Local Government (Compensation) Regulations

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th July 1963.

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10.12 p.m.

Photo of Mr Gordon Matthews Mr Gordon Matthews , Meriden

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Local Government (Compensation) Regulations 1963 (S.I., 1963, No. 999), dated 27th May 1963, a copy of which was laid before this House on 30th May, be annulled. As the House is aware, many local government officers will soon have their career prospects seriously upset by the impending reorganisation of local government into larger units. The financial commitment in terms of compensation payable is likely to be only quite small. Such a reorganisation occurs only once in a lifetime, and there will be only one series of claims from the current programme of reform. We are not faced with a continuing process of compensation claims from year to year.

In those circumstances, I hope that we can afford to be generous in the compensation which we pay to local government officers who are displaced by the reorganisation. In any case, I submit that it is wrong in equity that victims of reform should be penalised. I must admit that some hardship is inevitable in a major reorganisation of this kind. It is perhaps impossible to devise a completely just system of compensation, but many hon. Members who represent constituencies which are affected by the Boundary Commission's proposals are not entirely satisfied with the present regulations.

We feel that the Regulations follow too closely upon the post-war code which has been designed to compensate employees affected by the nationalisation of our basic industries and the introduction of the National Health Service. This post-war code has very little application to the position of local government officers. For example, railway employees were not public servants. They did not enjoy the same security of tenure as is enjoyed by the employees of local authorities. They did not enjoy the expectation of a secure job and a pension at the end of it. This has often been used as an excuse why these officers should be paid a lower salary than their opposite numbers in commerce and industry, and therefore it seems to me that it is only fair, when we talk about resettlement, long-term and retirement compensation, that we should treat them generously.

I must admit that the present Regulations are a considerable improvement on the Local Government Act, 1948. Why should there not be a further improvement?' For instance, when the Inland Revenue took over rating valuations very few employees lost their jobs. They were transferred. I believe that the same will apply in this case. When this happens and the boundaries are changed, very few officers will be affected by it.

I will now deal with one or two specific criticisms. First and most important is the question of net emoluments, the fact that the compensation is to be based on the net figure of emoluments and not on the gross. The long-term and resettlement compensation appears to me to be based upon the "take-it-home" figure. This could be understood if compensation were to be at 100 per cent. As it can never exceed two-thirds of the previous earnings and in most cases will be much less than two-thirds, the adherence to this formula can only be described as mean.

We must not overlook the fact that loss of office and diminution in emoluments both obstruct an employee's chances of earning a pension which he could have expected to have earned had there been no reorganisation. The added years provision given to certain officers under Regulation No. 23 for the purpose of retirement compensation goes some way to making good the loss of pension prospects, but it does not compensate for the very much greater pension which the younger officer could have expected to earn had his career progressed in the normal way. The younger officer does not get the added years benefit. I believe that there is more resentment in local government circles over the application of this rule of net emoluments than over any other aspect of the Regulations.

I want to refer to the restriction of resettlement compensation to 13 weeks in certain cases. Under the present conditions, 13 weeks is all too short a period to enable an employee to find another job. It is not just a question of finding a job but of finding the right job. A case could be made for the full 100 per cent. compensation during the first 13 weeks, reducing to two-thirds for the second 13 weeks. The resettlement period is bound to be more expensive for the displaced employee. What with travelling expenses to interviews and keeping up appearances, it is bound to cost him more than when he is in a settled job. The award of 100 per cent. for the first 13 weeks and reducing thereafter would encourage claimants to get finally settled in the earlier period without making it a sheer necessity to take the first job offered, however suitable or unsuitable it might be.

My third criticism is the complexity of the Regulations. Very few employees will be able to judge their position under the Regulations without the advice of a specialist. Even with a specialist's advice, they will not know their entitlement until four things have happened. First, the compensating authority must have given its decision. Secondly, the result of any appeal must be known. Thirdly, the review must have been conducted within a two-year period. Fourthly, the result of any appeal under the review must be known. All that employees will know for certain is that any compensation cannot exceed two-thirds of the net emoluments.

I suggest That the only just solution would be to make the compensation ascertainable by a fixed mathematical formula, the only bars to it being the acceptance of equivalent employment in the public service or unreasonable refusal to accept such employment. Under such a solution I am sure that justice would follow with jobs in local government going to some and those who were unlucky being compensated by a readily ascertained amount.

