§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Select Committee be appointed to consider a scheme of Pensions and Grants for men in the Naval and Military Services wounded in the present War, and for the widows, orphans, and dependants of men who have lost their lives:
§ That the Committee do consist of Six Members:
§ That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records:
§ That three be the Quorum"—[The Prime Minister.]
§ Mr. BARNES
I need scarcely say that I welcome, and I am sure we all welcome, the setting up of this Committee, and the evidence it gives that the Government desire—
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
On a point of Order. The House will remember that my right hon. Friend behind (Mr. Hayes Fisher)—and I say this without any discourtesy to the hon. Member—had an Amendment to the Address on this subject, and it was generally understood and agreed that the initiation of the discussion should take place by him. I hope, therefore, that that arrangement can be carried out.
§ Mr. BARNES
On the point of Order. I shall be very glad to give way to my right hon. Friend, but in justification of my getting up I may say that some arrangement was made between my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Labour party (Mr. Arthur Henderson) and the Government Whips with regard to getting a day for the discussion.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am afraid it was my fault. I looked to the Opposition, but I did not see the right hon. Gentleman rise, and when I saw the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division rise I called upon him. It was only after I had called upon him I saw the right hon Member for Fulham rise. If the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division is prepared to give way, I will call upon the right hon. Member for Fulham.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I should like to express my obligation to the hon. Member for giving way on a question in which he has taken at least an equal interest to that which I have taken. Immediately on the declaration of War I joined with other hon. Members in urging the Government to make as early a declaration as possible that the widows and orphans in connection with this War would be at least as well provided for as the widows and orphans created by the Transvaal War. I little thought then—nobody in this House would have thought—that the problem which we should have to solve in connection with the disabled and wounded and the widows and dependants would assume such gigantic proportions as it is likely to assume. The Prime Minister the other day very properly pointed out the difference which exists to-day as compared with the time of the Transvaal War, and called attention to the fact that we are now recruiting some millions of men for our New Armies under entirely novel conditions and circumstances—men drawn from comfortable homes, and earning wages and salaries of £2, £3, £4, £5, and, as I know myself, £6 a week, and yet serving in the ranks not as officers, not even as non-commissioned officers, but as privates. The fact that we are recruiting men in social circumstances so varied as that makes this problem very different from that which had to be solved by a previous Government after the Transvaal War. Therefore, I am not surprised that the Government should have taken some time before announcing their decision on a matter of such a complex and difficult character.
But when I saw their decisions, which are embodied in the White Paper, I, for my part, was certainly dissatisfied with some of them. I therefore put down an Amendment to the Address, asking the Government to appoint a small Committee of this House, representing all parties, which should review the scheme of the Government and come to some decision which would be satisfactory to the great majority of the House and to the country as a whole. I understood perfectly well that the Leader of the Labour party was moving in the matter as well, and, so far, I desire to join hands with him. The Prime Minister met us very graciously, and at once told us that, so far as the Government were concerned, he desired to share the responsibility of the matter with the House, and he has himself moved a Motion asking for the appointment of a small Select Committee to consider a 446 scheme of pensions and grants for men, in the naval and military services wounded in the present War, and for the widows, orphans and dependants of men who have lost their lives. I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether, in the form in which he has framed the Motion, he intended to include officers as well as men. I hope he did. Sometimes "men" has been taken to include "officers." I am sure that Members will be able to show that the pensions and gratuities for wounded officers and for officers' widows were fixed a great number of years ago, and that the scale has not advanced at all to meet the requirements of the time, the increased cost of living, and the many obligations which fall upon these unfortunate people.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I am very glad to have that answer, and I thank the Prime Minister for it. The reference is, I think, a little faulty in another respect. I know the Prime Minister is enormously busy. There is the phrase, "men in the naval and military services wounded in the present War." There is no mention of disease. I think the reference ought to run "who are discharged by reason of wounds or disease contracted in the present War." I know from experience that the system of pensions divides itself into pensions for wounded and pensions for men discharged on account of disease. If the word "wounded" stood alone, the Committee would not have it within its power to inquire into the pensions for soldiers discharged by reason of disease. I hope, therefore, that the Prime Minister will amend the reference in that respect, so as to include those who are discharged by reason of wounds or disease contracted in the present War.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
The words I have quoted are commonly used in the warrants, but I do not mind at all what form of; words is used, so long as the Committee I has it within its power to review the pensions given to officers and men discharged by reason of disease arising from or contracted in the War.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I thank the Prime Minister for agreeing to enlarge the reference. I need hardly say that I shall not discuss the question in any controversial or, at any rate, any party spirit. Controversial it must be: directly we differ we are controversial; but we need not adopt a partisan or an unfriendly spirit, or make any personal attack upon anybody in discussing a question of this kind. I entirely agree with the Prime Minister's view that it would be tragic indeed if one portion of the House or one party were to try to compete for the favour of the country by advocating some form of increased pensions. I shall enter upon the discussion of the problem without any desire whatever to compete with anybody. But in order to obtain the views of the House I must put forward my own views as to what I think is a just and adequate pension for these widows and orphans and wounded soldiers and sailors. I have some claim—perhaps a greater claim than most people—to speak on the subject. As chairman of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation for fourteen years, and a commissioner of Chelsea Hospital for three years during the Boer war, I have had unusual opportunities of discussing this question. Week in and week out I have been in contact with it, and with the administration of these pensions, both for discharged soldiers and for widows and orphans.
I will deal first of all with the pensions given by Chelsea Hospital and by the Admiralty to soldiers and sailors discharged on account of wounds or disease contracted in some war. This is an excellent example of the gradual change that has come over public opinion in this country. When I was first appointed to Chelsea Hospital—I am bound to say I was appointed to protect the Treasury more or less, being there as Treasury representative—I discovered that the maximum amount that the country allowed the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital to give to men who had been totally disabled and could not gain their livelihood was 8d. to 1s. per day. If you wanted to be really generous you gave the man a shilling. This was 7s. a week to the man which had been rendered wholly incapable by wounds or disease from obtaining any living. I do not think that even a Treasury representative could have stood that very long. If you have to do that work for a whole day in each week you very soon become rather sympathetic towards all those unfortunate 448 victims of war, and before I left Chelsea Hospital as a representative, I am glad to say that I succeeded in raising that rate for wholly disabled men to a minimum of 1s. 6d. and a maximum of 2s. 6d. per day. That works out at 17s. 6d. a week, which is given for total disablement, with partial disablement from 6d. to 1s. 6d.
I wish to say to the Government that I think this scheme is an advance on that scheme. It is a decided improvement. I have really very little criticism to offer upon it, but, from an administrative point of view, I should like to point out to those responsible for drawing up the scheme that 16s. 6d. a week, running up to a maximum of 23s., for a married woman without children, does not work out to any clear scale per day. I think you will find on the warrants and the books kept by Chelsea Hospital that a scale per day has been arranged. It is, of course, machinery, but the machinery and books and scales have always been adapted to so much per day, and you cannot work out 16s. or 23s. per week to so much per day—certainly not to so many sixpences. It is a mere matter of machinery, but I think it is worth while to call the attention of the Committee to small points of this kind. Chelsea Hospital will have to consider another question for the first time The pension there is for unmarried men and for men without children, and the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital will certainly take some time in ascertaining the number of dependants. If there be too much work of this description cast upon them, inevitable delay will take place in granting these pensions. That is another matter worth thinking about. I am not at all sure that this question of dependants ought to be before them at all. Let me tell the Government they must first of all make a definition of what dependants are.
§ Mr. JONATHAN SAMUEL
Would the right hon. Gentleman explain that in addition to the 16s. 6d. and 23s. there is an allowance of 5s. under the Insurance Act?
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
The hon. Member can explain all that for himself. I am not going now into all the details. I have already said this scheme is a considerable improvement upon the old scheme; indeed. I have very little fault to find with it. I should like to call attention to this fact: If hon. Members will look at the scale of 449 pensions for officers they will find that lieutenants and sub-lieutenants may get actually less than privates in the Army for very serious and very permanent injuries. I need not say anything more than to call the attention of the Government to that fact, that this scale for very serious and very permanent injury is absurdly low, especially for young officers with these pensions at £35 to £50 per year. All these matters want reviewing. Then I observe these allowances will be applicable as from the outbreak of the War, but not in cases which originated before that date. I am not at all sure that the Government will be able to stand upon that ground. It is not impossible that men will come forward and say, "I lost my leg; it was so shattered that I have been unable to earn my livelihood. I lost it fighting for my country in the Transvaal War. I have got a much lower pension than the man who lost his leg, and perhaps was not even quite as badly injured as I was in,"—let us call it—"this European War." I doubt very much whether the Government will be able to stand upon the ground they have taken. The Government may have to consider, in raising the scale of pensions for wounds and disease contracted in this War, that that scale possibly will have to be applied to those who have similarly suffered, at all events in the Transvaal war.
We all know that there are widows who were made widows by the Egyptian war of 1882–4 who have no pensions of any sort or kind, for that was a date before the State recognised its obligations in any way to those who fought its battles and laid down their lives for it. I say nothing more about the pensions and allowances to disabled and wounded. I think that probably very little alteration in the scale of the Government will suffice to give what may be considered adequate compensation in cases of that kind, and I congratulate the Government upon taking this step. I take up this Paper, and in no controversial mood, but I cannot help wondering, when I look at page 8, whether the Government think that they have completely satisfied the widows and the orphans and the country when they have proved that their scheme of pensions for the widows and orphans is an improvement on the scale of the late Government for those widows and orphans who were created by the Transvaal war. That, to my mind, is not the way to approach this question at all. If we look at it from a 450 purely historical point of view, the State did not recognise its obligations to the widows and orphans at all until the Transvaal war. There were other wars. There was the Egyptian war that I have mentioned. There was then no such thing as State pensions. The first Government that ever recognised its obligations to the widows and orphans was the Government which was in office from 1900 to 1906. They put forward a scale of State pensions for the first time. It might not have been wholly adequate, but at all events it was very much better than no pension at all.
My own view of this question is broadly this: that it does not matter what flat rate you adopt, there ought to be a capital sum of money placed in the hands of some body or another, such as the Royal Patriotic Fund, which has administered the pensions for the Transvaal war. Whether the flat rate adopted be 7s. 6d., or 10s., or 12s., or £1 a week, you will never really satisfactorily and equitably solve this question unless you put a capital sum of money in the hands of some body which shall differentiate and discriminate between the different cases which have to be met. That is my broad proposal, and I shall try to make it good. But, first of all, let me criticise this scheme of the Government. The Government boast in the White Paper that this scheme is very much more favourable to the widows and orphans than the present scheme, which was inaugurated by the Unionist Government. Is it? I venture to say it is not. It is an improvement in some respects: it is an improvement for some widows but not for others, and in some particulars it is much worse than the old scheme of general provision made for the widows and orphans of the Transvaal war, and I shall attempt to prove that. On page D the Government are anxious to make a general comparison between the old age scheme and the new scheme. Take the case of a widow without children. They say the old scale only-shows 5s.; the new scale 7s. 6d. Now that is very misleading, both to the House and to the country. The real pension which a Transvaal widow gets is not merely the Government pension of 5s., but she also gets a supplementary pension of 2s. from the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
In every ease?
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
In every case where she needs it, and more than that if she needs it. Then again, the country is led to believe that under the old scale a mother only gets 1s. 6d. for each child. She gets 1s. 6d. for each child from the State, but to that the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation adds a shilling, making a half crown, exactly the scale which the Government have adopted. Their scale is just a little better for a childless woman, and for a woman with four children. This is how the Government put it. A woman with four children, they say, under the present system only gets 11s., and under their system she gets 20s. Not at all. A woman with four children gets 19s., and not 11s., and therefore the Government scheme is only one shilling better for a woman with four children than the old scale. Take the dependants of unmaried men. Under the new scale additional grants or allowances on the recommendation of the old age pensions committee are to be given to the dependants of unmaried men who now, according to this very misleading White Paper, get nothing from public funds. Why do the Government say that? Dependants do get something from public funds. The Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation administers public funds. It is a public body chosen by the Government, very largely administering public funds and can be made responsible to this House for the administration of public funds, and they make allowances regularly to dependants' relatives wherever it can be proved that the son made an allowance—and we take very flimsy evidence—to father or mother, and we give not only grants but pensions. It is not fair to the House or the country to put this forward as a difference between the new scale and the old.
I go back to the widow who, according to this White Paper, is so much better off under the new scheme than the old. Is she? She is a little better off with 7s. 6d. than 7s. where she has no children. She is considerably better off if she has one child; she is better off where she has two children and where she has three, but she is only one shilling better off with four. When she reaches sixty years of age, when the boys reach fourteen and the girls sixteen she is exactly on the same scale as under the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation. When she comes to sixty does the Government scheme increase her allowance? Not at all. She gets 7s. 6d. if a childless widow. What does the 452 Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation do? It increases the allowance from 5s. to 9s., so that at sixty she gets 9s. under the old scheme and only 7s. 6d. under the Government scheme. At seventy under the Government scheme the childless widow still gets her 7s. 6d., unless the pensions' officer advises the amount should be raised. When she comes to seventy under the old scheme she gets from the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation 12s., just as much without going to the old age pensions officer. So that I am confident when this scheme comes to be examined and compared with the old scheme there will be found to be points in favour of the Government scheme and points in favour of the old scheme which is State pensions coupled with the supplementary allowance from the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation. When the Government of the day fixed that scale of pension they were perfectly well' aware that the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation had in its hands a very considerable sum of money out of which to grant these pensions where necessary. But that is not all. Again, under the old scheme, the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation gave sick allowances and money for apprenticing boys and for outfits for girls. They gave extra allowances wherever necessary, and they educated an immense number of girls in the Royal Victoria Patriotic School and gave them an uncommonly good education, and that is a great advantage, and before many years pass over our heads there will be serious need for another school of that kind to educate the orphan children of those who have fallen in this war. Therefore in all these respects the old scheme is superior to the new. It really comes to this, that the new scheme has some good features which the old scheme had not, and the old scheme, on the other hand, had some good features which the new scheme has not. I hope the Committee will be allowed to examine both schemes, and will take the best out of both. That is what I hope will result from the setting up of this Committee.
The Government have made the choice of putting the old age pensions officers in place of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation. The Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation will continue to administer pensions to the Transvaal widows. The pensions officers will have a very great deal of discretion as to what supplementary pensions at all events shall be given to women who lost their husbands in connection with this War. They will 453 have very difficult decisions to make, and I doubt whether the Government quite realise the work they are putting upon the pensions officers. Let me tell the House one or two decisions the pensions officer will have to come to. He will have to decide—I suppose it will be he—whether the death is due to wounds or diseases contracted in the War. That is a very difficult question to answer. I have had to investigate many hundreds of these cases. It is not so difficult in the matter of wounds, but it is very difficult to say at the end of five or six years whether death is due to disease contracted in the War or to more or less normal causes and diseases. It makes an immense amount of difference to each of the persons concerned as to what view the Commissioners take, because it means either a pension, and full pension, or no pension at all. I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite make a good exchange in substituting some State officers. I doubt it from my own experience. I know this, that the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation in the last few years have taken ninety cases which have been rejected for pensions by the War Office, where we thought there was evidence enough to satisfy us that the death was due, not to wounds but to disease contracted in the war. I think we all know that State officials must take a rather more rigid and stubborn view in these matters than other bodies not composed of State officials, and dealing with funds subscribed by the public yet not being in the same position as funds derived from taxes.
Another thing will have to be decided; I do not know how it is to be dealt with. What we discovered as our experience of the Transvaal War is that now and again cases occurred where the medical evidence clearly established the fact that the death of the men was actually due to disease contracted as long ago as the Transvaal War. You get that clearly shown upon the medical evidence. What is the Government going to do in cases of that kind? It is open to the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation to deal with cases of that kind out of funds placed at its disposal. It will not be so with the pensions officer. The seven years' limit will be a rigid watertight compartment, and if there are cases of men—and there will be hundreds of them who contract disease in this War and who will die in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh year, and whose premature death will most assuredly 454 be due to diseases contracted in this War—how are they to be dealt with? I quite agree the Government must have a rigid system and stand by seven years, or eight years, or nine years. I think they are right in choosing seven years, but there ought to be some way of reviewing these cases where the evidence clearly establishes that, although seven years have elapsed, death was due to wounds or disease contracted in this great War. I could put many more cases before the House which would show the real difficulty underlying the administration of funds of this description; and again I say I believe, for my own part, that it would be infinite better, while having a State system of pensions of settled amounts, to set aside a sum of money—say, £2,000,000—as capital in the hands of somebody or another who should be entrusted with the duty of discriminating and differentiating in pensions wherever necessary to do so, and who should be entrusted with the duty of solving some of these problems which, from long experience, I suggest to the House arise in these matters.
