HC Deb 06 November 1918 vol 110 cc2242-61

Notwithstanding anything in the principal Act or in any scheme made under that Act, the Minister may appoint such persons as he thinks fit to be additional members of a committee, so, however, that the additional members appointed by the Minister shall not at any time exceed one-fourth of the total number of the members (including additional members) of the committee.


Sir Montague Barlow.


I should like, before the hon. Member moves his Amendment, to move, after the word "not" ["shall not"], to insert the words "be officials of the Ministry and shall not."


That Amendment is already on the Paper in the name of another hon. Member (Sir M. Barlow).


It seems like attempting to take another Member's Amendment.


I beg to assure you I had no such intention.


I am not saying that that is so, but it would have that effect.


I beg to move to leave out the words "one-fourth of the total number of the members (including additional members) of the committee," and to insert instead thereof the words "three not being officials of the Ministry."

Of course, I acquit my hon. Friend (Sir W. Rutherford) of any intention of the kind suggested. Clause 3 is one of the most important Clauses of the Bill. The Ministry of Pensions attach a good deal of importance to it, and the local authorities attach a good deal of importance to its deletion. Therefore, we are rather at a dichotomy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Translate!"] I will translate if hon. Members desire. We are rather in a difficulty. The trouble is that the local authorities say, "It is not fair to us when we are doing good work to force upon us a representation of people of whom we know nothing or may know nothing, and who may at times—because four is rather a large proportion—possibly outvote us" Bearing in mind the constitution of these local war pensions committees, it must be remembered that they are constituted by the council of the local authority, the provision under earlier Acts being that they must be constituted with at least a majority of the council concerned.

It was put to us strongly by representatives from such local authorities as Birmingham, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, that if you have a local war pensions committee constituted with only a bare majority of the council and one-fourth added by the Ministry, you might easily have to be nominees, the myrmidons of the Ministry outvoting on any chance occasion the representatives of the council. They did not think that that was a fair position. On the other hand one has to remember—and I wish to meet the Ministry in all fairness—the Ministry says, "The State providing through our channels the whole of the pensions, and they are going to provide the administration expenses. Is it reasonable that the Ministry should not have some representation on that committee?" I want to be perfectly fair as between these two conflicting views. How are we to deal with the situation? The good pensions committees say "we are doing our work well. The Ministry want this Clause not for the good committees but for the bad committees." I would suggest that if they have a really bad committee it is not very much good reinforcing the committee from a new quarter. What they have to rely upon is their power under the renumbered Sub-section (g), that is to say if the committee is hopeless, they have to issue an Order and take over the power themselves. The committees are roughly nine-tenths good and perhaps one-tenth bad. It is no good legislating for the tenth bad committee because, if you legislate for them too rigorously, you will upset the nine-tenths who are working well. That is what the nine-tenths are afraid of. Not only are they afraid of the quarter that is going to be enforced upon them, but they are afraid that that quarter may contain that dangerous person, the Government official.

We have considered this very carefully in the Parliamentary Pensions Bureau, and most of us have felt that there is a good deal of force in what the Ministry say, and also that there is a good deal of force in what the local authorities say, and what I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary is that in order to meet the good pensions committees, and in order not to alarm them unnecessarily he should meet us by restricting the number and accepting the position that in that number of nominees of the Ministry there shall be no officials. If he is prepared to do that I think he will secure a substantial point, which is that he desires to be able to deal with the committees especially in cases where the committees are not of a very representative character. It is conceivable that you might have committees where, for instance, a great number or a large majority of the committee were representatives of one interest. The whole number or the larger proportion might represent labour or the whole number or the larger proportion might represent capital. Neither of these things is desirable. If you have a committee of the kind it is desirable that the Ministry should have power to correct it, but if the Ministry accept the suggestion that the number should be limited to three and that none of the three should be officials, then they will secure what they want—a representation on the committee, to see that the thing is substantially in order, and on the other hand the good local committees working well throughout the country will be relieved of any fear that they are going to be coerced or dragooned by any large proportion, such as one-fourth, and that proportion consisting possibly of a number of officials.


