where the term "employee security" ought more properly to be applied, because the general experience is that modification of existing superannuation schemes, with only a marginal increase in crease in cost, can provide an atmosphere of security for employees throughout the greater part of their working lives. Superannuation schemes which provide that atmosphere can make a positive contribution to personnel policy in terms of assisting reorganisation, surmounting the problem;;, often unwelcome, attached to redundancy, and facilitating the redeployment of staff to meet new conditions in the employer's business.

What I have said so far would, I think, be welcomed on the whole by local authority employees, but once we start talking about improving the efficiency of local authority administration the public are able to take an interest. Here I refer the House to paragraphs 473 and 480 of the Report of the Mallaby Committee on the Staffing of Local Government. The Committee reported in December, 1966. We read in paragraph 473: … local authorities should recruit qualified and experienced officers from the private sector and … superannuation schemes should be modified to facilitate this. We further recommend that facilities should be developed to enable some local government officers to gain experience in industry or commerce during their period of training. In paragraph 480 the Committee states: We recommend that the proposals of the Ministry of Labour Committee on the Preservation of Pension Rights should be implemented to assist in the recruitment of professional staff by local authorities. The Maud Report said very much the same thing. It is with these considerations in mind, as much as the welfare of the staff of the Greater London Council, that I have tabled these Amendments.

The first Amendment, relating to in-erased widows' pensions, is self-explanatory. The present provision is that if a man dies whilst receiving pension, his widow receives one-third of his pension. If he dies whilst he is within pensionable service, the widow receives one-third of the pension he would have received had he been incapacitated instead of dying. The Amendment would increase the fraction to one-half in each case. This adjustment is essential from the point of view of good staff relations, and would help to deal with problems raised in respect of one of the tests I apply to local authority schemes.

Another of the new Clauses deals with children's and dependent widowers' pensions. These are tidying-up Amendments. When, under the London County Council superannuation scheme, an employee died, a widow's pension was payable, and a children's pension was also payable by virtue of Article 30 of the L.C.C. superannuation scheme of 1958. As a result of the creation of the Greater London Council, that Council has absorbed many other local authorities with differing pension provisions. The object of this Amendment is to extend the provision to all employees of what is now the Greater London Council.

Similarly, the L.C.C. scheme allowed a woman contributor who unfortunately had an incapacitated husband to support to elect to be treated as a male employee and earn benefits for her potential widower and her unfortunate children in exactly the same way as a male employee would have done. Again the Greater London Council has been extended to cover a large number of employees of other local authorities in parts of Kent, Middlesex and Essex. This proposal is designed to extend the excellent provision for widowers' pensions and children's pensions earned by women contributing employees to those formerly employed by those other local authorities.

Then we have a new Clause designed to increase the benefit for certain service beyond the age of 60. One of the paradoxes of superannuation is that at the same time as there is pressure for lowering the retirement age there is pressure for a longer working life. Many people in the middle of their employment period look forward to the onset of retirement, but when the magic age of 60 or 65 approaches they discover that the prospect of years of enforced idleness before them is not the challenge which they thought it would be, or alternatively it is too much of a challenge. A great number of male employees contributing to pension schemes, if they had the chance, would opt for a longer working life.

This paradox of the two pressures in superannuation is quite desirable because with it can come the general abandonment of the arbitrarily fixed retirement age and the abandonment of the thought that at 64 years and 364 days one is capable of work but at 64 years and 365 days one is incapable of work. This would lead to a general voluntary selection of retirement dates and extend in practice the level of the employee's working life. We have the present position in the Greater London area that a man can retire with 40 years' service or extend it for five years with the council's agreement. If he retired after 40 years' service he would earn one-sixtieth of average annual salary for each year of service. If he extends beyond a fixed retiring date for a further five years he will pay the same rate of contribution as he paid throughout his working life and get an accrual of benefit at the same rate. The result in practice is that the average rate of pay after 45 years is not likely to differ significantly from that after 40 years' service.

