§ (1) For the purposes hereinafter mentioned relating to pensions and grants and allowances made in respect of the present War to officers and men in the naval and military services of His Majesty and their wives, widows, children and other dependants, and the care of officers and men disabled in consequence of the present War there shall be constituted a Statutory Committee of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation (hereinafter referred to as the Corporation), consisting of twenty-five members, appointed as hereinafter mentioned.
§ (2) Of the said twenty-five members—
- twelve (of whom one shall be chairman and one vice-chairman and some shall be women and not less than two shall be representatives of labour) shall be appointed by His Majesty;
- one shall be appointed by the Treasury;
- one shall be appointed by the Admiralty;
- one shall be appointed by the Army Council;
- one shall be appointed by the National Health Insurance Joint Committee;
- one shall be appointed by the Local Government Board;
- one shall be appointed by the Local Government Board for Scotland;
- one shall be appointed by the Local Government Board for Ireland;
- six (of whom some shall be women) shall be appointed by the General Council of the Corporation;
§ (3) Four of the members appointed by the General Council of the Corporation shall be appointed from amongst the members of the Corporation, but save as aforesaid it shall not be necessary that the persons appointed to be members of the Statutory Committee should at the time of appointment be members of the Corporation.
§ (4) There may be paid to the chairman or vice-chairman, out of moneys provided by Parliament, such salary as the Treasury may determine.
§ (5) All other expenses of the Committee (including such travelling and other allowances to members of the Committee as the Committee may determine) shall be paid out of the funds at the disposal of the Committee.2083
§ (6) Seven members of the Statutory Committee shall constitute a quorum, and the Statutory Committee may appoint subcommittees consisting either wholly or partly of members of the Statutory Committee, and may delegate to such sub-committees, with or without any restrictions or conditions as they think fit, any of their powers and duties under this Act. Subject to the foregoing provisions of this Sub-section, the Committee shall regulate their own procedure.
§ (7) The term of office of a member of the Statutory Committee shall be three years; but a retiring member shall be eligible for re-appointment: Provided that if a member required to be appointed from amongst the members of the Corporation ceases for two months to be a member of the Corporation otherwise than as a member of the Statutory Committee he shall at the end of that period vacate his office as member of the Statutory Committee, and that a person appointed to fill a casual vacancy shall continue in office so long only as the person in whose place he was appointed would have continued in office.
§ (8) The Statutory Committee may employ a secretary, assistant secretaries, and such other clerks and servants as they may require, and may establish a scheme of pensions for persons in their permanent employment.
§ Lords Amendment: In Sub-section (1) leave out the words "Statutory Committee of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation (hereinafter referred to as the Corporation)," and insert instead thereof the words, "Board to be called 'War Allowances Board,' and hereinafter referred to as 'the Board.'"
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
This would appear to give an opportunity of dealing with the main issue presented to the House, whether this body shall be under Government control and directly responsible to this House, or whether it shall be a statutory body more irresponsible and, therefore, not quite so open to our criticism as a Government Department would be. On that I venture to express my regret that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill for the moment should have used the threat to the House which he has used. Practically what he holds over our 2084 heads is this: "If you press for full power of control for this House and succeed, then the Bill goes."
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I must ask the hon. Member to quote. I have said nothing so ridiculous. I am certain of that.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I am in the recollection of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman disclaims the statement I will not pursue it further, but in defence of my statement I may add this: the right hon. Gentleman says if we pursue the matter and get a body which is responsible to Parliament and constituted in the main of representatives of Government Departments, this would involve Government responsibility which the Government is not prepared to undertake, and therefore, if we are successful, as I understood him, the Government will disclaim responsibility for the Bill. I will say no more on that point. I am prepared to allow the matter to be judged from the OFFICIAL REPORT.
May I say in justification of my statement that the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Hohler) so understood the right hon. Gentleman, and it is because of the fear of losing the Bill that the hon. and learned Gentleman said, "I am prepared to support this Bill rather than lose it, and thereby postpone the adequate treatment of those who are now being disabled in our service." Then, that usually astute gentleman, the hon. Member for the Middleton Division, has been similarly mislead. It is quite clear, too, that the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Scott), indicated that he was prepared to withdraw his opposition, not that he liked to do so, but on the pledge which the Government had given. It must be quite obvious to the whole House that not a speaker has stood up in his place to say that he approved of the constitution of the statutory body, as outlined in the Bill when it left this House, and it is obvious, further, that the whole House, if judged by the speeches made, is against the Government in this matter. The majority of the House of Lords is against the Government, too, and it is curious that it is the House of Lords which has tried to make this Bill more democratic, and to show us a way of retaining our grip over matters which ought to be under our adequate control. For the second time since the War broke out that House has suggested to us that liberty, either 2085 personal or Parliamentary, is fully worth retention. The opinions expressed here are shared by the public and the Press outside. Take the "Manchester Guardian." What does it say on this Bill in respect of the changes suggested by the House of Lords? In its leading article, on the 15th of the present month, it says that the change is of great importance, andIf the House of Commons were to reverse it, it would be making the Bill still very inadequate, indefensibly bad.I associate myself entirely with that criticism. I could quote other papers, like the "Morning Post," the "Daily News," the "Westminster Gazette," and the "Standard," all expressing dissatisfaction. The same may be said of the provincial papers. Indeed, I find it difficult to quote any paper which has not expressed its approval of the chief change proposed by the House of Lords. Therefore, the House of Commons, the House of Lords, the Press, and, as far as one can gather, public opinion are all opposed to the Government in this matter, and if the Government succeed in defeating the proposal of the Lords it will be by means of this threat. I am sorry it has been made. What is it Members desire? They desire, after all this lapse of time, that the soldier and the sailor shall no longer be dependent on voluntary agency to get his pension and training and employment assured to him when he returns to this country. It is because the Government is afraid of the amount which it may involve that to-night they say, "You risk the Bill if you attempt to set up a body which shall be represented by the Government Department."
