§ 2.54 p.m.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD HASTINGS)
My Lords, I beg to move that the Local Government Superannuation (Benefits) (New Towns Staffs) 141 Regulations, 1962, be now approved. The purpose of these new Regulations is to amend the Regulations of 1958 which provide for special superannuation benefits for the staff of New Town corporations who become redundant upon the dissolution of a corporation or the handing over of a corporation's undertaking to some other authority.
These special benefits apply to officers who have served at least five years with a New Town development corporation. An officer within ten years of pensionable age who is unable within twelve months to find employment in which his local government pension rights can be preserved can either have his accrued pension rights frozen until he reaches pensionable age or can receive a reduced pension at once. An officer with more than ten years to serve before reaching pensionable age is entitled only to a frozen pension.
The circumstances in which these special benefits may be obtained are defined in Regulation 3 (2) of the 1958 Regulations. When those Regulations were made it was thought that the New Towns would be taken over by a local authority, but in fact the New Towns Act, 1959, set up the Commission for the New Towns to take over and manage the undertakings of development corporations which had substantially achieved their purpose. The Commission, which came into existence on 1st October, 1961, has taken over Crawley and Hemel Hempstead, and will take over other New Towns as they near completion.
The 1958 Regulations, however, are so worded that the benefits provided do not apply unless notice of redundancy is given by a corporation and those concerned eventually cease to be employed by that corporation. Thus, any officer who is taken into the employment of the Commission before his New Town service comes to an end would not be covered, even though notice may have been given by a corporation. Only some half-dozen officers are likely to be affected at the present time, but it is necessary to put this matter right for them and for others in the future. The amending Regulations now before the House therefore bring within the scope of the benefits those officers who are serving with the Commission immediately before leaving as a result of becoming redundant due to transfer of responsibilities to the Com- 142 mission. The amended Regulations will apply appropriately as the other New Towns are taken over one by one.
§ Moved, That the Local Government Superannuation (Benefits) (New Towns Staffs) Regulations 1962, be approved.—(Lord Hastings.)
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, I think that I am the first to speak to a Motion which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, since his elevation was announced. From this side of the House we should like to congratulate him on his appointment, but we warn him that those of us on this side of the House who have local government experience are going to chase him very considerably in the many ramifications which he has now taken over.
So far as the Regulations he now proposes to the House are concerned, we from this side support them to the full. The people who became members of New Town corporation staffs came largely from local government service, but many came from other spheres—civil engineering, architectural services and the rest. When they came into the New Town staffs they were led to believe by the Government then in power, the Labour Government of 1945–51, that there was to be a progression of new towns and that they were entering a service in which they were forming a cadre of staff which would be an expanding staff and would develop into other areas. That has not happened.
This is not the time to criticise whether or not the present Government have been right in discontinuing the New Towns programme which was started between 1945 and 1951, but these staffs are entitled to fair consideration in relation to the fact that had they stayed in local government service they would have progressed, they would have maintained their superannuation rights, and the transfer to the New Towns service was a sacrifice on the basis that they would be fairly considered. The only point on which I would differ from the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, is that he said that the New Towns are winding up (I am not quoting his words but paraphrasing what he said) and the Commission are taking over, and that we need not worry, so far as New Towns are concerned. That, I think, is unfortunate. But so far as the Regulations themselves are concerned, 143 we welcome them; we Chink it is only fair and reasonable that the New Towns staffs who took jobs which they have done exceedingly well should receive this consideration at the hands of the present Government.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, I should like to join with my noble friend Lord Lindgren in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, upon his first presentation of a Motion to your Lordships' House. So far as the Regulations are concerned, obviously we welcome them, but they deal with a situation which was not foreseen at the time when the original Regulations were approved by your Lordships, and they arise simply and solely because of the change of policy which none of us foresaw at the time; and we must not, I think, be taken as approving the policy of the Government in handing over the New Towns to a Commission.
As the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, has said, it is understood that for the moment these Regulations will affect something like half a dozen men only; but what the future will hold, so far as the other New Towns are concerned, obviously we cannot at present say. Undoubtedly, as I take it, these Regulations will cover the case of other New Towns if the same procedure is adopted and they are not handed over to local government authorities, as was originally anticipated. May I repeat that we welcome the Government's intentions and their act in bringing forward these Regulations which deal with a position which was not foreseen at the time? I am sure that the staff also welcome the consideration which has been given to them by Her Majesty's Government.
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I should like to say just a few words, principally by way of congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings. He was one of our small and faithful band of Commonwealth supporters in this country before the Commonwealth attracted such a large and curious group, as it seems to have done lately in the Common Market dispute. But he is an old Commonwealth hand, and he has stayed here until 8 or 9 o'clock at night talking of the difficulties of our friends overseas. I am sure that he will show the same interest in the 144 problems of housing and the other problems of his Ministry as he did in our problems of the Commonwealth. May I remind him that they badly need it, because housing is in a most difficult state in this country? We have a situation in which 4 million houses have no bathrooms, and 2 million are without indoor sanitation; in which a quarter of the houses lived in in the country were built before 1880, when there was no standard enforceable, and 500,000 are—and something like 2 million should be—classified as slums. So he has a great problem before him.
With regard to this particular Order, I agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken that it is unfortunate that the Government have taken the decision they have done with regard to the future administration of the New Towns. But we must not allow that consideration to affect the circumstances of those officials who work in them and for the new authority. Therefore, I support this particular Order, and we on these Benches support these Regulations, although as I have said, we regret that they are necessary.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I am most grateful to all three noble Lords who have spoken and who have been kind enough to congratulate me on my appointment. They have already given me a small foretaste of the criticism which may pursue me in ever-increasing—or is it diminishing?—circles in the future in relation to Government policy on New Towns. As the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore said, this is, of course, an immensely important Department, the scope for service in it is infinite, and I much appreciate being appointed to it. It may interest the noble Lord to know that I shall continue my connection with old times, because I understand that I shall continue to handle affairs for the Department of Technical Co-operation.
In respect of these Regulations, of course I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Burden, that they will apply in the future when other New Towns are taken over by the Commission. I think he will find that those were almost my last words when I moved the approval of this Order. I want to take only slight issue with the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, on his reference to a complete 145 change of policy on the part of the Government in relation to the New Towns. I think that perhaps both noble Lords were assuming that there were going to be no more New Towns in the future. That, of course, is not accurate. We know already, I think, of three New Towns, and I daresay that there will be others to follow. But I am grateful to all noble Lords for receiving these Regulations so kindly and for giving the House the sense of their full approval of them.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.