HL Deb 27 May 1924 vol 57 cc676-84

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Chelmsford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Extension of period during which contributions by or in respect of school teachers are to be payable.

1. The School Teachers (Superannuation) Act, 1922, shall, unless Parliament shall hereafter fix some earlier date for the purpose, have effect as though in subsection (1) of Section one thereof (which provides that contributions thereunder are to be payable as from the first day of June, nineteen hundred and twenty-two, until the first day of June, nineteen hundred and twenty-four) the first day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, were substituted for the first day of June, nineteen hundred and twenty-four.

VISCOUNT BURNHAM, on behalf of LORD EMMOTT, moved to leave out "the first day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty six," and to insert "the thirty-first day of July, nineteen hundred and twenty-five." The noble Viscount said: Lord Emmott has asked me to move the Amendment which stands in his name. It seeks, as your Lordships will see, to bring to an end the hand-to-mouth arrangement which at present exists in regard to teachers' pensions nearly a year earlier than is proposed in the Bill. It forces the Government to make up their mind sooner, no doubt, than they washed to do, but I would submit that that is not an impossible, even if it be rather a disagreeable, matter. All those who have any concern with the educational system of the country know that the greatest need of the present time is stability in its administration. Teachers are not likely to do their work with the greatest measure of success whilst their minds are so much troubled with material things, and whilst they do not know whether the pension system which is to apply to their profession is to be contributory or not.

Your Lordships are well aware, of course, that the system of pensions in the Civil Service of this country is not contributory. At present, as I understand it, the Government are not prepared to say whether the system which shall apply to the school teachers is to be contributory or not. The noble Lord, Lord Emmott, explained with great clearness and cogency how important this question is, having regard to the Inquiry and Report of the Committee over which he presided. I venture to put it to your Lordships from another point of view. I have had something to do with the scales of salaries which are paid in all classes of schools now, whether on a provisional minimum or on a standard basis. I submit to your Lordships that it is not very easy to discuss what scales are to be continued for the future without knowing the nature of the pension rights—and pensions, after all, are in the nature of deferred pay. I cannot imagine why the Government want to procrastinate in regard to this issue. They have everything to gain by a clear decision, and I do not hesitate to say that if the Joint Committee on Salaries fails to come to an agreement and the Ministry of Education is dragged more directly into the fixing of salaries throughout the country, it is still more to the interest of the Ministry that there should be no doubt about the matter.

The period known as the period of peace for administrative arrangements in regard to salaries in the whole country outside the County of London was meant to last for five years and comes to an end in April of next year. The Committees which are now sitting would be better able to grapple with the great difficulties which confront them if they knew definitely on what principle the pensions are to be assessed and administered. Surely it is not asking too much of the Government that they should apply themselves to this matter. I know they have many things in hand. The Ministry of Education has been considering this for years, and I cannot see why your Lordships should have before you again an emergency Bill to postpone to 1926 the decision as to whether the teachers of the country are to have a contributory scheme of pensions or not. It is for that reason that my noble friend Lord Emmott, who speaks with great authority because he was responsible for the Report which was presented last year, placed on the Paper his Amendment that the date at which the temporary provision shall come to an end shall be July of next year and not April of the year following. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, lines 13 and 14, leave out ("the first day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-six") and insert ("the thirty-first day of July, nineteen hundred and twenty-five").—(Viscount Burnham.)


When I moved the Second Reading of this Bill on Thursday last I explained in some detail the circumstances in which it had been impossible to put through permanent legislation on the subject of superannuation. It will be within the recollection of your Lordships that it was in consequence of the unsatisfactory finance of the Act of 1918 that the Government took two measures. In the first place, they put through that temporary Act of 1922, under which there was a five per cent. contribution on the part of the teachers. In the second place, they referred the whole question of superannuation to a very strong Departmental Committee presided over by my noble friend Lord Emmott, in whose behalf this Amendment has been moved.

The short point to-day is whether the Government is to have power to extend this Act for another two years, or for one year as proposed by my noble friend. May I point out that Lord Emmott, in his speech on the Second Reading the other day, showed the very grave difficulties and complexities of the whole subject, and I think it was obvious to any one who listened to him that it was not a matter which any Government could dispose of in a short space of time. This further consideration must be borne in mind. The noble Lord's Committee did not report until July of last year. The late Government had from July of last year until January of this year, when they went out of office, to formulate their proposals upon this subject, and it can be well understood that in the time at their disposal between July and the General Election they were not able to bring forward any serious legislation on the matter. We have had since January to tackle this very difficult problem. All we ask is that we should not be put in the awkward Parliamentary predicament that we should be in if, supposing your Lordships were to accept the Amendment of my noble friend, we had not in another year's time passed through our permanent legislation on this subject of superannuation within that time limit.