My fourth criticism is that there appears to be no safeguard against inflation. The danger here can best be appreciated by this example. An employee whose net emoluments are, say,£1,000 suffers a£200 loss in those emoluments and the compensation in these circumstances will be less than£200. Without promotion, but simply as a result of the national increases in salary scales, his salary creeps back to£1,000. From that point on he loses his compensation under Regulation No. 35(5), and before that time his compensation will have been reduced to ensure that salary plus compensation never exceed£1,000. He is, in fact, just as badly off as before. The£1,000 is probably worth only£800 by the standards obtaining when compensation was first awarded.

It may be argued that the Pensions (Increase) Acts will deal with this question of inflation, that retirement compensation will be covered and that, if necessary, long-term compensation could be considered by the House. The answer is that local government officers would feel happier if the safety of their long-term compensation was written into the Regulations. No Pensions (Increase) Act will help the man who has suffered a diminution in emoluments and is caught by Regulation No. 35(5).

My final criticism is that an employee cannot refuse what is called "reasonably comparable employment", even if the job offered him is of a lower status or seniority. I agree that an employee who is offered an equivalent job under another authority should not qualify for compensation, but the expression used in the Regulations is dangerously wide. It is expressly stated that he cannot refuse employment in another service or in another part of the country. In this way, an employee may be forced to take a job which he feels unable to do satisfactorily.

For example, an engineer to a rural district council may be forced to accept an appointment in an architect's department of the compensating authority, although he may have no housing experience. A clerk of a rural district council may be forced to accept an appointment under the treasurer of another authority, although he may have little knowledge of accountancy. If he has to move to another part of the country he will be involved in considerable removal expenses, for which no provision is made in the Regulations.

The Regulations enable the compensating authority to relent in cases of undue hardship, ill-health or circumstances beyond the claimant's control, but this is vague. The question might be asked whether his wife's refusal to move more than 50 miles is a circumstance beyond his control? Many local and government employees in my constituency are likely to be affected by the boundary changes. They fear that considerable injustices will result from these Regulations.

Local authorities which are threatened by the Boundary Commission's proposals—as is one of the local authorities in my constituency—are losing their staff rapidly and are finding it difficult to replace them. They are being obliged to pay increased salaries to attract the necessary staff as replacements and more money than necessary is probably spent out of public funds to keep the local government administration going in districts of this kind. This is partly due to the unsettled state of mind of thousands of employees who feel themselves threatened by these Regulations. They are trying to be loyal to the authorities they serve, but they are possessed of unnecessary fears. I hope that tonight my right hon. Friend will be able to give an assurance that will lay those fears at rest.

10.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Talbot Mr John Talbot , Brierley Hill

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Matthews), I am interested in this subject from a constituency angle because, of my four constituency local authorities, three are doomed to disappear if the empire-building propensities of the Ministry are allowed to continue unchecked. While I express reservations about this Instrument, I think that a word of congratulation is due to the Ministry on its very comprehensive and well-thought-out nature.

If I thought that any considerable number of local government servants would require the use of these Regulations I would be far more critical of them than I intend to be, because it is quite clear to me that nine out of ten local government employees who are due to change their masters as a result of reorganisation will almost certainly get employment at once, and often on terms as good as, or better than, those they now enjoy. The sum total of manpower requirements of local authorities will not be diminished by amalgamation—if anything, they will increase.

I believe that this Instrument will mainly be applicable to senior men whose posts have become redundant because of amalgamation. In the case of my three authorities I can see that particularly applying to senior officers in the three authorities I have mentioned, who will quite conceivably be asked to take relatively junior posts in the amalgamating authority which, I think I can say without fear of contradiction, will give a measure of priority to its own servants. I do not think that these Regulations adequately cover that feature.

I particularly instance the case of the senior official who is at, near or past his sixtieth birthday. It is quite clear that under these Regulations he will be expected to take a junior post at a drop of salary on amalgamation. That is wrong. If we, for our own convenience, and for the purpose of the efficiency—very questionable—of local government, decide to create redundancy on this scale we should accept the liability of maintaining those men's salaries until they reach the normal retiring age of 65.

Yet throughout the Regulations there is a regular insistence on a two-thirds limit of compensation, so that if am officer is not fortunate enough or able enough to get a post comparable in salary with the one that is coming to an end, he will most certainly suffer in position. Very few people may be affected in that way, but none should be. We should see that the senior man whose job is being taken from him has the option of retiring at age 60 on the pension he would have received had he continued in office till the age of 65.

