HL Deb 30 July 1924 vol 59 cc78-81

My Lords, I desire to ask His Majesty's Government whether they will consider the possibility of relieving school teachers, who acquire foreign nationality by marriage, from the disabilities which now attend them in regard to pension. I will not detain your Lordships for very long upon this point. I referred to it in your Lordships' House on the Second Reading of the Superannuation of Teachers Bill, when I asked the noble Viscount, Lord Chelmsford, whether it was possible to deal with the matter in connection with that Bill. He thought that was not a proper opportunity and, therefore, that it should be reserved until a future date. So I ventured to place this Question on the Paper to ask His Majesty's Government whether they are able to deal with cases of this kind. I know that the weakness of my case is that only one case has occurred, but it seems to me that when a case of hardship of this kind arises, a concrete case, that is the moment to consider it and, if possible, remedy it and generally put things right in view of similar questions turning up again in the future.

I do not want to go into the particulars of this case, because I think it is very well known to the Ministry of Education. It was considered when I was at the Ministry of Education and, had the late Government remained in power, I should have hoped that we would have been able to do something. But the General Election took place, and His Majesty's present Government came into office. I therefore ask them if they can see any possibility of dealing with cases of this kind and of remedying what I think is admitted on all sides to be a hardship to women teachers who, through no fault of their own, render themselves unable to enjoy the advantages of their superannuation. The matter is dealt with in the Old Age Pensions Act, and it occurred to me when I was considering this case that it would be possible to deal with the superannuation of teachers on somewhat similar lines. I venture to ask the noble Viscount whether the matter has been considered and if anything can be done to remedy this state of affairs.


My Lords, this case admits of a very simple answer and I hope my answer will satisfy the noble Earl. The law as it affects teachers at the present moment with regard to cases such as that which has been mentioned by the noble Earl is as follows: Section 102 (2) of the School Teachers Superannuation Act, 1910, provides that no superannuation allowance or gratuity shall be payable to any teacher who is not a British subject and no death gratuity shall be payable in respect of any teacher not being a British subject. It is quite clear, therefore, on the face of it, and as the law stands at the present moment, that the Government are not in a position to meet the hardships of this lady's case.

I happened to have the honour to preside last year over a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons on the big subject of the nationality of married women, and the curious result occurred that the five members of your Lordships' House agreed with my Report, which was that there should be no alteration in the law with regard to married women as it stands at present, while five members of the other House agreed with my noble friend Lord Danesfort, who was then a member of the other House. We agreed to differ, therefore, and report our differences to the two Houses. In the course of that Inquiry cases such as the one brought forward this afternoon by my noble friend were urged upon us as a reason for altering the general law on the subject—namely, altering the general law that a woman on marriage takes the nationality of her husband. Those who agreed with me on the Committee felt that they were not prepared to alter the general law on special cases of this sort, but they did recommend that when the opportunity came for dealing with this subject in relation to the particular subject on which they arose there should be a possibility of an amendment of the law.

On this question of the teacher it happens that a very favourable opportunity will occur next year, because I have given an undertaking in this House that the whole question of superannuation in connection with teachers shall then be brought forward in the shape of a Bill if the present Government is in office. That Bill would offer an opportunity by which we can correct this hardship without touching the general law on the subject. In the remarks with which he put this Question, the noble Earl alluded to the Old Age Pensions Act, which he said offered a possible precedent for some such provision in the measure relating to superannuation. I might read what that Act provides in connection with a case very similar to the present one. It provides that if, at the date of the receipt of an old age pension, the alien husband is dead, or the marriage with the alien has been dissolved, or annulled, or the recipient of the pension has for a period of not less than two years up to the date been legally separated from or deserted by the alien, the disqualification for pension shall not exist. It seems to me that that provision is a precedent and a model on which a hardship of this sort might be provided against in the Superannuation Bill.

While I do not make any promise with regard to an exactly similar clause in the Superannuation Bill of next year—in fact, I am not prepared to make any promise at all—yet, at the same time, I can assure the noble Earl that the principle underlying this particular case will meet with most favourable consideration on the part of the Education Department. The noble Earl knows the difficulties of making promises with regard to future legislation far better than I do, and I think he will realise that that is the furthest extent to which I can go. I think he ought to be well satisfied with that reply on the part of His Majesty's Government.


My Lords, I may say that I am completely satisfied with the reply of my noble friend opposite. I agree with him as to the danger of making a definite promise with regard to future legislation. I quite understand that it is out of the question to deal with this without legislation and I thought that the noble Lord understood that.


Yes, certainly.