HC Deb 04 December 1916 vol 88 cc722-38

(1) This Act may be cited as the Ministry of Pensions Act, 1916.

(2) For the purposes of this Act "service pension" means any pension or award in respect of length of service or special service or attached to any medal or other decoration, whether payable to persons who have been officers or men, or their widows, children, or other dependants, and the expression "pension" in relation to officers includes retired pay.

Amendments made: In Sub-section (2), after the word "of"["any pension or award in respect of length"], insert the word "age."

Leave out the word "includes," and insert the words "other than naval warrant officers, means."—[Mr. Henderson.]

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


On the Motion for the Third Reading of the Bill, I want to protest very strongly of the way I have been treated over my Amendment. In Committee this Amendment represented the views of a large number of people connected with pensions in this House. It was adopted by the Committee upstairs. I was ruled out of order in the Committee stage, and I have put it down again for the Report stage. Now, through an error on the part of the Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Maclean)—for which I have received an apology, but which does not put me in a position to deal with the matter in Committee—I am told that my Amendment has been overlooked. It is an extremely unfortunate position, and I say quite frankly that I resent it very strongly. My Amendment represents a point of view which was felt keenly by a large number of Members, and I am going to ask for the consideration of the House while I make my point. What. I asked in the Amendment was that five Secretaries should be appointed, so that it might be quite clear that they were under the Minister of Pensions. I have been emphatic about this all the time. My suggestion was that two of them should be paid and three unpaid, and that they should be responsible for administration. The House then would know in whose hands rested the actual administration, and, if any difficulty arose in regard to administration, they could—to use a phrase which has become almost classic—"be hanged" when their Vote came up on the annual Estimate, and we should be able to put our fingers upon the people who were actually dealing with the administration. I may be told that I am going back on the Resolution come to last Monday. I do not agree with that. The Resolution come to last Monday was that we should have unification for policy and control. That is right. I do not depart for one moment from the position I have taken up in regard to that general principle of unification. But you cannot have administration all dealt with and handled by the one unifying Minister. Therefore, as a corollary of unification in the hands of one man, you must see to it that your administration is properly dealt with. There are various methods, but you must accept as fundamental a distinction between general policy and control and the details of actual administration.

We may differ in our views, but we all in our hearts want the same thing, which is that the good fellows who have fought and bled for us, or their relatives if they fall, shall have the best, the surest and the speediest possible treatment in regard to the question of pensions. As business men we have to apply our minds to this problem. How are you to secure that administration? One way to do it is to secure unification at the top, and if you secure unification at the top it must be in the shape of a Minister responsible to this House. You cannot have any person outside this House dealing with such a vast problem as this. He must be a Minister. Directly you get to that stage when you have unified everything in the hands of one Minister for the purpose of general control, there immediately follows the second step, which is that the administration must be in the hands of certain named, definite, responsible people. That is right from the point of view of the Minister himself, because it is his great safeguard. It prevents him being liable to pressure. It is right also from the point of view of this House, because we know then who is actually responsible. If things go wrong we shall not be told, "Such-and-such a Department is responsible. Things are not well organised there. I will have the matter looked into and it will be better next week." We do not want that sort of thing. The adoption of my suggestion would mean that we should know that there was a responsible man in the Department, and if anything went wrong it would be his fault. The course suggested is right really first of all —although it is often put last—in the interests of the men themselves and their dependants. Therefore, though I have not had an opportunity to move my Amendment and I shall be out of order in moving it now, I wish the House to understand that this is a point of view I feel very strongly and which I know others in the House feel very strongly. I am compelled to raise it now because for technical reasons of commission and omission I have not had an opportunity of raising it during the preceding stage of the Debate.


