A long time ago, I realised that since the present Government moved into Government Buildings they have either infected themselves, or have become infected by those who were there, with a definite hostility to the Electricity Supply Board, but I did not think that their antagonism to that board would go to the point that they would seize on such a small occasion, as that which is presented by this matter of pensions, to attempt to get control by Ministers and by the Civil Service over this board. That is how this Bill appears to me. Since I got it into my hands I have been wondering what would be the appropriate point from which to attack it. It is so full of disagreeable points, which I think this House should reject, that I was wondering what would be the best angle from which to launch an attack on it, but the Minister has given me a foothold from which to base an attack in one phrase that he used.
Although he was dealing with only one part of the Bill, his phrases were general, and he succeeded in conveying to the House that in my time I had definitely excluded pensions from the purview of the Electricity Supply Board, and that I had done so on the ground that the whole thing was an experiment and that, therefore, the granting of pensions should be taken away from the board. Now, I have here a record of what was said, in connection with this matter of pensions, in a debate on the 5th April, 1927, on the Electricity Supply Bill. Deputy O'Connell, who was then, I think, a member of the Labour Party, had moved for the insertion of a section in the Bill providing for pensions. In reply to that, I said:
"At one time I had in the section a phrase which would have allowed the board to pay its officers and servants not merely remuneration and allowances, but pensions and gratuities. I took the words out for this reason:..."
and then I went on to say that the matter was rather experimental and that that was the reason why I excluded certain phrases which would have allowed the board itself to grant pensions to its employees: that it was better not to have that for the first period of the board at any rate, because the first five years were going to be somewhat of an experimental period. However, at the end of a column and a half of argument between Deputy O'Connell and another Deputy, I said that we could reinsert in sub-section (2) of Section 7 the words which were previously there, and then I quoted the words, which were as follows:
"There shall be paid by the board to its officers and servants out of the funds at its disposal under this Act such remuneration and allowances as the board shall determine."
And I added this:
"And then make it an instruction to the first board that they shall not establish a pension scheme to come into operation earlier than five years after the date of their appointment."
If ever a man made himself clear— although he may have been mistaken— that he intended to give the board power to pay pensions to its employees, I think I did in that phrase, because I say there, in effect: "We will put that phrase in," and then my thought clearly was that, having put that phrase in, the board was entitled to establish a pensions scheme for its officers, not to come into operation earlier than five years after the date of their appointment. Notwithstanding that, the Minister says that I specifically excluded from the powers of the board the power to pay pensions to its employees on the ground that the whole thing was experimental. I did not. I said that at one time I had in the section a phrase which would have allowed the board to pay pensions, but that I took out the words because it would mean new legislation, and so on, and I also said that we could reinsert in sub-section (2) the words which were previously there, but that such a pension scheme should not operate at once and should not come into operation for at least four or five years. Accordingly, I think I made it clear that we wanted pensions.
I understand that the Government and the board themselves both took legal advice on this matter, and I also understand that the advice one of them got was that the words did carry the right to grant pensions. Unfortunately, they decided to take consultation on the matter with Government Buildings, and the result is that the hooks are now fastened into the board on this small matter of pensions. What is the logic of this proposal? At the time the Electricity Supply Board was set up, it was regarded as a novel type of experiment, but it met with the approval of the House at the time. Except for some small details, I do not think any vote was taken on the measure to set up this board and to give it extraordinary powers and extraordinary liberties.
I think that the only thing the House asked for at the time was that the board should publish their accounts every year and that these accounts should be subject to acute scrutiny by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and the results of that scrutiny given to this House. There was that, and also the power to dismiss from office members of the board. These were the only two controls that were embodied, and, fully understanding this, the board was set up with the goodwill of this House. I think that on that particular proposal to set up a board of that type—whatever might be the points of controversy on certain details—there was almost unanimity on the point of principle, to set up a board and give it these powers and liberties. The only question of control was in these two matters of the reviewing of accounts and the dismissal of members of the board.
The position is now that the board still has that liberty. It can provide its own establishment scheme with regard to its employees; it can have different grades among its workers, and arrange for promotion according to merit or otherwise. It can pay wages, change wages or increase them. The board is already paying something like £750,000 a year to its employees. It is given all these liberties, allowed to pay these salaries and wages, allowed to put its employees on different footings and to change the employment from time to time—it is given all these liberties and powers, but on this small matter of pensions the hooks of the Government must come in. Of course, this is only a trivial occasion, and the whole thing could be met by a simple piece of amending legislation containing four words, and that is to put in, in sub-section (2) of the relevant section, after the words "remuneration and allowances" the words "including pensions and gratuities". That is all the amendment that is necessary to amend the situation which has developed.