I gave an undertaking on behalf of His Majesty's Government on the Second Beading of the Bill that we would legislate with as great dispatch as possible, and my right hon. friend Mr. Trevelyan said in the other House that he hoped to introduce a measure on the subject early next year and to pass it by the very date which the noble Lord mentioned—July, 1925. Hut there are always slips in legislation, as no one knows better than my noble friend Lord Bumham, and the Government do not want to come forward again and ask for an extension of time. In those circumstances, and in view of the complexity of the problem and the large interests which are involved—because my noble friend knows that we have to negotiate with many people to get anything like an agreement on this subject, otherwise the Bill will be of a most controversial character—I think it is only reasonable to suggest that time is required, and I hope your Lordships will give us the time that is asked for in this Bill. Nothing will foe gained by trying to force us within the limits of time suggested in this Amendment, because if we can carry through the legislation we propose we shall certainly, we hope, carry it through by July.


Is that an undertaking to bring it forward?


I gave the undertaking the other day on the Second Reading of the Bill that the legislation would be introduced early next year and that the Government hoped to carry it through, if possible. That was the undertaking which I offered to the House on the last occasion, and I repeat it to-day with the greatest definiteness. Therefore nothing is to be gained except that we may be put in a very awkward Parliamentary position if the time is limited, as the noble Viscount hints, by tying us down to July 31 of next year. I hope your Lordships will support the Government in this matter. I may remind you that the noble Earl opposite, when he spoke on the Second Reading, said that the Government of which he was a member, had they been in power at the present moment, would have found themselves constrained to bring in the same legislation that we are doing now, and the late Minister of Education, in another place, supported my right hon. friend Mr. Trevelyan when this Bill was passing through the other House. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will reject the Amendment which has been proposed.


I think your Lordships find yourselves in regard to this Bill in exactly the same position as that in which we were when the last Bill was before us. Here is another emergency Bill for which, once more, His Majesty's Government is taking a period of two years. I confess that I share the hesitation of the noble Viscount behind me—[Viscount Burnham]—in allowing another two years to pass in this matter without forcing His Majesty's Government to come to this House in order to ask for fresh authority, and if he goes to a Division I shall be very much inclined to vote with him. There is one point which I should like to put to the noble Viscount (Viscount Chelmsford) upon which ho did not touch. In the Second Beading debate it was suggested that discussion had taken place in the Scottish Grand Committee on May 22, and that in the Scottish Grand Committee the date had been fixed for July 31, 1925. If that has been done in another place with regard to the Scottish Bill, it seems to me very desirable that we should do the same thing in this House, Whether that is so or not I do not know, and I should like to put the point to the noble Viscount who, no doubt, will be able to give us the information.


It is quite true that the date July 31, 1925, has been put in the Scottish Bill, and I shall have the honour of moving the Second Reading of that Bill in this House to-morrow, but I would point out that the circumstances of Scotland are entirely different. In the first place, the Scottish local authorities have a power with regard to educational matters which is not possessed by English authorities, and, in the second place, there is every possibility that there may be an agreement on the matter. At the present moment I cannot say anything in that respect regarding the English Bill. It is because we apprehend very great difficuties in the case of the English Bill that I ask for the extra time. As to the Scottish Bill, we have every confidence that there will be agreement, and therefore we have not to ask for the extra time that we are asking for in the case of this Bill. Does that answer the noble Earl?


As the noble Viscount opposite has said, and as the noble Lord, Lord Emmott, told us in his speech on the Second Reading of this Bill, it is obvious, from the very able Report which Lord Emmott's Committee produced, that a measure to give finality to this most important question is one which will need most careful deliberation on the part of the Board of Education, of the Cabinet, and also of Parliament. It is a most complicated, difficult, and technical measure, and, having served for some time in a humble position in the Board of Education, I feel that it would be churlish to grudge the President of the Board and his Parliamentary Secretary time to go fully into this matter. I think that perhaps your Lordships will not disagree if I say it would be only fair to the great service rendered by the teaching profession of this country that the Government should have every chance of producing a measure which would settle and give finality to this question. I may also mention to your Lordships that the noble Viscount opposite has given an undertaking that the greatest expedition will be shown in the matter.