I wish particularly to draw the attention of the House to a matter which has received very little attention during these Debates, and that is the machinery for the treatment and training of the disabled soldiers. I am sure the House is equally emphatic that the disabled soldier should have not only a monetary pension, but the right to all the benefit which the scientific and medical experience of this War can give him. If the House imagines that the disabled soldier is getting the full benefit of the medical and scientific experience of this War it is imagining a very vain thing. The present system is extremely unsatisfactory. In fact, it is specially designed, in my opinion, to enable the disabled soldier to fall between two stools. The Statutory Committee, nominally and theoretically, is charged with the care and treatment of the disabled soldier, but when the House, in its wisdom, devolved that duty upon the Statutory Committee it entirely forgot that the War Office has an entire monopoly of the control of all the doctors and nurses in the country, and having allowed the War Office to acquire that monopoly the House has neglected to put upon the War Office the duty of the complete cure of the disabled soldier. Unfortunately, the War Office takes a very limited view of its duty towards the disabled soldier if the man is likely to be returned to the Army as an effective soldier the War Office will give him the utmost that scientific medical and surgical care can give him, but if there is no chance or very little chance of the man being an effective soldier again he comes off second best. We are told that there are ample checks against the dismissal of these men before they are cured, but a "push" comes and there is pressure, and out these men have to go, and the result is that there are thousands of men in this country discharged from the Army who are only half cured.

The great activity of trade and the keen demand for labour obscures the gravity of the problem at the present time, but when peace comes and the able-bodied men return to the labour market these disabled men will lose their jobs and you will have an enormous number of men upon your hands and you will not know what on earth to do with them. They will be a charge upon their trade union and upon the friendly societies, and a great charge upon the country. Besides that, there is a vast number of men suffering from nervous diseases. Some of these men are suffering from nervous diseases owing to their wounds, and some are suffering from epilepsy owing to wounds in the head. There are others suffering from shell-shock. All these men are being dismissed from the Army before they are half cured. You are piling up a regular mass of misery, for these men will be a burden to themselves and a great danger to and charge upon the country. The unsatisfactory part of this problem is that at the present time there is apparently very little hope of getting any improvement in their treatment. The Statutory Committee may be blamed. Perhaps they might have adopted a more vigorous policy, but the Statutory Committee has been greatly handicapped by the atttude adopted towards this subject by the Secretary of State for War. Last July he gave the Statutory Committee to understand that it was very probable that the War Office would undertake the complete cure of the disabled soldiers. Since then no decision has been made. Six weeks ago the Statutory Committee went as a deputation to the Secretary of State for War and asked him for a decision in this matter, and he promised the decision within a week. That is six weeks ago, and from that time to this we have had no decision. The consequence is that the whole of the work of treating the disabled soldier has been held up and kept in abeyance. It is a most unfortunate thing.

I am very pleased that the disablement section of the Statutory Committee will be under the control and guidance of a Cabinet Minister who, I hope, will be able to approach the Secretary of State for War on terms of equality, and will, I hope, make him come to a decision in this matter. It is obvious that the best way of treating the disabled soldier is that the War Office should be entirely responsible for that duty. They have the monopoly of the doctors and nurses, and it would be a comparatively easy matter for them to extend and enlarge their sphere of operations and make themselves responsible for the whole of this work. Some people think that the duty of the War Office is to keep the disabled soldier for an indefinite period under discipline; that he should be kept under discipline after he is cured; and that he should be trained for all sorts of different trades. That is not my view. I think most people who have studied this question closely will agree that it is no use trying to keep the disabled soldier under discipline after his health is restored and while they are teaching him a trade. All you can do is to give him technical instruction while he is being cured and not to throw the emphasis upon the trade instruction, but to throw the emphasis upon the health part of the work. I am sorry that the Pensions Minister is going to change his office. I am sure we should have in him a most sympathetic representative of the Disablement Committee, and that the work would proceed with smoothness and vigour. I hope that whoever is to be the future Pensions Minister will lose no time in coming to an agreement with the War Office, and in getting a satisfactory arrangement for the benefit of the disabled soldier.


