Mr. HEALY (continuing)
The House has discussed for a considerable time the case of the soldier and a proper meed of praise has been poured out on them for their work at the front. But I do not think we should be showing ourselves grateful if we forgot those who are absent from this House, or the somewhat ungracious and ungenerous attempt that has been made to deprive them by a side wind and by what I conceive to be an illegality, of the salaries already voted to them by this House. I believe over 200 Members of this House have gone to the War. Nearly every man under forty has gone, and this is the time that the Treasury have selected for the purpose of doing a thing which I will demonstrate is not merely illegal but unconstitutional, and I think I will convince every hon. Member who is open to conviction that, if the Treasury contention be correct there is not a single man, unless a Minister who has been re-elected, entitled to continue to hold his seat in the House, because if the Treasury contention be correct, we who are receiving salaries have been put into the position of Civil servants, and our seats should have been vacated five years ago, and all the great harvest of measures from the 1702 Budget and the Parliament Act down to the War Loan which we are voting tonight to the extent of over £320,000,000 were absolutely without jurisdiction, and we are not properly Members of Parliament at all, because the Treasury say we are Civil servants. I think the approach by the Treasury clerks to Mr. Speaker was a degradation. Mr. Speaker presides in many important respects over the finances of this House. It is so laid down in Erskine May. His duty is one of supervision and not one of response and to suggest that he is an officer of the Treasury, or that he is bound to answer communications from the Treasury, to my mind suggests something very near a breach of privilege. The functions of the Speaker with regard to finance are stated at page 592 of Erskine May:—The drafts upon the Consolidated Fund authorised by the Resolutions of the Committee of Ways and Means must not exceed the amount of Supply which has previously been granted for the service of the year, and it is the duty of the Public Bill Office, acting on behalf of the Speaker, to ensure compliance with this rule.Then there is a note which says:—The Speaker superintends the procedure of the House—a responsibility which justifies to a certain extent a statement, otherwise unfounded, that the duty thus discharged by the Public Bill Office devolves upon the Speaker himself.At pages 594 and 595 there is a statement to the same effect. What does the Treasury do? The payment of Members of Parliament may be right or wrong—I did not vote for it—but, at all events, a Resolution was passed by this House earmarking the fund and declaring how it should be paid. That Resolution was tion was embedded in the Appropriation Act, and I will show in one moment how it was ratified by an Act passed so recently as last Parliament. The Resolution was moved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 10th August, 1911. It was in the following terms:—That, in the opinion of this House, provision should be made for payment of a salary at the rate of £400 a year to every Member of this House, excluding any Member who is for the time being in receipt of a salary as an officer of the House, or as a Minister, or as an officer of His Majesty's Household.If that be so, what right have the Treasury to say that they will dock a Member of Parliament who becomes an officer in His Majesty's Army? So that you are bound by your own Resolution to pay this money to everybody being Members of Parliament who are not officers of the House or Ministers. That Resolution was carried, and accordingly the Resolution was embodied in the Appropriation 1703 Act, which was proposed to the House, first in Committee of Supply, on the 14th August, 1911, and Mr. Emmott being in the Chair—Clause 2, Payment of Members—the Question was put:—That a sum not exceeding £252,000 be granted to His Majesty to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1912, for salaries of Members of the House of Commons not in receipt of salaries as Ministers or officers of the House, or as officers of His Majesty's Household.That Resolution was carried and was embodied in the Appropriation Act of the year. It is not unimportant to bear in mind that, before Mr. Gladstone's day, there never was a practice of printing the Clauses of Appropriation Bills, except the mere Money Grants. If you look at all the Appropriation Acts before Mr. Gladstone's time as Chancellor of the Exchequer, you will find that the Clauses preceding the Appropriation Act were never printed. But we now have—and the importance of this will come in a moment when I refer to the Parliament Act, and the Certificate which the Speaker has to give—Clauses in every Appropriation Act earmarking the amount which is voted by the House of Commons for that particular purpose. And accordingly last year we passed our Appropriation Act declaring that up to the 31st March next this sum, now amounting to about £300,000 a year, was earmarked for the payment of Members of Parliament. More than that, since the War broke out a number of Members joined the Colours, and thereby vacated their seats. They were not aware of the disability which they had incurred, and the Government had, in paving their way, passed an Act not merely to prevent the vacating of the seat, but to legalise the granting of money. The hon. Member for Pontefract said:—But it does seem to me as a layman, that merely to provide that these hon. Members shall be deemed not to have vacated their seats is scarcely strong enough language to convert payment illegally made into a legal payment. At the end of September the Treasury sent out the salaries to hon. Gentlemen who, according to this Bill, were no longer Members of this House, and, indeed, are not now Members. It may be