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Clause 98—(Provisions As To Pension Rights)

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 23 July 1947

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Lords Amendment: In page 106, line 8, leave out from "for" to end of line 9, and insert:

"determination, and such reference shall be deemed to be an arbitration within the meaning of the Arbitration Acts, 1889 to 1934, and the provisions of those Acts relating to statutory arbitrations shall apply to such reference and determination."

I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

May I explain to the House that the issues here are very simple issues. As the Bill originally stood, certain points arising in pension and compensation proceedings were referred to a referee or a board of referees appointed by the Minister of Labour and National Service. The proposed Amendment is to—

On a point of Order. Would it not be for the convenience of the House if all the Amendments on pages 106, 107 and 109 were taken together? I believe they all refer to the same thing. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman has no objection, we might deal with eight Amendments together.

I am not clear whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman is dealing with the Lords Amendment to line 23, on page 106, with which, I understand, the Minister disagrees, or the Lords Amendment in line 8, on page 106. Does the Minister agree with the Lords in the Amendment to line 8?

Then I gather the Lord Advocate is addressing himself to the Amendment to line 8.

The point I raised was that, while the Lord Advocate was addressing himself to line 8, he might address himself to the other Amendments on the same point if that is convenient to the House.

If it would be for the convenience of the House I think it would be right to deal with all these Amendments at the same time, and also with the two Amendments which are down in the Minister's name. The first Amendment is in page 106, line 8, after "Service," insert:

"after consultation with the Lord Chancellor or, where the proceedings are to be held in Scotland, after consultation with the Secretary of State."
The issue here is perfectly clear. It was between the finality of referees appointed by the Minister, on the one hand, and arbitration proceedings on the other, and the reason why we prefer the referee procedure is that it is simple, expeditious, and cheap, and by it everybody knows where he is. On the other hand, if this Amendment were allowed, it would involve frequent, expensive, complicated litigation, and there is no prospect how far that litigation would go. The problem which is to be faced here seems to us to be a simple problem, if it is properly met by being dealt with by a referee. When the Amendment was dealt with in another place something was said about endeavouring to meet the point which was put forward by the Opposition. We cannot go the whole way, but we are putting down in lieu of the Lords Amendments two Amendments to clarify the situation.

The first of our Amendments is an attempt to meet the point that was taken by the Opposition. That Amendment pro- vides that where there is to be a referee or board of referees appointed by the Minister of Labour there must be consultation in England with the Lord Chancellor and in Scotland with the Secretary of State. That is to ensure that the referees, technical referees particularly, have sufficient knowledge to deal with the matter, which stresses the legal aspect.

Then there is another new Clause which is to be moved in the Minister's name—(Arbitration Acts not to apply to proceedings before referees or boards of referees). That is to get rid of a technical difficulty which, I understand, exists under English law, and to make it clear beyond any doubt whether or not the Arbitration Acts, 1889 to 1934, would apply to a question of this sort.

8.45 a.m.

I realise that to save time the Lord Advocate has not fully developed the case here, but I feel it cannot be allowed to rest where he has left it because this is an extremely important matter. It does not amount to a great deal in money so far as the Stale is concerned. But here we are dealing with pensions which affect men for the rest of their lives and it does seem wholly wrong when we are dealing with an important matter of that sort, that a man should not be allowed to be heard before a referee in the first place, and should not have the right to have legal rights determined by a court of law: because they are legal rights. They flow not from any ex gratia concession but from the terms of an Act of Parliament.

I thoroughly realise that when you got a matter of temporary concern such as unemployment benefit, it may be perfectly right to say there should be no appeal in law and it may be that you would be right to say—here I have more doubt—it should not even be heard. But that is a matter which lasts only six months and if another claim arises, it will arise in different circumstances and the first decision would not be binding. But here is a matter which affects a man for his whole life. I seem to remember that the last time a Government sought to simplify procedure in connection with pensions claims, it worked out so badly, that it was found necessary in a very short time to set up appeals tribunals, and even they have not worked too well because in a number of cases final resort to courts of law has resulted in the overturning of the very basis on which the tribunals were working. Surely, that is an example we all ought to bear in mind? There was a case where the Government from the best motives sought to simplify procedure and exclude reference to a court of law. What happened? The simplified procedure was not capable of dealing properly with all the issues involved. There was a public outcry and the whole thing had to be remodelled. Surely, the Government are not going to say that because only comparatively few people are affected they need not trouble so much to do justice. The fact that there are comparatively few people involved, very much weakens their argument. Where there are hundreds of thousands of people it may be wrong to have a complicated procedure and embarrassing to the administrative machine. But where there are comparatively few people involved there cannot be that embarrassment to administration. Therefore, there can be no practical obstacle to the doing of justice.

