HC Deb 21 November 1916 vol 87 cc1267-382

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

In moving the Second Reading of this Bill at the request of my right hon. Friend the Pensions Minister, I am conscious of the fact that the Bill although it has many merits yet falls short of the ideal pensions administration which I urged on the Government more than two years ago when I was a Member sitting on the benches opposite. My ideal of that time, that of a unified system of pensions administration, has now found favour in many quarters of the House, but it had very little backing at that time. I recollect that on the 18th November, 1914, I advocated: That the Government should seriously consider whether the whole of this question of the allowances to wives and children during the War and pensions for disablement, whether from wounds or disease after the War, and the question of pensions arid allowances for widows and dependants after the War, ought not to be handed over to one body sitting in one building under one roof. I have had experience of all these bodies for many years, and for the life of me I cannot conceive why we-do not amalgamate all these bodies under one roof so that these cases may be considered by one body always controlled by the Government of the day and always answerable to Parliament. I believe that will be the only satisfactory solution of this great problem. At present (that is more than two years ago) part of the question is considered by one body, part by another, and part by a third body, and consequently there is great perplexity and a certain amount of overlapping necessitating sending for papers here and there. After a very great experience I say that these questions could be very much more satisfactorily settled if we had one body under Government control"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1914, col. 457, Vol. LXVIII.] That idea did not find much favour then. I was told it was too drastic and too revolutionary. I pointed out that we should have as far as possible a unified system of pensions administration with one Pensions Minister responsible for all this great subject of pensions and that you wanted one spokesman in the House of Commons for pensions, and that there was lack of standardisation and unity in administration and great waste and overlapping and trouble because there was not one building and one body and one Minister where all those interested in pensions could apply themselves. But I never was in favour of one Pensions Minister without a Board. I always believed in a Board, and I believe in a Board still. I was very glad indeed to hear my hon. Friend the Leader of the Labour party welcome in his speech the other day the idea of a Board. I believe that a Board has three duties which it can fulfil. The Board first of all, if properly composed, can co-ordinate all the different parties concerned; it can co-ordinate the War Office, the Admiralty, the Local Government Board, and the Statutory Committee. The Board, again, if it is a live Board and if it meets regularly and does its work like a Board, can in that case by constantly conferring together bring together a great deal of information which no one man could possess on this question of pensions and can bring that information to be discussed by a small and practical Board, and can by discussing it find out all the weak places in Royal Warrants, Orders in Council, and the general administration of the pensions system, and a Board which is properly composed can use an enormous amount of power by what is commonly called "Push and go," in order to secure reforms which are necessary from time to time in any system. The Board has many other useful functions. One is that there should be some Court of Appeal from any official, however high-minded, however dutiful, however sympathetic. There ought to be some Appeal Court from decisions which are very often made on one case but which may rule pensions in hundreds of cases in which the claims are based on the same lines.


This Bill does not do that.


I think it does. I think it would have been easier to have established the system of one pensions body in one pensions building two years ago than it is now. I know there is disappointment amongst some of my hon. Friends because they say that this Bill does not establish one pensions body in one building. But many difficulties have arisen since 1914. In 1914 it would have been perfectly easy to have established this system of unification and a building could easily have been commandeered, but I very much doubt whether a building to hold the staff could be commandeered now. At that time in London the whole staff dealing with pensions was no more than 250. The staff dealing with pensions to-day in the different buildings, Chelsea, Tate Gallery, St. Martins, Kingsway. Baker Street, the War Office, the Admiralty, and the Statutory Committee, is not less than 2,500. How are you going to get a building into which you can put a staff of 2,500? My right hon. Friend the Pensions Minister expressed the hope that he would be able to find a building about next May or June. The problem to be dealt with at that time to which I refer was a very small one. There were then less than 5,000 widows, and there are now 50,000 widows as a result of the War. There were then less than 5,000 orphans, and there are now over 100,000 orphans as a result of this War.

The whole problem has become much greater and much more complex, and it is on that ground that the Government, having considered the question, have not thought it possible to proceed to a complete system of unification. There was yet one more reason, and that the most formidable of all, and that was this, that when the Government of the day did not see their way to set up one complete system of pensions administration they devised another plan, and that was the plan of setting up the Statutory Committee which has now been established by Statute. That Committee has devoted itself to this question with great earnestness and takes the most profound interest in all that affects the welfare of our soldiers and sailors. The Committee meets constantly and has set up no less that 300 general committees throughout the United Kingdom and 200 committees composed of employers and employed to deal with the disablement question. In the opinion of many of those who are working hardest upon the committees it would be a great pity to uproot those local committee or to transfer their allegiance and their outlook from the Statutory Committee to the new Pensions Department. Those committees have got accustomed by this time, or I hope they have, to the rules and regulations which have been drawn up by the Statutory Committee, and it is not easy by the Stroke of a pen to undo all that work and uproot that work and transfer it to the new Pensions Minister. As a member of the Government supporting this Bill, I cannot pretend that I speak altogether for the Statutory Committee, because the Statutory Committee, although it is not adopting an unfriendly attitude towards this Bill, will undoubtedly take up the position that it would rather be allowed to do its work as it was doing it up to the time this Bill was introduced. Its attitude is inquisitive, and it is especially curious as to finance; and as regards finance I shall have to say a good deal, because, after all, finance is the key to the whole position as regards pensions.

There is no good in indulging in vain regrets that something was not done that should have been done. What we have to do is to ask ourselves what, after all, to-day is the best machinery that we can set up in order that the soldier and the sailor may come by his rights, and in order that the House and the country may feel sure that they have provided themselves with the machinery by which all due claims on the part of those who fought for us, and their dependants, will be honoured, and promptly honoured, and recognised. I am sorry my hon. Friend and colleague on the Statutory Committee has put down a Motion for the rejection of this Bill. But, at all events, I can agree with him in one thing—I can agree with him when he says that there is one point in the speech to which we listened the other day that ail parts of the House would agree with, and that is this: "If this Bill will in any way help the soldier and sailor and their dependants in their difficulties; if it will improve their position and enable the nation more generously to discharge the duties which it recognises, I am certain it will not only be welcomed by all hon. Members of this House, but by the nation itself as well as by our soldiers and sailors." I agree in taking that as a test of the merits of this Bill, and I am ready to affirm that, given that certain assumptions which I am going to make presently are justified, this Bill, if it were passed into law, will improve and brighten the prospects of our soldiers and sailors. I say that will be so if my assumptions are proved to be correct, and I think they will be.

I said, just now that we cannot have complete unification, but this Bill does go some long way towards unification. I should call it a half-way house towards unification. It transfers to the Pensions Board the whole of the War Office pensions work, that is, such as long service pensions, pensions in connection with disablement, officers' pensions, pensions in connection with the widows and dependants, both of officers and men; and it also transfers to the Board the whole of the pensions work now "being done by Chelsea; and, lastly, with that goes the right of the Pensions Board to administer the work that is now being done by a staff of nearly 1,000 at the Central Army Pay Issue Office in Baker Street. I believe that the reason this -question has become so acute is largely on account of what I must really say is bad administration by some of these offices. I believe that it will be a great gain when my right hon. Friend the Minister for Pensions is able to set his foot inside those offices, and to bring his great energy and great experience and knowledge to bear upon this vast and important problem. He will be, I have not the slightest doubt, able very greatly to improve the administration of those offices. But after you have done with administration there is much more to be done. I admit there is much more to be done than can ever be done by machinery. I believe there are three great grievances at the present time. First of all, there is this one, that men are discharged, and their pay drops before their pension reaches them. That requires a very quickening process, and if that quickening process really cannot be arrived at, I think the Government will seriously have to consider whether the proposal which has been made should not be adopted, namely, that a soldier or sailor should have his pay continued to him and separation continued to his wife and dependants until his pension rights are settled.

I think there is a very great sore at the present time, and that I am afraid is continuing. It is that the recruiting officers are taking men who are of so unsound a constitution and so impaired in their health that they are almost certain, with even moderate exposure, to break down in a very short time, and then will become claimants upon the State for a pension. I am the last person to say that because a man is taken, and because he is given two or three months' service, he should after his discharge unfit for service have the right to be given a pension for life by the State. But I do think the State owes this to him—that as far as possible it should repair him and refit him for the labour market, and see him back as far as possible into the condition in which he was when he joined the Army. I will go further than that. I have always thought that if it is proved that at the time when he is taken for the Army, and for some time before, that he had been enjoying good wages in the labour market, and maintaining himself and family, that then if after two or three months' service he came back in a crippled condition, unfit to earn anything but a very small wage, he had a prima facie case to have some pension given to him, sufficient in amount to maintain him and his family until he could be repaired and refitted, and recruited to take his place in the labour market and go back and maintain himself and his family in civil life. I say that no Bill, I do not care what Bill you set up or how much you unify the pension system—and these matters are outside unification—would do all that is required in that respect. But I may say that I do believe if the Board, such as I am asking the House to set up, with its knowledge of pensions from one side and the other, comes to the conclusion, after deliberation, that these things ought to be done, and that this policy is a sound policy, and one which will commend itself to the House and the nation, then I do think that policy will have a much greater chance of success with the Chancellor of the Exchequer than any policy put forward by one out of something like eight or ten bodies that are administering our pension system at the present time. This Bill is a half-way house towards unification. It transfers all the War Office pension work to the Pensions Minister, it transfers all the work done at Chelsea to him, and thirdly, it transfers the right to give supplemental pensions which now rest with the Statutory Committee.

I still say that the real kernel of this Bill is that, for the first time, the Pensions Minister is a member of the Cabinet, an influential member, and is now the one directing and controlling authority of most of the pension work done by the nation. It give him a Board which, if I may say so, being a member of it, is really a strong Board, composed of a representative of the Army Council, a representative of the Admiralty, and one of the Local Government Board and the Statutory Committee, and I cannot help thinking, when the House looks to the fact that that body has a Cabinet Minister to represent it in the Cabinet, and voice its policy, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself is continued by the Bill, that it will be satisfied. I do not think there are four members more sympathetic and more generously disposed towards the soldier and the sailor than the quartette which forms this particular Board. On that ground alone, I should venture to recommend this Bill to the House as brightening the prospects of the soldier and the sailor in the matter of pensions. Look at the Bill. What is left out of the unification system? First of all, we all know the Admiralty stands out. Many of us heard the very powerful speech, to my mind a very effective speech, made by my right hon. Friend and colleague who represents the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara). It was a speech full of the tender sentiments which we would have expected from him in this matter. We all know how much he has cared for the sailor under his charge, and how much he has tried to do for him. But, although I admired the speech, I am unconvinced, and as latitude was given to him, so I hope-latitude may be extended to me. But I am not going to argue this question with my right hon. Friend.


Why not?


I will leave the House to do it. I really believe my right hon. Friend, as a member of this Board, will find it so potent for good—I am not at all sure he will not find it more potent for good that he would find himself in the particular field in which he desires to-labour—that the time is not far distant when he will desire the Admiralty to come in. That, however, is a matter I will leave to him and the House. Separation allowances are not included in this scheme of unification; they are left where they are, or what I should rather call the administration of super-separation allowances is left where it is. I think it is well to leave them where they are.




After all, they come to an end, as my right hon. Friend the Pension Minister stated, after the period of demobilisation. But apart from that, they are really being very well administered now, and they are being administered by many thousands of volunteers. Here in London we have 650 serving on the various London committees and 2,500 volunteers. In Liverpool there are 700 volunteers, and I believe the system is working well in Liverpool as it is working well in London. On the whole, I think we had better leave that alone. I have talked with some of these volunteers, and they say, "We have just taken to our new master, the Statutory Committee; we have just learned all your elaborate rules and regulations; we have just learned to keep our accounts on your new system. Are you going to ask us now to learn another set of rules and regulations and another system of keeping accounts? If so, we ask, do you think we can go on doing this work, which we have done now for two years?" And most ungrudgingly they have done it. I think we owe them a debt of gratitude, and that my right hon. Friend the Pensions Minister was right in keeping separation allowances out of his Bill. But that is a matter which can be discussed in Committee.

Then there is the work of the Civil Liabilities Committee, and I think, if you keep separation allowances out of the Bill, it is right that this work should be kept out, because, after all, these are a kind of super-separation allowances. I pause for one moment to say that on the whole that work is being done well. Over 65,000 allowances have been given already by the Committee responsible for the final decisions as regards these allowances—a. Committee to which I am most grateful. I am quite sure my right hon. Friend the Solicitor-General would also like to express his thanks to that Committee for the assistance which they have given. It is a Committee largely composed of Members of this House, who sit very frequently, and take a very considerable amount of trouble in trying to arrive at just decisions as regards the amount of rent and mortgage interest, and school fees and the like that should be allowed. Then the Statutory Committee remains out, except in regard to supplemental allowances. Very large powers indeed are left with the Statutory Committee, notably two. Statutory powers are given to it for seeing to the health and the training and the employment of all officers and men discharged from the Army and the Navy who are disabled. Then there is another very large power, namely, to give grants and allowances out of any fund at its disposal where no grants or allowances are now payable out of State funds. I shall have something to say in a moment as to financing these operations.

I am delighted with the prospects of our soldiers and sailors on three assumptions, all of which I hope will be justified. The first is that the Board will be a live Board, sitting at regular intervals and continually discussing the questions of principle which govern the cases, and bringing to bear upon them their united knowledge and experience. There will be the Pensions Minister with his great energy and earnest desire—and nobody has a more earnest desire—to improve the position of the soldier and sailor. The Board will have the benefit of his experience, wisdom and power in the Cabinet to enforce their policy, and I am quite sure that in enforcing that policy he will only be voicing what is the real desire both of the House of Commons and of the country. My second assumption is derived from the speech which my right hon. Friend made in introducing this Bill. I believe he will be able to carry out the assurances which he gave to this House. He said he had already consulted the Chancellor of the Exchequer and would consult the Prime Minister, but he explained that one of the first duties of the Board would be to review the whole scheme and standard on which pensions and allowances are based, as well as the terms of the Royal Warrants and Orders in Council. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Ellis Griffith) said that if the Debate produced nothing else if had produced a most important statement to that effect.


But the Board has not the power to do it.


I think, with four members of the Government on the Board, with a Cabinet Minister chosen by the Prime Minister to be Pensions Minister, with the Bill backed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that body will have power behind it. If it does not, I do not know one that will.


My point is that the power is not given in the Bill.


My right hon. Friend has given an assurance that these Royal Warrants and Orders in Council are to be reviewed, and I shall show presently how necessary it is that they should be reviewed. My third assumption is that the vast functions which the Statutory Committee has still left to it will be financed, if not by voluntary funds, then by State funds. Sometimes my utterances in regard to finance in connection with this matter do not altogether meet with the favour of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Certainly the financial position does want clearing up. It is very obscure at the present moment. The Statutory Committee is left with these two vast far-reaching functions, dealing with the health, training, and employment of disabled men. There are over 70,000 of these at the present time. The Board is left with this duty of looking to see whether, after all, from the point of view of mercy and compassion, there are not many men who have done reasonably good service for the country, who, having been refused a pension by a Government Department, ought not to have some form of pension, grant, or compassionate allowance. In advocating one great pension fund, I have always added that it does not matter how sympathetically pensions may be administered, there must be some great body, or group of bodies, outside with funds with which they can fill up all those cracks, crevices, gaps and interstices which there must be in any State scheme. However well a scheme may be administered there are always regulations which have to be observed which make it necessary there should be some body with a human hand, a human head and a human heart, to pour the oil and ointment of compassion on sore places.


Why not this Board?


I am afraid I have not made myself understood. I said that from my own knowledge however wisely you may draw up your Royal Warrants and Orders in Council, when they come to be administered by a 'Government Department, however sympathetic the officials may be, there are always rules and regulations which have to be acted upon, and which result in the leaving out of a number of cases in regard to which it would be said, if an appeal were made to any section of this House, that they ought in some way or other to be met by a grant out of some compassionate fund. As I have said, the financial position of the Statutory Committee is at the present time very obscure. It is asked to perform precise functions, out of a sum granted by this House of £1,000,000. It has, I am glad to say, been promised a further sum by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of £5,000,000, and in the Treasury letter conveying that promise there are some indications that more money will be forthcoming as required. Really we have an offer of £6,000,000 down, and so many more millions, according to the number of casualties—the number of officers and men with whose position we may have to deal. I confess I would like to have the question of finance cleared up, and I have no doubt that it will be cleared up later on.

The Statutory Committee will naturally want to know on what it is to work, when looking after the health, training, and employment of all these disabled men. It is an enormous work which is imposed upon it. I do not think it can be financed by voluntary funds. I am perfectly certain we can get a considerable amount of money, but I do not think we can do this enormous work, nor do I hold that we ought to be called upon to do it, relying solely on voluntary funds. What are we expected to do? You have not discharged your duty to a disabled man by merely giving him a pension, particularly a small one, for that is about the worst thing people can do. There could be nothing more demoralising in the world than to endeavour to live on a small pension. Therefore you want to give a pension according to disability, and also you want to take the man up, refit him and rehabilitate him. It is very hard to get at him. As my right hon. Friend said, it is difficult to get men to undergo any severe course of training before the pension is awarded. I think the best way is to bribe the men, by paying them well while they are undergoing a course of training, and also by seeing that their wives and children are properly supported during that time, We are in communication with the Treasury at the present time on this matter, and so far as I can ascertain the answer of the Treasury is entirely satisfactory.


To whom do you refer as "we"?


The Statutory Committee.


Then you are not speaking of the Pensions Board?


No; that work is still left to the Statutory Committee. You have to get into touch with the educational authorities, and particularly with the technical institutes. You must get into communication with the Board of Agriculture and agricultural colleges, and then if you are able to tell the man, "We can maintain you quite comfortably while you are undergoing your course of training, and we can maintain your wife and children if you have to be separated from them," you will be offering him a very great inducement to come forward and be trained for a new occupation. Then again, in order to carry out this work of caring for and fitting these men, we want a complete scheme between the Statutory Committee and the Insurance Commission; also we would like if possible for the Army Council to see its way to retain many of these men—not all of them—in their convalescent camps, where they will be under a certain amount of discipline until they are advanced to the state when they can safely be put once again on the labour market.


We are all very anxious to know about the Pensions Board, which is to be established by this Bill. These matters have nothing to do with that.


I am afraid they have a great deal to do with it in one way or another. All these functions will still have to be discharged by the Statutory Committee and I am making a claim that proper financial consideration shall be given to this Board by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now the Pensions Minister is in future going to deal with what have hitherto been called supplementary pensions. I think, when it comes into practice, the supplementary will be dropped, and there will be higher pensions than now. Associated as I am with the Local Government Board, I shall be in constant communication with my right hon. Friend in regard to the processes of adjusting the pension to the man's disability, and of giving him the right training. I think both of these things go together and make it necessary that some such Board should be established. I think the Board is going to make more effective the policy of the Statutory Committee. If I find fault with the Statutory Committee, it is that while it is both an admirable and a deliberative body, it suffers, as all large Committees must suffer, from the want of speedy, effective, and prompt action. I believe my right hon. Friend will really become the executive officer of that Statutory Committee, and will be able to push forward many of the claims I have touched upon to-day—claims which are very good, but the dealing with which is too often delayed, because we have not enough power in the Statutory Committee, with the result that decisions are not carried into effect with anything like the promptitude we would like to see. I think, therefore, my right hon. Friend can do a very great deal in bringing these schemes into more effective operation.

One thing the local committees can do, and we are urging them to do—I hope every Member of this House also will urge it upon them—is that as soon as possible they shall form a complete register of the widows and orphans, as well as of all the dependants of every discharged disabled man. When these disabled men come to settle down and are about to throw themselves on the labour market, they should be personally met; somebody should take a real interest in them. I should like to see them played into the place with a band. They have done splendid service for their country. But, at any rate, the local committee could meet them, take them in hand, see what can best be done for them, ascertain whether their pensions are all right, whether their training has been all right, and whether the wives or dependants are being properly looked after, and so on.

Now I want to touch on another very large subject which, I think, is very much neglected at the present time, and that is the cases of men who have been refused pensions by Chelsea and by my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, who thinks that the pension system at the Admiralty is really perfect. I am not so sure about it. I think it is very good. My right hon. Friend in his speech the other day said that 50,000 men who had been discharged or disabled had already been refused any pension or grant by Chelsea, I am very far from saying all those 50,000 men ought to have had a pension or a grant, but this I say with the utmost confidence, that there are hundreds of them, if the matter were left to this House, who would have a pension. The only body that can give them pensions or grants and allowances if Chelsea refuses, or the Admiralty refuses, is the Statutory body. That power is still left to the Statutory body. Now the House can understand why it is I am so anxious this should be properly financed.


Why cannot Chelsea be made to do it?


I say Chelsea does not do it. The hon. Member continually interrupts me, though I think he will see that I am covering his points. My right hon. Friend stated again and again that he is going to revise the scheme of pensions. He said he is going to reduce the area of compassion over which at present the Statutory Committee feels forced to act. He is going to take up a great many of those cases. I am going to quote them, all of the same. I want the House to know what is being done and what is not being done, what is expected at the present moment of the Statutory Committee, and what will be expected of it until those Royal Warrants are altered—until the system at Chelsea and also the Admiralty can be brought more into conformity with what I believe to be the wishes of this House and the wishes of the country There are-three classes of cases. There is one large-category of cases—accidents on leave and not on duty. There are a great number of those cases. I will give the House one or two samples, and let me say that these samples were cases I heard myself sitting at just two committee meetings of the Statutory Committee last week, so that I have not had to ransack all the records to-find them. I will not mention the names. There is the case of the widow of a first-class air mechanic of the Royal Flying Corps who was killed in a tramway accident. She is left with three small children. This unfortunate woman has no-one to help her. She had two brothers who might have helped her, and would have helped her, but one died a prisoner in Germany and the other is a prisoner in Germany, so that there is every element of compassion in this case. There was no suggestion that the accident which the husband met with was through any fault of the man. He was killed under circumstances that were due to the War, but not attributable to his actual duty in the War, and so there was no pension to the widow. I am glad to say that the Statutory Committee were able to make what the woman wanted, first of all, a grant of £40, with which to train herself as, I think, a midwife. The Statutory Committee can make temporary grants in these cases, but only temporary grants. It wants to know whether it is to have in the future the money to make those grants permanent. It also wants to know if my right hon. Friend will take on those cases.

The next case was that of a sailor, unmarried, with a dependent mother. His death was not attributable to war service. He had been to visit his mother, who had a separation allowance of 7s. 6d., and on returning on a wild night he got down to the dockyard station and thought he was taking a short cut. He did—into the dock, and was drowned. He was actually going to join his ship, which was only a very short way off. The unfortunate mother gets nothing. We made a temporary grant of 5s. a week. I will take another case, that of a soldier, a water-tank signaller, who came down in a lift which met with an accident, and he was killed. This was held not to be attributable to war service, and there was no pension for the widow. Then there was a case of a sailor who was allowed short leave, and, on returning to dock in the evening, fell through the gangway and broke his spine. He was regarded as not being on duty. It was a dark night, and there were all the elements which made it possible for anyone to meet with an accident of that kind. I believe the House will agree that the Statutory Committee was doing its duty in giving grants, and, if the Statutory Committee is still left with this kind of duty, then it ought not to have to depend on voluntary offerings of the public. Let me take another class of case, where the disease is not contracted on, or aggravated by, war service. There are hundreds of those cases. I will take the soldiers and I will take the sailors. Here is a lieutenant who gave good service, because after six months he got his commission. In March, 1916, he developed hæmorrhage of the lungs. The first medical report said it was due to war service through exposure in the trenches, but a later medical report said it was not. He was given a gratuity of £34. A married man with two children, he was making £180 a year before the War, and that man is practically ruined unless, of course, the Statutory Committee is allowed by the Treasury to make a grant and to continue that grant. I could give other cases, but I do not think I have wasted the time of the House. I have given these cases in order to show that one of two alternatives must be adopted. My right hon. Friend, when he gets thoroughly into saddle with his Pensions Board, must induce the authorities to enlarge the Royal Warrants and Orders in Council, and to enlarge them so as to embrace this class of cases, and see that the administration of these Warrants and Orders in Council is so conducted that it will not constantly be found there was something a man did or something happened by which he was ruled out. I have said before, and I say it again, all consideration should be given to a man who has done good service to his country.