The particular pension which has attracted most notice and the most opposition is the pension of 7s. 6d. for the widow without children. I agree with the Prime Minister that it is exceedingly difficult to fix a flat rate, and it is more difficult in the case of the present War than it was in any other war, because of the varying incomes of the different classes from which you are recruiting. I do not think 7s. 6d. is enough, and on the Committee I shall certainly be prepared to make that pension 10s. The lower the flat rate, the more money you ought to place at the disposal of some other body with discretionary power. I am convinced that even with the flat rate of £1 you are going to put a penalty upon the widow of the man who has been earning £2, £3, £4, or even £5 a week. That is a penalty far greater than the nation ought to put upon a widow and you are going to penalise the widow of a man who had been earning such a large income in a way she has never been penalised before. I am not in favour of the flat rate at £1 per week. If £1 was paid to every widow it would mean real riches to thousands of widows as compared with the money which those widows had when their husbands were alive, because you would put them in a better position. I am sure that would be so in all the rural parts of England, and certainly all over Ireland, and in the case of a great majority of the 455 widows of men enlisted from those who offered their services as soldiers in the past.
But while you would be enriching thousands of widows and making them better off than when their husbands were alive, to offer £1 per week to thousands of others would be wholly inadequate. If your aim is to try and keep the home of the widows together and to prevent the unfortunate woman, besides losing her husband, losing her social status, then £1 per week where a woman has been having £3, £4, or even £5 a week regularly coming in, will not effect your object. These are the women who are going to suffer the most, and they are the wives of those being recruited now from these standards, and they are very often Reservists. I know of many of these men who are earning £3, £4, and £5 per week, and constantly I hear of cases of £3 per week. We were talking yesterday about the Budget, and there were those who thought the Income Tax and the Super-tax might amount to 5s. in the £, which is one-fourth of the income. Even if a man had to pay that proportion, he is better off than the unfortunate woman who, having £4 a week coming in, finds herself deprived of her husband, and three-fourths of her income. The Prime Minister saw this difficulty, but he said he did not see how to remedy it. He said that he could not see how they could differentiate pensions according to the amount of the incomes the men had. I do not feel so sure about that. When the separation allowance was fixed after the Transvaal war, it was fixed at two-thirds of the amount of the income coming into the house when the man was called up. I am aware that this was done out of funds collected from the public. Let me take another case. The Prince of Wales' National Relief Fund now allow rent to be taken into account to the extent of augmenting the flat rate of 12s. 6d. by no less a sum than 8s., and therefore we do differentiate in those two cases.
Let me now call attention to the Government scheme of pensions. Even here they differentiate, because they allow the pension officers to make a rule that 7s. 6d. is not enough for a woman to live on, and he can increase that amount up to 12s. 6d. If you are going to allow the pension officer to differentiate in this way, why not carry that principle further? What we want, if possible, is to get some kind of equality of treatment of these dif- 456 ferent widows. One woman will be more than well off with £1 a week, while another woman will be heavily penalised with the same amount. I know it is an uncommonly difficult problem to solve, but I offer a solution on the old lines that some body—it may be the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation enlarged, or some other body—should have at its disposal a large sum of money to be spent on lines thoroughly well considered, and on principles thoroughly well laid down, by which they may augment the State pension in cases where it is really necessary to do so in order to avoid the acute hardships of which I have spoken, which are so patiently suffered by many of these most unhappy women. So far as the scale on page 8 of the White Papers is concerned. I think the pensions to widows with four children, three children and two children are all fairly satisfactory, and they are an improvement on the old scale. With regard to the pension of 12s. to the widow with one child, I should like to see that raised. The widow without children only gets 7s. 6d., but I think we ought not to go lower than 10s. I will not now go into the question of these officers' pensions beyond saying that that scale was fixed a very long time ago, and it is now causing most awful hardships amongst widows, and more especially the widow's of the younger officers. I am informed by those that have had a larger experience than I have that what is most needed is a larger lump sum given at the time of death, because very often there are a number of small debts to be cleared up; sometimes the unfortunate widow has to move from one house to another, and all kinds of arrangements have to be made. I hope the Government will consider all these things and see whether they cannot increase the amount of gratuities to be given on such a sad occasion as that which I have spoken of.
As regards dependants, the Government intend to leave the whole question of allowances to the pension officer. I hope they will lay down some very clear rules by which the pension officer may be guided. What I forsee is, that the pension officer in one part of the country may take a very different view from the pension officer in another part of the country, and we may have all kinds of discrimination going on. If all this difficult and delicate work is to be entrusted to the pension officers I think there ought to be some sort of appeal from their decision. I have had 457 some experience in these matters as Chairman of the Old Age Pensions Committee for London, and it was very easy to discover there that a good deal of the personal factor and human element came into the decisions of the various pension officers. I think there ought to be some appeal from those decisions when such great latitude is being given to these officers. Fifteen years ago I was a member of a Joint Committee of the House of Lords and the House of Commons which sat under the Chairmanship of Lord James of Hereford to consider the distribution of public funds in connection with the war. I then advocated, and I want to advocate it now, that a little later, when the Government have more time to give to it, they should seriously consider whether the whole of this question of the allowances to wives and children during the War, and pensions for disablement, whether from wounds or disease after the War, and the question of pensions and allowances for widows and dependants after the War, ought not to be handed over to one body sitting in one building under one roof. I have had experience of all these bodies for many years, and for the life of me I cannot conceive why we do not amalgamate all these bodies under one roof so that these cases may be considered by one body always controlled by the Government of the day, and always answerable to Parliament. I believe that will be the only satisfactory solution of this great problem. At present part of the question is considered by one body, part by another, and part by a third body, and consequently there is great perplexity and a certain amount of overlapping, necessitating sending for papers here and there. After a very great experience I say that these questions could be very much more satisfactorily settled if we had one body under Government control.
I hope this Committee will apply itself, first of all, to the question of the settlement of the pensions of those who are discharged from our Army from wounds and disease. I do not believe that the Committee need sit long to make up their minds as to what scale of pensions ought to be adopted, and I do not believe there will be much dispute. As regards widows and orphans, I do not think the Committee need sit long to settle a scale of pensions which will be satisfactory to this House and to the country. Do not let hon. Members be frightened by the figures in this White Paper as to the excessive cost of doing all this. Perhaps hon. Members will 458 listen to a few figures from me, and then they will be able to separate the question of widows and orphans altogether from the question of allowances to wives and children. In this Paper the matter is hopelessly mixed up. The flat rate for widows is 10s. I will take a thousand widows receiving £26 per year and that will amount to £26,000. I estimate that there will be 20,000 widows caused through this War. [An HON. MEMBER: "We shall have more than that!"] An hon. Member says we shall have more, but I will give him the figures up to date. I do not take such a pessimistic view as the hon. Member, and I frame my estimate at 20,000. Up to today in consequence of this War we have 525 widows without children, widows with children 1,853, making a total number of cases which we have had to relieve at the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation of 2,378 widows, 4,042 children, and 981 other relatives. Of course, when we get the long lists in from the loss of the "Monmouth "and the "Good Hope," and those who are reported missing, whose death will have to be presumed in many cases, that estimate will jump up by leaps and bounds. Nevertheless, I believe I am just as correct as any body can be in basing my estimate at not more than 20,000 widows. Taking the flat rate of 10s., that means £520,000 a year. I am assuming that each widow has two children, which is about the average, that is 40,000 children. Taking the Government rate of 2s. 6d. each, that is £260,000 a year, making £780,000 a year for 20,000 widows and 40,000 orphaned children. If you were to adopt my particular plan, of putting £2,000,000 capital aside, then, taking the interest and sinking fund on that capital sum at 6 per cent., amounting to £120,000, and adding that £120,000 to the £780,000 a year, you have £900,000 a year as your highest cost, the high-water mark, of giving these widows and children a flat rate of 10s. and 2s. 6d. for each child. After all, that is not a third of a penny in the £, and I say boldly, both as regards the widows and orphans of our soldiers and sailors, and as regards the increase of pensions to our officers' widows, that the whole of it can be well and generously done for less than a halfpenny in the £ on the Income Tax. Therefore, do not let us confuse these figures with all the other mass of figures relating to separation allowances, and so on. Let us face our problem, and I believe the House, and the country, will consider it is a duty of honour which ought to be adequately and generously discharged.
§ Mr. BARNES
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having caught your "second eye." There is no man in the House to whom I would more willingly have given place for personal as well as other reasons. He and I and an hon. Friend who sat beside me some time ago, had the honour of a triangular fight some years ago, and I do not think there is a man who has a more honourable record with regard to pensions than the right hon. Gentleman. We, to a large extent, owe what has already been granted to our soldiers after the Transvaal war to his efforts. I welcome, as he has done, the appointment of this Committeee by the Government. I welcome it for various reasons, chief of which, of course, is that it will be a Committee untrammelled, I take it, by purely official considerations. Therefore, I hope that its report will embody and be a fair reflex of the views of the whole House. I am thankful that it is a small Committee, because there has been a good deal of delay in regard to this matter already, and it would be very regrettable if there were more unnecessary delay. I take it the smallness of the Committee is, to some extent, a guarantee that it will get about its work promptly, and report before long. I hope that it may be possible to report this side of Christmas.
There are two things in regard to the terms of reference to which I will refer. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to one already, and I think he elicited a satisfactory reply from the Prime Minister—that is to say, the narrowness of the terms of reference in regard to disease and the causes of death generally. I was looking at the Royal Warrant a minute or two ago, and I find that hitherto men have been entitled to pensions who have either been wounded in war or disabled by sunstroke or disease or various other things enumerated, and I hope it will be no less wide in the future than it has been in the past in that respect. I hope it will be the same in regard to the widows. Widows are entitled to pensions if the husband is killed in the performance of duty, or dies within seven years of wounds or injuries received in the performance of duty or from disease, and so on. I hope, although it is not laid down in specific terms, that all these conditions will be included in the terms of reference. It is very regrettable that the terms of reference do not include such questions as the stoppages in the married soldiers' pay, which I know have been giving a great deal of dissatisfaction recently. Although not mentioned, 460 I take it—and I am strengthened in my view by the speech to which we have just listened—that we are not debarred from discussing the question of allowances, pensions, and stoppages.
Before entering upon the discussion of the figures in the White Paper, I should just like to say that I agree entirely with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson) the other day about the War itself. I very early came to the conclusion that, if a war in Europe were unavoidable, then this country could not keep out of it with credit or self-respect, or even consistent with ultimate safety; and, if we had tried to do so, we should probably have been drawn into it by some untoward event, when our participation would have been less effective. I also early came to the conclusion, so forcibly put by the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, that if the country had to go to war, then the country ought to see to it that there should be something like equality of burdens. Those who have to go to the front have, of course, to make the heaviest sacrifices, but we should see that those who cannot or will not fight at any rate pay. It would be absurd of me to put myself in a special category in saying that, because all the evidence goes to show that it is the general view. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bonar Law) spoke very early in that sense, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) and the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy) have also spoken in that sense. It is the general view on both sides of the House, and that it is the view outside is borne upon us, for instance, by the petition presented by the hon. Member for the Harborough Division (Mr. Logan) and by the perfect avalanche of resolutions that have reached us from trade unions, friendly societies, churches, and chapels.
All sorts of bodies, including no less than forty-two town councils in Scotland—I do not know how many in England—embracing Glasgow and Dundee, have passed resolutions in favour of £1 per week being given as the minimum to every widow of a soldier or sailor, and to disabled men. The newspapers have now taken the matter up, pioneered, I am glad to say, by the "Daily Citizen"; and last, but not least, the Miners' Federation, one of the largest, if not the largest, industrial organisations of this or any other country, have put forward a programme of £1 per 461 week for each widow and 3s. 6d. per week additional for each child. I merely mention that as the distinctive programme of labour, if we can be said to have a distinctive programme, and I leave my hon. Friend the Member for one of the Division of Glamorgan to speak of it in more particular detail later on. Everybody agrees that we are all in favour of liberality, whatever our distinctive programmes may be. I should just like to say here that it was not always so. I know of people having "Mafficked" when our soldiers have done something special, and I have taken part in cheering them when they come home, but we have often left the widow to hide her sorrow in the darkness of poverty or forget it in her struggle for a living. It is a somewhat arresting reflection that this improvement in public opinion has come about only when we have ceased to draw our soldiers from the poorest and least articulate section of the community, and have begun to draw them from the homes of the better-to-do and those who make public opinion. However, whatever the cause, we all welcome it, and I hope shall give effect to it. My point is that the White Paper does not fully give effect to it.
I want to take the best thing in the White Paper first, and so on in a descending scale. I put it to the Committee that the best thing in the White Paper is the provision for the widow of a soldier or sailor getting her separation allowance for twenty-six weeks after his death. The separation allowance, of course, is more than the pension. I do not know why it should be. The Government have laid down the sum of the requirements of the woman while her husband is alive. I think they are no less after he is dead, but still the separation allowance is more than the pension. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham upon his well-directed and successful efforts in that matter. I only wish they had been successful sooner, because I know that a great deal of sorrow and trouble would thereby have been avoided. The next point of a satisfactory character is the relief of the married soldier of 1d. per day in respect of each of his three children. It was a mean and paltry thing of the Government to make this stoppage from the soldier's meagre pay, and a step in the right direction has been taken in relieving the married soldier of that 1d. per day. It makes 1s. 9d. difference to him in his pay of 7s. per week.
462 There is one thing put forward in the White Paper as a concession which, to my mind, is going to be a very doubtful blessing. I refer to the gratuity of two years' pension to the widow on remarrying. Hitherto a woman on getting remarried has only had one year's pension. At the low pension rate of 5s. per week that amounted to £13 per year. In future she will get a dowry of £39, being two years' pension at 7s. 6d. per week. I am afraid that £39 will be a bait to a mercenary-minded man, and I believe that many widows will live to rue the day they had that £39 hanging on to them. Consequently, although this is put forward in the White Paper as a concession, and there is a calculation made as to how much it is going to cost, for my part I rather regret its inclusion. I hope the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hayes Fisher) will make a note of the point, and put it before the Committee that it might be given up in the interests of the widow herself in lieu of a larger pension being given. I return to the married soldier. I do not think that the Government have quite realised the debt of obligation we are under to these men who are now coming up to the Colours. Neither do they realise the pay which these men have been in the habit of receiving. I heard an hon. Member say the other day that some of the men in his constituency who had joined had been getting £6 a week, and the great bulk £3 or £4 per week.
§ Mr. BARNES
I do not want to misrepresent the hon. Member. But I do know that many of the young fellows who have joined in the City of London have come from offices and commercial houses, and have given up more than £3 or £4 per week. They have given up prospects as well. Even the ordinary workman who has been getting £2 per week is making a great sacrifice in order to respond to the call of the nation, and I repeat I am afraid that the Government do not quite realise the whole of the debt we owe to these men. Most of them are young men. You are going to give them 7s. per week, pins their keep and a shelter. When you have done that your debt in regard to them is to be deemed to be at an end. The great bulk of these men are risking their lives and, in the event of their death, the Government will have no commitments whatever in regard to them. But some are married. 463 How many we do not know. The White Paper places the proportion of married to single in the existing force at about 30 per cent. married and 70 per cent. single. I should say that the proportion of married to single in the New Army is much less. Still, I do not know. However it may be, anything that may be done in respect of this proposal regarding married men is not going to cost a very vast sum of money.
Some married men have already joined. That I know. But many more would join if it were not for the onerous conditions they find after they have joined—if I may be allowed to use an Irishism. Knowledge is now spreading in the community of the stoppages made from these men's pay, and of the meagre allowances to the wife. That is a consideration, because, after all, the marriage lines of these men are the scrap of paper for which they ought to have regard over and above everything else. I believe if you make the conditions for married men better, and put an end to these miserable stoppages from their pay, you will induce more married men to join. The married man, as well as the single man, gets 7s. per week. It is true you give him shelter and board of a kind, but many of these men have been accustomed to shelter and board of a far different sort. They have been getting four meals a day at home as a rule. You only give them three. Moreover, they have to pay for their tobacco, newspapers, and stamps, as well as their drop of beer, and all that comes out of the 7s. If you make the stoppage in respect of the man's wife and other stoppages in addition, it leaves very little for him. The least you can do is to give the married man his full 7s. Let him, if he likes, allot a part of it to his wife. That is his business: not ours. We, as workmen, have always contended that stoppage is no payment. A man has a right to allot his pay as he thinks proper. We ought to adhere to that principle so far as the soldier is concerned. I hope the Government will make a note of that.
I come next to the widow. She is to get 7s. 6d. per week instead of 5s., and there is the further provision that if she is totally incapable of working, she shall have 12s. 6d. That, however, is only a paper provision. There is nothing in it. It is merely shop-window dressing, and the Government must know that perfectly well. We are not dealing with old women, but with women mostly under thirty years of age, and, therefore, the proportion that 464 will be totally incapable of work will be infinitesimal. Then they have to convince somebody that they are incapable of work—not a very easy matter. The woman gets 7s. 6d. and not 5s., which it used to be. You are giving an increase of 50 per cent. But I submit that this war is more than 50 per cent. more terrible than any previous war. It involves more than 50 per cent. more privation than any other war since perhaps the Crimean. The issues are immeasurably greater than those in any previous war, and, therefore, the services rendered are proportionately greater. Take the case of Belgium. If we only think of Belgium, we shall not stick at any sacrifice in favour of these men and their dependants, seeing that they are saving us from a fate like that which has befallen the Belgians. I say the allowance of 7s. 6d. is miserably inadequate.
