HC Deb 27 June 1978 vol 952 cc1291-2
The Second Deputy Chairman

I call the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) to move Amendment No. 2.

Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 4, line 26, leave out 'on the day of the poll' and insert: 'during the week in which the poll takes place'.

The Second Deputy Chairman

With this amendment we may take Amendment No. 3, in page 4, line 26, leave out 'on the day of the poll in that election'.

Mr. Pym

I have moved the amendment on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), who is not present, because it concerns a matter that I briefly raised on Second Reading. I then told the House that it seemed to me that the words on the day of the poll were unduly restrictive.

It is in a sense a probing amendment, but there is a genuine point behind it. If the provision were allowed to be couched in wider terms, it might be both fairer and more reasonable.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. John Smith)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) for moving the amendment, because I appreciate the concern that has given rise to both amendments. The right hon. Gentleman asked a question about the matter on Second Reading.

Subsection (8)(b), which contains the words in question, affects a very small group of participants in the scheme. In fact, it covers the case only of an officeholder who is not a Member of this House —normally an office-holder in the House of Lords—who loses his office as a result of a General Election. The intention of the paragraph is to permit such a person to benefit from the ill-health retirement provision if he can satisfy the Trustees that because of his ill-health he would have been unable to perform the duties of a Member of this House at the time of the election. The paragraph thus safeguards the position of an office-holder in poor health whose intention to apply is overtaken by a snap election, or who suffers a sudden decline in health at the time of a Dissolution.

The reason why "the day of the poll" is stated as the time at which the office holder must be ill has, however, no hidden significance. It is simply that the Trustees must have some definite time at which to judge the office holder's state of health. This is, I hope, made clearer by the note on the clause which has been made available to hon. Members.

I can certainly assure the House that there is no question of the Trustees being obliged to take a blinkered look at office holders' health. The test to be applied, which is the only test it is reasonable to ask the Trustees to apply, is whether, at the time of the election, the individual is generally in a fit state to perform the duties of a Member.

The legislation is not intended to mean that a bout of influenza on the day of the poll would qualify an office holder for ill-health retirement. Equally, a temporary remission on the day of the poll from a chronic condition which would normally render the office holder incapable of performing adequately the duties of a Member would not exclude him. I am sure that we can safely leave it to the Trustees to interpret their responsibilities as I have described.

With that assurance, particularly drawing attention to the fact that the provision does not apply to hon. Members but to certain office holders, I hope that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire will be willing to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Pym

The fact that the amendment refers to someone who is not a member of this House is not, I believe, relevant. However, in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 3 to 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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