§ Mr. HOGGE
The announcement which has just been made from the Front Bench rather leads one to desire that, before we enter on the discussion of separation allowances, Members in various parts of the House could have expressed the satisfaction which all of us feel in hearing the statement of the Home Secretary. I could have desired that others of more representative position than myself in the House should have had the opportunity of expressing even at more length than my 1645 right hon. Friend the Member for Dews-bury (Mr. Runciman) has done the general satisfaction of the House. I am perfectly certain, when we recall all the incidents in connection with the campaign in Gallipoli, and all the sufferings of our soldiers, both from home and from the Colonies, in that campaign, it fills everyone of us this afternoon with a very deep sense of satisfaction to hear that at length Turkey is out of the War, and that this country has been able to impose conditions upon her which, I hope and trust, will lead to a very speedy settlement, so far as we are concerned. There is another point which would have been relevant at once on the Adjournment were it not that we have proceeded to discuss separation allowances—that is the extraordinary and ridiculous statement made by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. I take it from the answer he has given this afternoon that a statement in regard to the General Election in the country cannot be long delayed, in view of the fact that even the prices of envelopes with which the candidates are to be supplied have been considered to the minutest detail by his Department. We shall be interested to hear in the forthcoming week the grounds on which a General Election can be taken.
There is one question which will interest, not only the Government but all condidates—that is the question of the treatment by this House, because, after all, this House is responsible for the treatment of the wives and bairns of our serving men in both Departments. It is that point that I shall address myself to very briefly this afternoon. Up to the present there have been seven separate attempts adequately to deal with this question of separation allowances, and at the last it is, in some details, still quite unsatisfactory. I propose to deal with the matter under the three heads which arise naturally in a discussion of this kind, namely, the allowance which is paid to childless wives, the allowances which are paid to wives and children of serving men, and the allowances which are paid to the mothers of apprentices. On the first of these subjects, the question of the childless wife, the position at the present moment is as follows: Whereas the woman on scale is entitled to 12s. 6d. a week, she may on application to the local 1646 war pensions committee have that pension increased up to 19s. on certain conditions. I want to draw the attention of the House particularly to, at any rate, one of these conditions which does not affect my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office or the Admiralty so much as it affects the Ministry of Pensions. Previously the childless wife was entitled to the extra allowance when she could show proof that she was unable to work or unable to obtain employment. A third condition has been added by a Circular issued by the Ministry of Pensions, and the extra money is now available in the case of a childless wife who is unaccustomed to work. I made a futile effort at Question Time, and also on the Adjournment two days ago, to ascertain what the phrase "unaccustomed to work" means, and I wish now to ask my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office, when replying to this Debate, to say whether the definition of the phrase given by my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions is one which also obtains in his office. This is a point of very serious importance to hundreds of thousands of women throughout the country. On the Adjournment on the 29th of October I raised this question with my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Pensions Ministry, and I said to him:Suppose a local committee had the problem as to the wife of a workman who had been accustomed to work all her days inside the man's house and she fell within the category of a woman accustomed to work. Does it refer to domestic employment of women or apply to employment outside her home?I want to direct the attention of the House particularly to the rely given to that question by my hon. and gallant Friend. It was to this effect:I cannot lay down any definition as to where the work is to be done. The point was, Was the woman accustomed to work or not?Then he drew for the purposes of argument a certain analogy which raises a most important point. He said:There are, I think, 400,000 soldiers' widows during the War.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
What I did say was—and it was reported wrongly—that 400,000 wives had been married during the War to soldiers.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Of course I am not responsible for what appeared in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has not previously made any correction, but in any case it makes no difference, because in the next sentence my hon. and gallant Friend goes on to say:The great majority of these women were in work before and there is no reason why they should not go back. But there are a certain number of women who, owing to their social position, owing to the fact that they have never been accustomed to work in any way whatever, and—it may be owing to ill-health—never have worked either in their homes or outside them and in such cases where it is clear they have not been accustomed to work, they will be entitled to the allowance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1918, col. 1428.That means this, that you are going to draw a distinction between a woman in a social position who is married to a serving sailor or soldier in this War as against the position of the wife of a man who comes within the category of the working classes. I want to have it settled this afternoon whether the definition given by Ministry of Pensions is the definition upon which this extra half-crown, making 6s. 6d. extra for the childless wife, is to be administered or not, and I want my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office to answer categorically the specific question, namely, whether the 6s. 6d. which is added to the childless wife's allowance is to be an allowance as a matter of right if she complies with three conditions, namely, that she is unable to work, or unaccustomed to work, or unable to work if she has to change her residence in order to obtain that work. If my right hon. Friend can dispose of the Ministry of Pensions and tell us it is quite wrong and that the War Office, which is responsible for the administration of the allowance, is going to pay that money as a matter of right, then we shall have reached a point in this Debate which is possibly the most satisfactory point yet reached. By means of that addition of 6s. 6d. to the allowance to the childless wife the allowance has been raised to altogether 19s. per week. But most of us agree, and I hope I shall be able to prove before the Debate is finished that at any rate a minimum of £1 a week for the wife is the figure which we ought to aim at, 1648 and which, indeed, we have been aiming at throughout the several discussions we have had on this particular matter. The childless wife will get 19s. on certain conditions as a question of right.
On that point it is perhaps convenient at this stage to state quite briefly once more the general arguments as to why we think this amount of money is inadequate. I do not intend to take up too much of the time of the House, and I will not therefore go into detailed figures, but I propose to read from "The Board of Trade Gazette" certain Board of Trade figures regarding the increase in prices during the period since the outbreak of War. The relevant figure is 118 per cent. increase at the month of September, 1918, over August, 1914. That figure of 118 per cent. increase is a figure which applies to food prices only; it does not take note of any other item, and if other items are taken into account then the figure is somewhat reduced, becoming 110 instead of 118. Previously the Board of Trade produced—and I should like either the Financial Secretary or the Civil Lord of the Admiralty to deal with this point—a rather interesting figure as to the probable percentage of increase if you take into consideration the amount of rationing required under the coupon system and the general scarcity of food. The figure quoted by the Board of Trade becomes, in view of those considerations, not 118 but 52 per cent., so that whichever figure you take, whether it be the larger figure of 118 per cent. or the adjusted figure of 52 per cent., it is perfectly obvious that the existing payments have not kept pace with the increased cost of living. The dependants of our sailors and soldiers are practically the only class in the community who have not got the increased amounts that they are entitled to during the course of the War. The most recent industrial strike that we had in this country—or rather, a movement that might have developed into one of the most serious strikes—did deal with this question. The House will remember the last railway workers strike. Hon. Members will remember the terms on which it was settled. They will remember one of the terms was that in addition to the increase obtained by the strike an arrangement was made by which further increases of wages were to come along according to the increased cost of living. And these changes were to be automatic. In the case of the dependants 1649 of our sailors and soldiers no one can allege that the Government have adopted that plan, and if the matter is looked into as I have suggested it will be found that the increases given by the State to women and children are still unsatisfactory.
The second class of dependants is the class of wives with children. Wives with children have had the children's allowances increased, I must freely admit, to a considerable extent over the original figure. But still I do not myself think that they are quite enough, although the Government have been more generous in that particular than in any other. But they have not yet touched the allowance to the wife herself, and I should like to know the defence on the part of the Government for increasing the allowance to the childless wife from 12s. 6d. to 19s. and leaving the allowance of the wife with children still standing at 12s. 6d. I suppose the argument may be that the case is covered by the increased allowance to children and it is hoped by that increase the wife's position will be improved. But if the figures are examined in detail it will be obvious that that is not the case. In order that we may know where we are perhaps the House will allow me to give it one or two figures on this point. On the 6th October—the day before the most recent increases came into effect—the allowances for children were roughly these: 7s. for the first child, 5s. for the second, 3s. 6d. for the third, and 3s. for the others. An arrangement was made by which an increase, to come into force on the 7th October, was taken back by the Government and revised, and as that increase was only in existence for a few days I do not trouble the House with the figures. But I come to the position as it will exist in January next year, when the new allowances come into force—I am taking the scale as announced in the papers. For the first child the allowance will be 10s. 6d. If there are two children it will be 9s. 3d. each. If there are three children 8s. each, four children 7s. each, five children 6s. 5d. each, and six children 5s. 9d. each. These are the new rates, and if my right hon. Friend will look at the figures he will see the difficulty in defending the descending rate of the scale. It means that the first child gets an increase of 3s. 6d., and if there are two children the increase for each child is only 2s., or 1s. 6d. less in each case. If you go to three children the increase is 4s., or 6d. less than you get for one. If you go to 1650 four children it is 5s., or 1s. 6d. less than for one. When you come to five children it is 6s., or 2s. 6d. less than for one, and when you come to six children the increase is 7s. I should like to hear my hon. and married Friends contending in this House that if they had six children to keep at home they could do it on double the amount that they could keep one. I should like to hear the Financial Secretary to the War Office or the Civil Lord or the member of the War Cabinet who is now present (Mr. Barnes), who is a representative of the Labour party in the Cabinet, defending the position whereby if any of them had only one child he should get 3s. 6d. extra, whereas if he had six children and he happened to be fighting at the front, and his wife was looking after the children at home, that he would consider a 7s. increase was enough for the six.
I will tell the House why I think this is an absurd arrangement. I wish the Government would really keep in mind the whole ambit of this question and look at the dilemma they are likely to find themselves in. They have agreed to raise the allowances to the figures I have mentioned as from the 1st January, 1919. Compare the position of a wife with six children and a widow with six children on that date. Suppose the husband of the wife has been killed in the War. As a wife prior to her husband being killed she was in receipt of the sums that I have mentioned—that is, 10s. 6d. for the first child, 9s. 3d. each for two, 8s. each for three, 3s. for four, and so on—but the moment she becomes a widow, instead of getting 10s. 6d. for the first child, she only gets 6s. 8d., and instead of getting 9s. 3d. each for two she gets less than 6s. each. The pension rates for six children are 6s. 8d. for the first child, 5s. for the second, and 4s. 2d. for every other child, so that the Government are immediately faced with the dilemma on the separation allowance paid to these children with the fact that they are prepared to give more to the children of a soldier whose father is alive than they are prepared to give to those children when he has paid the supreme sacrifice. A woman with six children, her husband being alive, will receive 7s. increase a week, and when her husband is killed and her children are fatherless she will only get the lower rates.
The third category is that of the dependants, and that is a vexed question 1651 which has often raised discussion in this House. The first suggestion of the Government was that the parents of apprentices were to receive a flat rate of 5s. up to the age of twenty-one, and not over twenty-three. I am glad to acknowledge that the Government has altered the age-limit, and that the 5s. will now be paid in the case of all boys who are eighteen and not over twenty-six; and I acknowledge quite frankly that the extension of the limit of the age will fairly cover practically every case. There may be an exceptional case or two, but I think that is a just and generous recognition of the criticisms of some of us in this House; and I wish to thank the Government for extending the age limit. On the question of the amount, however, I am afraid I must say a little by way of criticism. The amount is only 5s., and when you consider that amount in correspondence with the amount previously awarded to the dependants of the lad who has joined the Army, you will at once be confronted with any number of anomalies. I will mention one.
Before this was possible no dependant could get an allowance from the Government without a contributory allotment from pay. We will assume, for instance, that the boy joined up in 1914, and that his mother's dependency was assessed at 4s. 10d. Now, in order to get that 4s. 10d., the lad has to pay 1s. 2d. compulsory allotment from his pay. If he contributed, as most of them do, an allotment of 3s. 6d., an extra 2s. 4d. in that case is added to the allowance, and the mother draws 6s. 10d. During the course of the War the Government took over the whole question of separation allowances by carrying over the allotment where a separation allowance was attached, so that in this ease the 4s. 10d. would be paid entirely by the Government, which included the compulsory allotment of 1s. 2d. A woman in that case would only be eligible to-day on this new flat rate scale to the payment of an extra 2d. a week, although in the assessment there was included the compulsory allotment of the soldier. I would like to point out that this flat rate basis is not quite fair to the mothers who have their allowances now based on a sum which included the compulsory allotment of the soldier. I hope the House sees that point, and that it will receive some consideration.