I cannot follow the argument of the Prime Minister in regard to this matter. He said the other day it would have a bad effect on the Labour Market to give pensions, or that, at all events, an increase of the pension might have a bad effect on that market. I agree if you give small pensions it would be so. It all depends on the amount of the pension. Bear in mind the experience we have had. Over and over again, we on these benches have protested against the small pay given to commissionaires and port watchers in Government employ. We have said £1 per week is not sufficient, and the Government Department has not been ashamed to point out that these men are already in receipt of a pension. If it is possible for a Government to say that in regard to these men, how much more easy would it not be for private employers of labour to use the same argument regarding defenceless women? The principle I want to lay down is this. That a woman who is left a widow as a result of this war shall be kept out of the Labour Market altogether, and shall be given such a pension as will maintain her in something like the same standard of life as that to which she has been accustomed. That, I submit, is a very modest demand.
Take the case of the widow with children. I am glad to acknowledge there is a very considerable improvement so far as the first child is concerned. She is now to get 5s. instead of 1s. 6d. By-the-by, this is no more than is now given by many boards of guardians for boarded-out children. It is a sum which has been granted 465 in Scotland for many years. I remember that twenty years ago the Glasgow Corporation were paying 4s. per week for boarded-out children, and at this moment boards of guardians here in London—Poplar for instance—are giving 5s. per week. Willesden is doing the same, and so are many others, and I would point out that these boards of guardians would never think of putting a child out with, and paying 5s. per week to a woman who was only getting 7s. 6d. per week, because they would know perfectly well that that child was not going to get the worth of the 5s. In paying 5s. in respect of the first child, you are putting the child of the soldier, who lays down his life for his country, on the same level as the child maintained by the board of guardians. Further than that, the guardians do not limit it to one child. They pay the same amount in respect of two or three or even half-a-dozen in one family.
Take the woman with two children. Here again we have an improvement on the old scale. She is to get 15s. I believe I am right in saying that the old scale was 5s., plus 1s. 6d. per child, and in addition she might get 2s. from the Patriotic Fund—that is one shilling in respect of each child. Now she is to get 15s., and I want to give full credit to the Government for what they are doing in that respect. She cannot maintain her two children on 15s. per week. It is impossible, and it means that she will have to go out to work. The children will have to be neglected, and perhaps will not grow up as they ought as a result of that neglect. Here, again, I want to lay down a principle for the Government in regard to this matter, and that principle is that the woman who is left a widow by this War, and who has children, shall be deemed to be the agent of the State, which shall pay sufficient for the board of the children, and give her a sufficient amount to keep herself and children in the comfort to which they are entitled. I do not propose to go into details. The hon. Member for Mid-Glamorgan will deal with that point more fully. But I do submit that that should be the principle which should guide the Government. I know there may be administrative difficulties, and I am quite aware of the differences in the particular state of life to which these people may belong. It is true you have the agricultural labourer at one end of the scale and at the other end you have men who have been earning £5 to £6 per week. Still, if we have some guiding 466 principle in our mind, we should try and work out that principle on the lines I have laid down—a principle which embodies the idea of justice, and which provides that no woman shall be worse off after the War than she was before.
I come now to the disablement allowance. I find that a man totally disabled is to be entitled to 14s. per week. That, again, I say is miserably inadequate. No man can live on 14s. per week, and it means that he is to be a burden to his friends and relatives. If he is going to be a burden to anybody, the burden should be borne on the broad back of the whole community. Here, again, the Government is laying down a scale which is appropriate only to the very lowest class—appropriate to the agricultural labourer, for instance. Other considerations ought to be borne in mind. No doubt there are agricultural labourers and men of that class who have joined for the War. But you are going to place every class which joins on exactly the same level. You are giving men who are animated by generous motives, men of outstanding intelligence and ability in their own class, the same as you give to an agricultural labourer. I submit it is unfair to stereotype the conditions even of the labourer because you are getting men who would not have remained agricultural labourers. And it is wrong to assume that because the sum may be sufficient for the agricultural labourer, the standard must be equally applicable to other classes. Having regard to that, I say that 14s. per week is far too small. When you come to the married men, the disparity is greater still. A married man totally disabled is to have 16s. 6d. per week, as against 14s. for the single man. That is not very flattering to the woman. It assumes, I suppose, that a man's wife can be maintained for 2s. 6d. per week. I do not know whether that is the intention, but it looks like it. At all events, 16s. 6d. is not sufficient for a married man. It was mentioned a little while ago that many of these men might be entitled1 to another 5s. per week in respect of National Insurance. But, before a man becomes entitled to that, he has to make 104 payments into the Insurance Fund. The vast bulk of the men who are now joining the Army cannot possibly have paid that, and many will not be insured at all. Even if they were insured, and if all the men got the 5s., the burden would not fall upon the State as it should do. The money would 467 come from the approved societies, and to that extent it would increase the expenditure of those societies. I feel that the charge should fall on the nation as a whole and not on the members of the approved society. The Government have no right to put that 5s. forward as a supplementary amount that is to be paid over and above the 14s. and the 16s. 6d. I come now to partial disablement. I find that 3s. 6d. up to 17s. 6d. is to be paid. Why 17s. 6d. should be paid for partial disablement and 14s. and 16s. 6d. for total disablement, I cannot make out. I should like to know what partial disablement is. It is not defined. Would the loss of an arm be partial disablement? I remember that when I was secretary of the engineers the employers used to keep expert witnesses, and those expert witnesses went round the Courts and had no hesitation in swearing, at any rate, some of them, that a man could see as well with one eye as with two.
§ Mr. BARNES
As to partial disablement, the White Paper says it is to be gauged by the man's capacity for earning a living. It these expert witnesses come before the authority, whatever it may be, and say that these men can see as well with one eye as with two, I suppose these men may be entitled to 3s. 6d. I want to lay down a principle, and I am encouraged to do that by reference to the case of the officers. I want to make a comparison, but before doing so, I want to guard myself by saying that in making a comparison with the officers I do not want to say a word or to be thought to have said anything disparaging to the officers. On the contrary, I think that the officers ought to be paid more, and paid enough to maintain them instead of being a charge on their relatives. I have nothing to say but commendation and admiration of the heroism of the officers. In every war we find they are always in front. We have such examples as that of Captain Wilson in South Africa, Colonel Burnaby, and, above all, the great soldier who is to be laid to his rest to-morrow. They have always done their duty, and have been incentives to the country as a whole. Therefore, I will say nothing which will be open to the interpretation of being disparaging to the officers. But I find that the officers' pensions are based upon an entirely different principle from the pensions of 468 the men of the rank and file. I find that a gratuity according to a scale is paid to an officer who has received a wound in action which has occasioned the loss of an eye or limb, or the use of a limb, and further it says that an officer may have twice the amount mentioned in this scale provided he loses two limbs or the use of two limbs. Moreover, the scale is paid for any bodily injury certified by the medical authority to be equivalent to the loss of a limb.
I find, according to this scale, that an officer gets from £3,500 if he is a field-marshal, down to £100 if he is a second-lieutenant. Taking the captain as a standard, he gets £250 as a gratuity immediately he meets with a wound. After getting the gratuity a pension is paid to the officer, based again upon a scale coming down to £70, which is the lowest for a second-lieutenant. My hon. Friend was wrong when he spoke of £35 as the pension for a second-lieutenant. I can find no such pension mentioned here; £70 is the lowest, £40 being paid to the widow of a second-lieutenant, that being the lowest pension possible. I am not, however, concerned with the amounts. I want to point out that so far as officers are concerned you pay the pensions upon a definite principle, that principle being that the eye or the limb of the officer can be expressed in certain definite terms of money. I ask that the eye or the limb of the man shall also be expressed in definite sums of money. It is not so expressed. There is nothing in this book, from one end to the other, giving such terms. There was nothing mentioned of it by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and I suppose he knows all about it. So far as I know there is nothing of it in the White Paper. I ask that there should be something in the White Paper, and I say that the loss of an eye or a limb of a man should have a certain value attached to it.
There is just one more point, that is the case of the mother and the sister. How is it that there is no pension for the mother or the sister? How is it that the mother of the man who comes forward in this War is to get a few shillings per week, conditioned upon a miserable stoppage from his pay, and then, if he gets killed, she is left to the chance of the attention of an unfeeling world? Why is it that she is to be left to face the workhouse gates if her son gets killed? 469 Here, again, I do not want to make a comparison, but if an officer gets killed and he leaves a widow she gets a pension. If he leaves no widow his mother gets the pension, and if he leaves neither widow nor mother then his sister or sisters get his pension. I ask that the same principle should be applied to the private—and I ask it as a right and not as a charity to be paid or withheld according to certain standards of comfort or conduct or conditions laid down by those fussy people who have been visiting working-class homes during the last three months. Nothing has riled me more than to hear the daily tales I have heard of fussy people going round visiting the homes of the poor people. I am sorry to say the religious sectary has been the worst of the whole crowd. I have Roman Catholics in my Constituency, and Roman Catholics frequently have on the walls of their houses that which indicates their particular faith. By the way, there are not many Roman Catholics on the relief committees. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] At all events there are not many in Glasgow. The Roman Catholics are the poorest part of the population. There was a case of a woman whose son went to the War in the early days. She got nothing; she was entitled to nothing from the public funds, but she was visited by a man, an agent of one of those societies of which we have heard a good deal recently, who, after asking a lot of impertinent and sometimes indelicate questions, instead of giving the woman anything went down on his marrow-bones and began to pray for her, and then told her that he had nothing to give her in the way of material aid, but gave her a tract with a preposterous picture of a lawyer going up to an apple-stall woman in London and being converted by her one of those things which are never given out in London. I protest against these people going to working-class homes in that way. Unfortunately it is still going on. I had a letter only to-day from a man in my Constituency, who is acting on behalf of a body called the United Trades and Labour War Emergency Committee, who are looking after these poor people. He says:—I hope there is not going to be the same muddle made of the allowances to widow dependants as was made of the case of the soldiers' wives and families.He goes on to give some cases, and says, in regard to one case:—The mother is a widow and he is her only son; she is entirely dependant upon him. I understand from her to-night that, her son says that the allotment has at last been kept off this week only, but she has never received anything yet. Someone called on her to-day 470 making enquiries and asking her how much profit she had off her son when he was at home. Good Heavens, what next? Tins sort of thing is getting sickening.That sums it all up—"this sort of thing is getting sickening." At all events, I am sick of the insufferable assumption of superiority on the part of the agents of these societies, and I demand that something should be done by the Government of a generous sort to help the widows and dependants of these soldiers and sailors, and that it should be paid through the Post Office, or some agency of the State, and without any interference by these people.
§ Mr. BARNES
At any rate, many women and mothers have got nothing yet. They may begin to get it now, but they have not got it yet. The cost will be great. I heard the right hon. Gentleman opposite say that he was not frightened by the cost. I hope the House generally will not be frightened by the cost. After all, taken at its worst the White Paper puts it at £88,000,000, assuming the War to last two years. £88,000,000 is a vast sum of money, but it is not a vast proportion of £1,000,000,000, and the War will cost that if it lasts two years. The White Paper says it will cost £146,000,000, spreading the sum over the whole period during which the pensions and allowances will be paid. That, again, is a vast sum, but I think we should look at it in the light of a yearly rather than a lump sum. Looking at it in that way, the White Paper puts it as a maximum sum of £8,240,000. That means 2½d. on the Income Tax.
§ Mr. BARNES
Yes, after the two years of the War, the further expenditure for pensions and State allowances is going to be £8,250,000 at the most. That is less than 2½d. on the Income Tax. I believe we can afford to pay more. I believe the country is willing to pay more; therefore I hope that we shall open our hearts and our purses and make such generous provision as will carry a message to our defenders now at the front as will stiffen their arms and gladden their hearts in the knowledge that, if they are maimed, they may at all events be sure of a decent living, and that if they fall the country will be good to those they leave behind.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
As it was at my suggestion that the Committee we are now discussing was appointed, I should like to say a few words on the subject, though I shall not go in any detail into the subject which I referred to. I need not say that the last thing anyone would do is to turn any difference of opinion into a party difference on a question of this kind. Indeed, unless the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite give me credit for being more foolish even than I think I am, the fact that I proposed this Committee at all should be a proof that I was not thinking of party advantage, for obviously it is what any Government would jump at in order to get rid of, or to make easier for themselves, a very difficult task. My idea in the formation of this Committee is justified, I think, by the speeches to which we have listened this afternoon. It seemed to me that it was utterly impossible to go really in a businesslike way into the subject in the House of Commons. I thought that the only chance of the House of Commons exercising a direct influence was that representatives of all parties in a small Committee should discuss it in a businesslike way and, if possible, come to some agreement which the Government would accept. My idea in connection with that Committee was that, so far as the Government and the official Opposition are concerned, the Members composing it should carry as much authority as you can expect in advance from any Members whom you put on any Committee. I hope that the Government would put not only Cabinet Ministers, but Cabinet Ministers whose public position would make sure that the party would more or less follow them, on the Committee, and on that understanding really, chiefly because of the very strong interest which I feel, I intended to nominate myself as one of the Committee, and I hope that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chamberlain) will also join it on our behalf. But I wish to say that, of course, depends on those who are appointed by the Government, not, I need not say, from any question of the relative importance of the Committee, but I at least have this feeling, that if we are going to thrash it out in Committee I wish to make perfectly certain that, if the Government are convinced, that will end the matter so far as the support of the Government as a whole is concerned. What I mean is that I hope they will put on the Committee Members of the Government 472 whose presence will give us security that the Government would accept the finding of it, and will carry it through so far as they are able.
I should like to say a word or two about the general question of the amount of generosity and the cost of pensions and all the rest of it in connection with this War. Everyone feels intense sympathy in regard to this War, and I know for myself that, when I was asked to go to the first recruiting meeting, I really honestly felt almost ashamed to stand up before men and urge them to go forward in this War, running risks such as had never been run before, when I myself knew that I was not going to run similar risks, and I said then, and I say now, and I feel it as strongly now as I did then, that we have no right to expect these great sacrifices on the part of these men unless we ourselves and those of us who are remaining behind are, in our own way, bearing a share of the sacrifice which we ask them to undertake. That was my feeling, and it would be very easy to get applause by expressing it, because everyone feels it. But what I felt then, and I think it was true, was that this Government, as any Government in the same circumstances would do, was guided by precedent. What they were thinking of was getting the necessary men and perhaps unconsciously thinking of getting them as cheaply for the country as they could reasonably do. That really was not the way to look upon this question. The risks are altogether out of proportion to those which a man who enlists in time of peace has to face, and in some way or other, so far as we can, we should make these men feel that we appreciate what they are doing, and as far as we can we are going to do our share too. That is my feeling. In saying that, I hope the House will not imagine that I have not a consciousness of the burden upon the country afterwards. That must be considered by those who deal with the subject quite as much as the other consideration, and I hope if I am on this Committee, though I shall certainly have before me the view that the men who are fighting now are doing more and are being asked to do more, in a sense, than in my lifetime they have ever been asked to do before, we must have some consideration for the total burden on the country, and we must also have some consideration for the effect it will have upon those who receive the pensions or whatever it may be. I think we must consider that. If I may 473 differ from the hon. Member (Mr. Barnes), I really do not agree with him in thinking that it would be for the benefit even of the widows of those of our soldiers who fall that they should be in a position in all cases in which they will never have to work again. If you are dealing with a class which has been accustomed to work, in my honest opinion, to put it beyond their necessities to do any work at all would be a very doubtful advantage to them. As regards the cost of all this, it is true it will be and must be heavy, but what is paid during the War will be the heaviest, and it will come to an end at the end of the War. As regards what is paid afterwards, though the amount is certain to be very large if we treat them generously, it is not, I think, likely—that is to say, if we go reasonably, to be a burden which the country could not with reason undertake to bear, remembering always all the circumstances in which the debt was incurred, and remembering also that it will come to an end in time. In saying this, I do not wish the House to misunderstand me. I should hate to create such a situation in this country as arose after the American Civil War. We do not want anything of that kind. But, on the other hand, I am perfectly certain that the country as a whole, and I am sure the House of Commons, will back up the Government in dealing generously, so long as they are dealing wisely, with the men who are fighting these battles for us.
I said I did not intend to refer to any details, and I do not, but there is one consideration which has occurred to me, and I put it before the House, with the reservation that I am not at all sure that when I know all the facts, even if I am on the Committee, I shall adopt it myself. But it is a consideration which I think is worth taking into account. Undoubtedly, to my mind, some of the hardest cases, whatever we do, will be the cases of men, not business men or middle-class clerks, so many of whom have given up not only large salaries, but their prospects, but well-paid artisans. The Prime Minister said the other day it seemed to him quite impossible to have anything except a flat rate. Perhaps it is. I am putting this forward with great reserve, but I wonder if it would not be possible to have, an the one hand, a fixed minimum, and, on the other, to have an ascending scale something on the principle of the Workmen's Compensation Act, for pensions and grants. I do not know whether it is pos- 474 sible or not, but I think it is something which is worth considering.