There is just one other class of case, because this is a very important class of case. It is the case where no pension now can be given because there were no pre-war dependants. There is the case which the hon. Member for East Edinburgh is constantly taking up, where there was expectation of dependants. There is a case of a crofter in Scotland—a very poor crofter he was too, but he had a very clever son, and he educated his son and spent every penny he could on him, and sent him to Aberdeen University. When the War broke out the son had the right spirit, and said, "I must go and fight," although his educational course was nearly completed, and when it was he would have come to a very good position with a very good salary. Thinking he was going to have that very good position and that very good salary, he said to his father, "You go and borrow some money and build yourself a better cottage than you have; it is a poor miserable thing you are living in. I will be able to pay the instalments and see you through." The son went to the War and was killed. The father's health is completely broken down. His son allowed him 5s. while in the Army. I am sorry to say the Local Government Board for Scotland are suing the poor man for the instalments on the cottage. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame!"] There the Statutory Committee had the right to step in and has stepped in, and is doing something to keep this man going.

Again, I say, either one of two alternatives must be adopted. Either the Board must do it or the Statutory Committee, if left with this class of case, must be adequately financed to carry it out. I could give many other instances. The Statutory Committee has drawn up many rules and regulations. It has obtained a considerable extension from the Treasury of the grants that were given to it. I am bound to say the Treasury have been, on the whole, very considerate in allowing us to extend our rules and regulations to meet very hard cases. But still there remains very much to be done. This I do say, in advocating the Second Reading of this Bill, I believe that if my three assumptions are right, this House will find, and the country will find, that in setting up this Board with the conjunction of the forces of my hon. Friend representing the War Office, my right hon. Friend who represents the Admiralty, and my right hon. Friend, above all, who is the first Pensions Minister, in regard to a Bill which is backed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it will go far to enable this House and the country to discharge this great and solemn duty towards all those whose heroic deeds and whose sublime self-sacrifice are the constant theme and object of all our praise and thanksgiving.


I beg to move to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."

5.0 P.M.

I have the greatest respect for the talent, the Parliamentary experience, and the debating skill of the right hon. Gentleman, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, and during his speech I have been watching with some care what special ability he evinced during the course of that speech. I am afraid my verdict must be that the chief ability he has shown in that speech is one of rather singular dexterity. He has spoken of everything except the Bill. He has told us, in phrases with which we are all perfectly ready to agree, of the difficulties of those aggravating cases, of the difficulties of the men who are refused a pension, of the necessity of being in touch with the education authorities, the insurance authorities, and various other authorities throughout the country, but he has never, during almost the whole of his speech, come really to grips with the proposals of the Bill itself. He avoided that, as I say, with great dexterity, because I am afraid that in his heart of hearts the Bill, if I may say so, is not quite so delightful as he would have the House believe. He occupied a very large part of his speech with instances which came before me, as well as before the right hon. Gentleman, of the hardships that are caused by the extreme severity of the Royal Warrant. We all know that. It is precisely what the Statutory Committee has been fighting for. But what have those severe eases to do with the Bill, and how will they help the Bill? That the right hon. Gentleman never for a moment attempted to show, and when he came to the proposals of the Bill he certainly dissembled his love and satisfaction, even if he did not kick the Bill downstairs When the right hon. Gentle- came to the proposals of the Bill, what did he say about them. The Bill leaves out the Admiralty, and he said that it does not quite secure all the financial opportunities for the Statutory Committee which he would like, and that he hoped he would be able to make his views prevail with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman further said that he could not say that this Bill was more than a halfway house. Would it not be better under these circumstances to go the whole way? It is not greatly to the credit of the Bill that, having set out with the object of attaining unity, it only goes half way, or at any rate that is the view of the proposer of the Second Reading. I wish to discuss the Bill in regard to those points. The President-Elect of the Board of Pensions will believe me when I say that I never rose to oppose a Bill with more sympathy towards the objects which the promoters have at heart. I have the most cordial appreciation of the value of the work which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do. I hope that under the Bill, which I trust will be changed in some essential ways, we may still have the help of the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sure that help will be efficacious, sympathetic, strong, and vigorous. There are certain essential defects in the Bill which I desire to point out, and which I am convinced will be felt in the working of it. They are defects in principle. I should be sorry to go to a Division against the Second Reading, sympathising as I do with the objects which the chief promoter of the Bill has in view, and desiring as I do that he should co-operate in this great work in a supreme position. If the right hon. Gentleman can remove the defects which I shall state I shall be very glad, but, if not, I hope he will see that there are certain features in the Bill which might be changed.

A Notice of Motion has stood on the Paper in the name of a large number of hon. Members of this House on both sides for two or three weeks, and with every word of that Motion I agree. I agree that it is desirable that a Central Pensions Authority should concentrate immediately under a Pensions Minister, in order to co-ordinate the work now being undertaken by various Departments. With that I entirely agree, but I cannot see where this particular Bill in any way advances or attains this object. This Bill, in the opinion of its chief advocate, only goes to the half-way house, and in my opinion it tries to get co-ordination in a wrong way. It will not introduce greater simplicity of action, but greater confusion. I am confident that hon. Members will at least give some consideration to the arguments which I have to urge in that sense, and will not believe that the constant and assiduous work for some ten months of the Statutory Committee has given me a prejudiced view on this important question. I wish to say two things: In the first place, I do not in the least wish to eliminate the position of the Pensions Board or the work of the right hon. Gentleman himself, because I am confident that he will exercise a good influence. In the second place I want to say that I hold no brief for the Statutory Committee. As a matter of fact I was not at first so much a friend of the Statutory Committee when the Bill of last year was before the House as the Secretary to the Local Government Board, and perhaps my own official experience made me a little doubtful that executive power would be more effectually exercised through a body of twenty-seven people rather than through the more bureaucratic system to which I might have been accustomed.

If I have been impressed by the work of the Statutory Committee it is by my daily experinece over a long period of their work in regard to all these matters. There is always this great advantage in voluntary work. You can at once discard it, or alter it without any personal feeling or any thought of personal wrong. The members of the Committee give honorary work, and it is very easy to change the arrangement. Of course, I have no right to speak for the Statutory Committee, but I am certain that I am speaking the opinion of those colleagues of mine who are present here, and the mind of every member of the Statutory Committee, when I say that we are ready to go on with the work, or to go on in any altered way, or remit that work altogether according to what may be decided by the Ministry or by Parliament, as the best for the public good. I wish to ask what really is the principle on which the present structure is based which was advocated by the Select Committee last year and which was embodied in the Bill last year? It is a perfectly simple one. The long speech which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman never really attempted to bring forward any arguments for upsetting that principle. The principle I refer to was that you must fix a flat rate of pension, if you like even more generously, but beyond that fixed rate of pension you must have a discretionary rate which goes further—that is adapted to particular circumstances, which takes those circumstances into humane consideration, and which looks at every case not merely as one in a long list to be treated exactly uniformly, but which takes certain cases which must have special circumstances, and the circumstances must be specially considered. That is the principle upon which the Select Committee's Report was based. They recommended, and the Bill was so drafted, that there should be two authorities, that over and above the Array and Navy authorities and various other authorities bound by Royal Warrants there should be a non-political, an outside non-official body which should take up certain cases which were not properly or adequately met by the then existing arrangements. If you are going to change the whole thing, before you alter it let us have fair reasons and arguments for it. Do not think that you give us arguments by doing what the right hon. Gentleman did—that is, presenting to us a string of hard cases which we all know exist, which it is precisely our duty and our business in the Statutory Committee to take up and with which we have been dealing in the Statutory Committee exactly on lines in regard to which the right hon. Gentleman waxed so eloquently.

I am not going to join in the comment which has been made upon all official authorities. We must always remember the conditions upon which these authorities act. We must remember that they are bound by certain rules, and from the very nature of things they must be bound by those rules. You are not going to establish a public office, vote them money, and then tell them, "You are to bestow pensions according to your own sweet will." You must lay down rules for a Government Office, because it will be subject to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and you cannot get rid of that control. At any time the Comptroller is in a position to pull them up. He may say to them, "Your discretion is all very well, but show me the rules that justify such-and-such a claim." Do not let us always be blaming officials. If it is a question of paying out money in individual cases, very often the officials over and over again try to construe the rules favourably to the applicant. I have had to do it myself for a long period of years where pensions and grants to teachers are concerned. That was no special virtue of mine, but it is the constant experience of others. The officials must be bound by the rules, and they have only a limited discretionary power. Something more than this is needed, and that was found with due safeguards in the non-political outside non-official Statutory Committee. Of course the Statutory Committee had to cut its coat according to its cloth. I do not agree with the suspicion or doubt of the Chancellor of the Exchequer which the right hon. Gentleman indicated in his speech, and I am bound to say that, as a member of the Statutory Committee, that I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer throughout behaved very generously towards us.


I did not throw any suspicion or doubt upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I said very distinctly that the Treasury's letter was most generous. What I did say was that I thought the financial arrangements wanted clearing up, and I said that £6,000,000 had been promised for certain purposes, and some of those purposes were to be transferred to the Pensions Committee, and we could not expect the whole of that money. I said that we wanted to know what we could expect, and I throw no suspicion. or doubt upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


I thought the right hon. Gentleman indicated that there might be a little difficulty.


We had to sweat it out of him.


I can only say that we had granted to us by the Chancellor of the Exchequer first a sum of £1,000,000, and then subsequenlty another sum of £5,200,000. There were some fears in the Statutory Committee as to our possible commitments not being mot, but I differed from some of my colleagues and thought that there was unnecessary timidity about it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer expressly told us that we were not limited' to spending the interest only on that money, but that we were able to trench upon the capital. We have already dispensed a considerable sum among the local committees, and we had an ample sum to go on. I and some of my colleagues who had had official experience constantly urged the Committee that we were perfectly safe to go on and be generous and give our Grants, tolerably certain that any Chancellor of the Exchequer would be bound to foot the bill if we exercised proper discretion. I never had the smallest doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if not the Chancellor of the Exchequer then this House of Commons, and if not this House then the people of England, would insist upon our undertakings to our soldiers being properly fulfilled, and I think we were perfectly justified in going on so long as we had a general understanding with the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the Regulations under which we should act. I do not think that the Treasury has been unduly hard. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hohler) says that we had to extort the money, but I do not think so. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the guardian of the public purse, and, if he did not hold the balance, he would not be doing his duty, but he did give us a considerable Grant. I have had longer experience of Chancellors of the Exchequer than my hon. Friend. I have been fighting them for twenty years, and I have had several quarters of an hour with many Chancellors of the Exchequer, from Mr. Goschen downwards, but I have generally found that if you fight them hard enough they>begin to see reason, and at the bottom of their hearts there is something humane. If you have reason on your side, you generally, in the long run, persuade them, providing you have certain pertinacity. It was our business to be pertinacious in this matter, and with pertinacity, I think, as new needs arose in the future, we should have been equally successful. I have not much doubt as to the financial question with regard to which the right hon. Gentleman said that he trusted the Bill would give us security.

When you come to know these questions, not only by paragraphs in newspapers and letters from aggrieved consituents, but from hearing both sides argued, you realise that they are not quite so easy and that the truth is not always so completely on the side to which your sympathies would first lead you. An hon. Friend who generally sits on this side last week said, "What are you doing on the Statutory Committee? I am simply inundated with letters. I asked him to let me have some, and at length he did. There was one piteous letter from a poor private who had written to the Statutory Committee, and who said that he could not get any attention. I went at once to the Statutory Committee. I found that they had instantly written to the local committee. There had undoutbedly been some delay because the local committee could not trace the man. They have now, under our urgent pressure, found him. Another letter was immediately written by the Statutory Committee to the Chelsea Commissioners to find out what their explanation was. There was no delay whatever.


Why could you not have written to the man yourselves?


If we had written to him, it turns out that the address given in the letter was not correct, and the local committee for a long time could not trace him. We have established three hundred local committees. Are we to supersede them all? A copy of the letter was immediately sent to the local committee asking what we were to do, and another copy was sent to the Chelsea Commissioners asking what considerations had urged them to limit the pension. Let us wait to hear what they have to say before we conclude that there is only one answer. The Statutory Committee is a very composite body. It represents various poli- tical interests and various social and economic interests. I have sat on many committees day after day, and have judged particular and individual cases. The House may take it on my word that I have never known one single instance where the decision as to any case was not unanimous on the part of the sub-committee. Never in any case, after going through all the evidence and weighing the pros and cons, has anything in my experience but unanimous decision been arrived at by that diversely composed Committee.


Have you agreed upon everything?


I say that in all the individual cases which we have had to judge I have never known a decision which was not unanimous. We have often had long discussions and have had differences, but we have always come to a settlement. We want, of course, to bring together all the different authorities. I cordially agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster-General there. We want co-ordination, but is it necessary in order to do this practically to suspend all the important functions of the Statutory Committee and to introduce a new and fifth wheel to the cart or a new executive authority? It is all to the good to have one official, judicial, and controlling authority, but do not establish a new authority not merely to control, but to share in and complicate the executive work. How will the executive work with regard to supplemental pensions now being carried on under this Bill? Hitherto you have had an official element in the Chelsea Commissioners giving a fixed pension and a discretionary element in the Statutory Committee giving a supplemental pension. Now the supplemental pensions are to be taken entirely out of the hands of the Statutory Committee and are to be given, on the one hand, by the President of the Pensions Board and his colleagues, and, on the other hand, by the Admiralty. The very power you now complain of is now to be given not only its official task, but also the discretionary task. It is not to be brought under the rule of the Pensions Minister, but it is to supersede the Statutory Committee and to be a rule unto itself. Can you, in the nature of things, unite that official and that discretionary element? Is the Secretary to the Admiralty to say to everyone who comes before him, "As an official, I give you a certain pension, but I will look into the circumstances later to see if they differentiate your case from that of others. With my right hand I give you a fixed pension, but I will see if I can give you a supplemental pension with my left hand. I will review my own official decision, but then I shall no longer be acting as an official but as one exercising a discretionary power to supplement pensions." Do you think that is logical? Do you think it is an easy course?

There is a great deal made of the promptness and quickness with which pensions will be paid; they are all to be paid at once, and a higher rate of pensions all round is to exist. You cannot make a higher rate of pensions apply to every case or you will be lavishly extravagant. You must have some authority which is to deal with special difficulties and special circumstances or you will have extravagance. A uniform system would be extravagant. You must therefore adjust the pensions to circumstances. Are you first going to pay a man his official rate of pension and then let him go to another authority to see if he can make out a case for a supplemental pension, or is the official pension to wait till all the circumstances which might justify adding to it have been decided? Would it not be easier and better that the right hon. Gentleman should not himself enter the sphere of the executive, but should be a judicial and controlling authority, having under him the various subsidiary authorities? Would it not be better that he should have that judicial and controlling authority in his hands? In his hands would be at once the bridle, and in his control would be the spur. If the official authorities lagged behind and were too tightly bound by the rules, it would be for him to apply the spur; and if, on the other hand, the statutory authority were too lavish, it would be for him to cheek them. It would be for him to pronounce between the two different authorities when they happened to differ. If we differed, as we often do, from the War Office or the Admiralty in regard to cases, and thought that they were rather too severe or stringent in their application of the rules, then it would be for the right hon. Gentleman to step in and decide between us. But will he really help himself in that judicial, controlling, guiding, and regulating capacity if he makes himself another complicated piece, or a new wheel, in the machinery of the executive—a new wheel, necessary it may be, but giving the possibility of friction and the certainty of confusion. That is what I feel. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to take this into consideration. I would venture to remind him that a new function will be called upon in regard to provision for the wounded, for those of our soldiers who are disabled, and in the case of the killed, the dependants.

I notice by the "Gazette" of Frankfort, for 11th March of this year, that a circular has been sent out in Germany, and very widely, so that it may be known to all the Army, foreshadowing the correlation of credit banks for soldiers on their return. We may just as well look forward to such a scheme. It will be necessary. You have formed a citizen army. You have drawn men from every rank in life. You have broken up businesses and disorganised lives, and what I have stated is a necessity, and it is as well to recognise it. You will be compelled to think on the matter. In France the feeling has been expressed that they should follow the same line as the German military authorities in regard to these credit banks. I believe we shall have to do something similar to help these men on their return to build up the credit that has been lost, to gather together the clientele, to have some power of re-establishing actual businesses, perhaps considerably broken. That would be a new element in the executive. It is not a thing the Statutory Committee can for a moment take up. It is not a thing that the Admiralty or War Office can take up. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman himself, as Pensions Minister, should take it up. He may very well see it is worked in with the other. He may very well be the controlling authority that may set it on foot, and see that its operations run well and are adjusted to the rest.

I have perhaps kept the House too long, but I have spoken from my heart and with a real desire, honestly and sincerely from the experience that I have gained on the Statutory Committee, for the good of the soldier. I believe yon are going the wrong way about this matter. You are dragging up the roots of the tree when it is hardly planted: when it has not had a year of growth. I believe you are going the wrong way about because you are destroying the principle upon which the first Act was based, and you are introducing an entirely new principle which will induce greater confusion. I entirely agree with the idea, and I welcome the right hon. Gentleman as controller, as decider, and as judge between the different authorities. Let him only come in when they require to be directed, when they require to be prompted to greater energy, into doing something extraordinary or humane. I put down this Motion, but I would deeply regret to cause any hindrance to the Bill if I was certain that the Bill was going to do good. The work is no after-war work. It is work that I consider to be of the very highest character; it is work which is immediately urgent and necessary. We know the heroism of our soldiers. We know their readiness to go through the most desperate ordeals. We know their readiness to make the greatest sacrifices. We have tried and experienced that. But if there is anything that could paralyse our soldiers' arms, that could unsteel our soldiers' hearts in the day of battle, it is the thought that if they fall they may be leaving a long vista of hopeless poverty and of neglect to those they may leave behind. Let us go ahead with this work. Let us make this Bill as good as we can. Let us have the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman with all his authority and energy, with all his hold over the nation. Let us have his assistance as our pioneer, our controller, as a leader and director, but do not let the matter be complicated so that greater confusion may be introduced into it.


I beg to second the Amendment.

It appears to me that it is reflection upon the House that a matter such as this, involving the welfare of our disabled soldiers and their dependants, is being discussed in this House before a paltry twenty Members. I listened very attentively to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in the hope that he would deal with the Bill, and explain to the House how that Bill is going to benefit the soldier and sailor. In the very few references he made on the Bill he seemed to me rather to show that the soldier would not be benefited by this Bill, but that, on the contrary, his position would be made very much worse. This Bill, we were told by the Paymaster-General last Tuesday, is intended merely to set up machinery for the purpose of administering the pensions to disabled soldiers and to the dependants of soldiers who have lost their lives. Surely, however, before we set up machinery to do that or to do any other work, we ought precisely to determine what the work is that is to be done by that machinery. What would be said of any commercial man who started to build works and to lay down expensive plant before he knew or had made up his mind what the nature of his work was going to be? This House, and this House alone, can settle the policy which is to be adopted by the Government in granting pensions. That policy, up to the present time, has not been settled. At the present time we are all agreed that the pensions which are provided by the principle of Royal Warrants, Army Council instructions, and Army Orders must be once and for all entirely swept away, and that yon must in their place, at least, prepare and settle—and this House must do it—the principle upon which a scale of pensions is to be framed.

What is this machinery going to do? There is nothing in the Bill to indicate it. It may adopt one or two measures, or rather, this House ought to adopt towards it one or two measures. You may appoint your political department, and say to them, "Here are so many millions a year for you; now go and distribute that in pensions as you think best." That is one way of doing it. I rather fancy that is the way in which the Paymaster-General indicated last Tuesday it was intended to proceed. You may also adopt this policy: You may frame a scale of pensions which will deal with the great number of disabilities which from time to time occur, a scale which would meet the majority of cases, but you would also have a very large percentage of cases which would not be adequately met by any scale which human ingenuity could possibly frame. Those cases would, of necessity, have to be dealt with separately by supplemental pensions, or supplemental grants. Until, however, this House determines which method you are going to adopt, it is futile to set up machinery. If you adopt the first view, and simply hand over the money to the Department and say, "Administer that money in paying pensions as, to you, may seem best," that Department must then proceed to consider every individual case as it comes along, and to fix the pension which is to be given in respect of that case. That, Sir, is what I understand the Paymaster-General suggested was their view.

The PAYMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. A. Henderson)

I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but I am quite sure, if he will again look at the speech in which I introduced the Bill, he will see that I did not give the impression—I certainly did not intend to give the impression—that we were going to follow the first of the two courses he has indicated.


May I just call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to what exactly he said? It certainly gave me—I may be wrong—the impression that it was intended to follow the first course. Observe this: It is only if you follow the first course that you can fix the pension of the applicant at the outset once for all. If you follow the second course you fix the flat-rate pension, and you give the supplementary pension in cases where it is necessary. If you take the first course you fix the pension at the outset. Let me quote from the OFFICIAL REFORT what the right hon. Gentleman said: In other words, instead of a man going to Chelsea and getting the whole or pan of the flat rate, and then going on to the Statutory Committee, or a in some cases, being sent from one Department to smother, we hope that one decision will cover his entire case. That is what we propose to do,"[OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th November, 1916 cols. 660–661.]


Yes; and I want to say that I stand by that. It does not necessitate the adoption of the course suggested by the hon. Gentleman to give effect to that proposition.


I am much obliged for the interruption, because I will try to show the House that it docs. Let me call attention to what the right hon. Gentleman said a little later on: I tried to show that, instead of having a pension decided under two authorities the first a flat. rate and the other a supplementation, both being paid out of State funds, we are going to do it: in one decision." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, l916, col. 680.] If you have a flat-rate scale established, with power to grant a supplemental pension, you cannot do that at once. If you do that, you must first grant the flat rate and then inquire into the matter to see whether a supplemental pension is required. It is only if you have an absolutely free hand to investigate at the very first the circumstances of the particular case, and then fix the pension for that case, that you can decide, the right hon. Gentleman said, at the very first what the pension is to be. Just consider what that would mean in the way of machinery. If you are to have one decision to cover each entire case, you must have that decision at the outset or you may keep the man waiting an unlimited length of time before he gets anything. He will not have anything until you have made the decision as to what his pension is to be. You will have to inquire into the circumstances of every applicant for a pension. You cannot do that in London; you can only do it by means of local committees. You must have your local committees, and with every applicant, when he comes along, you must refer his case to the local committee for them to investigate and report upon it. When you get their report, you will have the man examined, as to-day, by a medical board at Chelsea, and then, and only then, can you decide his case once and for all. There is no other means of doing it. Just imagine the machinery you would want for that! Just imagine, if you are not going to have a flat rate to begin with and a supplemental pension afterwards, the enormous machinery that you would require to carry that out! Two thousand officials would be nothing to what you would want if you have to inquire at the outset into every man's case and decide it once and for all.

