§ Order for the Third Heading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a third time."
§ MR. BOWLES (Lambeth, Norwood)
In rising to move the rejection of this Bill, I am of course well aware that under normal circumstances, and in a normal case, to ask the House of Commons to reject a Bill which has been considered through all its successive stages, would be no doubt a rather strong demand. But I have no doubt in making this Motion, that both I who make it, and so many of my hon. friends who may be good enough to support it, will be represented throughout the country as having shown a callous and culpable indifference to the sufferings of the 107 poor, and as being opposed to giving any old-age pensions whatever. Such a charge as that, wherever made, would be untrue and unjust. For my part, I am not opposed to, on the contrary I should cordially welcome, any scheme which, whether by way of old-age pensions or otherwise, would really, effectively, and with justice, mitigate in some degree the sufferings, privations, and misery in which, no doubt often undeservedly, many of our fellow countrymen live at the end of their lives. It is fair, however, to remember that, in this country at any rate, the charge of indifference to the sufferings of the poor cannot be made at this time, or any other time, against any Party, or against any section whatever of the community. For something like 300 years, longer I believe than any civilised European country, we in England have had a regular and practical system of law dealing with poverty on recognised principles. Everybody, I believe, in every quarter of the House, will cordially agree that the time has come when that system of law ought to be reconsidered and largely amended. It is an important element, I think, in the consideration of this matter—it has been recognised by right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House and in all quarters of the country—that a large and important Commission has in fact been appointed, which is analogous in many respects to the great Poor Law Commission of 1834, although it has not, I think, to deal with anything like so urgent a proposition as that which confronted them. It has been sitting now for some years, and the Report is expected within a short time. All that has been done, and all that has been regarded as a necessary and inevitable preliminary step in dealing with the problem of poverty in old-age. For my part I, as I am sure do all my hon. friends, rejoice that the Commission has been appointed, because it appears to me that, whatever else may be in doubt in considering this matter, this, at any rate, is clear, that the problem of poverty, of which this Bill deals with only a part, and a relatively inconsiderable part, is really one of the problems which cannot be divided into innumerable sections. It presents to us questions of enormous and sometimes insuperable complexity, and if ever it can be said of any problem in this world, it certainly can be said of this one, 108 that it can only be properly, finally, and justly dealt with after the most full and serious consideration on the part of the responsible Government, by a Bill which has received a most detailed and careful discussion in the House of Commons, and, indeed, I should say, without any doubt, in both Houses of Parliament. And my root complaint against this Bill is exactly that, while on the one hand we will assume that it deals with a relatively small corner of the whole vast and growing problem, it does so in a way which has never been considered by His Majesty's Government at any stage, and which has never been allowed to be even discussed, even considered, as to the great majority of its provisions, by this House, with a view to amendment. No member of the Government will have the courage to say that when the Bill was introduced he had fully considered it in all its bearings, or had any notion of what its real effect on the country would be. No one will make that assertion. If he does, I think there would be no difficulty in controverting him by reference to even the action which the Government have taken themselves at almost every stage. I am equally certain, and I do not think it can be denied, that there is no hon. Member in any quarter of the House who is not perfectly well aware that if this measure had been allowed to be fully and freely debated, it would have been blown into pieces line by line, and what the Government would have had to do—and what they have done to some extent in the ridiculous and truncated debates which they allowed—would have been to abandon the Bill. Of that there can be not the slightest question. It appears to me, as a humble student of these matters, that if anything has been made clear in the course of these debates it is that if you are to have a scheme of old-age pensions at all, there are only two intelligible, conceivable, or rational principles on which it can be founded. Either you must have a scheme based on the principle of contribution, or you must have a universal scheme. For my part I am very strongly in favour of, indeed I have always supported, a scheme based on the principle of contribution. I believe that such a scheme, and such a scheme alone, can deal with the real necessities of the case, a scheme which would enable a man to have his pension not at a time or age 109 arbitrarily fixed, but at a time when he is infirm through illness, accident or other cause—in fact, a scheme which would give him the pension when he needs help. But this Government, characteristically, have chosen neither of these principles, and the result is that we have had thrown at our heads a Bill which probably inflicts more injustices and more cruelties, which probably involves more grotesque and inexplicable contradictions in itself, and opens up a wider field for disputes, litigation, and grievances and sore disappointments among the great mass of the people, than probably any Bill of its length that has ever been devised. This Bill proceeds on the principle, so far as it affects to proceed on any principle at all, that the old-age pension is to be regarded as a matter, not of charity, not of compassion, not of pity, but of right. It is to be regarded not as a dole but as a debt. The theory is that everybody in this country who has shown reasonable care and industry, and who has attained to the age of seventy, is owed money by his country. By the more fact of his industry the country has contracted an obligation towards him and owes him an ample sum. Accordingly the first clause of this Bill is described in the note as giving the right to receive an old-age pension. This right has been loudly insisted upon in this House, and no doubt loudly insisted upon in the country. I have no doubt that many hundreds of persons up and down the country, who believe what they have been told in that respect, and who were preparing to put in claims, think that the old-age pension will become theirs as a right the moment the Bill becomes law. Those people will have a sudden and rude awakening. This Bill confers no legal right to the pension; it will be competent to no man or woman to go into a Court of law and enforce the claim for an old-age pension under this Bill. It is a remarkable thing that the only kind of legal right which the Bill really does give is that the Treasury will have the absolute statutory right to go into Court and recover from the old person, or from those on whom he is dependent and who may have anything to do with the matter, any sum that may have been paid to that old person improperly by way of old-age pension. The whole thing is in the hands of the pension 110 officer and the local pension committee. And bow is it possible to describe as a right that which it is in the power and in the duty of two authorities—both perfectly new and unknown to this country before this Bill was introduced—of their own motion to decide whether or not this, though called a right, is to be allowed to be enjoyed by these wretched men? What is given by the Bill is not a pension but an inquiry into character, and I ask the House to pause long before they allow that to go forth to the country. The right which the Bill gives is the right to these poor old people to lay bare the whole of the intimate details of their lives, every circumstance, their whole history, to submit to a personal examination of the whole of their long, laborious, and obscure career from year to year, at the hands of a small local committee, in the hope that they may be able to persuade them of what it would be perfectly impossible in the majority of cases even to begin to prove it you begin with the small artificially selected and arbitrarily chosen class which for some reason has always been singled out by the Government to receive public charity. If the applicant succeeds, his position will be that of a sort of ticket-of-leave man under the surveillance of the local Exciseman, whose duty it will inevitably be to see that he continues to fulfil the conditions day by day and week by week. On the other hand he may fail to convince the local Exciseman that he has fulfilled the conditions, and I firmly believe in the vast majority of cases he will fail, certainly in the towns. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen contemplate with equanimity the spectacle of an old man, in whom they have raised hopes, whom they have told he has a right to a pension, who, having submitted to this long and degrading inquiry at the hands of a local committee, finds all his hopes broken and that he is open to the reproach of having tried to get money out of the public to which he was not entitled, and perhaps also that the most intimate and most carefully guarded secrets of his life have been exposed to the not too sympathetic gaze of the local officer and the local committee. What is the procedure by which it is attempted to make this ludicrous distinction? The only excuse which any Government can offer to the House of Commons, to the country or even to 111 themselves, for introducing such a procedure is that they have never had the time or the inclination seriously to consider it. Let the House consider for a moment the practical working of the scheme. Here is an old person believed to be seventy years of age, who has led a reasonably industrious life, and has been told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that he has an absolute right to a pension. He makes his claim and some considerable time after the setting up of this machinery the pension officer arrives, very busy, his pocket bursting with birth and marriage certificates, and begins a most fantastic inquiry. He sits down in this wretched old person's room and proceeds to discover in the first place whether he is seventy years of age. We have asked the Government very politely and with great clearness what notion they themselves have formed of how in the ordinary course the old man is to be able to assure the pension officer that he has attained the age of seventy. They have not the faintest notion. He next inquires whether this old person has or has not resided for twenty years in the United Kingdom. That would exclude vast numbers of persons whom the Government do not desire to exclude—sailors and persons who might have gone abroad for any reason. The Attorney-General says, "That is all right. We will define residence to mean domicile." But he cannot do anything of the kind. Then the pension officer has to discover whether or not since January, 1908, the applicant has had an allowance—a few shillings during a week or two he has been out of work—from the guardians, and he then inquires into the habits of this unfortunate man during the whole of his life. He has to discover whether habitually he has worked according to his ability, his opportunity, and his need. It is made a great point by the Government that there is no character test in the Bill, that it is a matter of right and a reward for the industrious citizen, and that there is only an inquiry as to whether during the whole of the person's life he has or has not made the best use of his opportunity. Is there any ground for such a provision as that? The only gratification I have on considering it is that certainly if it were applied to any single member of the Government it would disqualify him for ever from receiving a 112 pension. In the case of a woman this wretched officer will have to inquire and establish that she has habitually been a good housewife and has done her housework well for the benefit of those dependent upon her. That is a pure character test — it can be nothing else — and if the Government really believe what they asseverate so loudly, that there is no character test in the Bill, it can only be because they have not considered for a moment the meaning of the words which they employ. Industry is to be presumed if the applicant has paid into a trade union or friendly society continuously between the ages of fifty and sixty. These ten years are arbitrarily selected I suppose because they are the years during which it is most difficult for the applicant to continue his subscription. A man may have paid into a friendly society all his life up to the age of fifty-nine: it is no good. He may have paid from fifty-one to seventy. Industry in his case is not to be supposed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was rather moved in this matter, I understand, by the representations of the great friendly societies, who expressed very rightly, and with good reason, their apprehension as to the effect of the Bill upon their interests. He told them that they need not be alarmed, and that on the contrary the Bill would do them a great service, because they would be able to write on the head of their application form "Membership of this society is a guarantee for an old-age pension." The right hon. Gentleman of course believed what he said, but nobody who reads the Bill can fail to see at once that that is doubly misleading, and that any friendly society which took the Chancellor's advice would put itself in a very awkward position if anybody on the faith of that statement chose to begin payments to the society. When the friendly societies begin to read the Bill, they will see that they will have to write in large red letters on their application forms to the young men of the locality, "Join our society at the age of fifty and you will be presumed to have been industrious up to that time. All payments made to our society before the age of fifty will be useless for that purpose, and will probably result in your having made so good a provision for your old age yourself that you will be disqualified for an old-age pension altogether." Finally, 113 the pension officer has to assure himself of the whole financial position—past, present, and future—of this wretched man. He has to have an absolute statement of the whole of the income which he has actually received last year in cash; every Christmas-box or charitable donation, all payments he may have received from his sons or his daughters or those who may desire to help him in his old age, will be brought up against him in order to defeat his claim. It is my firm belief that if Gentlemen below the gangway really understood the Bill they would not support it. The pension officer will also have to calculate the yield which any property the man possesses might be made to give if he were a skilled financier and investor, such as very few of us are or can hope to be. Finally, there is the ridiculous fact that if at the age of seventy a man inherits £800 and chooses to invest it in Consols so that it will bring in £20 a year he is entitled to a full pension, whereas if he inherits £200, and buys a Government annuity of £31 10s, he will be entitled to no pension at all.
§ MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
I think he would be a fool to leave it in Consols when he could buy an annuity.
§ MR. BOWLES
That is because the hon. Member does not approve the system of depriving one's self of present advantages in order to be able to leave a little something for those who come after him. This Bill is represented as an endowment of the poor at the expense of the well-to-do. It is quite clear, unless this particular point is escaped somehow, that it will in a great many cases, in my belief, work out as an endowment of the well-to-do at the expense of the very poor. All these questions are to be put and answered. It is inevitable that the Bill will work with the most complete inequality in various localities. In one district you may have a strict pension officer and in another one who is less strict, and you have not the slightest guarantee that a man who has been refused a pension in one district will not succeed in getting it in another district. It seems to me that the inquiry provided for in the Bill is a most degrading and humiliating ordeal to put an old person through. Such an inquiry will be resented by all those who desire to 114 preserve some spirit of independence and self-respect. In the country districts the Exciseman will have every single interest against him, for the landlord, the squire, the guardians, and the employers wiil form one gigantic conspiracy against this unfortunite Imperial officer, and the burden placed upon that man is more than he ought to be expected to bear. This Bill inevitably creates two new classes. In every village and town, on the one hand, you will have docketed the recipients of State charity, prevented by law from receiving any help from their sons or daughters, and they will be under the daily and weekly surveillance and control in every respect of a public official lingering out a subsidised old age with one eye upon the local post office and the other upon the Excise officer. On the other hand you will have a much larger army of persons who, after having submitted to this degrading and extremely painful inquiry, have failed to establish their claim. They will be thrown back upon the Poor Law where they will be deprived of the satisfaction of voting Tory for the rest of their lives. A scheme such as that is nothing else than an extension of outdoor relief on the part of the Poor Law, and no amount of rhetoric, no eloquent phrases, no hopes or wishes held out can make it anything else. It is pretended that this pension scheme has been carefully kept separate from the Poor Law. But no such separation is possible; and that seems to have been admitted, because as the Bill now stands, on the 1st of January, 1910, every single pauper will be thrown upon the Exchequer unless we amend the Poor Law. This fact alone justifies my Motion. It is admitted that the Poor Law must be amended and there is now a Commission sitting dealing with the whole question. We are told that on the Report of that Commission it may be found necessary to recast the whole of our Poor Law, and yet, in advance of the findings of that Commission, from motives which I do not think it would be offensive to say are motives prompted by mere party popularity, the Government, without the slightest warrant from anybody, bring forth this ill-considered scheme, which pre-judges the Report of the Commission now sitting and the action which the House will have to take upon it. Under these circumstances I do not wonder that when the 115 Cabinet sat round the table and considered this project as the Bill was first introduced into the House, they came to the conclusion that before the Second Reading was passed the House should be refused any opportunity to discuss it. Whether it is right or wrong it is a tremendous revolution in our procedure for the Government before the Second Reading of a Bill to draft and hand in a long Resolution confining the Committee stage to five days. We are now getting accustomed to the profound and avowed contempt with which the Government are pleased to treat the House. It seems to me that in this Bill they have passed even their own limit. It is not too much to say that in dealing with this Bill the House of Commons, as such, has been annihilated and treated as though it did not exist at all. I do not wish to exaggerate, but it is not too much to say that the debate upon this Bill has been unduly restricted. The Finance Bill of 1894, which made many important changes, was discussed for three months. But the Bill we are now considering is a far more important measure, and it appears to me that one session would not have been too much to devote to a Bill of this gigantic character. If the House of Commons is allowed to debate any Bill, however ridiculous it may be, it always, as a matter of fact, has been found capable of making that Bill a workable and a lasting measure. The Finance Act of 1894 raised subjects of great contention, but it has lasted to this day almost unamended. When the House debates under those circumstances, and when a measure is thoroughly discussed, the country and all parties are willing to abide by the decision. On the other hand surely hon. Members opposite must have seen that it always has been found that when closure is applied and debate forbidden the result is that you have an Act of Parliament which is not lasting, which does not settle the question at all, and which merely leads to trouble, difficulties, disappointment, and delusion, and necessitates more legislation upon the same subject, involving a further call upon the time of the House. The Government have stifled all discussion upon this gigantic Bill. Finally this Bill is said to be a financial and money Bill. It would be impossible to deny that it has a financial side, but I 116 doubt very much myself whether in the opinion of a single hon. Member opposite, or in the opinion of any right hon. Gentleman sitting on the Treasury Bench, the financial side of the Bill is regarded as creditable to the Government or to this House. We have been told that all the estimates founded upon this Bill are purely conjectural. Whenever the Chancellor of the Exchequer opened his mouth in the discussion it generally involved an increase of anything from £500,000 to £1,000,000 in the cost of the scheme. I believe it to be a very mild estimate to say that the cost of the Bill will in the end approach a good deal nearer £10,000,000 than £7,000,000 or £8,000,000. Now £10,000,000 is a considerable sum, in fact it represents 4d. upon the income-tax, and remember, this is a proposal made by a Government which is pledged up to the eyes to the most vigilant retrenchment and economy. This is a scheme to which they were not pledged, and it will involve within the next few years not retrenchment or economy, but an additional expenditure of something like £10,000,000 per annum. It is a little surprising to me that a Government pledged to economy should come to this House and wantonly break those pledges in this way with their eyes wide open, and without any direct authority from anybody. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh, oh."] The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that he has not the faintest conception where the money required for this scheme will come from. He has no nest egg, and therefore by the admission of the Government, so far from retrenchment or economy being possible, increased taxation of the heaviest kind is absolutely inevitable if this pension scheme is to be carried out. There are other considerations as to which I shall say nothing at the present moment. One of the most serious objections to this measure to my mind is the effect it will certainly have upon the purity and independence of public life in this country. I do not see how it is possible for anybody to suppose that once this system has been started every candidate at an election will not try to outbid his opponent. However, I put my objections to the measure upon much broader and more general grounds. The Bill imposes a degrading and humiliating ordeal upon people who 117 deserve better treatment. It is a measure which has been entirely unconsidered by the Government, it has never been considered by the country, and the Government have not allowed it to be considered by the House of Commons. Whenever the measure has been attempted to be discussed it has soon been shown to be utterly unworkable. From the very nature of the case it cannot be regarded as a final scheme because it prejudges in an injurious way the consideration of the whole question. It lays for over upon the whole of the taxpayers of this country a burden the limits of which are utterly unknown. For my part, with great confidence as to the reasonableness and the justice of my proposition, I earnestly invite the House to reject the Bill. I beg to move.
