I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her charm. My right hon. Friend is always prepared and ready to meet the local authorities and the County Councils' Association, but that does not lessen my responsibility to answer in the House tonight the many accusations that have been made against the Regulations and to try to clear up the many misconceptions which are apparently held.
The net result of the case which the local authorities have put through my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth would be to impose less stringent safeguards on local authority employers than are required of either industrial employers or of those responsible for the Civil Service, both of which have accepted these very carefully thought out Regulations which are now before the House. I do not feel that it is likely to be thought that the Government would impose on themselves regulations and restrictions for the protection of employees which they thought were unnecessary. Surely, if it had been feasible to relax these Regulations because of the soundness of certain statutory schemes, the Government would have exempted themselves in relation to civil servants.
The local authorities exercised their right to place their objections before the National Insurance Advisory Committee. As hon. Members will know, this is an independent body, including representatives of both the employers and the T.U.C., which the Minister is required by Statute to consult in regard to these Regulations. It cannot, therefore, be said that the local authorities' representations have not been fully and independently considered. As hon. Members have fairly said, the Committee found itself unable to accept them, and has approved the draft Regulations with one or two minor amendments which my right hon. Friend has made in the Regulations now before the House.
In answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), the hon. Member for Southall said that the local authority scheme was already approved and agreed by the Government. I am sorry, but it has not reached anything like that stage yet. There have been consultations between the local authorities and the Registrar, but the local government superannuation schemes will have to be subjected to some modification in relation to the employers who participate in the pensions scheme—the schemes have to be modified in certain minor respects—and as yet no application for registration has been made to the Registrar and we have not yet finalised the modifications that have to be made.