If one takes account of the benefits forgone plus the further contributions the employee has paid for five years, plus the fact that the expectation of life of a man of 60 is about 15 years, it is unlikely that the employee will recoup the benefits forgone during the remainder of his pensionable life. This is a deterrent to extended employment which I am sure we should discourage. The ideal remedy is, while not increasing contributions, to allow the employee during his extended service to accumulate benefit at three times the previous principal retirement date fraction, but I am asking for only twice the fraction subject to power for the council to ask the Minister for a higher fraction if necessary. This would extend, not for five years, but to extended service up to age 70.

7.15 p.m.

There is a safeguard in all this, because all appointments of this nature are held at the discretion of the Greater London Council and can be terminated at the council's discretion, but this would remove a deterrent from extended employment. There is no exact precedent for this proposal in public service pen- sions, but in the National Insurance Scheme, both the State pension scheme and the graduated scheme, there are provisions for dealing with deterrence of this sort to extended employment and also in the Gas Council's staff superannuation scheme, although these are different ways of solving the problem.

Then there is the question of benefits in certain cases of premature retirement. Here the Government have accepted a principle which we should like to see accepted. The only argument is about the age at which they should operate. The Government, I understand, are prepared to accept that a redundancy pension can be paid to a man declared redundant at age 55 or over. The only point I raise is, why should the age not be 50? It would increase the flexibility of the pension scheme and guard against some cases of redundancy and enable the council to be freer in the extent to which it was prepared to reorganise from time to time.

I understand that at the moment the Government are prepared to agree to the provision of a frozen pension after 25 years of service, provided the employee is over 55. The employee can leave the service of the council if he fulfils those conditions and, instead of getting a return of contributions for pension, they will be held for the superannuation fund of the Greater London Council until normal retirement date, when he will be free to draw them, or in certain circumstances in compassionate cases they may be drawn before retirement date. This is of considerable benefit to employees and a much greater benefit than the return of contributions. For the same reasons I advanced earlier, I put the question, why not at 50? We should think that age 50 would be a better qualifying age than 55.

I also propose an Amendment concerning modification for re-employment of pensioners. The object is to remove the deterrent effect which sometimes arises from a case of extended service beyond retirement age. I can best put this forward by asking the House to consider an example. Say Mr. A, who retired five years ago, was earning a salary of £1,000 per annum when he retired. The present superannuation provisions say that the council shall be empowered to re-employ him subject to the top limit of his income from all council sources being equal to the salary he was earning at the time be retired, in this case, £1,000 per annum. If we assume that he is employed after official retirement age at £500 per annum, that would automatically keep his pension fixed at £500 per annum. Suppose that in the intervening period during retirement a Pensions (Increase) Act is passed which has the effect of increasing his pension by 10 per cent. He would then get a total remuneration of £1,050 per annum. There can be less fortunate circumstances than that. For example, if the post in which Mr. A was employed during his post-retirement employment received a salary increase of up to £600 per annum, to keep his total remuneration below £1,000 his pension would be reduced to £400 per annum. The percentage pension increase allowable by the Pensions (Increase) Act would then have the effect of giving him an extra £40 instead of an extra £50. The result of his salary increase, which would be very much an Irishman's rise, would be that he would be earning £10 a year less after the salary increase than he was before.

In my new Clause I suggest that the top rate of remuneration ought not to be the rate of remuneration which the man was earning immediately before his retirement but the rate of remuneration which the post is carrying at the current date. If the accepted post-war practice is followed, it is highly likely, in the example I have been quoting, that the top rate of remuneration would by now be somewhat in excess of £1,000 per annum and the difficulty to which I have drawn attention would be much less likely to arise.

In view of these improvements in benefits which I am proposing, it would be only just and proper if a further opportunity to exercise an option to come into the Greater London Council's superannuation scheme were provided to people who have in days past opted out. I know that there is always some reluctance to afford these extra options. There is a reluctance based on the ground that, if a final choice which is supposed to be exercised in regard to pension rights is regarded not as a final choice, contributing employees may be encouraged to play the situation by ear and secure benefits by possibly a reduced rate of contribution, as can happen in certain circumstances.