1652 The governing point in all these three categories upon which I have touched quite lightly is this, and I want to-repeat it once more. What seems to me to worry the Members of the Government so much is the fact that the whole Pension Warrants are built up on the basis of separation allowances, and the 12s. 6d. payment, which is the bedrock taken in separation allowances, governs largely the widow's pension in the Pension Warrant, the widow's pension scale being 13s. 9d. It always seemed to me that what is making the Government reluctant to deal generously with separation allowances is the dread and fear that if they increase that payment they will have to revise all the Pension Warrants; but, in any event, they will need to revise them. I have already pointed out that, comparing a wife and children with separation allowance with a widow with children and a pension, the sums now are not comparable; in fact, the disparity is so great that, after we have settled this question, the next question we shall have to address ourselves to is that of an increase in the Pension Warrant. I have covered in skeleton outline the three categories for which we are still seeking increased allowances.
The fourth and last point I want to make is one which does not deal with the amounts, but the date of payment. The increases to be paid to childless wives and dependants take effect, I understand, on the 1st November, but the scale payments to wives and children does not come into effect until the 1st January, 1919. I noticed a little sinister note—perhaps I ought not to use that word—or, rather, a qualification, shall I say, by which it appears that even on the 1st January those payments might not be made owing to administrative difficulties. Consequently, the position is that, even on the 1st January, those wives may not look forward with certainty to the payment to them of those sums.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
They may not get them on the day.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Why not? This Government claims to be a "do-it-now Government," and if these payments are due on a certain date, why cannot it be done? What this House feels is that those payments should be made at once. We object to the prospective nature of these increases. We want those increases raised; 1653 but, apart from that question, I think the feeling in the House is that there must be no delay in the payment, and that these payments must not be put off to the 1st January. If this Government can make, as they have told us they are making, adequate arrangements for a General Election, even down to fixing the price of envelopes per thousand, it is much more important that they should make adequate arrangements now for paying the wives and children of the men who are making a General Election possilble what they are entitled to, and we strongly object to the payment of these allowances being put off until the 1st January. There are a great many other points of detail which could be raised in a Debate of this kind on the Adjournment, but I think the House really wants to make an improvement upon the general lines of the three categories I have mentioned, rather than to worry about details, and if my hon. Friend representing the Government announces as a result of this Debate that the childless wife shall receive a rate up to 19s., and if he can announce an increase in the allowance to a wife with children, and if, in addition, he can announce, as I hope he may, an addition to the 5s. flat rate, that will be meeting public opinion along the main lines of criticism, and it will be doing something to provide what, I think, is very necessary, and that is adequate and complete treatment for the wives and dependants of our serving men.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I think we are all agreed in regard to the clear statement which the hon. Member opposite has given us with regard to this complicated question, and I think I should be consulting the convenience of the House if, without going over his points, I say I think there must be general agreement with the changes he has proposed with very great moderation. His distinction between the wives under the two circumstances seems to me to be an unfair distinction that will require a good deal of justification from my right hon. Friend opposite. There is one point in the arrangement on which I desire to speak which has been impressed upon me by deputations I have received, and which appear to me to be particularly hard and indeed unfair, I mean the postponement of the payment of these small allowances to these needy people to the 1st January. If the House will only think of that point hon. Members will see that it is particularly unjust and, under the circumstances 1654 that are likely to exist in the near future, it will be even worse than that. Supposing the peace arrangement of which there has been a happy announcement this afternoon go forward. Supposing we have peace with Austria, and with our greatest enemy of all within a few weeks? The tendency will be to make the circumstances easier in two or three months hence than they are to-day. It is quite unfair to ask these struggling people, who have to deal with hard circumstances and to pay high prices, to wait two or three months before they get the benefit of the additional allowances promised by the Government. Exactly the opposite course should have been taken. There ought to have been retrospective consideration given to them. I feel that is the point most open to criticism, and I am sure that it would give the greatest satisfaction outside if it could be met. I agree, generally, with all that has been said by my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Hogge), but on this point of postponing the increase for two or three months, I hope that many Members on both sides of the House will express the opinion that the increase should be given immediately to tide these poor people over circumstances which are very serious.
§ Mr. TOOTILL
Like the last speaker, I want to express my personal obligation to the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge). I have taken a deep interest in this matter from the inception of the dependants' arrangements with a desire to make our fighting men more contented. Really the State ought to be the guardian of their dependants while they are absent from home. The State has taken the wage-earner from the home by law, and, therefore, by law the State ought to make adequate provision for the maintenance of those who are left at home. I have always felt that the inadequacy of the allowances made to the wives, widows, mothers, and dependants of our fighting men must tend to reduce their moral and their powers to beat the enemy and to do their duty as fighting men. On two occasions I have been to France, once upon the direct request of the late Lord Kitchener and a second time this year. I have seen horrible sights of devastation on the battle fronts, and, having seen what our men are enduring for the sake of us here at home, I feel that this House ought to rise to the occasion and to see that no one suffers unduly because of all that they are doing for us. I have always looked 1655 upon this question from that standpoint. I believe that the fear that these men have that those at home are not being properly cared for and provided for, has a very discouraging and deterrent effect upon them. When demobilisation comes, and these men return to their homes and hear all these reports regarding the greatest possible privations suffered on account of the inadequacy of the allowances, I fear that discontent will arise, and will hamper and impede the development of reconstruction matters. I have all along been anxious for the promotion and development of national unity. It has been my theme from the beginning of this War. If the Government had realised the position, and had dealt with this matter practically and generously, nay, justly, as they ought to have done, I believe that a lot of the industrial discontent would have been avoided.
The Government have not seen that these poor people have had sufficient to keep the wolf from the door. The taxpayers of the country, as far as I have been able to judge, are quite willing that the Government should undertake this financial responsibility in a more generous spirit. I have not forgotten the very dramatic style in which my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh, presented his petitions. I suppose it was the Scottish way. I have a petition which I have not yet presented, but which has been got up by the élite, so-called, or by the leading taxpayers in my Constituency, demanding increased allowances, expressing their obligations for what has already been done, and referring to the feebleness of the attempt that has been made to meet the new conditions of things. I feel that enough has not been done, and that there will be grave and serious complaints in the workshops and in the homes in regard to this matter. If the Government had really been anxious to promote industrial unity and civil concord and peace, they might have doubled the £16,000,000 without it being considered excessive. Like the last speaker, I feel that we are to a large extent indebted to the hon. Member for East Edinburgh for the close study he has given to this subject, for the indefatigable exertions that he has put forward in straightening the matter out, and for the public interest that has been created by his endeavours. I believe, if the Government adopt a more generous policy in this 1656 matter, that they will have the general approval of the taxpaying public; and I agree with the last speaker that instead of making these increases prospective, they ought to make them retrospective.
Sir MONTAGUE BARLOW
Some of us who are interested in pensions, and who represent the Parliamentary Pensions Bureau, have gone into this matter with some care, and have put down a Motion, perhaps in not quite such sweeping terms as that of my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), and perhaps animated by a different spirit. We feel, first of all, that we ought to recognise that a very considerable advance has been made, and, so far as it has gone, we gladly welcome that advance. But there are a good many lacunæ still in existence, and a good many points which still merit criticism. We hope that the representatives of the various Departments concerned, who sit in such close and formidable phalanx on the Front Bench, may be able to give our criticisms some consideration. A good deal has been said about the childless wife. I remember some of the deadliest criticisms of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh being concerned with the position of the childless wife. She has now got consideration, but she has got consideration in a rather curious way, and I am afraid it is a way that is bound to lead to difficulties. The memorandum which was read by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and which appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 17th October, refers to the fact that the behaviour of the local war pensions committees is very unequal. We know in another connection that the Minister of Pensions is bringing in a Bill, which many of us are considering closely, for making the work of all war pensions committees more effective and, I trust, more equal on good lines. It is admittedly the fact that the work of the war pensions committees is unequal. Some committees are good, some are indifferent, and I am afraid that we must admit that some are bad. You are putting on the war pensions committees a burden which, I am afraid, will make their work even more unequal, because you are giving them a discretion and, at the same time, a direction which it will be extremely difficult for them to interpret. The memorandum points out that:the Grants for the childless wife are to be paid as a matter of course in every case where 1657 the woman is unable to work, was accustomed to work, or where she is unable to obtain work without change of residence.We know that there has been a little cut and thrust at Question Time over the meaning of those words, and we have got so far that "unable to work" means unable to work, but not very much further. I am afraid when we impose that burden upon the war pensions committees, admittedly unequal in administration, that one of two things will happen. Either you will get great differences as between one local war pension committee and another—they will try to carry out what they conceive to be the proper definition of "unable to work," and some will interpret it one way and some another—or, what is much more likely, they will give it up as a bad job and will vote the 6s. 6d. in every case. I think the proposal puts a wrong onus on the war pensions committees. They have, admittedly, a very difficult job. Regulations are issued to them day after day in vast quantities. They are usually understaffed, as their members are at the War and a scratch staff has had to be constructed, and they are working under immense pressure of time and place, and to impose upon them a burden of this kind seems to me, to put it lightly, very unfortunate. I am disposed to think, unless the Government can evolve some better definition as to the kind of case where the 6s. 6d. is to be granted and give some definite direction to committees, they had much better have a flat rate altogether. As it is, we are almost inviting the war pensions committees to disregard the Government direction and to vote the 6s. 6d. on every occasion.
There are one or two other points in the proposals which are a little on the narrow side. For instance, in the case of two children in a household the raising of the rate by 2s. is a very small amount. I was in Salford last week and I saw a good many people with grievances about pensions. In one case, a grandmother was looking after her two grandchildren, whose mother was dead. She was in the position of a parent towards them and she was getting 16s. 6d. They were nearly fourteen. She says, quite rightly, she cannot feed two strong children on 16s. 6d. a week at present prices. The Government is raising it to 18s. 6d. There, again, I am disposed to think they certainly have not erred on the side of generosity. I know the administrative difficulties, but I would 1658 urge the Government, in view of the great pressure in the poor areas and in view of the great rise in prices, to bring these Clauses (b), (c), and (j) into operation before 1st January next. If the main thing can be brought into operation on 1st November I should have thought we might look forward to a little more expedition with regard to (b), (c), and (j). On behalf of the Parliamentary Pensions Bureau Executive Committee we gratefully accept the advance made, but we think there is still room for improvement with regard to the separation allowances.
§ Colonel Sir H. GREENWOOD
I am in accord with all that has been said in support of increased allowances except that I think previous speakers have not gone as far in pressing the Government as-they might have done. I believe Governments never yield except under the-sternest pressure of the Division Lobby. All appeals to sympathy, justice, righteousness, or any of the nobler virtues, fall on deaf ears on the Front Bench. I shall be supported in that by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Runciman), who now represents what is left of the Opposition. Being in a position of greater freedom and less responsibility, I hope he will endorse what I say. I raised this question in August, 1914, and I always face it from the point of view of the soldier and his wife as a most essential portion of the community in time of war. I would appeal to the Front Bench to face the facts as they are to-day. The general position now is quite different since our last Debate on this question—the collapse of Bulgaria, the collapse of Turkey, the splendid news which we have heard to-day, the impending collapse of Austria-Hungary, and the notorious fact that the Germans and the Allied Powers may be at this very moment discussing the terms of unconditional surrender of the Hun hordes. That alters the whole situation in reference to the payment of allowances and pensions. We have reached our maximum direct war expenditure. It never can be as much again as it has been in the past on direct war affairs. It ought never to be forgotten that the future of this country—its stability or otherwise—depends upon the dependants, the bereaved of sailors and soldiers and those who come back, mutilated or in good health, and unless the Government grants reasonable increases in these allowances there is not a sailor's or a soldier's dependant who comes within the ambit of our Debate to-day who will not come back 1659 to civil life with a grievance, and, as I think, a justifiable grievance, and being in that state of mind which will make him more inclined to face and to fight Governments than to come back to the routine and possibly the monotony of civil life. I appeal, therefore, to the Government to view the question from the new point of view. We are not now dealing with the state of things in 1914, 1915, 1916, and 1917. We are dealing with the question on the very eve of demobilisation, at any rate in so far as a very large portion of our forces is concerned.