It is really a small point, because, if the Government are unable to produce their measure by next year, they will have to come to Parliament again, and ask for an extension. From the time when the Report was produced until the Government of which I was a member ceased to be in Office, my right hon. friend and I certainly did consider the matter in detail, and we found how technical it was. But if the Government cannot introduce their measure they will, as I pointed out, have to ask for an extension of time. Lord Burnham, whose experience in this matter is second to none, either in your Lordships' House or outside, because he was Chairman of the Committee which dealt with the question of salaries, told us that the subject is most intimately connected with salaries, and that the question of salaries would be greatly assisted by the passage of a Bill dealing with superannuation. Coming from so high an authority as the noble Viscount, I will not dispute that statement, but I should have thought that it would be desirable to give time for the Board of Education to settle the salaries question, which, of course, is one of great difficulty, to the satisfaction of the three parties concerned—namely, the teachers, the local authorities and the State—before proposals for superannuation are brought forward. With that my noble friend Lord Burnham disagrees, and I will not continue the argument.

In the debate on the Second Beading my noble and learned friend Lord Buckmaster suggested that there was a great danger, if you gave an emergency extension for two years instead of one year, of the Department in question going to sleep, and not pressing the matter forward with all that expedition which we should desire. If I may again say so, I have been connected with Government Departments for the last twenty-five years, and have had experience of six or seven, and in none, I am perfectly certain, is there less chance of its officials going to sleep than in the Board of Education, with a vigilant body of teachers on the one side, and a vigilant body of local authorities on the other. I do not think, therefore, that that danger need alarm your Lordships. Still the matter is really unimportant, because it can be put right if the Government have to ask for a further extension next year. I should personally ask your Lordships to fall in with the wishes of the noble Viscount who moved the Second Beading of this Bill.


The Government is grateful to the noble Earl who has just spoken for having explained that which demands knowledge at first hand to explain properly—namely, the difficulties of negotiating a thing of this kind. There is an immense amount of detail to be dealt with. For instance, the Burnham scales are not yet finally completed. Negotiations are still going on, and upon how those negotiations turn out will depend a good deal the prospects of the Superannuation Bill. If the scale falls short of what the teachers expect, they will object to the deductions for superannuation, and ask that they may be treated more like civil servants. If, on the other hand, the negotiations are satisfactory to them, there will be the more need of coming into this scheme. As the noble Lord knows, not only the teachers have to be considered, but the local authorities also, and the amount of negotiation that has to take place before the basis of a superannuation scheme is adopted is immense. I speak with some knowledge of an analogous problem, because we had the same question with the University professors under a contributory system, which is now working satisfactorily. I myself prefer a contributory system to the system which applies to civil servants.

What I want to bring out is just what, the noble Earl opposite has told your Lordships: that there is a great deal of negotiation to be done. I can assure the noble Lord that there is no delay in the matter. Difficult negotiations are going on, and I think, from what I know, that they are bound to last a considerable time. To quote the analogy of Scotland is to quote an analogy of something which is different. There the local education authorities are of a different kind to those in England. They are an ad hoc body, and are able to deal rather differently with these matters. They have been able to make up their minds and come to an agreement along with the teachers without difficulty. If we had to deal only with Scotland we should have no difficulty in carrying out Lord Emmott's Report quickly. I wish it was as simple a problem as regards England. It is on these grounds that we think it would be unsafe and fatuous to take the earlier date. We want the later date in order to make sure of completing the negotiations.


May I say one or two words in answer to what the Lord Chancellor has said? It is just the difficulty that teachers have in knowing how they will stand in respect to superannuation that makes it all the harder for the local education authorities to come to any agreement with them as to their scale of salaries. It is quite obvious that the Lord Chancellor has put the argument in an inverted way. Is it not easier to settle pensions if you know what the scale of salaries are, because pensions are part of the scale of salaries and have to be considered in fixing them? After what has been said I do not intend to trouble your Lordships by carrying this matter to a Division, but I note what the noble Viscount, the First Lord of the Admiralty, has said—that legislation on this subject will be introduced in another place at the earliest date possible in the next Session and will be pressed into law.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.