I rise to deal with a matter which is quite in keeping with the speech of the Noble Lord. Clause 8 of the Bill refers to the various officers who are now dealing with pensions in the Government Departments affected by this measure, and who are quite properly to be passed over to the new Minister of Pensions without loss of position or pay. As one who can speak with some knowledge of the officials of the War Office I should like to say that no body of men I ever met have worked harder or more sympathetically to discharge their duties than these servants of the War Office. The strain put upon the War Office in reference to pensions was never properly placed upon that much-abused institution. These officers are merely administrators, and anyone who has had anything to do with them can testify that they have carried out their work with sympathy, with knowledge, and with almost super-human efforts in their desire to discharge the burden placed upon them. I wish to deal with the question of the additional staff that must of necessity and at once be recruited by the Minister of Pensions to carry out the ever-increasing burden of the very important office which the right hon. Gentleman or someone else is about to assume. I regret that it was not possible for me in Committee, although I tried, to bring this matter into the Bill. My submission is—and I put it now in the way of a suggestion to those who may have the right to advise the Minister of Pensions when he asks them for advice—that in future every person taken on as additional staff by the Minister of Pensions should, if he is a man, be a man who has served in the Navy or the Army, or, if a woman, be the widow or child of a man who has served in the Navy or the Army. This is a peculiarly fitting opportunity to show our appreciation of the broken soldier and the womenfolk who are or who have been dependent on him by employing them in a Department of State which deals entirely with soldiers and sailors.

Further, one knows that there is a regrettably increasing number of these men and women, who deserve every consideration that individuals or the State can mete out to them. Everybody is further agreed that the best kindness we can show to a stricken soldier or to the women or children who mourn for him is to give them some occupation in which they can earn a decent livelihood with self-respect. The best livelihood they can earn is that they would have in the Ministry of Pensions administering this Bill we are about to pass, and doing their best—they can do it with experience and sympathy—to ameliorate the position of those who come under the Bill. I submit that they would do it well, for one of the difficulties of administering pensions is that you have a body of men administering pensions which are extremely technical, who know nothing of either of the Services, and who frequently break down through lack of that intimate knowledge. That intimate knowledge would be possessed by the men and women to whom I have referred. The Minister of Pensions and the triumvirate of advisers will have full power here. They can advertise for candidates for the positions that will become open at once to the extent of thousands, and they can prefer those applicants who have served in the Navy or Army or the womenfolk related to them. It is their plain duty to do this. I hope the suggestion will have the support of the House. I feel certain it will have the support of the country. At any rate, it will have the support of the soldiers and sailors themselves, who feel that they are generally neglected by this House in matters immediately pertaining to them. Here is an opportunity to translate into a substantial reality that oratorical tribute so frequently paid by the Front Bench and by other benches to the services of our soldiers and sailors ! Here is a chance to render to those who have sacrificed most a belated but just token of our esteem and regard!


Before we say farewell to this Bill and send it to another place, I desire to make one or two observations. This is a Bill frankly dealing with machinery only. Although a great deal has been said, and rightly said, in regard to the Minister of Pensions, I desire quite sincerely to pay my tribute to the three other hon. Gentlemen who have taken part in the discussion on this Bill. From beginning to end they have subordinated their personal position and forgotten it in the magnitude of the task in which they have been engaged. I am sure the House would recognise gladly that they have rendered all possible help to us throughout this discussion. This Bill represents a very great departure, even in war time, from the ordinary way in which we pass Bills of this kind. Whether it be a good Bill or a bad Bill, it is frankly the Bill of the House of Commons as a whole. We have had some controversy, and some disputes remain. The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. M. Barlow) wanted to appoint members of a Board, and later on he wanted secretaries. It does not matter what you call these people. Of course, you must get their assistance. The hon. Member for Salford is quite mistaken in thinking that you can hang a secretary. I have been a secretary myself, and that has never been one of the difficulties which has confronted me. It is a mischief connected with our system that the Minister in charge takes the responsibility upon himself. You can never get at a secretary; you can never get at a member of a Board; the member of the Cabinet or of the Government who is personally responsible to the House of Commons takes the whole burden and responsibility upon his own shoulders, therefore we do not get much forwarder by having a Board or any number of secretaries. What is important is that we shall have men who are sympathetic in the administration of this Bill. Although machinery is all-important, the spirit in which the machinery is moved is more important. We have had some indication of the lines upon which this new Department is going to work. We know that Royal Warrants are going to be dealt with drastically. We hope and believe that in future there will be no interval between the time a man is discharged from the Army and the time he receives his pension. That is the really great point of importance. I am quite sure that if there are cases in the country where that has occurred, in the immediate future all those cases will disappear. With regard to those who will come under the Bill, I do not know whether I am of a very sanguine disposition—perhaps I am— this political bogey has no terrors for me of any kind. I do not care whether the Minister is a Liberal, Conservative, or a Labour man. I do not for a moment think he will act subject to political considerations. We all get letters on this subject, and we have no idea whether they come from a supporter or an opponent. We simply see that there is a man who wants his case put right, and we put his case as best we can. I desire to thank the right hon. Gentleman, and the hon. Gentlemen associated with him, for the liberty they have given the House to express its views, and, when they thought those views were right, for accepting them. I only wish that might be a precedent for future discussion.


