§ 2.47 p.m.
§ Order of the Day read for the consideration of the Commons Reason for disagreeing to one of the Lords Amendments.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons Reason for disagreeing to one of the Lords Amendments be now considered.
§ Moved, that the Commons Reason for disagreeing to one of the Lords Amendments be now considered.—(Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor.)493
My Lords, I understand that it is in order to put a question to the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, before we debate this Motion. The question I should like to ask is in relation to a debate in another place on an Amendment sent down from this House which sought to safeguard employees against any loss of pensions which might be expected to accrue. That is in accordance with Clause 4 (2) of the Bill. I should like to point out that this Amendment was not disagreed to in another place, but during the debate upon the Amendment the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power apparently found himself unable to give the same assurance as was given in this House by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor. That assurance was that the Government did not want to rule out expectation.
I should like to ask the noble Lord in charge of the Bill whether he can confirm that when the regulations are eventually submitted employees will be covered. The words of the noble and learned Viscount were:I want these men to be compensated fairly and reasonably for everything they have lost, including their expectations.I hope we shall be able to have a complete assurance on this point, because the Minister of Fuel and Power in another place said it was quite impossible for him to comment on what he would certainly not regard as being an important statement of policy made in this House. Of course, it is a matter of opinion whether or not this is an important statement of policy, but the fact remains that the Minister in another place has definitely dissociated himself from the assurance given by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor. Are we to understand that the undertaking given by the noble and learned Viscount is to stand? Otherwise, we shall be faced with a very unfortunate and unconstitutional position.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, let me in the first place express the apologies of the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor for his absence. He is sorry not to be present to deal with this question. Under Clause 4 (2) of the Coal Industry Bill, employees will be provided with fair and reasonable compensation 494 for cesser or prejudice of an expectation of accruer, ascertained, broadly speaking, by reference to their period of past service and to their emoluments, and in such cases and to such extent as may be specified in the regulations, taking into account any loss of benefits which might have been expected to accrue by future employment.
My right honourable friend the Minister of Fuel and Power is not yet in a position to state precisely what will be provided for in the regulations, but very broadly it is not the Government's intention to exclude from benefit any class of person who has been employed in the industry for arty substantial period and is of any age at which he can reasonably be held to have suffered some appreciable loss of expectation. As the noble Lord mentioned, the regulations when made will be subject to Resolution of the House. This will give an opportunity for full discussion if the Opposition are in any way doubtful or dissatisfied. It is not fair to expect all the details of the regulations to be available now. The details can be considered later, and this is not the stage to say any more about them. Broadly speaking, the regulations will follow the compensation regulations made under the Electricity and other nationalisation Acts and the National Coal Board's own practice under their pension schemes.
§ 2.51 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I think the noble Lord will agree that, whatever is the inner meaning of the Minister's rather obscure remarks, they do not go so far as the definite undertaking given in this House by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor. I consider it is a deplorable position with which we are faced, because we in this House thought we had this definite and specific undertaking; and now, apparently, the Minister has gone back on t hat undertaking. I do not want to take the matter further to-day; indeed, I do not see that any useful purpose would be served by taking any immediate action. However, I would like to safeguard the position of the Opposition in this matter. When the regulations come along, we shall hope end expect that the Lord Chancellor's undertaking, which was given quite definitely to this House, will be honoured in those regulations. If not, 495 we shall have to consider seriously the position which arises.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.