What is the precedent? In 1921, there was the railways amalgamation. This system was not adopted. A proper system was adopted of allowing a man a full opportunity to get his pension settled. Are the Government really going to say that when a subject is dealing with the State he must expect a much lower level of justice than when he is dealing with a railway company? That is what they are saying and I hope they will realise before it is too late that that is what they are doing. There is an interesting background to this and I would like to refer to it for a moment, because in another place the Government spoke with two voices, and the one voice followed the other without any intervening speaker. I know it is not in order to refer to others than those speaking on behalf of the Government in another place, but the case was put forward with great particularity for an Amendment which it is now sought to delete. Then Lord Chorley read out the official brief which was almost exactly the same as that given today. By and large the arrangements in the Bill as it left this House were most satisfactory—and all the phrases that the Lord Advocate has just given. But immediately following on Lord Chorley resuming his seat, Lord Addison got up and said that he had been in conference with someone and he offered this suggestion. He said:
"We are greatly impressed with the case made out by the noble and learned Viscount (Lord Simon) and if we can agree that the Amendment should be accepted on the understanding that we may in another place, or in some other way, have to suggest perhaps some modification, I would suggest we should accept the Amendment now and cut short the discussion."
"Perhaps some modification"—what has happened to that? There has been complete reversal, not modification. We have gone back to what we had before with one tiny exception as far as I can see. The main point has been completely reversed, and, therefore, what has happened is that the official brief has prevailed against the Ministerial wish, as it so often does in this Government.

I am really surprised at the right hon. Gentleman. He has seen what has happened to the official brief in the other House. He saw the Leader of the other House throw over in a most astonishing way what had been said by the other noble Lord, and now the right hon. Gentleman comes back to the House of Commons and says, "I am going back to what Lord Addison threw over." Is that situation right? I do beg the Minister not to play with pensioners' rights in this way. I do not want to say more on this occasion—though I would like to—because perhaps if I did, it would prejudice the chance of the Minister changing his mind. But I do sincerely plead in the interests of those men whose whole future depends on whether or not they get a pension, and how much it is. Can they even appear before the man settling their fate? I think they are allowed to do that but cannot they then be allowed to go on to a court of law?

I should not think that there would be half a dozen cases—there might be one or two test cases—but even if there were half a dozen is it not worth while, in order that men may feel that they have gone to a court of law for a legal decision, and that, after all, justice has been done by His Majesty's judges, and that they had not been condemned by a lay tribunal who may not be so well fitted to deal with them as a legal tribunal. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to change his mind on this question.

I quite recognise the point put by the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid), and I am anxious to reply to it. The question is merely one as to the time at which I should intervene. I had intended to deal with that point, and with the reservation of the noble Lord, when the Government Amendment was dealt with, and when replying also to any other observations which might call for a reply.

I was afraid that the matter was about to be determined by the vote of the House. I rose to prevent that from happening. I would be obliged if the Minister would now address himself to that point.

If I may, by leave of the House, I will deal with the point which has been submitted about the difference in the position today from what was deemed to be the position in view of the statement made in another place. I desire to deal with that point because to some extent I was associated with it, and as a difference has occurred, the best way to deal with it is to be perfectly frank, and explain exactly what the position is. The discussion in the other place proceeded primarily on legal lines, and the Government were only too anxious to be satisfied that no injustice to any class of pensioners would be perpetrated within the provisions of the Bill. All through the discussions we have been particularly careful to try to safeguard the pension rights of all classes in the different transport undertakings. This appeared to be primarily a point of law, and during the discussions in another place it appeared to have some substance, to the extent that I considered, with the Leader of the other House, that it ought to receive further examination.