The soldier also has a grievance always present with him because of the almost grim contrast between his own and his dependants' position and that of those who have stayed at home in industrial occupation and their dependants. If a man wants an increase of wage to-day he threatens to strike and gets it. It is to no one's interest to stop paying wages now. All concerns practically being controlled, the increased cost does not come out of anyone's pocket except the taxpayers. The soldier was limited in the first part of the War to a shilling a day, with allotments deducted by compulsion, and later to 1s. 6d. a day. He suffers in the main as no home worker ever could suffer. His dependants are the worst clothed, the worst fed and the worst housed members of the community now. He knows that, whether he is in the deserts of Egypt, dying of malaria in Salonika, or dying, as they are even now, by the thousand a week on the French Front. The soldier has another grievance by contrast. He is fighting shoulder to shoulder and just as well as American and Dominion and Colonial troops. The Colonial and American troops are paid three or four times as much as he is. Their dependants are treated not too generously, but with a generosity which makes the efforts of this Government or preceding Governments not only mean but contemptible. My view is that the people of this country are just as willing to treat the bereaved of the men who have saved the country, and the dependants of men who have come back and the men themselves who come back, as generously as any soldiers who have served in this great war are treated by any country in the world. That is the soldier's view as well as mine and he will have a just grievance until his view, which I think is also the country's view, is met by the Government. It has always 1660 seemed to me so singularly out of touch with the real soldier and sailor who have been fighting and dying but happily winning the war.
I submit that with these facts before the Government the time has come for them to deal with these questions in a more generous way, and not to take the cold, official pre-war view of the soldier and sailor. In those days the soldier could be and was often treated with contempt and neglect. I am glad to see we have the first Pensions Minister and a member of the War Cabinet here, the only member of the War Cabinet, I believe, who has not gone to some front or other in an aeroplane. I am glad one member of the War Cabinet is left to look after the home front. I would point out to him that now we are dealing with a nation in arms and not with an army of old contemptibles as in pre-war days. Your treatment of soldiers and sailors and their dependants now will be to me at any rate an index of your capacity to deal with all these reconstruction problems we hear so much about. Take the case of the childless wife. Recently, she received a grant under certain restrictions—an increase of 6s. 6d.—but she could not get it unless she could prove that she was unable to work. I will go into the Lobby if I can get anyone to help me in opposing this system of dealing with the childless wife. You discriminate between the wife of a poor man and the wife of a rich man. The men themselves are sharing common troubles and risking a common sacrifice. I object to this differentiation. It is a mean and an unworkable discrimination. To leave it to the discretion of the local pensions committees to decide whether or not a childless wife should get the 6s. 6d., is to make the administration of the whole pensions scheme uneven, uncertain and unfair. The only solution is to make this a flat rate and raise it to 19s. 6d. That is not in my mind adequate to meet not only the increased but the increasing cost of living. There is no sign that the cost of living will decline for months or even years after the War. This discriminating increase of 6s. 6d. to the childless wife cannot be maintained if the Government is really desirous of treating fairly this very large and well deserving class of the womanhood of the country.
I take one further point, the question of the widow and her children in contrast with married wives and their children. The first child of a widow gets 6s. 8d. 1661 The first child of a wife gets 10s. 6d. according to the new scheme. How can you justify that difference? The three first children of a widow get 15s. 10d., while the three first children of a wife get 24s. How can you justify that difference? On the contrary, the difficulties of a widow are greater than the difficulties of a wife. She has lost her man in the War. These pensions never take into consideration the irreparable loss, the broken heart and the lessened opportunities of the boys and girls The pension is as cold as the tombstone over the dead soldier so far as these things are concerned. Here is a mathematical difference which you cannot justify. I insist—and I will go into the Lobby if I can get one Member to follow me or help me—upon the allowance to the widow being raised here and now to 24s. for her first three children, on an equality with the promised amount to be given to a wife on the 1st of January. You have given a flat rate of 5s. to the permanent dependants of soldiers between eighteen and twenty-six. I submit that that is inadequate. I think you should at least add to that 2s. 6d. I think it is obvious on the face of it that most of these young fellows have gone from their homes at the very time when their parents in many cases had spent the last farthing on their education or on their apprenticeship, and there is no incoming revenue from the lusty youth who has been killed in the War.
Here are my points, and I hope the House will support me and that we shall compel the Government to toe the mark and do justice. I ask that the 6s. 6d. to the childless wives be made a flat rate, that the three first children of the widow be given 24s., equal to the rate now given to the first three children of the wife, and that the 5s. given to the parent dependants of soldiers between eighteen and twenty-six be raised to 7s. 6d., and that the present allowance to the wives be raised at least 2s. 6d., making it 15s. Remember that this allowance to the wife has not been increased since the War. That point is often forgotten. It is true that the 3s. 6d. which was under compulsion deducted from her husband's pay—one of the meanest deductions in the history of the War—has been added to her original 9s., raising it to 12s. 6d., but that is a hopelessly inadequate income having regard to the pressure in her home, and in every home connected with the soldier's dependant. I think that all these increases 1662 should start, not from the 1st January of next year, but should start now, so that at the earliest possible opportunity grievances affecting hundreds and thousands of homes and influencing the minds and attitude of millions of soldiers should be remedied. We can do it now, and I hope the Government will be in accord with my views. I submit that a just grievance is a most certain cause of unrest, and that that grievance falls as it does in this case upon the homes of the noblest in the land. It should be the first duty of a Government alive to its opportunities to remedy these grievances. To fail to remedy it is a challenge to these gallant men who are coming back, and I for one will accept that challenge if thrown out, and will support sailor or soldier against this or any other Government who have failed to realise their duty and to remedy just grievances which command redress.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
I should like to emphasise a number of the points which have already been laid before the House with considerable force by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) and subsequent speakers. The gratitude that some of us have expressed, in the words of the Resolution on the Paper, is accompanied by lively anticipations of favours to come, which we shall expect as a result of this Debate. The whole of the points which were brought forward by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, I think, met with general acceptance. The fault of all these lists is that there are inequalities of treatment which confuse and irritate women who are living as neighbours in the same street and men who are fighting side by side and facing death side by side. These differences are inexplicable as well as confusing, and I wish the list could be made so that such differences could be avoided. The only way to do it now is to raise the lists in several respects. In regard to the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member (Sir Hamar Greenwood) that the 12s. 6d. does not represent a rise and that the 3s. 6d. which was formerly deducted from the husband's pay has been taken off, I may say that the 3s. 6d. was very often sent back by the wife to the husband in certain circumstances. In regard to the question as to payment being made now or on the 1st January I hope that even if financial arrangements cannot be made so that the actual money will be paid over now I trust that when it is paid over it will be made to date from 1663 the 1st November. It may not be possible now to commence the payment for this week, but I think you ought to let it accrue from this week. At the present time people are suffering from lack of that money, and it would ease them to know that it is coming. The fact that they know now that it is coming rather increases the feeling of poverty.
Strong representations have been made to me from Bury, particularly in regard to the childless wife. The widow has more than the childless wife. The wife has to keep the house going for the husband. She has to keep the door open, and when he comes on leave he sees her in the condition in which the 12s. 6d. enables her to live. What about his home-coming when he comes back wounded, disabled and discharged? He sees then the comparison between his home and other homes. I have received word from a chaplain of talks with the men when they come back from visiting their homes. There is a very sad feeling when they find the difference between the way in which their wives and their children are living and the way in which the wives and children of their mates who have stayed at home are living. Of all cases this is one in which there ought to be no niggardliness. Looked at merely financially this is one of the cases where the allowance will come to an end when the man returns. Let him at least feel that his wife and children have been treated as well as any others. The point has also been fairly well developed as to the children of widows receiving less than the children of wives. The children of widows cannot look forward to the father coming home and raising the general status of the family. The soldier may come back, and he may look forward, say, to becoming an overseer or getting some other rise in the industrial world. There is no great hope of that kind for the widow and for the children of the widow. If you do not wish or if it is not desirable to raise the allowance, at any rate let them have a war bonus. We are hoping in a little while that the prices will come down, and I cannot help thinking that very probably there has been in the minds of those who were fixing the allowances for the children of widows the thought that these allowances may go on for years.
In regard to the increase given to the childless wife on certain conditions, I am sure these conditions will cause a great 1664 deal of heartburning, involving investigation into personal questions. I am told that it is arranged that this increase shall practically be given in all cases. Then why not have made it a flat rate? In regard to the apprentices' allowance, I think apprentices have been very badly treated from the very beginning. What of the apprentices who volunteered and went at once? They went by the thousand, if not from the borough, at any rate from the district, which I represent. Because they went, the allowance to their dependants is that of an apprentice, whereas the dependants of those who stayed behind are getting higher allowances. Again, this means that mothers living in the same street are getting a greater allowance than others. I understand there are certain cases where a basis has been adopted by the Special Grants Committee of considering the increases of wages in the trades in which soldiers were employed since their enlistment. That increase is taken into account, and not the status of the man as he was in 1914, but the rate of wages which he would have been getting if he were in his trade at the present moment. Much more ought that to apply to apprentices. The apprentice has gone, and his mother is now receiving 5s. In the case, say, where a man was receiving 36s. in 1914, if he is now receiving 50s. the wife may get more; but if the son were working, he would be an adult now, and would get that 50s., and it really does seem to me a very strong claim in some of these cases. I am told particularly, of course, of the widows that something extra certainly is due to them, and I think my hon. Friend put it very mildly when he put it at 2s. 6d. May I press a point that I think has been laid before Ministers before, and it is that there should be a statement given to all these women as to the supplementary sums they can obtain. It is said that if you send a summary that misleads them. Well, do not send a summary; send a statement of all the supplementary moneys that may be obtained, with an indication of where the proper forms of application and proper conditions can be obtained. I sincerely hope when the Minister speaks he will be able to satisfy us on some of these points, particularly the widow's children and the wives of the soldiers who are coming back. I cannot help feeling we have been a little dilatory; I do not like us to have reached the end of the War, and still to have this feeling that we 1665 have to be hammering away, perhaps not so vigorously as the hon. Member who has spoken from the other side (Sir Hamar Greenwood), but with the feeling that we have not quite adequately dealt with these people whose sons and husbands are doing so nobly for us in the field.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
The hon. Member for Sunderland (Sir Hamar Greenwood) started his most admirable speech by making some reflections on the Government. I am afraid it is a very old text, and whoever turned to Hansard during the past three or four months would have some material on which to support the general propositions laid down by the hon. Member for Sunderland. We have been told it is necessary to economise, and then we were told that some increase could have been given. We are now discussing the second scale issued within a few weeks of the one before, and that scale, still inadequate, has been accompanied by various memoranda about which some comment has been made this afternoon. The first point that has received the attention of hon. Members is the position of childless wives. There may be good reasons why there should be a substantial gulf fixed between the allowance given to the childless wife and the allowance given to the wife with children. It may be said it is an exceedingly bad policy for the Government to give allowances so large as to encourage a very large number of women who could work, and whose work is necessary to refrain from working. Well, there may be something to be said for that, but there is nothing to be said for keeping the scale at its present level of 12s. 6d. or for allowing it to be supplemented by the method proposed in the memoranda. What is the method? A woman entitled Co the scale, the flat rate of 12s. 6d., contends that she ought to get her 6s. 6d. extra. Now who settles it? The local pensions committee, and as my hon. Friend who has just spoken comments quite accurately, the local pensions committee has either to inquire or discriminate or to refuse to inquire and give the flat rate of 19s. Now, if the local pensions committee inquires and discriminates as to whether the woman is able to work or not—[An HON. MEMBER: "Not discriminate!"] It discriminates as to whether a woman is able to work or not—if my word included the other thing I had no intention—what I mean is if the local committee 1666 has Mrs. A. in front of it and Mrs. A. says, "I cannot work and should not be asked to work, therefore give me 19s.," the local pensions committee has to make inquiries about her, and as a result of the inquiries has to make up its mind whether the 12s. 6d. shall be granted or 19s. There is nobody who can visualise the actual process of that operation without standing aghast at the proposition that it should be made a way of settling whether 12s. 6d. or 19s. shall be paid. The members of the committee will find it a hopeless task. In 90 per cent. of cases they will give it up, and the result will be that to all intents and purposes a flat rate will be paid.