I will not stand in the way of my hon. Friend in any compromise which he may offer, but my position is one of entire irreconcilability. These are the instructions which I have received from my people in the city which I have the honour to represent. I think that I have some right to be heard on this question, because I do not think that there is a city in the United Kingdom with a more extraordinary record of generosity in regard to every form of war charity than the city of Liverpool, especially in reference to all purposes for relieving those who have suffered by the War. The present Lord Mayor has done, and is doing, splendid things. So did his predecessor, and the gentleman who preceded him, who is at present in the House. Two of these three gentlemen do not represent anything like the same political views as myself, but they have a perfectly wonderful record in this department. The committee of my own particular race in Liverpool, who have sent to the War a large number of men, many of whom I am sorry to say have died, have also done their share in all these war charities. In face of that we have some right to complain that in any way whatever the authority of our municipal bodies should be questioned or diluted. For that reason I must take up an attitude of complete irreconcilability, save in so far as it is modified by any compromise which my hon. Friend presses upon me. Further, in Liverpool we have as severe and as chronic a training in dealing with questions of relief as any city in the kingdom. We have constantly victims of shipwrecks from hideous tragedies like the "Lusitania." We have men there, who really are astonishing as well as edifying by the extraordinary care and extraordinary and largely quiet skill with which they have been able to deal with all these questions. I have heard men go into details of the family life, not merely of the child, but of the father, grandfather, grandmother, and other dependants in a way which showed an extraordinary grasp and an extraordinary civic spirit in looking after the poor and distressed of their city. I think that I am bound by local patriotism in connection with the city with which I am associated politically to say that on behalf of the city of Liverpool.

10.0 P.M.

I understand that the attitude which the city took up, and which in the end, they compelled the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the previous administration, much against his will, to accept is the position of the great municipal authorities of the country. I was not present the other night at the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes), a member of the War Cabinet, but I understand that he excited what I may call thunderous cheers by his denunciation of the principle of centralisation. I do not know whether the cheers were meant as a welcome to a declaration which was not expected from that particular quarter, or because it was in marked contrast with other declarations from persons on these Benches. I need not say that I am in favour of local self-government in the fullest sense. This body in Liverpool is the creation of our municipal council there. I object to any interference with these rights of our great self-governing cities. The Government already has power to get rid entirely of incompetent or unwilling or grudging or inefficient pensions committees. They should be satisfied with that power and not try to delete these committees which are appointed under the supervision and with the knowledge of our great local governing bodies.


I quite realise that there is a great deal of feeling about this particular Clause, but I ask the Committee to allow me to say one or two words as to why we consider it important in some form or other to possess the powers proposed by this Clause. I yield to no man, not even to my hon. Friend opposite, in my admiration for local self-government, and I realise that the great majority of the local war pensions committees are doing excellent work. I have personal knowledge of the Liverpool Committee, and I think that they are signally efficient and; look after their men and dependants exceedingly well. But when we talk about local self-government the case of pensions administration is unlike any other. In the case of ordinary local self-government the greater part of the money expended by the local authority comes out of local rates. In the case of pensions, under this Bill, nothing will come out of local rates. The grants made in the shape of allowances, etc., by the local war pensions committees are all paid by the State. They amount to no less than £5,500,000 per year, and in addition to that administrative expenses, which at present are paid to the extent of two-thirds by the State and one-third out of local rates, will, under this Bill, be paid for entirely out of local rates. Therefore, if in the case of local war pensions committees we claim some modification, not a very large modification, of the system of local self-government, I think that we are justified in doing so having regard to the fact that we find the whole amount of the money.

We have ample precedent for what we propose to do in the National Health Insurance Act. Under that Act a certain number of members of insurance committees are appointed by the Insurance Commissioners. Then, again, up to the Local Government Act of 1894 the local Government Board always appointed a certain number of local boards of guardians. At the present moment the Local Government Board nominate a certain proportion of that very large and important body in London, the Metropolitan Asylums Board. What are we asking the Committee to do in a matter of this sort where the Grants are paid entirely by the State and where now we propose to pay the whole of the administrative expenses? We ask that we should have some representation on the local committees. I do not think that is an extravagant claim. I think it is a perfectly proper claim. Town councils and county councils have got a very large representation. They have the right to nominate a majority of every local committee, although they are finding none of the money.

