Clause 1. — (Power to Make Orders as to Remuneration.)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th May 1963.

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Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West 12:00 am, 27th May 1963

I confess that I was tempted to get to my feet by the observations of the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee). My hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), to whom I always listen with pleasure and who soared into such oratorical passages that I thought the parachute of his oration might not enable him to descend, said that the speech of the hon. Member for Wokingham was pompous.

Hon. Members opposite appear to be saying to hon. Members on this side of the Committee, "Why do not you poor chaps apply your minds to the economics of the situation; where the money is to come from? Why do not you realise that the local authorities may find difficulty in raising the money?". They may have a hostile attitude to the question.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) suggested that one is not allowed to speak on this matter unless one has been a member of a local education committee and studied it all. I do not often establish my own alibi, but I first became a member of an education committee of a county council 30 years ago. It was a Conservative county council and most of its members were farmers. Our principal problem was that we could not pay more than 28s. a week to workers on the highways in case the agricultural labourers protested.

I was glad, Sir Robert, that you called my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) before you called me, because I was greatly impressed by what he said. If I may venture a criticism, I should say I was impressed by the moderation of his remarks. He spoke about junior chartered surveyors, solicitors and so on. I could not get a qualified solicitor today for less than £1,000 a year to start with, unless he had a rather obvious detriment which disqualified him from the job. [Laughter.] I am prefectly serious. There are men of high mental ability and great gifts who are not able to fulfil the sort of post one has in mind if one is appointing someone to a company practice, to undertake minor advocacy and so on.

In London today it is quite impossible to get a shorthand-typist for less than £15 a week. I am not talking about a qualified secretary; I am talking about a girl who can do moderate shorthand and moderate typing. Fifteen pounds a week—yet we are talking about £12 10s. for a qualified teacher. Two and a half years ago I found myself a member of a Royal Commission appointed to consider such things as judges' rules. In the end, as so often happens to Royal Commissions, as a result of a rather absent-minded gesture by the then Home Secretary, we were told to consider police pay. a question for which we had no experience, no knowledge, no figures and no standards to apply, and the question of judges' rules was taken off us.

We said in the Report that a policeman is sui generis, there is no standard of basic comparison which one can make, but there are some tests one can try. I believe the police force is of first importance. We all thought it of first importance that we should get good men, but the actual education insisted upon is very slight. One can start at 18. I hope the police will not think me ungenerous when I say that the main qualification is that one has to be over 5 ft. 7½ ins. Why that is I do not know; Napoleon was not that height and Nelson was not.

We had to apply our minds to a number of things. It was said of the police that they can retire on a full pension. Some of them can retire at 45 with a full pension, and that is a great advantage. Mankind does not think five years ahead. Goodness knows, it would be a miserable life if we tried to do so. It is no use saying to a lad of 21, "You will have an easy time when you are 45." That does not interest him. He looks at the Government and thinks he will probably be blown to bits before then. He looks across the road and realises what the Minister of Transport is doing. The consideration for him is how much he will get when he starts on the job.

We had a wonderful argument from many points of view. All the local authorities called our attention to the rates. We were not left under any misapprehension as to the general views of the Association of Municipal Corporations on the question of spending any money out of the rates on anything—except, of course, on the subscription to the Association of Municipal Corporations. We were left under no misapprehension about that. We had to make a recommendation and, as no doubt the hon. Member for Wokingham will recall, this was during a period of economic crisis. We were shortly to have a pay pause and all sorts of committees had to consider why people wanted more money and to try to stop them getting it.

We are now told by Conservative advertisements circulated every day that everything in the garden is lovely and that we are in a period of expansion—indeed "planned" expansion, a word they have never used before. I hope that it will not sound discourteous. Sir Robert, because I have not the slightest desire to be discourteous, but, having listened with rapt attention to fourteen of fifteen speeches on this Amendment, I have begun to wonder whether we are discussing a different Amendment from the one on the Notice Paper. It may be as well to consider what the Amendment says. It is an admirable Amendment which I support, but it is very modest. It does not suggest a minimum of £650 and that then the salary should go rapidly ascending, but merely that those who would start at less than £12 a week shall have it supplemented to £12 10s. and so on until they qualify for the full salary as they do now.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington suggested that this might cost £2 million or £3 million. I should be surprised if it would cost so much. In any event, that sum could be got from the interest on the money which was to be spent on Blue Streak. The bon. Member for Wokingham, in his "non-pompous" speech, invited us to ask a number of questions the answers to which would be completely out of order. He wanted to know how we would raise the money from some other sources. If I said that I should knock off half the expenditure on foreign embassies or reduce the money spent on defence, or adumbrate my view about MI5, I am certain that you, Sir Robert, would stop me—