HL Deb 25 June 1953 vol 182 cc1249-74

3.4 p.m.

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

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Mancroft.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The LORD O'HAGAN in the Chair]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:

Additional provisions as to regulations

2.—(1) The superannuation regulations may include provision for securing that a contributory employee who possesses such professional or other special qualifications as may be prescribed by the regulations shall, with the consent of the employing authority and subject to payment by the employee and the authority of such additional contributions, if any, and subject to such other conditions, as may be so prescribed, be entitled to reckon additional years of service.

LORD ROCHDALE moved to add to subsection (1): and those regulations may extend to the case of an officer who had previously retired from the service of an employing authority and had been re-engaged by them.

The noble Lord said: When this Bill was passing through another place the Minister made the point in Committee that it is important if possible to ensure that no one falls by the wayside and is left out, and my noble friend, Lord Mancroft, in the Second Reading of the Bill in your Lordships' House made a similar point. He said (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 182 (No. 75), Col. 941): New points have continually cropped up, most of them of a comparatively minor character, to meet categories of people who would otherwise be left out … contrary to the spirit behind this Bill. My two Amendments, which, though not consequential one upon the other, nevertheless hang together, deal with a class of employees of local authorities whom I regard as having perhaps been left out, and they are people who retired from service before September 30, 1950, but who, since retiring, have been employed in local government service and continue to be employed at the present time. As the Bill now stands, these individuals cannot get any advantage from the provisions of the Bill.

It may be asked, "Why should they?" For that reason one needs to consider why it was that they retired. The main reason why they retired was that, having attained forty years' service, they were entitled to retire; and it was only by retiring under the 1937 Act that they could opt for their pension to be so commuted that their widow would receive a pension on their demise. If they left that opting to a later date it might well be that their health would have deteriorated and that they could not get that clean bill of health which would entitle them to opt for their widows to get pensions.

Therefore, in certain cases, though they might be regarded as retired formally, there were certain individuals in important positions and with high professional qualifications and so on, whose services local authorities did not wish to lose; and so the local authorities re-employed them. These are the individuals with whom my two Amendments propose to deal. If this type of employee had done exactly as I have said—retired formally and then been re-employed—since September 30, 1950, they would have come within the benefits of this present Bill, and they would have stood to gain by reason of being allowed added years of service and would therefore be entitled to increased pensions. As it is, however, this particular class of employee, when they finally retire from their present service, although to-day they may be drawing both salary and pension, will do so with a pension calculated not on the rate of their remuneration now, or on what it might have been if they had stayed on and were getting the benefit of post-war salary increases. Instead, their pension will be based on the salary they were drawing at the time of their formal retirement, which was in most cases before the post-war increase in salaries. That means that they are at a disadvantage compared with those who may have remained on in service or who have retired formally since September 30, 1950.

The first Amendment down in the name of my noble friend Lord Rea and myself deals with this matter in a general way. The second (and perhaps it will be for your Lordships' convenience if I deal with them together, because they hang together) deals with it in a rather more specific way: it is concerned with cases where this matter has been covered to some extent, but not entirely, by local Acts. It seems to me that here we have a class, though perhaps a small one, of people who, had it not been for the provisions of the 1937 Act, would have been able to take advantage of the benefits provided in this present Bill. I submit that their case is worthy of consideration. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3. line 26, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Rochdale.)

3.8 p.m.


I wish formally to support the noble Lord in this Amendment. As he has explained, this is rather a technical matter. It appears that there is a small, and now diminishing, class of people who retired before October, 1950, who are apparently placed at some disadvantage. I am sure that we can leave this matter to the fairness of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, together with the helpful and expert advice he has, not to put these people in an unfair position if it can possibly be avoided. I beg to support the Amendment.


We on this side of the House have no strong feelings about these Amendments. On the one hand, it looks as though certain people had an option at a certain time, either to continue in service with all the risks that were involved in their pension and, particularly, in exercising the option to allocate a portion of their pension to their widows. They chose the exact moment of their retirement, when they were apparently in good health and got the maximum benefit of the then existing conditions; and since then it has turned out that, if they had been able to take advantage of this Bill, they would have done better. It is just one of those cases where a man may happen to have made the wrong choice. It is unfortunate. Whatever date is fixed—I imagine that some line has got to be fixed; here it happens to be September 30, 1950—there will always be some people who are on the wrong side of the line. On the other hand, this is not a big matter and it comes within the statement that was made about the Bill, that it would not involve any appreciable charge on the Superannuation Fund. I understand that only a few people are involved. They have a sense of grievance that a Bill has been produced to improve certain conditions and that they happen to be just outside it. If Her Majesty's Government can see their way to putting these people on the right side of the fence, we certainly shall not feel disposed to object.