Is this House prepared to leave to a Government Department the duty of fixing upon what principle and upon what rate a disabled soldier is to have his pension fixed? Is not that for this House to determine, and not for the Department, not for a Minister, however able he may be? Is it necessary for that purpose to set up a Department? Is it not rather the ordinary way of doing such a thing to appoint a committee of experts—people who have given this matter careful consideration—to fix the scale which shall be the scale of pension applicable to every case in the first instance, and then, when you have fixed your flat-rate scale and fixed it, as I hope you will, on a generous scale, you will have to deal with all the cases which require supplemental pensions and which are not sufficiently covered by the flat-rate scale. For that purpose you must inquire into the circumstances of the applicant. You must inquire into his position before the War and into his means at the time of the application. You must also inquire into the prospects of his being able to earn a living at the present time. All kinds of personal inquiries have to be made. If you are going to make those inquiries on the huge scale upon which it is suggested you should make them, you will not be able to get any voluntary committee in any district sufficiently large to do it. The work would be far too heavy. You will be driven of necessity to appoint officials to do that work in every district in the country. How do you think our soldiers would like an inquisitorial system of officials set up in each district to inquire into all their circumstances, both before the War and at the time of their application for a pension? It would be degrading to the applicant. I am perfectly certain that thousands of men would rather go without the relief to which they are entitled than submit to official inquisitorial investigations such as that.

Suppose you adopt the second course. Suppose you establish, first of all, your flat rate. That would cover the great majority of cases. If a man has lost his arm you would provide a certain weekly pension in respect of that arm. In the majority of cases the flat rate would cover that case, and you would hear no more of it. It would be only in the minority of cases that you would have to make investigations. You will have to make the investigation, if it is to be effective and if it is not to be inquisitorial, by means of voluntary local committees, such committees being composed of men known in the locality, in whom the people of the locality have trust, and you will have to determine your supplemental pension with the assistance of those local committees. Why, for that purpose, do you want a Government Department? You have your Statutory Committee today. It is true that it has been in existence for some ten months only, but during that time it has done an enormous amount of work. It has set up a large number of local committees, which have worked remarkably well. They have not been able, of necessity, to deal at once with all the cases because, in the first place, the finances at their disposal were not fixed until quite recently. It is perfectly obvious that no committee could proceed to grant pensions unless and until they knew that the financial resources given them would be sufficient to meet the pensions. Nobody will say that they have not done good work; indeed, it is said by the supporters of this Bill that the work is exceedingly good. The local committees are to be continued for the purpose of carrying on a very important part of the work.

Why do you want a Government Department to do the work? Why not let the flat rate be amended? You have plenty of authority. The Government can do it. You can tear up your Royal Warrants and Army Council Instructions if you please, and you can establish a new and provide a more generous rate of pensions without a Government Department being set up for that purpose. Once you have done that you could also establish a system under which there will be no delay between the moment when the rate applicable to a particular man is fixed and the day he gets his money. There is no need of statutory powers such as this Bill gives, or of a Government Department to bring Baker Street and Chelsea Hospital together. You could bring them together to-day if the Government willed it. They have ample power. There is no reason for this delay, which has been the cause of the agitation in the country. You have no need of a Government Department and you have no need of a Minister of the Crown. What is the justification for establishing this Department? The Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board read part of a letter from the Treasury, which he said he had here. Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will let me see that letter?


I shall be very pleased to show it to my hon. Friend. I did not read it; I merely quoted the position that was taken up by the Treasury.


I am glad the right, hon. Gentleman referred to it. Let me read a part of it. I want to read this because I want to know why the Treasury has altered its mind in this matter. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will check my reading with the original letter to see that I read it aright.


I am quite sure that my hon. Friend will read it correctly.


I will read from my copy. The Treasury say this: Their lordships have from the first felt that it is not in the true interests of the disabled soldiers and sailors or of the widows and dependants of the fallen that the work of supplementing the pensions awarded under Army and Navy Regulations should be in the hands of a Government Department. Only by mean of an organisation of voluntary workers whether as the central administrative body, or in the localities, can you secure the requisite degree of personal interest and sympathetic consideration 6.0 P.M.

The Treasury, having stated emphatically so late as August—some three months ago—that they had from the first felt that it was not in the true interests of the soldiers or of the widows and dependants of the fallen that the work of supplementing the pension should be in the hands of a Government Department, I should like to know why the Government come down to-day and ask for the establishment of a Government Department for that very purpose? What has happened to change the Treasury view in that short time? Has anything happened to change their view? What are the reasons why they have changed their view? It is a very emphatic statement that they have considered from the very first that it was not in the interests of the soldiers or of the dependants that the matter should be in the hands of a Government Department. If I understood the right hon. Gentleman aright, this afternoon he said that we have to consider this matter only from the point of view of the interests of the soldiers and dependants. The Treasury have emphatically stated that in their interests it should not be in the hands of a Government Department. Why do they come to us and ask us to place it in the hands of a Government Department? Has anything happened in the meantime to justify it? Has anything happened which they can say has convinced them that they were wrong and that the very thing which they condemned three months ago is the thing which they advocate to-day? If you have a generous flat rate and if you have, not a political Department but a non-political committee—call it what you will, but to be non-political is essential—then and only then can you hope that the interests of the men we desire to benefit will be really and properly looked after. Once you make it a political matter you introduce a political element into it, and if you introduce the political element at the head you will introduce the political element right through to every local committee. The right hon. Gentleman said last Tuesday he has sought to eliminate the political element by appointing, of the four who constitute the Board, two from each party. But how long will that last? This pensions scheme will last for half a century to come. How long will they last The time will come when we shall revert to party Government, and then under this Bill the Board will be constituted entirely of party politicians of one side or the other. What do you think will be the result of that? Do you not realise at once that when you introduce the party element in that way into this granting of pensions you introduce it from the top to the bottom and you introduce with it all the injustice and hardship and scandal which everything, when it is governed by political party considerations, is always found to be possessed of. This Bill has already produced some of these political elements. We all know how keen the vulture is to scent a dying body in the desert. But the keenness of the vulture is nothing as compared with the keenness of some politicians to scent a job. The right hon. Gentleman told us that even before this Bill was introduced and before it was known, outside certain political circles what the terms of the Bill were, he had received numerous letters from Members-of Parliament asking for jobs under the Bill.


for themselves?


Not for themselves, of course. [Interruption.] No; it is not. A Member of Parliament does not want a job of that kind, but he asks for a job for his political supporters, and that is the worst job you can possibly have. Let me read what the right hon. Gentleman said: I may make a further observation in regard to staff. I find, from numerous letters which I have already revived from Members of Parliament, that there are many candidates for posts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November. 1916, col. 641. I should like to see those letters. They would be very interesting reading. That is the kind of thing which will pervade this Department from beginning to end if it becomes a political Department and if this question of pensions is handed to a political Department. We shall have the officials appointed by reason of political associations by whatever party is in office at the time, and we shall have all the local committees appointed and working in view of political interests, and a man in a constituency who is or has been at one time an active political opponent of the majority of the local committee will have a poor chance and a man who has been an active supporter will have every facility. That is well known to exist wherever you, have politics introduced into the distribution of money. That is the one thing which this House ought, for its own credit, to do everything it can to prevent and stop, and this Bill will not prevent it and will not stop it, but will encourage and create it. Why was this Bill introduced? What is the object of it? It was introduced because a great deal had been said about the difficulty experienced by soldiers in getting payment of their pensions after they had been passed by Chelsea. It was a difficulty which ought not to have been. It can easily be remedied. It has been partially remedied already. It is that when a man had gone to Chelsea and got his pension fixed he had to go to Baker Street, and time was taken up in getting first of all his records from the Record Office and then his papers from Chelsea to Baker Street, and ultimately he got his money. That was the difficulty which was experienced and which led to this Bill. The Government wanted to get rid of that difficulty. Appoint a Minister and let him deal with it. Let the House get rid of it.


That difficulty was never in existence. Baker Street never sent for record papers at any time.


The hon. Member is not following me. He is passing observations across the House which would be better left undone. If he had listened to me he would have realised that I said that the difficulty has arisen from the papers coining from the Record Office to Chelsea.


You never said that.


You did not listen. The papers come from the Record Office to Chelsea, and when the pension is passed at Chelsea they have to go from Chelsea to Baker Street before the man gets his pension. That is where the delay has arisen, and that is the cause of the agitation against our present system. But you will not want a political Department to remedy that. You can remedy it very easily with the existing machinery at your command. But there has been trouble. There has been agitation. The Government want to get rid of it. Put up a Minister and let him deal with the whole thing. The first thing this House has to consider in passing this Bill is whether it is prepared to surrender its functions of dealing with this question of pensions to a Government Department or will this House deal with it. Will this House allow a Government Department to spend millions a year in pensions, distributed in such manner as the Department may think lit, or will this House fix the scale of pensions and fix the principles upon which supplemental pensions are to be paid? If the House is going to do that you have no need for a political Department. The House can do it without. On the other hand, if the House is going to surrender its right to a political Department which is to be composed purely of party politicians, instead of benefiting the men that you seek to benefit you will render their position far more difficult. You will render their right to pensions far more-difficult to support, and you will be doing them a wrong instead of remedying an, injustice.

It has been truly said that the giving of a pension is not the end of the country's liability towards the men. You have to go a step further. You have to-provide for what has been called cure, care and training. If you are going really to benefit the men who have been disabled you must give them facilities for learning new occupations suited to their disabled condition. You must help to train them. It is not only in their own interest, but in the interest of the nation. The right hon. Gentleman said last Tuesday that the-great difficulty in getting men to be trained was that they were afraid that their pensions would suffer if they learnt a trade. If you adopt the principle I have suggested of a generous flat-rate pension every disabled man can quickly have his pension fixed. The supplemental pension must always be temporary, and must always be subject to variation, but the flat rate can be fixed once and for all, and when it is fixed, and the man knows that for the rest of his life he will have such-and-such a pension, he will he willing and eager to learn a trade which will help, him to benefit himself and his family by increasing his income over and above the pension without risking his pension. You must, therefore, if you are really to get over the difficulty which was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman last Tuesday, proceed by the method, first of flat rate, and then of supplemental pension, and not proceed, as was suggested by him last time, by determining the case-once and for all and determining the amount of the pension. The matter is one of the most important of any of the matters which have been before the House for a very long time. This House cannot consider it too carefully or too deeply, and it should certainly not surrender any of its rights, but jealously guard them and proceed in the interests of the men, and care should be taken that nothing is done which will allow the pensions authority which you set up to degenerate into a political organisation.


With much of what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said I cannot agree, but I find myself in complete accord with his concluding expression that no question could come before Parliament which is of greater importance and which should receive greater attention than that which is now under discussion. I think it will be admitted on all sides that in this Bill the Government has attempted and endeavoured to embody the views which I know are held by a large number of Members of this House. But I do not think they have been very successful in the method they have adopted. I believe it must have been generally recognised that the proposals made by the Select Committee, which were embodied partly in the Bill of 1915, would have to be modified. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. H. Terrell) has advocated very strongly a flat rate pension. On that point I find myself in entire disagreement with him. I consider a flat rate of pension will never meet the requirements and the needs. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had said that what we require is a minimum rate of pension, then I would have agreed with him, but with the numerous conditions that must prevail a flat rate of pension is, in my opinion, absolutely unworkable.


What I mean when I used the expression, "flat rate," was a minimum flat rate to be supplemented by a supplementary pension.


I do not think that was the impression which was conveyed to the House by the hon. Gentleman.


That was my intention.


Pensions for the disabled, and especially pensions for the widows and orphans of those who are killed, must be based to a great extent on their pre-war status. It is more important to base it upon that than upon the extent of the men's wounds. If a man is disabled, or if a man leaves a widow and children, surely no one would suggest that that the State should not give greater consideration to a man who, when he was in full vigour, was earning £5, £6 or £8 a week, or that the widow or children of such a man should not receive greater consideration than would be given to an agricultural labourer or the widow and children of an agricultural labourer, who was earning not even £1 a week before the War. If the object of this Bill is to unify the granting and distribution of pensions on the basis of what may be called the pre-war status to the man disabled or to the widow and orphan, it ought to meet with the full approval of the House. I also think that this work should be relegated to a separate Department or a separate organisation. From the speech of the Paymaster-General I was gratified to learn that it was the intention that the granting of disablement pension or the pensions to widows and orphans should be entirely free from the question of Service pension, as that that should not enter into it at all, because we all recognise that Service pension may be regarded as deferred pay. I have to criticise the manner in which the Government proposes to carry out the object of unifying and co-ordinating the distribution of pensions, or even the granting of pensions. The Government does not seem capable of grappling a question in its entirety. They set up the Statutory Committee, which has been in operation, I believe, about nine months. So far as we know, that Committee has done its work well, and for the life of me I cannot see why the Statutory Committee has been absolutely discarded. This Bill, in my opinion, is a direct insult to the Statutory Committee, as it practically takes away from them all their powers and functions, except the distribution of voluntary funds. I. agree-with the hon. and learned Gentleman that a body such as the Statutory Committee, formed of twenty-seven Members, is a far better body to undertake this work than any fixed Government Department. manned more or less entirely by permanent officials.

I consider that the object of this Bill should be that the persons who are entitled to pensions should receive them from one source and through one channel. The hon. and learned Member said they were to receive a flat rate or a minimum rate from one pocket and a supplementary pension from the other. With that I entirely disagree. When, after investigation, a man is entitled to a pension, he should receive it as a whole from one authority and one organisation. I admit that some time must elapse before any organisation or any Department can decide the exact amount to which a man or a widow or orphan may be entitled, based chiefly on their pre-war status, but surely one can imagine that a Department, or an organisation like the Statutory Committee, would, pending a definite finding as to the amount of pension to be received, give the individual, knowing all the circumstances, something above the minimum rate until the matter was finally decided! I consider that the Statutory Committee should be kept in operation, and that it should have at its head a Cabinet Minister responsible to this House. We must recognise that it is necessary to have a Cabinet Minister or a Minister of importance responsible to this House for pensions. This cannot be regarded as a war emergency measure. I suppose it is the intention of the Government that this Bill should be the pension Bill of the future, until the Pensions Board will no longer be necessary. If that is so, and if during the War these pensions will be taken from Votes of Credit, you must remember that after the War the Minister responsible for the pensions will have to present to Parliament estimates of the amounts he will require to meet the pensions. For that reason, if for no other reason, I believe that if you are to have unification and coordination, soldiers and sailors, and widows and orphans who are entitled to pensions should receive them from one source.

On the First Reading of the Bill we had a very able speech from the Secretary to the Admiralty. If anyone could make out a case in order to endorse his views, I am certain that my right hon. Friend (Dr. Macnamara) is in that position, but I tell him frankly that he utterly failed to convince me why the Admiralty should be divorced from this Bill. The Government seems incapable of grappling with the situation as a whole. If this Bill is to coordinate and unify, why not bring both the fighting Services within the scope of the Bill? When you have your estimates for pensions presented to Parliament the country will want to know the exact amount for which it is liable in regard to pensions caused by this War, whether they be due to soldiers or sailors. If you adopt the course provided by this measure, the Admiralty will have to include its pensions in the Navy Estimate.


It is all set out in the non-effective votes.


In the non-effective totes then. I consider that would not be satisfactory. At the present time you get them out of the Vote of Credit. In future this House ought to know the full amount that will be required for war pensions.


So they will.


In one sum and one sum alone. The fact of the matter is, the Admiralty put themselves on a superior pedestal. They will not have anything to-do with any other Department. We all know that when the Ministry of Munitions was formed the Admiralty would not brook any interference with their Department. In regard to the Air Board, we believe—until we have explanations to the contrary, which we have not had up to the present time—as the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Barlow) pointed out last week, they adopted the same course. My right hon. Friend must be aware of the fact that the-entire efficiency of this nation is not contained within the walls of the Admiralty. There are other people who can do the work just as well. I should think the Admiralty would be very pleased to be relieved of this work.




I will tell you why. I am a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and we have the Admiralty officials before us, and the Accounting Officer said his Department was overworked. It is no-use putting an extra burden upon a Department which is overworked. If this matter is to be carried out efficiently you must have a body of men who can devote their time thoroughly to the work of investigating each case. Therefore I hope my right hon. Friend will reconsider the-decision not to come within this measure. I believe I am voicing the opinion of a large number of Members when I say that in the Committee stage we will insist, as far as possible, upon the Admiralty coming within this Bill. I see no reason why the-Admiralty should leave themselves out of the provisions of the Bill. There is another reason why I am opposed to the setting-up of two organisations. If the Statutory Committee is to remain and content itself with distributing the voluntary contributions, I should imagine that the gentlemen who form that Committee will consider-that their time might be better spent. I think that all their functions of distributing voluntary contribution could be done as heretofore by the Patriotic Fund, or the Chelsea Commissioners, who did it very well. There is no reason, if you are to have this Board of Pensions, why you should keep in being the Statutory Committee. Has the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henderson), and those responsible for this measure, estimated what the additional cost will be of having both these organisations in operation? I consider that the £2,000 which it is proposed the President of the Board should receive is none too liberal for the work that will be expected of him.

As this is not a war emergency measure, are we to understand that the Paymaster-General, the Secretary to the Admiralty, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, and the Financial Secretary to the War Office, when they have assumed their office, will automatically become the President and the Pensions Board? If so, I am inclined to agree with a great deal of what the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. H. Terrell) said, that it would resolve itself more or less into a political body, which, surely, should be avoided as far as possible in connection with ascertaining the amount of pensions and the distribution of pensions. The independence and the desire of the Statutory Committee to act equitably and fairly cannot be doubted. To create this Pensions Board with the Secretaries or Under-Secretaries—I believe there is some idea of making an Under-Secretary responsible for it—will not lead to efficiency, but will lead to confusion and not to the result which the majority of people have in view. Therefore I do urge the Government to reconsider some of the provisions of this Bill and to say definitely—a point on which I feel strongest—what is the position now of the existing Statutory Committee, and whether the Board of Pensions really do intend to usurp all their functions? On that point I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow University moved the rejection of the Bill. This Bill is of primary importance, as on the question how the pensions are distributed and allocated depend not only the happiness and welfare of a large number of people who have been ready to sacrifice their lives in this War, but also the prestige of this country. Every attempt must be made to meet the universal desire that the widows, orphans, and disabled men should receive the best possible treatment, and I am certain that if the Statutory Committee is allowed to continue in operation that body will give the greatest real satisfaction.

Mr. PERCY HARRIS (Paddington, S.)

I have some sympathy with the view of the hon. Member who has just spoken that supplementary pensions might be left to the Statutory Committee, but I am bound to point out that he is mistaken in thinking that this Bill takes away all the functions of the Statutory Committee. On the-contrary, it leaves to them what is, to my mind, one of he most important, vital, and interesting duties, namely, that of the care of the disabled men, looking after their health and providing them with training. I approach this Bill from the point of view of the Chairman of the London War Pensions Committee, and I have been asking myself, not without some anxiety, whether this Bill will or will not improve the administration in which I am taking a humble part. At first glance the proposal to join four busy Ministers on a Board does not strike one as likely to effect much, and the Hill certainly leaves us very far from the ideal of a unified pensions department. Probably it is not possible now to attain altogether the ideal of my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Local Government Board, whose knowledge of the subject is unrivalled and whose proposal unfortunately was not adopted when made. What strikes one about this Bill is that it really unifies nothing. It does not unify Ministerial responsibility. It does not unify the question of pensions pure and simple. It does not attempt to unify the whole of this vast business of which pensions really is only a part. What perhaps it does, but there seems to be some uncertainty about it, is this: It does appear as if it would afford some co-ordinating machinery. My test of this Bill will depend upon whether that is so or not. I certainly shall endeavour, in any criticism which I offer, to be constructive and not destructive.

What is the prime need at the present moment? To expedite the work of administration. If we are to do that we must know what has been the prime cause of failure in the past. The prime cause of failure it seems to me, as an administrate-is that nobody seems to have had the will, or at any rate the power, to decide anything. If one is working on a local committee, seeing cases day after day with which one is not able to deal, although one feels that they are cases which ought to be dealt with, one cannot help feeling impatient at the incredible difficulties in getting the most obvious injustices and the most glaring defects of administration remedied within a reasonable period. The delay in making proper provision for men, between the date of discharge and the date when they come into receipt of a pension, is only one instance of what I mean. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary of State for War has been successful in doing the right thing. Why could not it have been done before? Take the Pensions Issue Office and the Paymaster's Department. If I mention either of them to one of my forty-five local sub-committees, I hear nothing but groans. Take the delay in issuing the Regulations for supplementary pensions. That has caused great hardship. Many persons who have sent in their applications months ago are still waiting for the pensions promised them. What has caused the delay? As far as I can make out it is because nobody could decide who is to find the money to pay for them.

Take the delay in making provision for restoring disabled men to health and industrial efficiency. That is, to my mind, one of the most serious features of the situation. The cause of the delay, to my mind, is because the Statutory Committee has had to negotiate with the National Health Committee, the War Office, the Admiralty people, and, last of all, the Treasury, and among all these bodies of persons any scheme for dealing with disabled soldiers has got lost. Unless this Board of Pensions is going to do something to rectify these things, what is the good of it? My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Local Government Board said it would do a great deal of good work if it were to be a live Board. Is it to be a live Board? Is it to be a reality or a sham? We have got four Ministers on this Board all responsible for one portion of the work—one the Admiralty, one the War Office, one the Statutory Committee, and one pensions pure and simple. But what added advantage are we going to get by calling them a Board? If they are going to meet regularly and co-ordinate the work, and if they are going to use their influence with Government Departments and the Government to get decisions made where decisions are required, and reforms in administration carried out where reforms are required, then I welcome this Board. But if it is not intended to do that, then I look upon this Board as something in the nature of a fraud.

Searching questions were asked in the Debate on the First Reading as to how this Board was to be worked and as to what the responsibility of its members was to be, and the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster-General was that he as Minister was responsible. But he is only responsible for one part of the work, and other Ministers are responsible for the pensions. I think that unless you are going to have somehow or other one controlling man you are really not going to get anything. Then we do not get by the Bill unified administration. Perhaps that is not possible, but if we do not get co-ordination of machinery we do not get what we are entitled to ask for. There should be some provision in the Bill that this Board is to do co-ordinating work meet regularly, and send Reports to Parliament. Assuming that the Board has been set up, is administering pensions and doing co-ordinating work, who is actually to settle the pensions? The Pensions Board which you have always been talking about is a Board which is actually going to do the work, but it is absurd to suppose that this Board of four Ministers is going to resolve itself into a cases committee. By whom are the decisions going to be made? Is it by unknown officials sitting in the Pensions Department? No provision is made in the Bill for setting up any body. If it is to be done by unknown officials in the Department, I think that that is an unsatisfactory proposal and one which is not in the interests of the persons primarily concerned.

My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to the Local Government Board, in introducing the Naval and Military War Pensions Bill, said that he thought the decision as regards supplementary pensions should be made by persons who are known, and he said that he wanted people who could have more heart than Government officials were allowed to have. I do think that we want people of experience and sympathy and a certain position of independence, subject, of course, to the control of the Minister of Pensions and Parliament. This is a point of great importance, because, as far as I can see, local committees will lose under the new scheme the opportunity which they now have of recommending supplementations to disability pensions. I do hope that some definite provision will be put in the Bill securing that qualified and independent persons will have the actual awarding of pensions under the control of a Pensions Minister. I must confess that I would prefer to keep it to the Statutory Committee, and it is a question whether the transfer of these powers from the Statutory Committee at the present time will not cause delay and confusion. After all, the Statutory Committee have prepared the regulations under which supplementary pensions are to be granted. The local committees have studied those regulations and are making recommendations based on them, and the Statutory Committee is ready to grant those pensions, and it does seem curious to choose this moment for the transfer of those duties from a body which is ready to do it to a body which has no experience whatever of this particular kind of work.

