§ 7.18 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. Robens)
I beg to move,That the Draft Gas (Staff Compensation) Regulations, 1949, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th October, be approved.It was laid upon my right hon. Friend by the Gas Act, 1948, that he should lay before Parliament within six months regulations to deal with staff compensation. These regulations are now here in the prescribed time, and I wish in the shortest space of time, consistent with dealing with them properly, briefly to review them. In the first place the regulations deal with two classes of people. The first group consists of those who were employed by the gas industry and who by reason of nationalisation might lose their employment or suffer some loss or diminution of emoluments or pension rights by virtue of the vesting of the industry in the nationalised bodies. The second group of persons covered by the regulations consists of gas examiners and inspectors of meters and their assistants.
It will be within the recollection of the House that the Gas Act provided that as from vesting day inspectors of meters and gas examiners should be transferred to the staff of the Ministry of Fuel and Power, and it laid upon the Minister the responsibility of carrying out duties which before had been carried out by persons appointed by local authorities and by the Justices. It is very right, therefore, that those persons, if they suffer loss, should receive compensation, and for that reason the regulations cover all these classes of persons. In so far as the payment is concerned, then, of course, those who will come on to the Minister's staff 1232 or who will not come on to his staff by reason of vesting, but who become redundant—gas examiners and inspectors of meters—will be compensated out of public funds. Those who are to receive compensation because of loss of employment and who were previously employed by an undertaking will receive their compensation from funds provided by the nationalised industry itself.
By and large, the regulations are very similar to and follow quite closely the electricity regulations which were debated in this House at fairly good length on 9th March this year. There is, however, a difference in the regulations—in fact, there are one or two differences, which I will come to later—but I ought to say right away that whilst we have followed the electricity provisions fairly closely there is a new provision, which is that the element of expectation has been introduced. The introduction of the element of expectation as a factor to be taken into account when assessing compensation is based, of course, on the important differences between the gas industry and the industries for which regulations have already been made. By and large in the other industries that have been nationalised, there was in operation either by statute or by similar method a code which covered redundancy when amalgamations took place. Typical of those, as hon. Members will immediately recall, are the Railways Act of 1921, the London Passenger Transport Act of 1933. and the Electricity Supply Acts of 1919 and 1926. Because a code had been laid down, that code could be the basis when dealing with the regulations in these industries, but no such general code existed in the gas industry. Therefore we have looked at what the gas industry did in the normal way when an amalgamation took place.
There is, of course, some history in relation to this. When the House of Lords were examining special orders relating to amalgamations, they insisted upon some specific provisions 'being made, and so, in one form or another, there has been some sort of code laid down, although not, of course, a general code. The Joint Industrial Council for the gas industry had a code, but it only related to manual workers, and there were varying provisions for people outside the Act or the order, such as office staffs, engineers, managers, and so 1233 on. Therefore, as I say, we have looked at what the history of the gas industry has been and tried to interpret it and put it into these regulations by means of this provision in respect to expectation. It really means that the expectation of all workers in the industry is not exactly the same as it is in the industries where codes of general application were already in existence. At all events, we have had regard to the likelihood of compensation being paid for loss of employment or earnings in the event of a gas undertaking, by which a man was employed before the vesting date, amalgamating with another gas undertaking.
Regard for whatever was done in those circumstances has been incorporated in these regulations by provision for expectation. There would, of course, be cases where, in point of fact, no amalgamation had taken place, but, nevertheless, in those circumstances we have, as it were, looked at what the industry as a whole would do. When making their claims for compensation in this respect, claimants will be able to look at what happened when amalgamations actually took place between undertakings. Where they are not able to do that, they will be able to look at what happened generally in the industry and base their case upon that. Therefore, I think that in this matter we have been reasonably generous—and it is quite right that we should be—and, in point of fact, I anticipate that the great majority of workers in the industry will be able to prove expectation.
I do not know whether the House wants me to go into great detail about the amount of benefits provided for persons unable to prove any previous expectation of compensation whatsoever, because they are not excluded from all compensation. Provision has been made for such persons if they have lost their employment to receive a minimum compensation at the rate of two-thirds of the difference between their net emoluments lost and any unemployment or sickness benefit they may receive. This benefit is given for 13 weeks except for those persons who are over the age of 45 when an additional week is added for each year of service that they have had in the industry after attaining the age of 45
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)
They would have an additional 13 weeks, would they not?
§ Mr. Robens
Yes, the maximum allowed in the regulations being, of course, 26 weeks. There are 13 weeks with the possibility of another 13 weeks provided such persons have got in the necessary service after reaching the age of 45. I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for making the point. The regulation, therefore, falls into the general pattern common to all the precedents and divides the compensation into three stages—immediate compensation to which I have just (referred, substantive compensation which is assessed by reference to a number of factors, and is set out very clearly, I think, in Part II, Section 6, of the regulations, and then, stage three, residual compensation, details of which are in Section 9, and are, in fact, similar to the electricity regulations. These regulations embody a number of basic provisions which have been included in all previous cases. We discussed these at very great length on the electricity regulations, and therefore I will not repeat the arguments for them, although it would perhaps be for the convenience of the House if I were to say what they are.
First, the qualifying period of not less than eight years continuous service after the age of 18 years and immediately preceding vesting day. Secondly, there is no entitlement arising on the ground of anything occurring more than 10 years after the vesting date. Thirdly, claims must be made within two years of the loss. Fourthly, protection is offered for employees who were on war service on vesting day. Fifthly, the maximum compensation is limited to two-thirds of the emoluments lost. Sixthly, the emoluments in excess of £4,000 per annum are to be disregarded. Seventhly, substantive compensation is subject to review, but the period in which a review may take place is limited in cases of loss of employment to two years from the date of the first assessment or, if there was an appeal from that assessment, from the date of the award. Then there is a right of appeal to referees appointed by the Minister of Labour and, lastly, the extent to which compensation may be commuted is strictly limited.
All these are identical with the previous regulations that we have had in respect of nationalised industries. They are matters of Government policy. We have 1235 argued them before in this House, and I do not propose to argue them again. I should like to turn to some of the differences between these regulations and the Electricity regulations. Hon. Members may want to raise some of the points I have referred to and no doubt my right hon. Friend will reply, but I suggest that we had a very serious discussion on all these points when we discussed the Electricity regulations in March. On that occasion, the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crostbwaite-Eyre) propounded a theory that there might be some difficulty with those persons who were employed by local authorities in various capacities—not only with the gas undertaking—and that there might be an occasion when a man became redundant and lost his employment but, because he transferred from one department of the corporation to another, he would not get compensation.
We have considered a number of matters raised in the previous Debate and we have gone out of our way, as it is right that we should, to see whether we could adjust the position in these regulations. I am glad to be able to tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman that a decision has been reached and that these regulations cover that point in that an employee of a local authority will have the whole of his time of employment with that authority taken into consideration when dealing with matters of compensation if he should lose his employment or suffer some loss of emoluments because of the nationalisation of the industry.