There is one question I should like to ask. I do not know what Her Majesty's Government are going to do but, assuming that they do see their way to meet these few hard cases—and, as I say, we have not the slightest objection—I will it involve a payment of contributions on the part of the individuals and the local authorities into the Fund, or will the Fund have to bear the whole cost? I should have thought that, if some benefit was given, it ought to be on the basis of a contribution towards the Fund.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, speaking from the Liberal Benches, for the kind remarks he made about myself. I should like to repeat the remarks I made on Second Reading, that we desire to see that no injustice is done. If there were any injustice under the Bill as it stands, we should, of course, be very attentive to the proposals which the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, and his supporters have put forward. It is the Government's view, first, that no injustice in this particular case has been occasioned; and, secondly, if there had been an injustice—which I do not admit—this particular clause is wholly inappropriate and this is quite the wrong place in the Bill to put this particular matter right. Perhaps your Lordships will be good enough for a moment to look at the clause which the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, seeks to amend. I will do my best to explain to your Lordships once again what is behind the purpose of this clause. Clause 2 (1) of the Bill was included for a specific purpose—namely, to enable employees whose start in service had been delayed by long professional or technical training to have their recognisable service for pension artificially lengthened to make up for the late start. It was really a recruiting device—that is all it was intended to be. It is a discretion which is naturally designed for exercise soon after the appointment of the employee. The clause is based on a similar but more detailed provision in the Westminster City Council (Superannuation and Pensions) Act, 1909. There are similar provisions, I understand, in other local Acts. There has never been any intention of, or need for, making regulations which would enable a local authority to exercise this power at the end of a person's career—and that is what the noble Lord is seeking to do. It can be taken that any regulations made will require the power to be exercised within a reasonable period after the making of the appointment.

The Amendment would allow regulations to provide for this discretion being exercised in the case of a re-employed pensioner and, therefore, it is completely outside the scope and intention of Clause 2 (1) of the Bill. That is the first and principal reason why I must ask your Lordships not to accept this Amendment. I would add that no extension of this particular kind has ever been suggested by any of the employers' or employees' associations, and it is certain that there is no demand for it; nor are there any general grounds for accepting what I hope my noble friend will forgive me for describing as rather an odd provision. I agree entirely with the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in his opening remarks.

In answer to the noble Lord's question about contributions to the Fund if payments were made, the answer is that payments would be met cut of the rates, and no contribution is suggested from the individual concerned. There is something else that I think perhaps I should mention, to get a proper appreciation of this matter. I suspect—I hope I am doing nobody any injustice—that this is the work of one man. I believe that this Amendment is designed for the special benefit of a certain gentleman who was clerk to an important county council from 1935, who retired in 1950 and was immediately reappointed as county clerk on the same salary—that is, £3,000 a year. He is what is known technically as a designated employee, and therefore draws both pay and pension. He retired too early to be entitled to an option for the new superannuation benefits which will be given by the Bill. I think that is self-evident. He has been conducting a lengthy and very complicated warfare with my right honourable friend's Ministry, and this is his rather ingenious way of striking yet another blow in his own case. He is the only man involved and he is the only one who has taken up the matter; and I do not think a Bill of this nature should be used for a private effort by an individual who feels himself, in my opinion quite wrongly, misjudged, to secure a victory over a Government Department.

We had this very same point a day or two ago in dealing with the Enemy Property Bill, when the Horse decided that a Public Bill was not the right place for an individual to carry out his private wishes. If this gentleman feels that he has been done an injustice—and what he really does feel is that he was not paid enough as clerk to the county council: that is quite clear—then the proper place for him to put his grievance right is in one of the numerous Private Bills which his county promotes. It an additional reason why we cannot possibly accept this Amendment, or indeed the next Amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, which is consequential, not in its content but in its design. It is an attempt to come in on another limb if he fails to win on this one. This Bill is an entirely inappropriate place to put right a private injustice. I further add that, even if this were the appropriate place, I do not think that there is an injustice, and I do not suggest that your Lordships should accept this Amendment.


Whilst being grateful to my noble friend for the detail with which he has gone into this case, and whilst obviously regretting that he has not seen his way to accept my Amendment, I appreciate his point of view. On the other hand, although the number of individuals affected is not many, I think he will find that it amounts to more than the one individual he mentioned. However, he has made a suggestion that this matter could be cleared up by the individuals concerned asking their local authorities to include some such provision in a local Bill. In the circumstances, I am content with that advice, and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clauses 3 to 6 agreed to.

Clause 7:

Miscellaneous amendments as to service

7.—(1) Where any person—

  1. (a) ceases to be a contributory employee or local Act contributor under any local authority in such circumstances that a transfer value is paid by the appropriate administering authority or local Act authority to some body or person other than an administering authority or local Act authority; and
  2. (b) subsequently becomes a contributory employee or a local Act contributor in such circumstances that no transfer value is paid to the appropriate administering authority or, as the case may be, to the local Act authority,
then, notwithstanding anything in subsection (2) of section twelve of the principal Act or in any corresponding provision of the local Act scheme, he shall not be entitled to reckon any service prior to the date on which he so ceased to be a contributory employee or local Act contributor.

3.20 p.m.

LORD BURDEN moved to add to subsection (1): The foregoing provisions of this subsection and anything (whether express or implied) in any statutory instrument having the same effect as those provisions shall not apply in the case of any person who has ceased or may hereafter cease to be a contributory employee or local Act contributor otherwise than by his own express act.