I do not know if my right hon. Friend's face means that he expects that that should be done, but it is a very bad way of doing it. Why cannot we have a flat rate? If it is his expectation that a flat rate will be paid why not have it in any event? The sum of 6s. 6d. is far too big to be the subject of a settlement by the local pensions committee. If there is any substance in my idea I think we understand whether we reject it or not on consideration. If there is anything in the Government idea that the scale of payment to a childless wife ought to be supplemented either by work or by a further Grant, even then the scale of payment should be above 12s. 6d., because, in that way putting less importance on the decision of the local committee, you will give the local committee a much less impossible task to perform, and there will be some rational discrimination made between woman and woman. I do hope the Government will abandon the idea altogether and give a flat payment to the childless wife that really represents the responsibilities she has to shoulder while her husband is abroad. The other point is the date. The point has been made in a previous Debate, though it was not made, I think, to-day, that while the Government admits that its scales have been inadequate by improving them, it has no business to postpone the date when they come into operation. Again I think one knows what is in the Government's mind. It is a tremendous task to change a scale; we all admit it. One has again only to visualise the enormously complicated and cumbersome machinery Ministers have to work in connection with pensions and separation allowances, and so on. Yes, but that is no answer. You admit your 1667 separation allowances are inadequate. Very well, then, if they are inadequate then the women, whilst they are waiting for the machine to get on its new gear, so to speak, are suffering, are being screwed down, are bearing a burden which you yourselves admit they ought not to bear, and in many cases it means debt. I have heard of cases—the other day I had them given me from my own Constituency—where women who are honest and honourable and doing their best, who were not extravagant, who were good housekeepers and doing their duty to their children and their homes, cannot make ends meet on the present separation allowances in relation to the price of food and the general cost of living.
What is the plain, logical, common-sense position to take? The Government has stated that in January they are going to increase allowances, and in the meantime these women, from the beginning of November—and, in fact, a little bit earlier, but at any rate, from the beginning of November to the beginning of January—have got to go on with this pile of debt constantly increasing and making it more and more difficult to extricate themselves from it. This question of the date, therefore, is not one of Government convenience. If it were their case would be absolutely unanswerable; it is a question of justice to people who at present are not getting adequate consideration at the hands of the Government. Therefore I press the Government to reconsider this question of date. They have no excuse for postponement except administrative difficulties, but administrative difficulties are not sufficient justification for postponing a just obligation to other people. If there is any trouble about it I think perhaps the local war pensions committee might be asked to assist in that respect, but I make no proposal at all. I ground myself on the simple statement of justice that if the Government owes something to these women, it ought to pay its debts now and not postpone them for two months. A great deal has been said with which I quite agree about the differences between the treatment for one, two, three children and so on. I want to make a much simpler question of the scale. The scale is inadequate right through. Whatever its grading may be—it may be good, bad or indifferent—the scale is inadequate. In October, 1914, the Government issued its first considered scale, because the scale 1668 before came from the other days, but when the War broke out and the new conditions of warfare forced the Government to take a totally different view of its obligation from what had been taken in the pre-war days, one of the first things the Government did was to sit down and consider what the proper scale of separation allowances ought to be. That came into force on 1st October, 1914; it was in force from the 1st October to the 8th November, 1914, according to the official statement. I am quite content to take that as a basis. Now, since then, money has deteriorated in value, and what the Government has to do, and I should like to know why it has not done it, is to pay to-day the 1914 scale as a real payment, paid pound for pound, not nominally but taking one pound as an equivalent for a demand for goods in the market. I, therefore, want the Government to tell us why it is not paying the childless wife a sum of money to-day which gives her precisely the same command in the market as the 12s. 6d. which the Government paid her on 1st October, 1914.
I confess that it is not a simple proposition, but I think that it is perfectly fair. If there had been a trade union of wives they would have seen to this, and if the soldier were in the position of the engineer and could organise to enforce his demands, his wife and children would have been better looked after. Since 1914, according to the "Board of Trade Gazette" for October, because there has been an increase during the month of September, the increase is not 118 but 127 per cent. But there is something else to be taken into consideration. A very competent housewife with whom I was discussing housekeeping accounts said to me the other day: "The difficulty with you men is this You get your Board of Trade figures and you imagine that they tell the whole story. They do not, and I will give you a definite instance. Not only have prices gone up, but qualities have gone down," and when you get a working-class woman as this was with three children to shod and clothe, the cost has not gone up simply in accordance with the increase in price of a pair of boots, but more pairs of boots have to be bought in the twelve months in order to keep the children shod in the same state of efficiency as that in which they were shod in 1914 before the War broke out.
It is the same with clothing. It does not wear so long as it used to, and so on. 1669 Therefore, if one takes the Board of Trade figures, one is well within the mark in saying that an increase of separation allowance to the Board of Trade scale would barely represent the money from the purchasing point of view that was paid in 1914. But what do we find? The wife in 1914 got 12s. 6d.; she is now getting 19s. I will give the 6s. 6d. One hundred and twenty seven per cent. is 27s. 6d. She is so much the worse than the woman with 12s. 6d. in 1914 by the difference between 19s. and 27s. 6d. under the present scale. A wife and one child in 1914 got 15s., under the new scale she will get on the 1st of January next 23s. The purchasing value of 15s. in 1914 is represented now by 33s., so that there is a difference between 23s. and 33s. The wife with two children got 17s. 6d. in 1914. The present value of 17s. 6d. is 38s. 6d., and she is only going to get 31s. under the new scale. The wife with three children got 20s. in 1914. The present value of 20s. is 44s., and she is only going to get 34s. 6d. I give the final case that was taken. The wife and four children got 24s. in 1914. The present value of that is 48s. 6d., and she is going to get 40s. These differences are much too great, because it is not money—one cannot emphasise that too often—that people want. It is the power to buy something for people to wear and consume. From that point of view, the new separation allowances, when they come into force in January, though nominally very much bigger than the allowances in 1914, in reality are very substantially below that level.
I do not know why the Government did not carry out the 1914 scale. If it had done that, it would have acted very reasonably to soldiers' wives and children; but, until it does that, we cannot consider that it has acted fairly. Everyone who is in touch with social work of a philanthropic kind, or any other kind, with the visitation of working-class districts, with the admirable body of women who are doing social welfare work in our munition factories, and so on, and is in touch with doctors, must know that the separation allowances for the last two years have been totally inadequate, and that in a great many cases, in spite of the increases, those allowances do not place the soldiers' wives and families on the same level of comfort that they enjoyed in 1914, and I beg the Government, as to the childless wife, regarding the date and the scale itself, to reconsider 1670 the whole matter generously and not to be backward in improving it if it can possibly be managed.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Before I come to details, I may make one or two general reflections. In the first place it must seem ungracious, whatever your reason may be, not to say "yes" to any request which any responsible person may make here on behalf of the wives and children of the men who have so loyally and so patiently defended us all. I have that feeling, I frankly confess, in all these Debates. I do not pretend that you can measure and repay in money what these men are doing for us, but you are bound at least, heavy though your other commitments may be, to make all the provision within your power for the care of the women and children of these men, and I do think that it would be entirely unjust and unfair to say that the three succeeding war Governments and the House of Commons throughout the War have not tried sincerely to discharge their duty in this respect, and have not tried to reflect in their measures the deep sense of obligation to our fighting men under which the country rests, and which the country is sincerely anxious to recognise. I would like to say this further, if I may—and I have been in touch with this question since before the War—that these men and their families owe a very great deal to the House of Commons, which has done no greater work during the War than that represented by the constant solicitude and inquiry which it has devoted to this particular problem. None of the Governments would have been allowed, even if they so desired—and it would be grossly unfair to say that the suspicion of that desire has ever arisen—to forget this problem for moment.
I am bound also to say this: Departmental administration has been kept up continually to a high mark with the assistance of the House of Commons. Having said that much, I want to say one thing further. It must not be imagined, because a man sits on the Back Benches of this House, that therefore, while he is always palpitating with interest and solicitude concerning this problem, anyone who happens to be sitting on these benches at once becomes a hard-fisted curmudgeon, devoid of human sympathy and interest in this problem. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Sir Hamar Greenwood) rather suggested that. It is not true. The truth is that we all, wherever we sit, try to do our best in 1671 dealing with this problem. It so happens that I have been fortunate enough to have had a hand in the preparation of all these schemes from the beginning of the War since the 4th of August, 1914. The first scheme, which has been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, revolutionised the pre-war provision. That was prepared at the instance of the then Cabinet by the then financial member of the Army Council and the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury and myself. The White Paper of the 9th November, 1914, upon which my hon. Friend bases the comparison which he draws, wiped out the old "on the strength" qualification for the wife of the soldier, a provision which ruled out all except a mere handful from any separation allowance of any sort, and gave no State pension to the woman unless she had been married to her husband "on the strength." It introduced for the first time a separation allowance in the Navy. It gave assistance to fathers, mothers, sisters, and other dependent relatives for the first time, and it improved out of all recognition the disability pensions and the widows' and orphans' pensions.
I was very, glad to hear my hon. Friend recall that document to us, for, remembering the paltry pre-war precedents which we had before us to go on, and remembering how impossible for us it was to forecast the situation with which ultimately we should be confronted, I look back upon this document even to-day with feelings of the liveliest satisfaction. After discussion it was sent to a Select Committee, of which the present Prime Minister was chairman, while the Leader of the House was a member, and of its six members four are now members of the War Cabinet. That Committee discussed the whole matter for six months, and it improved the scheme of separation allowances for children which had been suggested in the White Paper of the 9th November and the scheme of widows' pensions. With regard to children's allowances, I would like the House to recall their history from that point. They have been increased twice since that date to meet the increased cost of living, and they will be increased again from the 1st of January next. The figures are worth looking at. As the discussion has turned mainly upon the soldier's wife and family, I am sure that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Forster) the Financial Secretary to the War Office will not mind if I 1672 take those figures and deal with them. The Navy rates are lower, for reasons which have been stated in this House many times. Let us begin with the scale of the 9th November, 1914. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester quoted the figures. Take children first alone. The scale began—first child 2s. 6d., second 2s. 6d., third 2s. 6d. and fourth and succeeding children 2s. each. That was amended as from the 1st of March, 1915. It was amended again as from the 1st of January, 1917. It was amended again as from October this year, and by the way, my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) seemed to drop that improvement altogether from his calculation. It was amended again in October, 1918, and these are the figures now: For the first child under fourteen, 9s. 6d., as against the original 2s. 6d.; the second child under fourteen, 7s., as against the original 2s. 6d.; the third child under fourteen, 3s. 6d.; and the fourth and succeeding children, 3s. We come now to 1st January, 1919, for children under fourteen, and the increase for the first child is to 10s. 6d.; the second, 8s.; the third, 5s. 6d.; and the fourth and succeeding children, 4s. Similar improvements have been made in the scale for motherless children. I will come to the case of the childless wife later. Taking the soldier's family together, and compare what they received in November, 1914—that is my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester's own test—with the increase in January, 1919. My hon. Friend took the standard figures set forth in she OFFICIAL REPORT of November, 1917, and 1914, and he examined the State's Grants throughout; but, in addition, the State has shouldered the soldier's contribution of. 3s. 6d. The hon. Member for Leicester bases his case on the standard of 1914, and compares that with what will be the amount on 1st January, 1919.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Yes; but here is the provision made by the State in November, 1914, and here is the provision which will be made on 1st January, 1919, and I think I can show that, by comparing the one with the other, the increases have not fallen far short of the increased cost of living. In the first place, there is the 3s. 6d. from the soldier's pocket, and, if 1673 we are to ascertain what the State is doing, these are the figures as they stood in November, 1914, wife and one child, 11s. 6d.; to-day, in October, the scale is 22s., and on 1st January, 1919, it will be 23s.; wife and two children, November, 1914, 14s., now 29s., and on 1st January, 1919, it will be 31a.; wife and three children, November, 1914, 16s. 6d., to-day 32s. 6d., 1st January, 1919, 36s. 6d.; wife and four children, November, 1914, 18s. 6d., to-day 35s. 6d., and on 1st January, 1919, 40s. 6d. I am not adding to that the provision for the London allowance, and I am not assuming any contribution from the father; but the soldier's 3s. 6d., shouldered by the State, I think has been overlooked. Although the State has taken over the 3s. 6d., many of the men have allowe[...] their contribution to go on. As far as the State contribution is concerned compared with 1914, the increase is round about 100 per cent., and on 1st January, 1919, it will be 100 per cent. precisely in the case of the wife and one child, and above 100 per cent. in every other case. I think the figures show as a result, first of all, of the inquiry by the Select Committee and of the inquiries by what was called the Carson War Cabinet Committee, and by what is called the Barnes War Cabinet Committee, which is still sitting, that the State allowance does keep pace with the cost of living. Hon. Members may say that we have not quite achieved our purpose, but I do submit to the House that a very real effort has been made to see that the State allowance keeps pace with the cost of living. Then there is the local pensions committee working through the Special Grants Committee of the Ministry of Pensions. They are not giving charity, but are making supplementary allowances and, in one way or another, they are disbursing at the present time wholly from public funds about a million and a half of money per year.