Looking a little more closely into the questions of how the pensions are to be decided and what part the local committees are to play, a quotation has been read from the right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster-General in which he stated that there was to be one decision of both classes of pensions and that was translated in dramatic language by my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey, who said: He has mentioned that instead of doing the matter in twice it will be done in once, and that instead of old Chelsea, plus the Statutory Committee, the equivalent of the new Chelsea will do the whole thing at once,"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1916. col. 661.] And he went on to express very natural agreement with that, and to say that in that event What are called supplemental pensions are gone or are superseded by the new arrangement Is that intended or is it not? It seems to me that it means scrapping the whole of the existing system, and I do not see how that is possible without causing a considerable amount of delay and confusion at the very time when there is the utmost pressure to get on as quickly as possible with regard to pensions. That proposal has also incidentally the result of denying to the local committees all opportunity of recommending supplements to disability pensioners, because this is the present system. Local committees present the facts relating to a man upon a form which I hold in my hand. The particulars are entered on three pages that have been verified by the local committee; when the man died is at the bottom of the third page; and on the fourth page the local committee make their recommendation, and base it on a comparison between the pre-war income and the present income. The most important item of the present income is the State pension; sometimes it is the only item, and, unless that is known, it is impossible for the local committee to-recommend a supplementary pension. There is a great deal to be said, no doubt, for having one authority for dealing with both questions, especially as the money for both comes out of State funds. I question, however, whether that can be done now without considerably dislocating the whole-business.

Different considerations arise with regard to disability pension, which depends on the man's earning capacity, and the amount he has lost. The supplementary pension depends on the pre-war income and the present income. However that may be, I venture to put forward the view that the pensions authority will be in a better position to decide as to the pensions which ought to be granted if they have the recommendations of the local committee in all cases, in order to arrive at sympathetic and just administration. What use do the Government propose to-make of the local committees? I gather that they are to act through the Statutory Committee. Is it to be another stage in applications for pensions? At present the local committees make application' direct to the Statutory Committee. Are the Statutory Committee only to act as a channel of communication, or to consider the regulation of supplementary pensions? Then, what about the Admiralty? I do not intend to go into the question whether the Admiralty should be left out, but I want to know where the local committees are going to stand in connection with the Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara) should be glad to have the assistance of the local committees but, if the Admiralty are to act through the local committees, why are no powers for the local committees contained in the Bill? And the local committees would like to know how many masters they are to have. I desire to say, as chairman of a large local committee, that the work entails a great strain upon the local committees, and I trust if the Bill does anything it will make a change in that respect.

I hope that the Government will realise that if they add too much to the burdens of the local committees it would be almost impossible for them to carry on their work. I trust we shall have a precise statement as to what the local committees are to do and what is going to be expected of them. I should like to know whether Part I. of the Regulations relating to supplementary pensions is going to be scrapped, and whether the local committees are to have the opportunity of recommending supplementary pensions to all forms of State pensions. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Hayes Fisher) urged the keeping of a complete register. We tried to keep a complete register in London, but found it rather difficult, because we did not get the names originally, and the Government Department or the officials responsible do not send up the names now. To sum up, and to make my points, I think we ought to have a Board that will really be a co-ordinated authority, not only for pensions, but for all purposes connected therewith, advising the Government and reporting to the House. I think that the pension should be decided by a body appointed for the express purpose and possessed of the requisite experience, and a position of independence, subject to the control of a body responsible to Parliament. There should be full use of local committees and local knowledge, with opportunity for their making recommendations on supplementary pensions. If the Bill is developed and amended on those lines I believe we should take a real step forward towards the object we all desire—a good all-round administration of the whole business of which pensions form but a part.


We have had a very interesting and informative speech from my hon. Friend who has just sat down. I can assure him that many of the points which he has touched upon have engaged and will continue to engage the attention of my right hon. Friend and myself in connection with the further progress of this Bill. I think that I may take it that, upon the whole, the hon. Member opposite views the proposals contained in this Bill in a friendly spirit, provided he is satisfied that it is a reality and not a sham. He wants to know, and very rightly wants to know, whether the Board is really likely to improve matters, and whether it will be able to effect co-ordination and unification. That certainly is the intention, and I for one hope that great advantage will be derived from it. I will deal later with one or two of the points to which my hon. Friend referred. The institution of a Pensions Board will, I think, tend to rapidity of decision on points of policy. Personally, that is one of the reasons which makes me a friend of the Bill. Then my hon. Friend asks who is actually to settle the pension? Obviously the Board cannot do detailed work of cases; that must be done by somebody other than the four members of the Board. That is very obvious. I think that the actual detailed work of pension cases will be done by the officials of the Department, acting under the direct guidance of the Pensions Minister, and with the assistance, I hope the valuable assistance, of the members of the Board.

In the speeches which have been made in the Debate I should like to say one word with regard to the fear expressed by the hon. Member for Gloucester, who said, very rightly, that if there is any danger of this new departure descending into a mere political instrument we should be doing a very great mischief to the future both of the Army and to the pensioners of the country as a whole. I am completely in accord with him, and I feel sure that the House is in accord with him; I feel sure that the whole House realises that if politics, the sordid element of party politics, is to be brought into our pension administration, it would be an evil day for this country, and if I thought that this Bill threatened anything of the kind, I, for one, would not touch it. I desire to say a word with regard to the pensions authority generally. I do not think the House or the country is satisfied with the position of the pensions authority as it is at the present moment. I, for one, think that we ought to take stock of the whole of our pension policy from top to bottom. It is not merely a question of rates, or whether they are to be settled by this or that authority; and I am not at all sure whether we should not come to the conclusion that, while the rates will have to be revised, the best method of proceeding will be not to attempt to fix a man's pension finally until we come to have the whole of the details of his case. I am not at all sure that the proper way of dealing with all these pensions would not be to have a flat-rate pension or subsistence allowance which will keep the man free from want until we really have the detailed information, obtained, I hope, through and with the assistance of the local committee, who are conversant with the man's needs and conversant with all his circumstances. We ought not to attempt to fix the pension finally until we know the position of the man and have the whole of the information. My hon. Friend will see that if that is done the need for supplementing the pension by the Statutory Committee out of public funds to a large extent vanishes.

7.0 P.M.

I hope that the House will consider that, for I think it would go a long way to remove some of the objections which have been expressed in the course of the Debate. I should like, if I may be allowed, to say a very few further words, especially from the War Office point of view, because, after all, the War Office is even more directly affected, and will be more closely affected by the passing of this Bill than anybody else, even more so than the Statutory Committee. Of course, no Department loses an important part of its administration without regret, unless there is some very good reason for it. In coming to a conclusion on a matter of this sort—I am speaking now for the War Office—I think we should be wholly wrong if we limited the pensions upon the grounds of pure Departmental predilections, however strong and however natural they may be. It was only after a careful and searching investigation of the whole position, both as it affects the soldier and as it may affect him for years hence, that we came to the conclusion that, in the interests of the soldier, there was room for improvement in our pension system, and it is on that ground that we willingly go into this scheme. Two things only have we got in view—the future of the disabled soldier, and the most effective organisation of the resources of the State to deal with it. I know that it will be said that the future of the disabled soldier is safe only in the hands of the military officers, but, after all, we have not to go back so very long to ascertain that the soldier was not regarded with the confidence and sympathy which are accorded him to-day. I think it is quite true that there was a time not so very long ago when it was necessary in the interests of the soldier that his future should be protected by the sympathy and kindness of the military officer. But however well justified or well-founded that may have been in the past it certainly is not well founded or justified to-day when the whole country realises its duty to those who have fought and bled for it, and I feel convinced that the future of the soldier is safer in the hands of the new Department which it is proposed to call into being than it would be, perhaps, in that of the War Office itself. If I had not been convinced of that, I should have resisted this proposal with all the strength I could command. In the second place, with regard to the most efficient organisation of the resources of the State for dealing with the discharge of disabled soldiers there are one or two considerations which presented themselves to me. To my mind there are too many cooks, there are too many Departments dealing with the disabled soldier after he has been discharged. It seemed to me that the system wanted simplifying, wanted unifying, and it is on that account as on some others that I came to the conclusion that a change was desirable. We want to avoid duplication between Chelsea on the one hand and the Statutory Committee on the other. We want to coordinate, as far as co-ordination is possible, the grants to the disabled soldier. We came to the conclusion that co-ordination could not be properly carried out by the War Office which has not, and I cannot see any hope of its ever possessing, the necessary local machinery. In my judgment one of the essential needs in all pension administration is to have efficient and sympathetic local machinery. The War Office and Chelsea have never been in personal contact with the pensioners. I think that is one of the greatest difficulties and I am quite sure my right hon. Friend who is the Chairman of the Board at Chelsea will bear me out when I say that one of the greatest drawbacks of our present system is that those who have to fix the pension fix it on papers only, and are never brought into actual living contact with the individual. I feel sure, and I have felt so for some time, that local machinery is essential, and it is essential not only for dealing with the disabled soldier, but it becomes even more essential when you are dealing with the widows and dependants of those who are dead.

It appeared also to us desirable to bring the whole of the expenditure on this account under the control of Parliament through a properly-organised public Department under a responsible Minister, with the necessary local machinery, as well as that at headquarters. I know from experience how difficult it has been for Members sitting in all parts of the House to find out to whom their criticisms should be directed, and on whom they should throw the responsibility. I have at various times encouraged them to throw that responsibility on me, but I am bound to say they generally refrained from doing so, and threw it elsewhere. I do not think that is desirable. I think we ought to know, the House ought to know, who is really responsible for this work, and he should be able to stand up at this box to either justify his position, or, to use an expression which is used in. another quarter, "take his medicine like a man." There is one further point I should like to make, and that is that the business of the War Office is to make war. Where we are dealing with the War on such a stupendous scale as at present, I think that the whole of our energies, the whole of the energies of our staff, ought to be devoted to the prosecution of the War, and that the State should discharge its obligations to those who have suffered by means of a special Department specially created for the purpose. I am bound to say I envied my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara) when he spoke the other night in a speech of singular force and eloquence, which I greatly admired, of the happy little family at the Admiralty. I congratulate him on his family being so small. My family, on the other hand, is of very great size. One is always reluctant to admit that there is any possibility of improvement in any administration for which one is responsible oneself, but I feel bound to admit that, although we have worked hard, and although we have worked with the greatest possible willingness in the interests of the State and of the pensioners, it is desirable that this new departure should be made.

The War Office will retain the responsibility for the man and his dependants while in the Service, but the new Department will take charge of the man and his dependants when he returns disabled to civil life, or when he lays down his life in the service of the country. There I think you have the broad logical distinction. The business of the War Office is to make war. The War Office has to be responsible for the soldier as long as he is part of the fighting machine. As soon as he ceases to be part of the fighting machine the State, by another Department, takes charge of him and leaves the War Office free to devote the whole of its energies to the prosecution of the War. That, I think, will suggest an answer to the question which was raised on the First Reading Debate as to why the War Office should retain the administration of the Service pensions in its own hands instead of handing them over to the new authority. The pension which the man or the officer has earned by his service, whether it be long service or distinguished service, is so interwoven with the whole of his Army life that I think it essential that the administration of that pension should be left to the War Office, and I press the House very strongly to agree with me in that view.

It has been my lot for some time past to carry the responsibility for the administration of Army pensions, and I hope the House will allow me to say a word with regard to that matter before it is handed over to the new body. I have had to listen to many complaints as to the delay and failure in various directions. I am sorry to have been obliged to admit on several occasions that the complaints were only too well founded, and I sympathise with those who had complaints to make. We all worked unceasingly to remedy the defects brought to light in our system. I want to make this perfectly clear, but we have come into this scheme willingly, not because we are tired, not because we are discouraged, not because we are sick of criticism, not because we are anxious to hand over the burden to other shoulders, but because, taking a broad view, we believe that the new system will be an improvement on the present. I doubt if anybody has the slightest conception of the heavy strain that has been thrown on the Department by the work during the last two years. The provisions of the present Royal Warrant did not come into being until the War had been going on for something like eight months, or, at any rate, for a very considerable period of time. When that came into operation all the previous awards had to be reviewed, and the current work which was heavy enough to engage the whole of the attention, and the time and energies of the staff at Chelsea had to a certain extent to suffer and arrears began to accumulate. I do not think anybody who had not had experience of what a deadweight the heavy accumulation of arrears really means in an office can realise the numbing and paralysing influence that such exercises. There was another reason why delay and accumulation occurred, and that was alterations in the policy of discharging men from the Army. At one time, as the House knows and as the House complained, it was difficult to get men discharged from the Army, and on a sudden that policy was altered and men were discharged freely. The result was another great influx of work for the Chelsea Commissioners with a staff wholly inadequate, largely untrained, and with a lack of accommodation for the untrained staff. What I have said in regard to Chelsea applies also to the Central Army Pension Fund. Those were some of the difficulties we had to face, and overcome. They have only been overcome by the resolute self-sacrifice and devotion of those who are responsible both in high position and in low. I know that a short time ago there were complaints as to arrears, and as to hopeless failure to deal with correspondence, and that letters from all over the country and pre-paid telegrams were not replied to, and so forth. I should like to contrast that position with the position to-day. What we have been trying to find is the cause of the delay, and when we have found the cause we have been able to provide a remedy. But it has not always been easy quickly to find what the delay really has been due to. I think we have found most of them and remedied them. I think we have cured the cause of delay in the notification of the man's discharge, the assessment, and the award of his pension; and finally, the payment either of his pension or his temporary allowance which is issued when there is any delay in settling a man's pension.

I should like to give two or three figures only. First of all, with regard to Chelsea. There was a time not so very long ago when a very large proportion of the cases of men discharged for disability did not reach Chelsea until some considerable time after the man had been discharged from the Army. Now in 85 per cent. of the cases of men discharged from the Army the pension is fixed by the date of the man's discharge. Under present conditions it is not perfect, it is not yet satisfactory, but it has largely improved, and in only 15 per cent. of the cases is the man's pension not fixed by the time of his discharge, and there are one or two reasons for delay in this matter. Either the documents have not arrived—and here there is continuous and progressive improvement—or frequently a man has no primâ facie claim for pension in respect of the period of service that is termin- ated on his present discharge, but after investigation of his documents it proves that he may have a claim for some pension in respect of former service. It is essential in the man's own interest that that claim should be investigated, and there you have a cause of delay which operates in the man's favour and not to his detriment. Then, again, the medical advisers of the Commissioners often think it necessary to make further inquiries before expressing a definite opinion as to whether a man's disability is either caused or aggravated by his service, and it constantly happens if they had to give a final opinion at once they would say "No," but in the man's own interests, in order to give him the benefit of any doubt, further inquiries have to be made, and in that case, of course, a final award cannot be made. Then, of course, it is occasionally necessary to refer cases back for further information. In the cases of the 15 per cent. to which I have alluded, although the pension is not issued a temporary allowance, which is equal to the amount which is payable to the man if we kept him in the Service on pay and separation allowance, is awarded at once.

Here I come to the improvement which has taken place in regard to the Pension Issue Office. I am very glad I have the opportunity if removing any doubt that may exist in the mind of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hayes Fisher) who sits beside me. This shows the necessity for coordination in these matters. He echoed the disappointment which has been and which is felt in many quarters with regard to the delay in payment of the man's pension or of the allowance while his pension is being fixed. At one time delays were very serious, and I am sorry to say that I find in September last 22,000 odd men were drawing temporary allowances. That means to say, 22,000 men had been discharged from the Array and their pensions had not been fixed. There has been a continuous progress since then. In October it had fallen to 11,000; in November it had fallen down to 3,000; and it is now down to considerably below 3,000, and the whole of the cases that have come to the Pension Issue Office in November have reached the Pension Issue Office at least fourteen days before the man is due for discharge, and I am told that payment is being made in every case before the man's discharge has taken place. I should like to analyse the discharges for October if the House will give mo leave. I do not think it is as a rule desirable to give the figures, but in this case I think I may give them without bad results. During October, 10,678 discharges were notified. Out of those 10,678 discharges only eleven men were not in receipt of either their pension or their allowance within a week of their discharge. I wanted to give those figures because I do not want the House to think that we were handing over a broken-down and a worn-out machine to the new Pension Issue Office. I have only one further word that I want to say. I have heard the Commissioners at Chelsea criticised and attacked for the policy for which, after all, they are not really responsible. The responsibility for the policy and for the scale of pensions and for the terms of entitlement rests with the Government but not with Chelsea. But I do not think I have ever succeeded in convincing the critics, either in this House or outside, that they should attack the Government in general and myself in particular in regard to these questions, and not level their attacks upon the Commissioners at Chelsea. After all, they only administer pensions in accordance with the rules laid down for them. They do not frame the rules themselves. They are really in the position of umpires, and when you suffer from a decision on the part of an umpire which you do not like, you do not attack the umpire, if you have any sense of fair play, but those who are responsible for the making of the rules, if you have any quarrel with them. It has been my good fortune to be one of these Commissioners immediately after the South African War and again for the last year and a half, and I am proud to bear testimony to their zeal in the public interest and to their willing sympathy with the disabled soldier. I feel I can hand over the administration of this branch of the work for which I hare lately been responsible as a going concern in working order and without arrears. I confess I do so with regret. The work has been heavy, but there has been abundant reward in the thought that one has been doing something to alleviate the lot of those who have suffered in the service of their country or of those who have been left behind by those who have fallen in the War.


I am sure the House will have heard with very great pleasure the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, as it has done, I think, all the utterances he has made on this very difficult question which has been ever growing in size and complexity since he has had to deal with it. We must all be glad that he has been able to bring his Department up to the mark before adding his experiences to the common stock in the new Department. The country during this Debate and the Debate on the First Reading, I think, may be sure of the unity of aim of every section of the House in regard to this matter, and that is that we shall secure generous justice to every man who has put his services at the disposal of the country in this great crisis. If there are differences, they are differences of method. The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. H. Terrell) made some rather strong remarks as to party, perhaps rather stronger than the occasion required. I will only say that I believe that on each side of the House Members will join in hoping that it will be long before any party makes any party claim for support in connection with pensions. I am sorry that the rejection of this measure has been moved. I do not admit for one instant the claim of the hon. Member for Gloucester that the. House, by this Bill, is in any measure surrendering its functions. I do not admit that by demanding, as it does demand, that there shall be a Cabinet Minister on that bench responsible to this House for the administration of pensions, we are losing any power whatever. I believe that a Cabinet Minister on that bench is necessary in order that we may demand from him and may secure that he shall bring before us the questions for decision which the hon. Member for Gloucester said he considered this House ought to decide and not any outside department. I think we must most of us agree with the principles upon which the Secretary to the Local Government Board dealt with the details of the administration of pensions in regard to hard cases and other matters that he mentioned. But I think his speech really was an argument for greater unification, and for making this Bill not the halfhearted measure that it really is, but a measure giving complete control in one hand.

The Bill really shows great signs of hesitation and doubt and compromise in all its Clauses. We really only get one thing by the Bill, and that is a centre round which further changes may be introduced. There is not, so far as I see, one single independent body or semi-independent body the fewer, but rather a department the more for this Bill. And there did seem in one portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster-General to be suggestions that further complications might be introduced by the War Office undertaking part of the work ostensibly allotted to the Statutory Committee. However, we must know more on that point before we can say whether the suggestion goes beyond valuable and necessary co-operation with steps which will have to be taken, and does not become overlapping but is merely assisting. There have been cases which are little short of an outrage in which half-cured men have been discharged from hospital. The Secretary for War, with his keen sympathy, will have, no doubt, desired to carry the work of healing as far forward as his resources and energy permitted, and the whole War Office will join in that wish, I have no doubt. The military hospital has the widest experience of restoration of the wounded, and has the valuable aid of discipline. It has skilled nurses and it has doctors, and in a vast majority of cases it is dealing with difficult cases with the object of complete restoration, and it is only in those cases in which there is not complete restoration that it will hand them over to the civil organisation. So far as physical healing and restoration of mental tone are concerned, it appears to me that there is an absolute necessity for the Army hospitals to do their part for the man who is to be discharged as well as for the man who is rejoining the Colours, and that dovetailing of training into this period of cure is, I think, possible, and very likely valuable; but when contact with the office or workshop is to be resumed I think the civil organisation should take charge. In fact, the civil organisation should rather work back, as it were, into the military hospital than that the military power should work forward into the civil part of the undertaking. The urgency of this aspect is such that we cannot leave the War Office to develop what is necessary. We cannot wait until the best men of the Army are free. This is not an after-war problem; it is an urgent and immediate problem, and disaster will follow procrastination. That, in my opinion, is the reason why this Bill is disappointing. It may develop changes, but apparently there is no comprehensive scheme promised us in the Bill dealing with disabled men. The Bill might have given us very much more. The Paymaster-General recognises to the full that the Bill might have done so much and yet omits. He stated, in introducing this Bill: I am fully convinced of the importance of co-ordinating, as far as it is possible, cure after care, training, employment, and pensions; and if all these could have been brought together and administered under one roof, with one controlling head, the different sections of the work could have been fostered and developed on lines most conducive to the efficient solution of the entire problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 17th November, 1916, col. 646.] Apparently the belief is justified that this work is not going to be fostered and developed on lines most conducive to an efficient solution. It appears to me that the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman for delay are really argument for enlarging the scope of the Bill. He speaks of the preoccupation of the Government with war work, and the rate at which pension work is growing. Of course they are preoccupied—they necessarily must be—with the work of carrying on the War, and that being so we must: have a Department to carry on this work, because it cannot be allowed to be delayed in any degree. The disabled are the most critical of the pension cases. The work of restoration is most critical of all. It calls for care, skill, and experience to be applied before the case becomes irrecoverable. That is what you have to guard against. Neglected cases may become irrecoverable, and both the moral and physique of the man may be ruined if he is not treated at once. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of the difficulty of securing a trained staff as an obstacle to bringing the work under the Bill. But if the Government is not to train the experts, who is to train them? Where is the staff to come from which is to undertake these duties? Who is to advise on what is now being done? Apparently the experience is to be sporadic, scattered and unrelated in various parts of the country. In the meantime the volume of cases is growing. It will grow as those who are injured come forward, and you separate those who are rehabilitated from those who are disabled, and the arrears may become overwhelming. A comprehensive scheme for the whole country is essential. It has been left largely to localities to suggest a scheme. Great populous areas may face the problem, but however small the area, there will be as many varieties of cases as in large areas, and success will; only be obtained by classification, by collecting cases for specialised treatment which each locality cannot provide for every class of case. The danger of leaving the restoration of disabled men to efficiency in its present position is that hundreds of peddling, inefficient schemes may be developed by kind-hearted local committees of no experience and no breadth of view.

Great industrial communities like Manchester or Birmingham will probably develop a scheme on broad lines. Manchester has a large scheme and is appealing for the busy bees of East Lancashire, Bolton, Bury, Blackburn, and Burnley for support for their scheme; but can it take applicants from the whole of that area? If not, then inequality and injustice must follow. Two or three institutions will at least be required. Probably they will be started. I have sufficient faith in the people of Manchester and district to believe that, but even there, with several training homes, they might not be able to provide the specialised methods necessary for every class of trade, and, if that is so, what will be the condition of many other areas? Every local committee cannot have the knowledge it requires for each class of case. I have been told of cases—I believe there are scores—of places considering schemes for employment of these men in toy-making. But these committees require direction by some central organisation that has a broad conception of the necessities of the vast emergency in which we find ourselves. We require not 300 little schemes, but twenty big ones, with small ones to co-ordinate with them. There will be throughout the country 200,000, and possibly more, men to be restored to effective productive efficiency, not casual fancy or luxury trades, unprofitable to the nation, and leaving the men really as a residuum of underpaid labour to depress the labour market, only kept from the ranks of the sweated by prolonged charity.