Like my hon. Friend, I have to confess my inadequacy in attempting to formulate on paper quite what all the consequences of this carefully prepared document will be. But, as I am concentrating on Section 15(2) which seems in all circumstances to make an upper limit of two-thirds compensation, I think that I am right in saying that the case I have instanced is one that should receive further consideration by the Minister. He should not compel a senior man who has, perhaps, given long service as clerk, surveyor or treasurer with a smaller authority to retire on bad terms or in a junior post under a man whom he may have seen coming up the ladder long behind him, in a larger authority because it is the acquiring authority for the purposes of the Minister's amalgamations.

The other point to which I want to draw attention in the Regulations is the arrangements made for appeal, which, as stated in the last page of the Explanatory Note, lie to a tribunal appointed by the Minister of Labour. When I refer to the paragraph of interpretation I see that "tribunal" means a referee or board of referees appointed by the Minister of Labour after consultation with the Lord Chancellor". If there is to be an appeal under an Act—and there must be—the appeal should be to a body which is obviously and plainly independent of the Government and of the local authority in any shape or form and the president of the tribunal should be a barrister or solicitor of 15 years' standing appointed by the Lord Chancellor. He should have as two assessors one local authority representative nominated by the particular organisation which is appropriate, the County Councils' Association, the Association of Municipal Corporations, or any other; and the other should be a representative of the society or trade union to which the officer in question belongs. Such a tribunal would be completely independent and appear to be so.

I have an indifferent faith in Ministerial justice, and I like to think that we could increase the number of instances where it is not left to some Ministerial nominee to make the final decisions; but they should be made by a judicial body with complete judicial impartiality without the slightest taint of miasma of administrative convenience.

So with these major exceptions to which I hope the Minister will give further thought, I would end by saying that these Regulations, which are not easy to understand, have been the subject of a good deal of thought and consideration, and are not brought to Parliament with that degree of perceptive consideration for the persons who are going to be affected by them which one has the right to expect. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will agree to take them back and think something out to deal with the points my hon. Friend and I have attempted to make.

10.33 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

Let me congratulate the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Matthews) on raising this matter. I listened with great interest to what he said. The only point where I would disagree with him was where he criticised the Regulations for their complexity. They are complex, but I do not see how it would be possible to do justice to the people concerned with them if the Regulations were to be altered in the sense in which both he and I would like them altered, and I doubt whether they would be less complex at the end. I do not think there is a remedy for this in the complicated society in which we live. This does emphasise the importance of people belonging to a trade union or professional association which can, in circumstances like these, advise them on what their rights are. This is by no means the only case where we have this problem, but, as I say frankly, the only remedy for it would be to live in a far less sophisticated society.

I hope the Minister will give a good deal of attention to what his hon. Friend has said. The very fact that only a few people are likely to be affected by these Regulations should make it all the more easy to be generous. This is not a usual transaction. We shall not, I imagine, be conducting overhauls of local government, on the scale envisaged as a result of the 1958 Act, with all that degree of frequency, and the Government need not be unduly apprehensive about creating too many precedents. We are dealing here with a problem which is not strictly analogous to any other.

To comment briefly on some of the points made by hon. Members, on the question of the two-thirds limit I would draw attention to how rigorously that is imposed under Regulation 15. It is put in in addition to all the things that are in Regulation 15(3) about circumstances in which an employee claimant above a certain age can get an extra one-sixtieth here and am extra one-sixtieth there. It is all carefully provided for in 15(3), and if at the end somebody finished with a bit more than two-thirds it would not ruin the Government or the ratepayers or anybody if he were allowed to get away with it. We have also put in 15(2), which is a further limitation.

I should also like to reinforce what has been said about the passage in Regulation 7 concerning comparable employment which may require a man to move from one place to another. It might be said that that is partly qualified by what follows in 7(3), where the authority is not to take into account an offer of employment if acceptance would involve undue hardship. If hon. Members read that and the preceding bit together, what is the position if the claimant has been offered comparable employment which requires him to move to another part of England and Wales, which is quite a wide area, and he argues that that very fact in his circumstances constitutes undue hardship?

On which leg does the authority then stand? Can it say, "It would involve undue hardship and, therefore, we will not consider this in your case as an offer of comparable employment", or does it stand on the other leg and say, "We cannot regard this as undue hardship because the Regulation expressly says that the fact that it requires you to move to another part of England and Wales should not be a bar to its being regarded as comparable employment"?

