Orders of the Day — National Insurance (Non-Participating Employments)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th November 1960.

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Photo of Mr George Pargiter Mr George Pargiter , Southall 12:00 am, 8th November 1960

This is really nonsense and a waste of time. The burden of the case we want to make is that they are safeguarded in the statutory schemes which makes a great deal of these Regulations totally unnecessary. It will merely oblige them to engage staff to keep records which are unnecessary. Many of these records will be duplicated in the Minister's Department or other Departments. What is required is a little co-ordination in Government Departments. Is it impossible for these things to be co-ordinated? Is it necessary for local authorities to keep special records of particular cases—they will have to keep records of every one in order to apply to a specific case—in which the present record is quite adequate? By and large, when the certificates are issued, they will be compared with the Government records to make sure they compare and then everything will be all right. If they compare correctly, everything is all right.

A person who is in and out of employment may be under a non-participating scheme with a particular employer or in a branch of a particular industry. Let us take the engineering industry as an example. Some will be participating and some will be non-participating employees; there will be quite a lot mixed up in both. These people will change their employment in the course of the development of the industry, and it may well be that the records required to be kept there will have to be much more meticulous than those in local government service because a person in local government service, by and large, continues in the service.

The argument about 13 weeks sickness has been used. A man does not lose his employment or his statutory rights at the end of 13 weeks in local government employment. His statutory rights are continued for pension purposes. Why the necessity to notify the Department at the end of 13 weeks? Because of it, one has to keep the records in a form which fits every employee in the authority, not just the odd employee to whom it happens. Those records must be kept, and already they are duplicated by the Ministry of Health because of the requirements in connection with sickness benefits and so forth.

All we ask is that the Government Departments should look at the degree of co-ordination that they might employ amongst themselves. Let them look at it from that angle, not from the point of view of engaging more people in Government Departments—we do not want that—but from the point of view of seeing how far, in the case of statutory schemes of local authorities, their arrangements might be treated in not precisely the same way as those of every small employer are treated where the turnover of labour is very considerable. That is all we ask.

We recognise the need for the protection of the employee. We do not quarrel with the basis of the Regulations so far as they are necessary. They are made necessary by the half-baked scheme which the Government have introduced for pensions. Had we had the all-embracing pension scheme we wanted, of course, the amount of Regulations would have been far smaller than is required in the type of scheme which has been introduced. Much of the Regulations is made necessary for that reason; but in local government employment where those factors do not apply, it is surely reasonable that the people concerned in the local authorities should be consulted and that the Regulations should be amended or drafted in such a way as to have regard for their wishes. There is no desire to deprive employees of any of their benefits. At I have said already, they are very adequately safeguarded statutorily.

We think that the Minister has just dug in his toes. He is forcing through the Regulations at this stage, quite improperly, against the best wishes of the people who are just as much concerned for the well-being of their employees as the Government may be. Because that is our view, unless the Minister is prepared to give an assurance, the House will, I hope, give the Minister a very salutory lesson on this occasion and teach him that we do not want to employ a host of people in local government merely for the sake of employing them in order to keep records for the Government. These records are regarded by the local government officers, the experts—not by me—as quite unnecessary and a burden on the whole community in the long run. Part of the burden is borne by the Exchequer. It will involve a quite unnecessary and undesirable use of manpower. We suggest that the Regulations should be amended by the Minister in such a way as to enable us to come to a conclusion acceptable to everyone in the House.

This is not a political issue. I join issue only on whether this is a good insurance scheme. But that is not this case. The scheme has been accepted by Parliament, and we cannot deal with that now. We want it to work in the best possible way, and we suggest to the Minister that he ought to have some regard for the wishes of the local authorities which, because of the co-operation they have given already to the Departments in this matter, really deserve a little consideration here.