On the other hand, I think that, where there is an improvement in benefits coming along, a further option to come into the scheme is a sound idea on several grounds. There is the justice of the matter. People took their decision on different facts from those now in existence. There is the question of good staff relations. If there is uniformity of treatment of staff of the same grade throughout an employer's organisation, there tends to be a removal of tensions arising from the differences. There is also from the point of view of the employer the not inconsiderable aspect of simplicity of administration. The difficulty of most pension officers' jobs is considerably increased by having a number of differing pension schemes to administer, some of which have a very small membership. Finally, if one believes that a superannuation scheme can play a positive rôle in the personnel policy of the organisation, it is better if the superannuation scheme applies to as many people as possible.

I want to say a few words on the subject of financing and cost. I said earlier that the employee's contributions matched the employers' contributions exactly in the local authority superannuation schemes, although the employer was responsible for deficiency payments where the scheme ran into deficiencies. This is perfectly true. For example, inflationary wage increases and other sorts of wage increases have been granted over the years and have tended to upset the actuarial basis upon which the original contributions were made. Technically, the employers have to meet these deficiencies.

However, the Trustee Act, 1961 allowed local authority superannuation funds to invest one-half of their funds in equities. This has proved to be a great boon to local authority superannuation schemes. I do not have the figures before me, but I think that there are good grounds for saying that the bulk at least of employers' deficiency payments which would have fallen to be paid by employers have been made good by the increased returns on the investment of the superannuation funds in equities.

The position will be improved in the future, because, by virtue of this Bill, three-quarters will now be allowable for investment in equities. By Section 9 of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act, 1967, the council can also invest in the property market. Therefore, if there is an increased cost in this scheme, the council is in a good position to meet it.

What is the cost? I appreciate that it is difficult to be precise, because the present pattern of retirement may be altered by the proposals which I seek to have inserted into the Bill. With this caveat, as far as can be seen new entrants, if they are married men, will have to pay about 1 per cent. of pensionable pay in addition throughout service, and other contributors will pay about ¼ per cent. To put it in other words, the increased cost will be about 13 per cent. of contributions throughout service, of which the officer will have to meet about 6 per cent. Therefore, subject to the caveat I entered earlier about the question of retirement pattern—this depends not only upon the pressures of the scheme as it would be amended by me, but also upon economic circumstances affecting the individual's decision—it seems as though the cost to the Council might be an extra 7 per cent.

This is an entirely reasonable cost for the Council to meet, given the favourable position in which its superannuation scheme is quite likely to be placed. Therefore, on the grounds of reasonableness, of justice, and of equity between employee and employee, and also on the ground of enabling the Council's superannuation scheme to pay a more positive rôle in personnel management policy within the G.L.C. area, I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will have no hesitation in accepting all my Amendments.

Mr. Brian Batsford (Ealing, South)

I listened with great interest to all the arguments that the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) advanced on his new Clauses and Amendments, particularly because he has been putting the case for the Greater London Council. The Council has constantly asked why the superannuation provisions in local government should still continue to lag behind those in the Civil Service and other forms of public employment.

All the Amendments seek to put back into the Bill in identical wording Clauses which formed Part V of the original Bill. The only difference is that they are not in the same order. One suggested Clause would follow one which is consequential upon it. These Clauses were, in the original Bill, an entirely justifiable attempt by a progressive local authority to secure what I would call reasonable and overdue improvement in its superannuation arrangements.

Before I come to the purpose behind each of the Amendments, it might be appropriate if I were briefly to describe how these Clauses came to be deleted from the original Bill. The Bill was first deposited in the House on 27th November, 1967. On 26th January the G.L.C. was informed that the Government intended to block Part V of the Bill and that, if the council was not prepared to withdraw all, or nearly all, the Clauses in Part V, it was the Government's intention to issue a mandatory instruction to the Committee to omit those Clauses. I do not intend to go into the precedents now, but I think that would have been an act almost without precedent.

7.30 p.m.