These men deserve the best we can do for them. A pound's worth of toys per week, plus 5s. charity, is not my ideal! If they are properly restored and put in a position each to produce £2 worth of wood or metal work, or auditing or draftsman's work, there is a gain of £200,000 or more to the State weekly. We cannot afford—did not shame forbid—to allow these men to sink. We want to make them secure so that they may rise.

Very valuable suggestions are being made for authorised classes for suitable cases at technical institutes and colleges. This is to be encouraged. They will improve a man at his own trade, but they will not make a whitesmith out of a bricklayer who can no longer mount a scaffold. The resources of great works will have to be searched, that a sort of apprenticeship to new trades may be served, with a maintenance grant and separation allowance provided for the requisite period. I believe the Secretary to the Local Government Board spoke of this as bribery. It was, of course, a picturesque method of describing the scheme. It was a euphemism, but we all know what the right hon. Gentleman meant. This path is to be made attractive to these men. They deserve it, and I am sure if such schemes are brought out they will be welcomed by the public. But classes are not enough. They would not keep a man employed or give him real workshop experience. I believe that as the discussion of this Bill goes on it will be more evident that this is the Pensions Minister's great work. He shies at it at the present moment, or rather the Government appear to do so, but it can only be effectively done, in my opinion, by a Government Department. A section of the restored should go to agriculture or kindred pursuits, and the Board of Agriculture should be consulted as a guide, for instance in colonisation, and also in directing the labour to specially useful and profitable forms of cultivation, and of food production in ordinary circumstances and not in colonies. The Local Government Board will need to be consulted, in order that they may do all they can to encourage the local authorities to help That, I think, will prove to be considerable, as everyone knows they have a great many industries in their charge at the present moment. The Board of Trade will have to be consulted with regard to the course of trade generally, with regard to vacancies in existing trades and with regard to possible new industries. The Board of Education will be able to do much in providing teachers and authorising branches for special courses of teaching. These things would be much more suitable to a Cabinet Minister who is dealing with the whole matter than to be left to the initiation of local authorities, or even the Statutory Committee.

I rather gathered from some remarks of the Secretary to the Local Government Board that he looked upon the Pensions Minister as a sort of executive officer of the Statutory Committee. I think that was rather transposing the role. In my idea the Statutory Committee may be under the Pensions Minister to carry out his will. I have to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will take up this position, whether he will promote this development which, although it is not in the Bill is in the minds of those who are going to work the Bill. I would like to ask, has this Bill simplified the work of the local committees? Is this Statutory Committee to be the medium through which the Pensions Minister is to be approached, or is it to be the Admiralty or the War Office, or some other body. I think if it is to be the medium the effect will be disastrous. The local committee should be developed to the maximum. It should have only one Department with which to communicate. It should be the real link between the soldier and the sailor and the Government. No scheme will be perfect which does not utilise the local knowledge possessed by the local committees of individuals and local circumstances. It is absurd to let it have to consult half a dozen offices. It is absurd to hold it at arm's length through an intermediary. I feel rather inclined to leave the Secretary to the Admiralty to other critics. He rather reminded roe of the position of a widower married to a widow, each of them having children. In their case, eventually, the position came to be "my" children and "her" children, and "our" children. They each had some children of their own; others were sort of joint children. The Secretary to the Admiralty has been a sort of father and mother—a very good father or mother—to the sailors for nine years, and he is willing to come in for the exchange of experience and consultation; but, having had nine years' experience, he is not confident that he can go on showing the care and attention which he has hitherto given to the subject. I gather that is his position. He is unwilling to bring his children under the Board. He talks of "divorce." I cannot imagine that this Board would ever dream of making any sort of divorce betwixt those who have cared for the sailors and the sailors themselves. But they want him to bring into this all his experience, all the methods of organ- isations, and I may say that my opinion as to the methods of organisation at the Admiralty is not low. I believe they would be able to bring in as much as they could take out. I venture to hope that the right hon. Gentleman will want to come in, as the Secretary to the Local Government Board suggested.

Then I should like to say a word with regard to the hard cases. Every Member of this House has his list of hard cases, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Pensions. Minister will arrange for a day on which we may discuss the changed circumstances. We want to talk about the unsound men who are taken into the Army and then cast aside. We want to talk about the rise in prices in reference to the allowances which were fixed two years ago. We want to talk about Royal Warrants, about apprenticeship questions, about parents who have kept their boys to a certain age and who, because they happen to have joined up early as apprentices, while others waited until they were journeymen, have had a reduced allowance. I should like to refer to one of these hard cases—a case which will illustrate the point made by the Secretary to the Local Government Board in regard to the relations of the pensioner to the Insurance Committee. The man writes: I was discharged from the Army with chronic Bright disease with a temporary pension of 12s 6d. per week for six months. After coming out of the Army, my doctor gives me a certificate. I take it to my society and they tell roe to go before their doctor, which I did, and they gave me 5s. a week. I went to my society and asked the reason why they gave me 5s instead or 10s., and they said our doctor says you are totally unfit for work you ought to be receiving a full pension, hut as you are only receiving 12s. 6d. we do not intend to give you anything— Under the Royal Warrant he receives 12s. 6d. Because he is getting that 12s. 6d. he does not get his insurance 10s. I have been to the inspector of the Insurance Commissioners and they say they can do nothing in the matter just yet, as they are trying to come to some agreement. It is very hard being an insured person with a wife and seven children to be refused benefit after being in this society since the Insurance Act started. That is a case with which, I think, the local committee should deal. I do not quite agree that cases like that, and cases coming perhaps more nearly to those who do receive grants, ought to go to an outside body for compassionate allowance. There are many people who feel they are suffering injustice, and if they are asked to accept what they look upon as charity; they think a wrong is being done to them. They say, "We are injured in the service of the State, and what is paid to us we want as a right and not as a concession. "They look upon this, perhaps too much, as being almost as cold as the Poor Law. What they desire is to be treated to this allowance as a right and not as a pity.

May I say another word on the political danger? If Conservative or other party clubs are taking an interest in pensions, as they are, I would impute it to them for righteousness at present and not any party motive whatever. The Members who are dealing with this subject in this House belong to all parties, and I can discover no difference whatever in the sentiment. There is, however, a danger, and that is that with disgust and discontent at delay may arise a feeling of hostility which might find expression politically. That danger is magnified by hesitation in dealing boldly with the whole situation as it is seen by the man in the street. The man in the street sees half-cured men turned out of hospital or a nerve-shattered man sent home with a pension of 4s. 8d. a week. If there is one error in fifty or one in a hundred, he probably knows more about the one than the forty-nine or the ninety-nine. His remedy is indicated in the demand for a Pensions Minister. He desires that this House should control this matter, and see that justice is done in all cases. The danger of pensions becoming a party cry will not be avoided by setting up any "outside, non- political, non-official body." If there were an attempt to set up any system outside the influence of public opinion, the upsetting of that system would at once become a political, perhaps a party question. The principles ought to be settled by Parliament, The awards ought to be given as a right voted by Parliament, and not the favour of any outside body. There is room for an adjudicating body to decide whether the individual case satisfies the conditions—a body which is judicial, unbiassed, and able to deal with hard cases. But Parliamentary control, in my opinion, is essential, and I support the Second Heading of this Bill because it supplies a centre round which administration, now scattered, will have to group itself. I believe the work of the Pensions Minister will have as great effect as that of any other man on the contentment and the happiness of the nation during the coming years.


I rise for the purpose of supporting the Second Reading of this Bill. I do not think the best friends of the Bill, even the right hon. Gentleman who has introduced it, would claim for it that it has the merit of being a perfect measure, or that it is capable as framed, or as it may be amended in this House, of dealing effectively with all the questions which the country would like to see effectively dealt with by a central authority. But I support the Bill because it embodies a principle which everybody desires to see introduced into legislation affecting this most important and vital question of pensions. The principle embodied in the Bill is the principle of unification and coordination, and I think, in listening to-the speeches delivered from all quarters of the House, the general trend of criticism, and very just criticism, applied to this Bill is that it does not carry the principle of co-ordination and of unification far enough. The desire, I think, of the House and of the country is that the allotment of pensions, the duty of seeing that pensions are properly paid, and that a just amount is paid to every man entitled to a pension, and to the dependants of soldiers who have fought, is that there should be for this purpose a central authority with a Minister responsible for carrying it out. Although this Bill has many manifest imperfections, I think we in the House may congratulate ourselves on the fact that there is chosen for the position of President of the Board, in the person of my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General, a Minister in whom the House has confidence, and a Minister in whom the country will have confidence that every power that is delegated to him in this Bill will be scrupulously carried out, and carried out in the interests of this most deserving class.

It is a mistake, I think, to imagine that this Bill gives this House an opportunity of dealing with the pension policy. The Financial Secretary to the War Office, in the course of his interesting speech, said this was an occasion on which the House should take stock of the allowance of pensions generally, and of the policy on which pensions are allowed. I regret to-say, after carefully reading the terms of this Bill, there is absolutely no provision in it which enables the House, either at this stage or at any subsequent stage in dealing with this Bill, to alter the policy on which pensions are paid, in regard to the amount or in regard to the distribution. I think the House is unanimous in regretting that the Admiralty has thought fit to hold itself aloof from this Bill. The Admiralty is represented, it is true, on the Pensions Board, but Clause 3 of the Bill reserves to the Admiralty the power of dealing with pensions in all naval cases. I do not know what justification there is for claiming this exclusiveness, but I think anyone interested in the question of pensions must concede that, on the whole, the Admiralty have discharged the duty of settling pensions and paying pensions promptly much better than the War Office. So far as the War Office is concerned, I think it has been a public scandal that delays have been notoriously long both in regard to soldiers and their dependants and in regard to officers. I know in Ireland it is felt that the greatest injustice and hardship have been inflicted on a number of deserving people, in the first place, in the delay which obtained from the time a soldier was discharged from hospital until his pension was settled. The Financial Secretary to the War Office, since he took up the Department which he at present occupies, has done a great deal to remedy the state of affairs of which complaint was so general before he took office, but it is still the case that a great many men discharged as unfit for further service are left in poverty and misery for very considerable periods before the War Office or the Chelsea Commissioners fix the rate of pension which should be payable to them.

The present Bill proposes that the work of the Chelsea Commissioners in regard to pensions should be abolished, and that this work should be taken over by the new Board. I regret that the Pensions Board is not taking away completely from the Army Council and the Secretary of State for War the duties which they have at present to do in regard to pensions. There are many criticisms levelled at the War Office in this House in respect of various branches of its administration. I do not think that in any Department of its work the War Office has so lamentably failed in discharging its duty to the satisfaction of this House and to the satisfaction of the country as in the matter of pensions. It is notorious that there is the greatest delay in settling the pensions of soldiers unfit for service, and the greatest delay in paying a compassionate allowance or grant of any kind which would tide the soldier over for the period from his discharge until some competent authority settled the rate of his pension. In regard to men discharged from the Army, their cases are so general that it is unnecessary to particularise, but I had brought to my notice a few days ago the case of an officer's widow. The officer was killed in action a few months ago, and he is survived by a widow and infant child, and in this case, although the death of the officer took place over three months ago and although application was promptly made by the widow for the pension to which she is entitled, up to the present she has not received even an acknowledgment of her application for a pension, and this is a case where failure to settle the pension and to make some payment has caused destitution and most acute distress.

8.0 P.M.

I observe from the terms of the Bill that it is not proposed, as some hon. Members seem to imagine, to abolish the Statutory Committee. Some hon. Members seem to suggest that the Statutory Committee, without the aid of a Pensions Board, could do all that is necessary. Since the Statutory Committee was set up I have had some opportunities of observing the manner in which its duties have been discharged, and I regret to say that the Statutory Committee has done very little more than the Chelsea Commissioners or the War Office and the Secretary of State for War did before the Statutory Committee was set up. I will give my right hon. Friend one instance. It is the case of the claim of a widow for a pension in respect of the death of her husband. The death occurred towards the end of 1914, and the claim was before the War Office during the whole period from 1914 until the establishment of the Statutory Committee. The War Office did not definitely refuse the pension, but decided that the claimant had no right to a pension, and suggested that when the Statutory Committee was set up this would be a proper subject for the Statutory Committee to inquire into. Immediately the Statutory Committee was appointed I took the opportunity of laying the whole facts before that Committee, and the only satisfaction I have got is a letter from the Committee informing me that since the case was brought to their notice they have constantly been engaged in a fight with the War Office, because they hold that the War Office had power to pay this pension and they want to treat it as a pension which the claimant was entitled to without respect in any sense to a supplementary grant or allowance. I think it is well that the Statutory Committee, with its ramifications of local and district committees, is still kept in existence. I think it would be a great misfortune if individual cases had to be investigated by my right hon. Friend and the other Ministers of the Crown associated with him. Anyone who considers the vast amount of work which will have to be done in settling individual cases must know and realise that it would be an impossibility for those Ministers, with the multifarious duties they have to perform, to themselves deal with individual cases. What is most desirable and absolutely essential to ensure that individual cases will receive due care and attention is the conferring not only on the Statutory Committee, but also on the local committees responsible to the Statutory Committee, powers of investigation and recommendation—indeed, powers almost judicial in regard to the various cases that come before them in various localities. If the Bill is amended in respect of the duties to be discharged by the statutory and local committees, I think it will serve a very good purpose. I very much regret that the Government have not asked for wider powers for the Pensions Committee, because I think that Committee should not only deal with pensions and allowances but also with separation and dependants' allowances. Those are all subjects which should be dealt with by one body. Above all it is desirable that there should be one central authority to whom the people entitled to pensions will look for what is due to them, not as a matter of charity but as a matter of right. Too often, up to the present time, soldiers discharged from the service' have been forced for considerable periods to depend on charity when there has been provided allowances which would be sufficient to maintain them, and the delay in giving those allowances has been caused by the deficiencies of the Chelsea Commissioners, the War Office, and the Secretary of State for War. There is reason to hope that with this Bill in existence it will prove to be a live Board, and will remedy many of the defects of which we have heard complaints from all quarters of the House. I have much pleasure in supporting the Second Reading of this Bill.


Since the Bill we are now asked to consider has been in the hands of hon. Members and the public there has been a generous and unanimous approval of the principle embodied in it, and that is the proposal to establish a Department of State with a responsible Minister of Cabinet lank to preside over it. That proposal has been welcomed by all who have spoken. I think it would be open, whilst accepting the principle of the Bill, to suggest the alteration of the constitution of the Board. There is almost a unanimous feeling that it is inadvisable to take up the time of the three Ministers who have been mentioned because they are alrady charged with the responsible management of such great works, and it is felt that the country cannot possibly risk the withdrawal from those great Departments of the oversight of those Ministers who are carrying out such important duties at the present time. To bring them as suggested to share with the President of the Board of Pensions the detailed consideration at specified times of these cases would take out of their Department too large an amount of time, and surely there is no need that we should, in the effort to do justice to the great work that will now be thrown upon the Government, weaken the administrative power of the great Departments, the efforts of which are being taxed at the present moment to the very utmost for the successful conduct of the War.

With regard to this work, it will be in future the work of the State instead of the Department, and hence it is that we cannot admit the claim that was put forward the other night by the Secretary to the Admiralty that matters of sentiment should be allowed to vary the wise administration of such a great scheme of pensions by making it incomplete. The Secretary to the Local Government Board to-night told us that this is only a half-way house. Why should it be so. Why should the House be content with the present opportunity within its grasp of allowing an incomplete measure to be put into operation. Certainly with the establishment of such a Department of State we shall have the nucleus which can be altered in its scope afterwards. Now is the opportunity when a great scheme of co-ordination might wisely be brought to bear in the arrangements for carrying on this new Department. With regard to this one question of co-ordination there is a general opinion that the Bill does not go far enough as it fails to touch so many of the interests that are separately administered at the present time, and which would be better dealt with if consolidated, as was suggested by the Secretary to the Local Government Board who was only repeating the opinion that was expressed by the Paymaster-General on the First Reading in forcible language. We are here to-night and have been invited to express our opinion to urge the Government to go forward in the good work it has begun, and make a complete measure. In that course I am sure it will have the approval of the country at large and hon. Members are united on this question on all sides of the House. With regard to the Admiralty I hope that this matter will be reconsidered, and that we shall have a Board properly representing all the Departments of State.

As soon as a man passes out of active warfare and by death leaves his family to be considered or himself becomes an invalided soldier the flat rate, being fixed, will be voted to him by the Department concerned, and then after that, surely a department would be better able to deal with the whole question arising in all its many forms than leaving a part of it to be done by the one department that has employed the man. Whatever the decision may be upon that point, we come to a subject upon which I would like to again address the House, as it is a question which comes within my personal knowledge, and I am speaking not for myself only, but as the representative of the non-county boroughs, and of a special meeting that was called to consider this question, consisting of the representatives of urban district councils, the smaller boroughs, and the Metropolitan authorities. I press upon the Government that when we get into Committee they should be willing to further consider the relations of this Statutory Committee to the new Board. In Sub-section (c) it is proposed that the Statutory Committee shall take over, under the Naval and Military War Pensions Act, certain powers now resting in the Statutory Committee. Would it not be better to extend the general oversight open to the new Department, and give them power to deal with the whole of the work that has already been entrusted to that Committee? We find that at the present moment they occupy a somewhat anomalous position, in that they are apparently vested with powers and are not directly responsible to Parliament. I think the hon. Member for Gloucester made a mistake in the suggestion which he made. Surely he would not argue that there should be any greater control than that of the House of Commons through a responsible Minister, whose actions come under review in the ordinary course!

With regard to the grounds upon which I ask for the consideration of the House in respect to the Statutory Committee, I would point out that they have, in the opinion of so many important authorities of the country, failed to carry out that which will secure the good administration that has been spoken of by the Financial Secretary to the War Office, who has gone forward and made the great acknowledgment, for which many hon. Members of this House have been contending for some time, that in order to administer skilfully and well you must carry the local authorities, who have personal knowledge of the cases, with you. So it is that to-night I would plead for this alteration. I think that it would be found advantageous if this arrangement could be made. I will not go into details to-night, but in Committee it may be pointed out where the Statutory Committee has failed; and I would only say that at the present time in the county of Surrey all applications have been refused. I am advised by the Town Clerk of the borough of Richmond that they have refused deliberately to appoint any members to assist the county council in the carrying out of this work. The matter was fully considered by the town council at their meeting on the 9th inst., and they decided unanimously not to nominate any of their members for appointment on the local committee or the Statutory Committee. These are the grounds upon which I ask for reconsideration when we come to the details. In the meantime, I hope the House will give a unanimous support to the Second Beading of this measure.


I confess that I am personally deeply disappointed with the Bill. There are certain Members in this House who say that it makes for coordination and unity, and there are others who take quite a different view. Speaking for myself, having read the Bill with some care, and knowing the situation, I cannot doubt that so far from the Bill making for unity and co-ordination, all it in fact does is to create another body with a paid chairman and a paid secretary, and add it to the bundle of pensions authorities. You have got the War Office still dealing with separation allowances; you have got the Admiralty still dealing with separation allowances and pensions; then you have got the Statutory Committee, which is a paid body created under the Naval and Military Pensions Act, dealing with supplemental separation allowances, and still dealing with a most important branch of this great subject, the after-care and education, if I may use that expression, of the wounded and disabled in this War; and now you are going to add this body which is called the Board of Pensions, and it is thought that we can improve the Bill by amendment in Committee. As I read the title, I wonder what will be within the scope of the Bill. We have got, in my judgment, the most limited power that was ever presented to this House of Commons.

Let me examine and see what the Bill really is. We get a Board constituted of the right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster-General, the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, the Financial Secretary to the War Office, and the Under-Secretary of the Local Government Board. One of them is paid, quite properly, because the duties no doubt will be considerable. You have also got a secretary, who may be paid. All of them, mark you, at present fill offices which involve considerable work and labour. Take, for instance, the Financial Secretary to the War Office. I am not referring to his present period of pressure, because it would not be a fair or just illustration of my argument. But take the work that he has to do in normal times. He has got the whole of his Department to look after. The right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster-General also holds another office. They all hold offices, and they are going to form this Board to do these things. How are they going to find the time? This is going to be a great work, and one of national importance. I ask myself what is the reality in this Bill. Are we only being satisfied with a sham, or is there a reality? In Clause 4 I find words of the most mandatory character, namely, that the Statutory Committee under the Naval and Military Pensions Act shall do that which they are asked to do by the Board of Pensions. The words are: The Statutory Committee shall render to the Board of Pensions advice and assistance connected with the exercise, and so on. The Board may delegate to the Statutory Committee any of their functions, and that means all of them. Have we not really got a figurehead under this Bill? Is not that all that is proposed: A pure figurehead, and the Statutory Committee continuing their old functions? It is an extraordinary position. I fail to understand how the Board of Pensions is going to control the local committees. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster-General told us the other day that he had been having a conference with a view to increasing the number of local committees by lowering the number of inhabitants in a locality which should be entitled to one. He has got no control over them. He can only control them in so far as particular functions are vested in the Board of Pensions. He cannot control them in any other respect. It is perfectly lamentable that arguments should be advanced dealing with this great subject so inconsistent as those which have been addressed to us. On the one hand, the right hon. Gentleman says, "We do not embrace separation allowances, because they are only temporary," and, on the other hand, he says, "We do not deal with one of the most important functions—the after care of the wounded, training them in a new class of life and in new professions where they can earn their livelihood." Is not that a lasting case? Why reason thus: On the one hand, I do not take this over because it is of such short duration, and, on the other hand, I do not take that over when everybody sees that it is permanent. These cases will continue. Men apparently will break down afterwards, and will require this after care and attention, and it is left to the Statutory Committee. In my judgment, there is no reality in the Bill at all. It is one of those Bills which unfortunately His Majesty's Government introduces and which do not satisfy.

What was the object and desire of Parliament and the country? What I understood was wanted and certainly what I wanted was a Pensions Minister—and no Pensions Minister would have pleased me better than the right hon. Gentleman, if I may tender that tribute to him—charged with great functions and great powers. I put this question pointedly for an answer. Is it intended under this Bill that he, as President of the Board, shall be responsible for Royal Warrants and recommend them to the Crown? We want a Minister who is responsible for these Warrants. We can work them out if we get generous and proper Warrants. That is the secret of the whole of this thing. I find no language in this Bill to give effect to that, but if he tells me it is so, and if he could make it clear by Amendment in Committee, it would be a great step. I do not want to go to him and for him to say, "True I am Pensions Minister, but I am not responsible for the Warrant; it rests with the Secretary of State." I do not want that divided responsibility. I hope I shall never have the need, but I want to be in a position to be able to say, "You have given a niggardly Warrant which does not do justice to the case, and you must alter." That is the position we require. Unless that function is transferred by this Bill to the Board, then it is, in my judgment, of no value at all. We are not a step forrader! While I am on that may I point out how important it is that separation allowance ought to be transferred. Otherwise it is a grievous mistake. We know the class of case perfectly well. There is the case of the married woman with a husband with whom lives their son, a young fellow who went to the War, or it may be that he was in the Army before war was declared. The father dies, and the mother is left a widow with two or three children. The young fellow promptly makes an allowance of 3s. 6d. out of his miserable pay, but the widow cannot get a single halfpenny of separation allowance, and why? Because some wiseacre at the War Office has introduced the principle of what he calls pre-war dependence. If these people knew the history of this country they would know what the children of the poor did for their parents. These young fellows of twenty-one and thereabouts are the greatest assets the mothers have—and often, too, the fathers. As a matter of fact, by virtue of the Poor Law Regulations, the children have to support their parents, and have had to do so since the time of Elizabeth, and now, forsooth! because of this principle of pre-war dependence, and the interpretation put upon it, what I have described is the position. That ought to have been got rid of, and this matter ought to have been transferred to this authority, if this authority is to be real.