The noble Lord said: In moving the Amendment standing in my name may I assure the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft as I did on Second Reading, that these Amendments are not moved in any hostile spirit. I appreciate the many hours of labour put in by the Working Party, and the good will engendered in the Working Party, and I am also very appreciative of the fact that the Minister of Housing and Local Government managed to convince whoever had to be convinced that this Bill should have Parliamentary time. But, putting it in Lord Mancroft's own words, I am sure that, if an injustice is being done in this Bill, it is only right and proper that the matter should be looked at; and if there is a fair and proper explanation of what is deemed to be an injustice, that may tend to wipe away some of the difficulties. But if a real injustice is established, then I hope that the noble Lord and the Minister will be prepared to have a second look at the matter. I want to make it quite clear that this Amendment and the next—it will be appreciated that they hang together—are submitted only on behalf of people in local government service who are transferred to meet the exigencies of the public service, whether in local government, the Civil Service or on a public board. But the Amendments do not apply to those who move, as the phrase has it, in order to better themselves. That is a point I want to make quite clear.

I am sorry that I have got to be (in the words which Kipling puts in file mouth of one of his characters in Stalky & Co.)"filthily technical" in regard to this suggested Amendment. As the noble Lord will be aware, most of these things are technical in character, and some technicalities cannot always be avoided. Section 8 (2) of the Local Government Superannuation Act, 1937, reads: The superannuation allowance to be made to a contributory employee under this Part of this Act shall be on the following scale, that is to say:

  1. (a) in respect of every completed year of contributory service, one sixtieth of his average remuneration;
  2. (b) in respect of every year of noncontributory service, one one-hundred-and-twentieth of his average remuneration."
Then, Section 6 of the 1937 Act requires a local government officer to pay contributions at the rate of 6 per cent. of his remuneration, unless he is an officer being a designated employee who, without a disqualifying break of service, is at any time"— that is, at the time of the 1937 Act— a contributory employee. A "designated employee" is defined as a person who before the appointed day had been, or had been treated by a local authority as being, an officer or servant to whom the Act of 1922 applied. Section 40 of the Act also defines a "disqualifying break of service" in relation to such a person as a continuous period of twelve months or longer during no part of which he was a contributory employee or local Act contributor or subject to the Act of 1922.

An officer who has had a disqualifying break in his service becomes subject to two main disabilities. First, the right to reckon any past service as contributory service is lost. On re-entering local government service and becoming a contributory employee again after a disqualifying break, any past local government service can be reckoned only as non-contributory service. Secondly, an officer who, having been a designated employee under the Local Government and Other Officers' Superannuation Act, 1922, paid contributions at the rate of 5 per cent. of his remuneration prior to his disqualifying break in service, would, if he again became a contributory employee, be required to contribute at the rate of 6 per cent.

Before the Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 1948came into force, a local government officer could retain his local government superannuation rights on transfer to alternative employment only if he became a civil servant and was entitled to the limited benefits provided by the Local Government and Civil Service (Superannuation) Rules of 1936. On the other hand, on leaving the local government service for other employment the local government officer always knew that, even if he did not return to the employment of a local authority for many years, his previous local government service would then be reckoned as non-contributory service for the purpose of calculating any superannuation allowance to which he might ultimately become entitled under the provisions of the 1937 Act.

The 1948 Act enabled the Minister to make regulations providing for the preservation of superannuation rights in full on interchange of employment between the local government service and the Civil Service, and also service with public boards and other similar employment. Anybody who watches the evolution of the public service will agree that interchangeability is a good thing—we want interchangeability. These interchange regulations were an advantage to local government officers in that they had the right to reckon previous contributory service at the rate of one-sixtieth of their average remuneration could be retained. Unfortunately, this advantage was offset by an interpretation placed upon the various interchange rules and also the National Health Service (Superannuation)Regulations, 1950. The interpretation had the effect of depriving a local government officer who transferred from the employment of a local authority to the Civil Service, or who entered the employment of a public board or went into the National Health Service, and then returned to the employment of a local authority more than twelve months after leaving the service, of the right to reckon previous local government service even as non-contributory service. This interpretation has been the subject of prolonged negotiations between Ministry officials and the representatives of the staff concerned, and the latter have protested very strongly about the hardship which it has caused. In fact, it has stultified—if I may put it that way—the good intentions in regard to interchange and regulations. People feel that injustice is being done to them if they are compelled to transfer and at the same time are deprived of various existing rights. I am fortified in submitting my case to the Minister for consideration by the fact that so far as I am aware—I believe I am correct in this statement—the employers, the local authority associations, are themselves now asking for this to be restored.

I now pass to something which may be regarded as a somewhat minor aspect of the problem—the loss of the right to contribute at 5 per cent, and being compelled on re-transfer, that is, on going back again, to contribute at the rate of 6 per cent. That arises from the fact that the people concerned, presumably, under the regulations, have lost the advantage of a designated post under the clause which I have just read to your Lordships. Now 1 per cent. may seem a trivial amount but, taking an average salary of, say, £600 a year, I submit that in these hard times, £6 is a consideration. And that is not a hypothetical case. I will endeavour to prove it to your Lordships in a moment by reading a copy of a letter from the Ministry. But 'before coming to that, I want to urge on the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, or whoever is answering for the Government, that, in the nature of things, this problem must be a diminishing one, because the number of people who come under the 1922 Act, being ordinary frail human beings, will, in the course of time, be translated to another sphere, either up or down, as the case may be; and no problem will arise there so far as superannuation rights are concerned—at least, I suppose not.