§ *SIR HENRY CRAIK (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)
I rise to second the rejection of the Bill. It has been frequently said that those who are prepared to support the whole principle of the Bill are a negligible quantity. But looking beyond this House, and to those who have dealt longest with this question of old-age pensions—those who have spent their lives trying to devise some scheme for making old age easier than before—do not hon. Members see that the problem is one of difficulty and doubt, and that among those who are most capable of coming to a judgment on the proposals of this Bill you will not find that uniformity in favour of the measure which its supporters boast is to be found for it in this House? If that is a correct description of this House, then I am afraid the only conclusion we can draw is that the House does not represent the better part of the country—[Laughter, and cries of "Oh"]— or the more thinking part of the country. If my hon. friend below the gangway is content to say that no Member is worthy to represent his fellow citizens in this House, and is not worthy of being listened to by his fellow citizens if he entertains doubts as to the expediency of this Bill—if the hon. Member is prepared to say that the whole nation is at one, and that those who think otherwise are not worthy of representation in this House, I must take leave to differ from him. The hon. Member for Norwood has so completely disposed of the details 118 involved in the working of the Bill, he his shown so amply and felicitously what doubts, difficulties, embarrassments, and harassments will surround its working, how doubtful the action of these local distributors will be, how difficult and how invidious the action of those who administer the scheme, how harassed those will be who look forward in their old age to having qualified for this very doubtful good by having fulfilled all the conditions, that I do not intend to enter upon that part of the question. I wish rather to deal with the principles which underlie this Bill. There are clearly two lines of action which might have been chosen. Those who have speculated on this question have put forward only two schemes which they consider fit to work, namely, a contributory scheme and a universal scheme. The Prime Minister set aside in a few words the contributory scheme in introducing the Budget, though the words which he then used have not received the slightest confirmation as the discussion of this Bill went on. A contributory scheme, the Prime Minister said, could not come into operation until after a long interval, and would be ludicrously inadequate and unjust, and yet he has never from that day to this made the slightest reference to the corrections of his reading of the German contributory scheme which were so ably put forward by the hon. Member for Preston. In fact the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself in express words set aside the whole of the argument of the Prime Minister; he argued gravely that because all citizens more or less contributed to the taxes, therefore this was a contributory scheme, and that he could defend it as such. I would like the House to note another peculiar symptom in the passage of this Bill. If I am not mistaken, hon. Members below the gangway have in their constituencies frequently indicated—I understand it was part of the platform on which they stood—that the old-age pension scheme ought to be universal. [An HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear.] Yes, but what are we to think of an alliance struck between the Treasury and hon. Members below the gangway, who hold diametrically opposite views, and yet who kept carefully silent on this principle and went into the lobby in support of the Bill? I myself on the first clause of the Bill moved an Amendment which would not have bound 119 us with regard to any limitations, but which would simply have left our hands freer to prevent those limitations continuing during the whole course of the tenure of a pension, and what was the result? It did not suit the Treasury bench that such a principle should be added. It was contrary to the interests of their Bill, and I had not one word of support from hon. Members below the gangway, although I was speaking in favour of proposals which they have always advocated. A Bill which is based on what I shall not scruple to describe as an unsound and dishonest alliance as this Bill is——
§ *SIR HENRY CRAIK
I am speaking of the alliance between two Parties who hold totally different principles, who join in support of a Bill which only represents one set of those principles and flouts the other set. The hon. Member will not think that I am imputing anything dishonourable to himself in describing that as a dishonest alliance and not a sincere one. But as the hon. Member for Norwood has so fully dealt with the details of the Bill and shown how unworkable they are, I wish to call the attention of the House to one or two general principles which it contains. Is it consistent with the previous action of Parliament? Parliament moves forward according to certain principles, and at all events the Party to which the present Government belongs claims to act upon certain principles, and to develop these on some consistent grounds. It was the Liberal Party which seventy years ago re-cast the Poor Law in the interest of the poorer classes and society generally. No Member of the House would deny that since the Act of 1834 was passed the most enlightened, the most advanced, those most interested in raising the position of the poor in this country, have tried to administer the law according to the principles embodied in that Act. That is a common-place of those who have studied the economics of this country. In the last seventy years new conditions and changed problems have come up, and a Commission has been appointed whose investigations 120 are to be the basis for a revisal of the Act of 1834, to as certain whether the principles which were then established require modification, which must be based on a broad survey of the whole matter. What are you doing now? That Commission is on the eve of reporting, and according to your own confession you must, when it has reported, deal with the whole question on some sound principle. You thrust into this troubled and vexed area a new principle never established before in this country, which is variously described by those below the gangway as the right of every citizen to reward for work done for his country, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War as a mere extension of the Poor Law principle. You place this scheme before the country on the eve of changes so stupendous as those which are to be undertaken when the Commission has reported. We have been tired to death by the constant reiteration of an example which has been held up to us as the one thing which we must follow, namely, the example of New Zealand, which has a territory as large as Great Britain and a population about the size of a provincial town. Is that to be the sort of example we are to follow? Does the action of that Colony embody the wisdom which is to guide this country in what it is to do in meeting the needs of an old civilisation based upon old traditions? Are we to take the example of this Colony which has none of the vast and difficult problems which have to be dealt with in such a country as this? Are we to have this thing foisted upon us, breaking in upon the development of our Poor Law which has been developed from age to age on a consistent principle? But there is another proof of inconsistency of principle in this matter. I have had myself a good deal of experience in the getting hold of charitable endowments to be used for education. The Party opposite have been never tired for the last generation in telling us of the absolute wickedness and degradation of those doles and pensions given out of charity, and that the proper thing is to take these away and employ them on education. Act of Parliament after Act of Parliament may be credited to the Party opposite which has expressly for its object the destruction and the confiscation of those charitable endowments on the ground that they were 121 injurious to the poor, that they bred poverty rather than relieved it, and effecting the transference of those charitable endowments to educational purposes. I think the Party opposite sometimes proceeded with extreme rigour, and almost tyrannical urgency. But it is certainly not for that Party which has cut down in many cases the pensions of the poor to plead that they are acting consistently in proposing the re-establishment of a vast system of doles which differ only from the Poor Law in the fact that they are subject to certain very harassing conditions from which the Poor Law is exempt. I would like some hon. Members of the Party opposite who have made them selves prominent in diverting these charitable endowments to tell us how they reconcile their action in recent years with the present Bill. There is another consideration I ask the House to remember. Do you think that if you establish pensions of this sort of £13 a year, which will raise the income of some 600,000 or 700,000 persons up to the level of about £30 per annum—that you can do that without serious injury to a vast number of people who have themselves saved only a little more than that sum? Is it not one of the plainest inferences of political economy that if you vastly increase the number of those people who hold a certain income, you reduce inevitably the buying power of that income? Do you think that men who by painful effort have collected for their old age a provision of £30, £35, or £40 a year—I know many such whom I am proud to consider friends of mine, who strongly prize and value their independence—will not be injured by this Bill? What hon. Member will venture to gainsay my proposition that the provision which these men have made for their old age will be proportionally lowered in its buying value by the vast number whom you bring up to the level to which they have attained? If you once establish 700,000 or 800,000 people who are prepared to bid against those who previously had all they required in the way of decent lodging, do you think that the price of that lodging will not rise? By refraining from giving any benefit to this enormous class of thrifty persons who have made their own provision for old age, you are not only depriving them of that benefit, 122 but you are unquestionably handicapping them by proportionally lowering the purchasing value of their means. I ask the House to look at the fact that this Bill is not merely not the beneficial Bill you pretend it is; but that it will inflict upon a vast number of people an injury the extent of which you can hardly guess. I will not deal with the question of finance. That duty has been undertaken by the hon. Member for Norwood. I was, however, struck in this respect with another curious symptom of the strange alliance between the Treasury Bench and hon. Members below the gangway. I would not myself say that the resources of this great country are unequal to meet any real unanswerable need or that our national resources are so limited that our hands must be tied in dealing with what should be a great national system of old-age pensions; but we were told time after time by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the sole necessity for modifying the Bill was that he could not find the money. That this country could not find the necessary additional £300,000, £400,000 or £500,000! That was a reasonable excuse, perhaps, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make, but what I am astonished at is that the champions of the working classes followed the right hon. Gentleman into the lobby and assented to that principle. They did not raise their voices in aid of the proposals to increase the benefits granted by the Bill.
§ *SIR HENRY CRAIK
The hon. Member admits the restrictions imposed on discussion by the Treasury Bench. The evil of these restrictions is now seen. Hon. Members now admit that they had many points to make, if they had had the chance to expose the merciless side of the Bill, and to minimise the restrictions upon the grant of a pension, but that they were not allowed to do so. Those who were in honest alliance with them told them to hold their tongues, and they obeyed. I have attacked this Bill because, instead of a kindness, it inflicts upon many of the poorer classes of this country a very serious injury; because it handicaps those who have made thrift the object of their life, and were proud of that thrift; 123 and because those who draw a miserable pittance from this Bill will find their lives subjected to new and harrassing conditions and disagreeable inspection of which they have enough already. Still more, I object to the Third Reading of this Bill, because I believe it is the beginning of a course of legislative action which will more and more taint the fountain of politics in this country. I do not think we have to go beyond the discussions that have taken place in the House to see that there will be in the future—it requires no prophet's vision to see it—a rush to go one better than the opposite Party, to bait the hook a little more strongly in the hope of catching plausibly a little more support. I beg to second the Amendment.
To leave out the word 'now' in order to insert the words 'upon this day three in onths.'"—(Mr. Bowles.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the question."
§ *SIR HENRY NORMAN (Wolverhampton, S.)
I have heard over a considerable period of years many grave measures introduced into this House, and, on the eve of passing through, their rejection moved by some member of the party in opposition; but I cannot recall an example when the seriousness and indeed solemnity of the subject was in such marked and painful contrast to what the hon. Member for Norwood must forgive me if I call the flippancy of the speech in which he moved the rejection of this Old-Age Pensions Bill. The hon. Member said that he would be probably charged with indifference and callousness to the sufferings of the poor. I do not suppose that anyone who knows the hon. Member would charge him with callousness, but I think it is quite easy to imagine what will be said in the House and what will be thought in the country if he and his friends really go into the lobby against the Bill. He said that the debates were ridiculous and truncated. It may be fairly retorted that if they are ridiculous they have been made so by such criticism as he and his friends on the Opposition benches have made; if they have been truncated, it h because the time allotted to them has been occupied by obstruction—[OPPOSITION cries of "Oh, 124 oh."] Well, if there are objections to the use of the phrase I will alter it. If these debates have been truncated it is largely because the time has been needlessly cut short by discussions on entirely frivolous and formal points. It will also be said here and outside that for twenty years during which the party to which the hon. Gentleman belongs were in power, often with large surpluses, they made no effort to solve in this House the question of the aged poor. During ten years formal promises were given by the party opposite to deal with the subject, and nothing was done. An hon. friend of mine said of another Bill that such criticism as comes from your side is the old story—" Not thus," and "Not now." But that "now" of the Unionist party on the question of old-age pensions lasted for twenty years, and the "Not thus," is this Bill which is on the eve of passing into law. The hon. Member said that it had been introduced by the Government, and they were prepared to spend nine or ten millions of money on it, merely in order to be able to say that they had dealt with the question. I think I shall have the support of both sides of the House when I say that that is a kind of criticism which Members of the House of Commons do not regard with approval. The hon. Member said that the subject had not been dealt with fully, finally, and justly. That is quite true; it has not been dealt with finally and fully, nor does the Bill meet all the demands of abstract justice. If it has not been dealt with finally, at least it has been dealt with temporarily. If it has not been dealt with fully, an honest attempt has been made to deal with it partially. If not perfectly satisfactory at all points, at any rate it is such an instalment as was possible to the Government and party which has undertaken it. If the case against the Bill is all that is said by the hon. Member for Norwood, then there is no need for much to be said in its defence. The hon. Gentleman's ability is well-known, and his eloquence not infrequent, but if all that can be produced against the Bill is his thin stream of feeble argumentation, punctuated by his own gay laughter, then the Bill must rest on a firmer foundation even than I had thought. I am tempted to regret that these benches, which are now so 125 partially peopled by Members of the House of Commons, are not crowded with old men and women who are to be pro vided with these old-age pensions, so that they might have heard what the hon. Gentleman and his seconder said, and have seen for themselves the attitude of the Unionist Party towards this great hope which has come to them in the evening of their days. Everyone on this side of the House saying a few words on this Bill at this stage will, I am sure, wish to give expression to his admiration and gratitude to the Government which has at last attempted to deal with this matter. After all the examples of promises not kept, hopes held out and not fulfilled for so many years, this pledge honestly given and honourably kept, will, I am certain, assure to the Prime Minister the added loyalty of his supporters, and I am confident the gratitude of the large majority of his fellow citizens. Having said this, and having supported the Bill through every stage, I may now frankly refer to one or two matters of detail, and here, if I may refer once more to the Member for Norwood, I may say that with regard to one of the questions he raised, the aspect of the Bill as it affects annuities, his figures were wrong. A careful study of the Bill reveals a number of anomalies doubtless inevitable, but certainly startling. I do not believe it is possible in a Bill dealing with this subject for the first time, and entering so far into the land of the unknown, to escape all anomalies, to avoid all absurdities, or to prevent all hard cases. One of these anomalies I call attention to, which I think is not unamusing. I do so in no carping spirit, but because it leads up to a point upon which the Government must be prepared to act administratively before the 1st of January next. A man who has £739 invested in Consols will receive a pension of 5s. a week, and a man who has nothing invested in Consols will also receive a pension of 5s. a week. This raises the much-debated question of thrift, and I may say here that I hear with impatience such utterances as those of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon on this question. For us, with our smart clothes, our luxurious houses, and our motorcars, to preach thrift to a man whois bringing up his family respectably, or trying to, on £1 a week, seems to me to be not only bad taste, but a positive affront. I by no means join 126 in deprecating the saving for investment criticised by my hon. friend the Member for Tyneside, believing his view to be based upon an economic fallacy, but I have not been able to bring myself to a definite conviction on the question of thrift as it applies to this Bill. Should a man with £739 invested in Consols receive more because he has been thrifty, or should the poor man who has nothing receive more because his need is the greater? It seems obvious that the two do not occupy the same position towards the State. I incline to think; the man of seventy years of age, who has nothing, deserves more as his need is more. But the anomaly grows greater the more we look at it. The man with £739 invested in Consols will receive 5s. a week, the man with £831 invested 4s., the man with £915, 3s., the man with £1,016, 2s., and the man with £1,108, Is. a week. My own view has rather been that I preferred the Bill in its original form than the Bill including this sliding scale. But let me carry this a little further. A man and his wife, bath over seventy years of age, living together, can be possessed of £1,478 8s. invested in Consols, and receive 10s. a week from the State, and they can actually have £2,217 12s. in Consols and receive 2s. a week from the State. Out of this situation arises a curious and not uninteresting conundrum. This old couple satisfy the pension officer that they have £2,217 in Consols which bring in 12s. a week, and they are therefore entitled to a pension of 2s. But during the first year they spend £184 16s. of their capital, thus adding £3 11s. per week to their income, making it about £4 2s. in all. By doing so they have retrospectively and in anticipation disqualified themselves for a pension, both for that which they had, and that for next year. But at the end of the year they have only £1,016 invested in Consols, bringing in 11s. 1d. a week, and they become entitled therefore to 4s. a week pension. What is the State going to do about it? Is it going to say, "If you keep your capital intact we will give you a pension, but if you spend any of it we will not give you any more, and will take back what we gave you before?" Supposing this old couple have a royal good time with their £2,217 until all is gone, and they become destitute, will the State pension them if their lives have been 127 exemplary? If the State pensions them after thus squandering their money, obviously it does it at the expense of other taxpayers. If, on the other hand, it does not pension them, then the scheme for which we have voted is a contributory and not a non-contributory one. I venture to recommend the puzzle to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But that is not all. A man of seventy with £739 4s. invested in Consols is entitled to 5s. a week. But for £269 8s. 3d. he can purchase himself a Post Office annuity of 13s., and still have £459 invested, which will bring him in £13 17s. a year, which raises his income to 18s. 4d. a week. Will the State give a pension to a man who has thus sufficient means to ensure himself 18s. 4d. a week, and in addition has an invested capital of £450; or if not, will the State compel every man who has money invested to buy himself an annuity and thus disqualify himself for a pension? This question requires a mostserious answer. As the Bill stands, a man of seventy, with £247 1s. 11d. can purchase an annuity of 12s. and receive. 1s. a week from the State. But if he is an old man of unscrupulous character he can do what he likes with £80 of it. He can invest it in a horse race and if he loses he will be no worse off than before. The point is one which I put forward in all seriousness on this question of purchasable annuities, and it must be decided before 1st January next. Is the man who can purchase an annuity to be compelled by the State to do so, or not? That is the question. Leaving these details of the Bill, I return for an instant only to its principles. I welcome the Bill most cordially, and I am proud to march in the ranks of the party which has put this landmark into our political history, but my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not think my tribute less cordial because I welcome the Bill as an instalment, as one story of an edifice, one movement in a great campaign. This is clearly a problem which cannot be dealt with completely until the Poor Law Commission reports. Very few Governments would have had the courage to tackle this question, and relieve the aged poor, without waiting for the Report. A man getting outdoor relief in his need, owing to his worthiness, is penalised, and if it be for only two or three years, to a man of seventy that may mean for the rest of 128 his life. That is one shortcoming of the Bill, but there is another as to which there is no comfort in the shape of a time limit. The old age of a worker is not to be measured by years. The agricultural labourer may be a hale and hearty man at seventy, but the man who works in a steel works or in a chemical factory may be old at fifty. Against accident the worker has been insured by the action also of this Government; but against old age, except in the matter of years, he was not. Old age comes on a host of workers much earlier, except in the years by which it is measured, than seventy, and great pressure will be brought to bear on the Government perhaps to increase the pension but certainly to lower the age. But no extension of the Bill on its present lines can meet the whole of the cases. It is quite impossible for the State to find enough money to take charge of all that ought to be done in this way. If the Bill were extended to give every man a pension of 10s. a week at sixty, a great army of workers would still be left out of its scope. The goal will never be reached until the workers are secured against the disability of old age at whatever time and from whatever cause it arises. It would pass the wit of man, even the wit of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which, in this matter, passes the wit of many, to deal with it except by a contributory system—not to supersede, but to supplement this system. To regard the Bill, however it may be extended in the future, as a final one, seems to me to be the counsel of despair. It shows a willingness to stereotype the economic system under which the worker does not get a sufficient share of the proceeds of his own labour to enable him to make provision for his old age. I hold personally that the worker should receive such a share of what he himself produces that he will be able to provide for himself; in other words, that he should be paid higher wages. Then his own contribution and his employers' contribution, with the assistance of the State, all of which he will justly deserve, will provide him a pension whenever he becomes old. We look forward, and I do not think, knowing him as we do, that we shall look in vain, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer formulating in due course, and submitting to this House, such a scheme supplementing the present Bill, as will have the result that, while every worker shall have 129 a final refuge under this Bill, other workers in ever-increasing numbers may be able, with assistance justly due to them, to secure a refuge from the sorrows and humiliations of poverty, whenever and from whatever cause actual old age shall come upon them. I have criticised the Bill; I have ventured to put a small number of questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I have expressed a hope. Let my last word, as was my first, be an expression of the pride that I am sure we all feel, that in connection with this scheme we have been allowed to take our part, even in the humblest way, in the great work which the Government has so nobly taken in hand, of putting on the Statute Book a measure which will be held in grateful memory as long as our political records shall endure.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
I sincerely hope that the Government themselves will find in the course of this debate some supporter whose support will be of a little more valuable character than that which they have received from the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. The hon. Member, is of course entitled to give the opinion—it is very kind of him to do so—which he and his friends hold of their opponents. I do not know, after a somewhat long electoral experience, that I should be inclined to attach very much importance to the opinion which hon. Gentlemen opposite hold of their opponents, but it is always useful to know it in advance, because it enables us to make our preparations. When we know what he and his hon. friends will say about us in the country, we shall naturally be better able to meet those statements when they are made. The hon. Gentleman wandered away into the region of prophecy. I should have thought that he was sufficiently astute-minded to realise that there have been certain indications of what the people outside the House think, and on the whole I am more inclined to trust the evidence of the electors when a direct appeal is made to them, than the experience of a Member of the House who in the earlier part of his remarks sought more to disparage the Opposition than to argue in favour of the Bill. It is absurd to try to establish the proposition that if a scheme is submitted of which you do not approve altogether, 130 or of which you strongly disapprove, you are to be compelled to vote for it; and that you cannot even criticise it without laying yourselves open to the charge of being altogether hostile to the measure. What was the line that the hon. Gentleman took upon a previous occasion in this House, when many of the Gentlemen opposite sat on this side of the House? I have a very lively recollection of the action taken by those who were then His Majesty's Opposition when discussing the question I of the machinery for dealing with the unemployed. All the arguments on which the hon. Gentleman now pours such I contempt were used with the greatest freedom by the then Opposition, though not by members on the Labour benches. The whole Liberal Party used these very arguments on which they now pour such ridicule. They said they wore in favour of machinery for dealing with the unemployed, but not now; that this was the worst thing they could possibly do, and that they would do their best to prevent legislation of that kind from passing. Not so the Labour Party, who, although they disapproved of it, would not vote against it, because they believed it was something which might be made useful. It is ridiculous of the hon. Gentleman to argue, either as to his own Party, or on the merits of the question, that those who criticise the Bill, or even those, who like my hon. friends behind me, have announced throughout their opposition to the measure, or those who object to its form and its details, are therefore altogether opposed to the granting of pensions. For my part, I anticipate with absolute equanimity the levelling of these charges by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and if I wanted consolation I should find it in this conviction, which I hold very strongly, that long before the time comes for hon. Gentlemen to begin to level those charges against us, they will themselves be as busily concerned, as they desire to see us, in defending themselves against the charges which can be brought against them in relation to some of the ridiculous provisions of this measure. The hon. Gentleman, after his repeated references to the Opposition, passed to the Bill, and then he became really interesting. He said he was now coming to the Bill, and he poured blessings on the head of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which 131 I hope the right hon. Gentleman will hind as agreeable as blessings can be when they are given in that way, because the blessing of the hon. Gentlemen below the gangway took the form which is very prevalent in this country; it was much more gratitude for favours to come than for those already received. The hon. Gentleman said it was only an instalment, a step in the right direction, one story of a mighty edifice which the Goverment had got to build; and then he wont on to indicate to the Government what kind of edifice it should be, and I wish joy to the Chancellor of the Exchequer or Minister in charge who attempts to carry out the programme of the hon. Gentlemen below the gangway. I think it will take them all their time, and all the wit which the hon. Member very rightly attributed to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to deal with the Bill, and the rest of his remarks were criticisms of a most destructive character. I have sat through the whole of these debates from the very beginning up to the present time. I think I have heard nearly all the speeches through the Second Heading, Committee, and Report stages, and I have heard no speech more destructive of the Bill in its application to the cause of old-age pensions than that delivered by the hon. Gentleman. Let it be remarked that the speech was delivered when it was too late even for the Government to give effect to the hon. Gentleman's suggestions, or to amend the Bill in the directions which he indicated. I do not hesitate to say that if the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman be that the Government are to carry out the alterations by means of regulations—and I only assume that because he said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Local Government Board would have to deal with this question before the 1st of January next—if the suggestion is deliberately made that this Bill is to be altered, in regard to the principles which underlie it, by means of regulations of Departments, I am quite satisfied that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Local Government Board will repudiate any such suggestion as being one which they could not possibly in any event have anything to do with.