In the time that has elapsed between the Bill leaving another place and our consideration of the Lords Amendments, the matter has been fully considered by the Government. The machinery, which is now fairly widespread and extensive, the machinery of the Ministry of Labour, has been considered, and the Government's decision is to the effect that we do not consider that that procedure should be substantially modified, or needs modification, to do complete justice in this case. Therefore, in the Amendment which is being submitted, in view of our disagreement with the Lords Amendment, it will be observed that we seek to delete the Lords Amendment which would insert rights under the Arbitration Acts, 1889 to 1934, and, so that there can be no doubt about the position, we propose, in page III, line 5, after Clause 103, to insert the following new Clause:
"Nothing in the Arbitration Acts, 1889 to 1934, shall be construed as applying to any proceedings before a referee or board of referees appointed tinder this Part of this Act by the Minister of Labour and National Service after consultation with the Lord Chancellor or, where the proceedings are held in Scotland, after consultation with the Secretary of State."
I quite agree that we do not want any doubt to exist on this matter. The extent to which the Government feel they can go is that the Minister of Labour and National Service, in appointing a referee, should do so after consultation with the Lord Chancellor. We feel that that will ensure that according to the type of case that has to be adjudicated upon, which requires a legal mind, the knowledge of the Lord Chancellor will secure that necessary protection. That being the case, the Government do not consider that the normal procedure which has been built up, and which, in the main, has the confidence of those bodies and organisations which speak for them, should be departed from on this occasion. The Government have given full and serious consideration to the matter, and this is our final conclusion.

9.0 a.m.

The Minister will recollect that during the passage of the Bill in Committee—

The right hon. Gentleman has not yet the leave of the House to speak again.

May I, with the leave of the House speak again? I had forgotten, Major Milner, that I had put a question to the Minister. The Minister will recollect that in Committee my hon. Friends and I took very great interest in this question of the pension rights. It is clear from what the Minister has told us that, when this matter was dealt with in another place, the Leader of the House there gave them to understand that a substantial alteration would be made. We have now heard from the Minister a very frank account of what took place, but I am bound to say, speaking for right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House, that we are not at all satisfied with the situation as it is left.

I was very surprised to find the learned Lord Advocate coming down here to make this case for the Minister. Though we are very glad to have with us the Lord Advocate, who has had the advantage of having a good night's rest, as some of us have not—[Interruption.] I apologise I had not noticed him on the Bench opposite in the earlier stages of the Debate. I was a little surprised that he came down

Division No. 336]


[9.3 a.m.

Adams, Richard (Balham)Ganley, Mrs. C SMann, Mrs. J.
Adams, W. T (Hammersmith, South)Gibson, C W.Manning, C (Camberwell, N.)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Gilzean, A.Manning, Mrs L. (Epping)
Alpass, J. H.Glanville, J. E. (Consett)Mathers, G.
Attewell, H. C.Gordon-Walker, P. C.Mellish, R. J
Austin, H. LewisGreenwood, A. W J. (Heywood)Middleton, Mrs. L
Awbery, S. S.Grenfell, D. R.Mikardo, Ian
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.Grierson, E.

Pilitchison, G p.

Balfour, A.Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Moyle, A
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A J.Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)Murray, J. D
Barstow, P. G.Gunter, R. JNally, W.
Barton, C.Guy, W. H.Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)
Bechervaise, A. E.Hale, LeslieNicholls, H. R (Stratford)
Beswick, FHamilton, Lieut,-Col. R.Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)
Bing, G. H C.Hardy, E. A.Noel-Buxton, Lady
Binns, J.Hastings, Dr. SomervilleO'Brien, T.
Blenkinsop, A.Haworth, J.Orbach, M.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)Paling, Will T (Dewsbury)
Braddock, T (Mitcham)Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)Palmer, A. M. F
Brook, D (Halifax)Herbison, Miss M.Pargiter, G A
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Hewitson, Capt. MParkin, B. T.
Brown, T J. (Ince)Hobson, C. R.Paton, J. (Norwich)
Bruce Major D W. THolman, P.Peart, Thomas F.
Burke, W. A.Hubbard, T.Piratin, P.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Platts-Mills, J. F. F.
Camichael, JamesHughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)
Champion, A. J.Hughes, H. D (Wolverhampton, W.)Popplewell, E.
Chater, DHynd, H. (Hackney, C.)Porter, E. (Warrington)
Chetwynd, G. R.Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Price, M. Philips
Cocks, F. S.Irving, W. JPritt, D. N.
Coldrick, WJanner, B.Proctor, W T.
Collins, V. J.Jeger, G. (Winchester)Randall, H. E
Colman, Miss G. MJeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)Ranger, J
Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.Jones, D. T (Hartlepools)Rees-Williams, D. R.
Corbet, Mrs. F K. (Camb'well, N.W)Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)Richards, R.
Grossman, R. . SJones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)Ridealgh, Mrs. M
Daggar, GKeenan, W.Robens, A.
Daines, P.Kenyon, C.Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Davies, Edward (Burslem)King, E MRobertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield)Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr ERoss, William (Kilmarnock)
Davies, Haydn (St Pancras, S.W.)Kinley, JRoyle, C.
Deer, G.Lang, G.Sargood, R
Delargy, H JLavers, S.Shackleton, E. A A.
Diamond, J.Lee, F (Hulme)Sharp, Granville
Dobbie, W.Leonard, W.Shurmer, P.
Dodds, N. NLewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Driberg, T. E. N.Lipton, Lt.-Col. MSimmons, C. J
Dumpleton, C. WLogan, D GSkeffington, A. M.
Dye, S.Longden, F.Skinnard, F. W.
Ede, Rt. Hon J. CLyne, A WSmith, S. H (Hull, S.W.)
Evans, John (Ogmore)McGhee, H. GSnow, Capt J. W
Evans, S N (Wednesbury)Mack, J. D.Sorensen, R. W
Ewart, RMcKinlay, A S.Sparks, J. A.
Field, Captain W J.McLeavy, FStamford, W.
Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)Stephen, C.
Freeman, Peter (Newport)Macpherson, T. (Romford)Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Gallacher, WMallalieu, J P W.Strauss, G R. (Lambeth, N.)