We have also made a provision that the periods of whole-time training which are preceded and followed by service in the industry can now count as qualifying and reckonable service. That covers the case of the young man entering the industry, working for some time and then going to a university or technical college full-time to better equip himself for the use of the industry, and then returning to the industry. The whole of that time will be taken into consideration and will be regarded as qualifying for compensation if necessary.
I remember very well the discussions on payments other than the direct salary or fee that a man might receive—fees, commissions, bonuses and so on. The 1236 case was made that in point of fact we should not average those payments over the long period that we did. It may have been a Committee point on the Gas Act that I am thinking about, but I know that it was discussed. In these regulations we state that the payments will be averaged over the three years immediately preceding the date of loss, or an even shorter period where that is appropriate. I think that that meets the point that was raised.
In addition, any payments calculated as a percentage of salary or wages will be averaged by taking the average of the percentages instead of the amounts. Both of these concessions were made at the request of the staff unions and they will benefit many workers in view of the tendency in recent years for emoluments to rise. We have also reduced the limit on small claims from 5 per cent. to 2½ per cent. of the annual emoluments. We have placed an obligation on the compensating authority to give a claimant all the information about his previous service that he might require when preparing a claim. I think hon. Members will agree that that is a most useful addition to the regulations.
As in the electricity regulations, the compensating authorities are required to make a first assessment of substantive or residual compensation within three months from the date of the claim. We have inserted a further provision to prevent the recovery of overpayments in the event of the first assessment being too high, and to ensure that a firm figure is arrived at within six months of the date of the claim. The regulations also confer a right to allow claims to be presented orally at the option of the claimant. Claimants are also given the right to be accompanied by their advisers when summoned for interview by the compensating authority.
All these matters are exceptional in that they are not included in the Electricity Regulations. They arise because of discussions both in this House and with the interested parties, and it is an indication of the way in which my right hon. Friend tries, as far as he is able, to meet with generosity all the cases that are put to him. The regulations have been framed to alleviate hardship without discouraging the personal incentive to seek other employment, since we regard 1237 it as absolutely essential to the policy of full employment that workers displaced from one industry should take all the necessary steps to obtain employment in another.
Therefore, these regulations have been weighted in favour of the older men who will find more difficulty in obtaining other employment than younger men. I think that these regulations will commend themselves to the House and I should like to conclude by reading a comment from the "Gas Journal" of 9th November, 1949. In its editorial it says:The draft regulations are a masterpiece of Parliamentary draughtsmanship and phraseology—necessarily so because of the complicated nature of the circumstances involved and the genuine desire on the part of those who are now responsible for the conduct of the industry to give a square deal to those whose status has been rendered less favourable through no fault of their own.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)
I want to start by discharging what to me is a rather unusual task—and it is all the more pleasant because of that—of saying "Thank you" to the Parliamentary Secretary for the improvements which he has mentioned in his speech. I should like particularly to thank him for the local authority concessions upon which, in the Debate on the Electricity Regulation I put more weight than on anything else that I mentioned. But I am afraid that after that very brief honeymoon, I must spend the rest of my time in criticising the regulations.
The chief criticism is that the Government have now introduced this phrase, "person with an expectation." I thought that the Parliamentary Secretary skated rather quickly over what he thought it meant. I shall come back to that point later. I thought that he misled the House, no doubt accidentally, in the main reason which he put forward to justify this phrase.
As I understood it, his case was that in the industries for which similar regulations had had to be made previously there was a code, and that code was naturally the background against which the regulations were formed. But in the gas industry, there being no code like that in the electricity industry, we have in the regulations to make out such a code. The hon. Gentleman will be the first to admit that if he were to ask anybody in 1238 the electricity industry whether they preferred the code of that industry or his regulations, he would be told that they preferred their code, and similarly if he asked anybody in that industry whether his regulations carried out that code, he would receive the most emphatic negative.
We have fought the nationalisation of this industry, but at the same time, now that the decision has been taken, I think every hon. Member wants to see the industry prosper. We do not want to see yet another industry pile up a series of debts. But if the industry is to prosper and to work satisfactorily, there is one important thing which the Ministry have to do in the first few years, and that is to see that the people who are engaged in that industry have confidence in it and in their own future under the new employers they now have. It can be reduced to those simple terms, and everything else depends upon it; it is the basic requirement.
The Government have quite rightly set themselves a standard which, no matter what might have been the standards of private enterprise in the past, they will try to maintain—the standard of model employers—and it is by that criterion that we have to look at these regulations tonight. I think our real objection to these regulations is that the compensation offered is not up to that standard, either in the amount or under the liberal interpretation of compensation payable to individuals either by private enterprise or by the State under previous Acts of Parliament. These Acts of Parliament dealing with this question have covered all types of industry, from coroners and mid-wives to persons who work for the London Passenger Transport Board.
What is the real definition of compensation? Compensation is not something that a Minister provides out of his generosity or some sum which he disburses and to receive which the recipient should automatically be grateful. Compensation is not an arbitrary thing; it must be full and complete if we are to live up to the standard which the workers have always had in the past. Equally, if the compensation is to be fair in amount, it must be free from questions of class or rank or political prejudice, and everyone, whether it be a man earning £5,000 or £6,000 a year as a director or one earning 30s. a week as a part-time 1239 employee, must be included and equally safeguarded. Unless the Minister does that without fear or favour, he cannot say that he has produced a proper scheme of compensation.
Nor, in estimating compensation, has the Minister any right to break away from what has been done in the past and try to take into account outside facts. I must stress this point again, because I think it is most important for us to bear it in mind. The Parliamentary Secretary said that it does not really matter too much because we have full employment, and therefore whatever hardship there might be would be only transient and temporary, because anybody could get another job, and we did not need to worry excessively. That was the attitude which the hon. Gentleman adopted in the case of the Electricity Regulations. It may be true today that we have full employment, and we are very glad to see it, but hon. Members know very well that, if it had not been for Marshall Aid, we should now have had 1,500,000 unemployed, and we still do not know how long that aid is to go on.
These regulations have to stand for 10 years, as the Parliamentary Secretary said. How does anybody know whether we shall still have full employment for 10 years? No one can guarantee it, on that side of the House or on this. The hon. Gentleman also knows that, under the cuts announced by the Government, the amount of capital to be spent in the gas industry is to be cut down, and that, again, may delay his plans and may cause redundancy. I think it would be very rash for anyone tonight to assume that we need not look at these regulations too carefully because of full employment.
Let us take another instance. In the Debate in the House on 9th March on the Draft Electricity (Staff Compensation) Regulations, the hon. Gentleman said:… it is Government policy to ensure that any person displaced by reason of vesting should be found some alternative employment.I would like to ask—and I hope I may have an answer tonight—in how many cases people who were redundant under the electricity scheme have been found alternative occupations by the Government. It would be very interesting to 1240 have that information, and I hope the Minister can give the answer.
§ Mr. Robens
Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves that point, would it be of value to him and to the House if I tell him now that my information is that there have been only five cases for compensation as the result of the nationalisation of the electricity industry?