Then there is the Civil Liabilities Committee, that gives assistance in respect of contractual obligations exceeding 12s. a week, for rent, insurance premium, hire purchase, and so on. Their present annual commitment is about £5,000,000 (Army and Navy), including assistance to officers—probably far more to officers than to the rank and file. As regards this, my view is that these poor people really do not get to know fully what assistance is open to them. Recently the Ministry of Pensions have done a most useful piece 1674 of work in circulating a leaflet with the "ring paper," stating in simple terms what additional allowances or grants people may apply for. Two points have been raised to-night; the bringing forward of the January scheme and the further raising of the allowances. As regards the former, the Chairman of the War Cabinet Committee is here. He will, I know, consider it. As regards the latter, I can give no undertaking. As regards the childless wife, take the wife of a private and corporal. She commenced the war with 9s. a week, and the allotment concessions made it 12s. 6d. The new rule makes it 19s. if for any reason she is unable to work. If she is strong and active and able to work, the State is glad to avail itself of her services at the current rate of wages, and many, of course, are glad of occupation which not only helps to meet the needs of the day, but is a merciful distraction from the ever-present anxiety inseparable from the absence of the husband in the field. I have here a copy of a Circular issued to-day which gives the precise regulations with regard to childless wives as follows:The intention of His Majesty's Government is that the supplement under this Regulation, so far as childless wives are concerned, shall be treated as an addition to the flat rate allowance to meet the increased cost of living, subject only to the condition that it shall not be granted if the applicant is earning, or in the opinion of the local committee, is able to earn. The test of inability to earn will be interpreted as before, that is, a wife who is unaccustomed to work should not be required to do so, nor should a wife be expected to change her residence because suitable work is not available within a reasonable distance of her residence. A childless wife is entitled to an allowance under this Regulation, notwithstanding that she is in receipt of a Grant from the Military Service (Civil Liabilities) Department.I cannot think that the provision made merits the severe criticisms that have been passed upon it in some quarters. I do not take the slightest objection to what has been said my by hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain the difference between the grant to the first three children of wives, and the first three children of widows?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am afraid it is quite impossible at the moment to go into these complex and multifarious schemes, but points like that raised do not after all touch the heart of the problem. I 1675 know how hardly the present prices press upon these poor people, and undoubtedly if the War goes on we must watch, as we always have done, and be ready to come to the House, as may be necessary, with such proposals as shall seek to shield them as far as possible from hardship. We cannot relieve their minds from the ever present anxiety concerning their husbands which war inflicts upon them, but we must do all we can to see that they are protected from harassing apprehension concerning their own daily needs and those of their children.
§ Sir HENRY HARRIS
I think the Government are entitled to thanks for the new separation allowances. They certainly represent a very considerable advance on the previous scale as we can realise from the fact that their total estimated cost exceeds £16,000,000. But though we express our approval of what has been done I do not think that can prevent us from offering criticisms upon what we consider to be those respects in which the proposals fall short of what is necessary and just. My first general criticism is that I wish the Government would not deal with separation allowances by fits and starts. That is really the only language in which to describe the matter. We have a new scale of separation allowances which came into operation at the beginning of this month, and now we have new rates, some of which are to come into operation at the beginning of next month and some at the beginning of January. The reason for the new increased rates were just as cogent a few months ago as they are now, while the inconvenience of increasing separation allowances at short notice is very great. Local committees are often criticised, but they are often put to very great difficulty by what takes place. They have to reassess a large number of cases because of increased separation allowances, and I do think that that ought to be taken into consideration. Local committees have to meet with a good deal of prejudice, but I would point out the impossible position in which they are at times placed by the Government. Look at the position. To-morrow the new allowance for childless wives comes into operation, and the committee rooms are crowded with the applicants. My committee awaited but did not receive any official instructions on the subject. We were very interested to fee them, but we had not up to yesterday. I really must 1676 say something about the position of the childless wife from the point of view of the local committee. The position which the Government took up in August last, as I understood it, was that the rate of allowance to childless wives should be fixed at a point which, while it did not compel the childless wife to seek employment, offered a strong inducement to her to do so, and that the flat rate should be supplemented through the instrumentality of the local committees.
The flat rate was to be supplemented where the wife was physically unfit or unable for other reasons to take employment. I agree that if that could have been done with all round equality little injustice or hardship would have been inflicted, though the amount of the grants was 4s., and not the 6s. 6d. now proposed. But, as has been recognised, the administration of local committees is very unequal, and it is unequal not only because the local committees may not have always realised what they could do, or may have been inefficient in some cases, but it has been unequal because there is much room for much difference of opinion as to what are the reasons which justify a woman in saying that she cannot work. I know that after a good deal of practical experience. The Government have tried to meet that difficulty by their new proposal, and the Ministry of Pensions is issuing a Circular calling the attention of the local committees to the alterations in the Regulations dealing with this problem as approved by the Government. It is pointed out that the grants to childless wives "are to be paid as a matter of course in every case." If it stopped there, it would be quite simple, but the Regulation goes on, "where the woman is unable to work or unaccustomed to work or where she is unable to obtain work without change of residence." I am bound to say I think that the Government has given away the whole position. It seems to me that it is extremely difficult to decide if a woman is unaccustomed to work. Take the case of two sisters, one of whom goes out and the other stays at home and works there. I object, also, to the introduction of this "unaccustomed to work" regulation, because it seems to me to be entirely contrary to the spirit of the time, when everyone is working, whether peer or peasant's daughter.
§ Sir H. HARRIS
It is; but I do not think that anybody wants to claim that advantage now. I think that the Government will have to fix a flat rate, which should not be so high as to be an encouragement to women not to work, as we want every able-bodied adult, man or woman, to work in these times. That flat rate should be supplemented where the woman is physically unfit to work, so as to bring her up to the pre-war standard of living, I do not want to go into the details of the question as to whether the present scale of separation allowances is adequate or not. It always seemed to me that, in order to settle that question, you would require to sit around a table and argue it out, and that it is not a subject you can very easily argue in the House. Let me deal for a moment with the matter from the general point of view. Flat rates are sufficient in some places and for some classes, but they are not sufficient in every place to maintain the pre-war standard of living. Curiously enough, the price of food seems to differ in different places. It is of course intended to meet that difficulty, and to a large extent it is met by supplementary allowances. Some people, I think, do not know how much can be done by those allowances. Take the new Regulation which enables local committees to make grants in respect of contractual liabilities up to 12s. per week. That has not come really into full effect, and I am quite certain a great many people never would have thought of applying to the Special Grants Committee who are now applying to the local committees and are getting help in consequence. But, unfortunately, these supplementary allowances are hedged round by over-elaborate and some-what complicated regulations, and I think more might have been done on the part of the people administering them. I do ask the Government whether they could not try to make it possible to remedy the inequality which must arise in connection with the flat rate by making the procedure more simple and by instructions to the committees. The Ministry of Pensions, instead of trying to establish bureaucratic central control, ought to try to help the local committees, to instruct them, and to assist them in every way, and thus endeavour to remedy these in-equalities which are bound to arise when you have to deal with a flat-rate system. I hope that the Government will take into consideration the criticisms which have been offered to-day.
§ Mr. SUTTON
My right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty has delivered a very glowing speech about what was paid at the commencement of the War and what is being paid to-day. It is perfectly true that great improvements have been made, and increases given but to my mind those increases are not sufficiently large. Take the case of the flat rate for the wife of 12s. 6d. My right hon. Friend said that the Government allowed 9s. at the commencement of the War, and that the husband contributed 3s. 6d. Now, the Government are allowing the full 12s. 6d. It is true there is the increase of 3s. 6d. on the 9s. from the Government, but remember that is in four years, and that is nothing in comparison with the increased price of commodities which has occurred, at least during the past three years. The husband may be 3s. 6d. better off, but you have to remember that many of these men have to purchase articles where they are stationed, and these articles, during the first two or three years, have increased for them as well. Even food. I have heard soldiers say that many times they have had to go to the Y.M.C.A.s and other places and purchase a certain amount of food, because, perhaps, they might not have been able to get sufficient, and so had to spend a certain amount of money. Therefore, if that 3s. 6d. has been sacrificed to themselves. I believe they have had to pay extra on the tobacco and food which they have had to purchase. To my mind, the 3s. 6d. allowed at the present time to the wife is not sufficient. Twelve and six-pence! I stated in the House some little time ago that it was said that these people could get a certain amount from the Civil Liabilities Committee; that in thousands of cases these people have been unable to keep their homes on by means of the 12s. 6d. which they have received; and they have had to go into lodgings, either with their parents or with someone they have known. The result is that the civil liabilities people and the local pensions committee have come to the conclusion that these people ought to exist on the 12s. 6d., seeing that they have not now a house of their own. But, if these people had been able to get a reasonable separation allowance, there would have been no need for them to have broken up their homes at all. Therefore, I contend that more than 12s. 6d. ought to be paid. While I am mentioning that, may I say, 1679 as a member of the executive committee of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, that only this week we have been pressing the Chancellor of the Exchequer to meet the executive committee on this question of separation allowances and pensions for widows and for wives and also for children. The Chancellor of the Exchequer thought that the statement that he had made by these figures was quite sufficient, and that there was no reason for meeting the Executive Committee of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. We have decided again this week to press him to meet us because, at the annual conference at Southport, a resolution was passed asking the Government to increase the separation allowances to the wives beyond 12s. 6d., for an increase for the children, and for widows and orphans as well, when the husband had been killed. The Trade Unionists of this country feel very very strongly indeed on this matter. I contend that instead of 12s. 6d. being paid, even to the wife who has children and is going to get an increase for those children, that she herself ought to have more than that, although she is going to get an increase—a very small increase to my mind—for any children she may have.