However, to revert to this matter of paying 6 per cent. as against 5 per cent. Here is a copy of a letter from the Ministry which rather clinches the matter, in so far as it shows the way in which the matter is looked at by the Ministry. The letter states: A contributory employee in the electricity department of a local authority was transferred on April 1, 1948, to the B.E.A. He was a designated employee and by virtue of the Electricity Pension Rights Regulations, 1948, he continued to contribute at the rate of 5 per cent. After a period of twelve months, he left the employment of the Authority and again became a contributory employee. The period during which he was employed by the British Electricity Authority constituted a disqualifying break of service and the Minister decided that in relation to his new employment"— that was his employment again in the local government service— the officer was not a designated employee and his rate of contribution was 6 per cent. I hope that, although I have been compelled to be technical in moving this Amendment, I have made the point as clear as a technical point of this kind can be made. I would assure your Lordships, with respect to the Amendments on the Marshalled List with which I am concerned, that they are designed to tidy up this Bill, either to get the clauses included in the Bill or to elicit a full and adequate explanation as to why they are not in the Bill. I hope—and I feel very strongly in regard to these two clauses—that the Minister may be able to help us in order to see that (to use Lord Mancroft's own words) justice is done. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 47, at end insert the said new words.—(Lord Burden.)

3.37 p.m.


May I say a word or two on this Amendment? I think that Lord Burden was quite right to explain the matter in some detail, because there are technical questions involved. Really, the principle of these two Amendments is very similar. It is just this. Certain people transfer from the local government service to other public service and then subsequently go back to local government service. That constitutes a break in service. If the break in service is longer than twelve months they suffer certain superannuation disabilities. If it is less than twelve months, then apparently matters are all right. My noble friend, Lord Burden, wants to discriminate between people who leave the local government service and subsequently go back for their own benefit, for their own advancement, and those who are required by the terms of their employment to do so and have no option. My noble friend's point is that people who are required to do so and who have no option should not suffer any disability, even if the break in service is of more than twelve months' duration.

This is not a Party matter; therefore one can, I hope, express one's own mind on the subject. What my noble friend has said sounds to me very plausible and quite right. But I must confess that I find myself in some difficulty, so I hope that Lord Mancroft—I was going to say "my noble friend," and perhaps, in this I context he is—will help me. I cannot conceive circumstances in which a person is forced to leave local government service and go into some other form of public service. Of course, if it were so, I think there would be a grievance. But I imagine that anyone who is asked to leave the public service and go into other service has the right to say "No," and I do not think he would be discharged if he did. Of course, there are ways of exercising pressure. Nevertheless, people are expected to be strong enough to resist pressure, if they think it is wrong. They may, however, feel it right that, in the circumstances, they should leave the local government service—for instance, I have known people in my Ministry during the time when I was a Minister, who were asked to go to the Central Land Board, and others who went to one of the development corporations. There may have been moral pressure in individual cases. People may have been advised that they would render a public service if they transferred, and they may have responded to that. But I know of no case where people went under force majeure or any form of duress. Therefore, the test might be a little difficult to lay down in an Act of Parliament. If, however, it is possible to devise some test to distinguish between those who went solely to better themselves and those who left out of a sense of public duty, I think it would be right to differentiate between the cases and give those who went out of a sense of public duty the advantage of not suffering the limitations to superannuation which are imposed in the case of broken service. I hope the noble Lord can do something here, but I realise the difficulties.


I should like to begin by assuring the noble Lords, Lord Burden and Lord Silkin, that the Government in no way regard these Amendments as wrecking or obstructive but as inquiring and improving Amendments, and naturally they are going to treat them in that light. Those noble Lords who could not follow every single word of the noble Lord's explanation in detail would certainly have followed him clearly and agreed with him wholeheartedly when he said that this matter is "filthily technical"—it most certainly is. There are some times when I think I understand parts of this Bill and other times when I realise that I understand not a word of it. I gather that in this Amendment we are asked to look more favourably upon a man who has been compulsorily transferred from one branch of the public service to another and then comes back, than upon a man who has broken his public service and gone out to make his fortune in private trade, or in the wide world, and then comes back. But I do not think the noble Lord has quite succeeded in doing what he wants to do. He has linked the two Amendments to Clause 7 together and I will do the same, and tell him that I cannot meet him on the first one, for reasons which I hope will convince him, but I think he has a point in the second.

As I understand the noble Lord's reasoning, the first Amendment is designed to enable a contributory employee who has been or is transferred compulsorily—for instance, by Act of Parliament—from his employment to that of another body (the British Electricity Authority was the one the noble Lord mentioned) to return to local government at any time, and, if he then becomes a contributory employee, to reckon his previous local government service as noncontributory service—that is, at half rates. Frankly, I think this is contrary to the principle agreed by the Working Party on the Bill, which was that no back service should be reckonable in the circumstances which are described in paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 7 (1) of the Bill—that is, where there had been a disqualifying break in service of more than twelve months after leaving outside employment and before returning to local government service, in which case no transfer value would have been received by the local authority from the outside body. It is not the fact of involuntary transfer that is material but the fact that the employee does not go back to local government service until after he has been out of the other pensionable employment for more than twelve months. That is quite another matter. The rules do not, and it is not proposed that they should, distinguish between voluntary and involuntary transfers.