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
That was not my point, but I should like to say how glad I am to hear that information. Then, the Parliamentary Secretary went on to say:So far as diminution of emoluments is concerned, a very large proportion of the staff is covered by the normal trade union and association agreements."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 1296–7.]Later, in replying to the Debate, the Minister himself said that certain people were covered by their contracts, and the regulations dealt only with the people who had not contracts. I think that strengthens our case, because the Minister says he has got to acknowledge a contract in full, and it therefore seems to me to be logical that those people who have not got contracts should not receive less favourable terms.
I think the most dangerous appeal of all made by the Parliamentary Secretary was that, in viewing this compensation, we must not penalise the consumer and place a heavy burden upon him. The Government have decided to buy this industry for the consumers, and I am quite certain of one thing—that the consumer does not want them to break with what has been done in the past, and for the first time, in order to save a few thousands of pounds, to cheesepare and not give a fair and square deal to those who have worked for many years in this industry.
These regulations lay down three principles. The first one is the person "with' an expectation," meaning a person who has a reasonable expectation—in the event of an amalgamation before the vesting date of the gas undertaking in connection with which he was employed last before that date with another such undertaking …and so on. The second is the qualifying period of eight years, while the third is that a man cannot get more than two-thirds of the loss sustained, with certain 1241 additions for length of service and other such things.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to explain more fully just what this first qualification means—"a person with an expectation." I must admit that the more I read it the more difficult I find it to understand what it really means. As I view it at the moment, it must mean that no one can have an expectation, and therefore qualify, unless he can prove that had there been an amalgamation between his company and another such company, he might have expected to incur a loss; in other words, that he would have been the inefficient man when put into a comparison between him and his opposite number in the other company, and probably in consequence would have been declared redundant. He would have to prove that, as the result of a hypothetical amalgamation, he would probably have lost his job, before he can get compensation. I think that is the only interpretation which can be put upon it.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
May I go on to that? It is the next step. That seems a fair thing, and I thought so, too. But already in the gas industry just the reverse has happened. I propose to quote a case, without mentioning the name of the particular man in public, although if the Minister wishes to have any further information, I am prepared to give it to him afterwards. It is the case of a very senior man who is a chief engineer, who has worked for 37 years and who would normally have had no expectation of losing his job. He has worked his way up to a very responsible position, but he has been dismissed by a gas board. So far as he and I can judge, there is no way in which he can entitle himself to compensation, because before vesting date he had no expectation of losing his position in the event of amalgamation.
For the first time a premium is set upon the fact that under amalgamation a man can be drafted from one employer to another. That is a thing we have never tolerated in the past. There was the very well known case in 1940 of Noakes versus the Doncaster Collieries, of which I would remind the Minister. It went to the House of Lords, and there it was laid down quite clearly 1242that a free citizen in the exercise of his freedom is entitled to choose the employer he promises to serve. So the right to his services cannot be transferred from one employer to another without his assent.This particular regulation seems to be a complete negation of that.
There is the second qualification of eight years. I think I am right in saying that, in regard to all those thirty Acts which have been passed covering compensation to employees, there is no previous example of a qualifying period. That is something which has been produced by this Government, and I think it contravenes the elementary principles of compensation.
§ Mr. McAdam (Salford, North)
The hon. and gallant Member says there has been no previous qualifying period. Is he aware that in the Railways Act, 1821, a qualifying period of six years before the passing of the Act was laid down?
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I should be very glad to accept that. My information was that there was no previous example, and I do not think that the one case which the hon. Member has mentioned destroys the point I was endeavouring to make. I wish to ask the Minister what is the justification for this qualifying period? If a man is sacked through amalgamation, whether he has been in the industry one day or 30 years, he has still lost his job and he is still entitled to compensation. It does not seem to me that there is the slightest ground in justice for having a qualifying period, although again I must thank the Parliamentary Secretary that he has made several valuable concessions on this question of what was to count as a qualifying period. At the same time the whole regulation, even as it is now drafted, is full of absurdities and contradictions.
Why should a man, just because he is under 26 years of age, be excluded altogether from compensation? He may have taken on a great many responsibilities because he thought he would be able to work permanently in the industry. He may have bought a house, with invested savings or something of that kind because he thought he had a permanent job, but, just because of an arbitary age limit, he cannot get any compensation at all. Think of a man who went straight from school into the Forces. He gets no compensation. On the other hand, if his next- 1243 door neighbour spent one day in the gas industry, and was then called up, he could count the whole of his war-time service. It would appear that the man who is patriotic gets nothing, but the man who delayed going into the Services can get full compensation; I am certain that is something which the Minister does not want to happen, but that is the effect of these regulations.
The same thing applies to the young man who went to a technical school or a university for three years at the request of a firm. He is nominally on the pay roll of that firm and he probably went on a highly skilled course to fit him for a job on the managerial side or the chemistry side, or any other technical department of the industry. But, because he could not put in 30 hours a week during that period when he was nominally on the pay roll, he will not get any compensation either. I will give one further example. Take the case of the specialist, a man who has spent 30 years in the industry, and who has been lent by his company to go to start a gas works, say, in one of the Dominions. He is lent for six months and the other company pays his salary for that period while he gets the new works started. He never had any intention of leaving the original firm, but because that six months fell in the eight years preceding the vesting date, he will get no compensation. Quite obviously the Minister never meant that particular case to fall within the ambit of his regulations.
I think we are all agreed that two-thirds has been the standard in practically every Act and certainly in the ones I have mentioned tonight. But Regulation 8, in the way in which it is set out, seems the whole time to be trying to nibble bits away from the compensation. It is completely at variance with, and different from, what happened, say, under the Local Government Act, 1933. If we examine the Schedule to that Act, we see that it was designed to make a most generous interpretation and allow a man to add to his compensation. In all the other Acts there has been a special provision made for added years. Where a man had special qualifications or had done more than five years' service, he was allowed added years. Why cannot we have those little things in these regula- 1244 tions? They cannot amount to much, but they would make all the difference to a man who is receiving compensation and leaving the industry. He would go out happy and feeling that he had had a generous deal.
There is also the question of the £4,000 limit. I have never quite understood why the Government have insisted upon this limit. They have said that any emolument over £4,000 should be disregarded. The Government are not adverse to paying people more than £4,000. This morning I looked up the answer to a Question, which was given by the Prime Minister on 15th December, 1948, when he gave a list of all the people appointed to the nationalised industries. There are 61 of them who are receiving £4,000 a year or more. I do not think, therefore, that any hon. Member opposite can say that there is any objection by the Government to paying people more than £4,000. Why, then, is there this cutting down? As I said earlier, a man, be he earning 30s. or £5,000 a year, is entitled to just the same treatment by every principle of logic and justice. I can see no reason at all for this. I am afraid it is just a piece of political prejudice. I hope I am wrong, but I cannot see any other reason. I ask the Minister whether in future, on questions of compensation, every earning above £4,000 is to be disregarded. Do all the contracts that he, as Minister, has made with various members of boards have a provision that when they come to retire, or may have to be compensated, anything they are earning over £4,000 a year is to be disregarded? I shall be very interested to hear his answer.