The hon. Member spoke about married men and the claims that their families have. I am inclined to think that they did not take quite enough into consideration the claims of those who have no dependants. That is my feeling. Remember how many of them are giving up situations which they may not get again, or situations which are not so good. I think we should consider them as far as we can, and this is the suggestion which I have put for the consideration of the Prime Minister or the Committee, when it comes. Ought we not to treat soldiers who come back after this War in a different way as regards employment from what we have done in the past? There are a great many sources of employment in the direct control of the Government and of public bodies. I should like to see it laid down as a principle that after this War is over, every vacancy for which an ex-soldier is suitable should be given to an ex-soldier, and that this should be made quite clear now, so that the men who enlist will understand that they will have a chance of getting employment in that way when the War is over. I am afraid I have spoken so strongly from the point of view of the claims which those who are fighting for us have, that it may be considered that I should be rather dangerous from the other point of view of responsibility towards the finances of the country. I hope not. I hope it will be possible for all of us to feel what we ought to do to these people, and at the same time to deal with it sanely and with regard to their view as well as the necessities of the country.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not think there is anything in what the right hon. Gentleman has said to which I can take exception, or, indeed, with which I am not, so far as I understood the drift of his argument, in more or less complete agreement. I hailed the suggestion that a Committee of this House should be appointed to consider this matter, not mainly because it shifted from the shoulders of the Government an onerous and very invidious responsibility, but rather because I felt, as all my colleagues did, that it was desirable that any scale of pensions and allowances for dependants which was arrived at, should be arrived at with general consent and meet with the concurrence of all parties and all sections of opinion. I am glad to think that in this discussion we have had to-day, as in 475 previous discussions, the matter has been approached not only with complete freedom from anything in the nature of Party bias, but with a large and wideminded regard to the many and very complicated interests which are involved. All of us wish to deal justly and generously with the dependants of those who are fighting for our cause. On that point, of course, there is no difference of opinion and there is no difference of temperature in the sentiment which universally prevails, but, as the right hon. Gentleman has very properly reminded us, in the application of that generous desire we must have regard to two other very important considerations. The first is the burden, particularly the permanent burden, which is cast upon the resources of the country; and the next, which is not less important, the real, permanent, abiding interest of those in whose favour their generosity is exercised.
With regard to the Committee, I was very glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said—that he himself was prepared to sit upon it. I may say that while we most of us—indeed, all of us—are occupied and preoccupied with the cares of administration, which leave us very little time for other matters, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be a member of this Committee—a a man qualified in every way to represent the Government and to command the confidence of the House in an investigation if this kind. I hope—indeed, I am sure—the Committee will approach the consideration of this matter keeping in view all its various aspects. I am not wedded, nor is the Government wedded, to the precise figures of the scale which has been presented to Parliament in the White Paper, though I would ask the House to believe that they were not arrived at except after very long and very mature consideration, with the assistance of all the best experts whose services we could command, and with a genuine desire on the part of all concerned to make the most liberal provision that can be made consistently with the interests of the State and those of the persons concerned. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and my hon. Friend (Mr. Barnes), I do not think that, in view of the fact that this Committee is going to review the matter in all its details, minute discussion on particular points at this stage would be of real public advantage. I think the House will feel that 476 we are dealing now with very delicate matters of calculation and adjustment, on which the skilled tribunal it is proposed to appoint will be better qualified to decide than the House at large can be.
I will only make this general observation, which I am sure the Committee will find justified when it comes to review the evidence, that in regard to the separation allowance in all its incidence and application, and in regard to the pensions to widows and children and dependants, and compensation for disablement, the scale put forward on behalf of the Government is not merely more liberal than any scale we have been accustomed to in the past in this country, but it is almost immeasurably more generous than the scale that prevails in any other country of the belligerents engaged in this War. I do not wish to say that shows that it goes far enough, and that it does not require on any particular point readjustment and reconsideration. It shows the spirit in which it has been drawn up, and which. I am sure, is shared in every quarter of the House, and by every section and kind of opinion in the country. The right hon. Gentleman referred to what took place at the end of the Civil War in America, when an enormous addition was made to the permanent expenditure of the country by the grant of pensions, which I think not only educated American opinion now, but opinion without distinction of party regards as having involved great abuses and a considerable waste of public money. I wish that we should guard ourselves against any danger of that kind now. I would repeat and emphasise the remark made by the right hon. Gentleman just now, and which I think I anticipated, although perhaps I did not express it very well, in the Debate on the Address, namely, that you must in dealing with the dependants of those who have laid down their lives in the War have regard to their own interests as well as to the other interests involved. I should not like it to be thought or drawn as an inference that what has been said of 5s., 7s. 6d. or 10s., or whatever amount you like, represents anything like a dividing line of principle. I do not think it does. It is all a question of degree. We must have regard to the fact that a considerable number of those young widows are without children and are not therefore burdened with the cares of maternity, and that they have been in the habit of working and would naturally 477 prefer to work as honourable and independent persons who gain their own livelihood and add to their own comforts.
I am not criticising for a moment the figure at which you ought to fix the amount, but in fixing it you must have regard to the effect both upon herself and her fellow women in the labour market with whom she competes. If you are going to adopt the rough and ready expedient, which was rather foreshadowed than advocated by my hon. Friend the Member for the Blackfriars Division, of patting them all in a position in which they need not work at all—that is the result of some of the schemes which have been suggested—it would be a very bad thing for them and the community. We all have to work—or, at least, we ought all to work—in our different spheres and different degrees. I am perfectly certain that my hon. Friends will agree with me that nothing could be worse in the interest of the working class, or any other classes of the community, than that you should establish a section of them in a position of ease and security in which they need not work at all. It would not be in the interest of their class or in the interest of the State; but I do not think the danger is a real one. I do not think that the people who take these things into view ought to be exposed to the imputation that they are wanting in generosity or in consideration for the dependants of our soldiers and sailors. I have accepted the amplification of the words of the Motion suggested by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, so as to make sure that it includes officers as well as men, and includes also not only those disabled by wounds but by disease arising out of or connected with the War. I have gladly accepted these extensions in the language of the Motion, and therefore of the scope of the reference to the Committee. I hope the House will agree that the numerous delicate points of detail-many of which have been foreshadowed in the course of the Debate—can safely be left to the decision of a representative Committee of this House. I can assure the House that the Government will accept and act upon the decision of that Committee with perfect loyalty.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I should like to direct the special attention of the Committee to the case of the disabled in addition to the case of the widows and dependants, of whom so much has been said in the course of the discussion. I think the claims of the particular people who are 478 disabled should appeal to us with special force. First of all, there is, apart from the injury itself, the weight of the misfortune from the economic point of view. A disabled man ceases to be able to earn money in the same way as others who are not suffering from physical disability, and not only that,, but he becomes in some quarter a great charge with his family if he has one. He consumes just as before, but he makes nothing. In addition to that he often needs surgical appliances, artificial limbs, and special care of one sort or another, if he has suffered injury to the spine. He falls precisely into the class of persons who require special comforts which are of immense importance. Probably there is no case in which money is of more importance than the case of a man who has suffered some injury which requires surgical treatment. The disabled men are those who have fought and suffered for their country, and I think we ought to recognise that the obligation which we owe to them is continuous. There is nothing more tragic in the consequences of war than the case of a young man who has been fighting, giving his strength and vigour for the cause of his country, and who is disabled for life. I suppose everyone during the past few weeks has been much moved to see young men in the height of their strength going to fight, and hearing afterwards that they have been killed or wounded. I find it easier to contemplate with equanimity the death of such a man than his permanent disablement. There is something inconceivably tragic in the case of men who suffer in this way. Years pass on, and men return from the War to resume their normal occupations, but disabled men cannot do that. We are told that we shall return to the squalor of party politics. I do not wish to use that language, but I seem in the face of what is occurring to have lost my style. I shall not be sorry when we do come back to our normal occupations. But the unhappy man who has lost an arm or a leg, or whose spine has been injured, will still be a disabled man. I think, therefore, we ought to consider the case of these men with a special degree of sympathy. I hope we shall not lack in generosity in relieving them altogether of the crushing anxiety of poverty on the top of what must be in any case a burden almost too heavy to be borne.
There is another point. I hope that the assistance to disabled men may be given immediately they leave hospital and come upon their own resources. It is sad 479 that there should be any interval during which they are hanging about expecting something to be done for them, when they do not quite know what is going to be done. I do not think that that is contemplated, but it happens sometimes through defective machinery. Great care should be taken that not the slightest interval is allowed to elapse. Of course, we must have different scales of assistance in proportion to the disablement, but I hope that there will not be any unseemly dispute because it sometimes happens that a man gets better than has been anticipated, and in the course of a year or two a cure may be effected. I hope that we will make up our minds to have the full loss upon such cases. There would be nothing more unseemly than that, because in a year or two afterwards a man has been trying to do something, and has been earning little money, some authority should come down on him with a view to having a reduction of the pension from the higher to the lower scale. Whatever pension is arrived at, after a reasonable period, ought to be at a fixed rate for life, even if he does get unexpectedly better or does find some way of earning money which was not anticipated. It does much harm that the Government should do generous things in an ungenerous way. The manner of doing such things is almost as important as the substance. I commend most earnestly to the attention of the Committee the case of the disabled men, and I am sure that if they act generously in that respect they will carry out the wishes of the people of this country.
§ Mr. DAWES
I hope that the Committee will take into very early consideration the question of the Regulations, which have already been issued by the War Office, in respect of dependants other than wives and families. I do not wish capriciously to criticise the Regulations, but as a member of the London Pensions Committee I may say that we have already adjudicated upon from 150 to 200 of these cases and have found already certain anomalies which we think the Government should remedy as soon as possible. The dependants under the Regulations fall under two heads. First of all there are those under Section 2, Sub-section (a)—the father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, stepfather, stepmother, grandsons, granddaughters, brothers, sisters, and half-brothers and sisters. But there 480 are other cases which are not taken into account at all. Though the stepmother is mentioned, yet the aunt is not, and we have had cases where for some years the nephew has been supporting the aunt, and in these cases they would not give any assistance.
We had a very serious case of a foster-mother. The soldier lived with the foster-mother since he was five years old. In that case we were unable to recommend any allowance, because this person did not come within the actual scope of the persons mentioned in the Sub-section. Then there is a practical difficulty of the degree of dependency. In many cases the soldier has been making an allowance of 10s. or 12s. or more per week. As was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Fulham, there should be uniformity of some sort in the instructions given to pension officers. It is quite clear that no such instructions as to uniformity have been given at all. It is obvious to every Member of this House that, whether there is actual dependency or not, yet to take away in one case 20s. a week from the contribution to the expenses of the family, even after deducting 7s. or 8s. for maintenance, is a very serious matter. Yet in cases of that kind, and in cases where 13s. and 14s. is paid—in one case 14s. was regularly paid, though the son was not actually living at home—the pension officer reports that those persons were not dependants. I say that to take away such a sum at once by saying that there is no dependency is a very serious business in that household. I can give another case where the pension officer reports that the wages of the whole family are 35s. to £2 a week, and he recommends an allowance of 6s. 6d. a week as dependency. This shows the want of uniformity.
Then comes the question of the amount to be allowed. The hon. Member for Blackfriars mentioned the case of someone who was invalided and the question was asked what profit had been made out of that man. That is the question which the pension officer will have to put, so that he can estimate something like the amount which the man cost the dependants. For instance, the amount might be 8s. or 9s., but, before you could discover what the amount should be, the responsible officer would have to ascertain what the cost was. We have already found that in the case of London the estimates of 481 pension officers have varied from as much as from 12s. as the cost of a man down to as little as 6s. 2d. In the case of old age pensions we always reckon the cost of maintenance somewhere between 6s. and 8s. a week, and though I suppose that for a young man you would charge perhaps more than for a pensioner, yet the pensioner is living always at home, whereas the soldier when at home would probably lake some of his meals outside. One would have thought that something like 6s. or 8s. a week in the different parts of London would be sufficient. I would urge the War Office to give some sort of instruction to pension officers, otherwise they will get no sort of uniformity at all. It is extremely difficult for a Committee to come to any conclusion unless some rule is laid down. It has been done for some years now in the case of old age pensions, and there ought not to be such a variation as between 6s. and 12s. There is also the second question of the persons who come under Sub-section (b) of Section 2, the woman who has been entirely dependent for her maintenance upon the man and otherwise would be destitute. We have had a case this week of a woman who has been living with a man. Both have been earning money. The man was going to marry the woman, but had to leave suddenly for the War. She was expecting to have a child. In that case we were absolutely barred from recommending anything because at the time of enlistment, and for a reasonable period before, that woman was not entirely dependent on the man. Then again she had got to be destitute without what he allowed her. I hope that in those cases also the scope will be a little bit enlarged. It is quite obvious that one can conceive cases, such as we have already had before us, of women who, though earning a little money before, were maintained by the soldier, and yet could not be said to be entirely dependent on him because she was earning two or three shillings a week. I quite understand that it was not easy to frame these regulations, and the War Office had to do the best they could at very short notice, but I do hope that either the Committee or the War Office, if they can do it, will consider these two or three practical difficulties which we have had before us already, and which I venture to bring before the notice of the Government.
§ Colonel YATE
I will not follow the hon. Member opposite into the details of the payments to be made. As the Prime 482 Minister has said we are all imbued with the generous desire to deal adequately with this question. As the Member for Blackfriars has said, we are all in favour of liberality, and when the matter comes before the Committee all these little questions can be adequately and favourably settled. I should like to express my thanks to the Prime Minister for including the question of pensions of officers with that of pensions for men. Are we to understand that the Motion for this evening has been altered to the case of officers and men instead of simply the case of men?
§ Colonel YATE
As regards the officers, I do not know whether the House knows that there has been practically little change in the scale of allowances since they were first fixed in 1830. Slight increases were granted in 1881, but they were very small, and the scale of 1830 is practically in force at the present time. There are one or two questions connected with officers' pensions and allowances which I would like to bring forward in the hope that the Committee will inquire into them. In the case of ordinary pensions there is always an inquiry made into the private circumstances of the widow, or the applicant for the pension, but when once this has been settled I do not think that these inquiries need be pursued month after month and year after year, as they are at present. It is very burdensome to the widow. There is a clause in the pension papers that the poor unfortunate widow has to sign that "My private income from all sources, including personal earnings and voluntary allowances, from relations and friends, does not exceed so-and-so." That has to be signed whenever she draws her pension. Personal earnings and voluntary allowances are extremely precarious sources of supply to the widow. I hope and believe that when the Committee, come to make inquiries they will take this question into consideration. Then, again, the widow is always compelled to sign her pension papers before a witness before the pension is paid. Where these pensions are drawn through a bank the bank can be trusted, I think, to see that everything is properly done, and if the widow is compelled to sign once a year, surely that is sufficient, and she should be saved the vast amount of trouble and inconvenience which is now involved in many cases. These are small things, but I think that, at any rate, a certain 483 amount of latitude should be allowed. Then there is an annual statement required from every officer's widow that her income from capital has not increased during the year. As nothing is given to her if her income or her capital is decreased during the year I cannot see why all these little questions are asked year after year.
There is another very important thing which was referred to by the right hon. Member for Fulham. In all cases of pensions a widow should be given some gratuity, whatever it is, at the time. It is most important that she should have some little money. It has been given now in cases of officers killed in battle, but in the case of ordinary pensions that is not done, and I think that it would be right in all cases to give some little sum at the time of the bereavement. I am glad to say that the Prime Minister gave us hope the other day that the pay of officers would shortly be increased. The pension scale is based on the scale of pay, and if the scale of pay is altered I trust that the scale of pension will be adequately altered so as to work in a more liberal manner. But there are not only widows whom we have to consider, but the dependants of officers. Here is a very sad case which was brought to my notice this morning. A widow of an officer in a Cavalry regiment, an old lady, got a pension of £50 per year. She spent a little legacy from her grandfather on educating her son and getting him through Sandhurst into the Army. That son went out and served in Africa, and the Colonies, and places of that sort, to earn sufficient money to give to his mother some allowance over her £50. The son was killed in battle the other day, and the lady was left with only her £50 per year. Under the ordinary rule I know that no widow is entitled to a double pension in respect of her son and husband, yet I trust there will be a certain amount of elasticity allowed, and that the central authority in special cases will be in a position to give some increased allowance where necessary, and not be bound by red tape. The hon. Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) mentioned the case of second lieutenants' pensions and gratuities. I have the list of pensions and of gratuities for wounded, and I see that the gratuities are to be followed by pensions if the effects are permanent. In the case of a second lieutenant the gratuity is only from £25 to £100, while the pensions 484 for very severe and permanent injury are ranged from £35 to £70. In the case of a second lieutenant who is permanently disabled, the £70 does not give him 30s. per week, and I submit that a man in the position of second lieutenant ought to have more than 30s. per week. I have every hope that the Committee which will deal with this question of pensions for officers' widows and orphans will be enabled to put the whole question of allowances and pensions on a really satisfactory basis.