that this Bill puts that right. If so I think it might have done so in more specific terms, because it would be an unfortunate thing if an hon. Member who has accepted a commission and has served at the front were, on his return, to find himself subject to penalties in respect of this payment.Sir J. Simon: The hon. Gentleman is quite right, if I may say so, to put the question, because I wish to have this matter cleared up beyond all doubt. I have done my best to consult the authorities at the Treasury and elsewhere, and if I had any doubt at all I should certainly accept his proposal. It can be understood in all quarters as beyond the slightest question that by passing, as I trust we shall do with unanimous assent, the 1704 Clause, you, Sir, have put from the Chair, we shall, undoubtedly, by that secure the complete legality of these payments.In these circumstances is it not an extraordinary thing that the Treasury should write to Mr. Speaker unquestionably demanding, as if they were the superiors of the people, as if the Speaker was a Civil servant, or amenable to them—demanding that the Speaker should make a list of Members who are at the front, as I understand? Of course, I have not seen the letter, and I hope a copy of the letter will be moved for with the reply of Mr. approached this House—that is, the servant given from the Chair, the Treasury have approached this House—that is, the servant approaches the master to demand from the master an account of particular moneys earmarked by the State for certain Members—and how those Members, and to what extent those Members, have availed of their salaries as Members of Parliament. I only characterise that proceeding as a most extraordinary proceeding. This money was voted by Statute up to the 31st March. Here are the words:—
"All sums granted by this Act and the other Acts mentioned in the Schedule annexed to this Act, granted out of the said Consolidated Fund … are appropriated, and shall be deemed to have been appropriated as from the date of the passing of the Acts mentioned in the said Schedule, for the services and purposes in the said Schedule expressed."
What is expressed in the said Schedule? Here are the words:—
"For the salaries of Members of the House of Commons not in receipt of salaries as Ministers, as officers of the House, or as officers of His Majesty's household."
Therefore what the House has done, not by one casual Act but by Statute after Statute by a series of formulas, is as much as to say, "Parliament earmarks this money for you, A, B, and declares by Statute that it is so earmarked." What is the explanation of what has happened? I can only imagine that the Treasury have acted in this way because of the provision which was for the first time inserted in the Act of 1870 with regard to half-pay officers. There was a provision in the old Statutes with regard to half-pay to officers which required a Statute to enable the Government to make deductions in certain cases from their half-pay. 1705 Accordingly, Mr. Gladstone, for the first time in the Act of 1870, made a series of provisions which now follow in the various Appropriation Acts and which in a different form we have condensed in modern Appropriation Acts what was first enacted in 1870. That provision enacted:—
"The following regulations shall be observed in respect of the application of any sums granted by this Act or any other Act that may hereafter be passed for the half-pay of officers of Her Majesty's officers, that is to say no person shall receive any half-pay who shall be under the age of sixteen.…"
And a number of other provisions. The Treasury, according to my view, seek, on a false analogy, to deal with sums already earmarked for a particular service, and to say that they can make deductions from those sums as they could in the case of half-pay officers. I venture to say that they can do nothing of the sort. You passed this payment of Members without Statute. I have time and again protested, and at the time I strongly protested. I thought it was illegal and I think so still, but you did it to avoid interference with the House of Lords by the Appropriation Act.
Anybody who traces the matter from an historical point of view will, I think, find that it was never intended that the Appropriations should be an enacting Act, and if you now seek to legislate by means of that Act and to legalise what you are going to do, that moment that Act ceases to be a Money Bill, and Mr. Speaker would have to give his certificate that it was not a Money Bill. Therefore, if you are going to deduct from those officers who are at the front moneys voted to them by Parliament you will require a Statute to do it. I do not like to speak with ungraciousness towards my colleagues here, but we who are "old bones" are to be paid and the men who are fighting for us are not. Are you going to go to the executors of Captain O'Neill, of Antrim, who fell at the front, and seek to recover from his executors the paltry three or four pounds that he would be entitled to from his salary as Member of this House. What a position to put Mr. Speaker into, to go to the mourning family. Then you have the £100 per quarter, or whatever it amounts to, paid to men who may have been wounded, and it may be the case of a poor man whose one reliance may have been that this money, at all events, would 1706 be coming to him. With this money earmarked, is some Treasury clerk in comfort in Downing Street to be allowed to say this money shall be deducted? If this money is to be taken away from anybody it ought to be taken from us who are here. We are the persons who ought to lose it, not those who are fighting for us at the front. I honour the men who have gone from this House, taking no thought for their life or limb, imperilling themselves for our sakes. Are we now, behind their backs, furtively and illegally, and at the instance of some whipper-snapper in Downing Street, to tolerate proceedings of this kind?