It is essential that this industry should get away to a good start. That will not be done if we have people who leave the industry through redundancy going about as ambassadors of ill-will. Nor will there be a happy industry if the people who suffer a loss of emoluments but who stay on, instead of working with zeal, feel disappointed and slightly embittered.
It is our first task, if we are to make any of these nationalised industries work, to see that in them there is no just cause for complaint. In these regulations I think there are many causes for complaint, and I hope the Minister will withdraw them and live much nearer to the standard he rightly set himself of being 1245 the best employer in the country. If he does that, I think that in the gas industry he may have success, but if he does not, I am certain it will become another on the lengthy list of nationalised industries which have failed.
§ Mr. Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
Does the hon. and gallant Member infer that the compensation suggested in the regulations is inadequate and that it does not compare favourably with that of employers who were in the industry before nationalisation? Will he tell the House how much compensation the Liverpool Gas Company gave to hundreds of its employees when they were dismissed prior to nationalisation because of nationalisation, although many had given 20 to 30 years' service?
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
Obviously, the hon. Member knows as well as I do that I could not on the spur of the moment give those details.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
But I was not talking of private enterprise—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If hon. Members will allow me to finish, I confined myself almost entirely to referring to what had been done in 30 Acts of Parliament and I kept off private enterprise because I did not wish to start a party point on this issue.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Burden (Sheffield, Park)
Like the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) I wish to thank the Minister for points included in the new regulations, but I am bound to say, and I say it with all respect, that the somewhat laboured explanation of the Parliamentary Secretary in regard to the new principle embodied in these new regulations—expectation of compensation—failed to carry conviction in my mind. He was not able to disguise the fact that it is a very serious departure from the code of compensation which has been previously accepted by this House in regard to all the industries and other services brought under national ownership and control.
Not only is it at variance with that, but I am bound to call the attention of the House to the fact that it is at variance with repeated declarations which have 1246 been made by Ministers in regard to this problem. Take, for example, the declaration of the Minister of National Insurance as far back as 14th April, 1916. He stated:The position of the Government, which is fairly clearly defined on this question, is that when the State by its own action transfers functions from one body to another, the State accepts liability for absorption or compensation. It is a principle which has governed Governments in the past in approaching questions of a transfer of statutory functions.I will read a quotation from the Minister of Fuel and Power himself on this question. That was when the House were discussing the draft electricity staff compensation regulations. This is what the right hon. Gentleman then said:We must approach these problems from a common basis. There are certain provisions in the transport and electricity regulations. Later on we shall have to introduce similar regulations for the gas industry. I do not say that every single sentence of the regulations should be the same; there might be good reasons for differences in drafting, as there are; but on the essential points of principle it would be difficult for the Government to have different principles."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 1346–47.]I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to say when in any of the previous regulations or at any time this new principle of expectation of compensation has been embodied. I put it to him that in these regulations he is introducing a new aspect which previously has not been accepted by this House in any of the other regulations. It is a principle which, I am bound to tell the House, is most strongly objected to—
§ Mr. Burden
I will name one, the organisation which has the overwhelming majority of the men in its ranks, 180,000 in its ranks, the National Association of Local Government Officers.
§ Mr. Burden
It may not be speaking for all of them. We should be happy in this House if we could speak for all our constituents, but we can speak for the majority and in this I claim the organisation is able to speak for the majority of these people.
§ Mr. Burden
The hon. Member is entitled to his opinion, but I know the Minister has had, by deputation and in other ways, the strongest possible representation by this organisation in regard to the principle to which exception is taken.
The second point is that there is a common opinion abroad that members of the local government service are entitled, with regards to the circumstances, to compensation. That is not true. They are only entitled to compensation when certain changes take place and when provision for compensation is embodied in a code. It is true that over a number of years and up to now, that code has been what is embodied in the Local Government Act, 1933, but local government officers as such, when changes take place within the service, are not entitled to compensation. It is only when changes arising from legislative action impinge on the local government service that they are entitled to compensation if compensation provisions are provided for in the legislation or in the regulations.
I ask the House to remember—and my right hon. Friend must know this to be the case—that there have been many instances in the past where privately owned gas companies have been brought under municipal control—quite rightly, from my point of view. But in all those changes, which took place when private enterprise was brought under municipal control, compensation provisions were inserted to protect the staff of the private undertakings. That is what has happened right up to now. I submit to the House that what was good enough for those changes from private enterprise to local government ought to be good enough so far as these changes are concerned.
The final point I want to make is that, as I am advised, these regulations will make a hotch-potch of conditions in the service. No one will know whether they had an expectation of compensation or not. How can anybody determine that? That is the difficulty under which the staff feel they are placed as a result of these new regulations. So far as the Minister is concerned, and bearing in mind what he has done in bringing gas and electricity and the mines under public ownership, I tell him that I will 1248 gladly fight for those principles on any platform. He has done a grand job of work, but it seems to me that this cheeseparing, as it has been described by the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest, is not worthy of the Minister. It seems to me that it has been conceived in the mind of some Treasury official and imposed on the Minister by Treasury control.
I would ask the Minister to think again. I join with what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest that we want this industry, brought under national ownership and direction, to be a success. All of us on this side of the House have pledged our political credit on these nationalised industries being a success. We shall win through, despite any criticism from the other side, but we beg the Minister not to leave a rankling sense of injustice among the men and women in the industry in these small, petty matters. Do the big thing. I am sure that if the big thing is done the men and women in the industry will respond and make the industry a success.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
I am in accord with the greater part of what has been said by the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden), and I hope in the course of my speech to reinforce a good many of his arguments in rather more pedestrian fashion by calling attention to a number of points which I think are potential hardships inherent in the draft regulations. I shall also ask for some clarification of certain passages in the regulations because, as somebody said to me the other day, these regulations are calculated to confuse the most erudite of Members of Parliament.
Before I do that, I want to refer to two remarks made by the Parliamentary Secretary. I am sorry he has left his place, but no doubt the Minister will tell him what I say, or he will see it in HANSARD. First, he said that in drafting these regulations the draftsmen, or those responsible for the drafting, have followed the historical precedents of the gas industry, in amalgamations under private enterprise. Those may not be the exact words he used, but I think that is the tenor of what he said. If that is the case, there was one historical precedent which 1249 was lost or which was not followed very far, and that is in regard to the compensation of directors. I think it will be found that in nearly all cases of amalgamation before nationalisation, directors received seven years' compensation. Under these regulations, they get none. I do not think that precedent was followed very far.
The second point to which I want to refer is that the Parliamentary Secretary said that under the electricity regulations only five cases have so far come forward which required investigation and possible compensation. I can assure him that there will be a great many more cases in the gas industry. I have with me rather more than that number of detailed cases and I believe there are a great many more to come.