If I may be allowed, I would like to criticise in one or two details the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. He said, "There is a vital principle involved. We desire a voluntary agency. Our opponents desire a Parliamentary and Departmental one." The right hon. Gentleman called that a vital issue, but later on in his speech he asked, "After all, which is the more public body," adding, there is very little difference between them. If there is this very little difference between them, why will he not accept the much better principle outlined in the Amendment of the Lords? The right hon. Gentleman went on further to say this is experimental. Let us try what this voluntary body can do before we set up a much larger body and take the whole subject under review. In passing, may I say how heartily I welcome the suggestion that there should 2086 be a much more comprehensive Bill, and that we should have a Pensions Department where the whole work can be consolidated? But I would say this: Once set up the nucleus of a charitable body to do the work you give it a vested interest in it.
If this is experimental why not experiment with a body over which Parliament has control? Why not experiment with representatives of Departments whom you can replace? Once you allow this charitable body, with people added to it from various departments who are always in a minority, you place in a superior position this one individual charitable organisation. You give it a vested interest, and when the time comes for replacing it, and a larger Bill comes along, we shall have difficulty in removing the irresponsible charitable organisation from its privileged position and in placing Parliament where it might be placed now if we accept the Amendment which the Lords have suggested to us. If Parliamentary control was thoroughly secured under this Bill we should have representatives of Departments not at present included.
The Murray Committee has been quite overlooked in regard to essential matters in its Report. It did most valuable work, and its work was most satisfactorily done. The Committee suggested that, in view of the fact that disabled soldiers might be placed on the land, the Board of Agriculture should be represented on the Statutory Body. But the Board of Agriculture finds no place in the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. The Murray Committee also suggested that, in view of the question of training, representatives of the Board of Education should be placed on the body. There is no representative of that body provided for. In view of employment, the Murray Committee suggested that representatives of the Board of Trade should have a place on the Board, but no representative of the Board of Trade is included in the Statutory Committee. It is inadequate and irresponsible. It puts our soldiers, on Trafalgar Day above all days, once more in the hands of the charitable, instead of the State quite frankly and fully accepting full financial responsibility for their upkeep and training and their place in industry.
Is it not clear that the answer of the right hon. Gentleman that the Departments have no time to deal with this matter is quite absurd even on a superficial examination? On the Statutory Committee as contemplated there are to 2087 be members of Government Departments. It is not proposed to add to the number of representatives from each Department contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman. All that is proposed is to add representatives of other essential Departments—Departments more essential for the purposes of the Bill than those already mentioned. You merely invite them to be represented on this Committee, without adding immensely to the work of the Department concerned. The Amendments of the Lords give an opportunity to the Government to select representatives from all the important Departments affected, and also to invite representatives of labour and of the employers who are not now adequately represented on the Statutory Body, and if that is carried you will then have the inestimable advantage of full Parliamentary control, with a right in Members here to challenge what is done, to ask questions, and to keep the thing on right lines, in the interests of the men whom it is our object to serve to-night. May I reiterate this point? Under the Bill as it stands, thanks to the constitution of the Statutory Body, its Report, forsooth, is to be part and parcel of and a subsidiary matter to the Report of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation. It is to be buried away in the pages of the Annual Report of that body to Parliament.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
Perhaps it may save a little time if I say we accept the Amendment of the House of Lords that the Report shall be made direct.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
May I express my satisfaction at finding the right hon. Gentleman repentant, after refusing the Amendment which I moved in identical terms in this House. This shows that the Lords have given a consideration to the matter which we did not. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, we considered it!"] It is true we did give it consideration, but our main criticisms were rejected, and now the House of Lords, having given careful consideration to the matter, is showing us the better way. It used to be said of a former Leader of the late Opposition that he merely raised his finger as an indication to the other place of what their duty was. May the Chief Whip of the Labour party emulate that great Parliamentarian and indicate to the other place that their duty is obvious in this matter, that they should adhere to their decision, and, if the Government tell us to-night that if we persist 2088 they will not accept responsibility for the Bill, let us throw on the Government the responsibility of doing their duty to our soldiers and sailors. I hope that the House of Lords will adhere to their decision.