All we are asking under the Clause as it stands is to nominate not a majority, but one-fourth of the local committees. While I hope that the Committee will recognise the reasonableness of our general principle, I do not want to force the exact proposals of the Bill down the throats of the Committee, if they think we are going too far. But may I just put in one word of caution? We do not propose in the Bill to appoint 25 per cent. of all committees. The proposal simply gives the Minister power to appoint up to 25 per cent. where he pleases, and I can say from what I know of the mind of the Minister that it is highly improbable that in places like Liverpool and a great many other big centres that he will appoint anybody. On the Second Reading I mentioned the case of a committee which only met once a month. It had a membership of thirty and a quorum of seven, and on the last occasion, when it should have had a meeting, it could not get a quorum, with the result that all the business which affected the welfare of discharged soldiers and their dependants was postponed for a full month. As a matter of fact, I happen to know that particular area, and I am aware that there are persons there who would be willing and anxious to serve on that committee, but they cannot get on it because there are no vacancies, as the people who do not attend block the way. We say if we had the right to nominate a certain number of persons we should, at all events, guarantee the attendance of a quorum.

What I propose is this: I submit that we have a strong case for the right to nominate in places where we think it is necessary to do so. I assure the Committee that we do not wish to act in any arbitrary manner. We have put down an Amendment that in making these nominations we should have regard to the desirability of preserving the representative character of the committee. My hon. Friend proposes, first of all, that we should limit our nominations to three; and, secondly, that none of the three should be officials. My hon. Friend, and apparently some others, are very afraid that we are going to nominate officials who would be, so to speak, spies on the committee. I can assure hon. Members that we have no such intention. We must have local people. The only officials we have got locally are inspectors, and we should not dream of nominating inspectors to serve on committees which they would be inspecting. I do not know any other official we could put on, and I can assure the Committee there is not the slightest intention on our part to nominate officials. Therefore, I do not think it is in the least necessary to put words in to prevent us, as I repeat that we have no intention of doing so. I come to the other point as to the number to be nominated. Three is what I may call a flat rate; but I think a flat rate is very unsuitable, and for this reason: Some of the committees consist of about eighty members, and in those cases three would be too few; while in other instances, with a small membership, three would probably be too many. Possibly we have gone too far in proposing 25 per cent., and I would suggest to leave out 25 per cent. and to insert 10 per cent. Considering that we are paying the entire expenses, amounting to five and a half millions a year, and administrative expenses amounting to four hundred thousand pounds, I think it is only fair that we should have the power to have a representation of 10 per cent. only in where we want them, and not generally.


I think the suggestion of 10 per cent. is reasonable, but I would like to urge the acceptance of the provision that they should not be officials.


I agree that we should accept the suggestion of the Parliamentary Secretary as to 10 per cent. My instructions are uncompromising, and I am asked to see that if possible the Section should be struck out altogether, but after the declaration of policy, which the Minister has made, and his indication that there are certain committees for whom such a proposal would be for the benefit of the men, who are in all our minds when we are thinking of the work of these committees, I do not think one should be uncompromising in opposition. I take it for granted that the Ministry will not want to appoint these extra members unless there is some necessity to do so.




And that there is no deep-laid scheme of undermining these committees. One is very much averse to anything looking like the setting up of a bureaucracy to work this scheme. At present there is a good deal of local interest in it, and I think that should be preserved, to the uttermost. I believe it would be best preserved if the local committees have considerable responsibility left to them, and if they do not mean officials to be appointed. Under those circumstances, if the Minister assures us that he must have this power, I will not oppose.


The Ministry speak of the money they expend, but in my view, that is nothing to do with the matter. The whole argument seems to be confined to one particular case. That is the only argument I have heard, and I think non-attendance could be dealt with by disqualification, and by the election of other people. Unless there is some further justification for the proposals they are making, I shall certainly vote for this Amendment.