I think the Minister is to be congratulated on listening to the views of the representatives of the gas officers. I believe they were all grateful for the opportunity and grateful that certain of the points they advanced have been met. I am afraid that most of them were very small points and only of minor importance, for the main objections have not been met. Time after time they have been put forward by the three main bodies which represent the non-manual gas workers. I need not give their names, although someone on the other side asked what they were. I believe it is right that some of these points should be reconsidered, and reconsidered at the highest level—namely, on the Floor of this House.
I want, first, to deal with one or two points under Regulation 2, which sets out what is qualifying service. Speaking generally, I want to reinforce what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest and Christ-church (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre), that practically the whole of these regulations are contrary to what the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield referred to as customary practice—practice built up in the whole series of Acts since 1844 and consolidated in the Local Government Act, 1933. In that Act we can find these points more easily than in any of the 30 or more Acts in which they are quoted.
Generally speaking, I feel that these regulations on qualifying service differ from what we were led to expect by 1250 Ministers during the passage of the Bill, particularly by the Solicitor-General on 11th May, the famous occasion on which we debated the substance of these regulations from 12.45 in the morning until 12.30 at night. That was only the prelude to further debates. Lastly, I feel that the regulations are definitely not in accordance with the real spirit of Section 60 of the Act.
I want to discuss one or two cases, but I will not refer again to the matter of war service, which was mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend. I think that case was sufficiently advanced. There is the case of the young man who was sent by his parents to a university in order to improve his technical education. As a result of having been sent there, he is disqualified. That is a particularly hard case.
I want to refer also to those who may have been temporarily unemployed, perhaps only for a month or two—a thing which might easily happen during the war in companies which were bombed and put out of operation. It seems extremely hard that these people should be disqualified. I am glad the Government have met one case which was raised downstairs—the case of employees of companies who had a gas side and a water side, and with regard to whom there was some doubt previously. The Solicitor-General gave us a promise in Committee that their case would be met, and I am glad that that promise has been honoured. In looking up that promise, I remarked another thing the Solicitor-General said at the same time. It was that—… the requirement that they"—meaning applicants for compensation—"should be whole-time only applies in the case of holding companies."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 11th May, 1948; c. 1671.]That assurance has gone by the board. Then I came to another one in which the Minister himself, speaking of employed directors who came under the definition of officers—managing directors employed full time, and so on—said:… it would be possible for a director, who was only part time but whose functions were substantially those of an employee, to have his contract honoured or to claim compensation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 14th April, 1948; c. 569.]There has been a considerable change of policy about that.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Gaitskell)
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell me and the House whether that was in connection with the discussion of compensation or the contracts Section?
§ Colonel Clarke
Not to waste the time of the House, I will pursue my point, and perhaps meanwhile my hon. and gallant Friend will find the reference. There is another category who have been excluded—I think, rather hardly—and they are those who are said not to have had in their contracts of service the condition that they were restricted from doing other paid work. It is very hard to trace that out. There are many cases in which men from gas companies are seconded for other work, possibly to help in some coke sales organisation, or even to help the Minister. I have known cases of that sort. Now it appears that men who assist the Minister will be ineligible for compensation.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest and Christchurch has found the reference for me. We were discussing, when the Minister said those words, the case of a director who was formerly employed whole-time, who should be included as an employee.
§ Colonel Clarke
In that case, I apologise to the Minister, but I do not withdraw the other quotation I made regarding the Solicitor-General.
With regard to those restricted from doing other paid work, I want to refer to Regulation 16, because there is a relevant case under Regulation 16 that I want to put forward, and it is concerned also with the other regulation to which I have just referred. It is that of a man who is a qualified gas engineer with long service in the industry, an engineer of a big provincial company, who was engaged 1252 as a county council examiner for another company in the same part of the world. He cannot be re-appointed as gas examiner because both the company to which he belonged and the company for which he examined are now under the same management, and, obviously, he would be ineligible, and, of course, no compensation is payable for his loss of the job of examiner. I say, "of course"; but, at the same time, I do not admit it is fair, and I should like to know why there is no compensation here. There is a much more serious side to this story, because if this man loses his main job—the job he now holds with the nationalised industry—for any reason he cannot claim compensation at all for the loss of that main job because he was not restricted from doing a gas examiner's work for another body. The fact that he was able to work for another body apparently makes him ineligible to claim compensation.
Now I want to ask one question with regard to previous expectation. How far do the regulations go in regard to expectation of compensation by office staffs? I am not certain from the regulations whether they are included or not. I think that obviously they ought to be. Next I want to make just one comment on the question of salaries in excess of £4,000 a year. I feel that it is definitely unfair that Mr. X, say, who is reduced from £4,000 to £3,000, should be able to claim compensation for the loss of £1,000 while Mr. Y, who is presumably a more valuable man, since he was being paid £1,000 a year more, when he is reduced from £5,000 to £4,000, gets no compensation at all for the £1,000 he loses. I see no objection to limiting the maximum amount of loss, if necessary; but as the thing stands at present it seems to me to be definitely unfair.
In Regulation 23, does not the Minister think that it would be helpful if the word "service," in the sense in which the word is employed in Regulation 12 (1), were defined? I think he will find that, in order to ascertain what it really means, one has to study Regulations 2, 8 and 12. I think that that is unnecessarily cumbersome.
Lastly, comes the question of service in other gas companies. It was touched on by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest and Christchurch. 1253 Let us take the case of an officer—an engineer, say—of a nationalised gas company who, in his earlier days, perhaps, served in one of those British-owned companies abroad—in Malta or elsewhere in the Mediterranean, or in Colombo, or in Denmark, which employed British staff in the senior posts—and who has come back to this country and is now in the nationalised industry. The fact that he spent part of his time in a company of that sort will prevent him, as I read the regulations, from being able to claim compensation. I believe the same thing would apply if he had not gone as far as Colombo but only as far as Belfast or Jersey, say. Many of the engineers are men of great experience who have had to work under great difficulties, and it does seem hard that they should be prejudiced.
I think, too, that the compensation of salesmen of gas fittings who, at some time earlier in their service, perhaps, were working for a firm of manufacturers, and obtained much experience thereby, will be excluded. The gas industry is a many-sided industry. Only part of it, I am glad to say, has been nationalised, and I think that provision should be made for cases in which men go from one part to the other—or who have gone from one to the other—and that they should not thereby be prejudiced.
I understand that there is talk of discontinuing bonuses to senior officers, such as local managers and engineers. I hope that, if that is the case, there will be some compensation available for them, which may possibly be added to their salaries. I know that these regulations cannot be amended. That, I think, is a mistake. Amended regulations as a whole can, however, be brought before the House, and I think that these regulations should be withdrawn and others substituted. The time lost would be to the advantage of all concerned.
One has to remember that each set of regulations forms a precedent for others. We have already been told that the electricity regulations form a precedent for these regulations. We are building up a whole body of case law which is going to affect all nationalised industries in the future. I think that hon. Members on this side of the House feel that we ought to do all that we can to ameliorate the lot of those who are thrown into bondage under 1254 nationalisation and that we are not wasting the time of the House in raising these points.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
I hope that the Minister will under no consideration bow to the blandishments of the other side. I am afraid that I cannot share the deep sympathy which the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) has for the poor director who is not going to have anything above £4,000 taken into consideration.