Above all, is Mr. Speaker, the guardian of our liberties and the protector of our privileges, to be invited to be an assistant and conniver in this transaction? I trust that you, Sir, will uphold the dignity of your great office by refusing to lend yourself to any such proceeding. If the Government have a right to recover this money let them proceed for it in the Courts. If this money should not be paid to Captain O'Neill let them sue his executors or administrators. Let them not try by furtive and illicit proceedings, behind the back and without the knowledge of Parliament, to deprive these men—by whoso exertions possibly some of us may be sitting here in peace—of moneys which they have earned far better than we. There are many Members who, owing to the party truce, find no necessity for coming to the House at all, but they will get their money. Stay in bed and get paid; go to the trenches and get docked! I condemn this entire proceeding. I condemned the original payment made without Statute, and now, the Government finding themselves without provision, this procedure is attempted. I do not blame any Member of the Government. I believe that this was all done by that vague thing called "the Treasury," which we never see. We do not know who they are or anything about them, except that there is some gentleman who, after breakfast, goes to the Treasury and says, "Oh, dock something." They deprived Dublin of its books: that was a splendid thing! I believe that land purchase is to be docked £5,000,000, and there are various other things that we shall hear about in due course. They may be justifiable or not. At all events, those who are here ought to stand up for the rights of those who are not. If this scheme of payment of Members is to be reconsidered, reformed, and 1707 revised, it should not take the mean shape of depriving of their due the men who are risking their lives for us at the front.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Mr. Montagu)
In the regrettable absence of the Secretary to the Treasury, it falls to my lot to answer the criticisms of the hon. and learned Member opposite. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade remarked some time ago, in regard to another matter, that it was impossible to bring about the millenium in a time of war. It is equally impossible to take this opportunity to try to get rid of the hon. and learned Gentleman's detestation of the Treasury, which he never fails to express. The hon. and learned Gentleman draws for himself a land that he has never explored, inhabited by hard-hearted barbarians at 30s. per week, who, without any instructions from anybody, proceed to do a series of mean actions designed to annoy—particularly his constituents in Ireland. As a corollary he naturally regards it as a grave insult to you, Mr. Speaker, that anybody at the Treasury should have dared to address a letter to you—a proceeding which I venture to say in the ordinary course of business has happened hundreds of times before in the history of this House of Commons. Let me hasten to assure the hon. Member at once that none of the splendidly patriotic, hard-working, and brilliant civil servants at the Treasury were responsible, on their own initiative for that which he condemns so strongly. It was the considered decision of the Government, taken on the responsibility of the First Lord of the Treasury himself, and the clerks at 30s. a week were only those who in the ordinary discharge of their business wrote the letters on behalf of their political chief. I suggest to him that he is wrong in his reading of constitutional rights in this matter.
There is all the difference in the world between a salary borne on the Estimates and a salary which is laid down by assent. The resolution passed by the House of Commons in Committee merely said the maximum sum to be spent. The Appropriation Act merely said that the sum which the Committee had granted to the Crown should be spent for that purpose and for no other, and the House of Commons has no constitutional right to 1708 dictate that any sums must be spent. The Estimates are full from year to year of sums surrendered, although voted by the House of Commons, because they were not required for the purpose voted or because the Treasury—the much maligned Treasury—acting as the instrument of the Crown, had not required the money which the House had put at their disposal. That is the difference between a statutory salary and a voted salary. You may provide, let us say, for the payment of seventy-two second-class clerks at £120, and you may promote one of them to a salary of £350. That leaves seventy-one, and you surrender the extra sum.