If the Government defeat us to-night—and we are going to a Division on this matter—we feel so strongly that we shall welcome the opposition of the Lords to the decision of the Government, because we believe that the view of the House of Lords in this matter is the right view. For these reasons I venture to express the hope that the Government even now will see that they are acting against the sense of the House, that they are acting directly in the face of public opinion, that they are attempting to throw upon us who desire the better way the onus of possibly wrecking the Bill. Then what shall we say to the friends of our disabled soldiers and sailors when we meet them in our constituencies? For my part I have a complete answer, an answer which I am satisfied will prove convincing, because it will be that we throw on the Government, and not upon a charitable organisation, the duty of finding the necessary funds in order that we may do the right thing by those who are fighting our battles.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I entirely agree with the last speaker. This is a bad Bill which will not only defeat its own object but which will cause considerable irritation, and I think even worse, among those whom it is intended to benefit. These soldiers and sailors have gone out to fight for our Empire, and their dependents ought to be taken up and mothered by the State and not by any charitable institution whatever. I am not saying one word against the splendid work which charitable institutions have done for them; there is no denying the great efforts some of them have made, but I point rather to the nature of open administration. I hardly know how to express it, but they have been expecting these people to tell them more than they should expect to be told. They have not gone in the way that a Government Department would have gone. They have made it more or less a favour to go and see them, and have asked them questions that I do not think it was necessary to ask on many occasions.
The point remains that it is the duty of the State to look after these people, who have fought for and defended us and who 2089 will win for the State, when they come home, as well as to look after their dependants. The best thing to be done is to withdraw the Bill altogether and frame a new Bill, of which the Government will take charge. The funds necessary for that Bill should be State funds, and should be managed by people qualified by the State to manage them. The management of the concern should be taken away from the Patriotic Fund. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, which has done very brilliant work, is not capable of looking after these enormous numbers of men who will come home and who will require much greater funds than either of those societies can supply. The best thing the Government can do is to withdraw the Bill altogether. Even with the Lords Amendments it will be a patched-up Bill. They should bring forward a perfectly clear Government Bill, supplying the funds for the whole of this great work and putting the whole thing under Government management and in charge of this House, where the different questions can be debated. Let us have a Bill that will be satisfactory to this House, satisfactory to the people, and, above all, satisfactory to those whom it is our bounden duty to look after, from the State and not from any charitable organisation.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must remind the House that we are not discussing the Bill as a whole. There is no question of withdrawing it, nor is that possible. The only question is whether the House is prepared to accept or to reject an Amendment proposed by the Lords.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I have been rather surprised to listen to some of the remarks made in the course of this Debate on the Amendments, and the cheers which have been given by my hon. Friends behind me, because if there is any possibility that the Bill is to be wrecked upon those Amendments, it would certainly be a most serious matter to those dependants who, by thousands all over the country, are now asking that their pensions should be fixed under this Bill. I would remind the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) that this Bill does not in any way touch the pensions paid to disabled soldiers, because they are provided for, or the pensions paid to the widows and families of soldiers, which are also provided for. This Bill simply deals with the pensions that will be provided for the dependants. Under this Bill the Govern- 2090 ment is setting up committees in every town in the country, who will provide the Statutory Committee with information upon which they will base their decision to recommend what pensions those persons should receive. That is all this Bill does with regard to that aspect of the matter, and it does not touch the other points the Noble Lord raised.
If I could believe with my hon. Friends in the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Goldstone) that the Amendments made in the House of Lords in any way give the powers which my hon. Friends around me desire, which I should like to see given, and which will be given in a new Bill, placing complete control over the whole question in the House of Commons, I should be with them. But there is nothing in the Amendment of the House of Lords dealing with the re-constitution of this Committee that will give any such power. I should like to put to my hon. Friend (Mr. C. E. Price) one or two points. Where is there anything in the Amendments of the Lords with regard to the reconstitution of the Statutory Committee that would in any way give you the power that you are seeking? You say you want more money. They do not propose to give any more money, and they do not propose to alter the Bill in regard to its semi-voluntary principle. So far as the Lords are concerned, they could not do it, for they could not give us more money. In the second place, where is the power in this Bill, even with the Amendments, that would give Parliament control over the whole question? If you look at the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman is going to accept you will see that it contains the same principle as is contained in the Bill—that is to say, that this Statutory Committee will now report directly to this House once a year. When they present that report we shall have the power to review what they have done. There is nothing in this Bill or in any of the Amendments of the Lords that will give my hon. Friends below the Gangway, or any other Members, the right to put questions week after week and month after month to any Minister with regard to the administration of this Bill.