§ Colonel Clarke
I never said anything about £4,000 for directors. I was talking about senior employees with £4,000. The directors' fees in the gas industry are very much smaller—very often only £200 or £300. It is only the managing directors who get anything like £4,000.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that he thought it was wrong that a man whose salary was reduced from £4,000 to £3,000 should be entitled to compensation on the £1,000 difference, but presumably the man whose salary was reduced from £5,000 to £4,000 should not be permitted to count the £1,000 in compensation. Did he say that or not?
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I must repeat that I cannot, of course, share his feeling because neither the hon. and gallant Gentleman nor many other hon. Members opposite have ever been very much concerned about compensating the workers in private industry who have become redundant. There are many workers in my own Division employed in private ship-repairing yards who find that their services are no longer required. I would like to feel that in private industry which hon. Members opposite control they were going to introduce methods which were as generous for the employees in that industry as those which the Government are offering under statutory regulations to those employed in the gas industry.
Another reason why I hope the Minister will not give way is because, if new regulations were introduced, it would mean an added burden upon this nationalised industry. It might be only a slight burden, but Members opposite are always 1255 happy when a nationalised industry is having difficulties and is not making a profit, because they can then make political capital out of it, whether it be the railways, the coal industry, or civil aviation; yet here they are asking for a further burden to be placed on this industry.
I consider that the terms of compensation are most generous. They are more generous than anything the hon. and gallant Member gave to his employees in the coal industry when it was in the hands of private enterprise. I am not prepared to see this concession made, because it applies only to a small section of the community and not to the workers as a whole. If there is a principle involved here, then let it be applied to all industries, whether they are nationalised or in the hands of private enterprise.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I wish to raise a point in connection with these regulations which I have raised on other regulations. Before doing so, may I say that we ought to oppose these regulations, not on the grounds put forward by Members opposite, but because they are on the generous side? I wonder what the old age pensioners will think about this compensation. I am certain that they will have bitter comments to make about the readiness with which money is found for so-called loss of emoluments, when it is so difficult to find any money for them. I suggest that the regulations should limit the amount to £1,000, which is the salary Members of Parliament receive, although many people are prepared to argue it is too much. Certainly, anyone who is redundant and receives a pension calculated on that figure, is not doing too badly. If a director with £5,000 to £8,000 has his pension calculated on £4,000, he will be getting a pretty good haul, and he can then walk into another job taking his haul with him unlike the old age pensioner who gets no pension if he works. I would be in favour of giving them, what I have always asked for the working classes—work or full maintenance.
We find that Part IV of the regulations refers to persons employed whole-time as inspectors of meters under Section 4 of the Sale of Gas Act. If we read on, we find that they have to be eight years on 1256 the job. Suppose a lad was redundant when the parish councils were abolished in 1929 and received substantial compensation, and then a year or so later got a job with a local authority as an inspector of meters. From then on, he could be working as an inspector of meters. Now, under these regulations, he can get another pension to add to the one he is already getting.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Where does it say in the regulations that he cannot? Suppose he was in some other job, was getting a pension, and then gets a job in another industry which is nationalised, as a result of which he receives another pension. There is nothing in the regulations—and I have looked at them all carefully—to stop anyone doing that.
The important thing, however, is that too much consideration is being shown to these people. Every effort should be made to get them comparable jobs if possible, but at least to get them jobs. There should be no question of paying pensions to people in jobs of this kind and leaving them free to get other well-paid employment and additional pensions. There is a lot of this kind of thing going on in Scotland today and, I am sure, in England, too. I hope the day will soon come when the question of compensation is put on a sensible basis. At one time the Labour movement always demanded for all kinds of work, whether done by labourers, skilled men at the bench or clerks in the office, work or full maintenance. If we apply that principle in this case we shall be doing something which will be accepted generally by the working class throughout the country.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth)
The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is very hard on the workers of this country, whether they work by mind or arm. He seems to believe that almost everyone is over-remunerated. All I can say is that if anyone in England could enjoy a third of the material advantages of his friends the commissars in Russia, he would be a very happy person indeed.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) seemed to share the opinion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife, because he also does not believe in compensating directors or managers who have served in the gas industry.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I made it perfectly clear that I could not support the Opposition in their demand that amounts above £4,000 should be taken into consideration.
§ Mr. Bracken
It is not a very good thing for such a loyal supporter of the Government as the hon. Member to adopt that attitude.
§ Mr. Bracken
Because the Minister has made appointments to the boards and sometimes pays the chairmen £7,000 to £8,000 a year. I should not think that trade unionists serving on the Gas Council and on the regional boards will thank the hon. Gentleman for his suggestion about their pensions. It is the first time that that has come from the Labour benches, and it raises interesting new points.
The Parliamentary Secretary justified this order by quoting a number of deplorable pension precedents established by this Government. In his amiable way the hon. Gentleman said, in effect, "We have perpetrated many wickednesses; let us be consistent." In that respect and in that respect only are the Government consistent. We of the Opposition have always voted against Bills promoted by this Government that deny fair compensation to men or women, who have served the industry faithfully, and who lose their employment because of the Government's itch to nationalise industry. So we must do tonight.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) made an admirable speech. It convinced a lot of hon. Gentlemen opposite, as it certainly convinced all of my hon. Friends who sit behind me. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary must not interrupt. He has enough Parliamentary ability to know he must not set a bad example to the gentlemen behind him. It means nothing to the Home Secretary that people who have served the gas industry all the days of their lives are deprived of pensions. They have 1258 never enjoyed the emoluments which he receives, and it ill becomes a man of his character to jeer at those who are less well paid and who have not got any £5,000 official motorcars.
I know some more examples—I do not think they are very numerous—of injustices created by this Bill. I do not like to use the names of private persons in public Debate in this House who have served the industry. If I send them to the right hon. Gentleman he might be able to consider the unfortunate lot of these people. I do not think that anything we say to the right hon. Gentleman would appeal to him, and if it did, the presence of his gaolers behind him would not allow him to do anything about it. I should like to take some notice of the admirable speech made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden), one of the most respected in this House, and even more respected by me after the speech he made tonight.
§ Mr. Bracken
I am looking forward to the time when the hon. Member for West Fife will come into the City, as I am sure he will, before he gets very much older. As a deviationist he will soon get the sack.
Let us return to the speech made by the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield. He said, I think truly, that a sense of injustice will abide in the minds of many people who have faithfully served the gas industry. After all, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the New Forest said, the gas industry has been nationalised. We must make the best of it. It is highly desirable therefore to encourage the very large number of persons who serve the industry to feel that they have as good a master in the Gas Council as they had in their old bosses. Believe me, very few of them think that today, as the Minister will discover to his cost before very long.
