Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett:
I wish to ask two quite simple questions before my hon. Friend replies. Perhaps I should say that I am not speaking on behalf of any association but on behalf of those of my electors who are serving or thinking of serving in local government. As I understand it, the main case deployed by those who object to the Regulations is that the Government already have sufficient information about how these statutory superannuation schemes work to make further reports unnecessary. If that is so, my right hon. Friend will have no difficulty in answering my first question, which is to ask whether in these schemes local authorities apply the principle of abatement in due course. Are they required to do so by law, or is it left to their discretion? If so, do the Government know whether abatement will be applied? This seems to me to go to the hub of the matter. Whether or not abatement is applied is likely to determine whether the employees will wish to contract in or contract out. It is a major consideration.
My second question is this. We have been told several times that since all these schemes are statutory, they must be fairly satisfactory. That may be so, but, surely, it does not follow that they necessarily fulfil the conditions which would make it lawful for an authority to contract out. As I understand it, the Crown pension schemes in their present form do not fulfil the conditions which permit of contracting out. I understand that the Civil Service and Fighting Services pensions will require modification owing to the fact that at present a person has to serve, I think, twenty years in the Civil Service before he can, as it were, take his pension away with him at all, which conflicts with the requirements for contracting out contained in the National Insurance Act. Does that apply to the local authority schemes? Is any modification of the schemes necessary and, if so, do the Government know what it will be?