Fortunately, on this occasion, however, negotiations between the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Greater London Council were not abandoned. On 28th February, I led a deputation to the Ministry consisting of the chairman of the G.L.C. General Purposes Committee, the leader of the opposition at County Hall, Sir Reginald Goodwin, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and the Chief Officers of the Council.

We were received by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of State. He must forgive me if I say that there have been occasions during the past year when I have thought that every Government Department has a motto on the wall, nicely framed, saying, "Never agree with the G.L.C.". But on this occasion, at least, we were most cordially received and, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, a compromise was ultimately reached. The Government allowed the G.L.C. to retain some of the Clauses in Part V, and the G.L.C. for its part agreed to withdraw others. As a result, the Government no longer blocked the Bill, and it received a Second Reading on 7th March.

A number of alterations to the original Bill were made in the Unopposed Private Bills Committee. If the hon. Member for Lewisham, North and his union—I admit that he has, in a sense, said that he did not have sufficient notice about it— had wished to protest against the deletion of these Clauses, they could have put down what is known as a "Petition against Alteration" and, as a result, the Bill would presumably have been sent to an Opposed Private Bills Committee and these proposals would have been discussed in detail. As it is, the Clauses which the G.L.C. agreed to delete are precisely those which the hon. Gentleman now seeks to restore.

I come now to the new Clauses themselves. I shall be brief because the hon. Gentleman has described them in detail and I have no wish to duplicate what hs has said. The first, "Increase of widow's pension", was Clause 33 of the original Bill. The wording is identical, and, as I think the hon. Gentleman will agree, this is just about the most important of the new Clauses now before the House.

Under existing local authority schemes, the employee-contributor or officer is required to pay the whole cost of his widow's pension. As the hon. Gentleman said, this is done by surrendering two-thirds of the tax-free lump sum which he receives on his retirement. This means that the officer pays two-thirds of his expected lump sum in order to guarantee to his wife a pension which is only one-third of what his pension would be on the date of his death, that is, his death at any time. The increased benefit proposed in the new Clause is that the wife should have half her husband's pension when he dies, not one-third, and it was the intention here that the Greater London Council would make up the difference.

By way of comparison, in the Civil Service the lump-sum grant at the end is reduced by only one-third, not two-thirds, to cover the widow's pension. It is interesting to note that the change recommended here was the first recommendation of the Working Party on Local Government Superannuation which was set up in 1962 and on which sat representatives from all the local authority associations. Alter receiving an estimate of the annual cost which might be involved, the Working Party reported its opinion that the improvement of pensions for widows and also for dependants and children should take precedence over all others in this legislation. Thus, the new Clause now before us is intended to put back one of the main Clauses in Part V which were withdrawn as a result of the agreement between the G.L.C. and the Government, and in return for concessions elsewhere.

The second new Clause, "Further opportunity to exercise an option", was Clause 35 of the original Bill, being consequential on Clauses 33 and 34 dealing with widows' pensions and children's pensions. To summarise the position, in 1954, local government employees were given the option of retaining the superannuation rights which they had up to that moment or accepting the new rights, that is to say, those now existing under the present G.L.C. scheme. Obviously, a number opted to retain their former rights, not thinking that the new ones offered were good enough. When the original Bill was presented to the House, with the proposal to increase widows' pensions from one-third to half and also to provide for a children's pension, it was felt that the people who had had an option previously should have an option again to decide whether they wanted to join the new scheme. Accordingly, the corresponding Clause in the original Bill, Clause 35, automatically fell with Clauses 33 and 34.

The third new Clause, the purpose of which the hon. Gentleman put very cogently, would provide increased benefits for service beyond 60 years of age. The G.L.C. agreed to withdraw the corresponding Clause in the original Bill. It was simply a proposal to encourage qualified and experienced staff to continue at work, but there were, I understand, Inland Revenue difficulties and a certain amount of cost would have been involved.