The Minister has used words here which, from the indifferent way in which he pronounced them, and from the fact that they really contained no argument, would lead me to think that he is only trying to hide from the House what is the fact: that this is an attempt to draw back this board, by one link at least, into the ambit of Government Buildings. He said that if the Electricity Supply Board were left free a headline might be given to other groups—I suppose that he meant groups like public utilities—and that the Minister should have power to see that no objectionable feature crept in. That, to my mind, is rubbish, unadulterated rubbish, in connection with this measure. Apparently, they can set a headline in connection with their staffs, or the wages they pay, or the terms of employment, or the holidays and vacation and periods of leisure, or the working hours; they can do anything that is included under the term "working hours and conditions" and they may set a headline to other employees of public utility groups in any matters of that kind, but when it comes to this matter of pensions—a trivial matter from the point of view of finance and expense —then the Minister for Industry and Commerce must see that no undesirable feature creeps in. What undesirable feature is likely to creep in? If the Minister would expose to us, even in a flight of imagination, some of those bogeys that seem to have afflicted him, we might know something about his argument or whether there is any substance in it. Let him tell us what is likely to creep in so far as the Electricity Supply Board and its own employees are concerned, and then we can see whether or not there is anything substantial in his argument.
The Electricity Supply Board was regarded as a good type of experiment in another direction. It was the first board set up in this country which the State plentifully supplied with credit. Besides that, we decided not to have the dead hand of the Civil Service over it, and that we would not have any interference by politics. Even the Minister was excluded from having control, except that accounts had to be submitted for his scrutiny and questions could be put to the Minister here in that regard. It had to be debated here once a year when the accounts were under consideration but that was all.
The House and the public welcome that. The board was plentifully supplied with Government credit, and was told to manage that credit, subject to two overriding considerations, that they told us yearly what they were doing, and that the Minister could come down on the board for going beyond the bounds, if he thought fit. I think that was a useful type of board to have set up. It inaugurated a new line of activity as between employers and employees. The board was plentifully endowed. It was removed from Government control and not allowed to make private profits. It was tied up under the Act so that the charges should bring in sufficient to meet the liabilities and pay the staff. It was decided that the rates should be only enough to meet these charges, and that there was to be no question of private gain. That type of board, surely, was the ideal board in which to allow the best type of play as between employers and employees. If there was a headline to be set surely it should come from a board like that. One consideration was that the board was to be free from motives of private gain, not having to rack those consuming electricity nor to sweat employees, but simply to have rates that the public could bear, and that would popularise the use of electricity. Surely that was the sort of board which would have brought about a situation in which it would be a model for other employers and employees. We are now going to inject between employers and employees the Department of Finance and the Department of Industry and Commerce. Is the record of that Department or of any Government Department in connection with economies such as to enable them to be trusted?
We know that the cost of government, as far as the Civil Service establishment is concerned, has risen from something short of £4,000,000 in 1932, to something like £5,750,000 this year. We cannot say that after ten years it is on the grounds of economy that the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Finance are introduced. What then is it based on? I suggest it is the old view that prevailed in Government Buildings when I was there, a view about which I was not too particular, and a view that has prevailed all the time there. That view is now definitely reflected in this Bill of getting this board definitely back under the control of Government Buildings. I suggest that that is a complete breach of the principle on which the board is established, and that there is not sufficient argument in the matter of pensions to ask that that should be done. The Minister stated that if details were to be specified the Bill would be a lengthy one. It is too lengthy as it is. The Minister knows that all he requires now is a small paragraph by way of amendment of the 1927 Act, and if he wants to bring in the matter of putting penalties on manual workers, I suggest it might be as well done in a Bill that would apply to industry generally, or even to public utilities generally. Apart from that, the Minister seemed to feel that people might complain that the Bill was not detailed enough. All that was required was the simple thing intended in 1927 and accepted by the Parliament and the public of that day, and that I think will be accepted by the Parliament and the public to-day: the idea that a board trusted with power to pay the wages bill of employees could also be trusted to deal with such a small matter as pensions.