With reference to the childless wife, there you have the 12s. 6d. Many hon. Members have spoken about the additional 6s. 6d. if the wife is unable to work. I have had complaints, and I suppose other hon. Members have had complaints about people who go round visiting these women and who, when they have got into the house and have seen perhaps a nice, comfortable home, clean, have said, "It looks as if you were not needing very much now." But, if they had seen a house which was really not so clean and tidy, then perhaps the visitors would not have twitted them with looking respectable, or something like that. Complaints have been made many times, and I unhesitatingly say that instead of putting in this condition, "If unable to work," that these people ought to have a right to the additional 6s. 6d. beyond their 12s. 6d. The husband is unable to send any additional money because he has to pay extra for commodities, and the Government ought to be reasonable and to add this additional 6s. 6d. without the conditions as to whether the wife is unable to work or not. What do we find? There are many many women, childless wives of 1680 soldiers, who have been unable to work, and who have had to turn out to work on purpose to augment the paltry 12s. 6d. which is supplied them. Many of them have broken down, and many of them have applied, after breaking down, to the local pensions committee and have been refused assistance, because they have been told that they ought to continue work. Many of these women are under doctors; they have not been accustomed to working in the past; and their health has given way. Yet, because they may have worked at one time, perhaps six or twelve months ago, it will be said now, "You are able to work again, and you are not to have the additional 6s. 6d." My contention is that the 6s. 6d. ought to be paid them as a right, and that this condition ought to be excluded altogether.
Take the minimum separation allowance for unmarried soldiers and sailors. A friend of mine, unfortunately, has just lost a lad. He was an apprentice. When he enlisted, early on in the War, he contributed 3s. 6d. to his parents, and the Government added 1s. 5d. to that 2s. 6d. Unfortunately, that lad has now been killed, and about three or four weeks ago the Government offered 3s. 6d. a week for a pension. The man came to see me—he is a man I have known for twenty odd years—and he has put in an appeal for more than 3s. 6d. I take it now that what he will get will be 5s. I signed his paper as a magistrate for the 3s. 6d. only last Monday evening, because he was told to accept that until the matter had been further considered. I contend that as the pension, when anything happens to a person, depends on the separation allowance, and that as this case, like tens of thousands of others, happened at the commencement of the War, when no perspective value had been taken into account for the unmarried soldier or sailor, that something more than the minimum pension of the minimum separation allowance of 5s. a week to dependants ought to be granted to these people. What is 5s. a week in these days? One hardly knows what to say about it. Therefore. I trust the Government will consider the advisability of increasing that 5s. to something like a reasonable figure, because, even if it were increased to 10s., it would not be worth much more than 5s. was a few-years ago. These people have made great sacrifices, and tens of thousands have been receiving nothing at all who ought to have been having something. A 1681 large number of boys paid their parents out of their wages, and when the boys enlisted the parents did not apply for any separation allowance. Thousands of these lads have since been killed, and the parents have made great sacrifices, but the Government has not contributed anything towards the parents during the last three or four years. I hope something will be done in this direction. I will not say much more, with the exception of this: The matter has gone on now for a long time; those of us especially who live in working-class districts are simply pulled out of the house by people constantly coming to us and pleading poverty on account of the small allowance made to them, either in separation allowances or in pensions. Therefore, I appeal to the Government, as this may be the last time that we shall be able to appeal to them on this question of separation allowances, after the good news that we have heard this afternoon, and if the news that we are expecting to hear before very long with reference to Germany comes. I do hope that this will be the last appeal, and that the Government will be manful enough to give decent separation allowances and pensions to those who need them in future.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
In dealing with this question we ought never to lose sight of the broad distinction which exists between our fighting men on the one hand and the men who live in safety at home and draw large wages—larger than they have ever drawn before—on the other. Let us remember that these men who live at home can themselves bring forward their own grievances and complaints; they can urge them and enforce them. They can agitate for an increase of wages, and so on; they can organise for an increase of wages, and they can, and sometimes—I fear too often—strike in order to enforce their demands. As for the fighting man, he does not strike, except strike the enemy. He cannot organise and agitate, and therefore we, as Members of this House, are bound to regard ourselves as trustees for him, and to see that whatever is right and reasonable and just is done. There is another point of vew from which we should look on these fighting men. Let us not forget, what I think sometimes people who live in safety at home are a little bit inclined to forget, what we owe them. But for these men on land and sea and in the air this country to-day would have been destroyed and ruined. Most of 1682 us, I dare say, would have lost, possibly our lives, certainly our freedom, and certainly the freedom of our country would have been lost for all time. That should not be forgotten, and to-day, when we see victory in sight, when we have heard the news that has been announced this afternoon, and look forward to that which may be announced within a short time, is it not an additional reason why we should remember the claims of these men, and that we should err, if we do err, on the side of generosity to these men to whom we owe everything by which we live and exist in this country?
I am not going to repeat those arguments which have been used on both sides of the House this afternoon. There are, however, one or two special points to which I wish to draw attention very shortly. The first point is one which I think the Financial Secretary to the War Office would have to deal. It is the question of deductions which are made from the soldiers' allowances when they go into convalescent homes. I have to-day received a letter from the York Branch of the National Federation of Discharged Soldiers and Sailors drawing attention to this point. They tell me that when a man is sent for convalescent treatment at Harrogate, 17s. 6d. is deducted from his allowance of 27s. 6d., for the reason that there is no hostel or convalescent home at Harrogate. They have to go into private billets, and, under these circumstances, instead of having 7s. deducted from their 27s. 6d., as would be the case if there were some hostel into which they could be received, they have 17s. 6d. deducted. If the facts are, as I am informed they are, I hope my right hon. Friend will see that this is put right.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
What my hon. and learned Friend is referring to is the man's pension. He is quoting the case of a discharged soldier. I am afraid I have nothing to do with that.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I hope there is someone here who has something to do with it. Perhaps my hon. Friend, who represents the Pensions Ministry in this House will bear it in mind, for if the facts are as I have stated, it appears to me to be a grave injustice, and one which ought to be remedied, and the remedy ought to be made retrospective. The mere fact that there is not a hostel in this particular place into which a man can be received 1683 surely ought not to prejudice the position of the soldier who is entitled to this convalescent treatment. Therefore, I do urge my hon. Friend to look into that and see it is put right. There is another point to which I wish to refer, and this may possibly be a matter for the President of the Local Government Board, but as he is not here to-day, I hope that one or other of my hon. Friends sitting on those benches will bring the matter before his notice. It is the matter of pre-enlistment income. In the case of grants made by the Civil Liabilities Department, as also in the case of allowances made by the local pensions committee, the maximum amount that can be granted, at any rate in many cases, if not in all cases, depends upon the amount of pre-enlistment income of the soldier. Now the strange thing is that in the case of the local war pensions committee grants, they estimate the pre-enlistment income on the basis of what it would have been on the 1st January, 1918, that is to say, upon a very much larger estimate than if they had estimated the actual pre-enlistment income when the soldier enlisted, say in 1914, 1915, or 1916, and so on; but in the case of grants made by the Civil Liabilities Department, as I understand it—and I am so informed by one of the Commissioners—the amount of the grant which they can give is limited by the consideration of the man's actual pre-enlistment income, in other words, the income which he had in 1914 or 1915, or the date at which he enlisted, which would be far smaller than it would have been in January, 1918. This is, to my mind, a grave injustice to the soldier. If anyone ought to be favoured, the man who en- listed in 1914 or 1915 ought to be in a better position than the man who enlisted in 1918, but, so far from that being so, the fact that he came forward voluntarily long before he was compelled to come forward, gravely prejudices his position, and makes the amount of grant given to his wife or dependants considerably less than it would have been if he had abstained from early enlistment, and had enlisted at a later date. I trust that one of my hon. Friends will convey that to the President of the Local Government Board. I have not the slightest doubt that if this matter comes to the War Cabinet—and I am glad to see a member of the War Cabinet here—they will be able to exercise their authority over the Treasury, or whoever is for the moment the obstructing body, and see that this is put right.
1684 There is another point in connection with these grants which are made by the Civil Liabilities Department to which I should like to draw attention. I have been informed that it would be far better if these grants were made weekly or fort-nightly by means of a paper, just as allowances are made. Many of these poor people cannot afford to wait a considerable time, and it is really a matter for consideration whether it would not be consistent with economy and efficient administration if these grants are made either weekly or fortnightly, as the case may be. There is one other point, and it is this: in my own experience—and I am sure it is shared by many other Members of this House—a very large number of these poor women—wives, widows and dependants—really do not know what their rights are, especially in regard to the supplemental allowances. I have received myself scores of letters in which they appear to be under the impression that all they are entitled to is what you may call the flat rate. They know nothing about special grants—or did not, at any rate, until recently—which they can get from the Civil Liabilities or the further grants which they can get from other sources. Would it not be possible to give some more publicity, so that they may know their rights better? I am told that in some cases a sort of notice is put up in the back of the post office, or in some place where you can, of course, read it if you look for it, but in a place where, I undertake to say, ninety-nine out of every 100 women would never dream of looking for it. Would it not be possible to ensure that such publicity is given as would secure that they shall know, not the full details of the rights they have as regards supplemental allowances, but that there are such things, and then they could go to their local pension committee and find out exactly the extent of their rights? I think that is really worth doing. It ought not to be an expensive operation, and it certainly would be a substantial relief to women who are, we all know, very hard pressed at the present moment owing to the absence of the wage-earners. Those are the main points, which I do not think have been touched upon, which I should like to bring to the attention of the proper authority, and I trust my hon. Friends will see that, if they do not fall within their own particular province, that they are brought to the attention of the proper authority.
§ Mr. WILKIE
I have not troubled the House very much of late, being very much engaged in the war—the industrial war—and on this occasion I should like to say a few words on the question which we have been discussing this afternoon, even if I have to repeat some of The arguments that have been used. At the end of 1914 the representatives of the then Government came to some of us and asked us to go over the different counties for volunteers. I addressed scores, if not hundreds, of meetings. We# asked those representatives of the then Government whether, if we advised men to volunteer for the Army, we could tell them that they and their dependants would be properly attended to, and that there would not be a repetition of what happened in the late wars of our country, when some of our maimed soldiers had nothing left for them but the poor-house and the unemployed list. We were assured that everything would be done for those who volunteered and for their dependants. I am continually getting correspondence that that pledge has not been carried out by the Government. This afternoon it has been proved conclusively that pledges have not been carried out, and, therefore, I was very sorry that my esteemed Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, with his usual ability, could not give us something more than he did, and I hope that one of my colleagues from the North will be able to give us a little more.
I have been inundated lately with resolutions and letters innumerable all about adequate provision for the widows and orphans of the men who have sacrificed their lives for us and the country. So strong has been the feeling amongst the women of the North that they have not only sent letters, but the other week they sent a living epistle in the shape of a very strong deputation of women from the North, and especially from Dundee and further North, who complained most bitterly of the treatment that they had received. The supplemental allowances are not only unsatisfactory, but as administered are worse than they might have been. Certain local war pensions committees do not meet the people's requests with any sympathy. We think there ought to be more sympathy, and that these cases should be dealt with with more humanity than the mere haggling of the market which is going on. I have been before the Committee on Production, and I believe if I had been appealing to them to-day 1686 they would have given us a far better reply than we have had from the Government, although we generally complain of what they give us. On that occasion it was proved, after inquiry, that what cost £100 in the way of the household requirements of a working man in pre-war days, is now costing from £200 to £500. As has already been stated in the Debate, not only have prices gone up, but the quality of food, particularly, has deteriorated very much, and we are not giving the human machine that sustenance that is required to carry out its work. Some of our people have been working for month after month 90 and 100 hours a week, and they are breaking down. This necessitates their coming upon our sick funds. It is at the request of the Government that they are trying to do this hard and extra work. We hear a lot about the different rates, but it seems to me that there should be some simpler method adopted.