My impression is, as concerns the voluntary funds is that they will only be required to pay the supplementary grants. At the present time supplementary grants are paid to families who are in receipt of separation allowance beyond the 4s. per week paid by them in rent. That is paid out of the Prince of Wales' Fund. The 2091 question is whether the Prince of Wales' Fund is large enough to continue this money to this Statutory Committee. I am under the impression that it will not be. The Prince of Wales' Fund has become seriously depleted, and so far as the contributions are concerned they are practically nil, apart from the fact that the working men themselves are contributing to this fund. Therefore I am as certain as I am standing here, that within the next twelve months, or even the next eight months, the Government will have to deal with this question from the point of view of finding the whole of the money for the supplementary grants. Anybody who is watching the Prince of Wales' Fund knows that it is being depleted, and that the fund must retain an enormous sum of money towards assisting the depression that may occur when this unfortunate War is over. I am rather surprised at the remarks of my hon. Friends who are opposed to this Bill, because we debated the whole of these points both on the Committee stage and the Report stage We practically accepted the decision of the Government. The Bill went to the Lords, and the Lords have amended it where we failed. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer states that he cannot accept those Amendments, and if we defeat this Bill, we shall thereby deprive thousands of mothers from obtaining their pensions during the coming winter. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That will be the effect. I have had a large number of applications myself. These Committees must be set up, because the War Office and the Admiralty will not consider any pensions for dependants until these Committees are set up. Therefore I plead with my hon. Friends not to press this matter to a Division. If they do, I shall vote with the Government, because I want to save this Bill in the interests of the unfortunate dependants.
§ Mr. HOGGE
This Amendment, which the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill desires us to reject, is really the keystone to the position with regard to those of us who are in favour of these alterations, and I take it that if we cannot get the Government to accept the Lords Amendment, it really does not very much matter whether or not all the others are accepted. I am afraid I cannot be taken in so easily as my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. J. Samuel) is, by the specious promises about a new Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that when, we 2092 have got experience of this work, we could look forward at a later date to a new big Bill, and we will have more leisure and opportunity to deal with it. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill said it was to be introduced in the spring. But this present Parliament dies in January, 1916, and nobody in this House, including my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, can stand up and give us a guarantee that this Government will be in office in January, 1916. Therefore, what is the use of their promising to this Parliament a new big Bill in the spring, when we have got greater experience. Let us look at the experience we shall have at that time. This is the 21st October. What has to be done under this Bill? We have to set up a new Statutory Committee. In addition, we have to appoint in every municipality throughout the length and breadth of the country an auxiliary committee. We have then to make an appeal for public funds, and when we have the public voluntary funds we shall have to invite those not otherwise entitled to pensions to apply to this committee. Can that be done within the next ten weeks? It cannot be done this year, and I believe it cannot be done until well on in 1916, and by that time, having had no experience, we are invited by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accept a new big Bill to settle this matter, and the hon. Member for Stockton believes that—
§ Mr. HOGGE
He believes that kind of specious announcement. What is the proposal of the House of Lords? It is a very simple one. It is to reduce the representation of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation. It does not wipe out the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation, because, if hon. Members will turn to the Amendment Paper, they will see that one of the Lords Amendments further down provides for the appointment of two members from the General Council of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation; so that, if we adopt this, the Statutory Committee will consist of eighteen representatives appointed by the Government, one appointed by the Treasury, one appointed by the Admiralty, one by the Army Council, two by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, and two by the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation. The original Bill said there should be a Statutory Committee of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation, consisting of twenty-five members, made up in 2093 a different way. The Lords do not propose to wipe out the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation, who will be still represented on the new Statutory Committee; therefore hon. Members are labouring under a misapprehension if they imagine that the body the Lords propose to set up is so much different from the other body. You have ruled already that we cannot digress into matters which would be relevant to other occasions, but I should like to remind the House that the Board will be able to deal with cases which no Statutory Committee can deal with, as set out in the original Bill. I would remind my right hon. Friend, for example, of such cases as that of a widowed mother who is not entitled to any pension from anybody, and who would come to this Board or Statutory Committee for her pension. The War has been in operation now for fourteen months, and it will be several months before the new Committee or Board can be set up, and cases of that kind are not yet in receipt of any money. If you have a Board which is responsible to the House of Commons, the rights of that class of person are much more likely to be satisfied than if you relegated that work to a Committee which submits once a year a report of its work to the House of Commons, and which provides only one occasion, namely, the discussion of the vice-chairman's salary out of the Consolidated Fund, for public criticism of what it is doing. It is really ludicrous to say we have any control over this Committee when the only occasion on which you can criticise it is on the Consolidated Fund Bill, because we use those occasions, when we have no such great engrossing topic as the War to divert our attention, for big political subjects, and a subject of this kind would never get in.
I am glad my hon. Friend (Mr. Gold-stone) and others, who think alike with us, at any rate mean to go into the Division Lobby on this point, and I invite as many Members of the House of Commons to go with us there as can. I hope hon. Members will not be frightened to divide on this Amendment, because of the fact that you have a Coalition Government. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to take off the Coalition Whips. I have never understood why there should be Whips in a Coalition Government. Surely, in a House which is supporting the Cabinet, we ought not to have any Whips at all, and the Cabinet ought to accept the wish of the House of Commons in a matter of this kind. I am perfectly certain that 2094 outside the walls of this Chamber the average Member of the House of Commons wants this Statutory Committee directly responsible to the House of Commons. If we put in this Board as is suggested by the House of Lords, that Board is made up of a majority of people appointed by the Crown. That is the most democratic suggestion that has been made yet with regard to this Bill. Let us never mind what happens with regard to the Division, but let those of us who believe that this matter should be kept within the power and within the control of Members of this House go into the Division Lobby in favour of retaining the Lords Amendment. It is an excellent Amendment to the suggestion which was made by the House of Commons, and I am perfectly certain that on no public platform outside this House will the Members of that Front Bench defend their proposals as against the wider proposal for dealing with the dependants of those who have gone to lay down their lives for us. It is up to the House of Commons to do their duty by these people. It is no use over and over again mouthing phrases about what we do for these people. It is no use putting time off and off. Here we have a chance to put into the Bill an Amendment from the House of Lords which creates a public body, the majority of its members being elected by the Government, and we shall be betraying our responsibility and our duty if we do not vote against the Government and against the Coalition. It will not damage the Coalition. It will not put the Coalition out of power. It will not even destroy this Bill. It is all nonsense for Members on that bench to say, "If the House of Commons prefers this matter, merely a question of arrangement, as being better than the one on that Table they are going to delay the Bill." People outside will hold the Coalition Government responsible if in six months from now they go to the country without having made adequate provision for these people, and they are doing it now on a day when we have been discussing such things as night clubs. There were far more people in this House listening to the discussion on night clubs than to the discussion on this Amendment.