I intended to ask the Minister if he had any idea what the cost of the pension scheme would be. Has the Minister any idea of what a pension scheme on a fifty-fifty contributory basis, with the arrangement about back payment, would amount to in a year? I understand from calculations I had made that under the Bill the amount, with the restrictions in the Bill, would not be anything more than £30,000 of an annual charge. I wonder has the Minister seen any scheme from the board? Has he discussed it with the board? Does he know what the board has in mind with regard to provision for their employees? With the payment of arrears what would the amount be increased by? I hope before the debate ends that we will have some idea of what the cost will be. I want that compared with the present revenue of the board. In 1927 we might be rather timid about asking the board to embark on a pensions scheme. It was very definitely an experiment in those days, and was not received, as far as the newspapers were concerned, with any great joy—certainly with no great enthusiasm. Certain political parties had no great respect for it but they were not in the House then. There were numbers of people to prophesy dire disaster. They stated that the consumption of electricity could not be brought to the point at which the scheme would be an economic success. We know that the trouble with the board is not to get electricity consumers, but to prevent further consumers being tied on to the end of the wires. The amount they are generating now is about three times more than was then regarded as a wholly imaginative idea.
I remember when it was considered that the board would have to generate 132,000,000 units to make the scheme a success, reams were written about the impossibility of ever getting a per head consumption up to that point. Now they are generating over 400,000,000 units and selling something less. The revenue, I might say, is about £2,000,000 at the moment. Why should this House be asked, taking again into consideration that the board is allowed to pay something short of £750,000 yearly in wages, to consider, as against a revenue of £2,000,000, a pensions scheme which might cost £30,000, if the Bill is allowed to operate, and might cost £35,000 or £40,000 if the board were allowed to treat its employees more liberally than this Bill allows?
Surely it is ludicrous to ask the House to spend time on giving the board power to establish a scheme which the Minister might amend, reject, send back for reconsideration, or may make law with whatever amendments seem suitable to him. I suggest that on principle this should be rejected, and that what the House ought to ask the Minister to do is to take the basis of the Act of 1927, and if the phrasing in that Act is insufficient to enable it to give the workers precisely what they require, to take power to allow that it be done and to let ordinary friendship develop still further to establish a pensions scheme which would be a headline for all public utilities. I do not say that all the public utilities should immediately jump to establish pensions schemes, but to have it as a basis might be considered good. They might have to win their own spurs; they might have to bring such a project to the point of successful achievement; but supposing they do it as well as the Electricity Supply Board has done it, why should we not have a good headline from the point of view of pensions before the country, provided always that the new public utility which is, say, going to adopt that scheme were able to show that either it had come to the same point of achievement or was likely to reach it within a reasonable time? That is on the general run of this measure.
To the details there are any number of objections that could be put forward. I find in Section 2 a matter about which it is personally an embarrassment for me to talk, but I think it ought to be mentioned. When one comes to read the provisions regarding the pension that may be paid to members of the board, the first thing that starts out is that the pension is payable only after a number of years, that is, after not less than ten years' continuous whole-time membership. I may be told, and I am sure I shall be told, that that phrase is taken from other Pension Acts. Possibly those words do come from other Acts, but I want those words considered in connection with the actuality of the board. It is common knowledge in this House, and a matter of unpleasant recollection to me, that one of the members of the board cannot claim continuous service. Why should he be defeated in his rights because there was a break in his employment for a particular period? If that man were to leave now, he would be deprived of the pension he could get if membership of the board were counted not in continuous years but in an amalgamation of a number of years' service.
I find in sub-section (2) that if a member of the board dies during his term of office after a period of not less than five years' continuous whole-time service, his personal representative may get an amount equal to the yearly salary of that member; but if he dies a month after leaving office, he is thrown back on other provisions, and one of the provisions upon which he may be thrown back is sub-section (3). If he dies and the pension to which he is entitled is less than his yearly salary as a member of the board—I think what is meant is to give him a full year's salary, instead of a pension—what is set out is that it shall be lawful for the board to grant and pay to the personal representative of such person a gratuity of an amount equal to the sum by which the amount of such pension for the period falls short of the said yearly salary. What is the pension? It is the pension as received by him, the pension paid to him. I suppose that when pensions come to be paid, they will be paid in monthly or quarterly amounts. I do not know exactly what will happen—I have been trying to figure out certain cases—in the case of a person who dies under the circumstances set out in Section 3. I suggest that there are small points, even in Section 2, that ought to be looked to, but there are two points that are to be specially adverted to— this question of continuous whole-time service and the upward maximum. The maximum that may be granted is a maximum of twenty-forty-eighths of such yearly salary. I have never seen that figure as a standard in any Act that I have been able to find. The maximum in most cases I have been able to look up is two-thirds. Why has the figure been changed? Two-thirds is the provision allowed to judges after a certain number of years' service, and two-thirds is the provision under the 1925 Local Government Act which local authorities may pay to people, even people who had not served what was put down as more or less a standard term. I do not understand why here we subtract a quarter and make the maximum five-twelfths of the salary. I think it is particularly bad that that upper limit should be lowered in connection with members of the board.