§ Mr. BRACE
I very reluctantly accepted the view of this matter being referred to a Committee in the first instance. The speeches, particularly the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and the speech of the Prime Minister, show that this Committee is to be clothed with great authority; in fact, the Government is pledged to accepting the findings of the Committee, and to a very great degree that means that the House of Commons is also pledged. On a matter so important as this I would have preferred that the House of Commons itself should have been the authority for considering the matter, and that it would not have been thought improper for the House of Commons to review and to amend, without either the Government or the Committee feeling themselves aggrieved if the majority of this House came to the conclusion that the schedule of rates that they recommended were not such as should be finally adopted. I am still in doubt as to what the reference, with the Amendment accepted by the Prime Minister, really means. I understand from the Prime Minister that the Committee will take into consideration the question of officers as well as men. What I want to know from the Government, and I put it by way of direct question, is, whether this Committee is clothed with authority for dealing with the separation allowances of our soldiers-and our soldiers' families, in the absence of the men at the front. If this Committee is not clothed with that authority, is it the intention of the Government to set up another Committee; if not, is the Government's scale the final word so far as the Government is concerned, and is it supposed to be the last word of the House of Commons on the question of separation allowances to the wives and families of soldiers now braving dangers in face of the enemy and fighting in the trenches at the front?
485 I am not at all satisfied with the rate of payment which is proposed by the Government. I hope that it will not be thought that I desire to stand in any isolated position, or that I want to embarrass the Government of the nation at this juncture and in face of the terrible War that we are all anxious to carry to a successful issue; but, as a representative of labour, with a series of resolutions of representative conferences behind me, I am bound to put to this House the fact that organised labour expects considerably more than this 12s. 6d. per week for the maintenance of the wife—12s. 6d. for the maintenance of the family—while the husband is about the nation's business. It is a matter of impossibility for our people to live upon any such rate as is proposed. I was gratified to hear yesterday from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we have, broadly, 2,000,000 men bearing arms and serving the nation. I have done my part, in conjunction with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and others, in getting recruits. The men who have recruited accepted at its full face value the declaration, "Go and fight the nation's battles, and the nation will look after your families." It is upon the full face value of that undertaking that men have left their well-paid occupations and have arrived in their hundreds of thousands to serve the King; and it is because, in my judgment, the proposals of the Government fall far short of that declaration that I am anxious to put the view of our trade organisations. We say that we ought to have at least one pound a week for every home, and we take the home as the unit for this purpose. The home has to be maintained; you cannot maintain a home on less than one pound a week in great industrial centres. In those portions of the industrial centres with which I am personally acquainted rents range from 5s. to 9s. per week.
How is it possible to maintain a home on less than one pound a week, paying any such rent as that? Therefore we say that the women and children ought to have at least one pound a week, so that the home may be carried on and kept out of debt. The man who goes to battle for his nation has a right to come back, if he is spared to come back, and find that his home is not weighed down by a debt that will take the rest of his life to pay, but is as free from debt as it was when he left to serve his country. We say it is essential that there 486 should be a minimum of one pound a week for the home. I am not talking about one pound a week for such a class as agricultural labourers. I am talking about those who earn much larger wages than do agricultural labourers. If acareful analysis is made of the personnel of the Army at the present day, it will be found that the agricultural workers in the Army are an infinitesimal number compared with those who join from the industries to which I have referred. Apart from the fact that the agricultural workers do not form so large a portion of the Army as those who come from the centres of industry, it is the fact that we have not been able to move the agricultural districts to that enthusiasm which we have experienced in great towns. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I am speaking from experience. It is easy for hon. Members to say "No, no!" but I may state that I have been engaged on the work, and I am speaking from my own knowledge. [HON. MEMBERS: "SO are we!"] There are thirteen counties in Wales, and the two great industrial counties of Glamorgan and Monmouth represent two-thirds of the enlisting population. There are between the ages of twenty and thirty-five years in the thirteen counties of Wales and Monmouth 315,073, and out of that number Glamorgan has 158,132 and Monmouth 54,530. Therefore to base the payment upon the agricultural area basis would be infinitely unfair to the large bodies of recruits that come from those counties. Speaking from my own experience, I have found the agricultural districts very stiff to move indeed, as many of my hon. Friends who have been at this work will be able to testify.
We say that £1 a week ought to form the minimum payment for the home; that £1 a week, without any deduction from the pay of the person serving at the front, ought to be paid to the wives and £1 per week to widows or other dependants whose husbands or sons may be killed in the War or may die of wounds received, or disease contracted; £1 a week to those who may be disabled for life, or, if partially disabled, until they are fully recovered from their injuries; and, in addition to this, we say that a minimum of 3s. 6d. a week should be paid for each child under working age. The districts with which I am concerned are those where, it may be fairly stated, substantial wages are earned. I represent the mining industry. There are between 150,000 and 487 200,000 mining men who have been recruited for the Army. Those are men who may fairly be described as big-wage men, the nature of their calling entitling them to big wages. We know the danger of the mining industry, yet it cannot be said that a man who leaves the mining industry to serve in the War is migrating from a deadly to a less deadly occupation. We say that if the man was entitled to have a substantial wage because of the arduous character and danger of his calling, surely he is entitled, in going to fight on behalf of his nation with all the risks of battle, to have for his wife and for his children a separation allowance which will allow the family to be reared in respectability. The captains of industry are not proverbially philanthropic. They know the value of things, and it is worthy of note that, in connection with this War, in a number of instances, they have created or laid down conditions which ought to prevail. At a number of collieries they handsomely make the allowance of 10s. per wife and 1s. per child for each of their workmen who leaves to join the Army.
I say quite frankly, while acknowledging the very fine public spirit of the employers in what they have done in this respect, that it is one of the things that I do not care for; I think the nation itself ought to do the right thing in this matter, and not make necessary what is done by employers. The scale adopted by the employers in a number of instances, plus the 12s. 6d. given by the War Office, gives a total of £1 2s. 6d. The scale that I venture to submit to the House, and which I hope the Committee will adopt, will be £1 to a wife or widow, and therefore 2s. 6d. a week less than the combined industrial and War Office allowances recognised as a necessary payment, in the absence of the worker heroically fighting his nation's battle. For the wife and child the War Office scale is 15s., but the employer, the great captain of industry, out of regard for what he knows to be the minimum that his workman's family ought to have, makes it up to £1 6s., and all we are asking in the scale I am suggesting is £1 3s. 6d. Therefore, we are much more modest in our proposal than is the great industrial chief in his dealing with his people. The same thing works out if the extra number of children is taken into consideration. The White Paper recognises this particular principle, because it provides that the widow and children of any seaman, 488 marine, or soldier, who at the date of his death were in receipt of a separation allowance, will continue to receive it for twenty-six weeks after the notification of his death. Why twenty-six weeks? What is it that comes in at the end of twenty-six weeks that makes it unnecessary to continue the same payment? That is one of the things most difficult to appreciate. If it is essential for the upkeep of the home and for the rearing of the children that the same payment must be made for those twenty-six weeks after the father has been killed, surely the same argument holds good for the weeks that come after. I see no point at all in allocating the allowance simply for twenty-six weeks after the death. We, therefore, say that the same separation allowance should be continued to the home as the home received when the breadwinner was in the trenches fighting the battles of the nation. This is a perfectly simple proposition, and this is a proposition that organised labour expects this House to accept. We are prepared to rally to the Flag, and if you give us this scale, my colleagues and myself will find as many Army corps as you require, but, without this scale, believe me it is very difficult. What is behind this scale of which I am speaking? The Miners Federation of Great Britain unanimously resolved that this was the minimum scale that Parliament ought to ask their men to accept, when they are giving up their industry and the possibility of their earnings and rallying to the nation's Flag.
I have here a letter from a father who has three sons who have gone to the front. The father is disabled. His eldest son brought to the home £2 4s. per week, and the second £1 10s., and the third son £1 4s., totalling £4 18s. Talk about your scales, even if you placed the father and mother in exactly the same category as you do the wife, to maintain a home whose breadwinners have been earning such money as that upon the Government allowance is impossible. To suggest it is simply to talk about something that cannot be done, and which is a physical impossibility. There is behind all this a further proposition; I recognise that it is going to be a substantial charge upon the Exchequer. Why should it not be? Who is going to keep them? Are they going to depend on the charity of friends, or are they to go about begging? If it is too much for the nation to keep them how can any private body 489 of people do so? If the whole nation cannot shoulder the responsibility of providing for our soldiers and their families how can it be expected that any system privately undertaken can do so? It seems to me that when we talk about the cost we fail to remember that the boys and girls we are talking about form after all the nation's real wealth. They are the men and women of the future. The wastage of our people, conjointly with those of other nations, which will occur in this War will be great enough, and if we are going to cancel it in some degree, then we must be sure that we are going to raise up a Nation from the present boys and girls of a very noble character and of a very high standard. How can that be done without proper allowances? We of the labour party are of opinion that when the nation accepts that responsibility it is undertaking perhaps the best investment it could undertake. Let the House not forget that it will be a diminishing responsibility. We are not asking you to endow with pensions the children's children. The separation allowances and the pensions that we are talking about will cease with the death of the widow and will cease at a certain age for the boys and girls, when they can make their own provision. Therefore it is not so substantial as anything in the shape of a great permanent debt.
Whatever the cost may be I am not going to worry about, and I do not think this House ought to do so either. It would have been good argument perhaps to have considered the cost before we ventured on the War, but we have undertaken the War and we could not help undertaking the War. I stand here as one who has been attempting to defend this country in connection with this War. I am certain that we could not keep out of the War with any honour to ourselves. Consequently we are in it whether we like it or not, and to talk about the cost is to misconceive the whole problem. We are in the War now and we could not stay out. We must accept the responsibilities of the War, and it is as much an obligation on this House to accept the obligations of those women and those children as it is to give our men the very best cannon and the very best rifles and the very best ammunition that science can design and that money can purchase when they are waging battle for us in the trenches in Belgium and France. I shall want to know, and I hope I am not putting it offensively or too high, from the 490 Government, do they intend to broaden the terms of reference, so that this Committee may consider the separation allowance as well as the pensions? If they will not I shall be bound to take some action before the end of the Sitting to get in some kind of amendment, because I would be misleading the House and I would not be representing the great body of organised labour in this country if I did not say that we cannot accept the scale which the Government propose as satisfactory. We hope an effort will be made cither by the Committee that is being empanelled, or by this House after that Committee makes its report, to amend the scale in a direction which will be fair and just and honourable to the brave men and officers alike who are giving their lives and their blood for this country.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
I desire, if I may, to offer one or two quite general remarks because I think the House will realise as regards details cither of the cases, or as to the scale, it is really quite impossible for this House of Commons to deal with minute matters like that, and that those are matters which, as apart from the principle, have got to be left to the Committee, and are best left to it once the principles themselves are established. I should like just to emphasise one or two points, because they are of quite unusual importance in a case of this kind. I can hardly express myself as too much gratified at the personnel which the Prime Minister says will compose the Committee, and I do so for an especial reason. If there is one thing that is really necessary from the point of view of the welfare of the country it is that the findings of the Committee should be final, and that there should be no chopping and changing from week to week and from day to day. I am acting on the words of the Prime Minister a few days ago when he said that he asked for criticism if it was made in all good faith and for the sake of the public welfare. Therefore I am sure the House will be with me when I say that this Committee when it is set up should take warning by what has happened with regard to the scale of allowances. We first of all had a scale with which nearly everyone was familiar and which came out early at the beginning of the War. We were then told that the whole question of allotments was to be unified and that they were all to be compulsory; that the wife of everyone who was enlisting and serving, whether abroad or at home, was to receive the same amount, 491 and that complications were to be done away with. Soon after that a new and revised scale of allowances was brought out. The week was not out when there was another shift back again, some of the allowances being optional and some compulsory. An extraordinary dilemma was placed upon all those who were helping because they were put in this position. Supposing you had two wives of soldiers at the front, to one of whom an allotment was made and to the other of whom an allotment was not made, the deficiency in the second case was to be made up out of the voluntary fund, and you had an absolute inducement to the first man to discontinue the allotment. Whichever way it is regarded it is a perfectly absurd position.
Then, lastly, there was again a change back in another direction. I am not quite sure of my facts, but I am pretty certain now that there is no compulsory allotment of any sort or kind at all for men at home. What happened when we had this last change, and I am giving it as an instance of why we do wish for finality now whatever has been done in the past—what happened on the last change? No allotment is to be compulsory, but in a leaflet which has got the extraordinary heading of "Increased Allowances" when really it informs wives that allotments are no longer to be compulsory and no increase of allowance is announced in it, the wives themselves are asked practically to dun their husbands for part of their small pay when they are at the front. If I may say so the wife of any soldier on service is put in a perfectly invidious and impossible position for any woman who has any sympathy with her husband in the trials he has undergone. I am afraid I have put this strongly, but I put it strongly for two reasons. Those of us who have been concerned in dealing with these women and in doing our best for them have found how difficult the whole situation was made, not for us (because that did not matter) but for them. You found that they did not know from day to day what was going to happen, and consequently the whole work of dealing with them with consideration and with propriety was made enormously more difficult.
Therefore I hope, and I press this point, that whatever conclusions the Committee may arrive at now with regard to pensions there may be no changes of the kind with which we have been all so unfortunately familiar in the case of allot- 492 ments. The other point I would urge is this, that when they arrange their scales and when they come to their decision in regard to the amount, that the Committee or the Government will see that whatever payment is to be made at all is paid quickly, and that there is no delay. That is again a most unfortunate feature of what has been happening in the past. Again I hope that no one will think I am washing to criticise unfairly or unduly, but those of us who have had experience of this matter feel that it should not be kept secret. The Financial Secretary to the War Office the other day said that, as distinct from perhaps a month ago, or practically no cases at all now at this moment, in which payments were behindhand. For some months I was responsible partly for organising and later on for helping to administer the committee dealing with these cases in one of our big towns. I wired to them to find out exactly how the case was, and I got this answer:—Five thousand and thirty-four dependants' cases helped in the week ending 7th November and impossible quite to tell how many of them are supplementary grants, how many due to actual non-payments only, but many hundreds outstanding.That was a telegram received this afternoon from those who, like myself, are engaged in actually dealing with these cases day by day. The motto of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association is, Bis dat qui cito dat—"He gives twice who gives quickly." I wish the War Office could have adopted that motto themselves and acted up to it in their administration. Take the case of the twenty-six weeks' allowance to the widows of those whose deaths have been announced. We acknowledge very gratefully that the system of giving twenty-six weeks' allowance has been accepted and is now established. But again, I do not know how long it took to get it accepted and established. I wrote from the committee to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) urging him, in the midst of his other duties, to press this matter of the twenty-six weeks' allowance. He did so, but it took a considerable time. All the authorities were "in favour of it," but they "could not get it done." Meanwhile, we did it ourselves locally, and carried it through, but we did it at our own risk, not knowing whether it would be approved or not. Therefore we hope that there will be no chopping and changing, and that arrangements will be devised whereby the payments will be made quickly and not delayed.
493 There are many points of criticism in detail, but I purposely refrain from dealing with anything of that kind. There is, however, one other main point that I would like to press upon the Government, and that is that they should have some Committee to consider the outstanding question of the allowances. I do not wish necessarily to suggest—I am not certain that it would be wise—that the present Committee should be asked to deal with this question in addition to that of pensions. In some respects that would be very undesirable. A quick decision is needed with regard to pensions, and it is not wise, by overloading the Committee, to prevent a quick decision from being reached. Of course there might be an Interim Report, as my right hon. Friend suggests. There are a large number of outstanding points with regard to the allowances. I will not take up the time of the House by going too much into detail, and anything I say in that direction is merely by way of illustration. The whole question of allotments and deductions ought really to be taken in hand, with more practical knowledge than hitherto of the cases as they come up in the locality. Perhaps the Financial Secretary to the War Office will not mind my criticising what he says. I do it in no spirit of hostility. To say that the common scale of allotment of 3s. 6d. can be left optional, because, after all, there is a common law obligation on every man to maintain his wife and family, seems to me—I put it with all courtesy—an extraordinarily wrong way of approaching the question. When, a year or two ago, I went from one Poor Law institution to another, I came upon the common law obligation of maintaining wife and family, and perhaps it was reasonable to apply it where the man was getting 25s. or 30s. a week; but when a payment of some 7s. a week is being made to a soldier it is really out of place to talk about the common law obligation of maintaining wife and family, just as is done in every Poor Law institution in the country.
§ Mr. HAROLD BAKER
The point is that the obligation does exist. In fact, wives do enforce it, and you cannot prevent them from enforcing it. I was asked a question to-day as to the proper procedure. You cannot get away from that obligation.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
The hon. Member says that wives do often enforce it. I do not quite understand to what that is intended to be an answer. Because 494 some do it are all to be encouraged to enforce the common law obligation against a payment of 7s. a week? I wish I could take the Financial Secretary to visit some of these wives. He would find that the vast majority—probably 90 per cent.—would look with horror upon having to try to enforce that common law obligation against their husbands. If I speak with heat, it is because I have seen these women, have dealt with them, and know the facts from the practical point of view. If the common law obligation is defended on that ground, why was an allotment ever made compulsory at all? I do not want to labour the point in a controversial way. Take one other matter which really needs settling. I will give one instance which has been told me by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chamberlain). A non-commissioned officer gets a commission for conspicuous gallantry in the field coupled with general ability. He not only gets a commission, but is decorated as well. I put the case in the most general terms, because the wife is a woman of great pride and does not want the case identified. What happens? His allowance stops, and his wife has absolutely nothing to live upon until, he now being a commissioned officer, the system affecting commissioned officers is applied. A woman of that kind would not go to get help. She had to be sought out and made to receive help. I do not give the case in more detail, because, although she took help unwillingly, and, as it were, under compulsion, having gone out to service to try to get a little addition to eke out her means, she did not want her case made public, being proud of what her husband had done. My right hon. Friend suggests a solution, and that is that the allowances should be continued, if need be, in just the same way as they have been in regard to dependants. Perhaps I might claim the Prime Minister's attention to that case. There are also cases affecting stepchildren; children of unmarried mothers, and extra allowances in specific parts of the country. There are half-a-dozen categories of cases which have come up. I think the question of allowances, therefore, ought to be brought under review, if not by this Committee—and I do not think that that would be wise—by some other authority, so that grievances, both as to the allowances themselves and the machinery by which they are paid could be remedied and the entire system made really good.
