HC Deb 20 July 1972 vol 841 cc1070-5


Mr. Carol Johnson (Lewisham, South)

I beg to move Amendment No. 421, in page 174, line 7, leave out from 'transfer' to 'he' in line 10.

Mr. Speaker

With it we shall discuss Amendments No. 422, in page 174, leave out lines 13 to 21.

And Amendment No. 547, in page 174, line 21, at end insert:

  1. (c) that where such person is unable, within a specified period and for a fair price to sell the property in which he was living prior to the transfer, the authority to whose employment he is transferred shall either itself purchase the property or shall reimburse to that person a sum equivalent to the financial loss sustained by him; and
  2. (d) where at the time of the transfer or within four years thereafter the person is required to work at a place other than that at which he worked before the transfer the transferee authority shall reimburse him for any removal expenses and any increase in travelling expenses which he may thereby incur, to such extent and for such period as shall be reasonable.

Mr. Johnson

These Amendments raise matters of the greatest importance to all local Government officers who will be affected by local Government reorganisation. The Clause deals with the transfer of officers and contains the essential provision that an officer's terms and conditions of employment shall be maintained. This has become common form invariably included in legislation nowadays. It is not only common form for public service employees but applies increasingly over a wide area of industry and commerce.

It has become a cardinal principle with the trade union movement that in all cases where employees are transferred in connection with a scheme of reorganisation they should continue to enjoy terms and conditions of employment not less favourable than those enjoyed before transfer. The Clause could and should have said that and no more. But it goes on to introduce an irrelevant and objectionable factor by envisaging that once an officer has been transferred his terms and conditions may be changed. Will the Minister explain why the simple principle which is generally accepted is now to be undermined?

There seems no valid reason why any doubt should be raised about transferred officers by the introduction of a reference to new terms and conditions of employment which quite clearly undermines the transferred officer's normal, natural and legitimate right to enjoy conditions which are not less favourable than those existing before transfer. It has been brought to my attention within the last half hour that in similar cases under the London Government Act, 1963, the use of the words in subsection 3(b) …the scale of his salary or remuneration…are not less favourably than those which he enjoyed immediately before the date of transfer did not prevent the new receiving authority from changing the grades of any particular officer so that he would obviously be prejudiced thereby.

I suggest, therefore, that the subsection is offensive and should be removed, and that is the object of the first two Amendments. Amendment No. 547 seeks to change the subsections of the main Clause.

11.15 p.m.

With regard to the first one, the Minister will, I think, readily accept that there will probably be a large number of local authority employees likely to be affected by reorganisation who are at the present time owner-occupiers of houses. If, as a result of reorganisation, those officers are compelled to move house in order to safeguard their employment, there will undoubtedly be many cases, particularly in depressed areas in Wales and elsewhere, where the prospect of selling their existing houses is quite remote. I would have thought it reasonably certain that cases of hardship are in such cases bound to arise, and it is to deal with that situation that I submit there should be a power written into the Bill to provide for such cases.

This could be done quite easily by an order or regulation made under the Clause so that in proper cases the receiving authority itself could purchase the house in question or, if this cannot be done for any reason, appropriate compensation should be paid to the officer transferred.

With regard to the new subsection, there is no provision in the main Clause which requires, in a case where an officer is transferred to work at a different place, an authority to reimburse him for removal expenses and increased travelling costs. This is no new principle and, indeed, there is ample precedent for my proposal. Such a provision has frequently been included in orders made under the Water Act, 1945, where, because of reorganisation, an officer is likely to be removed to another locality.

When the Minister replies, he may say that there already exists under the national scheme and provisions of service provision for payment for disturbance and travelling allowances. But I hope he will recognise that those provisions were not designed to meet a major reorganisation of the character provided in the Bill. NALGO, which has given careful consideration to the matter, is definitely of the opinion that those are inadequate financially and are not sufficiently comprehensive to meet the forthcoming changes.

The Department has issued a paper on local government compensation in which reference is made to the need for reimbursement of reasonable removal expenses and extra travelling expenses to those who, instead of moving house, travel daily to their new place of employment.

I hope, in those circumstances, that I shall receive a favourable reply from the Minister.

Mr. Graham Page

In reply to the first question raised by the hon. Gentleman on the wording of Clause 245(3), I think he has misread the words and has read an "or" instead of an "and" or an "and" instead of an "or". I will not detain the House by giving an explanation of the grammar of the subsection, but I am prepared to discuss it with the hon. Gentleman afterwards. I give the assurance that if the hon. Gentleman is right and I am wrong I will see that it is put right in another place. I am sure there was no intention to produce the sort of case which the hon. Gentleman put to the House. In fact, his Amendment goes much wider.

These Amendments would have the effect of giving each local authority employee a legal right to retain his remuneration at the level existing at the time of his transfer to a new authority, whatever the duties he may be required to undertake with that new authority. This would create inequitable anomalies in salary levels between staff employed on comparable duties in the new authority, and could lead to pressure to raise salary and staff gradings to the highest levels found at the time of transfer, whether justified or not, within each group of staff in each of the new authorities, with inevitably inflationary consequences.

In the Government's view, the new authorities should not be fettered in the task of forming their new management structure and settling their new individual staffing requirements, and certainly should not be fettered in terms of both numbers and gradings. To give the kind of protection envisaged in the Amendments would make it intensely difficult to avoid creating substantial anomalies.

It is recognised that there will inevitably be some people who will suffer loss or diminution of emoluments on reorganisation, but the right way to deal with this is by means of compensation and not by bestowing a right of artificial salary levels. We have provided the rules for compensation. Those compensation proposals have received a generally favourable response, and discussions are still proceeding on the detailed points with representatives of staff interests. We do not in any way want to be ungenerous or mean in these compensation proposals, and we hope that they will satisfy the staff associations when we have finally agreed the detailed points with them.

I am sure that that is the right way to deal with this matter. It is the way which has been adopted on so many occasions in the reorganisation of local government and other public bodies, that is, compensation for loss rather than a statutory right to continue at the same salary. I must, therefore, resist the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Carol Johnson

Although I am not altogether happy with the—

Mr. Speaker

Order. With respect, the hon. Gentleman is too late. I put the Question. I am sorry. Perhaps I put it a little quickly, but put it I did, and there we are.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 1147, in page 174, line 22, after 'to', insert '(a)'.

I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that we might conveniently discuss at the same time Government Amendments Nos. 1148 and 1149.

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Page

These Amendments provide safeguards to staff of local authority associations affected by the reorganisation of local government similar to those already given to the staff of local authorities themselves. In consultation with us, the local authority associations have agreed the Amendments. In fact, they requested that the associations' staffs be included in the Bill in this form, and I believe that they are satisfied with the Amendments. I hope that the House also will be satisfied.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 1148, in page 174, line 24, after 'Act' insert:

  1. '(b) any prescribed association of local authorities the constituent members of which include councils falling within subsection (2) above, and
  2. (c) any prescribed association of committees of local authorities the constituent members of which include committees of councils falling within subsection (2) above'.—[Mr. Graham Page.]

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