§ *SIR H. NORMAN
I made no such suggestion whatever. I only mentioned that possibly the Government might take up that attitude, and instruct the pension officers as to what they had to do under this Bill.
§ MR.WALTER LONG
But the difficulties which the hon. Gentleman pointed out are inherent in the provisions of the Bill passed through Parliament, and the suggestion which he has just made is that the Government are to give instructions to the pension officers to avoid those difficulties. But, then, they would be instructions to evade the law which Parliament had made.
§ *SIR H. NORMAN
I have not suggested that they should do anything of the kind. The Government would have to state what their attitude was. If one class of action is contrary to the principles of the Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman says, and possibly he is right, then of course the Government need not instruct the officers in that sense. I am not suggesting that any instructions should be given which were opposed to the principle of the Bill, but only that they should state what was to be done under certain circumstances.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I do not wish to misrepresent the hon. Gentleman, but if that is all his suggestion amounts to, then for the life of me I cannot see why he made his speech on this stage of the Bill at all, because the suggestion he made was that you are to point out the difficulties which have already been pointed out, both in Committee and on Report. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has frankly admitted that these inconsistencies do exist. He says—''Well now, we cannot help some of these difficulties, and we must put up with them." If the hon. Gentleman did not mean to suggest that they should be overcome by regulations, then I can only say that his speech amounts to wholesale criticism of the Bill, made at a time when it is too late to give effect to it, and when the Government themselves could not fill up the cracks which the hon. Gentleman has pointed out as existing in the measure. My hon. friend the Member for Norwood, who has 133 moved the rejection of the Bill, holds strongly, and has said repeatedly during the debates, that the provisions of this Bill are so unsatisfactory that he is not prepared to support them. It is suggested that we are not prepared to make these statements in our constituencies. It is rather absurd to make this suggestion now that we have gone through something like three months' debates on the Bill, and after speeches like that made by my hon. friend have been delivered, not only in this House, but throughout the country. I can safely state that I have not said a word of criticism on this Bill, which I have been compelled to criticise a good deal, that I have not said on one or two occasions when I have had an opportunity of speaking in the country, and that I am not prepared to repeat at any meeting which I may be called upon to attend at any time. The hon. Gentleman said he would like to see a contributory scheme. When this Bill was going through the Second Reading stage I ventured to put before the House what I believed to be the ideal and best way to deal with the question. I am not going to repeat it now, but I simply reaffirm my view—that is, a contributory scheme with the aid of friendly societies plus a scheme like the one we are now considering. If you had a contributory scheme as a foundation for your proposals for the future all you would need would be a scheme to bridge over the time between the present and the coming into operation of the contributory scheme, and that would have necessitated none of those restrictions which you have put into the Bill, and which will, I am convinced, prove great stumbling-blocks to the administration of this measure. I did not oppose the Second Reading, and I am not going to oppose the Third Reading. I make a present to Gentlemen opposite of the argument—a perfectly fair one in party warfare—that we could not oppose the Bill and then face our constituents. I believe there are in this Bill a great many grave inconsistencies and many clauses which will prove stumbling-blocks rather than advantages to those who are to get pensions. But I have no hesitation in voting for it, because I believe these limitations to which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton has drawn attention will be swept away wholesale by those who administer the Act locally. If you had a contributory 134 scheme and a scheme bridging over the intervening period none of those difficulties would arise, and you would then give in reality what you are only now giving in form, namely, a pension to everybody as a right, upon attaining a certain age, and not as a result of fulfilling certain arbitrary conditions. The hon. Gentleman dealt in scathing terms with the suggestion of people having sums of money in stockings or hidden away in some remote chimney corner, but I do not think that the House need trouble itself very much about it if here and there a man is given a pension who happens to have a few shillings saved up in a corner. The most effective and damaging criticism of the Bill—and I do not urge it from any party point of view, but because I believe now is the time to lay down clearly what we think ought to be the guiding principles in a measure of this kind—is that instead of going upon contributory lines you are really extending and generally applying what is known as the charity organisation work throughout the country. The Charity Organisation Society has done noble work and I should be the last to say a word against it. On the other hand, it might have done even more had it not been for the almost inevitable fact that people resent bitterly, and resist if they can, any demand made by its officers, and agents to inquire into their past lives; the poor hate nothing so much as this. I regret more than I can describe that it has been necessary, in the opinion of the Government, to put in this Bill a clause which casts upon the pension officer, and therefore to some extent upon the pension committee, the duty of making this inquiry, which in some cases will result undoubtedly in the disclosure of unfortunate circumstances long ago forgotten. And after all, are not these pension officers and committees placed in positions which the ordinary individual is hardly competent to fill? They are asked to say, in the case of a man who has done his best according to his needs and his opportunities, whether his life has been generally satisfactory, and how far he has conformed to the pension officers' and pension committees' idea of what is right. Are there many men in this House who would like to perform the duty which we thrust upon the pension officers? We may be the most faithful watch dogs of public expenditure—we are fruitful in speeches 135 on the subject, though I do not think we do much in actual action—but outside this House we know perfectly well that the ordinary man takes very little interest in the amount of public expenditure either under the head of taxes or of rates. We may make eloquent speeches to them from our respective points of view, but the response is not a very practical one. The pension officer will not be in any way liable for the expenditure, and your control over him is of the slenderest kind. He is employed by the Inland Revenue Department, but his connection with the Treasury is of the remotest description. All he knows of his real masters is his communication with the supervisor at the head of his district. The pension committee can have no earthly object in restricting the grant of these pensions. What will they do? Will they not take the view that these conditions if they are strictly interpreted will be harsh and cruel, and say, "It is our business not to put strict interpretation upon them, but to treat these cases in the most generous way. What business is it of ours that thirty years ago this man did not make as big an effort as he ought to have made to earn a living for himself, or did not, join a friendly society and make provision for his old age, or got into bad society and adopted loose and intemperate habits? All we know is that for ten years he has been working hard, and is now a poor man and cannot maintain himself." If Parliament meant these things to be done they should have laid the performance of them on other shoulders. I feel confident that all these restrictions, which I believe are unwise restrictions which it would be practically impossible for the local committees or the pension officers to carry out, will be swept away, and the result will be that practically the people who attain the age and fulfil the general conditions will in every case get their pensions. I do not regret it. That is what would have happened under a scheme which formed part of a contributory scheme. It is what would happen under a contributory scheme where every man's right to a pension depended solely on his contributions to the general fund. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton said we had been in office for 20 years, and had had abundant surpluses, but had not dealt with this question. I admit that that charge can be brought against us, but during the 136 whole time I was at the Local Government Board I never found any scheme put before me which would stand these tests and limitations; I felt convinced that they would be swept away; and I believe the result of this measure will be that before it has been three years in operation the expenditure under it will be nearly double the amount the Government have estimated. Then what about the effect of the Bill upon Poor Law Reform? I have been ever since I entered the House a very ardent supporter of a reform of the Poor Law, and I frankly admit that the present Government appear in a new form in regard to this question, because in past days we found it very difficult to enlist their sympathy. But undoubtedly this measure will indirectly, but to an increasing amount, relieve local expenditure by casting on the taxes what has hitherto been borne by the rates. That is altogether satisfactory, and as a local taxation reformer I welcome it. But that is not all. If the matter ended there I should be content. The hon. Gentleman below the gangway said he thought the Government were brave to step in and deal with this question now before the Report of the Commission. It would be grossly impertinent for me to suggest that it has been said that some people step in where others fear to tread. It may have-been brave to step in, but I think it was rather like rashness. After all, what is the Royal Commission going to report upon but the very question with which you are dealing in this Bill? In the rural and urban districts the operation of this measure and the form of the Poor Law maintained must vary. The classes of people that you have in the workhouses and infirmaries are totally different. In the rural districts the workhouses practically contain nobody but those who are infirm or so broken in health that they cannot be looked after outside. The average country workhouse is really an infirmary and not a workhouse at all, and as a matter of fact we know that four out of five of the people who are given relief in rural districts are given it in their own homes. That means that you have got now throughout the country a large number of people who get sums varying from 3s. to 5s. a week as outdoor relief. Undoubtedly these people will pass from the Poor Law on to the pension 137 list, and to that extent it will be a relief to local charges. But the hon. Member takes comfort from the knowledge that under this Bill there must be an amending Bill before 1st January, 1910. Poor Law reform was very difficult before, but it has been made much more difficult by the way this Bill has been framed. In the future you will have these old people coming on the pension list by troops. Boards of guardians will be compelled, because they have no alternative, to grant relief which will disqualify a person after the 1st January, 1910. They will consequently strain every effort to make some other provision so that they may not be disqualified. Consequently you will have these old men and women receiving pension relief almost universally. The Royal Commission was appointed to inform the House how it was possible to discriminate between these cases. It is well known that in many cases people remain out of the workhouse and in their own houses. Those people, often suffering from infirmities, will become pensioners, and it will be difficult for any Government to go back from that form of relief, and divide into the two classes in which they will probably be divided by the recommendation of the Poor Law Commission. Then there is the effect which this Bill will have upon the question of Poor Law reform. I profoundly regret that the Government thought it necessary to restrict our debates on this measure by the closure I am certain there is no one who has studied Poor Law questions who will deny that since the great Poor Law Reform Act of 1834 no Bill of more lasting importance to social reform in this; country has over been brought before Parliament than the one the Third Reading of which we are now considering. There are many hon. Gentlemen opposite who, if they were in the Palace of Truth, and had the obligation of party discipline removed, would be ready to admit that there are many suggestions they would have been glad to make while this Bill was passing through Parliament, and who would agree that their experience and knowledge would have helped the Government to make this a more complete measure. They must feel as I feel that many parts of this measure have been dangerously hurried through. In a Bill which so 138 closely affects the lives and happiness of millions of our fellow subjects, and will throw duties of the most difficult and responsible character on those who have to administer it, it is a remarkable fact that in many parts it will receive its final assent without any discussion in the House of Commons, and even with important parts not discussed. I take note of the extraordinary change made on the Motion of a private Member which, for the first time, enabled the Government to do what, so far, no other Government has ever done before, namely, not merely to pledge the finances of their possible successors, but also the time and arrangements of their possible successors. That is a reek-less as well as a novel proceeding. This Bill is full of weak points, but I think they will be overcome by the commonsense of those who have to administer the Act, and in that way they will be swept away. I profoundly regret that the Government did not see their way to introduce a contributory scheme in conjunction with this one, for that would have laid the foundations more securely. The Bill, as it stands, in my humble opinion, is very crude, but I shall certainly do nothing to risk its passage through Parliament, although I shall watch its workings not only with interest but with anxiety. For my own part, however, I shall do my best to help the Act when it has been passed to work satisfactorily. I look upon the future with great anxiety, because I believe this Bill will create new troubles and add new difficulties to those already existing in the Poor Law. I am confident that the Government in the near future will have to legislate again on this subject, because without fresh legislation you will have complications arising so serious that it will be difficult for either the guardians or the pension committees to do their work properly. Many of us feel very deeply the truth of our criticisms, and we also feel that great hopes and expectations have been raised in the hearts of thousands of people. I firmly realise that Parliament without restriction of party has made to those people a promise that the darkness of their lives shall be brightened, and it would be a most serious step to do anything now to retard the fulfilment of that hope, even though we may entertain a strong conviction that this same privilege and blessing might have been conferred, in a more satisfactory manner.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. MASTERMAN,) West Ham, N.
I need hardly say that I welcome the decision of the right hon. Gentleman to support this Bill on its Third Reading. May I also say that we all recognise the independence of the position he has taken up as being free from any question either of catching or losing votes in the country. I had the pleasure of hearing all the speeches delivered by the right hon. Gentleman in the discussions on this Bill, and I have no hesitation in saying that he has always taken a perfectly consistent position from the beginning, criticising certain principles, with some of which criticisms I find myself to a certain extent in agreement. I am therefore glad that at the end of the discussion the right hon. gentleman is able to give us an assurance that the Bill must go through this time, and that he will do everything in his power to see that it is made an effective provision for carrying out the intentions of the Government and of Parliament. I do not feel so much resentment as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton at the last rally of the guerilla chiefs, the Member for Norwood and the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone, in their final attempt at the destruction of what they believe to be pernicious. Having been defeated in their attack on the main army, they are now engaged in the more congenial work of attempting the cutting off of convoys, the destruction of stragglers, and all those other efforts of resistance which are sometimes called insensate and sometimes patriotic. I have derived considerable benefit from the condemnation of their strategy, although there has been agreement with some of the statements they had made. However, I should like to follow in the main the example which has been set by the right hon. Member for South Dublin, and deal with the Bill as a whole, the details of which have been passed. Under these circumstances I do not think I am called upon to say much. I do not know that it would be suitable to my position to say much concerning one or two points. There is the accusation of the incomplete thinking out of this measure by the Government, but I think that that argument is considered as part of the recognised apparatus of opposition. Then there 140 is the long controversy as to whether enough debate has been given to the measure. Of course that is another of the usual complaints made by the Opposition, because they always try to get measures fully discussed. Those are questions which I think may very well be left on one side, and the discussion now ought really to be concentrated upon the question as to whether this Bill in the final form in which it is presented is a measure which will be effective in its operations in the country. I may possibly carry the House with me if I venture to omit any detailed answer to the very interesting and amusing conundrums put to me by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. On all these questions I should be inclined, while freely acknowledging that when you draw a monetary limit you must have anomalies, to ask if the legitimate method of treating them in practical affairs is not to accept the common-sense point of view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, and say that we are not familiar with the stockings in which £800 are gathered together, or the agricultural labourers who are confronted with the problem as to whether they wish to put £1,200 in Consols or whether they prefer to purchase an annuity. This leads me to the reiteration of a statement which I made half-way through the discussion in Committee, and which I think I can now make as a sort of friendly challenge. I have heard with interest the repeated attacks made upon the machinery of the Bill but I have heard no attack—and those who have studied this question will agree—upon the provisions of the Bill which are not inevitable attacks upon all limited schemes of old age pensions.
§ MR. MASTERMAN
I carry the noble Lord with me in that conclusion, and I come back to the ultimate test of the matter. That test is whether, of all the various alternatives offered to us, we can reasonably expect the House and the country to declare that we have chosen the most possible and the most desirable solution. We could have left the whole thing alone. That is the desire of the noble Lord.