495 I have criticised some matters, and I hope the House will believe that my only reason is that having myself been largely responsible for looking after some 40,000 wives and children, I feel the situation acutely. Not only does one feel the situation acutely, but he realises that if men are necessary for the War, we shall get the best men and get them most quickly if they know that these arrangements are working without flaw or hitch. Unlike the last speaker (Mr. Brace), I do not think that we ought to disregard the question of cost entirely. I do not think that anyone who has the responsibility upon his shoulders can really do that. But I think that generosity in this case pays. It is quite conceivable that, if our administration is good and the principles are generous, the response may be such as in itself to help shorten the duration of the War. All these things have their influence in the scale of cents. I have something of the Treasury mind myself, having worked in that Department, and I have this feeling also: I say freely on this side of the House,, that I myself, as an individual, have always hated expenditure upon armaments; I recognise that they are necessary; I have strongly advocated increases, but I hate the expenditure none the less. It may be likely that out of this War we may get a limitation of this vast annual expenditure on armaments. It is quite impossible to get it for this country only, but there may be more chance than ever there has been in the past of getting some mutual limitation of this expenditure. If so, I think we can look forward to what must be a heavy expenditure on pensions, as one of the best monuments that a lamentable War like this can leave behind it, a monument that we have done our best to mitigate the effects of the evils it has caused.
§ Mr. DENMAN
I wish to refer to the question of separation allowances and the possibility of adding to the terms of reference words which will cause the Committee to consider that question. I think that many Members must have noticed with some surprise that the terms of reference excluded the question of separation allowances, seeing that in last week's Debate the question was one of three matters under discussion, and even this afternoon the Prime Minister, in speaking of this Committee, said that it would have the whole of the subject under review. I do 496 not want to deal with the question in detail, but I want to give a prima facie case for including the subject within the terms of reference. Everybody who has taken any part in the work of recruiting must have come across the practical difficulties with which recruiters are faced owing to the smallness of these allowances. You interview in the recruiting office a man who tells you that he is getting 40s. a week, out of which he allows his mother or his wife 30s.; when he asks what he will get if he goes on service, and you tell him 12s. 6d. if he has no child, or 15s. if he has a child, you are apt to send him away sad. He is willing to make any sacrifices himself, but it is asking him to sacrifice his family to an extent that he really cannot see his way to do. Of course, we all agree in principle upon this. May I just refer to the principle which was laid down by the Leader of the Opposition the other night? He asserted that:—Men who are risking their lives for us are taking risk enough. It is our duty as far as possible—I do not suggest it is quite possible—to consider that it in a big enough sacrifice for them, and that we ought to try to save them from having to make pecuniary sacrifices—as well.The right hon. Gentleman, as well as everybody, understood that this was rather an ideal state, and that we cannot possibly so act by the dependants of the soldiers and sailors as to prevent pecuniary sacrifices in some shape. But when we are getting, as we have been told this evening, the more highly paid artisans to enlist I would like to suggest that there is a principle which would allow for increase of allowance without causing a person to profit by that allowance. We all know, even under the existing scale, that there are some families who are better off than when the man was at home at work. We do not want to reproduce that condition. I suggest a principle that might reasonably govern our action in this matter, and that is that we should place the family in the same economic position as when the man is at home in work—with the proviso: provided that the total sum paid to the dependants shall not be more than £1 nor less than the existing scale. I am leaving out of account the allowances to the children. I am aware that, as has been said, it is a very difficult matter to differentiate in the cases and to try and judge a case on its merits. But I am bound to say that I rather agree with the Leader of the Opposition and with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham that differentiation is possible, because we are doing 497 it now in the case of the dependants, the wives and the children, and that differentiation would really be confined within limits, because when you have your maximum of £1 you would there be dealing with persons receiving maximum wages of 30s. and upwards. You would therefore be paying your maximum without any difficulty to persons who in ordinary times would be receiving from their husbands 30s. or upwards weekly. The Committee will, of course, if it is allowed to consider the subject, consider all that in detail.
We have been told that it will be very expensive to increase these scales. The Chancellor of the Exchequer last night spoke of the figure of £65,000,000. He asserted that was the cost of separation allowances in one year. I think there must be some mistake about that figure. I find it impossible to bring any agreement between that figure and the figure of the actuary as recorded in the White Paper. In any case, whatever the expense of separation allowances, it is an expense limited in time and only goes on during the War. I want, in conclusion, to suggest just one economic reason for bearing the additional expense, whatever it may be. It is, I think, increasingly clear to all of us in modern times that the industrial prosperity of the Kingdom as a whole depends upon the spending power of the poorer classes. If you reduce the spending power of the poorest, you lessen their ability to buy the ordinary necessaries of life, and that reacts very rapidly upon all trades. I think if the Government desire on economic grounds to create as little disturbance as possible they should endeavour to see that economic sacrifices in the poorest families should be as little as possible. With that principle in view, I venture to urge the Prime Minister to allow the subject, of separation allowances to be included in the terms of reference.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I will add my appeal to that, of the last speaker to the Prime Minister, so that a satisfactory result may be achieved. It would be a great misfortune if the inquiry should not also include the question of separation allowances to wives, and if I might suggest to the Prime Minister, perhaps he would also extend it so that it might embrace the question of allowances for the dependants of soldiers actually serving. The inquiry deals with the question of allowances in the way of pensions and grants to wounded soldiers, and to the dependants of sailors and 498 soldiers who have lost their lives, but, so far as I understand it, the present inquiry cannot deal with the question of allowances to the dependants of soldiers who are actually serving with the Colours. Therefore I do urge the Prime Minister, while he is dealing with this matter to deal with it comprehensively. I believe the House and the country as a whole are anxious that this question, should be dealt with on a really liberal basis. It is not a question of bribing men to fight for us. It is a question of seeing that the man that is wounded should be adequately provided for, and should have the satisfaction of knowing that those dependent on him, whether wife, mother, or otherwise, should be adequately provided for. I think that is the least the country can do. I am sure, if the Prime Minister will embrace these other matters which are not already included in the inquiry, he will receive the unanimous support, not only of this House, but of the country as a whole.
With regard to separation allowances to the wife, there have been considerable difficulties in this matter, as everyone knows who has been engaged in the work. The allowances have been varied from time to time. There has been a good deal of confusion to know exactly what in the first place the allowances were which were given by the State; secondly, what the allotments were which were made by the soldiers; and, thirdly, how far the allotments were compulsory. These matters have varied from time to time, and I think the whole question might be considered by the Committee. I would like to support very strongly what has been said by my hon. Friend (Mr. Steel-Maitland) as to the talk about the common law obligation on the part of the soldier to support his wife. It is perfectly legitimate to use that argument when the man is in work, and receiving good wages, but it seems to me to be perfectly out of place to talk about a common law obligation when the soldier is serving His Majesty and is getting 7s. per week. The common law obligation to support the wife when the soldier is serving at the front ought to be undertaken by the State. The State ought to see that his wife is looked after. Therefore, in considering this question, I hope we shall have no more reference to what seems to me to be a mistaken application of the law, applicable under totally different circumstances. These are the two points that I trust the Prime Minister 499 will consider when he sets up the inquiry—the question of separation allowance to the wives of men who are actually serving, and the allowances to the dependants of those who are serving. The Committee will have gathered from this Debate that it is the desire of the House—and I feel sure of the country also—that these matters should be treated on a thoroughly liberal basis, and that the first consideration in dealing with these matters should be how you are fulfilling your obligations and the obligations of the country to the soldiers who are fighting for you and those who are dependent on the soldiers.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I think we can arrange the matter. When the request for the Committee was made by the Leader of the Opposition I understood, and I think he understood, that it was to be confined to that part of the proposals of the Government which dealt with pensions and allowances to those who are left behind, and allowances to the disabled soldiers and sailors. All the criticism, or the greater part of the criticism, that I have heard or read with regard to this matter has been, certainly mainly, if not exclusively, directed to that part of the Government scheme. We have heard little or hardly any criticism in regard to separation allowance. I think that matter has met with general acceptance. I do not believe if that stood alone there would be any desire for inquiry by a Committee, but the two subjects are so intimately connected that it might be impossible for the Committee to conduct its inquiry satisfactorily if the terms of reference were such as not to allow them to consider the other question. Therefore, although I do not anticipate or cannot forecast the possible course of events, or think that the Committee are likely to devote a great deal of their time to the consideration of the separation allowance scale, yet I do think, for the purpose of making the inquiry adequate and comprehensive, that the subject might well be added to the terms of reference and words added to make it clear that the matter is within the scope of the Committee. I do not think my hon. Friend's words meet the case, and I think perhaps that words might be added: "and whether the existing scheme"— 500 that is the scheme now before us—"of separation allowances to wives, children, and dependants ought not to be amended, and, if so, in what way? If the Committee answer the question in the affirmative, they will also say in what particular the Amendment is to take place. I think that will meet with the general assent of the House. The reference to the Committee is so extended that there is no material fact in connection with the whole of this difficult subject to be excluded from the scope of the inquiry. I would suggest the addition of those words. I do not know whether it is in order for me to move them?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The other Amendments have not yet been accepted. I think the best way will be to insert them now, and then I will put the Question as amended.
Amendments made: After the word "for" ["Pensions and Grants for men in the Naval and Military Services"] insert the words "officers and."
Leave out the words "wounded in" ["wounded in the present War"] in order to insert instead thereof the words "disabled by wounds or disease arising out of."
After the word "of" ["dependants of men"] insert the word "officers and."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I beg to move, after the words "men who have lost their lives," to add the words "whether the existing scheme of separation allowances to wives, children, and dependants, should be amended, and, if so, in what way?"
§ Question proposed, "That those words were added."
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I only rise for the purpose of saying very briefly that while, so far as we on this bench are concerned, we accept with gratitude the Amendment of the Prime Minister, I want also to say that I think there was some little misunderstanding the other day—a very natural misunderstanding, perhaps. Some of us certainly thought that the Debate to-day would include the question of separation allowances. Perhaps the Prime Minister will remember that I myself, speaking on the subject, said that we did not propose to go into details because we would take advantage of a subsequent Motion for that purpose. I am not suggesting for a moment that that was a clear 501 understanding. Some of us believed that the Motion would cover the two, but the Prime Minister has now been good enough to amend it so as to enable the whole question to be considered by the Committee. Of course, the additional words of the Prime Minister, I take it, would enable the Committee to discuss the amount of the allowance, and in regard to this the Prime Minister is absolutely accurate in what he says that in this Debate, and outside the House of Commons, there has been little, if any, comment upon the allowances in their new form. [HON. MEMBEES: "No, no!"] I do not see why hon. Members interrupt me. All I say is that as far as I know in this Debate, all the comments have been in regard to pensions and allowances for wounded or sick men, or of the system by which the payments of another kind have been made. The payments themselves have found very little criticism in this Debate, or outside. What has been criticised is the method by which these allowances or payments are conveyed to the recipients, and I imagine that this Amendment will enable the Committee to consider, and if they see fit to do so, to recommend some system which will cover the ground more adequately than it has been covered by the existing method.
The Financial Secretary to the War Offire speaking the other day told us that the grievances in regard to the non-payment of these allowances were reduced now to very small dimensions. I wish the hon. Gentleman would be good enough to find me somebody in the War Office to answer the letters I have received since that Debate, because it is past my ability in writing, with the ordinary assistance I get, to cope with the letters I receive from all parts of the country. I am not going to quote them, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister I have a whole series of cases from all parts of the country of telegrams and letters which have reached me giving cases, and whole collections of cases, and in addition to that I have sent to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association headquarters long list of claims on behalf of the wives and children of men who have received nothing, or only partial amounts.
In some quarters it has been alleged that the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association have not been doing their duty. That great association has done most admirable work in many parts of the country; but they suffer from the same diffi- 502 culty from which the War Office suffers, that is the enormous and constant addition to their labour, and if they have made mistakes it is not in the least to be wondered at. But what I hope will be one of the results following from this Debate to-day, and made complete by the report of this Committee, is this, that it is not within the power of anybody, whether an association like the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, or any other body, to treat these allowances to the wives and dependants of soldiers as if within the discretion of anybody. Let me beg the House to remember what happened. The whole thing has been altered by the creation of the New Army. In the old Army, before the appeal made by the Government the other day, you enlisted unmarried lads of 16 or 17 years of age. They knew perfectly well when they entered the Army that amongst other conditions they accepted was the condition that they could not marry without the consent of their commanding officers. When you made the appeal the other day you opened up an entirely new field, and you took an entirely new set of people into the Army. The House must realise that you have to a large extent exhausted your supply of unmarried men without liabilities. Already you have had many married men, and you will have more as you demand more for the Army, and consequently you have created a new problem because you are taking in men with wives and children. What was the promise made all over the country at every recruiting meeting? Surely it was: "Go to the Colours and we will take care of your dependants." We said to them, "You may be perfectly certain that you will find your home going and your dependants happy if you come back." That was the promise made broadcast. We must see that these promises are fulfilled, and they cannot be fulfilled unless it is laid down that the allowances to dependants are automatic and come into existence the moment the man leaves home. And being automatic, and authorised, we must see that they are conveyed to the recipients.
I said the other day, and I venture to repeat it, because I am extremely anxious that this Committee should include it in the scope of its inquiry that this cannot be done unless you draw much more largely upon civilian assistance in the country. The Financial Secretary the 503 other day, I am afraid, thought that we were bringing charges against the War Office. We had no such desire, and have no such desire. We do not want to attack the War Office or anybody else. What we want is to secure the object we have in view, namely, that the women shall get their money as soon as the men go, and that can only be done if the whole system of the distribution of these payments is radically altered. The Financial Secretary, defending with great courage and propriety the great Department of which he is one of the distinguished representatives in this House, told us "We are overwhelmed with letters. The returns are inaccurate; men say they are not married when they are married and have children. They give wrong addresses. Women fail to give the proper names and designation of the men. And all these difficulties have made the work of the War Office almost impossible." Certainly, and it will remain impossible if you try to send all this volume of matter through the very narrow neck of this one bottle. You can only get it done easily and smoothly if you extend and broaden your administration through the assistance of civilian help ready at hand. See how it stands. You have got your work now in equal districts. It does not follow that your Army is divided into equal numbers according to population. There is no similarity in the numbers to be found in large towns and cities. They vary in the most extraordinary way. When you ask a Civil servant in the War Office to secure there the accurate description necessary in order that the right persons may receive separation allowances, I believe you are asking permanent officials to do what it passes the wit of man to do.
If you lay down the principle of dividing the country into small districts and seek the assistance of civilians there, I believe the system will work with the utmost smoothness, and there will be no difficulty at all. In saying this I am speaking entirely out of the book, because, like my hon. Friend, though in a lesser degree of usefulness, I have taken in the last weeks some small part in looking after the dependants of soldiers and sailors when the men have gone to the Colours, and I have found by personal and practical experience that if you choose you will find in every village, and much more in every town, people who are accustomed to work of this kind and who will be only too glad to do it for nothing, and who will give accurate lists of men, their wives and children, with 504 the Christian names, within a few hours of the men's enlistment. When you have got that, it is a simple matter to send it on to the local district pay office, which I suggest should be created for the purpose, and within forty-eight hours after the sending of information you will get the money down for the dependants. Let the House remember that unless you have got some great organisation, like the Prince of Wales' Fund, with a body like the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association to administer the money, if you do not adopt some system such as I have endeavoured to describe, you will leave these women and children without the money necessary to carry on in a few weeks after the men go to the Colours, because it often happens that the poorer of these men leave their wives with little money. I have come across cases of respectable men who, owing to their system of economy, leave their wives with three, four or five children without any means. If you do not pay the woman the first week she will get into debt, or else have to leave herself and children without food. You ought not to expose her to a burden of that kind. Still less ought you to expose her to want, and you can only obviate that by breaking up the system into small parts, and in that way only will you secure that the beneficent intentions of the country are carried out.
§ Mr. HAROLD BAKER
I may inform the right hon. Gentleman that every man now enlisting is asked whether he is married, and the particulars are taken of the wife and children, and they are sent off the moment to the pay office.