When we were starting in 1927 we always assumed that people who would become members of the board would, in the main, be people who had served some fairly lengthy period, either in becoming qualified in an academic way, or, having become qualified in an academic way, had found practical experience at other work. These were men whom we were going to invite away from that other work, and all we promised them was a five years' term. It was a five years' term, subject of course to renewal, and subject to renewal at successive five year periods, until a man might have put in 40 or 50 years with the board, but always over his head hung this: at any time at the end of the five year period, he could be dropped, and at any time within the five year period, if the Minister liked to come to the House and make a case against him, he could be dismissed. I think it is a wise provision to retain that power to dismiss. It is one of the few powers which the House, through the Government, has over members of the board, but is the Minister likely to allow to operate in his mind the point that should operate with regard to dismissal? Will he allow to operate the question as to whether a person has a good pension scheme in the background or has not? I think he will give fuller play to the reasons that might operate in his mind for dismissing a man, if he knows his future is protected to some extent, or that he has some provision made when he leaves the employment of the board. He will do it, I think, much more easily than he will if he feels that he is dealing harshly with a man in dismissing him.
It will be remembered that recently in connection with the Guards we passed a special piece of legislation. That was done in connection with Guards who were being dismissed for a particular type of conduct which we did not want to see spreading through the police force. Yet the Minister felt that, faced as he was with the only powers he had then of removing Guards, he could not operate what he thought was his right to dismiss and his duty to dismiss in certain circumstances, unless he had got special provisions in the way of gratuity or pensions for these men. It is a rather odious example to take in connection with the board, but there is a point in it and a moral to be learned from it. I suggest that particular attention should be given to this point about continuous membership with the board for this minimum period, and I suggest that the maximum should not be kept at this sub-standard point of five-twelfths, but should be raised to two-thirds, which is the maximum set out in the provision made for judges and for certain local authority employees.
The sections from Section 4 to Sections 8 or 9 show distinctly that this is not intended to be a provision by the board at all. The board is to prepare a scheme, and that scheme is to be confirmed by the Minister. The Minister may, however, modify it and may add to, omit from, or vary it. He can either send it back for renewed consideration by the board, or he can himself make it law with the modifications he desires to put in, and, later, there is this provision with regard to amending the schemes. Section 7 gives us some of the matters definitely to be included in a superannuation scheme. There is a fund to be set up, and it must be contributory. It must be contributory on the basis of whatever the employee pays, the board shall pay the same. The Minister has told us distinctly that the Government are adamant on this point—that it is either a contributory scheme or none, but remember that so far as the Bill is concerned, it is a contributory scheme on a 50-50 basis, and it is that apparently we are presented with. It is either that or nothing. The board is to defray the expenses of administering and there is a variety of things with regard to classes of persons.
Lettered paragraph (f) of sub-section (1) Section 7 is one I want to query. The scheme is to provide the circumstances in which persons leaving the employment of the board before they have become entitled to superannuation benefits will be entitled to have contributions paid by them repaid, with or without interest. Apparently the only thing contemplated there is that of people leaving the employment of the board. Supposing a person dies is that leaving the employment of the board? I do not think the courts would so construe it. Is a person who has paid into the fund for a great many years and succumbs to an illness not going to be entitled to get his own contributions, even without interest, repaid? Sub-section (2) of Section 7 lays it down that only continuous service in the employment of the board, ending on the date of retirement on account of age or ill-health, shall qualify for superannuation. Apparently disability arising from an accident would be ruled out under a strict interpretation of that sub-section. Is a woman employee of the board who marries not to be entitled to recover the contributions paid even without interest? Supposing an employee of the board decides to better his position by going elsewhere, are the contributions he has paid to the superannuation fund to be left behind? From the wording of this the only people who will qualify for pensions are those who leave the service of the board on account of age or ill-health.