When you are dealing with claims from other people there is never the same difficulty put up in this House as when you are dealing with the case of the workman. The widows and children of the men who have fallen should be put on the same basis as allowed for the dependants of those who are serving now. It is something beyond all common sense that if, at our request and for our sakes the lives of soldiers have been given, that their widows and children should be treated in the way they are. It is not incongruous, I hope, to suppose that the Front Bench should see that this state of things is remedied. My anxiety is, the unrest being so great and the feeling amongst certain working-class families so strong, that unless you meet this matter in not only a just but a generous spirit, there will be greater trouble. I do not think it is fair that we should allow this state of things to go on. Of course, I quite know the difficulties on the part of the Government. I have not had long years' experience of administration of a great trade union not to know the difficulties of administration. Still, I say our Government Front Benches are put there for the very purpose of getting over these difficulties; of meeting the position in which we are placed. We pay them for that very purpose. For a long time we have been in a very perilous position. I trust we shall have news to-day that it is intended to get away from that perilous position—to get us back to something like the normal. 1687 Everywhere matters are strained; and in our trade union meetings one does not get the same consideration as one used to get in view of all the difficulties and possibilities of the situation.
Take the question of the allowance for the children. Those of us who have had to administer the funds on this restricted basis are somewhat surprised that there should be this differentiation of 10s. 6d. for the first child (for, I suppose, that is what it is going to be at the beginning of next year), and 5s. 9d. for the sixth child. That is reversing entirely the procedure of some Continental countries. My idea of the Government is that they should rather encourage large families. It is the families of the future, the children now, that are going to make our country again. Instead of this reduction of income it ought to be the other way about, as we understand is the case in certain other countries where they give a bounty for large families. This—large families—will be the safety of the country in the future. I trust, for the safety of the country and justice for all concerned, that we shall entirely wipe away this differentiation, and that there will be given to us a far simpler thing to be calculated by the workers as well as by accountants. The great difficulty, I think, is that the promises given have not been fulfilled. I do plead with the Government to see that these promises are fulfilled fairly and even generously under present circumstances. I trust we shall soon get back to giving the workers better food and less of these terribly long hours. That will be good for the nation. As the Prime Minister said the other day: "You cannot build up an A1 Empire with a C3 population." There would appear to be much need for the Ministry of Health. There should be sufficient money for the widows and children so that the latter may be brought up healthily, for in this lies the safety of our country. I have supported the Government in every one of their measures to see the War through, and I want to make a request to them to fulfil the pledges I have made on their behalf and in their name, and to see that they are generously fulfilled. The Financial Secretary to the Admiralty to-day paid a tribute to our men and to our lads who have gone to France. Nothing that we can do, nothing the country can do is too much by way of repayment to them and their dependants. As has been 1688 well said, "Do for them whatever you may, you cannot do too much"—and this for the credit of our land!
§ Mr. ROWLANDS
Before the Debate is ended there will be, I think, the expectation that something more will come from the Front Bench than so far has come from the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has quite caught the spirit of the Debate. Of course, we all give him credit for feeling like the rest of us in this matter, and for having a deep interest in the people for whom we are pleading. Still, I do not think he has quite caught the spirit of the Debate, for we believe at the present time, whilst there is an advance, it is inadequate to meet the requirements of those concerned. Just take one point. Here we are at the end of October, considering a scheme, which has only been in force a month. I quite appreciate the smile of the Financial Secretary when I put the matter that way. It is extraordinary, but what does the scheme suggest? It suggests a want of prescience on the part of the Ministry in not seeing that their scheme, put forward in the Recess, would meet the requirements for a longer period than a month. I most sincerely trust that we shall have something from the Ministry of a better character than the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. There has been some amount of confusion in the minds of some hon. Gentlemen, and some of the remarks show a want of information. There are some hon. Members who have spoken who are not perhaps so conversant with its work as I am, seeing I am a member of the Civil Liabilities Committee. The hon. Member for South Paddington spoke of the extra power of giving money which the local pensions committee now have. I quite agree they have it, but it is not a new amount of money they are giving. They have not been given a power which enables them to augment the allowances existing previously. It is simply a transference of the smaller sums that used to be granted by the Civil Liabilities Committee for purposes, which I will explain in a minute, to the local pensions committee.
§ Sir H. HARRIS
I did not question that. My point was that a great many people go to the local committee who would not have thought of going to the Civil Liabilities Committee, a rather alarming body.
§ Mr. ROWLANDS
I am very pleased to hear it, but it hardly bears out my idea 1689 of the principle which hon. Members will see when the Report comes out, or of those who have been on the Civil Liabilities Committee. I quite agree that many have advertised themselves, and it has been found out where the Civil Liabilities Committee was. One of the strongest reasons for the transference of which I have spoken was to meet the point put forward by the hon. Baronet the Member for York, who asked for it to be dealt with. It has been dealt with. I want to give the Local Government Board full credit for that. When these cases were dealt with previously by the Civil Liabilities Committee those concerned were, with the rest of the larger cases, paid once a quarter. It was felt that in respect of the smaller sums, say, those that had been fixed at 12s. weekly, that there was a demand—and we knew that, for we had practical experience in Committee—from those recipients to have their money more frequently than once a quarter. Very many cases came up where there was a large quarterly life assurance that we paid for the person concerned. This was a quarterly demand. A cheque from the Civil Liabilities Committee meets that all right. But where you had cases of people who had to meet a weekly rental, the difficulty was quite different. Unless they came to terms with their landlords to accept the rent when they received their remittance, there was very grave difficulty indeed. For that reason the whole of the smaller cases up to 12s. per week were transferred from the Civil Liabilities Committee to the local pensions committee, so that they can be more easily met. First of all, the smaller cases can be met and inquired into more thoroughly by the local pensions committee, who are conversant with circumstances of the localities; also when the payments are made weekly instead of quarterly it meets the requirements of the recipients very much better. This point needed to be cleared up.
In regard to what has been done by the Civil Liabilities Committee as a whole, the Members of the House, I believe, will be, before long, in possession of some information. Perhaps then some criticism will come that more money has been spent by that Committee than they like to think of. It quite reaches the figure quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary, and I think I can inform hon. Members that it will go on. There was one other case put by the hon. and 1690 learned Member for York—and it is as-well to clear these things up, because some of them came before the Committee in the earlier days. Take the rate of salary or wages paid in those days. Since then, however, wages have gone up, and I know that, certainly two of my colleagues sitting in this House and myself, have given consideration to the rise in, wages, and if there was a case brought before us at one of the panels where the man had enlisted some considerable time ago, and had not then put in a claim but only recently had awakened to the fact that he was entitled to apply, we have given due and full consideration not to the wage he was getting at the beginning, but to the relevant wage he would have been receiving at the present time, and any allowance was framed on that basis. Where, of course, the Committee are bound by certain regulations laid down, we cannot get outside them.
Before I conclude let me say that I do hope the Government will be able to say something about the apprentices, for whom I would plead, and for whom I did plead before there was any allowance whatever given. We are glad to think an allowance is now made of 5s. per week to the dependants. But I know of an enormous number of cases where in connection with the skilled trades great sacrifices have been made by the parents to keep their boys at these trades, knowing that in the course of a few years they would be in the position of earning good wages, and that they would be a source of benefit to their parents. The parents were making an immediate sacrifice for the boy's interest, and, in view of his subsequent life, and also on account of some benefit that might accure to them when the boy came out of his apprenticeship. I do think that 5s. a week is a totally inadequate sum to meet cases like this. I have in my mind the case of a widow. She had several sons. They are all in the Army. The older ones are married, and, naturally, their allowance goes to their wives. In these cases she is entitled, I think, to some more consideration than she gets, when you consider that her son was just out of his apprenticeship, that he was a skilled artisan, and that he was really keeping her and maintaining the home after the father died. I trust that some further consideration will be given to these cases. One point more. Let us sweep away the 1691 anomaly with regard to the childless wife. Make your flat case undoubted for all cases where the woman cannot do any work at all. Take only one standard, if you are going to make any allowance, and that is the standard of physical incapacity. Do not make qualifications. Those you are making now are an insult to the industrious and thrifty woman. You say certain people cannot have this increase because they are industrious and work; while certain others whom you assume never have worked, and it may be do not want to work, can have the 6s. 6d. Yet the industrious sister who goes out to work has to put up with all the inconveniences attending her work. I trust that that case will be met. We are on the eve now, as we hope, of brighter and better times. The news which we have had leads us to look forward with some satisfaction. This may be the last time the Government will be called upon to revise the allowances which have been revised so many times, and I hope that they will deal with the claims now made with generosity to those now fighting. If we have not dealt so well with those in the early days of the War—in 1914 volunteered—who we remember marching through the streets on their way to the Front, who readily left their occupations when asked to do so by the country, who were volunteers and not conscripts, I say, if we did not deal with them as fairly as we should have done, let us get rid of that slur with regard to the men now in the Navy and the Army, and at any rate deal generously by them.
The speeches which have been made this afternoon in the House must have convinced the Ministers on the Government Bench what a widespread feeling there is with regard to the anomalies in the scale recently announced. It is an easy matter on the eve of an election to allow a Debate of this kind to degenerate into a kind of Debate which any man who has any feeling of responsibility would deeply deplore. But I think it must be apparent to the House that when the Chairman of the War Pensions Committee in the House and the Secretary of the War Pensions Committee—both of them men who by their action in the past have showed their great desire to avoid the question of pensions being exploited for party or electioneering purposes—when they combine 1692 with others from every part of the House in pressing on the Government one or two anomalies which can be removed, and ought, in my opinion, to be removed, it must, I say, be apparent to my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes), who I believe is going to speak very shortly, and to his colleagues, that it is something a good deal more than merely wishing to voice the opinion of constituents, to whom an appeal will be made at an early date. I therefore trust we shall keep this discussion as it has been maintained up to the present at a high level.
The feeling which has been aroused with regard to the scales issued recently is by no means new. There have been many changes made since the War began. They have all been changes for the better. My right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty laid great stress on it, as he was quite entitled to do, but it is doubtful whether the great advances which have been made have kept pace with the increased cost of living. To press the increased cost of living as a reason for increased remuneration may not be fair in every case. Indeed, one can imagine a good many cases where pensions may be granted in which that claim plays a comparatively insignificant part. But in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the increased cost means the difference between good and bad living. The people in ninety-nine per cent. of the cases are living on a very small margin, and any slight increase in the cost of living affects them far more than it does those in a better industrial or social class. The case, therefore, for increased allowances, as they have been raised first of all in 1914, then in 1915, then in 1917, and once this year, has been fully justified on the increased cost of the necessaries of life. That is the justification for making the total very much greater than it has been, and far more than any of us anticipated when the first Ministerial Committee sat on the subject of pensions.
But that is not the whole case. The problem that arises in all these pension cases is that you have the recipients living alongside each other. They are in adjoining houses. They buy their goods at the same co-operative stores or shops. Their children go to the same school. They get their clothes from the same clothier. They get their boots at an ever increasing cost from the same bootmaker, 1693 and when the amount available for one woman is much less than that which is available for another, each having the same number of children to look after, it is little wonder that we, every one of us, get from our constituents by scores, and in some cases by hundreds, letters protesting against inequalities which the Parliamentary Secretary deplores as much as we do. My right hon. Friend says there must be anomalies under any scheme. May I suggest one, however, which has not yet been justified by the Government. It has been referred to again and again this evening, and I hold that the House is entitled to some explanation of it. It is the case of the wife with three children and the widow with three children. I understand that my right hon. Friend when he spoke did not give a full justification for this anomaly. What is it?
I have looked up the table published in the OFFICIAL REPORT on 17th October, and I find that the wife with three children will be entitled on the first day of January to 36s. 6d., whereas the widow with three children will only be entitled to 29s. 7d. Let us see what happens in their case. The two women are living side by side, one still has her husband, she hopes he will return when the War is over. She gets 36s. 6d. with which to keep her family and home together. The widow next door, with no prospect of a returning husband, and who, if she be at all provident, is probably paying something into her club, co-operative or friendly society, gets only 29s. 7d. with which she has to keep, feed, clothe and educate her three children and maintain her home. It is a problem, and I doubt whether it is one which can be solved with success. In any case, one woman has six shillings more than the other, and you cannot justify the difference to them. The cases put to me from my own constituency are exactly of that description. Mrs. Smith writes to tell me that Mrs. Robinson next door, who has not been deprived of her husband is actually given by the State 6s. more than she herself receives. What justification can the right hon. Gentleman give for that? I have heard all sorts of excuses given. One is that 29s. 7d. is to be more or less a permanent charge, while the 36s. 6d. will pass away in course of time. That can be no justification to the widow. She has less prospect than the wife. I can understand it is a perfectly good Treasury point put by one of the ablest Permanent 1694 Secretaries to the Treasury that we have. But we ought to adopt a more humane view than is adopted by the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, and I would urge my right hon. Friend, with his great influence in Government circles—he sits in the Inner Cabinet, which can override the Treasury—I would urge upon him to point out to his colleagues the feeling in every part of the House that it is impossible to justify the difference in the allowances made to the widow with three children and the wife with three children. I put that case because it is one which has cropped up very often, and it appeals to every one of us. I will not go through the other cases which have been mentioned this evening, but I want to say one word on the question of date.