§ Mr. AINSWORTH
I think the position in which we find ourselves now is, to say the least, an unfortunate one. There 2095 is apparently a great deal of divergence of opinion in this House, and we know that there is divergence of opinion between this House and another place. But there is one point on which I may say we are definitely agreed, and that is not only that we should do something, but we should do something at once, and if we do not do so we shall not be proud of ourselves. I am going to suggest a way in which I think this House, and Parliament generally, may get out of the difficulty we are in. Time is of the essence of the whole matter. Nothing would please us more than that this question should be settled and put into working order during the coming week. It is rather extraordinary that we should be discussing this matter on the anniversary of the day when the soldiers and sailors of the British Empire laid one of the greatest foundation stones on which the British Empire has been built. Surely today we are not going to waste time on a matter concerning the interests of soldiers and sailors and their families so enormously! Surely we are not going to waste time in what I may call useless arguments! Cannot we endeavour to see what may be done? Here is a divergence of opinion. I do not profess to argue about it at this moment. We know the Government come here impressed with the feeling we all have that something must be done at once. I have no doubt the Government are proposing, in what they have to lay before us this evening, certain things that they want us to agree to. In the course of the Debate we have had they must be aware of the great divergence in this House as to what ought to be done. Would it not be the simplest way of getting on with the business if we agreed, as I am quite prepared to do, to the points and let the Bill go through the House now on the understanding that when the Government have got their way now they will go to the House of Lords and carry out at once and without needless discussion whatever, between this House and the other place, may be thought to be the best and most complete and most practical solution of the difficulty for the moment which will enable us to do something for our soldiers and their dependants during the next six months?
I do not think it really signifies much in the present circumstances where the money comes from so long as we get it, so long as there is money enough volun- 2096 tarily, or from the State, or got in what-ever way you choose, to provide for the soldiers and sailors and their dependants during the coming twelve months. That is all we have to do at present. I am very sorry that anyone should argue about the matters we have been arguing about, because what have they to do with the well-being of the soldiers and sailors and of their wives and children. If I might make a suggestion, I would say let us to night agree to whatever the Government want us to agree to at once. I am extremely glad to see that we have such an able Parliamentarian at our head as the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. I would ask him therefore to tell us now exactly what he wants and we will agree to it. Then let him go across to another place. He and the Government are quite aware now what the wishes of the House are—I will not say only of the House but what the wishes of the country are. What we want is a practical body to get to work on this important subject at once. I would ask him, therefore, to take charge of the whole matter and when the Bill goes to another place to see that it comes back to us here, and I would ask the Government to see that it comes back to us here in such a shape that we can agree to it as the best means of dealing, for the coming six or twelve months or until we can do something else, with one of the largest and most important questions that the British Parliament in all its branches has to deal with. Let us by all means get as good a solution as we can, as quickly as we can, and with the help of both Houses, and with the help of all the nation, and let us, at any rate, in the course of the next few days, show that we have done something for those to whom we owe so much, the soldiers and sailors who have fought for us, who have died for us, and have left behind them families and children that we ought to be proud to do something for.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
It is hot unnatural that there should be a great division of opinion on a question of this kind. No one pretends—I have not heard anyone say—that the original proposal of the Government was an ideal proposal. My right hon. Friend certainly has not said so. But this body is set up more or less as a temporary body to deal with supplemental pensions, not pensions given by the State according to scale, but with supplemental pensions, the money for which is partly to be drawn from charitable funds 2097 and partly from the Grants which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has over and over again stated he would be willing to place at the disposal of that body. My right hon. Friend says if we are to have a new Bill we should have to wait a considerable time before we can possibly frame it. We are now exceedingly busy, we have much to do, the difficulties are great, and we can hardly hope to have that Bill at all events until next spring. Meanwhile we have to accept either the proposal of the House of Lords or the proposal of the Government founded on the Report of the Select Committee and passed, after all, through this House without division on this point. What did my right hon. Friend say about the proposal of the House of Lords? Why did he so strongly object to it? Why should I equally object to it if I were Chancellor of the Exchequer? This is what he said about it:—I shall submit to the House when the time comes that you cannot set up a new Government Department by amending a Bill which was framed upon the voluntary basis. The whole scheme and system of the Bill is not adapted to that purpose.Here are the important words:—If the House desires, and if Parliament desires to have a new Government authority to deal with pensions, that authority must absorb the existing authority. We cannot have a Government Department at Chelsea administering pensions with considerable latitude and a Government Department under this Bill also administering pensions and dealing with the same people, and likewise with considerable latitude in dealing with public money. We shall have public money flowing out at every tap.Again he said, later on:—The second course is to accept the Amendments made in another place and to set up a new Government Department dealing with identically the subject-matter which two Government Departments are already dealing with. That is a course which I also cannot recommend."