Turning to the noble Lord's other Amendment, I would point out that it is defective in drafting because it is not clear that the term "public employment" covers the case of employment by one of the nationalised industries, which I think is what the noble Lord has in mind. I am not making a point here, but that is the technical reason why I cannot accept the noble Lord's Amendment as it stands. As the noble Lord explained, the Amendment is designed for the protection of a designated employee. If such an employee is away from local government service for more than twelve months, even if he is continuously employed by a nationalised industry during his period of absence, he loses his designated status. This means that on his return to pensionable local government service he pays contributions at the rate of 6 per cent., as the noble Lord, Lord Burden, told us, instead of 5 per cent. of his remuneration, and if he retires with a pension from his new local government employment he will be liable to have it reduced or suspended if he obtains further local government employment. That may be a defect in the law and one that requires remedy. I think the noble Lord has made his case there. Clearly this requires looking at carefully. If it appears that there is a defect in the law, my right honourable friend the Minister has power by rules made under the Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1948, to deal with it, and he will deal with it. The existing interchange rules under that Act do not cover the point.

If the noble Lord will be good enough to withdraw his second Amendment, I will give an undertaking that my right honourable friend will consider exercising his power in the direction the noble Lord desires, of course, after consulting all the various interests concerned. I have explained that for technical reasons the Amendment cannot be made in the form in which it stands. There is the other practical reason that it would be unwise to make such an important Amendment to the Bill before we had a chance of consulting the other interests concerned. But I am in sympathy with Lord Burden's views and give him that undertaking. I am afraid that for the reasons I have explained I can offer no such promise in regard to the first Amendment.


I am very appreciative of the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has approached this problem. Obviously I should be ungracious if I did not willingly accept the suggestion he so kindly has held out. I take it that that will mean that I withdraw the first Amendment and do not move the second, leaving negotiations to take place. The only other point is that should it be that it has been my defective method of presenting the case for the first Amendment that has not led to its acceptance, if I have a word with the noble Lord on it afterwards, I am sure he will not regard that as a breach of any understanding. I will leave it in that way, and beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clauses 8 to 20 agreed to.

Clause 21 [Decision of Questions and Appeals]:

3.50 p.m.

LORD BURDEN moved to add to the clause as a new subsection: (3) When any question is referred to the Minister under section thirty-five of the principal English Act or to the Secretary of State under section thirty of the principal Scottish Act (either as originally enacted or as applied by this section) the Minister (or as the case may be the Secretary of State) or a person appointed by him shall hear the parties to the question or some person on their behalf and may and shall if required by any party to the question by summons require any person to attend at such time and place as is set forth in the summons to give evidence or to produce any documents in his custody or under his control which relate to the matter in question and may take evidence on oath and for that purpose administer oaths or may instead of administering an oath require the person examined to make and subscribe a declaration of the truth of the matter respecting which he is examined: Provided that no person shall be required in obedience to such a summons to go more than ten miles from his place of residence unless the necessary expenses of his attendance are paid or tendered to him. Every person who refuses or wilfully neglects to attend in obedience to a summons issued under this subsection, or to give evidence, or who wilfully alters, suppresses, conceals, destroys or refuses to produce any book or other document which he may be required to produce for the purposes of this subsection, shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both such fine and imprisonment.

The noble Lord said: I am sorry to again trouble your Lordships with these technical points, but this Amendment, I think, has a certain amount of human interest at the back of it. When I say that I am not dealing with it as a lawyer, I hope that my noble friend Lord Man-croft (if I may use that expression) will not regard that, in view of what he said to my noble friend Lord Lucas a little while ago, in any way as a reproach, but as a matter of regret on my part.

I have to preface the moving of this Amendment with a slight explanation, because if I could get some understanding on another point, I should be prepared to withdraw it. The first point I want to make is this. The point of the Amendment is that persons who leave the local government service in certain circumstances, and who have compulsorily contributed to a superannuation fund, should have their own monies refunded to them. I want to make it crystal clear that I am asking only for the return of their own monies, contributed to a superannuation fund, and not the amount put in by the local authority, or any rate of interest. I am strengthened in my submission on this point by the fact that the T.U.C., representing all the unions concerned, have made representations to the Minister on the particular issue of a refund of the employee's own contribution. It should be kept well in mind in considering this matter that we are asking for nothing more than the person's own money.


If I may interrupt the noble Lord, I am afraid that I find myself lost.


I am coming to the point, if the noble Lord will allow me. This is a rather lengthy introduction to the point, but it may help to get this out of the way, if the suggestion I make proves acceptable to the noble Lord. The question of forfeiture of contribution to a superannuation fund seems to flow from the section in the Act of 1870 which provides that a person convicted of a felony or treason should be deprived of any right of superannuation. There was no question of refund of contributions, of course, because those schemes were noncontributory. But we found a forfeiture section in the first Act for Poor Law Officers in 1896, and it flowed on in various local Acts, and again in the Acts of 1922 and 1937. Therefore it has a long history.