§ MR. MASTERMAN
Well, I may consider it as a possible alternative. Those who have spoken in favour of a contributory scheme—and I do not think they have really examined the proposal in its full implication—and who have opposed this Bill so strongly, are equally opposed to a universal scheme, and in voting against this Bill they cannot be altogether exonerated from the charge of at least desiring the delay, if not the complete refusal, of any scheme. The noble Lord has pleaded for delay in the matter until we have received the Poor Law Commision Report. It was impossible for us to leave the subject alone. The country has been tantalised, bewildered, and befooled, consciously or unconsciously, and is steeped in the promises which were made at the last general election, and which had occupied the attention of the people in the intervening time, So far from rushing to the scheme, the Government in the first session of this Parliament virtually promised in the first Budget introduced by the Prime Minister to deal with the question of old-age pensions; in the second Budget a definite and specific promise was given that this was a matter to which the attention of the House this session would be called, and for eighteen months every Member of Parliament and a majority of people outside have recognised that it was to be dealt with on some expansive scale. We might have sought a contributory scheme. That I agree is an alternative. I have been one of those who in the frugal study of this and other social questions have desired to find some satisfactory contributory scheme. Commissions and committees for the last ten years have been seeking a satisfactory scheme which would be congenial to the country and practically workable, and they have all failed. It is the failure to find any contributory scheme which will be just to the poorest of the community, and at the same time easy in practical working, which has driven a large number, against their first desire, to the conclusion that they must, either willingly or reluctantly, rule out the question of contribution. We have heard a great deal of a contributory scheme which would aid in the promotion of thrift. The hon. Member for the Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities said that we had utterly misrepresented the German scheme. That is not a scheme for the promotion of thrift. The most that can be said of the German 142 scheme is that it insists on compulsory thrift, and, in my opinion, that is no more thrift than compulsory religion i is religion. Deductions made by the employer from the wages of the employed cannot in any rational sense of the word be interpreted as a means of encouraging the virtue of thrift. Moreover, the contributory scheme which is now in force in the German Empire requires inevitably for its satisfactory development a system of regulation and a system of regimentation which, however desirable in itself, is utterly alien to the traditions of this country, and would be equally repugnant, I believe, to employer and employed. Nor can the noble Lord and those who think with him get out of what seems to me an insoluble difficulty, and that is a contributory scheme where a less amount of pension is offered for a less amount of contribution, or no amount of pension for no contribution. Without a shadow of doubt you would be extracting taxes from the poorest class to benefit classes who are well to do. Never in any of these debates have I heard an answer to that. If you rule out inaction, and if I you rule out a contributory scheme, then you have nothing left but one of two courses. One is to adopt a universal scheme of old-age pensions. It would be impossible for me with my record of a, chequered past, however much my published writings may have received well deserved oblivion, to declare that I prefer a partial to a universal scheme of old-age pensions. I know only one argument against a universal scheme of old-age pensions, and that is that the lowest estimate of the cost would be £25,000,000, and that the cost, even if we make all the allowances which the right hon. Gentleman and myself desire in connection with the Poor Law, must amount to something like £16,000,000 or £17,000,000. By excluding all alternatives we are driven to establish certain limitations which we acknowledge are illogical, against which strong batteries of reasons can be advanced, and on the border-lines of which anomalies are left, but we only declare, laying all our cards plainly on the table, and acknowledging these anomalies and these limitations,, that it is better that we should go for- ward with the money at our disposal than that we should do nothing at all. That leads me back to the real method of judging of this Old Age 143 Pensions Bill. The spending departments of the country—one of which I have for the moment the honour to represent in this House this afternoon—are pressing the Treasury for as much money as it can see its way to give, and which we reckon we have a right to demand; and in the consideration of this scheme the question is not whether the Treasury ought to be able to promise more money—that is a question of finance —but whether, the Treasury having declared that it sees its way to furnish this particular amount, we are making it go as far as possible in the promotion of the social amelioration and welfare of' the classes we desire to assist through some such pension scheme as this. There have been repeated this afternoon some of the criticisms of the limitations which are inevitable if the £16,000,000 to £25,000,000 required for a complete scheme is to be reduced to £7,000,000 or £8,000,000, which is the only amount the Treasury see fit to provide. There was the Amendment proposed by my hon. friend in favour of the reduction of the age limit. We are all in favour academically of a reduction in the age limit. We do not wish to deprive old men and old women at the age of sixty or sixty-five of pensions, and, instead of giving pensions then, to leave them till they reach the age of seventy, but for the fact that we have not the money to do it. There is the question of the income limit, and the anomaly which immediately arises, as was pointed out by my hon. friend the Member for Wolverhampton. I disagree with one of his statements as to the superiority of the fixed limit over the sliding scale. Our sliding scale has been criticised, but I think it is the one almost universally adopted, because it gives an advantage to thrift—at least it does not penalise thrift — whereas any scheme which starts at a fixed limit makes it absolutely desirable for men and women who have saved a certain amount to fling their money down drains, or get some one to relieve them of it like the millionaire in a certain popular play, so that by getting rid of 1s. they might get 5s. a week extra. That is the reason for making a sliding scale. There is the pauper limit, which, in the general view of the House—though there is a division of opinion on its merits —is to be reconsidered, and probably abandoned, in the immediate future. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member 144 for South Dublin as to the importance of the Poor Law considerations which he put before the House, and it would be tempting to offer some observations on them were it not that I desire to confine myself for the moment entirely to the Bill; but I may say one thing. I think he will agree with me that the question of old-age pensions was outside the scope of the reference to the Poor Law Commission. It is a question of policy far more than of actual facts, and if the report of the Poor Law Commission had been on the question of policy against giving pensions, I do not think it would have influenced the Government in going forward with this question. I agree that there will have to be careful consideration both of local finance and of discrimination directly we come to deal with the Report of the Commission as a whole, and as one who wishes to see the immediate treatment of the Poor Law, and has feared that it might be squeezed out in the natural pressure of business in favour of other and more popular questions—more popular with the electors—I rejoice that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has bound himself down to so rigorous a time-limit. May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin that in his appeal for discrimination in regard to the pauper clause in the Bill, which he says will be necessary directly the paupers are considered as a whole, he is back again to the inevitable closed circle of tests and inquiries which in the earlier part of his speech he denounced in such unmeasured terms with the entire agreement of the House. No one wants tests and inquiries. We would like the tests and inquiries which are applied to be automatic, and we would like the inquiries to be conducted certainly in a different fashion from that spectre which he held out to the House amid universal disapprobation. But whatever scheme is established I do not quite see how the question of age which the hon. Member for Norwood raised is to be got rid of. Whatever limitations are established—whether it is any kind of industrial test, the working of which in practice we shall have to watch most carefully, or whether it be the test of income, immediately you leave your universal system and make your age limit, you must have some kind of inquiry, some kind of inquisition, some kind of 145 machinery, provided for the carrying out of this work, and I believe I can say sincerely that you must get back practically to the same kind of machinery which is established in this Bill. That leads me to the reiteration of the criticism of a few days back admirably expressed by the hon. Member for Norwood, concerning the machinery which is being set up in connection with these pensions. The machinery is the obvious machinery which, on first consideration, you would come to in connection with the matter, and which, I am confident, you would come to on the last consideration also. There was an impression a few days back that we had devised some specially difficult apparatus to be conducted by specially inefficient pension officers in order to extort large amounts from the Treasury, or to impose unnatural conditions on the old people demanding pensions. There as to be an Imperial officer for the protection of the Treasury in the giving out of public money, a local pension com mittee appointed under the widest possible conditions, and finally a court of appeal in the Local Government Board That is the minimum of simple machinery which any pension scheme can provide for dealing with this particular question. Of course, if you assume that every Imperial pension officer is a knave, that every pension committee is made up of fools, and that every Court of Appeal in a Government Department is both inert and corrupt, then you may make a collapse of any pension scheme whatever. But 'that is not an argument against a national pension scheme; it is an argument for national suicide, which is a very different matter. I have listened to much criticism against the machinery of the Bill; but I have heard no kind of alternative machinery proposed except that these old men and women should go before a justice of the peace and in Court prove their claim, or employ a solicitor out of the money they have stored in Consols to prosecute their claim, and if their claim is disallowed to make an appeal to the House of Lords. There was a suggestion of making the relieving officer of the board of guardians an alternative to the pension committee, but that died before it came to birth. There was no other alternative except the vague suggestion that the Local Government Board is hardly reliable as a final Court of Appeal, which, I am sure, no Member of 146 the House would seriously press. I have heard again to-day, as I have heard before, any amount of criticism of the Bill, that too much was left to regulations, a statement partly justified and partly unjustified, and that the details of these regulations have not been thought out. Now, if we had dealt in full in this legislation with all the regulations necessary under the Bill its clauses would have had to be multiplied six or seven times over. I know of no precedent for this course in similiar legislation. The hon. Member for South Dublin says that this is the greatest experiment in social legislation since the Poor Law Act of 1834. I agree, but unfortunately for him the regulations under that Poor Law were not published until 1845, or nearly twelve years afterwards. The regulations of the Local Government Board were certainly not discussed in 1834, and I am astonished that good citizens should complain that our regulations have not yet been elaborated. The Local Government Board, the Treasury, and their expert advisers are now considering these regulations, and, however proud we may be of them, we do most heartily welcome any suggestion which may be made for their improvement. We think they may be improved, and that we have also a right to appeal to the past traditions of legislation in this and similar matters. No one on this side of the House has any quarrel with the description of the measure as a great experiment. We all know that in its details it will require modification. We all know that some of the results which we fear may be produced and that some of the results which we wish to produce will not follow from the Bill; and that, not only in matters in regard to which there has been criticisms in the House, but in matters which no one has had the foresight to consider, there may be very remarkable changes produced by the Bill in the social life of the people, for better or for worse. But, though the Government acknowledge the Bill as an experiment, and although we have, in the main, adopted an attitude of defence towards it in its progress through the House, as it leaves us our attitude is very far from being a defensive attitude, and very far from an attitude of apology. For years the reproach has been laid upon this country that, in the matter 147 of old-age pensions, it has been lagging far behind the lesser countries of Europe and our Colonies which the hon. Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities described as obscure with a kind of inverted Imperialism on which I congratulate him. One after another of these Colonies has elaborated schemes with regard to its aged poor, but this measure takes this country from the position of the last to the position of the first, which, without undue insular pride, may be a subject of satisfaction even to the most confirmed of Little Englanders. I have tried to judge the various provisions of the Bill, not as a humble member of the Government by whom it is introduced, but as I should have judged them in the days when I was indifferent to and a little contemptuous of all political parties, but when I lived in very intimate and familiar association with just those very classes whose lot this Bill is designed to improve, a lot which at best is hard and austere. I know that it will relieve, perhaps remove, an anxiety which to-day is passing from an obsession into a terror among those who in the heart of our civilisation are still walking in darkness and under the immediate shadow of death. I know that in thousands of humble homes it will remove the desolate and cruel choice of the wage-earner between the needs of the parent on the one hand and the needs of the child on the other; and that it will give to these old men and women a new self-respect, a new hope, and a new determination, pursued in the knowledge that they are bringing to the family exchequer at least as much as they are receiving from it. Moreover, I believe that it will enlarge the spending power of the poorer classes of the country, and that it will result in one very desirable and immediate effect — the limitation of unemployment, for the enlarged demand for food, fuel, and shelter will produce a large demand for the labour which will be immediately required to supply these commodities. Another effect more desirable will be the lifting of the pressure on the needs of the generation to come by the moral attitude which this new and unprecedented provision gives to the needs of the generation which is passing away. I say honestly and without hesitation 148 that I would have welcomed this Bill, whatever Government had proposed it, whatever Party had approved it, in-spired by whatever motives, animated by whatever ideas. I shall not modify my rejoicing because it has been devised by a Government and approved by a Party to which I have the honour to belong.
§ *MR. SNOWDEN (Blackburn)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has frankly confessed that the details of the Bill to which objection has been taken are indefensible and undesirable. He admits that they are inevitable and inseparable from any limited scheme of old-age pensions; and the only justification he offered for holding by them at the present time is the excuse we have heard so often during the several stages of this Bill, that it is quite impossible at the present time to afford a larger contribution from the national resources than he has proposed. I have listened, I think, to nearly all the speeches delivered in the course of the debate, and I must confess that I have no great admiration for the Bill which we have been asked to read a third time. But notwithstanding that, I was not aware until I heard the speech of the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill, that there lay within its clauses so many dangers, tyrannies, and oppressions as he exposed to view. Further, after hearing his speech and the speech of the seconder of the Amendment, I cannot understand on what grounds the Motion, for the rejection of the Bill is made. Is it because the scheme of the Bill is not of a contributory character or because it is not of a universal character? The last sentence or two of the speech of the hon. Member for Norwood did seem to indicate very dimly that he was not altogether in favour of a universal scheme, because he referred to the prospects in front of future Chancellors of the Exchequer having to raise ever-increasing sums annually to meet the ever-increasing charges of this measure. Now, just a word or two in regard to those who support a contributory scheme. I ask what is the justification of a scheme of old-age pensions at all? I think 149 the only justification for old-age pensions is that there are people who need a provision for old age. But then comes the further question, why have we people in this condition? Why are they poor, after a hard working life of fifty or sixty years? They are poor and they are dependent upon some form of support in old age, for the simple reason that notwithstanding their hard work they have not been able out of the income they have received to make provision for old age. I submit, and any man with a knowledge of working class conditions will agree with me, that it is utterly impossible for any working man with the average working man's responsibilities, out of the average working man's wages, to provide his family and himself with the necessaries of life, let alone the comforts of civilised existence, and at the same time lay by anything at all as a provision for the future. It has been said there are those who do. Hypothetical cases have been quoted by the hon. Member opposite of old people who have invested hundreds of pounds, but it may be pointed out that where people have saved out of a workman's income—and there have been cases where they have done so— they did not do that and at the same time do justice to their families, they have only done it by pinching and starving their families. We see what is done, but we know not what struggles, what sacrifices, and what self-denial has been exerted by the working classes in order to appear respectable and make provision for their old age when they are no longer able to work to maintain themselves. Why do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above; the gangway ask for a contributory scheme? I think the real reason why certain Members of this House are asking for a contributory scheme is in order that their class may escape the obligation of contributing to these pensions.
§ *MR. SNOWDEN
It must be so, it cannot possibly be otherwise. Now, I take up the opposite view. With one sentence in the speech of the 150 hon. Member for Norwood I cordially agree. The hon. Member said, "You cannot consider this old-age pension question alone." That is true, it is part of the whole social problem. To my mind the social problem with which we have to deal is the more equal distribution of wealth. The question of social reform, in my view, is a question of making the rich poorer and the poor richer. There is no way in which you can equalise the distribution of wealth except by doing that, and therefore I advocate old-age pensions as a means of equalising the distribution of wealth of the country. No scheme of old-age pensions is worth anything to the social reformer, remember, unless it is going to add to that amount of wealth enjoyed by the working classes of the community. That is our case against a contributory scheme. Coming to the scheme formulated in the Government Bill, I find some difficulty in describing what it is. It is not contributory, it is certainly not universal, and although the question has been put to the Government time after time during the discussions, the Government have given no clear indication as to whether they intend that this old-age pension should be conferred as a right for past services rendered to the State, or whether it is simply an extension of Poor Law relief. I am not going to express any opinion on that point, although certain of the clauses of the Bill gave some reason to suppose that there was some justification for the description given by the hon. Member above the gangway. The Labour organisations of this country do not represent the thriftless and wastrel classes. The demand for old-age pensions has sprung from the most thrifty of our population, for they have found it is impossible to make provision for their old age even through a trade union or a friendly society, and there has been perfect unanimity in their demand for old-age pensions. This Bill does not meet that demand, it is very far from meeting it. The demand of the working classes of this country is for a universal pension of not less than 5s. a week, to begin at an age not higher than sixty-five. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, referring to an Amendment standing in my 151 name upon the Paper at a previous stage of the Bill to reduce the age to sixty-five, said everybody was in favour of the age being sixty-five. If the money fell down like the manna from Heaven, and there was enough to give everybody an old-age pension at fifty, everybody would be in favour of reducing the age to fifty. The Government limit this Bill, and their excuse was that they were doing the best they could under the circumstances; that it would be impossible in the present state of finances to devote a larger sum for the purpose of old-age pensions. I want to deal with that question, and although I may be regarded as a revolutionary, what I desire to see, as I have said before, is the poor made richer and the rich poorer. I think everything must have a beginning. The Government must have forgotten—perhaps the right hon. Gentlemen may not have had the advantage of religious instruction in a public elementary school. If they had, they might have remember d some time-honoured maxims such as: "Well begun, half done," or "A thing that is not worth doing well is not worth doing at all." Have the Government done the best they could in this scheme? In my opinion they have not. They set aside a certain sum of money which was to be devoted to this Bill. The Prime Minister is a man of honour, and last year he made a definite promise in his Budget speech that a certain sum of money should be devoted to old-age pensions. At every bye-election since that date the Prime Minister's words have been put in leaflet form into the hands of the electors, who were asked to vote for the Liberal candidate, because there was £2,250,000 for old-age pensions. A friend of mine, then a candidate and now a colleague, was discussing what that promise meant, and he wrote a letter to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and asked him whether, in fact, he had this money, and the right hon. Gentleman said—In answer to your letter, I cannot do better than to quote the speech I made in the House when introducing the Budget on 8th April.The Prime Minister then quoted these words—I shall have in hand next year, free and earmarked for the purpose a total of at least £2,250,000. That shortly will be the effect, 152 as it is one of the main purposes of this year's Budget.Where is that £2,250,000? The Prime Minister is an honourable man, and if in his private capacity he had made a promise that he would find in twelve months a specified sum for a specified purpose, and if the source from which that money was to come failed him in the meantime he would have found other sources, but the money would have been found. But the Government have not done that, they have provided this year for a sum less than half the sum the Prime Minister promised, and they say that is the best they can do. I am perfectly sick; the Labour Members are perfectly sick, and the results of the bye-elections have shown that the country is sick of the parrot cry that there is not enough money to carry out long overdue schemes of social reform. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Second Reading of this Bill admitted that the old-age pension scheme of New Zealand was a better scheme than the one that he was submitting to the House; but said he— "They are able to do a great many things in New Zealand which we cannot do here, they are a new country without either our obligations or our liabilities. "But the exact opposite is the case; we as an old established country should be able to do what is impossible for a new country with growing expenditure and taxation to undertake. If the taxation of this country corresponded with the taxation of New Zealand per head of the population, we should have an annual income derived from taxation of over £200,000,000 a year. New Zealand can afford to give pensions of 10s. a week at the age of sixty-five and not a paltry pension of 1s. at the age of seventy. New Zealand can afford to give an old-age pension at the age of sixty-five, yet the debt of that country is £64 per head of the population as compared with £16 per head in this country. We have infinitely more facilities for carrying out any great scheme of social reform; but the reason they can give pensions in New Zealand is because the basis of all legislation in New Zealand is to prevent wealth accumulating in the hands of a few persons and to scatter it broadcast so that it may be enjoyed by the largest 153 possible number. I ask, can we afford the money for a better scheme of old-age pensions? The Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board again referred to my suggestion to reduce the age-limit to sixty-five. The hon. Gentleman said he could not afford it. I am sure the House cannot say there is no case for so reducing it This is not what the Labour Party ask for; they ask that it should be reduced to sixty, but they are content to take sixty-five as a compromise. The age of sixty-five was accepted as a compromise. What was originally advanced was the age of sixty, but they were willing to compromise as between sixty and seventy at the age of sixty-five. In these days if a workman is thrown out of steady work at the age of forty or forty-five he has very little chance of getting another permanent job. It is a fact known to all who have been making inquiries into the aged poor's condition that pauperism increases rapidly after the age of sixty-five. I believe men who have reached between sixty and seventy years of age have a right to look forward to a few years of leisure before passing away. But how many are going to enjoy the pensions at all if you do not give them the pension, until they have reached a higher age than sixty-five? We have gained experience from the leading trade unions. The average age at death of members of trade unions is just a little over fifty. The average age at which members of trade unions are pensioned is just a little over sixty-three, and the average age at which those pensioners die is just a little under seventy. So that under this Bill a very small proportion indeed of our working class population are going to live to enjoy this pension. Pauperism increases very rapidly after sixty-five years of age. According to the Report of the Royal Commission in this, one of the greatest cities in the world, with its miles of palaces, with evidences in every street of the West End of wealth that never entered into the mind of Arabian romancer to imagine, 35 per cent, of the population over sixty-five are in receipt of Poor Law relief; between sixty and sixty-five years of age the percentage of those who rely on Poor Law relief is doubled. According to our Poor Law regulations, a person who has reached the age of sixty is no longer considered able-bodied, but according to this 154 Bill he is expected to continue for ten years longer, because we have not got the money to give pensions at an earlier age. May I again remind the House, I say it not for the first time, and I hope not for the last,. because facts cannot be too often repeated, that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer in introducing his Budget told us that last, year the amount assessed to income-tax had increased by £37,000,000, enough to finance a universal scheme of old-age pensions twice over. May I remind the House further, that the amount of income in the last ten years brought under the notice of the Board of Inland Revenue, was increased by £250,000,000;and yet it is said that we have not money enough to afford even £10,000,000 to provide for the old age of the people by whose labour that wealth, has been created. Every Member of this House must have had most heart-breaking letters from old people who are going to be excluded from the operation of this Bill by this heartless, callous, and indefensible clause which prohibits from receiving the pension those who have received Poor Law relief within twelve months. I have a letter from an old man of seventy-two years of age who has worked for the last sixty years, but who, owing to misfortune, has been compelled to receive Poor Law relief. He cannot get a pension. I have been reading of the evidences, of our enormous wealth everywhere. In the newspapers I read of a sale here, in London, only last week, where seven articles brought over £100,000 in a comparatively short time, working out at nearly £400 a minute. I cut from the newspapers a little while back a paragraph which described goods for sale in Burlington Arcade, and among articles there were fur coats for "Fido" at five guineas each. Yet in the face of things like this, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, this Radical of Radicals, a member of the most advanced and progressive social reform Government which has ever held office, has the audacity to stand at that Table and offer excuses for a paltry measure of social reform like this, saying: "We have not got money to do it." The money is there; the money is staring you in the face. As Henry George used to say: "If 155 it was a dog it would have bitten him long ago." Well, we are not going to vote against this Bill. [MINISTERIAL laughter.] Yes; I personally express no gratitude for it. I am going to take it for what it is worth; I am going to use it as a lever for extorting something more. My purpose in Parliament at any rate is to try to bring about bigger schemes of reform than this paltry scheme of old-age pensions. I remember that when the debate was closing in Committee the Leader of the Opposition, in speaking of the financial difficulties which he expected the Government to have next year, expressed regret at the reduction of the sugar tax. I do not regret that. I doubt if I would have been willing to accept this scheme of old-age pensions if it had to be financed by continuing the sugar duty. That would not be a social reform. It has been stated over and over again that rich people will benefit by this measure. We have been told that rich people out of their own private means have been providing pensions for dependents, but that now they will stop those pensions. Again, when this Bill comes into operation it will add a burden to the working classes. I have referred to the fact that pauperism increases very rapidly between the ages of sixty and seventy, the increase being more rapid after the age of sixty-five. Take the case of people of sixty-seven or sixty-eight years of age, people who are likely to come to the pension age before 1910. What is going to happen? If there had been no Old-Age Pensions Bill these people would have at once applied for Poor Law relief: but in view of this Bill their friends will endeavour to keep them off it in order that they may not be disqualified from applying for the pension. To do this these friends will have to spend money out of their own pockets. I want to say a word to the Government about the sliding scale. I do not suppose that anybody who has advocated old-age pensions ever dreamed in their most foolish moments that, when the scheme was in some measure realised, it would contain a provision for the payment of a pension of 1s. a week. The only valuable and material concession which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made was when he abolished 156 the proposed reduction in the case of couples living together. He said that it would cost some £300,000 or £400,000 a year. I am perfectly certain, so far as one can be certain about anything one cannot prove, that the Chancellor of the Exechequer is going to save far more than that by the change from the universal 5s. a week to the sliding scale. I will tell you why I think so. Suppose the number of people with incomes of 8s. and 10s. a week were equal to the number of those with 10s. and 12s. a week, then one would equalise the other; it would not add anything to the cost at all. But the number of workpeople with private incomes of 10s. and 12s. a week seems to be enormously less than the number with 8s. or 10s. a week, so that the Chancellor of the Exchequer I can save the 2s. or 3s. a week, and he is not going to be called upon for anything but an insignificant sum in regard to the change which he has made, giving only a small pension to those who have I between 10s. and 12s. a week. Does he think that any self-respecting member of the working classes, a respectable working man, with a private income of 10s. or 12s. a week, would submit to the inquisition which is prescribed by this Bill for the paltry sum of Is. a week? Does he think that such a self-respecting man would make a weekly journey to the Post Office in order to get it? I think I know enough of the working classes of this country to warrant me in believing that no member of them is going to take advantage of that part of the Bill in order to get a pension under such circumstances. Then a word or two about the character test. The Bill was discussed under the operation of the closure. We have been twitted by hon. Members above the gangway with having voted for the closure Resolution. I suppose that even fools may learn by experience, and I confess that I have learned by experience. I voted for the guillotine Resolution, because I believed that the Government had given a definite promise, or that at any rate they had said that it would be possible, in the allotted time, to give adequate consideration to every part of the Bill; but I noticed that in Committee the Government were often as anxious 157 as Members of the Opposition to continue the discussion to prevent subsequent Amendments being reached. I have had an experience which will serve me my Parliamentary lifetime. I know that it is not wise to make rash pledges, but I think that I may venture to make this one, that never again, so long as I am a Member of this House, will I vote for a guillotine Resolution unless it is provided that there shall be some discussion at least on every section of every clause of the Bill. Just a word about the industry or character test. It was described as a character test by hon. Members sitting on these benches. The Postmaster-General when he was in charge of the Bill on one occasion said it was an industry test, and not a character test. I am not going to try to split straws about its definition; it is a matter of taste; but I say, with all reverence, that as a test of industrial character it is such as Jesus Christ himself could not fulfil. It is an industrial character test which no Member of this House could fulfil. There is no Member who, if he should be in poverty at the age of sixty, will be able to claim an old-age pension, as he would not be able to prove that he had worked according to his ability and opportunity. My chief criticism of the Bill has been that the Government have not had the courage to find the money. We shall accept the Bill and make the best use of it and use it as a lever to get further concessions. I do not think the Government of the country are likely to get much credit from this. The result of the bye-elections show this. I happened to be in a bye-election fought a day or two after the measure bad been outlined by the Prime Minister and when in one of the meetings of the Liberal candidate he made the announcement that the pension age was to be seventy his statement was received with derisive laughter. That part of the Bill which excludes those who have been in receipt of poor relief during the present year has caused a great deal of heart-breaking, and I think it will cause a great deal of indignation and resentment and somehow or other resentment and dissatisfaction have a habit of expressing themselves far more effectively than satisfaction. The Liberal Party will not gain much support from this measure 158 but I think it would have revived their decaying fortunes if they had tackled the question in a bold and courageous manner, and there is no reason in the world why they should not have done it. The Prime Minister in the Second Reading debate touched the hearts of every Member of the House by a most eloquent and pathetic picture of the unbefriended poor people who, after a strenuous life of hard work, were left unprovided for, and he made an appeal to the House on their behalf. I suppose it is too late now for me to make an appeal on behalf of a much larger number who are still going to be left unprovided for and unbefriended—old people between sixty-five and seventy who have worked for fifty or sixty years—a number sufficient to form a procession four abreast 100 miles in length. But we shall never remain satisfied until there has been assured to every man and woman the guarantee that a lifetime of useful and honest toil shall carry with it the right to a number of years of reasonable enjoyment before in the order of nature they may be expected to pass away.