Surely it is wise for the Minister to accept the advice given him from both sides of the House. I have had a great many dealings with the Minister and I consider that he is one of the most successful members of this Government. That 1259 is hardly a compliment, but I might as well say it. He is also a man who has fulfilled all the promises he made to us in relation to the many issues concerning gas which were raised in Committee and on the Floor of the House. I hope that the Minister will now approach this matter in a really broad, statesmanlike way, and will deal with the not very many cases of persons who have been harshly treated. I could repeat, but I certainly could not improve upon, the arguments put forward by my hon. and gallant Friends, but I am not one who ever wishes to take up the time of the House with any form of repetition. I feel that I must do my duty before I go to parties, but there is not very much point in my repeating the case so very well put by my hon. and gallant Friend, and so I shall content myself with saying "Ditto" to it.
I hope that the Minister will deal with the exceptionally hard cases that have been created. They are not very numerous and they certainly will not cost very much money. In view of the extravagance, the wicked extravagance, of this Government it seems to me that upon an occasion like this the Minister could relieve hardships without any considerable cost to the State. I am not in favour of recommending any great increase in expenditure, but there are real grievances. They are not consciously created, of that I am certain.
I know enough about the Ministry of Fuel and Power to believe that the officials there have a real desire to be fair in drawing up their compensation terms. I hope, therefore, that the Minister, who is their political head and who has been well educated by those remarkable bureaucrats, will meet us tonight by telling us that he will reconsider the suggested compensation terms. If the right hon. Gentleman decides to take the good advice of his own follower and of my hon. and gallant Friends, he will greatly improve the compensation terms.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Gaitskell)
I am sorry to detain the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) any longer. I will certainly be as brief as I can, but I am sure he will be prepared to put in a little more time here to hear my reply before 1260 he goes off to other engagements Some hon. Members have asked specific questions, and before I turn to the bigger issues which have been raised, I should like to deal with them. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) complained that, as he thought, under the regulations a person who was already in receipt of a pension could receive another pension in addition. Perhaps he will look at Regulation 12 (3), or I might suggest that if he gets his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) to advise him on this, he will find the point taken care of there. These legal documents are not always very easy to understand, but I am sure that the hon. Member for Finsbury could help him.
In the same regulation the word "service" occurs, and the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) asked if we would define it specifically. We do not think it is really necessary to give a definition in the order. I think it means quite clearly total or aggregate employment. I cannot see what else it could possibly mean and I do not think there is any difficulty there. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Grinstead also raised a number of individual cases. It is impossible for me to deal with them. Obviously each individual case will have to be settled on its merits according to the circumstances in the light of the regulations. I would only say that in one or two cases I do not think his interpretation was correct, but I cannot go further than that without having all the particulars, and in any case it is not my business under the regulations to do that. Provision is made for a referee to be appointed to hear appeals, and any case of that kind would be considered by him.
The main issue which we have to consider is whether, on the whole, these regulations are fair or not. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth and his hon. and gallant Friends that one must bear in mind that any expenditure incurred as the result of these regulations will be paid for by consumers of gas and that the consumers of gas will include workers in almost every industry, many of whom have nothing like the protection which will be accorded to persons in the gas industry under these regulations. My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) 1261 very naturally expressed that point of view because of the terrible experiences which his constituents unfortunately had to undergo in the past. One cannot overlook that aspect of the question. On the other hand, the Government recognise that there are precedents for payment of compensation as a result of amalgamations, and those equally have to be taken into account.
Therefore, what we have tried to do, not only in these regulations but in the others which have been approved by the House, is to build up a general code. The hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead was right on this subject. The Parliamentary Secretary read out a list of the points which are covered by that general code, such as the length of qualifying period, the provision that not more than £4,000 be taken into account, and so on. We do not say that that code is exactly the same as was provided under previous Statutes; we say quite definitely that in certain respects previous Statutes were too generous. That is why we do not think it necessary to provide compensation for part-time or non-executive directors. That is why we do not think it necessary to provide compensation at any time whether or not the person concerned has another job. We take the view that the position is different today from what it was then but, apart from one or two matters of that kind, in the main I would not say that the code is so very different.
However, we must also take into account whether an industry with which we are concerned did or did not have any statutory history in this matter. In the case of the railways and electricity, there were Statutes which laid down that in certain circumstances—in the event of amalgamation and so on—the workers in those industries who were displaced were entitled under the Statute to certain compensation. That has never been the case with the gas industry. It is true that there have been Private Acts under which compensation arrangements were made, but there never has been a general statutory position in the same way as there was in electricity and transport. That is precisely the reason why when we came to gas—and I emphasise that in doing so we have not departed from any principle; on the contrary, it was directly in line with our principles—we decided that it was necessary to introduce this qualifica- 1262 tion about expectation. In so far as a man had a reasonable expectation of obtaining compensation in the indusry before nationalisation, he will have no difficulty in satisfying the boards, or the referee if the case goes to him, that such was the case. If, on the other hand, he did not have such an expectation the position is different.
I have been asked to try to give some clearer interpretation of what we mean by the words used in Regulation 7 (2):In these regulations the expression 'person with an expectation' means a person who has a reasonable expectation, in the event of an amalgamation before the vesting date of the gas undertaking in connection with which he was employed last before the date with another such undertaking, of the payment to him of compensation for loss of employment or earnings.That is pretty clear. It means, does it not, that if he were to claim compensation now he would have to say, if there had been an amalgamation before the vesting date, "I certainly would have been able to claim compensation and would have been awarded it"? He may be able to point to specific Private Acts which laid it down. In the case of the undertaking in which he is actually employed, there may have been a previous Private Act when that undertaking was formed as a result of the amalgamation of two others. Obviously that would be a strong case. Or he might find it sufficient to point to neighbouring undertakings which had Private Acts of this kind. Or he may find it sufficient—and it is not for me to say whether it is so or not—simply to point to the general custom of the industry which, admittedly, by the 1930's was that compensation of some kind should be paid. That is why my hon. Friend said he believed that the vast majority of the persons in the industry would find little difficulty in proving that they had expectations.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman but, as I understand it now, the only certain case in which a man can claim compensation is if he can point to an Act, either of his own company or an adjacent one, which would under its terms entitle him to claim compensation as set out in Regulation 7 (2). Is that correct?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I am not endeavouring to interpret these regulations. Obviously, I cannot do that. I am only giving my 1263 opinion of the kind of arguments that will be put forward and will be acceptable. It is not possible to say with absolute certainty until one knows the individual circumstances. I think the words, which were discussed with these various associations, were acceptable to them. I know perfectly well they were opposed to the principle but the words were acceptable, and I do not think there was much anxiety in this instance about people being left out. One thing, at any rate, of which I am quite certain is that the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch, in taking the particular instance which he quoted—I forget its exact details—was certainly adopting a far too narrow interpretation of this phrase—
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyrerose —
§ Mr. Gaitskell
—but as regards the question by the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead as to whether or not office staffs were covered, there again I cannot give an answer, because everything depends on the actual circumstances. It depends on whether there was evidence that previously in the industry, in the event of an amalgamation, there had been compensation for persons in that position. I could not possibly say more than that.