I desire to associate myself with the view expressed by my Noble Friend the Member for South Nottingham (Colonel Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck). I trust that in the administration of the Bill the position of the disabled soldier and sailor will not be lost sight of. To-day the War Office are discharging these soldiers far too early. They will be dispersed to parts of the country, having lost a leg or an arm, and suffering various degrees of injury as a result, and when they once get to their homes I am afraid you will never get them back to undertake training which is far more suitable for them. I am informed that at Brighton, purely by voluntary effort, some three hundred men who have lost their legs or their arms are being trained by private benevolence. They are being taught typewriting, carpentering, and like trades. If you once dismiss men from the Army you lose all control over them, and they are dispersed throughout the country. How are you going to get them back again? I hope those responsible for the administration of the Bill, who understand the matter far better than I do, will not lose sight of the question of what is in the best interest of these men, and that they will have immediate regard to the necessary and desirable training the men should undergo.

Colonel YATE

I should like to support the view expressed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Sunderland (Colonel Sir H. Greenwood), and to express the hope that when the Pensions Minister comes to enlist the services of the numerous men foreshadowed in Clause 5 he will give consideration to those who come back from the War wounded and disabled, so that we shall not have a lot of untrained and inexperienced clerks and officials brought in who will know nothing whatever of the subject with which they will have to deal. On Thursday last the Pensions Minister told us that there would be a Parliamentary secretary and a permanent secretary. He also said that in taking over the Statutory Committee he might have to take over a secretary. I presume he will take over a secretary of the Statutory Committee, a secretary of Chelsea Hospital, and a secretary of Greenwich Hospital. I trust that these skilled and experienced men will be taken over. I was much disappointed today by the curt manner in which the Pensions Minister refused to give us any information as to the manner in which the administration of this Bill is to be carried out. We do not in the least know how it will be carried out. I express the hope that the services of the men who have been working on these pensions for years past and who know something about them will be secured and that this large number of secretaries and servants mentioned in Clause 5 will not consist of outsiders who will know nothing of the subject.


I will join my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Yate) in an appeal to the Pensions Minister to be as careful as he can of the local administration of these pensions. I confess I did not like the speech he made on the Financial Resolution when he said: In regard to the local committees I do intend to use them, and I hope to make an arrangement with the Statutory Committee that will enable me to do so, provided, of course, that I can get them placed on a little more satisfactory basis, with a little more recognition of the urban element than, has been introduced in the local committees in 90 far as they have gone up to the present. If I can get that arrangement made I am quite prepared to use the committees, but I must say that if the committees are not going to do the work to the satisfaction of the Board, so far as I am concerned, I shall at once set about creating new machinery."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1916, col. 1687.] That was a sinister statement. We have now scrapped the Naval and Military Pensions Act.