On the other hand, look at this question of pensions. There again I can give an illustration—that of a Mrs. Kiohane in my Constituency. She, at the outbreak of the War, was a widow with three children. The eldest of her sons, if I am right, joined the Army just before the War began. He allotted his mother 3s. 6d. He was killed at the age of nineteen or twenty. What do hon. Members think the War Office allowed this poor woman? A pension of 1s. per week. The other sons are aged fifteen and twelve. The War Office allowed the woman, under this extraordinary doctrine of pre-war dependence, 1s. per week, and, upon my soul, if I were the widow I would throw it in their faces. Unless we have a Minister who is responsible for these cases and to whom these people can look to do justice the position, is perfectly monstrous. Consider the position of the widow I have just mentioned if the War endures long enough and the other son is called up and perhaps gives his life to his country? The doctrine of pre-war dependence will come in again, and the widow will be left with her only child to do the best she can, and without a single halfpenny! What relief is there in this Bill? It is because of doubts on this point that I am so emphatically emphasising the position. Will the right hon. Gentleman, if this Bill becomes law, be responsible to the House of Commons for these Royal Warrants upon which the pensions and allowances are made?

There is another matter with which, to my mind, this Bill ought to deal. I cannot help thinking that either the point was not present in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General, or that it has been overlooked. There is no provision dealing with the case of the man who at this War goes mad either temporarily or permanently. We know there are many of these cases. What is the result? Their pension, not by virtue of the Warrant or anything of that kind, but actually under Statute law, is taken in support of these men in the hospitals. A charge is made at the rate of 14s. weekly, and if there is anything left over the wife and the children get it. It is a lamentable position. It ought not to be left at that. Legislation ought, if necessary, to be introduced to alter it. I go further and I contend it is absolutely wrong that with regard to cases of the kind that the matter should stand where it does. I have an illustration, that of a woman who unfortunately became mad while her husband was abroad. What is the result? She is put into the workhouse, and loses her separation allowance. When I speak of the workhouse I believe in this case it was the county asylum. What is the position there? The man has to pay towards the maintenance of his wife in the workhouse, and has to pay another woman to look after his children while he is at the War. That is all wrong. These cases ought to have been dealt with. It is not as though they were being raised for the first time. I have previously emphasised them.

Again, I would like to inquire as to another question. Is it intended that the Regulations which are being made by the Statutory Committee are still to be in vogue, and that they are to be the real practice of this new Board? If that is so I do not think you are giving us anything at all. I protest that in regard to Regulations framed under the Military and Naval Pensions Act that you require to go to counsel every time you want to know what the meaning of a point is, and to pay counsel five guineas or other fee. I was at University Hospital the other day, and I saw there a young fellow married last May who had lost his leg. What is the provision under the Regulations of the Statutory Committee? They, I feel sure, are doing their very best, though I have not the greatest belief in them. What is the provision? Here is a young fellow, about twenty-five, who, from what I could judge, was quite vigorous. He may live to seventy-five, and I hope he does. He has lately been married. Supposing he has, which in all human probability he will have—and I hope he will—have half-a-dozen children. Only one of those children can be provided for by virtue of your scheme. By the Regulation made by the Statutory Committee, you have only provided for the one child born within nine months of the father being discharged from the Army. It is all wrong. That is not the way to treat our people. Take the case of a blind man, who seems to be bereft of most things except the love of his wife, and who ought to be able to bring up a family, with the State responsible for the maintenance, having regard to the way he has got his blindness. He is at a great disadvantage. Why? I emphasise this point. I want clearly to know how a case of this kind stands under the Regulations. Who will be the Board or the Minister directly responsible for these Warrants and whom can we see and speak to in relation to the administration of them?

I urge these particular points because otherwise we are not going to get the unity nor the co-ordination that I think will be needed. The thing is useless from my point of view unless we get a Minister directly responsible for the Warrants as well as for the administration of them. There is only one other word I want to say, because really the ground has been very much covered. I desire to preface what I have to say with a tribute to my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. I speak no way personally against him, for I know no man more sympathetic when a case is brought to his notice. I know no one who will, if he possibly can, do more than he to see justice done. But it cannot always be done. Let us consider the argument he used. His case was that there was no money in it. When I say "no money" I mean that so-long as the Naval and Military Pensions Act was an Act there was no money in it. It never would have become the law of the land if it had not been that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was called in, and he promised a million sterling. Then we let the Bill go through. Still, it remains a voluntary Bill. There is no compulsion to give a halfpenny except the disgrace that would follow a Vote of this House not to pay the pensions. It is a voluntary Bill. So long as it remains a voluntary Bill the Admiralty are not too anxious about having it applied to them. The matter had been left to the Departments.


Supplemental allowances?


Exactly; supplemental allowances. But now you have a flat rate it becomes practically a charge upon the Vote. Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the one weakness of his argument? Does he realise that it is going to leave the soldier who loses his leg, or his eyesight, or is hopelessly crippled to the Statutory Committee? You must be consistent throughout. I see no consistency in it. I must, therefore, ask, if you are going to be consistent, why have you put the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty on the Board? Is it for educational purposes? Will it make for effective unity. We should have a Minister to whom, if any of these gentlemen on the Board make a mistake, we can look, and say, "You are responsible to the House of Commons; we will have it out with you."

I speak with reason because I will tell the House of a case. My right hon. Friend will no doubt remember it. Per-naps he has my letter on the subject; I have written him one. He will no doubt remember the Boxer rising in 1901. The Marines went out. There was a Marine named Snook who was shot through both legs badly—through the left leg so badly that they had to remove the left leader all the way down, with the result that the man has been lame and a cripple to this day. He tells me that he is so affected that in the aggregate he is laid up for four months in the course of a year, be- cause from time to time he is too weak to walk. He looks it. That man struggled along with a pluck and a courage that do him the greatest credit. He is married and has children. If it had not been for the Corps of Commissionaires I do not know what would have happened to him. Although he has never been able to take a permanent job, they have been able to give him continuous employment in the sense that his character is so good that when he is well, if some other commissionaire has been ill, he has been sent to take his place. He is now in the position of a commissionaire who has gone to the front. What did the Admiralty do for him? Under even the harsh Regulations which existed before this War they could have awarded him a shilling. If he had earned 24s. or 34s., or any number of shillings more, what would that have mattered? He would then have made provision for the weeks of illness, when he could not work at all. They awarded him 9d., which continued for six years or thereabouts. Then they reduced it to 6d., and continued that for three years or thereabouts. He did not know who to go to, and I suppose he submitted. They found him subservient, and reduced it to 3d., which they paid for a year. In the year of grace 1912 they got rid of him for £12 finally.

That is the fault of the system, which ought to be stopped. When the right hon. Gentleman pleads for a separate Department for the Admiralty I am against it. These Departments ought to be thrown into one. I regret that training has not been taken over. I regret that the Statutory Committee has not been got rid of or so developed that in its machinery it should be responsible to the Minister. These Regulations should be scrapped. Give us what the country has asked for throughout by law, not as a mere matter of Regulation, namely, that if there is a urban district with 30,000 inhabitants they should have a local committee, if they desire it. The matter should be left to them. They know the people, they are sympathetic, they are on the spot, and they are anxious to do their duty. A town with 30,000 inhabitants has sent a great number of people to this War. I had hoped that the Bill would have co-ordinated the whole thing and brought it under one system. I agree that the Minister of Pensions might fill another position; nevertheless, we have somebody whom we may kick, if I may use such an expression. That is what we want. Every Department should be under him on the Board, and you might have it right down, even to utilising the Statutory Committee. I am afraid, having regard to the Title of the Bill, that it will not be capable of much Amendment and that we shall not do much in Committee. I shall wait until the measure has emerged from the Committee stage before I arrive at a final decision as to what I shall do, but I shall support the Bill on the Second Reading.


Like all other Members of the House, I waited with some interest and anxiety for the introduction of this Bill, and I must say, at the outset, that I am somewhat disappointed with its provisions. Almost the only satisfactory feature about it is the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster-General as the Pensions Minister. I associate myself with all that has been said as to the hopes that are entertained that under his regime the administration of pensions in all its departments will be considerably galvanised. I am not at all sure, however, that the right hon. Gentleman is particularly enamoured of the Bill he introduced. Speaking of the present system he said: It involves overlapping, lack of uniformity, and irritating delays in payments. No graver charge against the present system could be brought by anyone than is contained in those words. With regard to the present Bill, dealing with the matters that are left out of the purview of the proposed new administration, he also said: If all these could have been brought together and administered under one roof, with one controlling head, the different sections of the work would have been fostered and developed on the lines most conducive to the practical solution of the whole problem. I listened with some sympathy to the speech made this afternoon by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board. He told us that a couple of years ago he was distinctly in favour of unification, of which we have heard so much, and that if he had had his way all the various Departments would have been included in this Bill, but he sees no hope now of that desirable end being attained. We cannot now have complete control or complete unification. The right hon. Gentleman says that this is only a halfway-house measure. If it is a step in the right direction, why not have gone the whole hog and included all the Departments? We have been told that one or two sections are standing out against inclusion. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty has been freely mentioned as being one who is distinctly against the inclusion of the Admiralty.


Hear, hear!


He has said that with him it is a matter of sentiment. That is delightful. We are glad to know that the Admiralty is such a happy family. If there is such a happy relationship, how much better it would have been if he, with all the experience he has had in this happy family, could have brought his section into the whole household and so given them the benefit of his experience and have stirred up the other Departments of administration. I have not been long a Member of this House. My passage to it was very easy owing to the circumstances of the time. But I was profoundly struck with the response which one portion of my election address met with throughout the whole of my Constituency. In it I advocated a full, generous, and instant recognition of the claims of those who have been broken or lost their lives in the service of their country during the War, and I also advocated a thorough revision of the system under which pensions were paid. Ministers are hard worked. They are bearing upon their shoulders the burden of the heavy responsibility of the conduct of this War. This, no doubt, has prevented them from making that acquaintance with their constituents which they otherwise would have done. But I can assure them that there has been a feeling of grave disquietude in the country with regard to the administration of pensions, a feeling of disquietude which, if it were not taken in hand, would result in an outburst of strong indignation. The House is familiar with the various stages by which the present system of pensions has been arrived at. It was soon apparent, as was evident in many other directions at the time—munitions, for example—that the organisation which had been set up was inadequate, was in danger of breaking down, and had to be strengthened, and it is still far from perfect, and I cannot help thinking that the Government hitherto has not fully appreciated the magnitude of this question. It is unparalleled in our history that where we have to deal with thousands we should have to deal with hundreds of thousands, and although the old system might answer well with the relatively small scope of its operations, it is utterly incapable of dealing effectively with the vast amount of work it has before it. Therefore, I would have welcomed a full co-ordination and consolidation in one centre of all the various Departments of pensions administration under the control of one Minister responsible to Parliament. I believe that this would add enormously to the simplicity of working, and many of the hardships and anomalies, amounting to a scandal, now existing would be done away with.

But while I agree that if this were adopted it would go a great way towards the simplification of the pensions question, there is another matter to which I attach even greater importance, and that is a complete revision of the scale under which pensions are granted. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate this afternoon scarcely touched upon the Bill, and it has been remarked that one or two other speakers have adopted the same attitude. But we have been told that although these things are not specifically mentioned in the Bill, it is quite right that we should take stock of them. Therefore, I would wish to plead with the House for a renewed and further consideration of the scale under which pensions are granted. I suppose every Member of the House could bring forward numberless instances where anomalies amounting to a scandal have existed. I have been a member of the war pensions committee in connection with a large area in the North, and I have known, coming under my own notice scores of cases which, I believe, if known to the House would arouse indignation What I am able to do I have no doubt every other Member is able to do. Some time ago I saw a statement that a gentleman who was a prominent member of this House some years ago, and has taken a great interest in pensions, said that thousands of cases had come under his immediate notice. I should like to mention one or two cases which I can authenticate. Here is the case of a man whose income before the War was 40s. He has been killed. He leaves a mother who has two other children, eleven and seven years of age, and the total pension that has been granted to this bereaved mother is 5s. per week. She is fifty-one years of age, and is only capable of earning about 2s. per week. I have a case of another man who earned 30s. before the War. He has left a mother, sixty-one years of age, entirely dependent upon him. No pension at all has been granted to her. The hon. Member (Sir H. Craik), in an aside, said that all these matters had received the sympathetic attention of the Statutory Committee. In this particular case there has been no pension awarded at all and no grant from the Statutory Committee. I have another case which would interest the Admiralty. It is the case of a man who went down on His Majesty's ship "Tipperary" on 31st May this year. He has left a wife and two children, aged four and one. There has been a pension granted to this woman of 18s. 6d., but although the man lost his life, and his family has been awarded a pension of 18s. 6d., not a penny of that had been received ten days ago.


Surely they got the separation allowance for twenty-six weeks?


I have given all the facts, which were stated upon the notice which came before the war pensions committee, of which I was a member, and there was no question at all of separation allowance. There are one or two instances of men who have been wounded and are utterly unable to engage in any civil occupation. There is the case of a man who served for one year and was discharged with knee injury on service. His pre-war earnings were £3 10s. per week. He has a wife and four children, of ages varying from six to one, and no pension whatever has been granted to him. I have a case of another man who earned 45s. Part of his skull is blown away. He is able with difficulty to earn about 10s. 6d. per week, but has to lie down three hours every day. He has a wife and three children, and at the time this came to my notice another was expected. He has received only 10s. 6d. as pension. I think these are utterly inadequate and call for revision.

Another point I should like to make is that men who are discharged through illness should be counted as disabled. I think it is scandalous that men who have been accepted for service and have broken down, perhaps after only three or six months, and then are returned to their own homes utterly unable to work should not be in receipt of any pension at all. In some cases I find that they are now getting it, but there is a great number who, up to very recently, have not re- ceived the benefit of it. I know that there are loose methods of examination in entrance to the Army, and we know the excuses which are made, that the pressure of work on the doctors is such that they have not time to make adequate examination, and they pass recruits on and say, if unfit, they will be discharged. It is an absolute waste to take men into the Army under these conditions. I suppose the cost of training of any one of these men will be at least £100. I know that the military do not want them. They do not want to be troubled with the waste of time and the expense that has to be incurred in attempting to train these men who will so soon be discharged from the Army. The point I wish to make is that if these men are accepted by the State the State should accept the liability that is entailed thereby. It may be said that there were the seeds of incipient disease in the bodies of these men. But they were working at the time they were drafted into the Army, and if there were the seeds of disease in them they were no doubt aggravated by military service. Therefore, it is the duty of the State to accept the liability in regard to these men. A further point I wish to make is that pensions should be calculated on previous or problematical earnings. That, I think, is of vital importance it is wrong that we should grant pensions upon a scale which is not commensurate with the earnings of the man in his pre-war day. Another point on which I wish to lay great emphasis is that pensions should be paid by the State alone. I do not believe when the liability has been incurred by the State or a contract has been entered into by the State that it should be left for the private individual to liquidate that responsibility.

9.0 P.M.

A question was properly asked in the course of the Debate as to what was or who would be the authority for calculating pensions, and it was pretty generally understood that the four gentlemen who are to form this Pensions Board could scarcely be expected to undertake this very onerous duty. The Financial Secretary to the War Office indicated that these cases would practically be decided by the permanent officials, assisted by the advice and the wisdom of the four gentlemen who are to constitute the new Board. I have not the slightest doubt that the members of the new Pensions Board and the permanent officials are all men of deep sympathies, and that, taken individually, they are full of the milk of human kindness; but, after all, sympathy has been likened to a winter sunshine, which illuminates the face but chills the heart, and there is something in the nature of a Board which renders it cool, hard, unrelenting, inflexible. The Financial Secretary to the War Office, I think, admitted that towards the close of his speech. Let me ask these gentlemen to descend from their Olympian heights and enter the homes of these men for whom I am pleading, and they will find men who are in the main actuated by one thought, and that is to provide for their families a reasonable standard of comfort. These men do not like war. They probably hate war with all the intensity of their nature, but they heard their country's call and responded to it, and all that they said was, in the words of our great sailor, that they commended their families to a grateful country. What have these men done? Our hearts are thrilled with pride as we read of their heroic exploits; but the half of what they have done can never be told. I believe every other Member of the House will feel the same. I reduce this matter to the personal equation. These men have done this and have sacrificed so much for me. All that I have, my family and my position, is being made secure by their heroic sacrifice, and the least that we can do is to adequately recompense the dependants of those who have lost their lives, or those who have been broken in the service of their country. Let us be full and adequate in our recognition of their just claims. Let there be no niggardliness. It accords ill that there should be almost childish joy in the waste of hundreds of thousands of pounds upon contracts, or in faulty administration, and an attempt to deduct a shilling here and sixpence there. Let us be generous in our recognition and say that their claim is a right one and let us give it to them as a right and not as a benevolence. Above all, let us be instant. Let there be no knocking at the door or wandering about from room to room until the heart becomes sick and the spirit becomes sore. I believe that if we do these things properly we shall be discharging a public duty, the minds of many brave men and women will be relieved from anxiety, and the country will approve.

Colonel YATE

There is no one more anxious than I am for the welfare of the soldier and no one more anxious to see a strong Pensions Board appointed with full plenary powers to co-ordinate the existing funds and to pay pensions with promptness and regularity. But I have to confess that the Board as appointed by this Bill appears to me to be most hopeless and futile so far as that object is concerned. Let us take the composition of the Board. We have the Paymaster-General and the three Under-Secretaries of the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Local Government Board. The Paymaster-General, as we all know, is fully occupied with the Labour Advisory Department of the Government. He has a large amount of work to discharge in that capacity, and we may say that the whole of his time is taken up with that work. In all probability he will have very little time to give to this new pensions work. His three colleagues who are to be on the Board have no time to spare. They are fully occupied with their work all day and every day. This is a board which I understand is to be an executive Board, therefore it should have full-time men on it—men who have nothing else to do from morning till night but to work upon pensions, with nothing to distract their attention. No provision is made for that whatsoever. Moreover, this Board will come in and go out with the Government. It will change with every changing Government and with every shifting of Ministers, and that is not what we require for a Pensions Board. I am sorry to see that. The Financial Secretary to the War Office said that if he thought this Bill would bring the question of pensions within the range of party politics he would be the first to oppose it. I think, then, he ought to oppose it. I believe that it will mean that Members of this House will be continually pressing the claims of this constituent or that constituent, and the whole thing will come within the range of party politics, and we shall be developing a sort of pensions system such as we see in America at the present time.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, who moved the Second Reading of this Bill, said, amongst other things, that all the work which is done at Chelsea would now be transferred to the Pensions Minister. It is absolutely impossible for the Pensions Minister to do anything of the sort. I do not know whether the House really knows what the Chelsea Commissioners are doing. One hon. Member, stated that there were twenty-four Chelsea Commissioners. There are, but almost two-thirds of them are officials of the War Office who never attend, or come at most, once in several months. The whole work of the Chelsea Commissioners is done practically by five men, or I may say by seven men. There is the Lieut.-Governor of Chelsea Hospital at their head, and there are four paid Commissioners, officers who have large experience and knowledge of the condition of the soldier and his wants and how best to deal with them. Those five men sit every day on six days of the week, from ten o'clock in the morning until six or seven in the evening, and between them—they sit two and two in a room—they settle something like 800 or 1,000 cases a day. They assess the cases, and get through this enormous amount of work. It would be impossible for the Board under this Bill to do anything of the sort. Yet the Financial Secretary to the War Office told us that all the actual case work would be done by officials of the Department.

I was very glad to hear testimony of the work done by the Chelsea Commissioners by the Parliamentary Secretary. But you are going to turn these men out neck and crop, and replace them by a lot of inexperienced clerks, who will have charge of all these cases, and will have to look after each case, and who have no knowledge and experience to enable them to do so. And this work will have to be examined and confirmed by someone superior. How on earth is a system like that to be worked when you bring in a new set of men such as these, especially at a time like this, when it is so urgently required that the work should be done quickly and done well? When a man comes up to be given a pension, his case is reported on by the medical officer of the hospital. He then goes up for examination by the travelling Medical Board. His case goes straight on to the administrative medical officers of the district and from them it goes to the Record Office. The Record Office gives him his discharge, dating it twenty-one days from the meeting of the Medical Board, and he gets his pay for that time. The day it comes up to the Chelsea Commissioners or the day after, his case is codified, examined and decided on and the amount of his pension fixed. All the Commissioners have plenary powers, and if any difficulty occurs it is kept for the meeting of the full board on Thursday, but two Commissioners are nearly always able to settle the case. The awards are sent to the Army Pay Pension Office, and those pensions are generally conditional for six or twelve months when they come up for re-examination.

In addition to the Lieut.-Governor and the four paid Commissioners who do all this work, there are two medical officers as well to assist those men, and I do not see how it is possible for the Board as constituted by this Bill to get through the work which is done by them, and which will have to be done to an increasing extent as time goes on. I do hope that the Chelsea Commissioners themselves will be retained, and will be the nucleus of the new Board. You should have a Board of Commissioners will full powers entirely independent of any Parliamentary consideration whatsoever, though we may have a Cabinet Minister in charge as general supervisor and controller. The Parliamentary Secretary said that this Board was to be a live Board. It cannot possibly be a live Board, and we must have a proper Board entirely independent, full time, working from morning to night as the Chelsea Commissioners now are. I do hope that those Commissioners will be retained if it is possible to retain them, that we shall have one Minister to represent them in Parliament, and that we shall have a Pensions Board entirely separate and distinct from all Parliamentary work practically independent and working full time.


We have had a most interesting Debate to-night on the introduction of this Bill. I have listened to practically the whole of it. There is a vast improvement in the sympathy and interest of Members in reference to this effort to unify and consolidate the pension work. This is more noticeable now than at any time since the question first arose after the War broke out. I was very gratified to listen to the excellent speeches and practical suggestions which we have had from different. benches in this House. Reference has been made to the interesting and practical speech delivered by the hon. Member for South Paddington (Mr. Percy Harris), who made several practical suggestions for the improvement of this measure. The only thing in which I disagree with the hon. Member is this: I cannot understand why, with the views which he has expressed to-night, the hon. Member has become chairman of the sub-committees which, in dealing with the pensions under the Military and War Pensions Act, ignore the borough councils. If you are going to have efficiency in the working of this Bill or of the existing Act, you must confide the control and supervision to local committees appointed by the borough councils and district councils throughout the country. I would like to congratulate the hon. Member (Mr. Mallalieu) upon the very excellent speech which he has just delivered on this question, and I am sure that in the course of the meetings which he held when he sought election to this House he must have found, what we all find in the country, that there is great dissatisfaction existing with the present method and that there is a demand for one unified system, and what we have to consider now is whether this Bill gives it or not.