I turn now to one or two of the other points which hon. Members have raised. Hon. Members opposite objected, as they did in the case of the Electricity Regulations, to the qualifying period being as long as eight years. Surely it is agreed by everybody that there must be some qualifying period.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The hon. and gallant Member says that there should be no qualifying period at all. That is ridiculous. Why should compensation be given to a man who has been in the industry only a week when he becomes redundant? I have never known of redundancy schemes in which there was not some qualifying period. The question is, how long it should be? Indeed, in the previous arrangements in these industries—I do not think the hon. and gallant Member was right about this—there certainly were for the most part qualifying periods of some length.
1264 We take the view that if a man is to be able to claim compensation for loss of employment or emoluments he must show that he really was in the proper sense of the word a member of that industry, somebody whose life was in that industry, somebody who really could claim it was a serious hardship for him to lose his job or to suffer a loss of emoluments. On the whole, the period of eight years which we have chosen, and which applies to all these different regulations, is not an unreasonable length.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Those who serve on nationalised boards get no protection whatever from these regulations. The right hon. Gentleman is following a red herring, as, no doubt, he is fully aware.
We have in these regulations, as my hon. Friend pointed out, made certain concessions as compared with some of the previous regulations. We have agreed to include the period of training so long as the man was in the gas industry beforehand. If we were to try to introduce, as I think was suggested by one hon. Member, an arrangement under which the period of training qualified, or was to be treated as part of the qualifying period, whether or not the man had been in the industry beforehand, we would have an extremely difficult situation. Anybody who had been to a university and taken any kind of scientific degree, for instance, could claim if he then went to the gas industry that that was really part of the training for it. In the case of gas it is not possible to point to anything sufficiently specialised from which one could be quite sure that a man was going into the industry.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
If it is a period of training, I should have thought there was no doubt about it whatever. As far as I understood the case put forward by the hon. and gallant Member, he was referring to time which was less than 30 hours a week. Why should it be less than 30 hours a week? Even if any one serves as a pupil, presumably he is doing the job properly, and I should have thought 1265 that he would probably be covered. As I said earlier, however—and I must safeguard myself—I do not wish anything I have said to be taken as indicating that I am deciding that a particular individual is or is not entitled to compensation. Obviously, one cannot do that. It must depend on all the circumstances.
The only other major point raised was the objection to the £4,000 a year provision. Our answer to that is very simple. These regulations are designed to deal with cases of hardship. They are not dealing—I had to interrupt the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead on this—with contracts. There is no question, under these regulations, of laying down what people are going to be entitled to receive under their contracts. Most people with a job worth £4,000 a year and over will certainly have contracts. We say that when it comes to a matter of hardship, if a man is going to receive £2,666 a year that ought to be enough to keep him going.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The right hon. Gentleman said that last time. Certainly by comparison the Lord Chancellor is treated rather well, but surely the right hon. Gentleman is not going to put the blame for that on the Labour Government.
We think that in this case there is no doubt at all that a rule of that kind ought to be made, as it has been made in
§ other cases. In these regulations we cannot satisfy everybody; that is quite impossible. Some of the suggestions which were put to me could not be carried out because it would be impracticable to draw the line. We believe that the general code that we have worked out, bearing in mind the statutory history of these industries, is reasonable. We have made concessions on minor points after discussions with the trade unions and trade associations, and we think that in the main these regulations are fair and reasonable. For that reason, I ask the House to approve them.
§ Mr. Gallacher
In view of the fact that the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) is not here, will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to make clear to me whether Regulation 12 (3) refers to anyone getting a pension from one source and then being transferred to another job in the gas industry? Regulation 1 (1) lays down that compensation will be paid for loss of employment. Does Regulation 12 (3) have anything to do with that? If a man is getting a pension from some entirely different source, is he entitled, under Regulation 1 (1), to compensation for loss of employment?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)
The hon. Member made quite a long speech before he interrupted the second time.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 195; Noes, 66.1267
|Division No. 296.]||AYES||[9.14 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Collindridge, F.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Colman, Miss, G. M.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H T. N.|
|Allen, A. C (Bosworth)||Cooper, G.||Gallacher, W.|
|Allan, Scholefield (Crewe)||Corlett, Dr. J.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Cullen, Mrs.||Gibbins, J.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Daggar, G.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Daines, P.||Gilzean, A.|
|Bacon, Miss A||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)|
|Baird, J.||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Balfour, A.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Grey, C. F.|
|Battley, J. R.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)|
|Berry, H.||Deer, G.||Gunter, R. J.|
|Beswick, F.||Diamond, J.||Hale, Leslie|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Donovan, T.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil|
|Boardman, H.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Dumpleton, C. W.||Hardy, E. A.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Dye, S.||Harrison, J.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl. Exch'ge)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Champion, A. J.||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Holman, P.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Farthing, W. J.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Fernyhough, E.||Horabin, T. L.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Houghton, Douglas|
|Cooks, F. S.||Forman, J. C.||Hoy, J.|
|Hubbard, T.||Moody. A. S.||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Mort, D. L.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholine)||Moyle, A.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Murray, J. D||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Steele, T.|
|Janner, B.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Stokes, R. R.|
|Jay, D. P. T.||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||O'Brien, T.||Swingler, S.|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Oldfield, W. H.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|John, W.||Paget, R. T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworlh)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Keenan, W.||Pagiter, G. A.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Kenyon, C.||Parker, J.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Parkin, B. T.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Kinley, J.||Pearson, A||Timmons, J.|
|Kirby, B. V.||Popplewell, E.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Lang, G.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Lavers, S.||Price, M. Philip$||Watkins, T. E.|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Proctor, W. T.||Webb, M (Bradford, C.)|
|Leonard, W.||Randall, H. E.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Ranger, J.||West, D. G.|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Rankin, J.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Reeves, J.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Logan, D. G.||Rhodes, H.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|McAdam, W.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|McAllister, G.||Robens, A.||Williams. D J (Neath)|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvorshire)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|McKinlay, A. S.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Willis, E.|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Royle, C.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|MatPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Sargood, R.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Scollan, T.||Woods, G. S.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Segal, Dr. S.||Yales, V F.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Sharp, Granville||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Mr. Snow and Mr. George Wallace.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Pickthorn, K.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Jennings, R.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Keeling, E. H.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Lancaster, Col C. G.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Birch, Nigel||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Lipson, D. L.||Savory, Prof. D. L.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Snadden, W. M.|
|Byers, Frank||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Strauss, Henry (English Universities)|
|Carson, E.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Teeling, William|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||McFarlane, C. S.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Touche, G. C.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Turton, R. H.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Marples, A. E.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Drewe, C.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Morris-Jones, Sir H.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Erroll, F. J.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||York, C.|
|Gage, C.||Nield, B. (Chester)||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Nutting, Anthony||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Odey, G. W.||Mr. Studholme and|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Mr. Wingfield Digby.|
Question put and agreed to.
That the Draft Gas (Staff Compensation) Regulations, 1949, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th October, be approved.