I draw attention to Regulation 14, which seems to be worded very widely and vaguely indeed. It says that: For the purpose of determining whether long-term or retirement compensation…should be paid to a claimant, and if so the amount of compensation… certain following things should be taken into account. Some of the following things could be properly relevant in determining the amount of compensation, but it is giving a very wide discretion to the authority if it is also to determine whether compensation is to be paid at all. I know that there is the final safeguard of the tribunal for the claimant. In that respect the Parliamentary Secretary may like to consider the points advanced by the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Talbot).

Finally, there is the possible shrinkage in the real value of compensation as a result of changes in the value of money. We are here faced with what is part of a larger problem. The position of a considerable number of people is constantly being threatened by the fact that the value of money tends to decline over the years and nothing can be done except by special action by Parliament by way of a Pensions (Increase) Act, or something of that kind, whereas most other persons can take action through their trade unions or professional association to try to step up their incomes when the value of money falls.

This is an important general problem for the reason that, as far as I can see, the general verdict of history is that it is very difficult for any community to have a growing and expanding economy without the value of money falling over the years. It need not fall catastrophically, but it is universally considered that a moderately rising price level seems an almost inescapable condton of growth in the actual wealth of a community. It would take a college of economists to argue out why that should be so, but it appears to happen over and over again. What that means is that, even on the best assumption, the economy as a whole is growing and expanding so that there is more wealth about. As I say, those of us who are working and have organisations through which we can press claims to increase our money incomes can manage, but it means that those for whom action by Parliament is necessary to step up their money incomes are always at the end of the queue. They see other people getting a larger share of the total amount of real wealth produced, and generally nothing is done for them until the public conscience begins to be uneasy.

Therefore, we ought to have somewhere in our Governmental machinery provision for the permanent, regular and periodic consideration of all the groups of people in this position so that they shall feel that just as the wage earner or salary earner has a weapon at his hand in hit; professional organisation to see that he is not left behind in the race, they also have provided for them in the mechanism of Government a weapon that works automatically to ensure that they are not left too far behind.

This is taking the matter a bit wider than the scope of these Regulations, but the fact that some of the people here might be hit in this fashion draws our attention yet again to the problem of those whose incomes are fixed in money terms and where action by Parliament is required to do anything to help them.

One of the drawbacks of procedure by Prayer is that if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Meriden, his hon. Friends and I were to take resolute action—and I doubt whether the Government could at this hour mobilise sufficient support to defeat us—and carry the Prayer against the Regulations, for the moment the people concerned would have no certainty that they would get anything at all. It would depend on what time and in what form the Government produced new Regulations. That is always our difficulty in the procedure of praying. It is a difficulty that the Minister could help us to surmount if he would recommend the House to accept the Prayer, but make it quite clear and categoric at the same time that he proposed within a definite time limit to introduce new Regulations embodying, at any rate, some of the points that have been raised this evening.

10.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry

My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Matthews) developed a comprehensive and temperately argued case in favour of this Prayer, and I do not wish to add very much to what has been said, but, like my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Talbot), I have got some constituency interest in this problem, for Shropshire will certainly be affected by local government reorganisation.

I should like to refer to one aspect of these Regulations which certainly disquiets me, and that is the dogmatic insistence on dealing with net emoluments. One of the arguments which will be advanced in favour of the system of net emoluments in these Regulations is that this system of compensation has been applied to the considerable number of compensation Regulations that have been introduced since the end of the war, and in some cases they have affected local government officers. This, to my mind, is a very defensive and, on the whole, thoroughly unimaginative reaction to this problem. I should have thought that local government reorganisation is one aspect of a problem—the problem of change—which is certainly going to be with us to an increasing extent over the next decade or so.

In these circumstances, particularly where the numbers involved are comparatively small, I would have thought that there was a very good case for the Government to err on the side of generosity, and certainly not shelter behind the argument "We have not done any better than this in the past, and we have no intention of being any more generous now." I would imagine that in the circumstances of today one would be looking to the Government to give a lead in the matter of redundancy and that they would set an example which one would hope would be extended to other fields of employment, both private and public.

Therefore, I regret that the Government have shown themselves still anxious to stick to the principle of net emoluments, because I believe that of all the reprehensible features in the Regulations which have caused concern among local government officers, perhaps the issue of net emoluments has caused most grievance. I hope that even at this late stage the Government may have second thoughts.