What is to take its place is left very indefinite. We may be satisfied with our work; we may have saved our faces to some extent, and we may have saved the faces of the three Gentlemen who have been assisting the Pensions Minister. But is the country as satisfied as we are? I was talking to-day with the chairman of the local committee of my own Division, and he was not at all satisfied. He wanted to know where he and his committee were, what was going to happen to them, and what chance there was of their carrying on the work they had undertaken during the last few months and in connection with which they had worked very hard indeed. For instance, what is to happen to the funds'? This is the fourth time I have asked this question during the progress of the Bill. What is to happen to the million pounds, part of which has been spent and part of which is apparently to be spent by the Committee in Abingdon Street? What is to happen when that is gone? Is the money to be spent by the committee and the local committees as they like or by the Pensions Minister as he likes? What about the five millions ear-marked for the Statutory Committee and the local committees? Is that money to be forthcoming? We ought to have all over the country some form of devolution. The Pensions Minister cannot run the whole business from London, any more than the Chancellor of the Exchequer can run the whole business of collecting Income Tax from his own office. He is to have some sort of committees or individuals all over the country. He might possibly say, though I hope he will not, that a man who has a pension awarded to him has merely to go to the local post office to get it once a week or once a month, no less and no more, or he may say, "We will set up committees all over the country to look after these wounded soldiers, and care for them in every way that we possibly can." If that is going to be the case, will he use these local committees or not? That has all been left absolutely unsettled. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) tried to raise the question last week, but it was at the dinner hour and he was told that it had been already answered and dealt with on a previous Clause and he did not press it. To my mind it has never been dealt with quite. We may know exactly what is going to be our administrative machinery, and who is going to look after them. For instance, supposing a soldier with a wooden leg damages it, who is going to have to repair it? Is it to be done locally or direct from London? None of us know that at all, nor do we know what money is going to be given to local committees or to the committee in Abingdon Street to carry on their work. I greatly regret that that matter has not been more fully explained to us. I know there will be disappointment in the country at the uncertainty of their position.


In the absence of the Minister for Pensions, I should like first of all to thank the House of Commons for the great assistance it has rendered to the Government in framing this Bill. No one is more glad than I am that the House has come to the conclusion that we ought to have a complete unification of our pensions system. It is a matter which I have more than once put before the House and the Select Committee more than two years ago, and which I am now very glad to see established. I hope the House will take not a spasmodic but a continuous interest in the pensions question. I am confident that we really are of one mind about it, and are determined that there shall be a more generous policy, a more certain policy, and a more complete policy, and when my hon. Friend talks about funds I think we are all equally determined that funds shall be found from some source or another for carrying out the purpose which we have at heart, of rewarding those who have done such magnificent service in laying down their lives for us. We can only reward them By rewarding their widows and dependents, or, in the case of the men who have shattered their lives and mutilated their frames for us, the work of restoring them, as far as we possibly can, to health and placing before them some employment which may soothe the long hours of pain which will probably await them to the end of their lives. All these things I believe the House of Commons in all quarters desires, but they will not get them by merely unifying the system of pensions. You may have the best possible form of unification, but unless you have the Royal Warrants very extensively altered and unless, after they are altered, those who administer them administer them in a generous way, none of these matters which the House of Commons wants accomplished will be accomplished, and we shall fail again. I have all through placed my faith in two things. First, unification —one Pensions Minister—and then, having a powerful Pensions Minister, all the better if he is a member of the Cabinet who will be able to bring his influence to bear on those who control the public purse to secure that a sufficient amount of money shall be placed at the disposal of those who administer these pensions. Towards that I think we have taken a very long step, and we have taken it in complete union and complete accord.