I disagree with some of the contentions of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board. He says that this Bill falls far short of what was expected, and, after listening to the speeches of every one of the four Ministers, it seems to me that not one of them believes in the efficacy of this Bill as a Bill if it becomes law. I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board is not here, because he could correct me if he thought I was wrong in the statement which I am about to make. He stated that he was in favour of one united Board to deal with pensions. I have read the evidence that he gave before the Pension Committee over and over again. I have got the substance of it here, and I have got the actual words in my pocket. The crux of the whole trouble on this question of pensions is the great division of opinion in the Cabinet, on the Pensions Committee that sat in this House, and among a very large number of Members. That is the difficulty. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board stated, before the Committee, that he was in favour of one united Pensions Board; further, that he would form that Board upon the plan of the Royal Patriotic Fund. We all know that both are wholly inadequate, because they are all more or less self-appointed members. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he would allow a flat rate not exceeding 10s. a week, with large discretionary powers to make grants out of the public money voted by Parliament. Then he went on to say that, if he had the power, he would utilise, not the local authorities, for the distribution of this money, but the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Associa- tion, and the Soldiers' and Sailors' Health Society. That is what he proposed. The right hon. Gentleman ever since this business commenced has been advocating the distribution of public money, voted by Parliament, through charitable organisations.

For my part I have fought from the very commencement of the War in 1914 in support of the proposal that the whole of this question should be delegated to local authorities throughout the country. That has been the crux of the fight, the crux of the difficulties between Ministers, and it has been the reason why we have not got one vast scheme, which would include the whole of the different Departments of the State. My right hon. Friend below me knows that that is the difficulty, and the sooner we face it the better. Fortunately, under the Naval and Military War Pensions Act we have been able to institute these local committees. They have been set up in different parts of the country, and we have heard to-night that there are 300 of them, many of them quite independent, because the Statutory Committee, as I said the other night, does not trust the local authorities as they ought to do. Where you have a big borough of 50,000 inhabitants they have their local committee; but there are things going on in the country at this time—owing to the Statutory Committee working through local authorities—that have come to my knowledge, which show that organisation is really defective, in regard to method and efficiency, for the object in regard to which these committees ought to be appointed and worked. I say that with full knowledge of what is going on, and you have the same defect going right through the country. I could give my right hon. Friend in his own county the particulars of difficulties they have had to contend with there, difficulties arising out of this difference of opinion on the question of not trusting public authorities to distribute this money. I say advisedly that no charitable organisation ought to distribute public money; it ought to be distributed through local authorities. For instance, take old age pensions; they are administered through committees appointed by local authorities. Take the Insurance Act; local committees are appointed under that Act. Take education grants; they are distributed through local committees or through education committees. Take the road grants and the Poor Law disbursements—all these grants of public money are sifted through local authorities, and not through charitable organisations; and until we get down to the fundamental point that the local authorities must deal with the distribution of the money, we shall never settle the matter, as it ought to be settled, upon a permanent basis. As I said the other evening, and I repeat it, I absolutely believe—and I am very glad to find that right through the speeches we have heard to-night there is great confidence in the work of the local committee, because they do come in touch with the people—I absolutely believe that if local committees are properly set up and do their work thoroughly, as a very large number of them are doing it, there is no need for any person to write to Members of Parliament, unless in exceptional cases, or to the newspapers, or to anybody; they can go directly to the local committee and get every satisfaction out of them, whether it be in regard to pension or separation allowance.

With regard to the Bill itself, personally I am very glad that the separation allowances are not to be transferred to this Board, for the reason that they are now automatically working without any difficulty. Every man on enlisting—and this has been done for some considerable period—is asked whether he is prepared to make an allotment to his wife or mother, and automatically that separation allowance is paid to the wife or mother, as the case may be, after it has been considered by the local committee. There is now no difficulty with regard to that Department of the War Office, and I think it is working very satisfactorily indeed. But when we come to this Board, I rather agree with the criticism made by the last speaker. I remember the Debate that took place in September and October, 1914, when the present Colonial Secretary, the President of the Local Government Board, and the Secretary for India were attacking the Government in those days because they said the separation allowances were inadequate and the pensions were inadequate, and they demanded the setting up of a Committee of this House to consider a scheme, which was afterwards approved, more or less, by the House. But now we are getting back to the constitution of the former administration, namely, administration by the permanent officials of the War Office, or of this new Department, who are to settle these problems of what the pensions are to be in future I agree with the hon. Member who spoke last, and, in my opinion, you must have a touch of human sympathy in a properly constituted Board, under a Pension Minister, without having a narrow, cramped Board of four members who cannot undertake to do the work—that is admitted to-night—and therefore it is proposed to call in permanent officials to do that work for them. That is a very grave defect in this Bill, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Pay-master General will keep his mind open when we get into Committee, and that we may be enabled to transform in some way this measure and make it effective. I rather disagree with the hon. Member for Chatham as to Clause 2. I understand that under that Clause the whole of the powers of the Army Council with regard to Royal Warrants in fixing the rates of pension for widows and for officers and so on, but not for separation allowances, are to be transferred to the new Board, and that the scale can be revised by the Board. The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt tell us if that interpretation is correct-There is a section in that Clause also giving power to the Statutory Committee, if it is going to continue, to give supplementary pensions out of funds not derived from Parliament. I think that is a very wrong thing to put into the Bill, and I think the hon. Member for Southport will agree that the municipalities are dead against raising money for that purpose. They have said so deliberately, and I think we must eliminate those words and see that all moneys paid in the form of supplementary pensions come from the State, through the Committee and paid direct to the people.

Are we to understand with regard to supplementary pensions that the work of the local committees is to be continued in future, so that they may gather information, as they do now, for the Statutory Committee, with a view to advising the Statutory Committee as to the amount of supplementary grants they will have to pay What is meant by Clause 4, which gives power to the Board to ask the Statutory Committee, if they think fit, to perform certain duties? It is actually proposed by the Clause to take power to transfer the whole of the powers and duties conferred by the Board under this Act to the Statutory Committee unconditionally, or subject to such conditions or restrictions as the Board might impose. Assume that a party got into power which had no faith in this Board, but great faith in the Statutory Committee, and that four members of that Government formed the Board, would they have the power under this Clause to transfer the whole of their powers to the Statutory Committee, and thus make it all-powerful in this matter? That would be an extraordinary termination of this great agitation. The President of the Board is being paid a salary of £2,000, and to that we have no objection, but what is the object under Clause 7 of giving the Secretary to the Board the right to sit in the House of Commons? That is a new departure. We have never had a case before of any Secretary of any Department of the State deriving a profit from the Crown having the right to sit here in conjunction with the President, or Chairman, or head of his Department. It is quite evident to me that the Secretary is a man who is already known. I do not know whether he is a member like the President. We ought to know is the Secretary to be at liberty to obtain a seat and to sit with practically the same power as the President. We have a Permanent Financial Secretary to the War Office, but it would be illegal for him to sit here. What is the intention in putting this Clause in the Bill? I am not going to vote against the Bill. I hope it will go to Committee, and that we shall have the right to make it a thoroughly good measure, and to adopt some means of strengthening the local committees in representation. If the Board is going to carry out the work in future, and carry succour to the men who have been fighting our battles, then I believe we must practically reconstitute it and give it wider powers, and by that means unify the whole of the work under one complete system.


We have heard a good many speeches to-night directed in criticism of the Bill from various points of view. On one thing they seemed to be unanimous, and when they do agree their unanimity is wonderful. The point on which they are unanimous is that this Bill is merely machinery, and the two chief spokesmen of the Government have been very careful while admitting that fact to say that this Bill, this piece of machinery, is only a very small portion of their benevolent intentions with regard to the soldiers and their dependants who are victims of the War. I want to nail, if I may, the atten- tion of the House and the Members who are responsible for the Bill to that point. Assuming that this Bill goes through in some shape—not very like its present shape, as I hope—we are not therefore to assume that this is the final provision that His Majesty's Government makes with regard to this great and difficult question, but quite the reverse. I am delighted to see that three-fourths of the Board are in full session, and that we have here in particular the Chairman of the Board. I want to refer to his speech the other night, a speech with the temper of which I am sure everybody in the Hou3e was cordially in agreement, and particularly to the portion of it in which he referred to that large number of men who had been discharged from the Army ill, and in some cases maimed for life, and discharged under circumstances which the Army under the present system say allows no-recourse to His Majesty's Government for pensions. I think he put the number at 50,000, and he admitted that the case was the cause of grave dissatisfaction, and he pledged himself to see that in that case and in other cases, on which I do not propose to enter to-night, that the Warrants were immediately taken in hand. He mentioned the name of the Prime Minister, and also that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as Friends who were in sympathy with him in taking this matter of the revision of the Warrants in hand at an early date.

I want to say a word of caution here. I noticed when the right hon. Gentleman the President referred to the Prime Minister his words were words of certainty, or, at any rate, reasonable certainty, but when he came to the Chancellor of the Exchequer his words became somewhat more vague. His words were these: "I have already discussed the matter with the representative of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I think he recognises as I do that there is room for improvement." That is Parliamentary language. It is almost diplomatic language. But it does not give one very strong grounds of assurance that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is really going to support the revision of the Warrants. Some of us remember the discussions with regard to the Regulations of the Statutory Committee. I hope we are going to have here the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that he will sit on that bench and let us, I will not say cross-examine him, as we would never dare to do that to so distinguished a member of the Government, but we would like him to be present and give us his assurance that he is standing shoulder to shoulder with the Paymaster-General, whose goodness of heart in this connection none of us question, but it is the power to carry it out we doubt We want the Chancellor of the Exchequer here, and we want him to say that he is prepared to support the proposals of the Government with regard to the revision of the Warrants. I ventured to quote a case on the introduction of the Bill on its First Reading of a man named Ellison. I did not know that it was a matter which was causing anxiety to anybody but the man himself, and I am sorry to say his rather large family, but I have had several letters, one in particular, from the clerk of the local council—I think it is the clerk of that Statutory Committee—about this particular man, and he goes into the case very fully and makes out, what I was perfectly certain of at the time, that it is a very serious case indeed. The man had no sort of illness before he joined the Army. He went into a camp for the erection of which I was mainly responsible, so that I should be very much upset if he contracted any illness there, but, luckily for me and for my peace of mind, he was medically examined before he left the camp, and the doctor certified that at that time he was fit and had no chest complaint whatever. The battalions were taken over by the Government. That relieved my responsibility altogether. The battalions marched to a station on the North coast, the tent accommodation was bad, the ground was very wet, they had rainy weather for nine weeks, no drying for clothes, blankets always wet or damp, clothing scarcely ever dry, and within a fortnight of the termination of the period of nine weeks it was discovered he was ill, and he was eventually removed to hospital. Taking these facts into consideration, how can any reasonable Government turn round and say that it was not while he was in training that he contracted the complaint? It is childish for anybody who has any bowels of compassion at all to suggest that there is no responsibility on the part of the Government in a case like that, and I am glad the Paymaster-General accepts that responsibility. But I ask him that the next time he comes in and discusses this he should come in arm-in-arm with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

With regard to that question of revision, I hope we shall carry out the suggestion that has been made that we shall have a special day for the discussion. We cannot discuss all these points on this Bill, which is machinery only. Some of us accept it as far as it goes subject to certain criticisms, but the main thing is the question of the revision of the Warrants. The other main thing that arises on this Bill is the whole question of disablement. "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick," and it makes some of us rather approximate to that condition, and I should think it makes those who are waiting for their pensions approximate a good deal more to that condition. We have been promised this scheme of disablement pensions, and we seem to get no nearer to it, and the question these men will ask in the country is whether this Bill makes any scheme for the proper treatment of disablement a more lively prospect than it is at present. I am afraid it does not. I will tell you why. The scheme provides that the Pensions Board are to make a grant for disablement. The Statutory Committee—and these powers are left to the Statutory Committee—are to make provision for the care of disabled officers and men, including health training and employment. Just see what that means. It means that the Board presided over by the Pension Minister, and with officials in the background, are to allocate the grants for disabled men. They are to consider each cause of disablement, fix the grant, and reconsider the grant from time to time. But the local committee will be dealing with the actual disabled man himself. It will be providing for his training, cure, and subsequent employment. The amount of his grant clearly must depend on his state, his progress in his cure, and, to a certain extent, I suppose, in the most generous arrangement on the employment which he secures; but how is it possible, if you are going to divide entirely the grant-paying authority from what I may call the nursing authority, to have a satisfactory scheme for dealing with disablement?

I venture to think, if I may adduce an old trick—and it is an advocate's trick of quoting the decision of a Judge against him—but I will quote the Paymaster-General's own words. He said: "There must be a close co-ordination between pensions and employment. In other words, the hand to make the pension grant and the hand to nurse the man along into health or a reasonable state of social efficiency—those two hands must, I believe, be the same. "The most unfortunate blot in this Bill is that the two hands are now separate. So long as the work was in the hands of the Statutory Committee you had some connection, because the local committee and the Statutory Committee had very close co-operation, but now the local committees are—I do not quite know where they are, but, at any rate, it does not seem to me that the connection of the local committee is so close with the Board as it was with the Statutory Committee as originally arranged. It has been asked several times to-night what is the position of the Board? I feel a little inclined to ask, "When is a Board not a Board?" And the answer appears to be, "When it is a Pension Minister," because when the Paymaster-General was pressed on the point in his introductory speech as to what was to happen if the Board disagreed with the Pensions Minister, he said, with becoming modesty, that it was the Pensions Minister who in the end should be responsible; and if I were in his position that is the kind of answer I should make myself. But it does not assist us really to arrive at a decision as to what the exact position of the Board is. Is the Board going to meet regularly? What is it going to do? What will be its procedure? What is the quorum, and so on. As a matter of fact, I think we have got to admit that this Bill is not unification at all. It does not unify policy, because the Admiralty stands out. It does not unify the executive power, because it only takes a very small portion of the executive power, and as for the position of the local committees, which I referred to just now, I really think it is confusion worse confounded, because the poor local committees used to have to refer to the Admiralty to a certain extent and to the Army for certain purposes, but their main master was the Statutory Committee. The Statutory Committees was their father; it had created them; but now apparently they have got to be under three masters, because the Admiralty are going to take them on. I ventured to challenge the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty on that point, and he said he hoped to rely on the local committees, so the local committees have got to look to the Admiralty for certain purposes, they have got to look to the Pensions Board for certain other purposes, and lastly they have still got to correspond with and be responsible to the Statutory Committee, their original parents, for various other purposes. I do not envy the position of a clerk to a Statutory Committee at any rate during the next six months of his already rather over-burdened life. But what is to be our attitude generally towards the Bill on the Second Reading? If, as we hoped—we who have been connected with the voluntary pension group in the House, and who have always taken the line that we want unification—if, as we hoped, this had been a real genuine unification Bill, I think it would have had our hearty support. But the real trouble is that it is not a unifying Bill. It may be a step towards it, but it does not really effect unification of policy and of execution. Therefore, if the Bill is to go through in anything like its present shape, I, speaking with still an open mind, am coming rather to the conclusion that the best way would be to let the Board be, under its present conditions with its present powers, a co-ordinating Board with regard to policy, and leave the executive power where it is, whether it be with the Statutory Committee, the Admiralty, or the War Office. I want the Board to be, to use a common phrase perhaps, a "gingering-up" Board. What we want so much all through this administration, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the War Office said in his very sympathetic speech, is a more rapid correction of administrative failures. There has been no authority in the past to settle questions rapidly—questions which require responsible decision.

What I venture to suggest, if you are going to continue the policy of having this Board in anything like its present shape, is that the best policy will be to leave the executive powers where they are for the moment. You will then get out of all the trouble with your local committees, all the clashing with the Admiralty, and the Board will be a Board dealing with questions which require responsible decision, a Board for overlooking and supervising the whole administration of pensions—leaving the execution of broad policy in the hands where it now lies. Remember this, you have not even now set up as much machinery as will be required. You have not the machinery for the purpose of giving the disabled man a proper start in life. The Germans, I understand, have started, and the French are following their lead, a plan for credit banks. I think it is extremely likely we will have to have something of the game sort, and that will require fresh machinery. I do not think the Statutory Committee can take the matter up, nor can the Army or Navy. The Pensions Board is the right body to take it up. Suppose they start a Committee to deal with the question of feeding your disabled men with credit when starting a new business, and then fall into line, under the policy I suggest, and come under the Pensions Board as an executive hand—an executive hand which can be controlled and generally directed by the Board which directs policy. I have no more to say in criticism of the Bill except that I am sure that those who are sponsors for the measure will understand that while we do not vote against the Bill on the Second Reading, we reserve to ourselves full rights to move Amendments in Committee, and to decide what course we shall take ultimately when the Bill emerges from Committee. If it emerges in a very much improved shape, I hope that, on the Third Reading, we shall be able to extend to it hearty support.


I hope the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill will give careful attention to the observations just delivered. It is perfectly evident from the speeches we have had in this Debate that there is no enthusiasm in this House for this Bill. We, all of us, are intensely anxious that something shall be done to improve the very serious condition of affairs that exists at the present moment throughout the country. I think, and in this I believe I am speaking for almost everybody, that we are very much disappointed that no greater hope is held out for improvement than is contained in this Bill. The Financial Secretary to the War Office made a speech this afternoon in which he showed his belief that great things are going to come from this Bill. I wish I could agree with him, but I have the very gravest doubts whether the Bill will do any good. I fear very much that it will make confusion worse confounded, and that we shall find ourselves worse off than before. I say that with a certain amount of knowledge gained by experience. I say that of the mass of complaints that have been rife in the country during the last few months, the great majority could have been avoided if the Government Departments, and especially the War Office, had only taken the question up in time, and dealt with these difficulties the moment they arose, or before they arose, because anyone with any knowledge on this subject could have seen what was going to happen before it really came about.

The fact is that those who have been interested in the administration of pensions and separation allowances have found their great difficulty to be that they could get nothing done rapidly by Government Departments and could get no decision from them. I shall be borne out by many people themselves in the Government Departments in saying that. I am not blaming the right hon. Gentleman the head of the War Office, but I do say that if there had been any measure of reasonable foresight in that office we should not have had one-tenth of the complaints that have been prevalent throughout the country. Is this new Board going to remedy the condition of affairs that brought this about? Person ally I have very great doubts. At any rate, it is going to put a stop to a certain extent, I am afraid, to an organisation which, after a considerable amount of delay, has at any rate now proved itself capable of dealing with this task—I mean the Statutory Committee. I am not a member of that Committee. The Committee has caused a very great deal of delay, but they put the blame on the shoulders of the Treasury and other Government Departments. I do not know with whom the responsibility lies, but at any rate, the Statutory Committee is now in a condition to do this work. It has its local committees, which have at last got the Regulations under which to carry on operations, and, speaking from what I know myself, it is only too willing to accelerate matters and remedy this confusion and these complaints as soon as possible. Now we understand that to some extent, and, as I gather from this Bill, to a very great extent, the operations of the Statutory Committee are going to be abolished, or, at any rate, to a certain extent suspended, and in favour of what plan? I have listened very carefully to the speeches of all the representatives of this Board who are sitting on the Front Bench, and I must confess that I do not understand their plan at the present moment. I think we ought to know what the plan is before we upset an existing machine in order to put a new one in.

Let me take one particular section of this question, and, to my mind, one of the most important. All these questions are important. Many hon. Members think that the question of pensions to disabled soldiers and the training of them is the most important, but there is also the question of the supplementary pensions to widows and dependants. The existing system is that the Government give a flat rate, and then the Statutory Committee come in and supplement that flat rate. Now the work of supplementation is one of very great difficulty, and demands the most close attention to detail, and I want to know how far this Board is going to devote itself to those details. I have had a considerable amount of experience now in connection with a subject very much allied to this, namely, the decision of the amount of separation allowance. The separation allowances to dependants are based upon the needs of each individual case, and the differences and the varieties are absolutely innumerable. Every case has its own particular difficulty, and, in order to do justice in that particular subject, you have to go into the minutest details of the domestic arrangements of the humblest home. What is this Board going to do? Is this Board going to do that or not? I thought from what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board said that this question, to a very large extent, was going to be left to the Statutory Committee and to the local committee, but now I understand from the speech of the representative of the War Office that that is not so at all. I understood him to say that the process was going to be one by which the officials of the new Board were going to consider all those questions and then bring them up and settle them with the advice of the Board. I believe that Board will be totally incapable of doing that work. It requires daily attention. It requires sittings, at any rate, two or three times a week, and hours of personal attention. But they cannot possibly do that. Do I understand the Financial Secretary to the War Office has time, with all his questions in Parliament and everything else, to give any sort of personal attention to any one of those eases? Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, with all his multi- farious duties, do it? I do not for a moment think that they will suggest they can do it.


We spend many hours a week now.

10.0 P.M.


Yes; but think what it will be with all those problems of how much additional money is to be given to a widow beyond her 10s. a week which is given by the flat rate. All those thousands of cases, if I understand the system aright, will be dealt with entirely by the officials of this Board, and that I regard as a most serious change, and one we ought not to contemplate. If the abolition or destruction of the Statutory Committee means that all these questions are going to be relegated to the officials of the Department, I say we ought not to agree to this Bill. I hope the new Pensions Minister will state exactly what the new Department is to do, because under those circumstances we shall know what our course will be when the question comes into the Committee stage. On this matter I notice the right hon. Gentleman himself said there was a great distinction between pensions and separation allowances. I venture to tell him that that is quite a fallacy. The body that now settles separation allowances is-settling the basis on which pensions are given in every single case. The Committee over which I have the honour to preside settles dependants' separation allowances, and in every case we have to bear in mind the fact that upon that separation allowance will depend the pension or the gratuity that will be given to the man's relatives if he dies. The two things are so closely connected that what ought to have been done, and what I tried to persuade the War Office to do, was to combine the two, and to allow the same body that settles the separation allowance settle ultimately the pension in cases where the soldier dies. I do not believe that it is possible to treat this problem properly if you are going to have the separation allowances left in the hands of the Statutory Committee and the pensions dealt with entirely and solely by this Board.

I do hope the right hon. Gentleman after he carries this Bill, as I have no doubt he will, and when he has got his Board, will carefully consider what action he is going to take, so as not to bring about the new complication that will arise if you divorce the administration of separation allowances from the administration of pensions. All this is done by the Statutory Committee at the present moment, and I believe it could be done very well. I do earnestly suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, before he destroys the Statutory Committee—because it looks very much like the destruction of the Statutory Committee—that he had very much better take the suggestion made by my hon. Friend opposite, namely, leave the administration, at any rate for the moment, to the existing Statutory Committee, and assume the position of a guiding authority. That is what is undoubtedly wanted—a guiding authority with considerable powers such, as far as I can see, only a Cabinet Minister can exercise. I do not in the least object to the appointment of a Pensions Minister. I think it is perfectly right. I should like to see him closely connected with the Statutory Committee or a larger Committee, and one of still greater importance, and then I believe you would get what you want, administration of a proper kind by men and women who can really devote the time, and the connecting link between that body and the Cabinet which would be afforded by the Minister of Pensions having a seat on that Committee, or, at any rate, some close connection with it.

May I say one word about the Royal Warrant? The Royal Warrant wants alteration, and I may say also a good many of the Regulations of the War Office with regard to pensions want alterations. But I should like to ask why it has not been done long ago? There again it has been very difficult to get any of those matters attended to. There is no reason, so far as I understand, why this Royal Warrant should not have been altered months ago, or why any of the Regulations should not have been amended, under which a great many of the hardships have come about; but when you talk about altering the Royal Warrant, I must submit it would be a great mistake if the Royal Warrant alters the flat rate. If the new authority is going to exercise a discretion in pensions—that is to say, it is going to be allowed to settle within certain limits how much a person is to have as a pension, then all they want is a minimum rate, and I think the present flat rate for pensions for widows and dependants is right as a minimum. I do not think there is any necessity for altering the flat rate if the flat rate is a minimum. I have always been opposed to a flat rate, because I never believed that it would work, and I think that has been proved by experience. We have abandoned that now and everybody is going to be dealt with according to his needs, and when you have that system you do not want to interfere with a minimum pension. I do not quite understand the position. I understood from the speech of the Secretary to the Local Government Board that there was going to be a considerable amount of money left in the hands of the Statutory Committee to carry on this work. If I am right I believe the Financial Secretary to the War Office told us that all public money was going to be spent by a public authority.


