HC Deb 11 August 1911 vol 29 cc1494-9

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


I wish to have some more information before this Bill is advanced. Will the Governors receive these pensions without making those payments out of salaries towards pensions as most Civil servants have to do? Will the Bill, if passed, affect Indian Governors, and so place a new charge on Indian Revenue for the period of service passed in India? Again, I asked the Under Secretary to state what protection, administrative or other, will be given to the regular Civil Service against the tendency of this measure, which I apprehend will give a powerful inducement to any one who has been provided with a governorship for five years to try hard to get another such place for another five years. This would tend to the supersession of the Civil servants in one Colony after another by the arrival of the outsider who is becoming qualified for pension. What protection, then, has the regular Civil servant against this frustration of hopes and laudable ambition for high employments?


The answer to the first question put by the hon. Member as to whether there is any deduction of salary is in the negative. He further asks me whether the Bill applies to India and the answer I must give him is in the negative. With regard to his third point it will not encourage outsiders. It merely arranges that a pension shall be payable after ten years' service as Governor, whereas the existing law gives a pension after twelve years' service.


The arguments which were previously used against this Bill have not been in any way met by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this measure. I think objection is further justified by the position revealed in previous discussions relating to poor people who still find it impossible to enjoy the benefits of the old Pension Act, although they are seventy years of age. It was intended by the persons who supported the Old Age Pensions Act that these poor people should enjoy that Act. I therefore object to offering any further facilities at the present time to Colonial Governors or to any other persons so well placed until something is done to make better provision for the industrial poor. This Bill does improve the facilities for getting pensions in the case of Colonial Governors, and in the case of a Governor receiving only one pension it increases the amount of that pension from the former maximum of £1,200 to £1,300. This measure also allows a pension to be obtained not merely at the age of sixty, but long before that age if the Governor discontinues his duties through the office being abolished or through physical or mental infirmity which might prevent him continuing to discharge his duties. The industrial poor can only get pensions at the age of seventy. This Bill proposes to give an advantage to persons who are much better able when they reach the age of sixty to continue to earn their living than the industrial classes. I understand that this Bill, in the case of a maximum pension would give £24 a week to an ex-Colonial Governor, and that sum would provide pensions for 150 of the industrial poor. It is not right or just to give to those who have the best means of providing for themselves a pension equal to what is the total sum required for 150 industrial pensions. I gather from an answer given to a question which was put on this matter in the House that at the present time there are twenty two persons receiving pensions under such conditions as this Bill covers who have been Governors in one part of the world or another, and they receive among them £11,000 a year, a sum which would about pay, according to what is offered to the industrial poor no less than one thousand pensions. I object to giving to twenty-two persons a sum which, if spent upon the industrial poor, would have to cover no less than one thousand. Yesterday, for instance, a question was put by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) with regard to the conditions which disqualify poor people from obtaining their pensions, and the answer revealed the fact that the Old Age Pensions Act is being so administered that old persons who have been thrifty and have put a few pounds by have some sum deducted from their pensions if they go to the post office and take out a few shillings of their past savings. Another question has revealed the fact that additions are being constantly made to the persons who come under the advantages of the Civil List Pension arrangement. I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few days ago whether persons who had devoted their lives to the solution of some problem and the service of the State in endeavouring to advance generally the condition of the people, or the families of those persons, had ever had their cases considered in connection with the Civil Pension List.


On a point of Order. I understand the hon. Member is discussing the administration of the Old Age Pensions Act for England. This is a Bill for Colonial Governors' pensions.


I was occupied for the moment and did not hear all the hon. Member said, but it is clear the hon. Member would not be entitled to discuss proposed Amendments to the Old Age Pensions Act on this Bill.


I was at the moment offering a comparison between the way Colonial Governors are treated under this Bill and the way persons are now able to take advantage of pensions under the Civil List. I had, prior to that, also given a few comparisons between the way old age pensioners are treated under the Old Age Pensions Act and the way Colonial Governors are treated under this Bill. I will not pursue the matter, but I would like to state what the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was. It was to the effect that a reference to the last addition to the list would show that a man who had devoted the greater part of his life to the subjects to which I have referred had been brought within the scope of the list. I was very glad to hear it. Mr. Frederick Rogers, who has devoted himself to furthering the amelioration of social conditions, was himself conceded a pension of £50 a year. I say there is no other instance that any Minister can give to the House of any person like Mr. Frederick Rogers, who has devoted practically the greater part of his life to the services of the community and particularly to the industrial poor of this country. I say no reasons whatever have been given to justify the passing of this Bill.