§ *SIR J. DICKSON-POYNDER (Wiltshire, Chippenham)
Not much has been said by the hon. Gentleman with which I agree, but there was one remark in which I am in full agreement and that is that the expression of dissatisfaction is more effective than the expression of satisfaction. That has been more and more borne in on my mind after listening to his speech. One of the most striking features of the debates on the Bill has been the group of opinions expressed in different quarters of the House, on the Bill, and then ultimately the reasons given for voting for it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin brought to bear a great deal of criticism upon the Bill, but he wound up by saying he would not vote against the Third Reading. The hon. Member in a kindly and conciliatory speech said he would vote for it. If I may make a suggestion I would say he should not look a gift horse in the mouth. In this country you cannot move at the impetuous pace that he would have legislation of this character move, and the proposal mbodied in this Bill is quite democratic enough for a great experiment of this 159 character. We all agree with his proposal that the age of these old people should be sixty-five rather than seventy, but he must realise the difficulty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in finding in one year the necessary money. I hope before many years pass the age limit will be reduced to sixty-five, and that the amount will be found without dislocation to the credit of the country. I fully realise that the Bill is full of imperfections and objections and inequalities and anomalies. But what scheme could any one of the opponents of the Bill unfold which would not have inherent within it similar inequalities, anomalies, and difficulties? There are two other methods. There is the universal scheme of pensions which, however admirable, is not in consonance with English traditions. Of necessity it would mean that the scheme must be of a compulsory character and under the present conditions of labour and of the Poor Law and of the wage earning classes it would be totally impracticable. The second is the contributory scheme. I want to know what the contributory scheme is, because there has been a good deal of confusion on the point. There are two methods on which you could base a scheme of contributions, and I want to know which of the two hon. Gentlemen opposite prefer. There is one which would mean that everyone who was ultimately to have a pension must contribute towards it. In the present condition of the wage earning classes that would of necessity rule out a very large proportion of the most deserving and those who most urgently required pensions. I should like to know where the agricultural labourer would come in with 14s. a week. I should like to know where the women of the country come in under a scheme of that character. The agricultural labourer to-day in many of our counties is able only with the greatest difficulty to maintain himself and his family and to contribute to a friendly society. If he was asked in addition to contribute to an old-age pension fund it would absolutely break his back, and make it entirely impossible for him to maintain himself and his family. Therefore, that form of contribution appears to me quite impracticable. The other form is that the 160 test by which a man should become a recipient of a pension should be that he had contributed to some friendly society during a certain number of years-Again that would rule out the great bulk of the women. Then we should have to-face one of the most glaring anomalies, far greater than anything in this Bill, that if a man who for years past had to the best of his ability worked and contributed to a society fell ill or met with some misfortune and it was impossible for a year or two to contribute, he would be immediately ruled out. I was struck the other day by a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, a strong advocate of the contributory system. One of the chief objections that he brought to subsection (b) of Clause 3 was the fact that one of the reasons why a man should not be disqualified from becoming a recipient of the pension was that he had subscribed for ten years between fifty and sixty to a friendly society, and he-drew a pathetic picture of men during that period being unable to subscribe for a short time and therefore being ruled out. I cannot, conceive how he can consistently entertain that view, and at the same time be an advocate of a contributory scheme. The more you look into a contributory system the more it presents difficulties and anomalies. For years past I have been intimately associated with the friendly society movement, and I have been a theoretical and academic advocate of an old-age pension scheme based upon a contributory system. The more advantage one has had during these debates of looking at the pros and cons attached to a system of that character the more I have conic to the conclusion that it would be quite impracticable, and if attempted to be carried out would bring about great inequalities and hardships on many large classes of the community. I have said already that there are many anomalies and difficulties in this Bill, but they are of a comparatively small character, and we must assume that very careful regulations will be laid down; and I think we may also assume that those who administer them will carry them out in a proper spirit. We have been told that the sliding scale will discourage thrift. There again I have not the slightest apprehension that to any 161 important extant thrift will be discouraged in the country. We have heard of one trade union which grants 13s. a week to people reaching the age of sixty-five. I think that that, however, is a solitary instance of a pension of such dimensions being granted. If hon. Members will study the different benefit societies in existence they will find that only a small minority give old-age pensions at all. Consequently this scheme of the Bill will be a valuable financial aid to those societies which continue to pay sick pay after the age of seventy because the pension will relieve them. Another society in the West of England combines in its administrative system both sick pay and old-age pension. I have been closely connected in years past with this society, and therefore I have an intimate knowledge of its working. Take the case, for example, of a young boy of fourteen who joins and becomes an ordinary subscriber and remains a subscriber until he reaches the age of sixty-five. I find that at the end of that period he would only have amassed sufficient capital to buy an annuity of 6s. 8d. a week. That is one of the very few societies that have a regular old-age pension scheme, and the Government scheme will in no way interfere with the encouragement of thrift and of members continuing their contributions, but will, on the contrary, rather encourage them to go on. There is one other aspect of the question which I should like to present to the House, and it is one that makes me favour the scheme that has been proposed more than anything else. We have heard a great deal about the finance of this scheme. I agree to a certain extent with the hon. Member who dealt with this branch of the subject, that you cannot raise this vast amount of money without taking a certain amount from the rich and handing it over to the poor. I look upon this proposal as valuable on account of the very glaring, and to my mind, dangerous disparity that now exists between extreme wealth and poverty, and anything of a legislative character which can bridge over and diminish that glaring disparity will be in the very best interests of the State as well as in the best interests of all connected with the country. This proposal un- 162 doubtedly will mitigate the poverty of those who are most distressed. Undoubtedly it will involve additional taxation upon those who are richer, but it must not be overlooked that the individual wealth of this country is now greater than has ever been known before in any country in the world. But apart from any humane view and looked at purely from the point of view of foresight, prudence, and statesmanship, I think this scheme is the wisest possible policy to adopt. As regards the financial aspect I know it is going to cost about £7,000,000. After the Bill has been in operation two or three years I would like to point out that the scheme as it stands to-day will not actually take £7,000,000 out of the pockets of the taxpayers of this country. As I look at it it will mean that in the course of three or four years it will really be a substitution of burdens on the rates for burdens upon the taxpayer. I hope that in a few years time a very large majority of those in receipt of Poor Law relief will come under the provision of the old-age pension scheme, and therefore I welcome this proposal not merely from the point of view I have indicated, but also from the point of view of an early and substantial start in the long delayed readjustment of imperial and local taxation. When the closure Resolution was under discussion I ventured to say that I believed that for all time you would have to have during the Committee stage of Bills of an important character, some Resolution passed confining debate by the allotment of time. I also ventured to point out that if that was to be carried out, and if we were to continue as a deliberative assembly granting full discussion in this House, there must be some scientific arrangement devised by which all vital questions should be ensured full debate during the Committee stage. There are many vital points in this Bill which have not had the advantage of full discussion. I should be the last person to suggest that that result has been brought about through any obstructive methods on the part of the Opposition. I do not blame the Opposition, but the system. We have seen, day after day, quite trivial Amendments discussed for two or three hours; you cannot blame anybody for that, because the Amendment called on 163 for discussion is down on the Paper and so the discussion must drivel on. I should like to see some arrangement devised by the Government by which those trivial Amendments should be put further back on the Paper and the important Amendments given precedence. I support the Third Beading of this Bill, although I am fully alive to its objections. I realise to the full that it is a great experiment, and I think that has been frankly admitted. However, I believe the House is justified in making this experiment, not only on the grounds of humanity, but also on the grounds of policy.
§ *SIR WALTER NUGENT (Westmeath, S.)
If Members representing Ireland have not intervened in this debate, it is not because they have no interest in this question, but because by not intervening they hoped that all the more speedily this measure might be placed or the Statute-book. Whatever objection we may have had to the original Bill they have been modified or entirely removed by the Amendments made in Committee. We welcome the concession made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer limiting the Poor Law disqualification to the year 1910. As regards the sliding scale we think that also is an improvement. We welcome the Bill more for what it makes possible in the future than for what it does at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said that no system of pensions would be complete which was not followed or accompanied by a reform of the Poor Law. There is no part of the kingdom more in need of Poor Law reform than Ireland, and, personally, I would like to see the Poor Law system as it at present exists in Ireland abolished altogether. If the Poor Law system was abolished, I think it might be possible to make contributions from local rates to the scheme before the House, and that might enable the pensionable age to be reduced to sixty-five. There is no reason why hereafter a contributory provision could not be grafted on to the present Bill so that those who contributed might be entitled to a pension in case of disability or at an even earlier age. We welcome this Bill because there will be no diff- 164 culty in improving it in the directions which I have outlined. The cost of administration of the pension scheme as compared with the Poor Law would be infinitesimal. In Ireland we consider this Bill as an honest attempt to legislate for a class which has hitherto been left out in the cold. The measure will be welcomed in Ireland, and will do much to draw closer the bonds of friendship which at present unite the democracies of the two countries.
§ *Mr. WEDGWOOD (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Up to the present every speaker from the Government benches as well as from below the gangway has alluded to the very great expense of having a universal scheme of old-age pensions. I think it is possible that we may exaggerate the actual cost to the community of this Old-Age Pensions Bill, or of any extension of it. The support of the aged in this country is not a new charge upon the wealth producers of the country, however new it may be to the Exchequer balance sheet. We do not kill off the old people at seventy yean of age. They are kept alive somehow and somebody pays for their sustenance after the age of seventy. They cannot live for less than 5s. a week, and therefore quite 5s. a week is found by somebody at the present time. Therefore, somebody is now paying a great part of the £7,000,000 to be found next year. The charge is paid by charitable persons, who give pensions to their old servants, by charitable agencies, by philanthropic employers, and by dutiful sons and daughters. Who does not know of numbers of domestic servants, shop girls, or even governesses, who are spending part of their earnings to support an aged mother or father, and who find for them, therefore, their old-age pensions? Those people have been for years finding the £7,000,000 for old-age pensions, and what the House is doing by this Bill is making what is now a voluntary and individual charity, falling only on the best people in the community, into a compulsory charge spread over the whole community. The country as a whole will not be paying much more than at present; it is merely a redistribution of an already existing burden. It is entirely distinct from an 165 increase of expenditure on the Army or Navy, or a grant-in-aid to the Colonies. Supposing it were possible to introduce national insurance against accident, the State might collect from employers of labour in this country the premiums now paid and call it a tax instead of an insurance premium. That might show an increase of £5,000,000 a year on our national Budget, but it would not make any difference to the employers or to the industries of the country. There would be a great rise in the amount of income collected but the community would be no worse off than at present. In exactly the same way the charge for old-age pensions is merely a replacement on a fairer and more business footing. It is only in so far as the aged get just what will provide for absolute necessity that that point is true. In so far as the aged get more money to spend on comfort or perhaps on drink or betting there will be an additional charge on industry. I submit that any improvement in the lot of those aged people is worth paying for, for our own sentimental satisfaction if for nothing else. The sacrifice the country is making is not anything like £7,000,000, will not under the worst circumstances amount to £25,000,000, but to something far le.3s than that. Some of this charge will benefit the aged people, and we hope that many of them will be able to spend their latter days in houses of their own in the countryside. [An HON. MEMBER: On 5s. a week?] A married couple with 10s. a week will be able to do so. It is much cheaper to live in the country than in the towns. I am anxious to impress on the Government that the passing of this measure will see the aged housed in the country instead of workhouses, and that must lead to a great demand for houses in the country-side villages, and a certain amount of the benefit you are giving to the poor old folks is bound to show itself in the increase of the amount paid for rent. There are all over the country houses let at charity rates of 1s. 6d. or 2s. a week, or even 1s. a week, just because that is absolutely as much as the people living in the cottages are able to pay. I beg the Government to notice that by giving those people more means of livelihood they are giving them also more means of paying rent. 166 In countless cases over the country, landlords, though they may be opposed to this Bill, will be able to get more rent from these people. I am indebted for some actual cases to the hon. Member for Preston. He told me that a land agent had told him of three cases in which, as soon as the Bill was passed, he would be able to get a reasonable and fair rent for houses. He was at present getting 1s. 6d., and he would be able to raise the rents to 2s. on the passing of the Bill. I am anxious to make clear that unless the Government take the land question properly in hand — I hope they are going to do so, and I am encouraged to hope that they are going to do so by the presence of my hon. friend on the front bench — they will find that they will gradually push up the price of land, and that even the old-age pension scheme is going to raise the price of land, because poor people will be able to pay more for rent. This is only an example of a principle that underlies all our legislation. Until you tackle the land question you cannot really do permanent good to the people of this country.
§ Viscount MORPETH (Birmingham, S.)