Now, I come to the fourth new Clause, "Modification of provisions as to re-employment of pensioners". This was designed to cover the re-employment of retired staff. As the hon. Gentleman explained, if a retired person returns to work he is paid his pension, and receives a supplement bringing it up to the salary which he received before he retired. The object of the Clause was that, when an officer returned to work, the G.L.C. would have the right to increase his supplement to bring his salary up to the current level paid for the job. This, I understand, already exists for teachers. However the Greater London Council agreed to withdraw the Clause.

The fifth new Clause, dealing with children's pensions, is the one which, in a sense, is in the wrong order on the Order Paper. At present, the G.L.C. superannuation arrangements make no provisions for officers' children. What the G.L.C. attempted to do here was to put its officers on a par with ex-officers of the London County Council and officers in Government Departments and elsewhere in the public service. One has to remember that a large proportion of the officers at County Hall are ex-officers of the London County Council. The intention behind the Clause, as the hon. Gentleman recognises, I think, has been largely met by Clause 33 in the Bill as it now stands, a new Clause put in with the agreement of the Government and permitting the payment of gratuities by the Council. Although it does not actually say so, this could cover children's pensions. The gratuities may be paid provided that the father dies in the service or within a year of leaving it.

This new Clause was allowed by the Government to replace Clause 34 in the original Bill, which the hon. Gentleman now seeks to put back. The only major difference between the new Clause 33 and the hon. Gentleman's proposed new Clause is that children's pensions in his case would be made payable as of right at any time after the father's death, instead of, as at present, just within a year.

Although the Greater London Council has a good deal of sympathy with the new Clauses—obviously enough, as they were the Council's original proposals— we stand by the agreement we reached with the Government. In view of the concessions they made we should prefer the Bill to go through in its present form, on the understanding, we hope, that similar proposals could well be put forward in another general powers Bill at a later stage.

I hope that the Minister of State can give us some assurance that the whole question of local government superannuation will be looked at again as a matter of urgency.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Niall MacDennot)

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) was unduly modest about his expertise in this field. He revealed very considerable knowledge in his speech.

The new Clauses are all to reinstate provisions taken out of the original Bill as a result of objections by the Government, so it behoves me to explain the Government's attitude. The Government took the view that the provisions were untimely and premature because of their imminent proposals arising out of the review of the social security system. As the hon. Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Batsford) told the House, the Government's view was that the nature of the objections was such that they were prepared if necessary to take steps on Second Reading to ensure that the provisions were deleted. The promoters were informed of this and invited to withdraw the Clauses.

The reasons for the Government's objections were threefold. First, because the Government's own proposals for a national earnings-related pension scheme would be likely to require a substantial adjustment in the local government and other occupational pension schemes, and until the implications of the Government's scheme could be assessed substantial changes in the local government scheme should be avoided.

Second, they were objectionable because N.A.L.G.O. and the local authority associations have their own proposals for amending the local government scheme in its application to local authorities generally, and while there has been agreement on the proposals that are desirable, there has been no agreement on how the cost should be borne, and on the part of one of the main employers' associations a preference to defer implementation until the Government's own proposals are known.

Third, they were objectionable because the introduction of improved benefits for employees of particular authorities, wholly at the employer's cost, as they would have been in this case, as a bait to recruit staff, would introduce undesirable competition between authorities for scarce staff.

In the event the G.L.C. agreed to withdraw the provisions to which rooted objection had been taken, although this was not before the deputation led by the hon. Member for Ealing, South had put its views to me in the most forthright way. I am glad to say that as a result of that meeting we were able to agree that some of its provisions could go forward. It is because of this that the Bill as it now comes before the House does contain some useful, though minor, provisions bearing on superannuation. For instance the Bill contains provisions which, first, will allow death grant to be paid to trustees in order to reduce liability to estate duty; second, will allow premature retirement within 10 years of normal retiring age of 65, with an immediate pension in the case of compulsory retirement on grounds of inefficiency, or with a frozen pension payable from normal retiring age in the case of voluntary retirement.

7.45 p.m.