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th October, 1915, col. 1560.]What would be the effect if you were to set up this body as desired in another place? It would be to set up an appeal court from Chelsea and from Greenwich. There would be an appeal in every single case. You would have rival bodies dealing with exactly the same set of people under the same set of circumstances, each having public money at its disposal voted by the House of Commons. That is really an absurd position which you cannot expect any Chancellor of the Exchequer to take up. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, after all, besides thinking of the soldier and sailor—and my right hon. Friend really has been very generous in this matter—has got to protect the national Exchequer. He has got to think of the taxpayers, and particularly of the taxpayers of the future. If a new body is to be set up, and I tell 2098 the House of Commons again and again I want a new body set us, it ought to be so constituted that it absorbs the other bodies. It is not a rival to them, but one body to be paid by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, getting Votes from this House and under the full control of this House. The hon. Member (Mr. Goldstone) seems to think that I did not want to bring the body under the control of the House. No one has ever wanted more than I to bring it under the control of the House. There will be certain Grants from the Exchequer, which will be under the control of this House. This new body should be responsible to this House, and should have someone to answer for it, so that the whole question that we have to deal with may be dealt with by somebody who is directly responsible for it. I speak in the presence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was given good reason for not accepting the body as reconstituted in another place. If his view is not taken, and if the House of Commons chooses to adopt this new scheme, designed in another place, they must not be surprised if my right hon. Friend refuses to finance that body, which he himself is not responsible for, and over which he says he will not have that control which the Chancellor of the Exchequer certainly ought to have. This body will have to stand millions and millions of public money in the course of a year. It will be one of the biggest spending Departments of the State. Is the House of Commons, under those circumstances, going to deny the Chancellor of the Exchequer some voice in shaping that body, and some voice in controlling that body? He ought to have that voice in the interests of the taxpayers of this country.
Some day, before long I hope, a new body will be set up. I agree with my right hon. and gallant Friend (Lord C. Beresford) that a new body ought to be set up, and that a new scheme ought to be framed. Let us take part in framing that scheme. At all events we cannot deny that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is right in saying that he should have a leading voice in the framing of a scheme under which millions of public money will be spent. He has adopted a reasonable attitude, and I hope we shall not run the risk of losing this Bill which, although not perfect, will set up a body which will have at its command substantial Grants given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and which I hope will also have at its command a considerable sum of money 2099 given from charitable funds, which can be distributed during the next six months in supplemental pensions to any cases of great hardship which cannot be met at present.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
There are only two questions which arise out of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The first question is whether, in dividing upon this Amendment, we are going to support a real control by the House of Commons, or only a shadowy control. The proposal which the Government supports is a proposal which sets up a new authority. In fact, both proposals set up new authorities. So that it is not really a question as to whether we are to have double authorities. A new authority is to be set up, and the question is as to the nature of that authority. Under the Bill as it left the House of Commons, we had only a shadowy control over the new body, because our control was limited to the vote on the salary of the vice-chairman. Under the scheme as it has come to us from the House of Lords we shall have a real control, in that this body will be really representative to the House of Commons. I think, therefore, that on the merits the House of Commons, as representing the democratic element in our country, should support the proposal put forward by the House of Lords. The second question is whether we should divide upon this matter. The right hon. Gentleman adduces as an argument why we should adhere to the original scheme the fact that on the former occasion it was passed by the House of Commons without a Division. Now we are told that this is a temporary scheme, and that there is to be another Bill, which is to set up a new central authority. When that proposal is brought forward as an improvement upon the present scheme, if we do not take the opportunity of dividing to-night we shall then be told by the Minister of the day that this scheme was passed by the House of Commons without a Division. It is, therefore, upon both these grounds our bounden duty to divide in order to secure popular control of this new institution.
What the right hon. Gentleman told us just now has put a very different complexion upon the Debate; but I want some further assurance about it. He says that this House will have control over the Statutory Committee, but in the Bill I see nothing which gives that control.