I frankly admit that the Minister has gone a long way—in fact, three-quarters of the way—to wiping out this blot from the Statute Book, and forfeiture is now confined to a narrow limit. It was Shakespeare who said: A merry heart goes all the day, Your sad tires in a mile-a. I am not suggesting that the Minister has a sad heart, but there may be some sad hearts among some erring brethren if the suggestion I make to the Minister, that he should wipe it out entirely, proves unacceptable. But if he cannot do that, the Amendment is one designed to make the right of appeal to the Minister a real, substantial appeal, and not just a letter written to the Minister, with someone replying on his behalf. In asking for these appeals to be made a reality, no doubt I am asking a great deal, because it will entail the Department's taking on a considerable volume of extra work. The point of my introduction is that the Department can avoid all that extra work if we wipe out entirely the question of forfeiture of superannuation when a person is dismissed.

I hope that my noble friend Lord Silkin may deal with some of the legal aspects of the matter, such as the famous case of Wilkinson v. Barking Corporation. It seems to me wrong that, as happened in that case, on the decision of the council, a man should be fined £500, in addition to losing his post, on a point that he could not take to the courts. He was foolish; but the details do not matter very much. What is difficult for me to understand is this. It so happens that Barking is the adjoining council to that on which I served for many years. I believe I am right in saying that the East Ham Council could have exercised their right under the Act, and the man would not have been mulcted of his superannuation contributions, because the local authority has the right, if it so desires, to refund the contribution. I would not for a moment suggest it with the case in Barking. Some councils, for various reasons, have an anti-officer complex—and that is not confined to one particular Party—or they may have a particular complex so far as a particular officer or servant is concerned. It does seem, if he should trip up, that it is wrong that he should be fined again in this way.

If he is going to be fined, then give hint the opportunity, under the Minister, to get sworn evidence on these things and confront the accused with the accuser and have evidence on oath, and so on. Remember that on this question of the return of this man's superannuation contributions, as I have said, he may have paid a fine of over £500, yet he has no right of appeal to the courts. He may appeal only to a Minister, and we know how these appeals are dealt with. I ant not challenging for one moment the fact that, with the information they have, a Department may endeavour to do the right and proper thing. Be that as it may, justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done; and if the person who is being treated in this way, who loses contributions of a substantial amount, feels that he has not a real genuine right of appeal as provided in this clause, he will feel that a real injustice has been done; that he is being punished twice for an offence for which, under the normal law, a person suffers only once. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 26, line 25, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Burden.)

4.2 p.m.


My noble friend appealed to me to assist him in this Amendment. I am not surprised, because, to be perfectly frank, I think he is in some difficulty in the form in which the Amendment has been put down. The real argument, of course, is that it is an injustice for a local authority to deprive a man of his own contributions to the superannuation funds, even in the case of grave misconduct. I wish that my noble friend had put on the Paper something which would have enabled us to discuss that point directly. As it is, he has unfortunately been driven into the device of trying to "do a deal" with Lord Mancroft by suggesting that if the noble Lord will show some sympathy on the point of injustice, then this Amendment, which relates entirely to procedure, will not be moved. Of course, that is so. Fortunately, we are not trammelled in this House by meticulous Rules of Order. I have no doubt that the discussion of something which is not on the Paper is entirely out of order, but since there is, within reasonable limits, no control over what one says, I am going to make the appeal which my noble friend wanted to make, and I am not going to deal particularly with the specific Amendment on the Paper.

The appeal is this, and again it is very simple. Local government officers make a contribution to the superannuation fund of 5 or 6 per cent. of their own salary, and the local authority adds a certain percentage to that, and that constitutes the superannuation fund. There are certain circumstances in which the officer concerned does not complete his term of office and, therefore, is not automatically entitled to the superannuation benefits. The particular circumstance with which we are concerned is where an officer has been guilty of grave misconduct, of a fraudulent character if you like, in relation to his duties. That is the worst case of which he can be guilty—that he has defrauded the local authority of certain sums of money; that he has failed to account for certain sums of money, or that he has been guilty of grave misconduct. If he is a tram conductor he has been hitting passengers on the head, or something of that kind. These are all grounds for dismissal and. in certain cases, for certain action in the courts.

The kind of case I should like to have considered is where a person has been found guilty by the courts of fraudulent conduct. He suffers the penalty imposed by the courts—possibly a term of imprisonment—and is then released and makes an application for the refund of his own contributions. It seems to me, and it always has—I had to administer this obnoxious provision for many years when I was a member of the London County Council—repugnant to natural justice that the person should be punished by one tribunal, possibly sent to prison or fined, dismissed from his employment without character and, in addition, lose the contribution which he himself has made, possibly for many years. I have known cases where an employee has been guilty of petty pilfering. Perhaps the local authority has lost something of the order of £10, and he has been rightly dismissed. But that has not been sufficient. He has not only lost his employment; he has also lost every penny of the contribution which he has himself made to the superannuation fund.