My Noble Friend (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck), who has taken such a very great interest in the disablement question, complained bitterly that the whole system of dealing with the question has been most unsatisfactory. Things may sometimes be very unsatisfactory and yet you may be able to say no blame attaches in any particular quarter. That is a thing which we could say before we got a Pensions Minister. I believe one thing the Statutory Committee wanted was more executive power. Its deliberations very often resulted in admirable policy and plans, but there was no one ready to execute those plans and carry out that policy for it. But there is a good plan and there is a good policy. My hon. and gallant Friend puts his finger on one of the difficulties. He says the Army Council have under their control nearly all the best doctors, the best specialists, the best nurses, and generally the best means of treating the soldiers. Therefore it is to them, to a large extent, that we must look for curing the disabled soldier or sailor before the Statutory Committee takes him into its care and does something for him in the matter of training and employment. I hope one of the first things the Pensions Minister will do will be to confer with the Secretary of State for War and see how far the Army Council think they can adopt this policy of keeping the soldier until he is reasonably cured and restored to a proper condition. I am quite confident that the Army Council and the War Office have real difficulties in the way or we should have heard before that they had come to some conclusion as to this very important undertaking. Then, again, if you are going to have a fixed scheme for dealing with the disabled, you must recognise that 90 per cent. of your soldiers are already insured under the insurance scheme, and, therefore, it must begin with the panel doctor, and in it you must have room not only for the panel doctor, but for the specialist. We have agreed upon that months ago in the Statutory Committee, but there has been no executive officer to carry it out. I hope when we have appointed a Minister for Pensions we may have a strong executive officer to hurry along the policy which has been adopted after great deliberation, and which I believe a wise policy, for dealing with these disabled soldiers and sailors.

One more remark as to the training of the disabled soldier. I have obtained a good deal of information on this point. It is perfectly true that at the present moment he is not willing to be trained. You may go to town after town in England and get into communication with the education committees, and particularly those who have at their command all the machinery for technical instruction, and they will tell you the same thing, that although they issue their invitations broadcast to the disabled soldiers to undergo a system of training by which they may have a new trade or industry at their command when the War is over, one and all say, "No, thank you; we do not care to undergo any system of training because if we attempt to work we can get very good work at very good wages without undergoing any training of any sort or kind." That is a great misfortune because, when the War is over, no doubt there will be a glut of labour in some particular direction, and many of these men will be found to be not so good as the men who are competing with them in the labour market because they have not been trained for a new industry, and they may lose their employment by which they have made good money and good wages up to that time. There is always the danger of that. The Statutory Committee has now got the Treasury to agree to making a substantial allowance to any man who is willing to undergo training, and it can not only give him a substantial weekly allowance while he is being trained, but may also maintain his wife and family during that period, so that at all events now there is some inducement for a man to be trained.

Another point is the employment, as far as possible, of disabled soldiers and sailors and, where women are employed of the dependants of those who have given up their lives for their country, that they should be employed as far as possible in our new administrative machinery. My hon. and gallant Friend (Sir H. Greenwood) was, indeed, optimistic. He said these people could be employed to the extent of thousands. I very much doubt whether there will be more than one or two hundred places open, because we have a staff already of 2,500 in London dealing with these pensions questions and we cannot turn them off. They must be utilised to a very large extent, and for the higher places it is really necessary to have men who have been accustomed to some work of administration of this kind. I am in true sympathy with them, however, and the Statutory Committee has already appointed a colonel who lost his leg to one of the higher appointments at their command. Already I know of one or two other committees who have taken the same course. I will join with my hon. and gallant Friend opposite in recommending to the local committees we shall sooner or later have to set up with paid staffs to give a very strong preference to those who have become disabled, not only for the higher places, but also for the lower. Where they have to employ porters and doorkeepers, and people of that kind, a one-legged or a one-armed man may be a very good man to employ in that capacity. I hope we shall do all we possibly can to promote the true welfare of those who have made such splendid sacrifices, and I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that we ought all to remember our oratorical efforts on the platform, when we so often make these splendid heroes the theme of our speeches, and, if we cannot live up to our perorations, we ought to try to live up to the speeches which we have made.

