HL Deb 25 February 1965 vol 263 cc955-8

5.9 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill will remove the requirement in the Education (Scotland) Act that there must be a minimum of ten years' service before there can be entitlement to benefits under a widows' and dependants' scheme. There has not been until recently a sufficient measure of agreement to enable a widows' and dependants' scheme to be introduced for the teaching profession in Scotland. This was because the teachers would accept only a scheme in which the cost was shared equally between employers and employees. The local authorities, on the other hand, felt that the whole cost of a widows' pension scheme should be met by a reduction of benefits under the main superannuation scheme. This arrangement had been adopted for the widows' scheme of local government employees, and it would naturally be difficult for the local authorities to accept a greater obligation for their teaching staff than for the rest of their staff.

The absence of such a scheme has always been regarded as a very serious deficiency, and it was not until 1962, when there was a Working Party on Pensions for Teachers' Widows, that a solution became possible. The Report of this Working Party outlined the basis of a scheme which, although not a shared-cost one, would compare in cost to the teachers with the shared-cost scheme for civil servants, with whom the teachers had consistently compared themselves in this matter. A scheme at this cost would be possible because the teachers' contributions for widows' pensions would gain income tax relief and because the employers, it was hoped, would be willing to bear the cost of administering the scheme.

A Working Group representing the teachers, the local authorities and the Department was then set up to formulate the details of a widows' and dependants' scheme on the basis put forward by the Working Party. This Working Group produced such a scheme last year. Before the Secretary of State could introduce such a scheme, however, he had formally to consult representatives of the local authorities and the teachers, as he did at the end of December. Two of the teachers' associations—the Scottish Schoolmasters' Association and the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association—did not favour the introduction of the scheme in the form prepared by the Working Group, but the local authorities and the Educational Institute of Scotland were in favour. The E.I.S. is, of course, the largest teachers' organisation, and has within its membership over two-thirds of the men teachers in all the main organisations. It is, moreover, the organisation which all along has concerned itself most closely with the whole problem of widows' pensions, and it expressed its views about the desirability of introducing the proposed scheme only after closely examining its provisions and after considering all other possibilities.

After weighing the views expressed and the other considerations involved in this matter, my right honourable friend was convinced that he should proceed with the introduction of the scheme so that teachers' families might be given the advantage of protection on conditions which the majority of teachers recognised as being as good as they could reasonably expect to obtain—and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, will notice that we have not eliminated the word "reasonably" from the language. He accordingly issued, on February 1, draft regulations for a widows' and dependants' scheme which it is proposed shall come into operation on April I.

These events leading to the issue of draft regulations for a widows' scheme are, as your Lordships will realise, the background to the proposals contained in the Bill we are considering to-day. In most public service pensions schemes, benefits are payable only where the participant has completed ten years' service. The Working Group on Widows' Pensions thought that, with the trend towards earlier marriage, a ten-year qualifying period was too long. They had in mind the particularly tragic cases where a young teacher leaving a widow with young children might not be covered in a normal scheme of widows' pensions. They suggested that a benefit of the same kind as the National Insurance widowed mother's allowance could give valuable cover to the young widow at quite a small cost to the scheme. This kind of payment would be payable only to widows having dependent children, and would cease when all the children became self-supporting.

Unfortunately, provision for such short-service pensions for widowed mothers could not be included in the proposed scheme without amending legislation, because there is laid down in the Education (Scotland) Act a qualifying period of ten years before there can be entitlement to benefits. It was accordingly necessary to introduce this Bill. Clause 1 of the Bill makes it possible for widowed mothers' allowances to be paid by providing for the removal of the requirement in paragraph 20 of the Third Schedule to the Education (Scotland) Act that there must be a minimum of ten years' service before benefits can be paid under the widows' and dependants' pension scheme. In the draft regulations for a widows' scheme, which were issued on February 1, it is proposed that a widowed mother's pension can be paid where the teacher dies after three years' service leaving a widow and a dependent child under 19. The pension of the widowed mother would range from £58 to £106 per annum, according to the number of years' service the teacher has given; the children's pensions vary from £60, where there is one child, to the maximum of £210 where there are four or more children.

Although the sums are not large, they can help very much the security of the widow of a teacher who has died early in service, and to this extent the Bill has been generally accepted by both sides in another place as a small but useful step in enabling an improvement to be made in the conditions of service of teachers. I know that your Lordships, also, will welcome this measure because of the help it enables us to give in the particularly distressing cases of the widows of young teachers who are left with dependent children. I therefore commend the Bill to you, and beg to move that it be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a,—(Lord Hughes.)

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, we are very grateful to the noble Lord for his clear explanation of this small but useful Bill, which is a happy solution to a difficult problem. Your Lordships, and I think the noble Lord himself, would wish me to thank the Working Party, the Working Group and Mr. Harry Donnelly, of the Scottish Office, for their contributions towards finding this solution. I appreciate that the Bill is not universally agreed, but I understand that it is left to the individual teacher to decide whether he wishes to participate. So, my Lords, we on this side of the House support this Bill, especially as it is a small contribution towards helping recruitment.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.