10.46 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Drayson Mr George Drayson , Skipton

As at some future date these Regulations may well affect local government officers in my constituency, I have been asked to protest against certain provisions in them. I would add that I know of no definite proposals at the moment affecting any of my local government areas, but as it is a very large and scattered district in the West Riding of Yorkshire it may well be that at some future date it will become involved in some form of reorganisation.

Hon. Members having dealt with the main points of the Regulations about which there is criticism, my attention is particularly drawn to the fact that there is no provision for reviewing the long-term compensation when its real value drops due to inflation. It is pointed out to me that: It is true that, in the past, periodical pensions increases Acts have applied to compensation. I wonder whether the Minister can give some assurance that these Regulations will be covered by any future pensions or compensation increase Act which might be brought forward.

My constituents concerned go on to say that they consider that Regulation 14(l)(c) is particularly regrettable as an officer may lose compensation through failure to accept alternative non-local government employment which may be offered to him. They say: Surely this will cause officers to leave, or avoid applying for, posts which may become redundant. Although each officer and employing authority retain their independence, yet we have for years been taught to look on local government employment as a service apart from the individuality of councils. These officers say that it seems to them: that, if an officer loyally sees his authority through amalgamation or alteration, he is then in grave danger of either being forced to take a post repugnant to him or lose compensation to which he would otherwise be entitled, I do not want to go over the points raised on Regulation 15(2)(a) and Regulation 15(3)(a), but it seems to me that the terms are by no means generous. The point having been well made to the Minister by other speakers, I hope that he will find it possible to look at these parts of the Regulations again and see whether he cannot bring in some amendment at a later stage.

10.49 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

I think it would be helpful if I reminded the House of the background against which these regulations have been made. It is that of the post-war code which was introduced in 1948 to meet the nationalisation and other reorganisations which were going on at the time. That code differs from the 1933 code in two basic principles; and these two differences have been preserved throughout every code of compensation since the war.

The first difference is that, under the old code, there was no qualifying period, whereas under the post-war code there is a three-year qualifying period for resettlement compensation and an eight-year qualifying period for long-term compensation. Also, under the old code, no account was taken of alternative employment outside the public service. This second matter has been the subject of one of the criticisms which have been made against these Regulations.

Several of my hon. Friends and the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) have said that this is not something which is likely to arise very often, and, therefore, we ought to be generous. But I must remind the House that the basic code is applied over a much wider area than the local government service in the content which we have been discussing tonight. The post-war code has already been applied in 19 sets of regulations, and the various improvements which have been negotiated in it have already been incorporated in the British Transport Commission reorganisation code which the House recently passed. So it must be appreciated that the repercussions of being generous are not confined to the relatively few people with whom we are concerned today. I think that most of my hon. Friends have an even smaller class of person in mind, namely, the clerks to rural district councils, who, as a body, have, I think, been responsible for most of the protests against the terms of the Regulations.

The hon. Member for Fulham and my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) raised the question of insurance against inflation. The House needs no reminder that this is a matter which goes far wider even than the 19 sets of regulations to which I have already referred; it covers every single form of public service pensioner and, indeed, National Insurance pensioner. Rightly or wrongly, it has never been accepted by any Government that it is right to build into a pension scheme or compensation scheme an automatic adjustment to meet the fall in the value of money. I do not recall the figures at the moment, but I remember putting a Question to the Treasury some years ago about this, and the amount of money that would be involved in such an operation was astronomical. I do not think that there is a case for selecting this particular group of public servants and saying that they, and they alone, shall be protected for all time against the fall in the value of money as against all the vast number of other public servants, many of them every bit as deserving and in circumstances every bit as needy in the event of serious inflation. I hope that the House will not press for special provision in this particular case.

The other main argument has been directed at the fact that the compensation arrangements, as distinct from the pension arrangements, are based on net emoluments. The logic of this is simply that these compensation arrangements are themselves based on take-home pay, so to speak, that is, on pay less the superannuation contribution, whereas the basis of the pension arrangements is gross pay, because at that stage the claimant ceases to make any contribution and draws the full pension.

My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Matthews), who covered, I think, most of the points which other hon. Members raised, first made the point that we should be generous. I have already explained that to be more generous than we are being would have greater repercussions than appear at first sight. I would remind the House that within the two basic differences between this code and the pre-war one very substantial improvements have been made. I could read them out, but I shall not. They run to two foolscap pages, and there are substantial improvements in nearly all the sections with which this set of Regulations deals.