7.0 P.M.


I think the country will read to-morrow with great satisfaction that no delay has occurred in the passing of this Bill, and, further than that, that the main object with which it was introduced, namely, the unification of all the authorities which dealt with pensions, has been successfully accomplished. But I do not think the House will do its duty if it thinks it has done all that is necessary by passing this Bill. My right hon. Friend indicated that we should have to keep a careful watch upon the working of the Bill in the hands of the new Minister. There is a great deal to be done besides passing the Bill. We have to see that the conditions under which pensions have been granted in the past are altered, and if we want generous and fair treatment for our disabled men and for the dependants of those who have fallen, this House must see that the changes which are made in the existing conditions are full and adequate and meet the necessities of the case. I believe the House is determined that that should be done. I should have liked to see the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend (Major Terrell) or some similar Amendment carried. Instead of having a single Minister—I do not use the word "Dictator," because the Prime Minister does not like it—we should have had a Board, with a Minister, if you like, at the head of it, and some five or more people entirely outside politics to carry out the Committee's decisions. I think it is very unfortunate that it was really never brought before the House in a concrete form, because the House will remember that when the Bill came on in Committee what was attacked was not an outside Board consisting of non-politicians, but a Board consisting of five Gentlemen holding Parliamentary positions. The House was never squarely asked to decide whether it would have a Board of outside men to administer the Act. It is too late now. The Bill has been passed, and I believe everyone deprecates the idea of its being possible to work it in any way for political purposes. Still, in my opinion, with the object of keeping polities out of the Bill, or any form of favouritism, it would have been better if we had had a Board. It is a consolation to know in this connection we have Clause 3 in the Bill, and that the Statutory Committee will continue to exist and be able to give valuable advice and assistance to the Pensions Minister. I am sure everyone who has followed this matter at all will be glad to know that the Statutory Committee, presided over by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local? Government Board (Mr. Hayes Fisher), which has done very valuable work in organisation, is to continue to exist and will be able to advise the Pensions Minister, who no doubt will avail himself to the fullest extent of its assistance. The House has done a good stroke of business to-day. I am glad we did not adjourn the matter and hang it up, because this is a question which brooks of no delay whatever. We want to see the regulations so framed as to be on a more generous, more liberal, and more just basis.


I think we shall have satisfaction in knowing that, as a result of the passing of this Bill, the country will feel greater security that justice will be done to disabled soldiers and their dependants. We recognise that the Government have given generous consideration to this matter, and have realised the strength of the feeling expresssed in this House. We have now got a Bill, not a halfway house, but a real and complete measure that will co-ordinate the various conditions and interests with which it has to deal, and all will be under one Minister, who will be responsible to Parliament. In so construing the feeling of this House I would gladly recognise the Amendment put down by the Paymaster-General, wherein he provided that the powers of the Statutory Committee should be extended, so that where a separate local committee has not been established under the Act for any borough or urban district in England, or for any Royal or police borough in Scotland, provision is made for the establishment of such committees in such boroughs or police districts. The fact that this Amendment was put on the Paper by the Government represents, I hope, a distinct policy on the part of the new Minister. I trust that the Statutory Committees will be recommended to act upon it in regard to the extension of the number of local committees. Many refusals have in the past been given to applications made for the establishment of this Committee, but under this Bill I take it, there will be an opportunity for any of these municipal areas or boroughs, at any rate with over 20,000 population, to send in a new claim, and such claims will receive a considerable re-hearing, in harmony with the Amendment inserted in the Bill, by the Government.


I have done a good deal of work on this Bill, and I am glad it is now passed. I hope that the powers which have been taken by the Minister in this Bill will be freely exercised. It has been impossible for the Statutory Committees to do other than carry out the existing law, but the new law which will come into force will itself have much greater elasticity, and its advent will be welcomed by no one more heartily than by members of the Statutory Committees, who in the past have rather feared to strain the law, however inadequate their powers might appear to be to them—in. order to bring it more in correspondence with public feeling. No one in this House is more prepared to welcome this Bill than the members of the Statutory Committee, and I congratulate the Government on having passed it.

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