What is behind the Amendment on the Order Paper is that this is repugnant to the principles of natural justice and that something ought to be done about it. Of course, I have to allow for the case where the authority has been actually defrauded of sums of money, and I can see nothing wrong in their being recouped out of the superannuation fund in respect of any monies that they have actually lost. Where they have not lost money, or where the amount has been trivial, I can see nothing to justify the provision permitting this forfeiture as it stands. It is true that this Bill alleviates the position to a considerable extent by limiting the cases in which the forfeiture provisions can operate. They are now limited to actions of a fraudulent character carried out within the terms of the employment. Previously, if a person was guilty of fraud entirely outside his employment not only could the local authority dismiss the man, and not only could he be punished by the courts, but he could also lose his superannuation contributions. This Bill does limit it to this extent and, of course, it is an advantage. But I feel that it is a great pity that we do not go the whole way and abolish these cases of forfeiture of superannuation contributions by the employee himself, except, possibly, as I say, to the extent that he has defrauded the local authority of actual monies.

As my noble friend has said, that is what is behind the Amendment; that is really what ought to be on the Paper, and I am sorry that it is not. I hope that will not prevent serious consideration being given to the point. Of course, one could have argued this point on whether or not some clause should stand part of the Bill, but I am riot going to try to do so. The actual Amendment asks that if, for reasons which the noble Lord may possibly explain, nothing can be done to remedy what I regard as this grievous wrong, then at any rate a procedure for an appeal against the decision of the local authority to forfeit the superannuation contributions should be made, so as to enable the person penalised to get a fair hearing and to enable him to bring the necessary witnesses before the Minister. In my view, that is a second best. It seems to me that the least Her Majesty's Government can do is to ensure that in those circumstances the victim has an opportunity of stating his case fully and of bringing the relevant witnesses before the Minister, so that the Minister, more remote as he is and more removed from the actual scene of operations, may exercise his prerogative of mercy—which is all it can be—having had all the facts properly put before him.

4.10 p.m.


The rules of order in your Lordships' House are elastic enough, in all conscience, but I think that to-day the elastic has been stretched almost to breaking point. The noble Lord, Lord Burden, has been quite frank about this: he said that he has put down an Amendment which he knows is unlikely to be accepted; then, having done that, he says that he will be prepared to withdraw it if the Government will reconsider a different subject which has not appeared on the Order Paper at all. I am young and stupid—but not quite so stupid as that; and I can assure the noble Lord that it is quite out of the question, as the Amendment stands, that we should reconsider this question, admittedly a vexed question, of forfeiture, I know that it is a vexed question: it caused difficulty in another place, and does, perhaps, call for some reconsideration. I do not propose to say anything about it, but I will give the noble Lord an undertaking, that I will draw the attten- tion of my right honourable friend to it. I do not think the noble Lord will expect me to do much more than that.

I will now address myself to the Amendment on the Paper. I apologise to the noble Lord once more for interrupting him in his opening remarks, but I could not see how he could relate these two different subjects, the object of the Amendment on the Order Paper and the oral inquiry by the Minister. The reasons this Amendment is unacceptable are as follows. It goes far beyond the intention, I believe, of the noble Lordhimself—which, if I understood him aright, was to deal with appeals against forfeiture of rights for misconduct. It would alter the whole procedure of appeals; it covers the whole field which has worked well in the past and which, so far as I know, has not caused any complaints. It would not achieve the purpose in the noble Lord's mind, or would do so to only a very limited extent. I should have thought that the first reason was sufficient. The present appeal procedure has worked smoothly and (I feel sure the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, will correct me if I am wrong) parties aggrieved are given the fullest opportunity of stating their case; and, as I say, no complaints have been received. Nevertheless, under the Amendment in Lord Burden's name, the Minister could not dispose of any appeal, even one raising pure issues of law, without first holding an inquiry. This would be quite inappropriate having regard to the character of the vast majority of appeals, and would in practice result in heavy administrative expenditure and, what is more, much inconvenience to the parties concerned. There are over 100 of these appeals a year. Clearly, such an important change could not be made without also consulting the employers' and employees' associations in detail and without their general agreement, even if Her Majesty's Government were prepared to accept the general principle, which they are not.

With regard to the second reason, the exercise of the power of forfeiture is a matter within the discretion of the local authority as now provided by Clause 17, and an appeal would not lie in respect of the exercise of that discretion. At most, an appeal could lie on the question whether the condition for the exercise of the discretion had been satisfied—that is, whether the employee had been guilty of an offence of a fraudulent character or of grave misconduct. Moreover, if the objection is to the local authority's taking on itself to determine administratively matters affecting the character of an employee, rather than leaving that to the courts in cases where an offence is alleged, then obviously the Amendment does not secure that result. Provisions giving local authorities functions in this connection are of long standing in superannuation law, and despite the comments of certain of Her Majesty's judges—Lord Burden made reference to statements made by Lord Justice Scott—no means of dispensing with them have, I think, been found.

I reiterate that this system has worked very well in the past and, so far as I know, has not given rise to any complaints of injustice anywhere. Sometimes we have felt a little uneasy when a Minister has been his own judge, jury and prosecuting counsel; and we called frequently when we were in Opposition for a reconsideration of this system whereby the Minister is still the arbiter. This is not the case here, because local authorities are not the Minister's men or the Minister's minions. Frequently there is conflict between the local authority and the Minister, and the Minister has no influence. He is wholly impartial, and that is one reason why the system has worked so well in the past. I suggest that, for that very reason, we should let it rest there. I ask the noble Lord to accept my assurance that I will bring the matter to the attention of my right honourable friend, but I must tell the noble Lord categorically that there is no chance whatsoever of the acceptance by Her Majesty's Government of the Amendment which stands in his name on the Order Paper.