I was referring to disability pensions, and as far as they are concerned, the expenditure of public money will be in the hands of a public department.




I understand now that the Statutory Committee will have no funds. I must, however, leave thi6 matter until we can read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. At any rate, there is to be a certain division of the work with regard to the wounded soldiers as between the Statutory Committee and the Board, and I submit that that is a mistake. I believe the one desideratum is to combine this work and get it all in the hands of one person. I do not very much mind in whose hands it is, but one of the chief difficulties in connection with the administration of the affairs of the disabled soldiers and sailors has arisen from the fact that they have been passed on from one authority to another and there has always been a hiatus or gap. I feel that the only way to deal with the subject is not to discharge the man at all, and let him remain undischarged until you have definitely found something for him to do, and until you have trained or cured him. It is clear that it is easier to cure and to train a wounded soldier if you can keep him under your control than it is if you let him go about his own business too early for his own benefit. I know the objections raised to that, but I believe you will never get a proper system in which you can benefit a wounded soldier until you have resolved that he shall remain under some kind of control until you have got him fairly well.

I want to know what is contemplated with regard to the distant future? Who is going to be responsible for the soldier perhaps years after the war? Is it this new Board? We know quite well the position that will probably arise. There will be lots of wounded soldiers, and others who are not soldiers who have served, and who will more or less come on the public. That is what we have to remedy and we hope to prevent, and there must be some system whereby the soldier, even if he has not had a pension to begin with, may at any rate be safeguarded and looked after. What authority is going to do that? I have always thought that would be one of the great works in the future of the Statutory Committee. I thought it would have been charged with the training of the soldiers, and it might have remained to look after the soldiers in after life and to look after anyone who fell into distress or lost his health perhaps later on. Is that going to be done by the Board? I presume it is. At any rate, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell me. He has no doubt thought about this question. I believe he has already destroyed the Chelsea administration, and that has gone. I do not know what has happened to Greenwich, but something of the same kind may happen there. What authority is going to look after these soldiers after the War? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider that question and deal with it, if not now at some later period. I suppose none of us will vote against the Second Reading, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will definitely state his plan, and if he does we may find it unnecessary to put down any serious Amendments in Committee. Unless he does so, I feel certain that many of us will have such objection to this Bill that we shall be compelled to resist it during the next stage.


I think too much criticism has been placed upon maintaining the Statutory Committee in existence. Hon. Members seem to forget that the Statutory Committee was elected as an auxiliary committee to administer pensions, and the fact that so many people are going to it for supplementary pensions is the best proof that the flat rate is too low; and the way to avoid this is for the Royal Warrant to be scrapped and the flat rate raised, and then any number of the difficulties which have been raised will disappear. I hope the Committee will not consider the Statutory Committee as an institution that is sacred, and that may not go the way of all flesh, as many other Departments have had to do. I am more concerned with what we are going to get out of this new scheme than the actual machinery. To-day there are 50,000 men in this country in-receipt of no pension, whose families have nothing, and who are looking to the Government to do something for them. There are a large number of tuberculosis cases, where men who previously were quietly and leisurely occupied, but who have been shipwrecked now by the strain of Army life, and are in sanatoria in various parts of the country, and their families are without means. There are-many partially disabled men who are not in receipt of the pension they ought to be receiving because they are to-day having compassionate wages from employers, who are giving them more than they will receive when normal economic conditions prevail in industry. These men have to be looked after. There are also a large number of orphans for whom there is no provision at all except the motherless rate. The dependants of all the officers and men in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and other places not European have no access at all to the Statutory Committee, and I could give many other cases which are not being dealt with now. I take it that the House does not mind the machinery so long as we quickly reach these people. I think those people ought to be reached at once. It is abominable that there should be these 50,000 men, for instance, without this money. My right hon. Friend wrote me a letter on 1st September and said, what I believe he and his colleagues believe yet, that "these broken soldiers ought to be considered by Parliament and something ought to be done for them." It is now the 21st November, and it is ten weeks since that statement was made, but Parliament has done nothing. Do not let us worry too much about the-machinery. Let us bring the aid and help to these men that they deserve and merit.


I have followed most closely nearly the whole of this Debate, and I think the Government have unreason to complain of its character. It is quite time that the Debate has revealed differences of opinion as to method, but I am quite sure that there has been a marvellous degree of unanimity in the object that we are all aiming at. Much of the Debate, I think I might say, was represented by the last speech but one to which the House has listened, that of my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras (Mr. Dickinson). Let us look at that speech and see exactly what it means. My right hon. Friend very fully admitted the defects of the present system. There was much to be desired. We have too many authorities. But the Bill, instead of mending the position, is going, as has been stated fairly often to add to the number of authorities by creating the Board of Pensions. I tried, when I introduced the Bill, to show that, instead of creating another authority in the sense suggested, we were really bringing together the four Departments out of which most of the trouble in the Administration of the present system really arose. During the few months that I have been Chairman of the Chelsea Commissioners, and have been compelled by force of circumstances to follow the cases that have been brought to our notice, I have found that there is not only complaint with regard to the warrant itself or with regard to the decisions that may be given under one or other of the warrants, but that there is complaint that there are these different authorities and that when they write to Baker Street, Baker Street says that it is the fault of Chelsea, and when they write to Chelsea, Chelsea says that it is the fault of Baker Street. In this way the poor soldier, as I pointed out, has been baffled, and the public have been aroused to indignation. Now we bring together the War Office, so far as the Tate Gallery is concerned, the Chelsea Commissioners, the Pay Issue Department, and to some extent the Statutory Committee, and we hope thereby to secure promptness, and, if I may say so, greater fairness. It seems to me that when we take this work in hand, and we here see the complaints pointed out to us—and they are much more numerous than I like to think of—we cannot rest satisfied until we do as my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh said in his speech: withdraw the existing Warrants and put in their places something that will act not only more promptly, but much more fairly—shall I say even generously!

I followed the observations of my hon. Friend behind me, and tried to ascertain how he would improve the position. The conclusion that I was compelled to come to was that his only remedy was, not to create another authority, not even to leave the existing authorities—out of the -working of which so many complaints have arisen—but to do what I think I have never heard suggested during these Debates, even by the strongest friends of the Statutory Committee—to hand the whole of the work over to the Statutory Committee.


Hear, hear!


What does that mean? I will look at this question as regards the Statutory Committee. I tried to find out, having regard to the whole of the circumstances, what would be the best in the interest of the soldiers, and in the interest of the public, who had to provide the money. I do not mind confessing to the House that my first idea was to take over the Statutory Committee.


Hear, hear. Much better.


I will tell the House why. I am very strongly opposed to handing over millions of money to an authority not strictly responsible to this House. I think it is in principle absolutely unsound. May I point out that when the Statutory Committee was first set up—ana I do not think I am at all exaggerating the position—the idea underlying the whole scheme was that the money it should administer was to be, in the larger part, money provided, not from the public exchequer, but by an appeal that the Statutory Committee themselves would make to the charitable and well-disposed public. The whole scene is changed. We had a Statutory Committee which in its relation to the Exchequer, was, I believe, under the expectation of receiving—before this Bill was introduced—a sum—my right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—of something like seven and a half millions sterling. We came to a conclusion that our present pensions system was wrong and that the machinery by which we administered it was seriously lacking, and we determined upon a change. I need hardly remind the House that the Government were compelled to face this position—apart from any faults brought to its notice by the general public—for we have had standing on the Order Paper of the House for some weeks, in the name of sixty-two Members, representing all sections and parties, a Resolution demanding the creation of a central authority with a Minister at its head. If other evidence is desired in the same direction I can provide it. As soon as I became Chairman of the Chelsea Commissioners, and when I began to see the position more clearly than I had ever seen it before, one of the first things I did was to issue a questionnaire to the whole of the public authorities of this country, to some of the Members who had taken part in the Debates in both Houses of Parliament, to large employers of labour and officials of trade organisations, to employers who had assisted in the enlistment of their men, and to Trade Union officials whose members had very largely gone to strengthen our New Army. What did I find? I found that the overwhelming majority of the replies that I received—and I received a considerable number—all favoured this same policy of setting up a central authority, with a Minister at its head, for the administration of pensions. Yet, in spite of, all this, we have my right hon. Friend coming forward at the close of the Second Heading Debate and suggesting that, instead of going on the line set out in the Bill—as to its limitations, I will deal with them presently—we should reverse our policy absolutely and, instead of having an authority which this House can call in question, just as much as it can call in question the administration and policy of any other Government Department periodically, we should hand over the whole of the work and what that might mean, which is not merely the £7,500,000, because, in my opinion, before the War is over and this question is put on the basis on which it ought to be put it is just possible that for the disability pensions alone we shall require a sum of between £10,000,000 and £15,000,000 a year—




It may probably be £20,000,000. If the numbers keep rising as they are doing now, it will probably be nearer £20,000,000 than £10,000,000; Surely it is too late in the day, to suggest that you should withdraw such a sum of money as that, however well disposed may be the Statutory Committee or any other similar authority, and that we should withdraw this money from the control of Parliament to the extent that it would be if we handed it over to the Statutory Committee constituted as it is to-day. Therefore, we had to find out a different measure. What did we do? As I pointed out on a previous occasion, we did not go the full length that I should have wished to see us go. I admit it I said that if we had to begin de novo, with a clear field, we should probably have taken a much different course. We have been something like two years too late in laying our plans, and the result is that we are up against certain vested interests. Let me take for a moment this position: Supposing we had brought in a Bill to abolish or to take over, lock, stock, and barrel, the Statutory Committee?


A very good thing.


My hon Friend says it would have been a very good thing. In my opinion it would have been a very good thing if the Statutory Committee and all its friends could have seen that putting it into a complete, unified Department was a good thing. I have listened to the criticisms during not only the First Reading stage, but to-day I have listened to the speech of the Mover of the rejection of the Bill and to the speech of the Seconder of the rejection, and if they had any complaint at all to make it was that we were interfering with the Statutory Committee.


No, no!


They both told us that they held no brief for the Statutory Committee. That is quite true. But, as I very carefully followed them, it appeared to me that the burden of their plea was that the Statutory Committee was doing its work very well, and that we ought to leave well alone.


I have stated distinctly, and I expressed the feeling of all my colleagues on the Statutory Committee in saying that they were ready either to carry on the work as it is now done or to carry it on under new conditions which might be prescribed in the public interest or to give up the work altogether.


I quite admit that the hon. Gentleman did use the sentences he has now quoted in his speech, but if he will read his speech again he will see that the statement I have just made was fully justified, taking the speech as a whole.


indicated dissent.


Very well, then I am rather glad to find now that a very important member of the Statutory Committee now comes to my way of thinking, that there is some room for improvement so far as the Statutory Committee is concerned. I say the Bill may not go the length many in this House would like. If I had attempted to destroy or take over, lock, stock and barrel this Committee I should have had much greater difficulty in getting the Bill on the Statute Book than I anticipate we shall have drafted as it is at present.

My right hon. Friend made another point that I cannot allow to pass unnoticed. He said that we were abolishing the Chelsea Commissioners and he did not know what was going to become of the old soldier. He wanted to know who was going to be responsible for the old soldier. It all depends. If he means the old soldier as in pensioner, that work is still to be carried on by the Chelsea Commissioners, and I hope, as long as I occupy my present position of Paymaster-General, to keep in touch with that work because by virtue of being Paymaster-General I have imposed on me the responsibility of being Chairman of the Commission and therefore shall have to see how that work is carried out. But if he does not mean the old soldier as in pensioner, but merely a recipient of a disability pension, it will always be open, no matter how many years may have elapsed—I believe it is seven years under the existing Warrant; I hope in the revised Warrant the time will be extended—for the soldier to come to the Board of Pensions and to say that though the wound that he received in this great war had healed three, four or five years ago, or three, four or five years after the War was over, to show that he was one of the men who had taken part in the fight, that he was wounded, that his wound healed but had broken out again, and on satisfactory medical proof that that man's case would be considered without prejudice, and he would be given a pension under the powers that I hope the Board will then enjoy. Therefore it seems to me that on that score the old soldier is not going to be in any worse position. I hope he will be in as good a position under the Board of Pensions as he has been under the divided administration that we are endeavouring to rectify.


He will get the service pension from the War Office.


I am not going over the ground I covered the other day. The service pensions, for the reasons advanced by my right hon. Friend, are going to remain with the War Office. I was referring only, in the case of the old soldier, to what we call the disability pension.

The Seconder of the Amendment delivered a most interesting speech, but I want to take very strong exception to-one or two things that he said. He drew deductions from the speech I delivered on the introduction of the Bill which, in my opinion, were very far from justified. He suggested that there were only two plans upon which the Board would be able to work in the administration of disability pensions. He made great play with his first plan. He asked, Was it expected that we were going to have handed over to us by Parliament a lump sum, and that we were going to spend it as we thought best in the administration or the granting of pensions? Then he went on to say that the only other plan was the plan now in operation of a flat rate. I interrupted him to say that his deductions were not justified from my speech, as he endeavoured to show. I want now to point out that we are not restricted to the two methods he referred to; not at all. What is the position? We have the Royal Warrant; we have two Royal Warrants, neither of which are, in my opinion, very satisfactory. These Royal Warrants are based upon a Report presented to this House. That is-a point which has been far too much overlooked in the criticism that has taken place during this Debate. You talk about the Royal Warrant. Let us go back beyond the Royal Warrant to the Debate that took place in this House when the Select Committee, representing all parties, made its Report. So far as disability pensions are concerned, there is one clause there which is the governing Clause of the Royal Warrants, and that is the clause which establishes the 25s. flat rate, and lays it down that, no matter what may be the disability, if the man has returned to his employment and is earning 25s. or over, that fact in itself disentitles him to anything in the nature of a pension. I know from experience that I have had in the last three or four months, and in the hundreds of cases that have been brought to my notice, that that limitation, in the mind of the soldier and in the mind of the general public, and especially of some of the employing public, is a means of creating the greatest possible unfairness, if not injustice, to the men who have offered themselves and suffered in the Service.

Let me give the House an illustration. A case was brought to our notice-at Chelsea the other day. Previous to-the War the workman was earning £4. a week. When he recovered from his wounds sufficiently to enable him to take some light employment his old employers put him in a position to earn 25s. They said they took him back because he was an old servant, and they wanted to have some compassion upon him. He took the employment, and his case came up for review, as these cases always have to do. In the questions that are asked by the medical board there is a question as to what his average earnings have been for six months and what his weekly earnings have been. When it was returned that he was receiving 25s. a week the only thing that we could do was to put him under the old warrant and give him 7s., without any children's allowance, which meant a considerable reduction upon what he had been receiving before his case came up for review. That case is typical of many that I have had to deal with. What do the public say, and what do the employers say? These say "We are not encouraged to help these men." The public say we are treating them most unfairly, that the State is taking advantage of them because they are not giving them any blood-money; that they are not measuring the extent of any disability arising out of their incapacity.

I was astonished to hear time after time in these Debates approval of what is known as the flat-rate system. I think that it is the most objectionable and most unfair instrument that you can apply to the system of awarding in connection with the pensions. That is one of the things I wa3 hinting at when introducing the Bill. I want—I do not mind saying—the Royal Warrants scrapped as expeditiously as possible. I want it because of the experience which I have gone through since I was called upon to take the chair at the Chelsea Commission, and I want in its place one single straightforward decree based not upon what a man earned last week, but with some due regard to what he earned and the position in social life that he occupied when you either accepted his voluntary services or you took him compulsorily under the Military Service Act. Until we can get some such instrument, plain and straightforward, tackled promptly, we shall never be able to place our Pension system on a proper footing. It is because I have this plan in my mind that I say that I am prepared to take away, with the consent of my colleagues in the Cabinet, from the Statutory Committee their present powers of supplementation out of public funds. I believe that if these lines are followed supplementation out of public funds would not be required. You will not require to have two inquiries and two decisions. I think that you will be able to have one inquiry and one decision. It is said, "Yes, but in that case you will be trying to assess the pension before you are able to measure the extent of the disability." Not at all. If my hon. Friend will wait until we bring forward that scheme he will probably find out that it is possible to devise a plan whereby either the pay and the separation allowance will be continued until we are satisfied that the cure is complete or as complete as it can be at the time until possibly some form of training has been given, and we will not call it a pension. I do not think that it ought to be called a pension.


It is no matter what you call it. It is the same thing under another name.


It is not my view that the continuation of the soldier's pay and the separation allowance is the same thing as a flat rate; nor is it necessary either to continue the soldier's pay or the separation allowance. I believe that that is a recuperative stage. I am not now speaking of the men permanently disabled, the men who, it is evident as soon as ever they are discharged from hospital, will never again be able to earn money at their former trade or avocation, and who are simply in such a condition that they will never be able to be trained to take up a new calling. That case is clear and straightforward. That man immediately he is discharged should come upon the pension, which ought to be fixed not only with regard to the 25s., as now, but with regard to the pre-war income the man was receiving, as I have already stated. But the case I have in my mind is more doubtful. It is that of the man who may nave been disabled, or whose disability or illness may have been aggravated by his war service. I think it is possible to devise a plan whereby to put this man into a different status, if you do not continue the soldier's pay, or separation allowance, exactly in the present form, but have recuperation allowances or grants for a period not exceeding, say, twelve months. And during the period of twelve months you would be enabled to deal with your inquiry, sub- jecting him to all the medical treatment possible, giving him the care and training that is necessary, and, if possible, keeping him within a form of military discipline, in his own interest, and then, at the end of the twelve months, you could put the man on pension, having regard to the degree of his employment, and also having regard to his pre-war income. And once you have fixed it, just as in the case of those who are permanently disabled, do as they do in France and Germany—never allow it to be altered for one reason or another. Once we get a pension system on some such basis as that, we will be able to look our soldiers in the face and say that they have been fairly treated, having regard to their circumstances now, to their circumstances when they enlisted, and to the sacrifices they have made for their country.


Will the same apply to widows and orphans?


I am dealing with disability pensions. I made the statement in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Ellis Griffith) on the day of the introduction of the Bill, that there were some 50,000 soldiers who had been in the Service who had broken down and who were left without any pension. I could bring some very painful cases before the House. The most painful of these cases are the cases where the men have been and are suffering from tuberculosis. There is a number of these cases. Unfortunately the medical examination on enlistment in some cases, I will not say in all, but in many cases, was exceedingly bad; in fact, I think it would be no exaggeration to say—and I can prove it myself—that men were admitted into the Service, and the allowance that was given to the medical officer for passing the men in was paid, and the doctor never saw the men at all. It can be proved in other cases, that so many as 200 or 300 men were supposed to have passed through the doctor's hands in one day. What is the position? Men who, as I have said, were the victims of tuberculosis in all forms, are included in these 50,000. It is quite true that before discharge they were subjected to medical examination by the medical board, who said that they were no longer fit for military service, and in the great majority of these cases they never left this country. They broke down while training—some of them after fourteen days, some after two months, some after six months, some after twelve months. It is quite true, as the medical board said, that they were not fit for military service, but we cannot forget that a former medical board said that they were; and that is a very serious discrepancy between the medical testimony for enlistment and the medical testimony on the spot. Can it be held that this country and its people expect that this House will seek for a moment to hold that the State has no obligation to the man of whom it may be said now that he had the germ of the disease when he was enlisted, and that he was subject, to fits, it may be, on enlistment? Yes, that may be all true, but we cannot get away from this fact, that that man was able to discharge his responsibility as a producer, as a citizen, and that we took him away, and that when we returned him that he was no longer able to perform his functions either as a citizen or as a producer. It seems to me, that being so, this Board of Pensions when it gets into operation will have to face that situation. So far as I am concerned, I do not propose to face it alone. I propose to come to this House—


And to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


My hon. Friend talked about the Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself coming arm-in-arm. May I say that when we have to go to the Exchequer, to the Treasury, there will be four representatives of four separate Departments coming knocking at the door, and coming with all the experience that those Departments have of this question? When I ask you to consider the experience of the other three members of the Board and the very short experience that I have had since I went to Chelsea—but I do not mind confessing that I made the best of the short opportunity in it—I think we will be able to present to the Treasury and to the Cabinet, and eventually to this House, a scheme that will, shall I say, improve the position of the soldier vastly beyond the improvement that some of you expect from the machinery in the present Bill. I am like the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, I do not attach very much importance to the machinery—I do not. I do attach some importance, and the greatest measure of importance, to getting the present Warrants withdrawn, getting ourselves liberated from the Clause in the Select Committee's Report to which I have referred; getting the responsibility placed upon this House for a large, more satisfactory, and generous scheme. So far as I, personally, am concerned, machinery was a secondary consideration only if I had a free hand and clear field, as I said before, I should have brought in a much more comprehensive scheme for unification than that which is contained in the Bill. But admitting, as I do, all the limitations of the scheme I am backing, my hon. Friend opposite suggested that there was a difference in the Government or in the Cabinet, and that it was a compromise; let me say here that the Bill is backed unanimously by the whole of the members of the Cabinet. I think it was the hon. Member for Salford who said it.


I did not say it.


I thought it was the hon. Member; but it was said during the last of the speeches that it was a Bill that represented differences in the Cabinet. I want to assure the House that is not so, and that I am entitled to speak in the name of the Cabinet as a whole. Again, I repeat, the machinery with me is a secondary consideration. This matter has beaten right down into my soul and I do not think that the men in many cases, in thousands of cases, are being treated as they ought to be treated, and I believe that my colleagues and myself will be able, with the support of the Government on the floor of this House, to immensely improve the position, and it is for that reason that I am asking you to-day to give the Bill a Second Reading. I hope that we shall get into Committee on the Bill early next week. The sooner we can get the Bill the better it will be for the soldiers. Until we are created, and have the power to go forward, we can do nothing; we are tied. Some of my colleagues thought that I was trying to shirk the business by making a very brief reference to this question on the first occasion. Nothing of the kind. I wanted the machinery. I wanted the Board set up. I hope that I have indicated to-night the direction in which my mind is running, and, if you will give us the power, I promise again, as I did on the last occasion, that at the earliest possible moment after the Bill became law, with the consent of the Prime Minister, a day shall be given so that the whole of our plans for dealing with scales and allowances will be brought before you, and I think that you will find them satisfactory.

One point was made that I must not omit before I resume my seat. The hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Hohler) thought we had not the power to revise the Warrants. I do not mind saying that if I thought that was my position to-night I should refuse to remain in it any longer; but if he will read again, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton pointed out, Sub-section (b) of Clause 2 he will see there that we take over the powers of the Army Council and the War Office. The Army Council and the War Office have the power to ask for the withdrawal of the existing Warrants and to substitute them by new Warrants under Order in Council. We shall be in exactly that position, and I hope that when we come to the revised Warrant, as I have already hinted, it will give the House general satisfaction. I, therefore, ask that the Bill may now be given a Second Reading.


I recognise, as I said at the beginning, when I moved the Motion for the rejection of the Bill, that the objects of the right hon. Gentleman and our own were very much identical, and I can assure him that those objects are equally at the heart of the Statutory Committee. I should like to carry them out by existing machinery, but I do not want to put the House to the trouble of a Division, and I, therefore, ask leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

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