My hon. Friend asked me to explain in this connection why the age of 55 rather than 50 was taken as the age at which premature retirement could take place without loss of pension. The answer is that where premature retirement provisions exist in other schemes they restrict the period within which the premature retirement may take place to 10 years before retiring age. This is 65 in the local government superannuation scheme, and premature retirement should not, therefore, be allowed earlier than 55. The reference to 50 is probably due to the fact that it is 50 in the Civil Service, where the normal retiring age is 60, but the point is that it should be 10 years before normal retiring age.

Third, the Bill contains provisions which will allow the making of a scheme by the G.L.C., although subject to the Minister's approval, for transfer of pension rights with the private sector.

We felt that as there were precedents in other occupational schemes or similar parallel powers for these three minor provisions, it would be wrong to continue to stand in their way, particularly as to allow these variations did not prejudice the validity of the objection to the differential levels of benefit which would have been introduced by the Clauses that were withdrawn. The Bill retains these advances, small as they are, even though they fall short of what the Promoters originally had in mind.

The present position on the Bill has therefore been reached after the most careful consideration and with the agreement of the G.L.C.—even though this was given with some reluctance. My hon. Friend's Amendments would have the effect of bringing about the very things which the Government has sought to avoid, namely, premature and piecemeal amendment of the local government superannuation scheme before account can be taken of the Government's own proposals; before both sides of the local government service are fully agreed on the future of the local government superannuation scheme; and in a way that may throw additional burdens on rates and would increase competition for already scarce staff.

Mr. Marcus Worsley (Chelsea)

It is central to the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument that the Government are about to announce this scheme and that consideration of this matter should await the scheme. Can he give any idea of when the scheme will be announced?

Mr. MacDermot

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Social Security has said that she expects to publish it before the end of the year.

It will be apparent from what I have said that the grounds for the Government objection to the Clauses is one of timing rather than merit. My hon. Friend has argued that the local government superannuation scheme is in various respects less favourable than other schemes in the public sector. I would not seek to challenge this. Nor would I suggest that the time was not ripe for a review of the local government scheme, were it not for the fact that any legislation on that subject must have regard to the Government's proposals which are due to be published before the end of this year. I hope that that statement is sufficient answer to the last question of the hon. Member for Ealing, South.

I do not want it to be thought that I have accepted all the arguments my hon. Friend has put forward or all the provisions in the new Clauses. But neither am I rejecting them. What I am saying is, first, that it would not be right to legislate for the G.L.C. alone so as to put it ahead not only of other local government schemes, but also in some respects, of the public sector generally; sand, second, that we cannot legislate for the local government scheme generally until the shape of the Government's new earnings-related pension proposals are known, and until a decision has been reached on how any improvements in the scheme are to be financed.

Finally, I should point out to the House that similar provisions to those which were withdrawn from this Bill were also included in a Private Local Bill of this Session which was promoted by the Cheshire County Council, which, like the Greater London Council, withdrew the provisions when it learned of the force of our objections. It would be patently unfair to the Cheshire County Council if the House were now seriously to consider reinstating provisions in the G.L.C. Bill when the opportunity has passed for the Cheshire Bill to be treated in the same way.

I do not think that there is anything I wish to say on the other provisions in the Bill. It has been carefully considered by the Unopposed Private Bill Committee, and in my view the House would now be well advised to let the Bill proceed on its way. I hope that in view of what I have said my hon. Friend will not feel it necessary to press the Amendments.

Mr. Moyle

I was naturally very disappointed by my hon. and learned Friend's reply, as the staff of the G.L.C. will be. "Jam today rather than jam tomorrow" is a much better prospect. I cannot see that I would get a majority in the Lobby if I forced the issue to a Division and I have been reinforced in this judgment by the speech of the hon. Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Batsford). However, I was also encouraged to hear that the Government's general proposals for improvement of the social security scheme will be out by the end of this year because I take the view that the extent to which we can get homogeneous pension provisions throughout employment will determine the extent to which the employment position can be improved throughout the country in terms of flexibility and deployment of scarce and skilled manpower.

Having heard my hon. and learned Friend, I feel the Government are fully seized of the problem and in a position to take action in the not too distant future to improve the superannuation provisions of local authority staff, the G.L.C. staff in particular. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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