I beg to move Amendment No. 11, in page 15, column 3, to leave out lines 10 to 12.
This Amendment deletes from the Schedule of repeals taking effect on the coming into force of the Regulations the reference to Section 24 of the Teachers (Superannuation) Act, 1956. This Section has already been repealed by the Statute Law Revision (Consequential Repeals) Act, 1965 and the reference is therefore unnecessary.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I do not wish to detain the House unduly long, but I think it would be right that I should express appreciation of the manner in which this Bill has been welcomed by the House and the expeditious way in which it has been handled. It is a useful and desirable Measure, having for its purposes two main objectives.
First, it will codify and simplify some very complex and confusing legislative provisions which at present govern teachers' superannuation. These embrace 10 Statutes and nearly 100 Statutory Instruments, and they are most baffling and bewildering, even to the experts who have to deal with them. The Bill will do this, providing that the majority of the statutory provisions in force should be embraced in one comprehensive set of Regulations, with the exception that the fundamental aspects of teachers' superannuation such as calculations of salary, the keeping of accounts and actuarial requirements, which will remain entrenched and only amended by fresh legislation. The Regulations which the Secretary of State will be empowered to draw up will be consolidated and brought up to date, making for much greater ease in administration and understanding on the part of all concerned.
The Bill will also allow a much greater degree of flexibility in dealing with changing circumstances, which from time to time render it desirable and necessary to make amendments to the scheme. These amendments will now be possible without the necessity of fresh legislation or the frustrating delays which occur when a desirable objective is perceived and there is no opportunity for the necessary legislation. This will be done with the requisite safeguard that the Secretary of State will have precise obligations of consultation with the teachers and local authorities concerned, and such Statutory Instruments will be laid before this House. This first purpose is one which will be generally welcomed by all concerned.
The second objective, a very important one and one which I know is widely welcomed, is the introduction of the widows' and dependants' scheme. This represents the fulfilment of something which I know has been long desired by the teaching profession, and this now brings them into line with the vast majority of the public services—a very desirable purpose. One can only express the greatest degree of gratification that it has been possible to launch a scheme of this character, which will be of such help and assistance. The Bill is a very useful and desirable Measure and once again I should like to express appreciation of the manner in which it has been welcomed and expedited through the House.
In following the Minister of State in the debate I repeat that I am very glad that we have been able to get the Bill through quickly. I hope that it will pass with equal expedition through another place in the coming weeks. This is one of the very first domestic Measures to be introduced in this Parliament.
As I said just now, we ought to realise the number of hard cases which will still exist even when the Bill is passed. I have one letter in particular suggesting that not all that many men over 45 will be able to afford to enter the scheme even though they have 15 more years to teach. As we said on Second Reading, we should remember the number of hard cases that come to the Ministry in an average year. The correspondence of both senior and junior Ministers in the Departments, in my experience, is not confined mainly to the big issues which we debate on a three-line Whip in the House but precisely to matters of this kind.
The Minister mentioned Clause 4. I look upon it as one of the most useful and important Clauses. As my hon. Friends and I said last week, this is highly important when we consider the contribution which this country can make to educational progress, especially in other parts of the Commonwealth. I noticed a good-tempered reference in the Press of last Saturday to the degree of agreement between the Secretary of State and myself on this Bill. When there is a narrow majority in the House it tends to be news when the two Front Benches are agreed on something, but it should be realised that there is not an ice age between one Government and the next. It will happen that a number of initiatives taken in one Parliament will not mature before the next Parliament.
I should be the last person to want to play down genuine and important party differences, but there will be a number of Measures like this when the initiatives taken in one Parliament will not mature until the next. I am glad that we have had complete agreement on a useful Measure and, furthermore, a Measure which enacts proposals that many hon. Members have wanted to see for a considerable time. I mentioned last week the present Patronage Secretary. A number of my hon. Friends, and especially the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings), have referred to this matter in the past, and I am glad that we have been able to deal with it so soon in this Session.
I am happy to follow the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) in his remarks about such stupidity—if I may use so strong a term—as that of some commentators outside the House on the agreement between the Front Benches on this Bill. Either they are ignorant of education or ignorant of the British constitution, or ignorant of the kind of people we are in the House.
This is an eminently good Bill. It may not go as far as some people in the profession may wish, but is that an excuse for not doing what we have done? I often feel that some people like to take the gilt off the gingerbread. Here is a good little Bill. I refer particularly to Clause 3 and its provision for teachers' widows which we in the profession have been striving for over many years. I started in the profession 30 years ago and I know that we have been striving for it all that time. It is a little unnecessary to conceal the fact that we are doing something which is so important behind a smokescreen or cloud of criticism about other points which have not been covered.
This is something which is first rate. I am particularly glad to follow the right hon. Member for Handsworth in his comments on Clause 4. It is appropriate that teachers should be involved in this sort of provision, because if anything can be said of the teaching profession it is that teachers have always given of themselves freely. It is appropriate that we should be encouraging teachers to give of themselves even more freely in foreign countries. Teachers have never been backward in coming for- ward in that respect. The Bill will help them to carry out their professional ideals a little better than they have been able to do in the past.
I congratulate my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Minister of State on being able to bring the Bill forward so quickly in this Parliament. The right hon. Member for Handsworth has some credit too, because it was in his day that this matter was being considered. To that etxent, therefore, one might almost call this a joint Bill and the fruits of co-operation between the two Front Benches. This, I repeat, makes nonsense of many comments by people outside the House who do not understand the processes of legislation.
As one who has played some part in the National Union of Teachers before coming to the House I am delighted that the Bill has gone so rapidly through its various stages so far. It is an important Bill, despite the fact that many of its provisions do not arouse controversy. The simplification of the various regulations relating to teachers' superannuation is extremely important but, as I said on Second Reading, the widows', orphans' and dependants' scheme is the thing which will have the greatest interest for teachers.
I am particularly interested in Clause 4. I say this as a former teacher. The teachers' organisations generally will be very gratified with the Bill. They will see it as the fruit of the long struggle that they have carried out for many years on the issues which are involved in it. I have not always regarded the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) as being right, but on this occasion I pay tribute to him for the part which he has played in the formulation of this scheme. It is only fair to say that a great deal of the preliminary work was done as a result of his initiative.
I still regret that it was not possible for the Secretary of State to allow some concession for the older teachers. The right hon. Member for Handsworth has already referred to a letter which he received from an older teacher this week. I have been in contact with many older teachers and I know that they are extremely concerned that it will not pay them to enter the scheme. I hope that even at this stage the Government will not forget the plight of the older teachers and will keep their position in view as time passes. If any possibility arises of doing anything to help them I hope that the Government will not be slow in bringing forward that help.
Despite this criticism, which I voiced on Second Reading and I voice again today, I think that great credit should be given.o the Government for giving time so early in this Session to such an important Measure. It is something which will do a great deal of good for many people in the future. I am sure that the fact that the Government have seen fit to give time to deal with this matter will be remembered by teachers, and I can say from my contact with teachers' organisadons that they are delighted.