Earlier in the evening the hon. Member for Wolverhampton constituted himself the censor of the people who sit on these Benches. I believe the hon. Member is the author of some letters to the Press in which he explained that he voted for the Government right or wrong. Those who have voted in the minority on this question are not ashamed of supporting their views, however small the minority. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board treated us with great generosity, as I should have expected from his career, for he, at any rate, has sympathy with those who find themselves compelled to vote with the minority however small, and if I may say so his Ishmaelite origin still clings to him even on the Treasury Bench. We take this line because we believe the Bill to be an unsatisfactory and bad Bill. The hon. Member who moved its rejection stated that it was partial, incomplete, and unjust and those words were actually accepted by the hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. I cannot imagine that a Bill 167 which can be stigmatised as partial, incomplete and unjust, even although unjust only in the abstract, is not a Bill which may readily be opposed, even though the apologists of the Government and the supporters of their policy have made no pretence that the Bill is anything but incomplete. They have indeed admitted that it is merely an experiment, and that is another reason why we talk in opposition to this Bill. We complain that this important question instead of being settled, or having the foundations laid in such a manner that the final and completed building may be seen, is dealt with in so partial and incomplete a manner that continual pressure will be applied to the Government to modify, and modify profoundly, the structure of their Bill. I believe that that is inevitable because the Government have based themselves on inconsistent principles in the advocacy of this reform. They have told us that it is a right inherent in the betterment of industry. The man who has contributed to the betterment of industry is probably the man who has been tolerably successful and who has by his own exertions put himself in such a position as not to need, or, at all events, not to be the person who chiefly needs, aid from the State. On the other hand, supposing the Bill is based on the question of the need of the person who is most needy and who receives help from the State, we immediately get into an entirely different category of reasons. It is not a reward or a prize as a pension in the ordinary sense of the word is. It is not a pension for long and good service. The pension under this Bill is merely Poor Law relief given to those who have had misfortunes in life. We heard in former years of the deserving poor, of those who were in the workhouse through no fault of their own. That has been the real cause of this Bill. It is the sympathy felt with those persons who, after a long life of struggle, have been reduced to the workhouse through no fault of their own which has made the Government base the Bill on the right of the recipient through long service to the State. Therefore the scheme resembles the Poor Law 4n everything but name, and the stigma of misfortune must be affixed to the recipient, however anxious you may be to remove the stigma or change the name. 168 This has been apparent from the supporters of the Government themselves. I should be the last person to take advantage of the candour of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, but it is significant and should be noted that he told us in the course of his speech that in a not very long career he had been enamoured of a contributory scheme, and that he had cast it aside as unworkable. Then he hankered after the scheme of Charles Booth, and I did not gather that his hankering in that direction had altogether disappeared. He only fell back on the present scheme of the Government, partial and incomplete as it is, and admittedly unjust in many of its effects, not because he believed it to be the best or even a good scheme, but because he had been driven to it by the hard logic of the want of money. If the Government had desired to bring in a complete scheme I think the money difficulty need not have been an insuperable one. It is only because they have not made up their mind on which basis to make old-age pensions that they have been driven back into the illogical and untenable position they occupy at the present time. I do not wish to argue the question of a contributory scheme. I would not admit that the hon. Member for Blackburn is right when he says that his objection to a contributory scheme is his desire to redistribute the wealth of the country and to transfer it from the richer to the poorer classes. I suppose, to whatever party in the State we belong, we all admit that wealth is unjustly and unevenly distributed at the present time, but I do not think that that is a wise policy in considering the question of old-age pensions. It ought to be resolved on its own merits. It should not be taken out of is proper position into the large question of socialism when the attention of the House ought to be engaged in thrashing out a proper scheme. As to a contributory scheme, we are told that it cannot be adopted because the working classes of the country cannot afford to provide for old age. I will say two things with regard to that argument. In the first place, I remember hearing one of the most experienced officials of the Poor Law, Mr. Vallance, 169 declare that in all the workhouses he had visited he had never found either a teetotaller or a member of a friendly society. He was very severely cross-examined in regard to that statement, but he adhered to it. But, if that statement was correct—as I suppose it was in its main outlines — it shows that it is not altogether impossible for the great bulk of the working classes to make provision for their old age with great gain to themselves and the whole country. Another point is: the other day when discussing the eight-hours day for miners the hon. Baronet opposite said rather airily: "Who objects to raise the price of coal? It would be only a bottle of whisky the less." I ask why are the poorer classes to be deprived even of their bottle of whisky in order to make miners wealthier? I ask at the same time, if they are to sacrifice a pleasure for the sake of the miner's short day, why should they not make a sacrifice on behalf of themselves? I would not be supposed to lay down arbitrarily that no class should make a sacrifice of any pleasure for the sake of any other class. But I say that the industrial classes of this country have, to a very large extent, made provision for themselves, and it is one of the most striking features of our social life that they should have done so. I will not follow the hon. Member for Tyneside in his extraordinary lecture on thrift. It is remarkable how heterodox an economist can be on occasion, and how he can relegate political economy to Saturn when it does not suit himself. At any rate, the hon. Gentleman should recognise that the basis of capital comes from abstinence, and the working classes would be more powerful, both economically and politically, if they enjoyed the advantages of capital as other classes in the community do. Although thrift is the most unamiable of all the virtues and disagreeable to those to whom it is preached, it is right that it should be pointed out that as a nation and as individuals we must make our social prosperity only upon thrift. Our complaint is that this Bill is far from helping forward national thrift. It does nothing to assist it. It is not a contributory Bill; but the Government might have 170 introduced Amendments which would have rendered great assistance to national thrift. The Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out that by his proposal, which debarred people in receipt of Poor Law relief from receiving a pension, an immense lever would be given to keep old people off the Poor Law; that it would act upon the boards of guardians who would prevent them coming, if possible, on the Poor Law; that it would induce the old persons themselves to avoid it, and be an incentive to their relations to endeavour to help them to keep off the Poor Law. But all this will be swept away by the Amendment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer under which this restriction is only to last until the year 1910. It is true that he has told us that the Poor Law is to be remodelled. To my mind it is not remodelling of the Poor Law that is necessary, but it is the financial pressure that will compel him to deal with it; and that is the most ominous feature of the case. This enormous charge of something like £30,000,000 will almost inevitably force the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in order to find money to finance the Bill, to throw the charge back on the rates. That will not be the last straw, but the last burden which will break down the present system of rating, and the case of the local exchequers is likely to be as precarious as the condition of the National Exchequer in the year 1910. I believe that the machinery of the Bill, as it stands, has not been thoroughly thought out. I am somewhat chary in making this observation, because it is said to be the common stock-in-trade of the Opposition; but I am compelled to make it. I cannot help fearing that in the administration of the Bill, as at present drafted, there will be an immense amount of fraud and heartburning. Those who will be put outside the pale will resent the injustice and say: "Why is my neighbour, who is no better than myself, to receive a pension of 5s. a week, whilst I am deprived of it? "It will not only cause heartburning because they are kept out of a pension and debarred from receiving the actual cash, but they will feel that there is a reflection cast on their moral character. It will be said that they are deprived 171 of the pension because, in the opinion of the Imperial official and of the pension committee, they are not as worthy of it as some other persons in the village. Nothing is likely to be more irritating to the population of a village than that it should be divided into sheep and goats by the pension official or by a committee of the county council. In the last place, I support my friend who moved the rejection of the Bill, because I believe that under it we have introduced a measure which will inevitably lead to an auction between the two parties in the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said with some pride that he would be no party to a system of that kind. But in the few days allotted to the Bill, we have seen the system of auction in full working order. And in that very Amendment on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his proud boast that he would not give way to it because he was determined not to take any part in that transaction, the right hon. Gentleman himself capitulated. It is for that reason, and because I believe that the parties have now entered into competition on the road of danger and perhaps disaster, and because I think this measure, although it may do something to alleviate the fear of distress and old age, will in the long run do far more harm than good, that I support the Amendment.
§ Me. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
I have listened with great interest to the whole of the debate which has taken place on the matter now before us; but have refrained from obtruding myself at any stage until now. I should, however, regret exceedingly if this debate had closed without my having an opportunity of offering in a few words to the Government, both on my own behalf and on behalf of the large body of working men whom I have the honour to represent in this House, an expression of my free, full, and wholehearted appreciation of the step which they have taken. I am conscious, with other Members of the House, that the measure is not a final one. It cannot be so regarded. As a matter of fact there are no final Acts of Parliament at this time of day. The Bill may be, and | doubtless is, open to the criticism which 172 the noble Lord has alleged against it, as being partial and incomplete. That is frankly admitted; but I venture to say that if it be open to the charge of being partial and incomplete, it is certainly not open to the criticism brought against it by my hon. friend the Member for Blackburn in an early part of the debate viz., that it is a paltry reform. I venture to think that there are few working men, and few leaders of working men outside this House—I question whether there are many of the Labour representatives in the House—who will agree with the declaration of the hon. Member for Blackburn that this is a paltry reform. How many at the commencement of the session imagined that we should have a Bill involving financial considerations so vast and far-reaching as the scheme submitted by the Government to Parliament and the country? Would anyone have imagined that the Government would have made a beginning with anything like £6,000,000, which was the sum involved when the scheme was first projected? But this scheme is not to be taken alone but in conjunction with other measures which the Government intend to carry through during the present session. We are told that the scheme as it now stands will probably involve an expenditure next year of something like £8,000,000, but I shall be much surprised if, when we have an opportunity of meeting next year, we do not find that the financial responsibility has greatly exceeded that estimate. But in conjunction with that we have to bear in mind that the Government is determined to take half the duty off sugar. That involves £3,500,000 more, and taking it altogether, these two reforms seem to involve a financial responsibility of £12,000,000. Anyone who in the face of such considerations as those can get up and say that this is a paltry reform, has more courage than I possess. I believe the Bill will be received by the workers of this country with the greatest rejoicing. I agree with the hon. Member for Blackburn that this is part of the problem of poverty and that you cannot solve the problem of poverty, Increase materially the areas of work, and enlarge the opportunities of the workers for enjoyment without, on the other hand, to some extent curtailing the 173 riches of the rich. That is a proposition no one will dispute. Yet unquestionably the feeling arises that poverty is a social problem for which our modern civilisation has yet to find a remedy. Here in a measure we are doing something, partial and incomplete it may be, but still something to relieve poverty and to enlarge the opportunities of the poor for enjoyment, and, so far as we are engaged in a work like this, it ought to be welcome to social reformers. I have not the courage of the noble Lord who has just preceded me, who declared he would vote with the hon. Member for Norwood if he pressed his Motion to a division. Hitherto the Opposition has not shown any desire to put the House to a division either on the introduction or the Second Reading, and I doubt very much, after the speech made by the right hon. Member for South Dublin, who expressed his intention of not voting against the Third Reading, whether the hon. Member for Norwood or the noble Lord will have the courage to challenge a division. The hon. Member for Norwood told the House that the motive behind this proposal was mere party popularity; that the Government were under no pledge to deal with this question and had no mandate to deal with it. That may be, but their predecessors in office were under a pledge and had a mandate to deal with it, and I am inclined to commend the action of the Government rather than to censure them on that account. The Government are doing without a pledge and without a mandate what their predecessors who had a mandate and were under a pledge refused to do. That Party had under their control financial facilities far greater than those enjoyed by the present Government. During the four years they were in office from 1895 up to just before the South African War they had aggregated surpluses amounting to £9,500,000. No one will deny that that Party were under a pledge, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition least of all. I have here a copy of his polling card, issued to the electors in 1895, which contains fifteen points of the programme of the Unionist Party, in the order, I take it, of their relative importance, and old-age pensions 174 stands fourth on the list. That indicates the importance which the right hon. Gentleman attached to this question then. Yet in the four years succeeding 1895, when they had these aggregated surpluses of £9,500,000, the pledges they had given vanished like the baseless fabric of a dream, and it is left for the Government to give effect to the pledges given by and the mandate given to the Party opposite in 1895. I end as I began. I hail with delight the beginning His Majesty's Government have made in the way of providing old-age pensions for aged poor men. Years ago, long before responsible statesmen and politicians had ventured to throw the sanction of their influence and the weight of their intelligence on the side of old-age pensions, I remember a conversation I had with the right hon. Member for West Birmingham who is I so honourably and creditably identified with this movement. He put to me this question: "What is the subject that interests most the minds of the industrial classes"? At that time I had the honour to be the Secretary to the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress, and had the opportunity of gathering from the leaders of the men throughout the country what their feeling was, and I had no hesitation in saying: "If you can guarantee the working classes of this country that in the time of old age or unpreventible misfortune they will not be compelled to throw themselves on public charity, you will have accomplished one of the greatest measures of reform that our or any other day has witnessed." I believe the scheme which the Government have launched, imperfect and incomplete as it may be, will bring comfort to many homes which would not have that comfort if the scheme was not to come into operation on 1st January next year. We have, in my own county of Northumberland and in the neighbouring county of Durham, a movement the object of which is to provide cottages for our old workmen. In Northumberland we have 100 cottages and we are erecting them at the rate of ten a year. There are others, because the employers have kindly undertaken to build also. But in the 100 that are under the control of the committee, there are 175 tenants, men and their wives, and of those, 120, if living next January, will be 175 eligible for these pensions. They all hail with pleasure the scheme before the House, and I thank from my heart the Government who have had the courage to face this subject, and wish them Godspeed in their endeavour.
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
I have some reluctance in intervening in a debate of which I have not heard the important speeches on either side or any of the speeches until a few minutes ago, and am, therefore, not quite aware of the arguments on either side. I am, however, reluctant to leave this Bill, discussed as it has been, without making some observations and attempting to sum up and bring to a focus, if I can, some of the impressions that it has aroused in my mind. I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Northumberland, who has just sat down, and thought much of it extremely interesting, but was sorry that, contrary to his ordinary Parliamentary habit, he should have travelled somewhat outside the scope of the Bill into controversial politics of ten years ago. I have not the smallest objection to that. I live in an atmosphere of controversial politics. I do not, however, think it very interesting or relevant to the Bill. He thinks that while undoubtedly the majority of the Unionist Party have for many years been in favour of old-age pensions, they ought to have taken ah opportunity of bringing in a Bill either in the session of 1896, 1897, or 1898—before, that is, the South African war, and he thinks that the fact that the Government did not bring in a Bill in one of those three years is a slur on their political reputation. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. I do not think that the financial position of the country at that time would have justified any such experiment as the Government is now trying, and if the lapse of three years is supposed to condemn a Government for not bringing in a Bill, I should have thought that the present Government would hardly escape. But that is not an important part of the controversy with regard to this Bill, because we are all agreed that some scheme of pensions is extremely desirable, and the only thing we have doubt about is the manner in 176 which the Government has gone to work in carrying out that unanimously accepted object. It is that that gives me, for one, very serious misgivings. I think that neither the actual provisions of this Bill nor the mode in which the Government have allowed it to be discussed gives us the smallest security that one of the greatest and most costly experiments in social legislation is going to be tried under circumstances that will give any hope of permanent success. There are three main questions raised by the scheme. The first is, will this Bill work according to its avowed objects? Is the machinery of the Bill, in other words, going to give pensions on the plan that the Government say is desirable? The second is, how is it going to affect the broader and wider problems of social reform? And the third is, how is it going to affect the national finances? These are the three problems that every man in this House, no matter in which quarter he may sit, should really consider if he wants to estimate the value of the legislative experiment the Government are now trying. The first point is whether the Bill is really going to work out according to the theory of its framers; and, if it does, what will be its results? The theory of its framers is a very simple one. They say that, pending the acquisition of further national resources, they must limit their Bill to pensions for persons seventy years of age, and, to put it broadly, of good character. How is this Bill going to attain these two objects? How is the machinery going to limit the Bill to persons of seventy and to persons of good character? And will the machinery work smoothly, justly, and to public advantage? I cannot really believe that the Government have thoroughly thought out the method in which their own machinery is going to work. Take the first of the two conditions, that of age. That is one of the subjects we have discussed. We have not had an opportunity of discussing the age as between seventy and sixty-five, because that was shut out by the closure, but we have discussed on more than one occasion the machinery by which the age of seventy is to be arrived at. I do not think that by any statement the Government have shown a clear 177 idea of the difficulties by which that investigation is surrounded or the means by which those difficulties are to be surmounted. In the first place, who are the investigators? They are officers of the Inland Revenue, a single committee for each county and large borough, and ultimately the President of the Local Government Board. For the life of me I cannot see that an investigation can be carried out by any of these three bodies. I made some remarks in Committee with regard to the Inland Revenue officers which I believe have given pain to those most estimable public officers. If I have said anything that gave them pain I most heartily withdraw it. They are a most valuable body of men, and carry out duties of great responsibility with perfect uprightness and great efficiency. But I ask whether the most admirable performance of the duties of the Inland Revenue either gives a man the training or provides him with the machinery by which this kind of investigation is to be carried out. Take the case of an unskilled labourer in London. He reaches an age that he himself thinks is either Seventy or very nearly so. He believes that he has worked hard all his life, and that if anybody deserves a pension he does He applies to the Inland Revenue officer and says: "My name is O'Grady."