I would like to ask how two parts of the Bill itself can be reconciled. Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 leaves the granting of a pension absolutely in the hands of the Secretary of State, and Sub-section (3) of Clause 9 declares that a Minute of the Secretary of State, approved by the Treasury, granting a pension under this Section shall set forth the amount of the pension granted and the reasons for granting it, and shall be laid before Parliament. What is the good of placing information like this before Parliament if in another part of the Bill absolute power is reposed in the hands of the Secretary of State as to the granting of a pension. It takes away from the House any power except that of having the right to gaze at the Minute or of receiving information of the absolute act of the Secretary of State. I think there are many other reasons which could be adduced against this measure, and I am anxious to hear, in view of the ample provision made for persons of the ex-Colonial Governor class, to hear why it is these further facilities are to be given them for improving their position and pensions.


I rise on the present occasion not to oppose this Bill at this stage, but simply to say a word of explanation. I was greatly struck toy the Force of the arguments of the hon. Member who has just sat down, and by the ability with which he put them forward, but in view of the number of Bills to follow this, I do not propose to intervene between the House and a decision. The main object I had in view in putting down Amendments to the Bill was to test thoroughly the question of the status of the Dominions. I believe it has now been, I will not say conceded, but ascertained that the Governments of the Dominions are not subordinate in any way whatever to this Parliament, but are co-ordinate. I am glad to find the present Colonial Secretary is perhaps the most enlightened gentleman who has occupied that office, and that he is in full sympathy with the views of the representatives of the Dominions. I venture to say, if ever an occupant of the Colonial Office should imagine he was a great constructive statesman, and that the Dominions were to be the raw material of his constructive genius, the result would be one which I, at any rate, would be able to regard with complacency, and would be of a character greatly to astonish him and the party who put forward that great scheme of Imperial Federation to bolster up a stale Government and to retrieve their decaying forces.


It is common knowledge that the average man sent out as a Colonial Governor is a man of considerable wealth, but there is another kind of Governor in our African and West Indian dependencies, and I think it is extremely desirable the Government should do something to make their lives easier. They are gentlemen with no opportunity whatever of saving sixpence during the whole course of their time out. If the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) or his friends went out to those dependencies, they would be received with open arms and every consideration and kindness would be shown to them and every opportunity afforded them of opening their minds. It is for those Governors I imagine the Government have introduced this Bill. I think the remarks of the hon. Member below the Gangway would have been just as applicable to the salaries which Ministers enjoy, to the salary which you yourself enjoy, or to the salaries which we in future are going to enjoy. The remarks were far more applicable to any of us than to these Colonial Governors who, at great risk to their lives, live with death constantly surrounding them, and I am sure that anything we could do to lighten their burden the House will cheerfully, accede to.


I desire to express my whole-hearted support of this Bill for two reasons. In the past many men who have served the State uncommonly well have come back to the old country and been forced by reason of financial weakness to undertake directorships of businesses which they do not understand, and have, consequently, been the dupes of unscrupulous persons in different parts of the country. This Bill will protect servants of the State in future from such catastrophes which reflect on the adminis- tration of the Empire. Secondly, I support the Bill because of Clause 9, which gives discretion to the Secretary of State for the Colonies to pension any Governor who proves not to be worthy of the high position to which he has been appointed. It is notorious that at the present moment men are given Colonial Governorships when they are not qualified, in order that they may obtain a certain age and record of service, to entitle them to a pension as the law now stands. Under this Bill, when the Colonial Secretary, who is the most generous judge of his own servant, finds him inefficient or not qualified he will be able to pension him off and relieve him of the responsibilities that he has not proved himself adequate to perform. I think that gives the Colonial Secretary a wise discretion, and will make for greater efficiency in the administration of the Colonies and Dominions.


The hon. Member for North-East Manchester (Mr. Clynes) has suggested there is something irreconcilable between Clauses 1 and 9, but if he had looked at the latter Clause he would have seen that the first words are, "Where in any special circumstances." In any special circumstances the Colonial Secretary may do what my hon. Friend, the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hamar Greenwood) describes as a very terse thing to do, but he will not be entitled to do it unless he presents the full circumstances of the special cases to Parliament so that the House and the fund it has to administer may be protected against favouritism in that respect. I agree with the hon. Member for Sunderland. I have known many Colonial Governors leave their governorships far poorer men than they began. I am not referring to quasi political servants, but to Colonial servants who have risen from the lowest ranks in the Civil Service, and have expended far more than they have received from the Government. They are entitled to the most generous treatment from the Government.

Question put, and agreed to. Bill read the third time, and passed.