§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee on recommitment of the Bill, read.
THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (LORD PAHENHAM)
My Lords, I beg to 155 move that the House do resolve itself into Committee on this Bill. With the permission of the House, I will say a very few words regarding the Report of the Select Committee. We in the Government are most grateful for the fair-mindness and thoroughness with which the Select Committee investigated this Bill. If I may say so, they have been agreeably loth to use the red ink and almost equally loth to use the blue pencil; they have been very kind to us, and given us what is practically a clean Bill. One Amendment has emerged, agreed on between the company and the Government, which I will be moving at the proper moment.
I should, however, make one further point on behalf of the Government. I am afraid that we cannot undertake, as implied by the Select Committee, to incorporate in the Bill itself any specific safeguard for the future of the employees of the company, but I hope that the House will feel satisfied that the interests of the employees will in no way suffer. On that subject, I would point out that this Bill transfers to public ownership the shares of Cable and Wireless, Limited, which are at present held by private persons, and we do not feel that this is the place in which to make provision for compensation to the staff of the company—a company which, for the time being, at any rate, will remain in existence. In any case—and this will be perhaps more relevant in the view of the House—very firm assurances have been given on behalf of the Government that existing contracts of service of employees will not be disturbed by a change of ownership. Moreover, any changes in conditions of employment will only be made after full consultation with representative staff associations. Finally, there is to be appropriate machinery for consultation between the management and the staff on all matters of mutual interest.
I have no doubt that it will cover pensions, although I am speaking without the book. I have no doubt that pensions would be a matter of mutual interest. The noble Viscount must take my extempore statement on that for what it is worth.
So I should imagine—again speaking extempore. If it were within the contract it would come under the phrase which I have already used, which refers to existing contracts of service. I know how much importance noble Lords opposite attach to this matter of seeing that full justice is done to employees and full security provided, and I hope that what I have just said will prove satisfactory. As regards directors, in the view of His Majesty's Government there is, on this occasion, no case for compensation. If we may consider first the ordinary directors, the House will appreciate that even if this Bill had never seen the light of day arrangements could have been made at any time for their removal, and no compensation would have been payable to them. On the other hand, directors with service contracts are in a different category, and are in a somewhat stronger legal position. These gentlemen, however, if they are removed under the Bill before the House, will suffer no pecuniary loss whatever, since the holding company, of which they are also directors, will be liable to pay their full salaries. Any loss incurred would fall on the holding company and, if a case were made out, would be a matter for discussion between the Government and that company after the appointed day. I hope that what I have said on this subject will seem reasonable, and whilst I shall attempt to reply to any further points which may be raised I hope also that the House will feel able to send the Bill forward without further alterations.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Pakenham.)
§ LORD ALTRINCHAM
My Lords, on behalf of those sitting with me I would associate myself with what the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has just said about the work of the Select Committee. It was very efficiently carried out, and we are grateful to them. I should also like to welcome the assurance which he gave us about the treatment to be accorded to the old servants of the company now being taken over by the Government. There is no question in any quarter that the company has rendered the greatest 157 service to this country, and to the Empire, and there is no question that these men have had a particularly hard time during the war. It would be wrong if old servants of the company who have rendered a great public service should be in any way prejudiced or should suffer from lack of consideration because, in the interests of Imperial co-operation, the status of the company is to be changed. We are all very glad indeed that that definite statement was made on behalf of His Majesty's Government, and of course we assume that a contract includes a contract for a pension, where that is included in the contract.
My Lords, I also wish to associate myself with the noble Lord in thanking the Select Committee for their work. The noble Marquess who sits beside me naturally feels reluctant to do so, as he was Chairman.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair.]
§ Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3 [Consequential provisions as to operating company]:
§ EARL FORTESCUE
On behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, who is unable to be here, I am authorized to say that he does not propose to move the Amendment which he put down to this clause or, indeed, any Amendment standing in his name.
May I express my gratitude to the noble Earl, and ask him to convey it to the noble Lord, Lord Woolton?
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
I understand that it falls to the spokesman for the Government to move an Amendment made by the Select Committee, and I beg to do so.
Amendment (made by the Select Committee) moved—
After Clause 5 insert the following new clause:
§ Availability of transferred documents and staff for compensation proceedings.
§ "5A. It shall be the duty of the operating company—
- (a) to afford, without payment, to any company mentioned in the First Schedule to this Act, such facilities as that company
158 may reasonably require in prosecuting its claim to compensation under this Act for the examination of, and the taking of copies of or extracts from, documents relating to the operating company's undertaking; and
- (b) so far as may be reasonably necessary in order to enable any such company effectually to avail itself of the right conferred by the preceding paragraph and to prosecute its claim, to enter into arrangements for its having, for such period as may be reasonably necessary for that purpose, the services of any person in the employment of the operating company."—(Lord Pakenham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Schedules agreed to.