Colonel Sir H. GREENWOOD

In reference to this Clause, I am in full accord with what has been said by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool. Mine is an attitude of irreconcilability to the whole Clause, and I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for the Scotland Division bringing his persuasive eloquence in support of the municipal sovereignty of our local self-governing bodies. Here is the point of principle involved in this Clause. The local area is entitled to the local body it elects: if it is a bad body, and there is a bad committee emerging from that body, the Minister has already taken powers to deal with it, as a body negligent in the exercise of its powers. The argument of the hon. and gallant Gentleman in charge of the Bill, that because the Minister finds all the money he should therefore have 10 per cent. of the local committee, is an argument that falls to the ground, because the very essence of a Pensions Bill is that the pension must be found by the State. There is no case in the history of the world where military and naval pensions are paid by local bodies, and to suggest that that is an argument for nominating persons outside the locally elected body is, to my mind, beside the mark. We have, in support of the deletion of this Clause, the unanimous approval of the mayors of all the large cities of the United Kingdom, men who are responsible for the administration of the pensions in our largest local areas. They resent it as a reflection upon their capacity and even upon their honesty, and I must support the attitude of the mayors. If you have a good committee, admittedly you do not need to nominate any 10 per cent. or a quorum; if you have a bad committee, you have special powers to deal with that, because it is a bad committee. All these conditions are set up with the object of administering fairly the Pensions Act in the interests of discharged soldiers and sailors, and I am one of those who believe that in this matter locally elected bodies are more likely to be in most intimate and sympathetic touch with the discharged sailor and soldier, for whom this legislation is now being passed, than ladies and gentlemen nominated by the Minister of Pensions, persons who may fancy themselves too good to go through the chastening ordeal of a municipal election, but who wish to be nominated by the Minister. I submit to the hon. and gallant Gentleman in charge of the Bill that such a nomination would at once make a cleavage in the local pensions committee, and those who are the appointed persons by the locally elected body will naturally be not of the best, but on antagonistic terms to the non-elected body nominated by the Ministry of Pensions. This is a Clause which the municipalities themselves do not want. It is a reflection on them as it stands, either with a fourth or a tenth. I for one would like to go into the Lobby and support its deletion.


I should like to support the attitude taken up by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division. I am confident that every member of the Committee would be pleased if my hon. and gallant Friend in charge of the Bill had the duty of making the nominations, and would be certain that everything would be satisfactory. But we do not know who wlil have the power in future, and I sincerely hope it will be left to the local people to decide what shall be done and that no members will be nominated by the central body. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) stated a few days ago that the more he saw of bureaucracy the less he liked it, and I personally am thoroughly opposed to bureaucracy. On that line I shall support the deletion of Clause 3 if a vote is taken.


I understood the hon. Member for the Scotland Division to say he was not irreconcilable if a fair compromise were adopted, and as he is always so reasonable and so willing to agree on all points, I am sure that was what he intended to say, if he did not say it. But the offer that is made to us is one that certainly goes a very long way to meet the objections, and I cannot help feeling that if some Members, who have what they called their instructions, had been acquainted with the fact that the Clause was only to deal with the possibility of the Ministry appointing up to 10 per cent., the instructions might have been somewhat modified. But may I ask the Committee to look at this from a somewhat different point of view? I have not been very long in the House of Commons, but I have certainly heard it affirmed over and over again that in a case where you are dealing with public money, the House of Commons has always insisted that there should be the possibility of some sort of control over it. That is not to say, as the hon. Member opposite has suggested, that thereby an insult is intended to local bodies, or there is any reflection upon their capacity, or anything of that sort. It has usually been affirmed in this House that when you are dealing with public money you ought, as a principle of our whole system of government, to insist upon some sort of control being exercised, or being capable of being exercised, over that money. What is the proposition here? It is not a proposal that in all cases there shall be an appointment made by the Minister—not at all. He only takes power, if he thinks fit, to appoint an additional member of the committee, and we have got the undertaking from the hon. and gallant Member in charge of the Bill that this shall only be 10 per cent.