These Regulations have been the result of very prolonged consultation with the various local government officers' associations. They started in 1960, when formal consultations took place, but it was made clear that any particular local government officers' association that wished to come and discuss the matter with my Department could do so. Many of them did so, both in the initial discussions and in further discussions after the first draft, as a result of which a number of further improvements were negotiated, and again in discussions after the second draft. I would point out that the Society of Clerks of Rural District Councils took advantage of that invitation on two occasions.

I do not attempt to maintain that all the points that everybody raised were met. Indeed, this would be a very unlikely result of any negotiations, because there is always somebody who will seek further improvements, and it is not uncommon for people to ask for a little more than they expect to get. Genuine improvements have been made, and, as the hon. Member for Fulham pointed out, I do not think that it would be a service to these people to postpone the making of these Regulations, acknowledging that we have a number of reorganisations pending and people want to know where they stand.

I admit that the Regulations are complex, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we live in too complex a society to make it possible always to make these things very simple. I have no doubt that the vast majority of officers concerned will belong to some professional organisation which will be very competent to advise them.

The other matter which appears to be troubling my hon. Friends is the question of taking into account the prospects of other employment, and here again I wonder whether it really would be sense to say that money should be paid out of public funds, sometimes to relatively young officers, irrespective of their ability to find work elsewhere, and irrespective indeed of the prospects in that new employment. This is one of the basic differences between these two codes. It is based on the much better prospect of finding employment today, and I would remind my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Talbot), in particular, that an officer retired at sixty gets five years' notional service added to his service from the point of view of calculating his retirement compensation, and he can in fact opt to take his retirement compensation at sixty instead of sixty-five. The only thing he loses is the effect which any increase that he might have got between sixty and sixty-five might have had on his pension, but these are all somewhat problematical sums to work out.

It is not true to say that the older officer has been badly treated. On the contrary, the adding of notional years both under the compensation terms and under the pension terms is much more generous than it has been in the past and considerable improvements were made during the course of the negotiations to which I have referred.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill attacked, I think a little unfairly, the tribunal which deals with appeals on these occasions. It is a tribunal set up by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, and this is the first criticism that I have heard of it. I am not aware of any criticisms of the way in which it works, or the decisions to which it comes, having been levelled by local government officers or the staff organisations with whom we have been negotiating. If myhon. Friend has any grounds for believing that this is an unsatisfactory tribunal I will certainly examine them, but I have no grounds for that belief; indeed the evidence that I have is very much to the contrary.

Although I am a lawyer, and am perhaps speaking against my profession in this, I believe that there are occasions when one wants to interpret regulations of this sort a little more widely than in the strictly legalistic manner which precedent so often imposes upon a strictly legal tribunal. I do not agree that of necessity, in a matter of this sort, one need have the very legal tribunal in the sense outlined by my hon. Friend.

The hon. Member for Fulham raised the question whether or not a demand to move, or a situation where the only prospect of getting a job involved moving to another part of the country, would constitute hardship. I can only think that this would depend on individual circumstances. I can imagine a case where a man might be an invalid, or have an invalid wife, where there might be hardship, but it would not be wise to say that this would be so in general.

I would remind the House, and particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden, that in talking in terms of expectations the senior officers—the people who expect to get to the top of the tree in this field—do not expect to stay in the same local authority for the whole of their lives. The way to the top, particularly in the clerk's line of country, is very much by moving from smaller to larger local authorities as opportunity permits. Indeed, few of them have a security of tenure, in the strictly legal sense, of more than a month. That is the usual contractual term under which dismissal can be given on either side.

With that background I recommend to the House these Regulations, as providing terms which are by no means ungenerous. They are a very substantial improvement, within the broad framework of the post-war period, on the previous terms and the codes which have been available to other public servants in similar conditions, and they will no doubt, as has already happened in the case of the railways, set a precedent in other farms of public service. I hope that the House will accept them, bearing in mind that this is a matter which, as the hon. Member for Fulham has said, really needs to be made clear in the interests of these officers, and bearing in mind, too, that these are both much improved, and generous. Indeed, perhaps I can finish on a personal note. When I first saw this Prayer put down I looked up the file and found my own note sitting on the top, saying, "These seem to me to be very generous Regulations". I still believe that, and I commend them to the House.

Photo of Mr Gordon Matthews Mr Gordon Matthews , Meriden

In view of the explanation which my hon. Friend has given us in regard to the repercussions of these compensation Regulations on regulations in respect of other professions, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.