At this point there is introduced, for the first time, the matter of disciplining employees of the board. We have here a complete enlargement of what was contained in Section 110 of the 1927 Act. That section did apply to utility concerns of the electricity type the provisions of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act which previously applied to gas and water concerns. But this goes much further. It speaks of any stoppage on the part of a worker that caused or may have caused an interruption in the generation, transmission or distribution of electricity. It goes still further because it says: "which impeded or might have impeded the due performance of any of the functions or duties of the board." Under the 1927 Act the board were given a variety of functions or duties. One was the supply of electrical appliances, and for that purpose the board established showrooms and ordinary shops. One of the functions undertaken by the board under the Act was the supply of electrical appliances. Under this provision an employee of the board who impedes or might impede sales in the sale-room is now put on the same footing as the person who would prevent the generation of electricity. That is far beyond anything what the Act of 1875, or our adoption of it in the 1927 Act, ever intended to go.
Away back in 1875 you had a number of public services which demanded continuous attention. If any worker employed in a public utility service which demanded continuous attention caused a breakdown in the supply of certain things to the community, such as gas or water, and now electricity, then he could be taken before a court. If found guilty of particular conduct he might be punished in a certain way. But, even so, there were certain safeguards. His conduct was made a criminal offence and he had to be taken before a court of summary jurisdiction. This sub-section is not going in by way of substitution of what was in the 1875 Act, but by way of addition to it. We are seizing on this small matter of pensions to bring about a situation in which, if any employee of the board prevents the sale of electrical appliances, he can lose his pension rights in so far as they are founded on payments made by him and on service given by him prior to the break caused in connection with the sale of electric bulbs.
There is a further provision in connection with a manual worker under Section 12. He is really not entitled to come in under the pensions scheme unless, in anticipation of any break, he ties himself to this: that if he has any dispute about anything he must submit it to a named tribunal in this Bill and must agree to abide by the findings of it. We start off with the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act the object of which was to prevent a serious interruption in the provision of gas, water and electricity to consumers. We move away from that by imposing upon an employee a penalty in connection with his contribution to the scheme because by his wilful default he impeded or might have impeded the board in the discharge of its functions or duties. Finally, we come to this that the employee must make an option before he goes into the pension scheme to tie himself, should any dispute arise in connection with his service or employment, that he will take that dispute before a tribunal and will abide by its decision. That may be a wide provision to introduce, but it certainly cannot be tied up to this public utility matter, or linked up with the 1875 Act, which was aimed to cover a very limited field—to make it a criminal offence for people to interrupt the supply of gas, water or electricity. This Bill goes to the extent of getting people into the employment of a public utility board and of having all their disputes compulsorily referred to a select type of board. The Minister said that he would consider other alternatives. I think he is attacking this at the wrong end.
This cannot be justified on the ground of public utility, because the things I speak of do not touch the supply of electricity. They are really trivial in connection with the supply of electricity. Why are they brought into this Bill? The tribunal is to consist of three people. One is to be nominated and appointed by the board. Another is to be appointed in such a way as the board may determine, with the approval of the Minister, and, finally, the chairman is to be nominated and appointed by the Minister. Why should the Minister be put into this scheme at all, or why should he have this right to appoint? Is this to be a headline for the new type of arbitration—that the determining voice in connection with appointments will be the Government? If there is to be compulsory arbitration in this country I hope it will not take that line, and that if there is to be any third or determining voice it will be someone taken from the court area—some independent and impartial character of that type. What it is proposed to establish here is, I say, a bad type of tribunal. Certainly it cannot be considered as a good example to employers or to employees to reconcile their differences.
There is one other matter which is so outstandingly bad that reference should be made to it, and that is, the matter of the payment of arrears. There is really not much good in having a paper scheme for employees of a board like the Electricity Supply Board, if a part of whatever little virtue there is in it really cannot be applied to the work-a-day conditions of those employees. The board has now been in operation for 15 years. Pensions generally become payable about the age of 65. Some of the men who are in the service of the board entered around the age of 20 or 21, but quite a number of them did not. Certainly those who are in the more important positions, say, on the engineering staff, had some period, after they got through their academic course, in which they got experience elsewhere.
The result is that those men entered into the service of the board in their earlier thirties or late twenties. Many of the employees entered much later than that. Those people have to pay up now for whatever is the remnant of their period with the board. Take a man who is about 40 years of age at the moment, and let us assume that the pension scheme would come into operation for him at the age of 65. For 25 years that man will have to pay a particular contribution. That contribution will be based upon his present salary, and there will be an equal contribution from the board. But in addition to that, he has to look back over 15 years' contributions, with compound interest, and he is asked to pay those now, if he is to qualify for any type of pension at all under the Bill. He can take his choice and not pay those arrears; then the board pays its share, and he only counts half the 15 years in his pension period.