To some extent we have referred for precedents to the Insurance Act, and I observe that there the Insurance Commissioners reserve the power of appointing what must have amounted to about 10 per cent., and that in cases where the amount of money which was provided by the public authority was very much smaller than the representation which was asked for, practically a large bulk of the money was provided by the persons who were insured persons and employers, and so on, and therefore the amount of public money which was dealt with there was comparatively small, and the representation asked was very much the same. Is this a matter on which we ought to hold irreconcilable principles? Is it not a case of adhering to the old principle of the House of Commons that there should be some control over large sums of money? Is it not a perfectly fair thing to say that in some cases it may be wise, it may be prudent, it may be right, to give a discretion to the Minister in charge to appoint a member or additional members, and that, if he does find it necessary, it is a power he ought to exercise in the public interest and on public grounds. On the other hand, he does not insist that he shall exercise it. It is not mandatory in any way. It is only a discretionary power. When we are asked to delete this Clause altogether we should pause and say, Are we perfectly satisfied that in no case will it be right to give a discretion to a Minister to appoint some more representatives in a case where he finds some sort of control would be useful to the committee? Reference has been made—I suppose we can all refer—to many localities where committees are doing excellent work. Additional members would not, I suppose, be appointed in those cases. At the same time, have we got sufficient knowledge of the facts of all cases to be able to exclude the possibility of some committees where assistance and advice might be useful? Under all these circumstances the House of Commons would not be acting in accordance with tradition and wisely, and which in many Acts have been embodied, in giving this sort of discretion into the power of the Minister, who would exercise it inside proper safeguards, subject, always subject to the criticism of this House if he exercises it unwisely, for Members could always call attention to the arbitrary or improper use of the discretion. On these grounds I venture to say that we might reconcile our opinions and come to an agreement as suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend.


I have an Amendment on the Order Paper to leave out Clause 3, and I propose, subsequently, to move it. In any case, what I intended to say was that whenever the Ministry nominates any man on that Committee he is in a different category at once from the man appointed by the civic authorities. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sunderland pointed out there are a great many people who want to do public work without going through the apprenticeship of election to that work. We may get a great number of busybodies on these committees who are not responsible to anybody, and who are responsible for no criticism of what public bodies do as are properly elected members. So far as I am concerned, there is only one reason for which I would agree with the nomination by the Minister of the extra four on this committee—and members may bear in mind that this number may be as many as seven on some committees—and certainly it will be usually five or six—and that is, if the committee failed to do what it should to put into operation the Act we have passed, making that extra 25 per cent. up of discharged men, there would be no doubt then about their attending and doing the work. That is the only reason why this should be done.


I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will adhere to his proposal. It seems to me that he has made a very reasonable concession in asking to appoint 10 per cent. only. There may be good cause for a certain number of members to be appointed. The alternative in regard to the case of the local committee which is not doing the work would seem to be for the Ministry to suspend the whole committee. I would point out that many local committees have been appointed and some of them are not entirely satisfactory. It is very difficult to remove and alter them now. I think the best way to improve them is by levelling them with members who know something about pensions. The whole procedure and the Regulations are very complicated, and there are many local committees where there are no members who understand the Regulations and the procedure, and the soldiers and sailors suffer. The only alternative is either suspension or else to leave the local committee entirely in the hands of the paid official. The Pensions Minister has promised not to appoint officials and if we refuse to allow him to appoint members with knowledge of the Regulations, what happens? The whole procedure lies in the hands of the secretary. On all committees knowledge is power, and if there is nobody but the secretary who understands the Regulations he will have the power and the result will be that the soldiers and sailors will suffer. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will adhere to his proposal to take power to appoint up to 10 per cent.


I think the last speech we have heard very clearly answers the strongest arguments which have been put forward in defence of this proposal. It has been argued that this power would only be used in a certain number of cases, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken said that these pensions committees are so ignorant that they do not know the Act, and you must send experienced men from the centre to load up these committees with these bureaucrats.