to make this case for the Minister. I am surprised that a lawyer of his eminence is prepared to cast aside the advantages of real justice in favour of some inferior machinery. My right hon. and learned Friend referred to a lower level of justice. Well, that is what it is, a lower level of justice, and we on this side of the House demand that in this case these men should have the right to receive the highest possible level of justice in the country.

Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 207; Noes, 60.

Stubbs, A. E.Usborne, HenryWilley, O. G. (Cleveland)
Swingler, S.Vernon, Maj. W. F.Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Symonds, A. L.Walker, G. H.Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Taylor, H B (Mansfield)Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)Willis, E.
Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)Watkins, T. E.Woods, G. S.
Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)Watson, W. M.Wyatt, W.
Thomas, George (Cardiff)Wells, P. L (Faversham)Yates, V. F.
Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)West, D. G.Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Tiffany, S.White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)Zilliacus, K.
Timmons, J.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Titterington, M. FWilkins, W. A.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Tolley, L.Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)Mr. Pearson and Mr. Hannan.


Assheton, Rt. Hon. RGrant, LadyPeto, Brig. C. H. M.
Baldwin, A EHare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Beamish, Maj. T. V. HHaughton, S. G.Prescott, Stanley
Bossom, A. CHead, Brig. A. H.Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Hollis, M. C.Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Butcher, H. WHolmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Clarke, Col. R. S.Hurd, A.Robinson, Wing-Cmdr. Roland
Clifton-Brown, Lt-Col. G.Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'gh, W.)Ropner, Col. L.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Jarvis, Sir J.Spearman, A. C. M.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Lambet, Hon. G.Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Cuthbert, W. N.Langford-Holt, J.Thorneycroft, G E. P. (Monmouth)
Davidson, ViscountessLaw, Rt. Hon. R. K.Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.
De la Bère, R.Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)Vane, W M. F.
Digby, S. WMackeson, Brig. H. R.Wadsworth, G.
Dodds-Parker, A. D.Maclay, Hon. J. S.Wheatley, Colonel M. J
Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V G. (Penrith)Marshall, D. (Bodmin)While, Sir D. (Fareham)
Drayson, G. BMellor, Sir J.White, J. B (Canterbury)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. WalterMolson, A. H. E.York, C.
Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr E. LNeven-Spence, Sir B.
Gage, C.Noble, Comdr. A. H PTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gammans, L. DOsborne, C.Commander Agnew and
Major Ramsay.

Amendments made to the Bill in lieu of the Lords Amendment last disagreed to.

In page 106, line 8, after "Service," insert:

"after consultation with the Lord Chancellor or, where the proceedings are to be held in Scotland, after consultation with the Secretary of State."

In page 111, line 5, after Clause 103, insert the following new Clause:

( Arbitration Acts not to apply to proceedings before referees or boards of referees.)

Nothing in the Arbitration Acts, 1889 to 1934, shall be construed as applying to any proceedings before a referee or board of referees appointed under this Part of this Act by the Minister of Labour and National Service after consultation with the Lord Chancellor or, where the proceedings are held in Scotland, after consultation with the Secretary of State.—[Mr. Barnes.]

Further Lords Amendment disagreed to: In page 106, line 23, leave out "the Minister and."—[ Mr. Barnes.]