§ Mr. LONG
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, and I am aware of that, and I sincerely hope it will be effective, but I do not think it will be completely effective unless you break up the country into small areas, because the numbers are overwhelming. I know the difficulty; I have investigated many cases. I have gone to the women and asked the simple question, "What is your husband's name?" They give it, but when I ask for the man's number and battalion, in nine cases out of ten the wife cannot tell. But anyone on the spot who knows the battalion to which the man belongs can by telegram, and certainly by sending a postcard, get the information from the battalion paymaster or from men in the barracks. It is only when these cases multiply exceedingly, as they do, in the way they are being dealt with 505 by the War Office, that the thing becomes impossible. The Prime Minister was good enough the other day when I was referring to the scales of pay, to ask whether there was any system by which you could deal with this very difficult question of the higher paid men who join the Colours and only get allowances on the lower scale. I ventured then to make a suggestion to ham, which I am anxious to repeat now. I did not for a moment suggest that allowances should be fixed, or could be fixed, on any other basis primarily than that of a man's rate of standing in the Army; nor do I suggest because a man is earning much higher wages he necessarily makes in reality a greater sacrifice than a man who does not receive so much wages, but who places his service and his life at the call of his country. On the other hand, I do not want to see as a result of the enlistment of this New Army, the statement made afterwards that in many cases, homes have had to be given up which were kept going before the War, and for which considerable rents were paid. I come back to the same proposition which I made with regard to the distribution in these matters. If you would only consent to break up the system into smaller districts and make use of your local government organisation, including the pension officers, you could, without any very large, expenditure, deal with these special cases, and I am sure nobody would regret it if a little extra money were spent in keeping together the homes of these people.
In many cases the expenditure will not be so very serious, because a great many of these men, if happily they live, will, when they have done their service, and the War is over, go back into private employment. It is not like making arrangements for the Regular Army, because these men have enlisted for three years, or for the duration of the War, and consequently it is not a problem which is going on for ever. It is limited, and I commend these suggestions to the attention of the Prime Minister, and I hope they will form the subject of inquiry by the Committee, because I am convinced that this is one of the questions which affects materially the willingness of the men to offer their services. I believe you will get all the recruits you want, but if you want to get them rapidly and smoothly, and if you want the soldiers at the front to think only of their work there, and to feel confident that those at home are being looked 506 after by us, you must not only improve your methods of pensions and other things, but you must so oil your machinery that these women will easily and promptly get the money to which they are entitled to to look as their right, and not simply as a gift to reach them under certain conditions. It is in the hope that this may be the result of this inquiry that I have ventured to add these few words.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
There is no question which is agitating the country so much at the present time as the question we are discussing, and I agree that from the point of view of recruiting it is essential that we should have an assurance that the whole matter is going to be immediately and fully discussed and settled, in order that those who are asked to join our Army may know exactly the conditions under which they and their dependants are to be provided for. From the experience in recruiting I have had during the past few weeks, I should like to say that I believe there is a general desire that the question of separation allowances should be fully reconsidered, both in regard to the question of the amounts and the allotment made at the present time, as well as the manner of administration. I am sure the Prime Minister in agreeing to include this subject within the scope of the Committee's inquiry will satisfy public opinion to a very large extent. I hope that the result of that inquiry will be that the scale of separation allowances will be increased in many cases. I also hope that the burden of allotment may be diminished. I have reason to believe that in the case of some of our Colonial troops, the burden is not thrown upon the Colonial contingents as it is in the case of the Home Army. In the case of the Canadian troops twenty dollars per month is provided as a separation allowance, while the soldier may make an allotment up to four-fifths of his pay. It is unfair to many of our soldiers that they should have to deprive themselves of what is necessary for their upkeep beyond the Army provision when they are at the front in order that they may secure proper provision for those who remain at home.
In regard to the system of administration, I welcome the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Long) that this also should be thoroughly overhauled by the Committee. I have had some experience of the many defects of 507 the present system, and regret that offers made by civilians to assist in this matter have been declined. I happen to know one case where the separation allowances were paid punctually without a single complaint having been made, simply because a professional gentleman who had offered his whole time to deal with this matter had had his services accepted. I think if many others in a similar position had had their services accepted Members of Parliament would have had fewer complaints. I should like to pay a tribute to the courtesy and industry of the right hon. Gentlemen who represent the War Office, who have sought to meet our complaints at the earliest possible moment. I do not blame them, but I wish to point out that there are many pay offices throughout the country which during the past few weeks have been acting in a manner which we cannot interpret or understand. I do not want to mention the individual cases, but I think one of the worst cases in Scotland has been that of the Perth depot. There has been the greatest difficulty in getting cases attended to in that district. I may mention that in one case a telegram was sent on one occasion informing me that an allowance had been paid that evening, when in point of fact it had been paid several days before, and this was not known at the office itself. I hope the Committee will consider seriously the advisability of taking the advice and assistance offered gratuitously and voluntarily, of men of business capacity, who, while unable to serve their country at the front, are anxious to serve it in some form at home.
In regard to the question of the assistance which is to be given by voluntary associations, I believe that the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association has done its very best to render assistance under very difficult circumstances, but I think we have ample evidence that it is quite beyond the resources of such an association to deal with the great problem which is presented at the present time. I hope our experience has taught us that instead of voluntary associations making up something beyond what the State is paying in cases of necessity that necessity ought not to arise, and the State ought to be charged in the first instance with making adequate provision. Take the question of separation allowances at the present moment. It is suggested that 508 the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association should add to the State allowance a certain figure for the payment, of rent where that rent cannot be met out of the allowance. That is an admission that there is a burden placed upon these dependants which they are not able to meet, and which it is suggested should be met by a voluntary association. I hope the Government will see that a sufficient sum is paid to these people without making it necessary for them to apply for such assistance. The same applies to the work of other voluntary associations. I trust that it will be decided in the future that the State shall pay direct and pay a sufficient sum in every case without making it necessary for these voluntary associations to intervene. I gather from the Financial Secretary to the War Office that so far as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association is concerned their work has ceased in so far as they may have to add to the allowances which the State is now going to pay direct.
I should like to add a word with regard to dependants. I think that at this time we should not allow any question of cost or prejudice to arise in regard to those who are true dependants of our soldiers at the front. I mentioned one case to-day in a question which I put to the Financial Secretary to the War Office. It was the case of children adopted before the War broke out. It seems to me a great hardship that where a man has supported an adopted child, that child being dependent upon him, it should not be allowed to have an allowance. I hope that matter will be carefully considered, and that some allowance will be made in these particular cases. I hope, further, that in the case of the widows of soldiers who have fallen at the front and who are incapacitated for work, better provision will be made than a maximum of 12s. 6d. I represent a constituency where we have a very large number of industrial workers, well paid men, such as miners and steel workers—many of whom have volunteered for active service—and it is quite impossible for those who are dependent upon them to keep up their homes on the figures proposed. Now that we have succeeded in getting our first million men, we have, to a certain extent exhausted the younger men and those who may have been out of employment in various industries, and we are now seeking to obtain from the ranks of the industrial workers the additional men required, and many of them would 509 be married men earning large wages. In these circumstances it is essential that more generous provision should be made.
Our nation at this time is no doubt facing a heavy burden in regard to the payment of allowances for dependants. But after all we have to keep in view that the wealth of this country is being protected now by our soldiers at the front, and as those men are giving what money cannot buy, they ought to receive the highest form of consideration for the personal sacrifices they are making. I trust that the outcome of the Committee's work will be to secure that in every case the dependants of these men shall be put beyond the reach of want, and that no home will have to be broken up on account of those who have volunteered having gone to the front. I also trust that in the future we shall have a better form of administration of these allowances through a special department, distinct from the War Office, which will devote its whole time to securing prompt payment and every consideration for the dependants of our gallant fellows at the front.
§ Sir JOSEPH WALTON
I welcome the announcement of the Prime Minister that the scope of the inquiry of this Committee will be extended to include the question of separation allowances. I trust that the result of that investigation will at any rate be that the whole of the deductions which are now being made from the 7s. per week paid to the soldiers will be discontinued and will be borne by the State. I have taken part in some thirty to forty recruiting meetings within the last few weeks, and I can tell the House that the response we have had on the part of highly paid workmen from Yorkshire has been one that made one proud of their patriotism. We have to-day 16,000 Yorkshire coal miners enlisted to fight for their King and country, and that number is increasng every day. Of the 1,120 men forming a new Barnsley Battalion, no fewer than 412 are married men. At those recruiting meetings I ventured to say, knowing as I do the feeling of the House of Commons, that men of all parties would join together and pass through such a scheme dealing with this important question as would be generous to the dependants of those who are fighting our battles at the front, whether in regard to separation allowances or in regard to pensions in cases where the breadwinners lose their lives at the front, or in regard to pensions for disabled men. I assured meeting after meeting that they 510 need not hesitate to enlist, because we would see that their dependants were generously and liberally provided for.
I hope that the question of whether highly paid men who enlist ought not in some form or another to receive a higher grant for the maintenance of their dependants than the present flat rate in force or proposed will be considered. When I remind the House that a large majority of the 412 married men who have recently enlisted in the Barnsley Battalion are earning wages of from £3 to £5 per week it brings it home to one the enormous sacrifice which those men are making through their patriotic attachment to their country. I submit that it is our duty, as a House of Commons representing the nation, no matter what the cost may be, to make adequate provision so that the homes of those men into which from £3 to £5 per week had been going up to the time they enlisted should not be reduced to the small pittance at present proposed to be allowed them. I know that it is a difficult and complicated question, but I trust the Committee will see their way to abandon this completely flat rate system under which the dependants of a man who has been bringing into his home from £3 to £5 per week only receives the same as the agricultural labourer whose dependants probably receive a larger sum than he was bringing into the home when he was at work. I submit that all the men who enlist take equal risks in regard to their lives and their possible disablement, and in my judgment we ought to have some approach to equality of financial sacrifice made by them when they give their services to their country. I trust, therefore, that the Committee, which I am sure the House can trust to investigate the question thoroughly, will come to a prompt and early decision. That is of the highest possible importance if we are to proceed to enrol the second Barnsley Battalion rapidly. They are some of the finest men that can be found in the United Kingdom. They are as hard as nails and full of courage and Yorkshire pluck. The one thing which stands in the way of enabling us to rapidly enrol that second battalion is that this question is not finally and completely settled. The Committee, therefore, ought to know the importance of promptly dealing with it and reporting as speedily as possible to the House.
§ Mr. ROWLANDS
The hon. Member for South Glamorganshire (Mr. Brace) tried a 511 task which is impossible. Burke said that he could not indict nations, and I do not think the hon. Member can indict a huge class like the rural community of this country. He may be thoroughly well conversant with what the rural districts in Wales have done. I leave him to settle that with his colleagues representing that portion of the country, but no Member who has a large portion of rural area in his constituency, and who knows what has been done in neighbouring counties, can allow his remarks to pass unchallenged. Many of the rural districts have done their duty thoroughly. The men have come up remarkably well, and have joined the ranks and done their duty to their King and country. I do not believe for one moment that it is wise to draw any of these class distinctions. I have set my face against it at all the recruiting meetings at which I have taken part, and they have been very many. I have always said, "Let us appeal to every class of the community to do its duty, if you can get up a spirit of emulation amongst them, do so, but do not slur one particular class unless you can prove the matter thoroughly." Even when you see figures which have been got out as to the amount of enlisting, they are not complete. First of all, they do not contain those drawn from that particular village or locality who were already in the Reserves or the Territorials, and where the Reservists and Territorials were strongest the locality must show a less percentage of its population joining the New Army.
I am very pleased indeed to think that the scope of the investigations of this Committee is to be widened. Everyone who has been round the districts knows that in our appeal to men to join we have taken upon ourselves the responsibility of telling them that we would, as far as it was possible, see that their dependants were well looked after. The scale at present in existence is not adequate to meet the requirements of the families as a whole. I am not going to compare one class of the community with another. I do not think it is necessary. If you attempt to give according to the wages earned you will find yourself in great difficulty, but without that there is ground for hoping that this Committee will see its way to widen the scope of the present separation allowances. Suggestions have been made as to how the block of work at the War Office 512 might be reduced and as to how the correspondence, where it is delayed, might be dealt with more promptly. I would like to point out one organisation which has not been made use of as much as it might have been. Immediately upon the outbreak of the War the Local Government Board communicated with all the county councils and all the urban councils throughout the country asking the authorities connected with them to bring into existence representative committees. In many urban districts widely representative committees were formed of very capable men, and I think very much more might have been turned over to those bodies than has been done. I do not want to condemn the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association as a whole, but I know that in some counties they have not a representative body, whereas this body was of a thoroughly representative character and would have had the entire confidence of the whole of the community. I know that it had its hands on all sections of the community and could have supplied any information in any direction that was required with regard to the wives and families of any of the men who had gone to the front.
I have had a great deal of communication with the War Office recently; I have taken a good many cases there, and I wish to say, so far as the Financial Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State for War are concerned, that I have received the utmost attention at their hands and that I am not complaining of anything that they have done. I have not taken a single case there which they have not attended to as speedily as they possibly could. We are criticising to-night the whole of the organisation of the War Office, which we believe is far too centralised. Much of the work might be distributed amongst those who are only too willing to go on these committees. There are capable men prepared to do the work if asked by the departments, and you could get your work done in a manner which you cannot do so long as you centralise it as you have done. I have asked a great number of persons in all sections of the community, employers as well as employed, what is their idea with regard to the extra charge which must be made if much more generous terms are given to the men, and I have received on all hands one reply to my inquiry. "We believe it is our duty, those of us who cannot go and take our share at the front, to be prepared to pay 513 adequately those who go and do the work for us and to look after their wives and families thoroughly. I have received, possibly many other hon. Members have also, from my urban council and other local authorities long resolutions urging me to put before the House and the Government their desire that more adequate terms should be given to the families of the men at the front. I therefore welcome the fact that this inquiry is to be widened, and I hope when the result of its deliberations is brought before this House that we shall have a broad and a generous scheme which we can all accept with gratification. I am sure that while the burden may be very heavy indeed it will be no more than we ought to bear on purpose to look after the comfort and interests of those who are left behind while the men are struggling for us in the trenches.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I desire to join with other speakers in thanking the Government for enlarging the scope of the Committee and giving an opportunity to Members in all parts of the House of touching upon matters which I am confident seem to all of us of the greatest importance, both for recruiting and for the permanent welfare of the relatives of those fighting at the front. Much has been said, and certainly not too much, as to the extreme importance of securing universally the prompt payment of separation allowances. Separation allowances are paid by different authorities and in a different way to the relatives of Territorials than to the relatives of those in the New Army. I know of one town in the North of England where recruiting for the moment is really positively injured by the fact that there are some persons, relatives of Territorials, who have not had their allowances with the same promptitude as relatives of some men in the New Army. Everybody knows that if you have one or two instances in a locality where there has been long delay, it is naturally the subject of conversation; it does very great injury to the person concerned, while it also results in a very great hindrance to rapid and extensive enlistment in that particular area. With regard to the matters with which the formation of the Committee was primarily concerned, I desire most warmly to support what was said by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) with regard to assimilating the treatment of non-commissioned officers and privates with that of officers from a financial point 514 of view, in cases where they are wounded on active service. I do not know if we are to take it that the Royal Warrant is intended to secure such treatment. At any rate, it is not easy to read it into it. It must be remembered that all ranks take the same kind of risks, and the more nearly you assimilate the financial treatment given to the rank and file with that given to the officers under the same conditions, the more are you prompting that community of feeling which we are so proud to notice among all ranks in our Army.
With regard to the flat rate and its possible modification as affecting pensions, I desire to say that the scale now proposed by the Government does not seem to me to fully meet the case. You cannot arrive at a satisfactory scale either by taking the best paid artisans who volunteer or the smallest paid agricultural labourer. I agree with the last speaker that this is not a time for pitting town against country, as all parts of the country alike are responding with enthusiasm when the case for enlistment is put forward properly. All parts of the country also wish for and require, and ought to require, fair and adequate treatment for those our soldiers leave behind, and for the maintenance of the home. I hope that the deliberations of this Committee, which is now fully informed of the current of opinion in this House, will see its way to combine, as has been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, a general flat rate, which I trust will be 12s. 6d. for the widow without a child, with such modifications as may be suggested by the analogy of the Workmen's Compensation Act, and which shall do something to meet those cases—very numerous indeed—in many parts of the country where the standard of comfort of home life cannot be kept up on a flat rate of universal application. This is not a Debate. It is merely testimony given by different Members of that which they believe to be necessary, both for the welfare of those left at home and to promote recruiting in all parts of the country. Like other hon. Members I have been working at this problem, and I desire respectfully to put these views before the Government. I am confident that the various organisations to which the last speaker referred in the different English counties and boroughs are ready and willing to take on more work and to assist the War Office in this department of its administration. I am convinced 515 also there are many people who are ready and willing to help, and I do urge that no opportunity be lost, because the work which requires to be done is work which demands the efforts of us all.
§ Mr. PRATT
I do not know whether the rendering of the terms of reference by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) is the correct one, but I take it that they do include the question, not merely of the amount to be paid, but the method by which payment is to be made. It is, of course, a great thing to have a full and adequate sum agreed upon, but it is a very bad thing if people are to wait week after week before payment is made, I can assure hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench that delays are still happening, and that, in all parts of the country, there are people who have been waiting for weeks for what they ought to have had long ago. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division suggested, as also have other hon. Members, that civilian help, and above all the help of the local authorities, might be called in by the War Office and the Admiralty for dealing with this matter of separation allowances and pensions.