I said there were certain indifferent committees which required levelling. With regard to sending down officials, the Parliamentary Secretary has promised that the Ministry would not send officials, but men who had special knowledge.


With regard to dealing with incompetent committees, or those who will not do their work, we have already passed a Clause which gives the Ministry of Pensions power to deal with that phase of the question and this is another issue entirely. This is the co-operative principle which we are now being asked to add to the Bill, and I am strongly opposed to that principle. I have seen that principle brought into force in a good many in-stances, and I have also seen it abolished. The hon. and gallant Gentleman in charge of the Bill went back a long period for an illustration in favour of these men being added by the Minister, for he went back to 1894.


I went back to the Insurance Act.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that in 1894 there used to be nominated guardians. I remember when Lord Wolverhampton, who was the President of the Local Government Board at that time, brought in his measure which was popular, because it abolished the nominated guardian. You must go back to that Bill and find some other things. You might say it would be a good thing if the members of these committees bad a rate qualification, but that was abolished in 1894. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also took, as an instance, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, not at all a popular body, and it never has been. I could turn up the records of the Debate in 1888, when Mr. Ritchie, who had charge of the County Government Bill, said that while he could not accept an Amendment to turn that into a popular body, he gave his opinion that it ought to be turned into a popular body, and not directly elected, by having nominated members upon it. I say distinctly that we must not let this thing go out of our hands without a struggle. There is no need why 10 per cent. of these people should be nominated by the Ministry. It is a great deal better if those persons who want to take part in public life have to go through the ordeal of an election. It gives them a lot of information which they did not possess previously. The education acquired by candidates for this House or for a county council is enormous. They start very ignorant of the wants of the people, but when they have had to pass a few elections, and have been heckled by electors, they are much more efficient for the public life that they desire. I therefore intend to support my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh in deleting the Clause.


I would like to point out that we have co-opted members upon boards of guardians at the present time. They were not abolished in 1894. I am not quite sure that it would not be advantageous to have a few co-opted Members upon all bodies. We know perfectly well that the Ministry have power to abolish the whole of the committee, but it would be a very strong step to take. I can conceive one committee being very parsimonious, and another being far more liberal-minded, and that it would be a good thing if the Ministry had the power to nominate a few members for the locality. I can speak now with a good many years' experience of local bodies, and I have always found that one of the chief complaints against the co-opted member is that he is too extravagant and spends too much money. The great complaint with regard to the education committees, for instance, has been, "We do not want so many co-opted members. They come in and they spend the ratepayers' money without having to go to the ratepayer to get elected." It is my experience that some of the most enlightened members are those who have been co-opted and not elected. I would point out that there are people who would find great difficulty in getting on to any local body unless they were co-opted. They do not care to mix up with the strong political life of the neighbourhood—they are non-political—and we know that, rightly or wrongly, it is extremely difficult in some localities for anybody to get elected upon a public body unless nominated by one political party or another. I know many cases where some of the most useful members are men who have taken a keen interest in social matters but who are non-political and who simply sit upon the county council or local authority, simply because they are nominated. I therefore suggest that it is by no means certain that we should find the members nominated by the Ministry of Pensions the most parsimonious upon the committee.


Before the Amendment is put, I should like to say a word. I am, perhaps, as much interested in this question as any member of the Committee, as I am chairman of a big local committee. The whole difficulty about this Clause is the very same difficulty that affects the whole Bill—the Ministry have asked for a great deal too much. It must be borne in mind that at present we are not dealing with a new proposal. We are now dealing with existing local committees appointed under an Act of Parliament. Under that Act of Parliament the municipal authorities have the right of appointing the majority of the members. Clearly, if the Ministry are to have the right of adding one-fourth, they entirely destroy the power which the municipal authorities now have. It is a power that might be abused. Now that my hon. Friend has proposed to limit it to the comparatively small number of three, personally I do not see very much objection. The London scheme was arranged the other day, and if it were suggested that the Ministry should nominate two or three, I personally should have raised no objection. I am only speaking my own opinion. Therefore I should be quite content if my hon. Friend accepts the Amendment. I should, however, like to have it made clear that it is not intended to appoint any officials. If my hon. Friend would meet me on that, I shall be glad to support him.