2100 I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is going to consent to an Amendment presently that a Report shall be presented to this House; but that alone does not give that kind of control over this Statutory Committee that the House desires. The House desires that there shall be someone here responsible for the actions of that Committee, who can be questioned day by day in the House, so that its operations may be satisfactory to the House and the country. We are told that if we accept this Amendment of the House of Lords the Government will drop the Bill. What will happen if we reject this Amendment? May not the House of Lords refuse then to pass the Bill? We are placed in a very melancholy position to-night. The Bill is a bad Bill because it is founded on charity. I would like to sweep charity out of all our Bills. It is a very late Bill, and for that reason there is not time to construct a proper authority to deal with the whole question. It is a very late Bill, and therefore we must act at once. Something must be done for the coming winter. We stand between two stools. We may lose the Bill to-night, or lose it when it goes back to the other House. I feel rather inclined to think that hon. Members opposite will be disposed to withdraw their opposition if the right hon. Gentleman would consent to some compromise under which this House would have some real control over this Statutory Committee. If the right hon. Gentleman and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would promise to endeavour to arrive at some compromise by which there would be real control by this House over the doings of the Statutory Committee whilst it is in existence, and until it is put an end to by the big Bill which we are promised by and by, I think hon. Members opposite might be inclined to withdraw their opposition and not simply to divide for the sake of dividing.
§ Mr. PRATT
My excuse for intruding upon the House is that when the Bill was in Committee here I had an Amendment on the Paper to strike out the Patriotic Fund Corporation. However, I hearkened to the voice of the Parliamentary Secretary and withdrew that Amendment. I regret exceedingly now that I did not press that Amendment to a Division. There are many weak parts in the Bill, especially as the Chancellor of the Exchequer asks the House to accept it. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Denniss) has put his finger on the worst spot of all, and that is the element of charity in the Bill. Specially in 2101 respect to one matter do I want to emphasise that point of view. I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few questions. I understand that the proposal is that disabled sailors and soldiers should come under this fund for the purpose of restoration to health or the purpose of training—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is not the topic we are discussing. The topic now is whether this body is to be called the "War Allowances Board," or the "Statutory Committee" of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation. That is the only issue now before the House.
§ Mr. PRATT
That seems to me to be wrapped up with the question which it would be out of order for me to raise now. There is no question which the people of this country at the present time are more keenly interested in than that full and complete justice shall be done to the men who have been broken in our wars.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That, as I have just pointed out, is not the topic which we are now discussing, and I must ask the hon. Member not to continue discussion on those lines. If he had been here during the last two or three hours, he would have heard that ruling repeatedly laid down.
§ Mr. PRATT
I much regret that I have not kept within order, but I have been away on public business to-day, otherwise I should have been conversant with the ruling you have laid down. I shall confine my remarks, therefore, to the question of public control. The subject which is wrapped up in this measure is one that will touch the House of Commons year after year for generations to come, and if we are not to have full and complete control of the working of these allowances, and particularly of the treatment of disabled soldiers who return from the front, I have great doubt as to whether the promise that was given to us by the Colonial Secretary early in the War will be fulfilled. When the Colonial Secretary was Leader of the Opposition he stated in a very noble sentence at the Guildhall that those who fight our battles can rely upon being treated as the children of the State. How can we secure that that promise, upon which the manhood and the womanhood of this country have relied, can be fulfilled unless we place this work of primary importance in the hands of a body which is kept constantly under the eye of the House of Commons? Matters of great im- 2102 portance from week to week and day today will arise in connection with this scheme while the House is sitting, and which ought to be met at once by Members of the Treasury Bench. We ought to be able to have such matters dealt with at once here, and not have to go through the long official circumlocution of the various agencies that are mentioned in the Bill. We ought to be able to go direct to the Treasury Bench, week by week and day by day, to see that the promises that have been held out to the men who are fighting our battles are fairly and generously fulfilled. I am sorry that I cannot support the Government on this occasion.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
Mr. Speaker has pointed out how very narrow is the issue which we are discussing. It is really a question between two different forms of statutory Boards, or Committees, who are to manage this particular fund. The Secretary to the Local Government Board has said quite fairly that the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have control over these funds, and he points out that very large public funds will have to be administered by this Statutory Committee. I do not see how the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have any better control over the funds if they are in the hands of the Statutory Committee that exists in the Bill than if they are in the hands of the Committee which is suggested by the House of Lords. The whole question appears to be as to which of these two bodies is the best. In my judgment the best of the two bodies is that which is suggested by the House of Lords. Although Mr. Speaker has pointed out that the whole matter between us is the question which of these two bodies is the best, we are told by the Government that unless they get the particular body which they want they are going to drop the Bill altogether. I must say that that appears to me to be rather temper than statesmanship. The Government say that if they are not able to get exactly the composition of the administrative body which they want they will drop the Bill altogether. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman will really take the responsibility of dropping the Bill with the consequences which he knows it might have to people who have the very first claim upon us. At any rate, if a Division takes place I will not be intimidated by that, but will vote in favour of the body suggested by the House of Lords.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