I am glad to see from the White Paper that the wisdom of that policy has been acknowledged by the Departments already, and that they are calling in local old age pension committees, and especially the education authorities, to see that the money which is to be paid to mothers in trust for their children is spent properly for the benefit of those children. I hope that, as it is proposed to adopt that policy in regard to the payment of pensions, a similar line of policy may be followed with regard to the payment of separation allowances. It was most unfortunate that a circular should have been issued, not very long ago, calling upon the police to supervise the wives of soldiers and sailors in certain parts of the country. I think that was a very scandalous thing to do, and I hope that the new line which is indicated in the White Paper will be adopted, and that the police will no longer be asked to take upon themselves, as I think improperly, this most unpleasant duty. There is one very good test, it seems to me, by which a woman may be tried as to whether she is making proper use of the money she is receiving. The test is, is she looking after her children? Is she doing 516 her duty by them? If she is, then she fully deserves the money which is paid to her. That, I think, is the test—the only test—to which any married woman with children ought to be subjected in regard to the manner in which she makes use of her separation allowance.
The question of pensions seems to me to centre round one proposition, and that proposition is this: The breadwinners who have laid down or may lay down their lives on the bloodstained fields of France and Flanders, have done so without being compelled to do so, and have chosen to do it because they felt the call of duty and have come forward to save their country. Surely, we, in such cases, are in honour bound, in return for their services, to see that we save their homes. I was very much impressed by what fell from the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Birmingham (Mr. Steel-Maitland) when he said that to make more liberal payments, both in regard to separation allowances and pensions, might, after all, be true economy, because there can be no doubt that the parsimonious, proposals which have been made so far have had a deterrent effect upon recruiting all over the country. I think the hon Member was quite right when he indicated the possibility of a more speedy and more general rally to the Colours, if you relieve, the minds of the men who, for many reasons, anxious to serve their country, have justly felt that their first duty was to their home, their wives, and their children, and if you enable them to carry away with them the feeling that whatever happens the home will be kept together and the wife and children cared for, not by receiving relief or charity but by getting what is, after all, only a proper return for what the father and the husband has done. I agree with the hon. Member for East Birmingham that that would have a good effect, and it is quite possible, too, that it might help to bring about an earlier conclusion of a war which is now costing us a million pounds a day. The more liberal the policy you adopt now, the more likely is it to prove true economy in the long run.
There is another aspect of the question upon which I wish to dwell. It is not necessarily true economy to decide upon a scale of allowances which is similar for all, if that similar scale is not sufficient to keep the family which has been bereaved of the husband and father in a decent standard of life and to keep the home together. Even if they go into a smaller home, you 517 should not force them, into the slums, but you should enable them to keep up a respectable standard of life. If your pension allowances are not sufficient for that, then I say the money you are giving is badly spent, and to make the allowance sufficient to maintain the standard of life which those people have been accustomed to, will be found to be true and lasting economy. In that case you will have the children growing up feeling that the land has been indeed their Motherland, and feeling grateful, too, for what it has done for their widowed mother. There is no memory that sinks more deeply into the mind of a young boy or a young girl than the memory of a poor widowed mother struggling hard, week in and week out, to make ends meet. There is nothing that creates a deeper impression on the mind of a young growing child than that, and I say at this period of the country's fortune, when so much is at stake, we should not make this error of sweating the lives of the wives and children whom these brave men have left behind them.
The scale that appears in the White Paper, to my mind, does not do justice to the woman either as mother or wife. The amount that is given—7s. 6d.—an amount which nobody has defended here to-day—is totally inadequate for any woman who is left to fight the battle of life alone. The Prime Minister said that we had to consider the effect of giving a larger sum on the individual recipient. He meant, I suppose, the giving of a sum of money to a young woman sufficient to relieve her from going out to work; he seemed to suggest that that would have a demoralising effect. But so long as there are people who pay Super-tax in this country I do not think there is any need to use that argument. If we are going to use that argument in regard to a person having sufficient to meet her needs without the necessity of working for a living, then I think that the proposition might be suggested to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this time of extreme need, that he might proceed to put a tax of 20s. in the £ on all unearned incomes whatsoever. So long as there are any people in this country who have no necessity to work, it seems to me we ought not to judge too hardly those who have lost their husbands and because of that have not sufficient to keep them in the days to come. The whole of that argument is based, it seems to me, on the assumption, conscious or unconscious, that all these widows come from
518 the poorer-paid classes of society. But, as has been said over and over again, that is not so. There are many women who will be left who have not had to work in their younger days, who were brought up at home and have never been thrown on the labour market, and I think it would be a great misfortune, little short of a scandal, if, because of the heroism and loyalty of the husband, they are thrown on the labour market now. I would appeal to the Committee that is to be appointed to give their close consideration to the lot of the widow who is left childless. She will have a lonely life and a hard lot, and the least we can do for her is to keep her from having to depend on odd jobs or on the cold hand of charity. When we come to the woman with one child, I should imagine that no Committee could deliberate upon that point very long without coming to the conclusion that 12s. 6d. is not enough. It is not enough in regard to all those people who come from our great industrial centres and from our large towns and cities, where rents and rates are high. What is left after the rent of a respectable home has been deducted from the 12s. 6d. for the widow and child? It has been said that in these matters the State is very apt to put the women and the children last. I hope that the Government, upon whom the responsibility in the long run rests—they cannot put their responsibility upon the Committee, and throughout the country during recent years we have heard a good deal from Members of the Government as to low wages, sweating, and the evils of living in slums—that in regard to the matter now before them will bear in mind the speeches of past days, and will see to it that a living wage is given to all those who, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said at the Guildhall meeting, are the children of the State. Let them treat them as the children of the State, and let us see to it that the children who are left grow up well-nurtured, well-fed, well-housed, and ready to play their part, when the day comes, in the great task of carrying on the noble traditions of their fathers. Their fathers, those brave men who are fighting our battles at the front, have already done much for us. They have shed fresh lustre on our ancient British name. At the end of the day they will come back from the fields of battle bringing the sheaves of glorious victory 519 with them. There is something left for us and for the country to do—that is, to earn the blessing which has been promised throughout all generations to those who befriend the widow and the fatherless, who are ready to give their strength to aid the weak, and who are ready to share their riches to succour the poor.
I wish to mention two matters for the consideration of this Committee. From the inquiries I have made in my Constituency, which is one of the largest in the Kingdom and entirely industrial, there is but one opinion, namely, that the basis upon which the pensions and total disablement allowances are to be placed should be £1 a week. In the case of people who have been entirely supported out of the pension or of the disablement allowance, £1 is the minimum sum upon which the home can be kept together. £1 is quite small enough in these times, when food is so dear, and is likely to become dearer. I ask the Committee to pay great attention to what the representatives of the Labour party have said with regard to £1 being taken as the basis. We might revise it, perhaps, occasionally in some special cases, but for a person who has to rely upon the pension alone for sustenance, £1 is the minimum.
The Prime Minister rather worried me when he said in his most solemn manlier that this House must have regard to the burden to be imposed upon the people of this country. I do not think we ought to consider the burden for one moment. Once we have determined what is right, just and proper, after great and grave consideration to be given in these cases, the question of the burden upon us has nothing to do with it—it must be paid. This country is rich enough to do it, and it must be done. The Prime Minister has been Chancellor of the Exchequer. We are going to have upon this Committee two right hon. Gentlemen, one of whom is the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the other has been Chancellor of the Exchequer, and may be Chancellor of the Exchequer again in the future. These right hon. Gentlemen know the difficulties connected with Budgets. Probably they would be inclined to take into consideration what they call the burden on the people. I submit that those men who are fighting for us and laying down their lives now are really preserving to us the whole of the money that this nation 520 possesses. Should we be defeated our wealth would disappear. No price is too great to pay to them, so long as it does not exceed the bounds of what is just, well-considered, and right.
§ Mr. ANEURIN WILLIAMS
I do not rise to take up the time of the House in repeating what has been said before, but rather to make two points which have not been made so far in this Debate. Of course, many other hon. Members have congratulated the Government upon including the separation allowances in the work of this Committee, and have expressed the hope that both the allowances and the pensions will be settled upon a generous scale. I wish to make the point that the pension should, so far as possible, be a continuation of the separation allowance and allotment, so that when a man is killed, if he is unfortunately killed, the money should be paid to the woman and the children on the same scale as when he was alive. That is a thing which the public will understand. I do not think the public will ever see any reason—and I myself can see no sufficient reason—why the money should be less after the man has been killed than it was while he was alive. The other point I want to make is that I hope there will be no vexatious exceptions. I will give the illustration that I have in mind. Formerly wives only received separation money if they were married on the strength. Now we have put that right. But there is one class of wives to whom justice has not been done by the alteration that has been made.
We know that there are, unfortunately, many thousands of women in this country who have been obliged, through no fault of their own, to go to the magistrates and obtain a separation order against their husbands, and have received an order for the payment of so many shillings a week—10s. a week being a not unusual sum in such cases. If the man continues in civil life he must go on paying that 10s., and if he does not do so the woman has her remedies against him. If, on the other hand, he joins the Army, as many of them have done, the woman is practically deprived of any civil right to the recovery of that money; but the Government or the War Office will stop out of his pay 6d. a day or 3s. 6d. a week, which they will hand over to her, whereas the Court, having investigated the matter, has ordered that she should have 10s. a week. She does 521 not get the 9s. separation allowance, which the wife gets in the ordinary case, yet she has been deprived of the breadwinner as much as in the case of the ordinary wife. The State has taken him, and I submit she should still get 10s., or whatever sum the magistrate ordered should be paid to her, and that separation allowance should be paid to her, at any rate to the extent of making up the difference between the 3s. 6d., which the War Office stops out of the man's pay, and the 10s. she is entitled to receive. If it should come to be a question of a pension, she ought to be treated as a wife and receive her pension as the others do. It is not her fault that she has had to obtain a separation order. The State has taken her breadwinner, and the State should not make her suffer thereby. I hope the Committee will consider this and other such vexatious exceptions, and will remove them. In all other respects I trust they will give us a generous, simple and complete scheme, both for the separation allowances and allotments and pensions, and that when we have the scheme it will be promptly and expeditiously administered. I know from my own experience in connection with recruiting meetings that the difficulties and delays in regard to these matters have very seriously interfered with our getting the large number of recruits we must have.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I wish to express my gratification that the Government have added the question of the allowances to that of the pensions which are to come under the purview of the Committee. I hope they will deal with both questions in a generous fashion. I have a particular reason for wishing it, because I have refused to speak at recruiting meetings because I could not ask a man to fight for me under the conditions imposed upon men in this country, In Australia a private is getting 5s. a day and an allowance of £1 a week, or more. I cannot understand why equal generosity, or rather justice, should not be done to the soldiers of this far more wealthy country. The effect is to leave disabilities in the way of men giving effect to their patriotic feelings. There has been a great response from the district I represent, which may be due largely to the efforts of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward). The statement has been made in public that something like half the men who have been recruited from that district are married men; consequently the question of separation allow- 522 ances is one that peculiarly affects the district. I desire to urge particularly that the separation allowances shall be of such a nature that there shall be no recourse whatever to charity. The allowance is too low, and inasmuch as in such a district as the Potteries rates and rents are high, and now we are going to increase taxation upon these people by way of the Tea Tax, the separation allowance might be on a more generous scale, especially in view of the fact that when these men come back from the War it is quite possible that they will be faced with a period of unemployment before they can get back to work, and they should not come back to find their homes in debt.
As regards pensions, I cannot agree in any way with the view expressed by the Prime Minister, that it is necessary to keep the amount down to so low a figure as 7s. 6d. a week because of the fact that the young widow is a woman who has been accustomed to work, and we should be very careful not to put her in a position of not having to work in the future. I think it would be very much better for us to risk that terrible possibility than to leave many a young woman in distress and misery and starvation in future. After all, we have to remember that we are recruiting to-day many men whose wives have not perhaps been accustomed to earn a living, well paid artisans who have been earning enough to keep the home going without having to call for the supplementary work of their wives, and I can see no reason why those women should not exist in the future in exactly the same condition of life as they did before their husbands laid down their lives for their country.
There is another point on which I wish to lay the greatest possible emphasis. I trust that when these separation allowances are granted they are granted as a right to the wife, and the same as regards the pension, and that they shall not be dependent on the good conduct of the wife as decided by the police or by those local organisations which are liable to be called in to give them assistance. It was suggested the other day by the Financial Secretary that it was customary to make the payment of a pension dependent upon the good conduct of the recipient. That may be so. But I have never yet heard of a case of the payment of a pension being made dependent upon the good conduct of the wife of the pensioner. The separation allowance is virtually a payment to the soldier, passed on by the State to his 523 wife, and his wife should receive it without any interference or surveillance by the police whatsoever, and it is an insult that should be repudiated immediately, and the Army Council should be prevented from calling in the police in any way to exercise surveillance over the wives of those who have gone to fight our battles. I trust the Committee will regard this matter of pensions and allowances in a generous spirit.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
I represent a very poor locality, and I think the War Office will agree that it has sent the greatest proportion of soldiers to the front of any district in the country. The proportion at any rate is 12 per cent. of the entire population, including men, women and children. If the whole population of the country enlisted in that proportion we should have nearly 4,000,000 soldiers, so that we may know that there are districts very considerably below that. It has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) that there should be a difference made in the pay, pensions and allowances for different classes of private soldiers. I do not think that is possible, and I am sure if anything of the kind is suggested in the Report of the Committee I should have to oppose it. A man joins the Army as a private soldier. It does not matter whether it is in time of peace or war. He does the same as his next door neighbour and runs exactly the same risks. He enlists under the same conditions, and it would be a grave misfortune which would have very dire results if the social position of these men when they enlist for service was going to decide the recompense that their families should get afterwards. If any suggestion of that kind was made by the Committee I am sure it would create a considerable amount of feeling. I have been watching the proceedings to-day with the greatest delight. I have stood in this House time after time on the Army Estimates for nine or ten years and advocated better conditions for these men without ever getting a single one to assist me on either side of the House, and I am delighted that at last we have had such a splendid rally to the cause I have had so long to stand alone to defend.
§ Mr. HASLAM
The great interest of this country, in fact, of Europe, is that the War should be concluded at the earliest possible moment. I feel that with 524 this country, especially in the Western sphere of the War, lies chiefly the balance of power, and I trust that the enormous wealth of our Empire in all the resources we have in man and material should, if effectively and rapidly brought to bear upon the situation, have the result of bringing the War to a much earlier conclusion than any other nation. Our Allies, the Belgians, have practically a devastated country, and have virtually come to the end of their resources. France, I believe, has nearly the whole of her population able to serve now serving. The industries of these countries are practically strangled. Here the position is very different indeed. The people of this country, if so determined, can bring such force to bear as to quite alter the situation, and bring about the rapid crushing of the military spirit of Germany, which we all believe to be the present enemy of the civilisation of the world. I would specially appeal that we should deal very liberally with those who are permanently injured—the men who are unable to earn a living when they come home, being wounded severely. Also the sum of 7s. 6d. for a widow appears to me too little. I admire that part of the Government's scheme by which they are paying in respect of children 5s. instead, as is suggested in some quarters, of 3s. 6d. The larger expenditure is to be approved because it is essential to the strength of this nation that the children should be brought up adequately fed and housed. From the position merely of desiring the future strength of our country to be maintained or increased, it is very desirable that a fair allowance should be made for the maintenance of such children. I am not aware whether in this scheme existing pensioners who have perhaps been injured in the Boer War or other more recent wars are to get the benefit of this scheme, but I am inclined to think it would be only fair to give the men who have suffered in those wars the same privileges as those who suffer in the present War. There may even be some Crimean veterans who do not got quite as much as they would get under this scheme. But I think those who have served in the past ought to be treated on an equality with those who serve today, as regards their future pensions and emoluments.
Another point which strikes me as a matter of justice is that men serving at the front should be equally treated as regards their wages. The pay of married men is being reduced by 3s. 6d. a week. 525 I cannot see why, considering that certainly half the pay of these men goes in buying things which are practically necessary, the married man should have practically nothing left to buy such luxuries as he may desire to obtain. Both married and single men should, I think, be equal, and the allowance of 12s. 6d. paid to the wives should be paid entirely from Government sources. I wish to say once more that I feel, if this matter of pensions and other emoluments were fixed now upon a fair, just, and adequate scale, there would be a large increase in recruits, and by this means we shall not lose eventually from the money point of view, but actually gain by being liberal to the people who have given their services to their country.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, "That a Select Committee be appointed to consider a scheme of Pensions and Grants for officers and men in the Naval and Military Services disabled by wounds or disease arising out of the present War, and for the widows, orphans, and dependants of officers and men who have lost their lives, and whether the existing scheme of separation allowances to wives, children and dependants should be amended; if so, in what way.
§ That the Committee do consist of Six Members:
§ That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records:
§ That Three be the Quorum."—[The Prime Minister.]