I hope the Committee will now come to a decision upon this Amendment. Since we started the discussion on the Bill we have tried very hard to meet the Committee. We have accepted a great many Amendments. The spirit we have endeavoured to show is that we wish hon. Members to settle these things so far as possible. But there are certain principles we must maintain. We claim that the Ministry should have the right—we do not say they shall always exercise it—to nominate in certain cases. We cannot define the cases; therefore the right must be general. I would like to make it perfectly clear, first of all, that we shall not do it in the great majority of cases, because there is no necessity. Secondly, we only ask for 10 per cent. rather than a flat rate of three, because the committees vary so much in size. In some cases three would be too many; in other cases three would be too few. We therefore ask for 10 per cent. Thirdly, we are quite prepared to put in words to bar out the officials and to make it perfectly clear that we cannot appoint officials. With these revisions, I hope the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) will recognise I have brought forward a fair compromise and that the committee will allow us to get the Clause. After all, if we are finding the whole of the money it is only right that we should be able to appoint the. 10 per cent.


May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman in charge of the Bill whether further power is required than he has under paragraph (f) of Clause 2? [HON. MEMBERS: "He has already explained that."]


In view of what has been said by the representative of the Ministry, may I say that we took the average size of a committee as being thirty, and thought that the best way was to suggest three. I am quite willing to accept the suggestion of 10 per cent. instead of 3. I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary can accept the suggestion as to the exclusion of the officials. On these grounds I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, after the word "not" ["Minister shall not"], to insert the words "be officials of the Ministry nor." Later on I shall move to leave out the words "one-fourth," and to insert the words "ten per cent."


I object to this strongly. I have been waiting to raise this, and the only way in which to get a satisfactory decision is on the omission of this Clause. But I will take a Division straight away, because we are not getting any "for-rarder." I oppose entirely the idea of the Ministry of Pensions nominating anybody to act on these committees. They are popularly elected bodies as far as they can be under this Bill. The Ministry has appointed a system of inspectors—many of them well paid—in order to keep the administration of the committee up to scratch. The representative nature of the committees is already assured because they are elected by members of the municipal bodies who have to submit themselves for election each year and to allow the Ministry of Pensions or any Government Department to say they will have a certain percentage of the representation simply means adding to the committee men who will be looked upon as officials of the Ministry and who will be regarded as servants of the Ministry and expected to answer questions and supply information regarding the innumerable Circulars sent out by the Department. It is for the Ministry to see that the bodies do their work well. If they fail in that then the local people in the district will get rid of them. The Ministry will have its inspectors and will be able to bring before Parliament any matters that need to be discussed. As it is nearly Eleven o'clock I will divide at once. I hope the House will hesitate twice before it gives the Ministry a power which it does not need and which it cannot really carry out, because the work it already has to do is not well done—and with the best intentions of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the position is likely to become worse when demobilisation begins. What it should do is to tune up the administration and leave the question of representation to the local bodies.

Colonel ASHLEY

The real question we have to consider is, are these big county and local bodies fit or not to carry out the duties imposed on them? It is really beside the point for the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Department to say that because the Department finds the money through the taxpayer it ought to have representation on the committees. If he said he must have more than 50 per cent. of the representatives, I could understand his argument, but there is nothing solid behind his argument, because he will not have any control over finance, and all he can do is to put members on who will be spies on those who are popularly elected. I ask him, for the sake of smooth working, to give up this 10 per cent., which is no use, and to rely upon the common sense of the elected people. In the past it has worked well. I appeal to the Government to trust the people. If they do not do that I shall have to vote against them.


The question before the Committee is to insert, "not being officials." I suggest that my hon. Friend should take the Division on the question of the tenth.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move to leave out the words, "one-fourth" ["shall not at any time exceed one-fourth"], and to insert instead thereof the words, "ten per cent."