I would remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Estimates are published in three parts. The first part is the grant of a sum of money to the Crown which is incorporated in the Appropriation Act. The second and third parts, which alone contain any mention of the sum of £400 a year, are binding on nobody at all, and are merely published for the information of the House. That, I believe, is the strict constitutional doctrine. This was a perfectly constitutional thing to do, and a thing which the Crown had a perfect right to do. Why did we do it? We had the story of the executors of Captain O'Neill, and that purple passage that the hon. and learned Gentleman incorporated in his speech, was—if he will forgive me for saying so—silly. The heroic services of soldiers of the Crown, whether Members of Parliament or others, cannot be measured by the money they will get. We should have to put up a memorial to those who have fallen rather than consider their actions in the paltry terms of money. Why did we do it? Because not only the analogy of 1870, but because the Government had suggested—the Prime Minister told the House so—that the right way of treating Civil servants who volunteered for the front was to keep their places for them, and to ensure that they suffered no pecuniary loss by going to the front. They get their whole salary from public funds—a salary made up of part of their salary which they got for performing services they can no longer perform at the front, and their military pay. It was an enormous improvement upon anything ever done before. No one lost his job; his place was kept open for him, a substitute was found, and he did not lose a penny salary by going to the front.
1709 Having laid down this rule—that a man, when he could only perform one public service, was not entitled to receive payment from the public purse for two services, but that you would set an example to all private employers by ensuring that no man lost by going to the front—we thought that, if that was to be the rule, applied to the Civil servant, the House of Commons, which, as the hon. and learned Member said, is the master of the Civil servant, would wish at the earliest opportunity to put themselves in no better position than the Civil servants they employ, and suffer the same deprivation—if it can be called a deprivation—as the Civil servants whom they employ. The House was not sitting at the time. We did our best through the ordinary channels to try and discover what the view of the House of Commons would be, and we came to the conclusion that this thing, which we had a constitutional right to do, would be, we believed, the sort of thing the House of Commons would like to do in putting themselves in the position with regard to salary as Civil servants.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I agree to a man receiving his military pay and his House of Commons pay, but it did not say how much the House of Commons pay was to be. Supposing a man only got the military pay—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I think if the hon. Member will bear with me he will see there is reason—
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I was referring to the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Butcher) who made an ejaculation.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
Let me explain what I said, and I think I shall be able to remove the shock. If that Bill had not been passed a man could get the £120, let us say, as his salary as a subaltern, and no money as salary as a Member of the House of Commons. That would have put him in a position we desire to avoid, of suffering 1710 temporary loss by being patriotic enough to go to the front. The Bill permitted paying both, but surely it was not to decide he was to get more than he would get as a Member of Parliament. Therefore we took this action, believing it would be the action the House of Commons would approve. It is the action that has been taken with regard to Ministers. The hon. Member for St. George's-in-the-East (Mr. Wedgwood Benn), who is one of the Lords of the Treasury—
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I submit my argument is fair. Members of Parliament have been treated in a particular way; it is the same way that Civil servants have been. I say that not because Members are Civil servants, but because the House of Commons would like to treat them as such. There is the case of a Minister whose salary is borne upon the Votes, like the hon. Member for St. George's-in-the-East (Mr. Wedgwood Benn), and others who have been treated in the same way. No single Member has had his salary dropped yet or any deduction made from his salary as a Member of Parliament. The inquiry made from Mr. Speaker relates to the payment which will be made at the end of this quarter.
§ Mr. JONATHAN SAMUEL
I would like to know whether the hon. Member for St. George's-in-the-East will draw his full salary?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
He will draw the salary that he was getting in the House, minus what would be due to him as military pay. No deduction has yet been made. I agree that this constitutional action which we have taken cannot be taken if the House of Commons does not approve of it. Although there is no constitutional objection to doing it, there was included in those Votes a Parliamentary pledge. That being the case—
§ Mr. MONTAGU
We took action which could not come into operation until three months after. Every hon. Member knew what was going to happen.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
We tried to leave people in the position in which they were, because we misinterpreted apparently—if the hon. and learned Member is a fair specimen of that view—what the House would wish us to do. There are three methods of dealing with the question. The first would be to treat this Debate as signifying the approval of the House of Commons to this measure.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The next suggestion is that the salaries of Members should be paid in full this quarter, which is the last financial quarter of the year, and when we come to debate the Estimates for next year we shall then, I hope, prevail on Members of Parliament to treat themselves as Civil servants are treated now, and make a deduction from their next quarter's salary, reducing their salaries from the 31st of March next and taking off enough to reduce their salaries as from the 12th of January. We can pay the salaries in full for this quarter without prejudice for the future.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I am quite willing to leave the question to be decided on next year's Estimates. If hon. Members leave it permanently in this position—that they are free to draw two salaries in full when they can only perform one duty—then they are doing something which Civil servants are not allowed to do. I hope the House of Commons will, if they do not like this method, reduce the salary in the way which appeals to them more when the Estimates come to be considered next year.