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
I chose an Irish name for a particular reason which will appear directly. He says: "My age is seventy, and I desire to be supplied with a pension. I come from Cork." The Inland Revenue officer says: "What proof have you that you are seventy?" He has no proof. Why should he have a proof? I do not believe I should know my own age if it were not that tactless friends are constantly reminding me of it. Most assuredly a dock labourer who left Cork thirty years ago may very well be excused if he has not proof of his age, since he was born in a country where there was no registration of births at the time when he was presumably born. How is this unfortunate official going to investigate in the City of Corkwhether Mr. O'Grady working at the docks is or 178 is not seventy years of age? The thing appears to be wholly impossible, and there is no machinery for doing it. The county committee to which he refers are no better off than himself, and if they refer to the head of the Local Government Board he is no better off. The machinery cannot be found and will not be supplied. These are considerations that the Government have never faced, for, though they have been urged more than once in Committee, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has never really re plied to them. He contented himself with pointing out, what nobody denies, that in every village the age of everybody is known, and that there are places and professions where there would be no difficulty. That does not get over the difficult point with regard to the very people you want to help with these pensions, the poor of the large towns, the unorganised, those who do not belong to trade unions. In these cases neither they nor anybody else can produce that legal proof which is at the very basis of the Bill. If the difficulties with regard to age are overwhelming, what are we to say with regard to the investigation as to character? None of us are without some misgivings as to the enormous power given to an Imperial officer and to a local committee to form a judgment on the way in which the poorer classes of the community have carried out their life's duty. It is not a pleasant thing to have to do, and if it is done honestly and conscientiously it will be a very painful duty thrown on those who may have to do it. Here, again, we really have very little means of obtaining assistance. Do not let us consider the country village where everyone's character is known. There may be an opportunity for favouritism or vindictive attacks on unpopular persons, but the facts will be known and may be fairly and properly judged upon. But how can the facts be known with regard to the great floating population of the huge industrial centres? They cannot be known. It seems to me we may go further and say even that the intentions of the Government with regard to character are not being carried out. Will anybody look at the Bill and consider the position of the widow? Take the case of a widow of respectable character with a number of children, who 179 has been obliged since 1st January to appeal to the guardians. She cannot get a pension. She is absolutely excluded. Is there a more deserving case in the world than the woman left without a husband to work for her, living with the care and responsibility of children incapable of working for themselves? I cannot imagine any case more worthy of assistance; but it will not be assisted. The woman has been driven to accept Poor Law relief, and she is excluded. When you turn to the case of a man who has subscribed to a friendly society from the age of sixty, it does not matter what his wife's character may be. She is sure of a pension. The Chancellor of the Exchequer dealt with that question on the Report stage, and thoroughly misunderstood it. He thought my noble friend the Member for Marylebone was maintaining the proposition that a wife who carried out her household duties with economy and efficiency was not really helping to earn the pension of which her husband, by subscribing to a friendly society, was securing possession. That was not my noble friend's contention. He was pointing out that a husband might have been thrifty, and might have subscribed for ten years to a friendly society, but if he died a year after reaching the age of seventy, his widow, whatever had happened before, if she had every vice incident to poor humanity, would have an absolute right to a pension because her husband, in spite of thriftless ways and worse, had been able to continue his subscriptions for ten years. I cannot see that that carries out the views of the Government and of the Horse, yet that is the Bill as it must go to a House where it is impossible, even if the Government desire to allow it, to make any change in the amount charged upon the taxpayers. There is another point as to character. Of all the people we want to assist, I have warmer sympathy with none than with the man or woman who, towards the end of a long and honourable life, is not well enough after the age of seventy to be looked after in his or her own home. What is the remedy for that person? There is none save the workhouse infirmary. We have heard a great deal of the brand and the stigma of Poor Law relief. It may have been exaggerated by some; but we all agree 180 that the self-respecting among the poor look with extreme repulsion upon receiving assistance through the machinery of the Poor Law or in Poor Law buildings. But these people, who have, by the necessity of their condition, to make use of Poor Law machinery and buildings are to be deprived of what is called, we believe most falsely, the right to a pension. They are not to have 5s. a week; they are to lose their homes; they are to suffer the stigma of Poor Law relief. It is a great mistake to suppose that the Bill touches the cases of all the poor over seventy years of age, or even deals with the most deserving cases. It does not, and the professions of the Government in this respect, as well as in others, are wholly baseless. There is one other point on which I must say a word. You are dealing with a sum which at the lowest is £6,500,000, and, according to the hon. Member who last spoke, will be much more. You are giving that over absolutely to bodies which are responsible to no legal tribunal whatever. I have the utmost confidence in the general honesty of the committees and county councils and of the officials of the Government; but are we wrong to look with some suspicion on the possibility that this vast potentiality of bribery will never be misused? The six or seven millions sterling is to be distributed at the discretion of certain individuals. That discretion is not fettered by strict legal interpretation; It is a matter of estimate and judgment. If an Imperial official thinks that a man has not really been a very creditable character, or if somebody has enemies, it is conceivable that that person may lose both his pension and his vote. I do not believe there is much danger of abuse in this country. I do not believe that this Bill will lead to it. Even if the theory is ever worked out, which I do not think it will be, I admit that, if there is a danger, it is not a great one here. I am not so sure that where party politics run high, as in Ireland, you can be so certain of the working of it. It is not that Irishmen have a larger dose of original sin than the rest of us; but the way in which local administration is worked in Ireland has a tinge of party politics which it has not 181 in any other part of the United Kingdom, and I am afraidthat if the Bill is worked on the theory of the Government it will be found that every friend of a local authority in Ireland will be over the age of seventy, while no enemy of the local authority will ever get beyond the age of sixty-nine. I have been endeavouring to show that if it is attempted to work the Bill according to theory you throw an almost impossible task upon the executive, and your discrimination will be arbitrary, and the class you most want to help will be excluded. But will the Bill be worked according to theory? Will its operation be confined to persons over seventy, and of virtuous character? I do not believe for one moment that it will. We are very good-natured people, particularly so when we are dealing with other people's money; and the duty of excluding anybody from the benefits of the Act will be a painful and also an expensive one. Every committee which declares a person in its district or county or borough to be ineligible for a pension has to do that which is very painful from the point of view of humanity, and Very disagreeable from the point of view of the local purse. When humanity and economy are on one side, I think they are too strong for any legislative dykes which the Government may raise against them, and I do not believe that the dykes that the Government have raised will keep out the waters of expenditure for one moment. Hon. Gentlemen below the gangway greatly regretted that they could not discuss their Amendment for reducing the age from seventy to sixty-five. I do not think it will make very much difference. I believe that under this Bill everybody who desires a pension and can show a decent appearance of being seventy will probably he found eligible by a kindly Imperial officer and a charitable county committee. That raises one or two points of very great importance. The first point touches on what I have described as the second great question raised by this Bill—namely, its future effect on social reform. If you are going to use, as I am sure you are going to use, this Bill as a mere method of giving pensions at the taxpayers' expense to persons in declining years, and who have not got a very black mark against their 182 character, how will you prevents its be coming a mere part of the outdoor relief system of the country? You cannot do it. It is quite true that you have got a different machinery for allocating the money, but to suppose that the ordinary citizen is going nicely to distinguish between what he gets through the Imperial officer and the committee and what he gets through the relieving officer and the board of guardians, and to regard one as discreditable and the other as creditable, is really trespassing upon our credulity. There will not be that broad distinction in the public mind. It will gradually be thought, what is, indeed, the fact, that this is a mere addition to outdoor relief as outdoor relief is now administered in a large number of parishes in this country. In a very large number of unions in this country it is perfectly well known that outdoor relief is given on easy terms to persons who can show a good character. In those districts it ceases to be a badge of discredit. A proof of poverty it may be, but it is not a badge of discredit, and these pensions, which will certainly be given in, somewhat reckless fashion under this Bill, will be regarded as a substitute—an improved substitute I admit, because it is larger in amount—for that outdoor relief, and there will not be that broad distinction between out relief on the one side and pensions on the other which, I think, everybody would desire should be kept unimpared. And, remember, if you give, as I think you will give, these 5s. pensions, easily and without examination, to persons whose age has not been proved, though advanced in life, they really do become a subvention of wages. The man of sixty-five or sixty-six who conceives himself, or is conceived by his neighbours, to be, roughly enough for the purposes of this Bill, of the age of seventy and is still capable of a fair day's work, will be very glad to supplement his pension by doing a certain amount of odd jobs if he can get anybody to employ him. But he will neither desire, nor will he obtain, an amount of wages which will diminish the amount he gets from the State. What he will get will be as much as, but no more than, will enable him to get the full 5s. and, if his labour is worth more than that, the employer gets labour at less than its 183 true market price, and these pensions become quite clearly and plainly a subvention in aid of wages, as was the case under the old Poor Law. This leads to another question connected with social reform on which I confess I feel very strongly. What is to be the relation of this measure to the inquiry now going on with regard to the reform of the Poor Law and to the legislation which the Government propose to found thereon at some future period? The late Government, conscious that the Poor Law system of the country was antiquated and utterly worn out, appointed a Royal Commission to consider the subject. That Commission has been working hard for three years. The Government hope that it will report this year. I go merely on common rumour when I say I think that that is a somewhat sanguine estimate. It might have been accurate before this Bill, but this Bill has wholly changed the problem which is before them. The Commission was appointed to consider the Poor Law as it stood in 1906, but you have profoundly altered the Poor Law by this Bill, and I cannot imagine—I have had no communication with any member of the Commission — how the Commissioners are going to report without fresh investigation and without waiting to see how this Bill is going to affect the problem of outdoor relief. I believe this Bill is going to substitute 5s. pensions, broadly speaking, for outdoor relief almost all over the country. If it is going to do that, it is quite evident that the whole problem of outdoor relief will be completely changed, and I do not know how in these circumstances you can expect a Commission, dealing with so complex a subject, to report with any confidence to the Government and the House. The truth is the Government must be perfectly well aware that they ought to have taken this question of old-age pensions as part of the general problem of poverty. You cannot divorce the two. If only for the purpose of distinguishing pension from Poor Law relief you must consider the two together. You must consider your machinery for Poor Law relief in order to consider fairly your machinery for pensions, and until you know what your machinery for Poor Law relief is 184 likely to be, how can you say what your machinery for carrying out the pension distribution is going to be or the relation which this vast expenditure of public money is going to bear to the sums now expended by Poor Law guardians? This really brings me to the last of the three points I wished to touch upon—namely, the relation of this measure to our national finances. I confess that I look on this whole question with considerable alarm. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme explained that after all no great burden would be cast on our national finances, because the money was now paid by the charitable and through the Poor Law, and there was not much difference whether the burden was thrown on the Exchequer by this Bill or whether it was left to be paid sporadically and uncertainly, partly by Poor Law machinery and partly by the private machinery of charity. I think that the hon. Member is profoundly mistaken. It makes the whole difference where the money comes from. The mere fact that there is money to be got somewhere does not make it easy for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to get it. The hon. Member who last spoke congratulated the Government upon having brought in the Bill with courage. I see very little courage in the bringing in of this Bill. Courage is required if you bring in a Bill whose provisions and the financial resources connected with it are brought into one conspectus before the public, and they are shown what they are to get and what they have to pay for it. The Government here shows what the public are to get, but they have not yet been shown how they are to pay for it. But there is a divergence of opinion even among the members of the Government. The Prime Minister assured us more than once that the Government had considered the point, and that they clearly saw their way to provide the necessary funds by means of free trade finance. This method of carrying it out is a secret which the Prime Minister has kept, not only from the Opposition, but from his colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think that is carrying secrecy too far. I think that in the comity of the Cabinet the late Chancellor of the Exchequer should have told the present Chancellor of the Exchequer how, within 185 the limits of free trade finance, £6,500,000 are to be found next year and £7,500,000 the year after. It is not going to be £7,500,000 either. If my interpretation of the situation is correct, you will get to £11,500,000 almost immediately, and how within the limits of free trade finance are you to get £11,500,000? There is no great information either to be got from the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, according to what he has already told the City, and if he has kept the secret from the high financial authorities of the City it is not likely that he will tell his critics in the House. I do not ask him, therefore, to tell us, if he does not know. But again I ask, where, within the limits of free trade finance, are £6,500,000, £7,500,000, or £11,500,000 to be obtained? The finance cannot be put on one side, and when the right hon. Gentleman has got the money, neither he nor any one else can deny the enormous public burden cast on the finances of the State. It is not a thing to be lightly done, nor is it to be done without some general survey of your financial obligations. I do not understand that the Government have made any such general financial survey. I am not going to raise the question of the burden of national armaments; but there are other questions eminently deserving of the attention of the House connected with social reform. Is it not manifest that almost every problem of social reform comes back to the Treasury, the Imperial or the local Treasury, in the end? How are you going to give these vast sums of money for one particular purpose if you have dried up the sources of supply for the use of any other purposes that can be proposed? It may be right, while the objects to be attained by the Bill may be so clear and excellent that we need not regret the expenditure. But I should like to know what the other things are. Money lies at the root of almost everything we do; but I do not think that you will find the suggested taxation of the rich a very satisfactory method of increasing the national resources for the purposes of social reform, even from the point of view of society. I admit that this Bill will greatly relieve the Poor Law, that it will be a subvention to the local authorities in aid of the Poor Law. So far they may have resources set free for other purposes connected 186 with housing, education, and other cognate questions; but I cannot believe that any future Government for years to come can have money at liberty for any other purpose of social reform whatever. How can they? The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a sanguine man, and I believe he looks forward, almost cheerfully, to the problems of the next Budget, although they are as yet unsolved in his mind. I wish him well: But even in his most sanguine mood he can hardly look forward to the time of this great and growing charge when he will be able to meet satisfactorily other claims that touch the heart and the conscience. What we want is some broader survey of their obligations before they commit the country to this vast expenditure. The Government have made no such survey, and they have admitted this. In the forefront of one of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speeches, he told us with emphasis that they were going to await the Report of the Poor Law Commission in order to form some kind of estimate of what the reforms would cost, that they were going to frame the finances of the country on lines not only to satisfy all that can be asked for from this Bill, but from the other Bill. But they will not have a shilling to deal with, the Report of the Poor Law Commission or for the demands made upon them for social reforms. It is for that reason I look forward, and not I alone, with much misgiving to the method by which the Government are attempting to carry out the objects of this Bill. With those objects I heartily sympathise. As far as I am concerned, I frankly admit I rejoice in a policy of old-age pensions, but I should like to have seen that most difficult of all social problems dealt with in a manner by which alone a satisfactory result will ensue. I should like to have seen a serious attempt to produce some scheme by which all these investigations might be avoided, and we might be able to give a pension as of course, or have, what I should much prefer, some contributory scheme. I am told that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board said that he himself at an earlier period had been in favour of a contributory scheme. I do not think that he ought too hastily to have given up such a scheme as impracticable. Such 187 a scheme would at all events have two plain and manifest advantages—it would avoid inquisitorial investigation, and it would get over the other difficulties which have been alluded to at less cost to the Exchequer, and that means that more money would be left free for the necessary purposes of national defence or other great purposes of social reform. I regret the hasty course which the Government have taken, but the responsibility must lie with them. The Government alone have the opportunity of estimating the resources at their disposal for carrying it out. They, and they alone, have the machinery for making some comparative survey of all the needs of the State. On them lies the responsibility. The Bill does not satisfy the demands of those who claim the right to old-age pensions, and on the other hand it so burdens and cripples the national resources that we may find it impossible to meet other obligations not less pressing, not less connected with the safety of the State and the well-being of the poorer members of the State.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EX-CHEQUER (Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE,) Carnarvon Boroughs
But for the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down I should not have deemed it necessary to take any part in this debate after the able and powerful speech of my hon. friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board. As a rule, I think debates, and especially long debates, on Third Reading, are rather futile, but I do not regret this debate, and all the less after the very interesting, genial, and significant speech with which the Leader of the Opposition has fascinated the House. There was one observation he made which I welcome specially because I know what it carries with it. The right hon. Gentleman 'gave a hint to the House of Lords—a hint which, coming from him, is in the nature of a command. The right hon. Gentleman criticised rather severely the machinery of the Bill. He stated that important parts of the Bill had not been discussed. If he will take the trouble to look at the Amendments he will find that the main objections to the Bill were discussed. The criticisms directed against the Bill were in the main directed to the sliding scale, the married couples, 188 a contributory scheme, the income limit, the paupers, the industrial test, the machinery, and the reduction of the age. With the exception of the reduction of the age, we have discussed each and every one of these points during the five days we were in Committee and the day on Report. There was not one of these important elements in the Bill which was not the subject of considerable and even exhaustive debate. I accept in its entirety what the right hon. Gentleman said about the three main problems to be considered, but there was not a criticism which he directed against the machinery of the Bill which would not be applicable to every scheme that has ever been or ever could be submitted to this House. Take the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham—any scheme which he submitted. Take the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon's Committee, or the scheme of the Aged Pensioners' Committee—and I should like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Member for West Birmingham committed his Government in debate in 1903 to the Chaplin Committee's Report. He took part in the debate on the Aged Pensioners' Bill, and on behalf of the Government accepted the outlines of that Report. There is not a single criticism which the right hon. Gentleman directed against our scheme that would not be applicable to every point in the Report of the Chaplin Committee. He said: How are you to find out whether a man is seventy years of age or not? and he put the imaginary case of O'Grady. He took a case which must be exceptional, and I felt when he chose a case of that kind it was the best testimony to the fact that in the main the machinery of this Bill would work smoothly, and that it would only break down in exceptional cases. If the right hon. Gentleman felt that our machinery was bad, he would have taken an ordinary workaday case; he would have taken the case, not of O'Grady but of Smith. But, instead, he took the case of an aged Irish labourer born in Cork, but having spent most of his days in London. On the whole, I think that is an exceptional the career of folk case. But let O'Grady. Let us take, first of all, his 189 go I think we may assume that in the vast majority of cases the Irish labourer would be a member of a trade union. If there is an organisation got up for the purpose of fighting anybody, you may rely upon it that an Irish labourer will be somewhere in it. If he is a member of a trade union, then we can got at his age, for although he may overstate his age when he goes to the pension officer, he is not likely to do it to the trade union. So that, therefore, we have, first of all, eliminated all the ordinary cases of Englishmen, Scotsmen, and Welshmen working in London, and it is purely the case of the Irish labourer who has come from Cork when he is a boy; we have eliminated nine-tenths of the O'Gradys who have come over to this country, and we have only got this miserable remnant of the sect who are absolutely devoid of the most predominant instincts of the Irish nature, and who do not desire to join an organisation to smash up either the capitalist or the landlord. He is so easy to deal with, ho is so docile, he is a man of really so exceptional a character, that I feel sure he could not possibly deceive a pension officer, and therefore I am not very much afraid. Although I have very great apprehensions about the cost of the scheme, I do not think O'Grady alarms us. But in any scheme this exceptional person will give you trouble, and if this imaginary Cork Irishman with his pedigree and character and his birth certificate is going to stand in the way of an old-age pension scheme for everybody, then there is nothing you can do, there is no scheme in the world that O'Grady cannot get over. Therefore we have got to defy him at some stage or other. We have got to work up sufficient courage to face this imaginary gentleman and try to do justice by the remaining seventy-years-old people who have made honest representations. Take the character test, as the right hon. Gentleman called it—it, is not a character test at all. What difficulty is there in finding out what this imaginary gentleman has worked at? That is really all you have to find out. If he has contributed to a friendly society or a trade union he must have got his money somewhere, and therefore there is no difficulty about him. 190 But supposing he is outside a friendly society, you must first of all find out whether he has worked. You ask him, "Where did you work?" "In what employ were you?" "Can you name your employer?" The pension officer can easily test that, and it does not require a very high level of intelligence to make inquiries from Messrs. Smith and Co. whether O'Grady worked for them. It is for him to prove; he has got to make the application; he has got to prove his age; he has got to say where he was born. [OPPOSITION cheers.] No doubt of it. It is the first time that it has dawned upon hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have drawn a cheer from the anti-old-age pension party which sits entrenched up there. Of course, ho sends in his application and says he is seventy years of age. Of course, he has got to say where he was born; and surely the pension officer can be trusted to make inquiry about it. It is upon this basis that the right hon. Gentleman ventures to condemn root and branch the whole of our scheme. He says the Government have never considered it and the Government have never thought of O'Grady the whole time they were dreaming of this great scheme. I do not believe there ever was such a speech delivered which is such a complete justification of our whole scheme. If the right hon. Gentleman had told us what is his alternative it would have been different. Let the House remember that he is in favour of old-age pensions; he is delighted that Parliament is to deal with it at last. He wants something done for old people, but this is not the way. Then what is the way? He has not told the House. He has not pledged himself to a contributory scheme. I ask him, is his alternative a contributory scheme? He has taken part in these debates on the Second Reading, the Committee stage, and the Third Reading, but never once has he told the House what is his idea of the way it should be dealt with.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has challenged me. We have absolutely not sufficient evidence before us as to how contributory schemes have worked elsewhere. Every Report referred to is antecedent to the real development of the German scheme, 191 and, as we know from the speeches of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, they have not fully looked into that.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I do not object to the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman, but he ended his interruption with a misstatement. He said we have not looked into the German scheme. We have looked into the German scheme, and very carefully, and with the same result as everybody in this House on either side—the result of dismissing it, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham did. The right hon. Gentleman's Government appointed four Commissions and Committees, they investigated the subject in every shape and form, they had Commission after Commission, and eventually in 1903 they committed themselves to the Chaplin scheme, and now the right hon. Gentleman says he really does not know whether it is this scheme or a contributory scheme—he is absolutely in the dark as to the whole thing. And this after committing himself through his spokesmen to what is practically the plan of the Government. Has he any right, therefore, to criticise our scheme in the way he has done without, at any rate, saying what is his idea? Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that we ought not to proceed now? Does he mean that we ought to allow these half-million poor people to go on year after year in disappointment? Are we to go on year after year doing nothing, until at last he has made up his mind as to which of these schemes he is prepared to recommend? The right hon. Gentleman has criticised our scheme on the ground that the machinery is bad. I say this criticism is not merely inadequate but grossly inadequate. He has pointed out no insuperable difficulties. Of course, there are difficulties in any scheme, I do not care what it is. Nobody except the Member for Preston has ventured to commit himself to the German scheme, not even the noble Lord opposite, and the moment he begins to investigate it he will find it is absolutely impossible in this country. Nobody has answered this question—if we apply the German scheme, what are we to do with the women? The great majority of those who will receive 192 benefits under our scheme are women. Under the German scheme not 10 percent. are women. I know perfectly well this scheme is full of difficulties. But you have got to begin. You have got to solve these difficulties. I have no doubt that after a few months' operation of this scheme we shall discover difficulties which not even the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman were able to anticipate. Of course, in dealing with a gigantic problem of this sort, with more than half a million of people, in thousands of diverse circumstances, you will have difficulties which you never suspected. Any legislator of this kind is bound to encounter new surprises suddenly arising. But it is not beyond the resources of British statesmanship to cope with such difficulties as they arise. Anyway, is that really a reason for doing nothing? In spite of the hon. Member for Blackburn, I say we are doing a great deal. The hon. Gentleman, not for the first time, attacked us with an acrid ferocity which is entirely his own. We are dealing with the problem of 572,000 old people, I poverty stricken, but too proud to seek the charity of the Poor Law. We are dealing with them as a first instalment. The hon. Gentleman, I will not say had not the generosity or the manliness, but I will say had not the sense of justice to recognise that. Why, he taunted us as if we were really robbing these 572,000 people instead of trying to endow them. We have pledged ourselves next year to deal with the problem of the pauper, about which the hon. Gentleman attacked us. He has never even recognised that. Cannot he be just even to the Liberals? I have no doubt he will go about the country repeating these attacks. He will never mention that we are giving pensions to 572,000 people who had never been dealt with before; that we are finding £7,000,000 in addition to the £3,500,000 we have taken off the sugar duty for this purpose. He will never mention that we are pledged to deal with the pauper next year.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I say we are pledged to deal with paupers next year. This is what we have done and 193 the fact remains. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen may criticise the Bill; they may say the machinery is defective; they may say we have not done as much as we ought to have done; but the fact remains that the moment the Bill gets into operation there will be over half a million of poor people who for the first time will be raised above destitution and poverty.
§ MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
I apologise to the House for intervening in the debate at this late hour. What astonished me in the course of the discussion is the different grounds hon. Gentlemen above the gangway have taken. First they wanted a proper universal scheme; then they wanted certain qualifications put in; then the mover of the Amendment to-day deplored that there were so many qualifications in order that a poor man might get a certificate of character before he could secure a pension. Now they regret the failure of their efforts to put in still more qualifications. I have read somewhere that life is a comedy to a thinking man and a tragedy to a feeling man. That is all the difference in the world. We have had an exhibition of thinking without feeling. I have felt pretty keenly about the whole business—listening to the flippancy which one expects at some kind of Tory meeting. In a pamphlet which I wrote ten years ago I anticipated that whenever a scheme of old-age pensions was considered in the House of Commons it would be called "a glorified outdoor relief." So is every kind of pension that is paid out of the taxpayers' pockets. We have been told by opponents of the Bill about inquisitorial examinations of claimants for a pension. It is very good of these hon. Gentlemen, I admit it. Is it not the case that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who receive pensions from His Majesty's Government are obliged to declare in writing their impecuniosity? How dreadfully lowering and degrading it must be to a man whose private income would be wealth beyond the dreams of avarice to an ordinary poor man in this country! Yet, he has the nerve to write to somebody and to declare his impecuniosity before he gets his £1,200 a year! No man reads him a little homily on thrift. No man says a word about it. There is nothing de- 194 grading about pensions at all, except when they get down to 5s. a week; they are not awfully degrading but the reward for services to the State—that is if they are anything between £1,200 and £4,000 a year. They then add to the dignity and importance of His Majesty's subjects. The noble Lord who spoke earlier in the afternoon made a glaring mistake, because a Return was moved for in 1901 showing the number of members of friendly societies who were in the workhouse, and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham quoted the fact that there were 4,000 men in the workhouse of England and Wales who had been members of friendly societies for thirty years and upwards. I do not take my own figures in this matter. It is an astonishing thing that all these facts having been published by the Charity Organisation Society is the excuse for not providing pensions earlier. Nothing was done by the Unionist Party in 1899 because they had been captured by the Charity Organisation Society. Then they gave several homilies on the Act of 1834, but if they had kept up-to-date with regard to that Act they would have found that what with rules and regulations that had been made since there is hardly a vestige of the 1834 Act left. There is a Poor Law Commission sitting now, and that would be a reason for doing nothing, because whenever the late Government wished to do nothing they appointed a Royal Commission. I have illustrated the fact, I think, before. It is the case of the man who once saw a lot of coloured cooked eggs on a barrow, and he said, "What are those eggs, guv'nor?" "Oh, they are partridge eggs." "Do you think a hen would bring them off?" "Yes, I should think so." "Then how much for a sitting?" "1s. 6d. and a share of your luck." About four weeks after he turned up again and gazed wistfully at the stall, and the man recognised him and said: "Well, what luck?" "Oh, you never saw anything like it in your life. The hen, she sat and sat, and I am blowed if she did not cook them. "There has never been an Old-Age Pension Commission or a Poor Law Commission which did not well cook their Reports before bringing them to this House. The regulations of the Board have amended Poor Law relief out of all knowledge. They 195 told us to give outdoor relief generously, and in giving it to old and deserving people we should not rake up the past. I was a guardian and I wished to do it generously. Some said "They do not want old-age pensions; you want to make the workhouse more comfortable." Well, we did that, and what was the result? I was put on trial and very nearly got time. I rejoice at the start that is now going to be made. I do not contend for a moment that the Leader of the Opposition was not right, when he said you will not get rid of a certain class of people; but what I am afraid of is, and I hope those who draw up these regulations will bear this in mind, that if charity commissioners and boards of guardians are connected with it you must safeguard people who require infirmity relief from being pushed into some dark squalid hole and left there. There are many people who if they had £1 a week could not take care of themselves. This Bill is not wanted for that purpose; it is, wanted for people who can look after themselves. I believe it will stop the recruiting for the workhouse. God knows what sacrifices are made by children to keep their parents and little children to keep their grandparents. I know a man who had to go to his old mother and say: "This is boots off my children, mother; what am I to do?" And the old mother, out of her love for the little ones, made the plunge and went into the "house" in order to keep the boots on the feet of the little children. In this case we know what we want, and we do not want it to be said hereafter that when this Bill was before the House we said we would rest content with this. We are going to prevent old folk breaking up their homes. They struggle on to keep a roof over them, and you wonder why they are content to live in misery and squalor when they can go to the workhouse and be well tended. There is one thing the value of which you cannot define and that is liberty. There are none so poor but they would give their lives for it, and what I want to do, and what I am sure we shall do by this Bill, is to enable the children to keep their parents and give them what they cannot buy, a little love and sympathy. 196 What have you done all the time? If ever you wanted an objectionable rate or if ever you wanted to get anything that would be fought against, you put it on to the poor rate. Thus it was made to appear that you were spending millions and millions on the poor, when you were doing nothing of the kind. What are the actual figures? In 1905–6, there was, roughly, £30,000,000 collected in England and Wales under the head of the Poor Law, or £26,000,000 odd in England and Wales excluding London; but the actual amount paid in indoor and outdoor relief was £6,603,519. Why deceive the public to this extent? Why do you not tell the truth about the figures? There are just under 300,000 aged people, or perhaps a few more, who are getting indoor or outdoor relief, and there are very nearly 600,000 who do not get any relief at all. That shows that two persons out of every three manage to keep out of the workhouse somehow. It is wonderful what we have heard in this House that people can do when they are seventy. It is a revelation. The right hon. Gentleman has just talked about a man going to work and of subsidising his employer. I know, as a Poor Law guardian and an administrator, that many and many a sweater has taken account of a poor wretched woman's 2s. 6d. which the guardians have allowed her to help her to pay her rent, and has reduced the price for shirt-making in consequence of that outdoor relief. Yet, the moment you attempt to lift people up and make men and women of them, it is almost a criminal offence. We may surely call these old-age pensions, very old-age pensions. I wonder any Member has the temerity to get up in this House and object to them. I once said, and I repeat, that no man should sit in this House without having served first for ten years as a Poor Law guardian. He would then know something about human nature. It is not perfect. There are a good many sides to it, but most people who apply for relief are very human, and I do not think they very much object to these inquisitorial examinations as to their character. We were challenged by the hon. Member for Preston, who said, "Would you go on any public platform and declare that you are in favour of giving a pension of 197 5s. per week to a drunken, thriftless, worthless man or woman?" My reply is very prompt to that. A man of seventy with nothing in the world to help him is going to cut a pretty shine on 5s. per week, whether his character be good or bad. What could he do with it? It is not enough to keep him in decency, and he would be well punished for not taking care when he had the opportunity if he had to live on 5s. per week. Who are you, to be continually finding fault? Who amongst you has such a clear record as to be able to point to the iniquity and wickedness of an old man of seventy? I said before, and I repeat, if a man is foolish enough to get old, and if he has not been artful enough to get rich, you have no right to punish him for it. It is no business of yours. It is sufficient for you to know he has grown old. After all, who are these old men and women? Let me appeal to the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone. They are the veterans of industry, people of almost endless toil, who have fought for and won the industrial and commercial supremacy of Great Britain. Is their lot and end to be the Bastille of the everlasting slur of pauperism? We claim these pensions as a right. Ruskin, I think, read you a little homily on the subject—Even a labourer serves his country with his spade and shovel as the statesman docs with his pen, or the soldier with his sword.He has a right to some consideration from the State. Here in a country rich beyond description there are people poverty - stricken, beyond description. There can be no earthly excuse for the condition of things which exists in this country to-day. If it be necessary to have a strong Army and Navy to protect the wealth of the nation, do not let us forget that it is the veterans of industry who have created that wealth; and let us accept this as an instalment to bring decency and comfort to our aged men and women.
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
I only rise to say a few words and to offer one suggestion to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to how I think some of the money for old-age pensions might fairly be obtained. He spoke the other night about robbing the hen roost. I think he should consider where he has the most right to go, and the suggestion I want to make is that I think it would be fair to consider whether some of this money could not be raised by a levy on wages. Do what you will, and take what precautions you will, I believe a great deal of this money will go into the hands of employers in the form of lesser wages paid by them. That was the experience under the Poor Law in the early part of the nineteenth century, and I believe the Leader of the Opposition is quite right when he says you cannot prevent this being in some degree a subvention of wages. Not only when a man is seventy but all through his life you will find there will be a tendency to pay him less because there will not be the necessity to make that provision for his old age which really ought to come out of the wages fund. The hon. Member for Preston was quite right when he said that the right way to solve this question is to pay proper wages, such wages that all classes of the people can save sufficient to provide pensions for themselves. If you provide a pension, you will lower wages. It cannot be helped, and I say it would be a fair thing—and I speak as one who would, to an extent, be affected by it—to make an employer contribute something towards this fund. It would be a fair thing for other reasons. Most employers feel an interest and a duty in regard to the provision for the old age of their employees, but, when this Bill is passed, that sense of duty will be considerably diminished, and many employers will cease to do that which a great many do now. They will gain firstly in wages all through. Whatever you do you cannot prevent 199 this going into the pockets of the employers, and therefore you may fairly take something out of their pockets now. Then it will reduce local taxation by throwing an added burden on the National Exchequer; the consequence will be that employers of labour who are large payers of poor rates will gain very much by the diminished amount to be raised for the poor rate, and therefore they ought to contribute something towards the fund. The other point that I want to name is this. The Bill is passing through the doors of this Chamber out into the world. The outside world cares little for our party struggles and inconsistencies. It will look at the Bill from another point of view and I want us in parting with it to-night to try and share that view. We who have to go out into the world to face our people will have to defend this Bill, and the need for defence will grow greatly as time passes because the burden will increase while the sense of gratitude will diminish. And what defence have we to offer? We do not pass laws like the Modes and Persians that can never be changed. All the details of the Bill may be altered. What is the real principle behind it on which we can take our stand? It is that it is an attempt, perhaps rough, rude, and inefficient, but an attempt to rectify the gross injustice of our present social conditions. Whatever we have done we have failed to distribute wealth fairly between the different classes of the community. Some other plans will have to be tried. People are suggesting Socialism, but at any rate until we have some other plan we are making a rude attempt to put it right. Another thing to be remembered is what Society owes to Labour. Labour is the only thing you can have a stock of at any time without paying for it. Everything else we have to pay for. I hope we shall defend this Bill with pride because it is an attempt to rectify a great wrong and an attempt to put Society on a just basis.
§ MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)
The hon. Member for Northumberland earlier in the evening twitted the Unionists with not having the courage to vote against the Bill. I myself and I think most of my friends on this side will agree with me when I say the reason we do not vote against the Bill is that we have long believed that old-age pensions are right and ought to be given if they can be paid for; and, in the second place, after the experience of the last election I do not think we shall be very wise to give Gentlemen on the other side a real good handle for another very large inexactitude. These at all events are my reasons for not voting against the Bill. The Secretary for War the other day said the Bill was simple, effective, and desirable and that the country was baffled and bewildered by it. I suppose that is because it is so very simple. It effectively keeps out a great many people from having old-age pensions who are certainly quite as much entitled to them as the people who are going to have them. It is desirable to have old-age pensions for some people, but the Government have brought in the Bill in about the most undesirable way that they could. I have had letters from the great friendly societies in my division all protesting against it because it will do them a great deal of harm and discourage thrift. The schedule shows how it discourages thrift, because the more a man saves the less he gets from the Government—exactly the opposite of what it ought to be. Under the Bill a vast number of people living in poverty will be heavily taxed to provide old-age pensions. Then you have the 500,000 to 1,000,000 men mentioned by the hon. Member for Glasgow, who are seeking work and not able to find it, and all the people who cannot get work through pllness and have to find food and drink for their families. Included amongst these is the hard case of widows who 201 are struggling to keep themselves and their families out of the workhouse. They will all be heavily taxed to provide old-age pensions for people who, in a certain number of cases, could very well manage to keep out of the workhouse. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in Manchester put the matter very plainly. He said—You had better know what you are paying for. You know now you pay the duty on sugar, exactly what you are paying. Every penny of it goes into the Exchequer, and you will get it by-and-bye in old-age pensions.So you are making the poorest of the poor pay all their lives up to seventy in
§ order to grant pensions to people who are in many cases better off than the people you are taxing.
§ And, it being half-past Ten of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, in pursuance of the Order of the House of 17th June, to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the Business to be concluded this day under the Order.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided.—Ayes, 315; Noes, 10. (Division List No. 182.)203
|Abraham William (Cork, N.E.)||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John|
|Agnew, George William||Collins, Sir Wm. J. (S.Pancras, W)||Glen-Coats, Sir T. (Renfrew, W.|
|Alden, Percy||Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Glendinning, R. G.|
|Armitage, R.||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Glover, Thomas|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Cooper, G. J.||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. HerbertHenry||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Corbett, C. H (Sussex, E. Grinst'd)||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Greenwood, Hamar (York)|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Cory, Sir Clifford John||Gretton, John|
|Barnard, E. B.||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Gulland, John W.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Crean, Eugene||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius|
|Barran Rowland Hirst||Cremer, Sir William Randal||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.|
|Barry Redmond J. (Tyrone N.)||Crooks, William||Halpin, J.|
|Beale, W. P.||Crosfield, A. H.||Harcourt, Robert V.(Montrose)|
|Beauchamp, E.||Crossley, William J.||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Beek A. Cecil||Cullinan, J.||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)|
|Bell, Richard||Curran, Peter Francis||Harmsworth. R. L. (Caithn'ss-sh)|
|Bellairs Carlyon||Dalziel, James Henry||Harwood, George|
|Benn W.(T'w'r Hamlets S.Geo.)||Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)|
|Bethell Sir J. H.(Essex Romf'rd)||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Hazleton, Richard|
|Boland, John||Dewar,Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.)||Hedges, A. Paget|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Helme, Norval Watson|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Hemmerde, Edwad George|
|Branch, James||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Brigg, John||Dillon, John||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Bright, J. A.||Dobson, Thomas W.||Henry, Charles S.|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Donelan, Captain A.||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)|
|Brodie, H. C.||Duffy, William J.||Higham, John Sharp|
|Brooke Stopford||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Hodge, John|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Dunne Major E. Martin (Walsal)||Hogan, Michael|
|Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Holden, E. Hopkinson|
|Byles, William Pollard||Erskine, David C.||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Cameron, Robert||Essex R. W.||Horniman, Emslie John|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Evans, Sir Samuel T.||Horridge, Thomas Gardner|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Everett, R. Lacey||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight||Faber, G. H. (Boston)||Hudson, Walter|
|Chance, Frederick William||Fenwick, Charles||Hutton, Aflred Eddison|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Hyde Clarendon|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Idris T. H. W.|
|Clough, William||Flynn, James Christopher||Illingworth, Percy H.|
|Clynes, J. R.||Fuller, John Michael F.||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel|
|Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Gibb, James (Harrow)||Jenkins, J.|
|Collings. Rt. Hn. J. (Birmingh'm)||Gill, A. H.||Johnson, John (Gateshead)|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Sears, J. E.|
|Jowett, F. W.||Morrison-Bell, Captain||Seaverns, J. H.|
|Joyce, Michael||Morse, L. L.||Seddon, J.|
|Kearley Sir Hudson E.||Murphy, John (Kerry, East)||Shackleton, David James|
|Kekewieh, Sir George||Myer, Horatio||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Kelley, George D.||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)|
|Kilbride, Denis||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Kincaid-Smith, Captain||Nicholls, George||Sheehy, David|
|King Alfred John (Knutsford)||Nicholson. Charles N. (Doncast'r||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Laidlaw Robert||Nolan Joseph||Silcock, Thomas Ball|
|Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster||Norman, Sir Henry||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John|
|Lambert, George||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Lamont, Norman||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Smith,F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal W.)||Nuttall, Harry||Smyth, Thomas F.(Leitrim, S.)|
|Layland-Barratt, Sir Francis||O'Brien, Kendal (TipperaryMid||Snowden, P.|
|Lea, Hugh Cecil(St. Pancras. E.)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Stanier, Beville|
|Lehmann, R. C.||O'Doherty, Philip||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)|
|Lever, A. Levy(Essex, Harwich)||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)||Steadman, W. C.|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||O'Dowd, John||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||O'Grady, J.||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||O'Kelly, James(Roscommon, N.||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Lundon, W.||O'Malley, William||Strauss, K. A. (Abingdon)|
|Lupton, Arnold||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Stuart, James (Sunderland)|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Parker, James (Halifax)||Summerbell, T.|
|Lynch, H. B.||Paulton, James Mellor||Taylor, Theodore C.(Radcliffe)|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Macdonald, J. M. (FalkirkB'ghs)||Pearson, W. H. M. (Suffolk,Eye)||Thomas, Sir A.(Glamorgan, E.)|
|Mackarness, Frederic C.||Philipps, Col. Ivor(S'thampton)||Thomasson, Franklin|
|Maclean, Donald||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)||Thompson, J.H.W.(Somerset, E|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Thomson, W. Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Pirie, Duncan V.||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Macpherson, J. T.||Pollard, Dr.||Tomkinsno, James|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Toulmin, George|
|MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|M'Callum, John M.||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)||Vivian, Henry|
|M'Crae, Sir George||Price, Sir Robert J.(Norfolk, E.)||Walsh, Stephen|
|M'Kean John||Pullar, Sir Robert||Walters, John Tudor|
|M'Killop, W.||Radford, G. H.||Wardle, George J.|
|M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)||Raphael, Herbert H.||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Wason, Rt. Hn. E.(Clackmannan|
|M'Micking, Major G.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Wason, John Cathcart(Orkney)|
|Maddison, Frederick||Redmond, William (Clare)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Manfleld, Harry (Northants)||Richards, T. F.(Wolverh'mpt'n)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Richardson, A.||Weir, James Galloway|
|Marnham, F. J.||Ridsdale, E. A.||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Massie, J.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Masterman, C. F. G.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Meagher, Michael||Robinson, S.||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Meehan, Francis E(Leitrim. N.)||Roche, Augustine (Cork)||Whittaker, Rt Hn. Sir Thomas P.|
|Menzies, Walter||Rogers, F. E. Newman||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Micklem, Nathaniel||Rowlands, J.||Williams, Llewelyn(Carmarth'n|
|Middlebrook, William||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Williamson, A.|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Russell, T. W.||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Mond, A.||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Samuel, Herbert L.(Cleveland)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Montgomery, H. G.||Scarisbrick, T. T. L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Joseph Pease and Mr. Herbert Lewis.|
|Mooney, J. J.||Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)|
|Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Scott, A. H.(Ashton under Lyne)|
|Banbury,Sir Frederick George||Magnus, Sir Philip||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.Bowles and Sir Henry Craik.|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E)||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G.(Oxf'dUniv.|
|Cox, Harold||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
Second and Third Resolutions agreed to.