We will take the Division on this. The point is whether we are going to have this Clause or not. We cannot have a Division if we do not have it on this. I hope the Committee will knock the Clause out by knocking out the 10 per cent., and get rid altogether of the nominated element.


I think the opposition to this is based upon a complete misconception. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) spoke just now about the representative character of the local committees and made a very strong point about local self-government. The hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland (Sir H. Greenwood) took precisely the same line. There is a very considerable misconception.

These local committees are not local self-governing bodies in the sense that they are democratically elected. They are not elected by any body of electors of which I know. It is quite true that the majority are appointed by the local authority. It is quite true the local committee may appoint a majority on the committee, but they need not even be members of the local council. The local council can appoint anybody it pleases. There are a great many other bodies who appoint. For instance, the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association appoint members on the local committees. This association is in no sense a local body; it is not a democratic body. It is simply allowed 10 appoint for the reason that before the local committees were established the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association had done exceedingly good work in looking after soldiers and their dependants at a time when the State did not undertake that duty. Then there are labour organisations—trades councils. I have great respect for trades councils, but I really do not think that trades councils are representative bodies. They are not democratic bodies.


I beg to move, "That the Question be now put." Ministers do not talk out Bills.


I have not the slightest intention of talking it out. The only people who have no representation on the local committees are the Pensions Ministry, who provide the funds. I think it is only reasonable having regard to that fact—and I think it is most important—that we should have the right of 10 per cent. representation.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put and negatived.

Question put, "That the words 'ten per cent.' be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 64; Noes, 37.

Division No. 90.] AYES. [10.59 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke Bryce, J. Annan Gilmour, Lieut.-Col. John
Agnew, Sir George William Carnegie, Lieut.-Col. D. G. Hancock, John George
Anderson, G. K. (Canterbury) Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor) Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence
Baird, John Lawrence Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Harris, Sir Henry P. (Paddington, S.)
Baldwin, Stanley Colvin, Col. Richard Beale Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry
Barlow, Sir Montagu (Salford, South) Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Hewins, William Albert Samuel
Barnett, Captain R. W. Dalrymple, Hon. H. H. Hibbert, Sir Henry F.
Barnston, Major Harry Fell, Sir Arthur Higham, John Sharp
Barra, Sir Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.) Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)
Bird, Alfred Gibbs, Col. George Abraham Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)
Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith- Gastrell, Lieut.-Col. Sir W. Houghton Jodrell, Neville Paul
Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East) Pease, Rt. Hon. H. Pike (Darlington) Stewart, Gershom
Larmor, Sir J. Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, W.)
Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle) Pratt, J. W. Toulmin, Sir George
Levy, Sir Maurice Pryce-Jones, Col. Sir E. Walker, Colonel William Hall
Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon) Weston, J. W.
Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James Ian Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbigh) Wheler, Major Granville C. H.
Mallalieu, Frederick William Rutherford, Sir W. (L'pool, W. Derby) Wing, Thomas Edward
Mount, William Arthur Samuels, Arthur W. Wood, Sir John (Stalybridge)
Neville, Reginald J. N. Shortt, Edward
Newman, Sir Robert (Exeter) Somervell, William Henry TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.
Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster) Stanier, Captain Sir Beville Dudley Ward and Colonel Sanders.
Parker, James (Halifax)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W. Harbison, T. J. S. Needham, Christopher T.
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Hearn, Michael Louis O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
Brady, Patrick Joseph Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E. Parrott, Sir James Edward
Byrne, Alfred Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Cotton, H. E. A. Keating, Matthew Reddy, Michael
Dillon, John Kennedy, Vincent Paul Rowlands, James
Donnelly, Patrick King, Joseph Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Doris William Lundon, Thomas Sutton, John E.
Duffy, William McGhee, Richard Whitehouse, John Howard
Esmonde, Captain J. (Tipperary, N.) MacVeagh, Jeremiah Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Ffrench, Peter Maden, Sir John Henry
Flavin, Michael Joseph Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland) Meux, Hon. Sir Hedworth Colonel. Ashley and Mr. Hogge.
Hackett, John

It being after Eleven of the clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.