When those salaries were given to the men in the employment of the board there was no thought of contributions, and it is very easy to get into a particular standard of living based upon the salary you are receiving. Many of the men in the employment of the board are not so well paid that the board could have immediately expected that they would begin to set aside a pension fund on their own. There was always the hope held out in 1927 that there would be a pension scheme for them. Some of them could not afford to reduce their standard of living. In the case of others, some reduction may be possible, but they have got accustomed over a number of years to living in a particular way. I wonder has the Minister made any calculations with regard to the employees of the board in regard to this payment of arrears? I did get calculations made with regard to some of them, and I should like to put two or three examples to the House.
Naturally, I am not going to mention names. I am taking 65 years as the pensionable age. I have taken three examples. One man is on a salary of £1,500 at the moment. He has about 22 years' service left. That man will have to pay £180 over 22 years in order to qualify under this Bill for a pension of something short of £700. Another man on the same salary, being an older man, has a period of contribution of 15 years before he reaches the age of 65. Out of his salary of £1,500 he will have to pay £241 over 15 years, and at the end of the period he will qualify for a pension of about £550. Is it considered reasonable to ask a man to deduct £241 from his salary, and to continue to do it over 15 years, the remainder of his period with the board, in order to qualify for a pension of about £550?
I will give a third example. It is the case of a man on a salary of £1,200. He has 22 years in which he would have to pay a contribution, and he would pay in respect of his future service something over £90 and in respect of his back service it would be nearly £60. He would pay a contribution of £152 over 22 years, and at the end of it he would qualify for a pension of about £540. Those are the men with the big salaries. Does the Minister think of the manual workers, the men who are paid weekly? Has he thought of their small salaries, and the impossible burden of paying those 15 years' contributions? It would have been hard enough for them to do that if the measure had been passed away back in 1927, and they had been faced on entering into the service of the Electricity Supply Board with the task of deducting from their salaries the amount which they would have to deduct under this Bill, but you are imposing an impossible burden on them when you ask them in addition to go back over the 15 years during which, through no fault of their own, they have not contributed to the fund, and to pay those contributions now with compound interest.
If the Minister will go through the salary sheets of the board, divide them into five or six groups, get a mean taken as between the different groups, and find out what those men have to pay, I think he will come to the conclusion that this pension scheme is a paper scheme as far as a number of those employees are concerned. They will not be able to qualify for pensions. Quite a number will find it hard to qualify on account of the age limit. Quite a number will find it hard to qualify on account of many phrases in the Bill, but this repayment of the 15 years' lost contributions with compound interest will definitely put outside the scope of this Bill many men who would have liked to be inside it.
I suggest again to the Minister that this whole thing is bad, and completely bad, in principle. I think that the matter could quite easily be met by a slight amendment of the 1927 Act. I know that to accept that would involve a rather definite change in viewpoint in connection with this whole matter, but I ask the Minister again to ponder over the logic of leaving the board in a free and independent position in relation to terms and conditions of service. He should think of their big wage bill, the amazing success that they have achieved, beyond the wildest dreams of the people speaking about this matter in 1927, and ask himself can he justify to this House imposing on the board a Civil Service control in connection with the minor matter of pensions. I would ask him, in connection with this minor matter of pensions, would it not be a far better course to adopt to allow the board to stand on this unique type of experiment, and let us see how one group of employers can treat the employees of this country when left alone and when there is no interposition by the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Industry and Commerce or members of their staff?
Let us have the experiment and let it be run full tilt with this knowledge, that the most liberal thing that the board could do could not make a difference as between a £20,000 and £30,000 per annum pension scheme. You would avoid this matter of asking a repayment of back contributions. That will not operate with regard to new entrants; it will operate only in regard to the members already in. There are quite a number of people who were in the service of the board in the bad years, as I might call them, and who left the employment of the board for some reason best known to themselves. I make every allowance for special payment in special cases, but the people who are no longer in the service of the board and who left their employment for various reasons in the earlier stages should be given some consideration.
I suggest that the Minister should remove the whole Bill from the House and come in with a one-paragraph measure giving the board, in addition to the very great powers they have at the moment, this small extra power of establishing a pension fund for its employees.