I am grateful to the noble Lord. Perhaps it would be useful if in a moment I begged leave to withdraw this Amendment, in view of the noble Lord's statement that it concerns a larger range of cases than I had endeavoured to suggest and would throw too much work on to the Department. I should be glad if the noble Lord could tell me that the Minister would be prepared, when the discussions on the previous Amendment take place, to consider the matter which I first mentioned, concerning forfeiture. I am not trying to steal a march on the noble Lord: he knows that I talked much more about that subject with him than I did about the second point. I wonder whether it would be possible to get an Amendment limiting the issue to the type of case I had in mind, where there are heavy sums involved in certain circumstances. I remember that when I was a member of a certain council a man on the West Ham Board of Guardians staff threw an inkstand, containing both red and black ink, at the borough treasurer. What the borough treasurer said I leave to your Lordships' imagination; but I am happy to say that I was able to get the matter squared, to the satisfaction of both parties. If my good offices had not been called upon, that might have been brought in as grave misconduct and the man might have forfeited many hundreds of pounds. That is the sort of case I have in mind, and I am sure we all want to get this matter cleared up. I was trying to bring this matter up on behalf of the T.U.C. who are very much interested in it. Many local authority schemes have gone far beyond the office section and have now been extended to cover servants—if I may use the ordinary nomenclature. Obviously there are far more chances of industrial contact with the public going wrong among servants of this type than with other types of officer. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.


May I ask one question on that? Is the interest of the T.U.C. directed towards the matter of forfeiture or to the actual procedural Amendment on the Order Paper?


Forfeiture. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 21 agreed to.

Clauses 22 to 24 agreed to.

4.20 p.m.

LORD BURDEN moved, after Clause 24, to insert the following new clause:

Clerks of the Peace and their staffs

".The principal Act shall be read and have effect and shall be deemed always to have effect as if the following were deemed to be local authorities and were added to the First Schedule to that Act, namely:—

The noble Lord said: This is a tricky little point concerning the superannuation position of the staff employed where the clerk of the peace is separate from the county clerk. It has been engaging the attention, I believe, of the Ministry of Health since 1946, when a representative of the staff had an interview with the officers of the Ministry. The staff were asked to submit further details, which they did, and they received a reply dated December 19, 1946, in which the Ministry agreed "on the further information given in your letter" to clear up the point. I agree that at the moment there are only four instances of that (the Essex case I know well), but one knows that generally the work of the clerk of the peace is growing; and already, I understand, there is one case under consideration of the separation of the two offices. And it is possible that in the future there may be many others of that kind.

What I cannot understand is this. The people concerned, as a result, first, of the assurance of the Ministry in 1946, and, secondly, of the Report of the working party, who agreed to this, reported to their people who are interested that everything was all right. Yet at the very last moment, for some reason or other, the agreement breaks down. What I cannot understand is why, in the Third Schedule, provision is actually made in the case of magistrates' courts committees for the same sort of provision that we are asking the Minister to make in the case of quarter sessions. Part I of the Third Schedule deals with the superannuation of justices' clerks and their staffs, and magistrates' courts committees are treated as if they were local authorities mentioned in Part I of the First Schedule of the Local Government Superannuation Act, 1937, with the result that the staffs become automatically brought within the scope of the superannuation arrangements. Why cannot this small matter be cleared up? Those of us who have sat on the bench at quarter sessions are aware of the heavy labours undertaken by the clerical and official staff of the clerk of the peace, and, speaking from my own Essex experience, I feel that the Minister can put this thing right in some way or other, so that we do not have just a little rankling sense of injustice among the men concerned. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 24, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Burden.)


The noble Lord is quite right. This again is a very technical point. The position with regard to staffs in county quarter sessions, as I understand it, is as follows. The clerk is normally the clerk of the county council, and the rest of the staff are supplied by the county council, so that their superannuation is already provided for as local government employees. In three cases—the noble Lord said four; I think he has probably brought in Kent as well—in three or four cases, a separate county clerk of the peace has been provided, and in those cases the superannuation of himself and his staff has been provided for by local legislation, so there is no question of injustice financially. So far as I know, it is very unlikely now that there will be any more cases—I hope there will not. Her Majesty's Government do not expect this arrangement to become a usual one, and, quite frankly, it is best not to legislate for potential arrangements which the Government are nor interested to encourage. I will be quite frank with the noble Lord about that. I do not think it is a desirable state of affairs. I do not think there is any injustice at all. I do not think the case will arise frequently, if at all, in future; and, if it does, I am sure that the same argument will prevail which I put to the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, earlier this afternoon—that is, that it is a case for correction by local legislation and not for the general legislation for the country, since it applies to such a very small and decreasing number—indeed, eventually a non-existent class, of people. I hope the noble Lord will not press this small Amendment.


I agree that it is always difficult to legislate for eventualities or hypothetical cases. On the other hand, while I cannot bind the present Government the Civil Service goes on for ever, and perhaps I may take it that, when any of these cases arise in the future, the good offices of, shall we say, those who can deal with it behind the scenes may enable us to put the case on behalf of these unfortunate people. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Remaining clauses and Schedules agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported without amendment.