If I intervene for a moment it is because there are a great many soldiers' and sailors' dependants living in my Constituency, and I feel very anxious as to the question under Debate. I am convinced that the method of treating the question adopted by the Government is altogether inadequate, and that the Lords have taken the right view. We shall not get adequate treatment for the dependants of our soldiers and sailors unless we have complete and effective control of the House of Commons. I am satisfied that under the arrangement of the Government sufficient funds will not be forthcoming to do justice to the claims of those who have served their country so well. We cannot get sufficient money for the purpose unless we have complete Parliamentary control. Therefore, I think that the Amendments of the House of Lords should be accepted, and I wish with all my heart they were. But if the Government will not do so, and if this is to be regarded as a temporary measure, then rather than run the risk of losing the Bill finally, and thinking of what a terrible catastrophe this would be to some of my constituents' dependants, I shall have to vote, very reluctantly, for the Government if there is a Division. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill has shown
|Division No. 16.]||AYES.||[8.25 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Henderson, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Berks.)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Henry, Sir Charles||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Hinds, John||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Brace, William||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Reddy, Michael|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Cosgrave, James||Keating, Matthew||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Cullinan, John||Lundon, Thomas||Shortt, Edward|
|Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Dawes, James Arthur||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Denniss, E. R B.||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Dillon, John||Molloy, Michael||Stewart, Gershom|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Tickler, T. G.|
|Doris, William||Morrell, Philip||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Valentia, Viscount|
|Duffy, William J.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Walsh, Stephen (Lanes., Ince)|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Nuttall, Harry||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Field, William||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Yale, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Gordon, John||O'Dowd, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Gulland and Lord E. Talbot.|
|Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Hackett, John||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)|
|Anderson, W. C.||Jowett, Frederick William||Snowden, Philip|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Crooks, William||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Wllloughby H.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Pratt, J. W.||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Goldstone and Sir C. Nicholson.|
|Hogge, James Myles||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Hudson, Walter||Rowlands, James|
§ that he recognises, as fully as anyone, the rights of those people to generous treatment at the hands of the State. I am sure that that is the general view of the people of this country. Hitherto we have not treated the dependants of our soldiers and sailors sufficiently well. We recognise that stronger measures will have to be taken before this matter is finally settled, and that that can only be done by retaining in the hands of this House complete control over the whole machinery for giving effect to this purpose. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the Report of the Statutory Committee will come before the House, and therefore we shall have some limited opportunity of giving expression to the feelings of the House on the matter. With the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that he recognises the rights of soldiers and sailors and their dependants to have fair treatment, and rather than run the risk of delaying for a considerable time the relief which is so necessary, I feel unable to support the Amendment and obliged to vote for the Government.
§ Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 84; Noes, 21.2105
§ Lords Amendments:
§ In Sub-section (2), leave out the word "twelve," and insert instead thereof the word "eighteen."—Disagreed with.
§ Leave out the words
§ "one shall be appointed by the National Health Insurance Joint Committee;
§ one shall be appointed by the Local Government Board;
§ one shall be appointed by the Local Government Board for Scotland;
§ one shall be appointed by the Local Government Board for Ireland."—Disagreed with.
§ Insert the words, "two shall be appointed by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association."—Disagreed with.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I beg to move to leave out the word "twenty-five" ["twenty-five members as hereinafter appointed"], and to insert instead thereof the word "twenty-seven." This is consequential, as the Lords carried an Amendment appointing two.
§ Proposed Amendment made. Lords Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Leave out the word "six" ["six of whom shall be women"], and insert the word "two."—Disagreed with.
§ Leave out the words "General Council of the Corporation," and insert instead thereof the words "Royal Patriotic Fund."—Disagreed with.
§ Insert the following new Sub-section:—
§ "(3) The Board shall be a body corporate with a common seal and power to hold land without licence in mortmain."—Disagreed with.
§ Leave out Sub-section (3):—
§ "Four of the members appointed by the General Council of the Corporation shall be appointed from amongst the members of the Corporation, but save as aforesaid it shall not be necessary that the persons appointed to be members of the Statutory Committee should at the time of appointment be members of the Corporation."—Disagreed with.
§ In Sub-section (5), leave out the word "Committee," and insert instead thereof the word "Board."—Disagreed with.
§ Leave out the words "and other allowances," and insert instead thereof the word "expenses."—Agreed to.
§ Consequential Amendment, leave out the word "Committee" and insert instead thereof the word "Board."—Disagreed with.2106
§ In Sub-section (6), leave out the words "Statutory Committee," and insert instead thereof the word "Board."—Disagreed with.
§ Consequential Amendments disagreed with.
§ Leave out the word "and" ["and the Statutory Committee may appoint."— Agreed to.
§ In Sub-section (7):—
§ Leave out the words "Statutory Committee," and insert instead thereof the word "Board."—Disagreed with.
§ Leave out the words, "Provided that if a member required to be appointed from amongst the members of the Corporation ceases for two months to be a member of the Corporation otherwise than as a member of the Statutory Committee he shall at the end of that period vacate his office as member of the Statutory Committee, and that a person appointed to fill a casual vacancy shall continue in office so long only as the person in whose place he was appointed would have continued in office."—Disagreed with.
§ In Sub-section (8), leave out the words "Statutory Committee," and insert instead thereof the word "Board."—Disagreed with.
§ After the word "may" ["may employ a secretary"], insert the words "with the consent of the Treasury."—Agreed to.
§ After the word "may" ["may establish a scheme"], insert the words "pay out of funds at their disposal to such secretary, assistant secretaries, clerks and servants, such salaries or remuneration as they, with the consent of the Treasury, may determine, and may with like consent".—Agreed to.
§ After the word "employment" ["in their permanent employment"], insert the words "or grant pensions to such persona on retirement."—Agreed to.