As has been pointed out by many Members of the House, the justification for increasing the scale is based on the increased cost of living. If it was almost impossible for a woman to keep her house together and to maintain her children in good health and sufficiently nourished to withstand epidemics, such as we are passing through now, because of the high cost of living when the scale was adopted, it certainly is no justification for postponing the scale until the 1st of January. If the woman is now finding it impossible to make both ends meet, she is having to borrow here or there, to buy "on tick," as they say in the North, or to pawn, and she is getting more and more into difficulties, and, as the months go by, the trouble hanging round her neck is becoming intensified. The justification again for this is, I have no doubt, a purely Treasury one. I speak as an old Secretary to the Treasury. I do not like to see the national money flowing too freely through our fingers. But in this matter we are showing a degree of economy almost of parsimony which has not been shown in a good many other cases. There is not the least doubt about it that the trouble which will arise owing to this sort of economy is going to be very widespread throughout the whole country, and my main reason for rising now is to press on my right hon. Friend not to dismiss as merely superficial feeling or as formal protests the cases put forward this afternoon. We all of us are likely to be met with very strong social movements in various parts of the country immediately peace has been declared. We are just on the verge of going into an election where, with all the temptation that comes 1695 from electioneering, we may find great waves of feeling may secure for unscrupulous candidates a success which they do not deserve. If that be the prospect, let the Government do this. Let them wipe out now, before the election, the anomalies which exist. Let them get rid of the demand, that the new scale should come into force at once before the election is over. Let them start with a clean sheet so that men of all parties may say with regard to the discussion which has taken place to-day, that after a general expression of opinion, we have arrived at a more or less general agreement. If they do that they will do more to purify the contest into which we are now entering than by any other administrative scheme.
§ Mr. BARNES (War Cabinet)
In the first place I would like to say how heartily I associate myself with my right hon. Friend who has just sat down as to the high level of the appeal that has been made to us on these benches this afternoon. I have listened to a good many speeches, and there is no disguising the fact that what has been said has come from the heart of the speakers, and I can say on behalf of my colleagues that we have been moved by those speeches, and they will receive every consideration. Let me take the points which have been raised in order. First of all there is the childless wife. If is not the strongest by any means of the arguments which have been used to-day, and it is not the strongest case that has been put up against us. Nevertheless, I will take it as it is. There are altogether about 400,000 childless wives, and I think I am right in saying about 390,000 of them have been married during the War. The bulk of them, probably 99 per cent., have never set up any home and have never lived with their husbands beyond a week or two or a month or two, and therefore from a purely compassionate point of view it is not a strong case. May I point out that ninety-nine out of every 100 of them are at work, and are therefore getting 12s. 6d. a week plus their wages, which may be said to amount to about £2 a week. All our public offices are full of childless wives with 12s. 6d. per week plus their wages. I know the difficulty. It would be said that you are paying 12s. 6d. which is not sufficient to keep them, but it is sufficient to enable them to work for less than a standard rate of wages. Even that does not apply to the childless wife, because she is in a position to demand a 1696 standard rate of wages and she gets it, so that the childless woman as regards 99 per cent. of them is doing fairly well. I know there are exceptional cases which require an alteration in the scale and to which objection has been raised, but although a good many objections have been raised, I have not heard a single suggestion by which the arrangement made could be better.
§ Mr. BARNES
The only suggestion which has been made in the nature of what is alleged to be an improvement in the arrangement was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Rowlands) who suggested that it would be simpler to say that every woman who was-physically incapable should get 6s. 6d. Look where that would carry us. The woman who was not physically incapable but who might be 20 miles away from any work would not get the 6s. 6d. I can assure hon. Members that we really have in our minds giving that 6s. 6d. instead of the 4s. which has been previously given, and not merely to give part of it as the 4s. which has been given at the discretion of a local committee, but to give it as an additional flat rate supplement, and all that has to be done by any woman who applies is to show either that she is not working because she has been unaccustomed to work. By working I do not mean that she might be working at home, and therefore deprive herself of this assistance. Not at all. What we have in mind is that she is not earning, and if she is not earning or is in the region where she cannot earn or has been unaccustomed to earn in the most generous interpretation of the phrase—if she can show one of these conditions she can claim from the pensions committee as a right 6s. 6d., in addition to the 12s. 6d.
§ Mr. BARNES
I do not know what is the matter with the Circular which says that this case shall be treated on a flat rate, and if the applicant is earning or in the opinion of the local committee is able to earn. That does not mean working at home, and it simply means the woman shall not be earning wages, and if she is 1697 not she is entitled not only to a part of the 6s. 6d. but to the whole of it. With all due deference to those who have pleaded the cause of the childless wife, I can hold out no hope of any revisions so far as that case is concerned.
§ Mr. BARNES
I do not think the committee would be justified in doing that. We want to make it clear, and I have sufficient confidence in the local committees to believe that they are going to give a generous interpretation of this provision if they get a lead from this House. Let me say that I believe these local committees form one of the best bits of machinery created during the War. For my part I am sorry to believe that the Pensions Department is going more or less in the direction of substituting bureaucratic control for local control. I am afraid things tend in that direction without anybody intending that they should, and for my part the more I have to do with bureaucracy the less I like it. The next point which was made by my right hon. Friend opposite was in regard to the date. I was sorry to hear him declaiming against the Treasury in that direction, for I can assure him that the Treasury have had nothing at all to do with it. I think there is a good deal of justice about the proposal as we have made it. I have had compiled some figures with a view to ascertaining the cost of living, as from the last revision of the scale which took place in July. What are the facts? Unfortunately, there are different bases upon which to calculate the increased cost of living, and, as a matter of fact, there are four distinctly separate bases. There is the increase in regard to certain selected articles of food, the increased cost based upon current dietary, the increased cost of selected articles of food, and then, in addition, clothing and rent. There is also the increased cost of living, reckoning the current dietary and the cost of rent and food. Therefore, there are four separate bases, and I take the one which I think is the fairest, and that is the actual increased cost of living on the current dietary and standard of living generally, and this shows that 13 per cent. is the increased cost as between last July and this month.
1698 What are the increases in the scale which is now before the House? If you take the woman with one child in July last, and then compare that with the new scale coming into operation on the 1st January next, you get an increase for that woman of 19 per cent. If you take the woman with two children you get an increase of 26 per cent.; a woman with three children 29 per cent., and with four children you get an increase of 30 per cent. That is, taking the family as one unit, and comparing the scale not in operation now, but which was in operation up to July last and up to the past few weeks. If you compare that with the scale on the 1st January, my right hon. Friend can see that we have allowed a considerable amount towards the increased cost of living betwen now and the end of the year. That at all events is the justification, and it is an explanation from one point of view of the adoption of the 1st January as the date. But that was not the reason why we fixed upon the 1st January, and we should like to have made it earlier. We were told by all those who were mostly concerned that administratively it was impossible to carry it out before the 1st January, because millions of forms had to be printed and other arrangements had to be made and therefore they could not possibly bring it into operation before the first of next year. Having ascertained that we could not bring it into operation before 1st January, we made up our minds that we should anticipate the increased cost of living that would take place before that date, and that does a good deal to justify the date standing as it is. All the Members on the Treasury bench, and indeed, in every part of the House, are sincerely desirous of bringing it into operation, or, at all events, making the payments come into operation as speedily as possible, but it cannot be done because it is administratively impossible to make the payment until the beginning of next year.
I think, however, I can say, without holding out any undue expectations or giving anybody away, that what has been said this afternoon by pretty nearly every speaker who has taken part in the Debate from all sides of the House will be put, I am sure, by myself and my colleagues to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as soon as we get him back again, and inasmuch as he always gives the most sympathetic consideration to these matters, it is quite possible that he may arrange, althougn 1699 the arrangement cannot be made until the beginning of the year, that it might then be made retrospective and we shall endeavour to persuade him to take that course in reply to the many representations which have been made, and thereby enable these poor women who have suffered so much for us to get a Christmas box and a good start for the New Year. Let us take the scale on the whole. I want to take it from the point of view put by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald), namely, the State's liability and what the State has been doing as from the beginning of the War. The scale became operative on 1st November, 1914—that is, four years to-morrow. The wife with one child got 15s. per week, and, as has already been pointed out, 3s. 6d. of that was paid by the man himself, the State paying 11s. 6d. The sum payable under this scale, when it begins to operate, is 23s., which is an increase of 55 per cent. Obviously, it may be argued that it is not as much as the increase in the cost of living. But what is the increased cost of living? All sorts of statements have been made. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) took some figures and showed the increased cost of living to be 119 per cent.
§ Mr. BARNES
Knocking something off for rent, it came to 110 per cent. I have had official figures supplied to me based upon tour different calculations. First, the increase in the cost of selected articles comes to 129 per cent., but if you take the actual dietary it is only 89 per cent. Taking it on the total, including rent, clothing, etc., it is 120, and if you take it on the actual dietary, including rent and clothing, it is 95 per cent. It may be said that 55 per cent. is considerably below any one of those figures, and that is quite true.
§ Mr. BARNES
From July, 1914, to October, 1918. If you compare one scale with another, you get this result. The woman with on? child in 1914 got 15s. per week. The soldier at that time got 7s. per week, and 3s. 6d. of it had to be paid to his wife. Adding the balance of 3s. 6d., you get 18s. 6d. as the total paid by the State. To-day the State has not only shouldered 1700 the responsibility for the allotment, but, in addition, has increased the soldier's pay by 6d. per day, and if you take the family as the unit you get these results. The woman with one child now gets altogether 23s. If you add to that 10s. 6d. soldier's pay, the increase is from 18s. 6d. to 33s. 6d., which is 82 per cent. If you take the total liability of the State for the woman with two children, you get 97½ per cent. If you take the woman with three children, you get 100 per Cent., and if you take the woman with four children you also get exactly 100 per cent. That deals only with the Army. If you deal with the Navy, the percentages are considerably higher. I merely mention that to show that we have honestly tried to keep pace with the increased cost of living. With the exception of the revision of the scale in July which was overdue, I think, on the whole, that the revisions that have been made have fairly well kept pace with the increased cost of living. It has been said that workmen have got increases in wages, and special reference was made to the railwaymen, whose pay, with the addition given a little time ago, has been increased 120 per cent. on the pre-war standard. I wish, with all my heart, that we could! make the soldiers' wives and dependants and the soldiers themselves, who have done-so much for us, at least as well off as any of these people who have stayed at home and had fairly soft jobs, but we have to get all these things from the Treasury, and the Treasury looks very closely at them. I do not think anybody has demanded that we should go beyond the increased cost of living, and I submit that we have fairly well met the increased cost of living in the revised scale now under discussion, and I mean the increased cost of living at the beginning of next year.
We have the utmost sympathy with the suggestions that have been made that the woman who has a hard struggle at the present time and who may have got into debt in order to keep the wolf from the door shall have a little additional money at Christmas in order to wipe off that debt. I say, again, that we should put that forward with all the emphasis that we can. I am reminded of the case of the widow with three children as compared with the wife with three children. I would ask hon. Members to remember that we are now dealing with a scale that has just been revised. The pensions scale may also be revised, or, if it is not revised, some 1701 steps may be taken, in fact, I think I am in a position to say, some steps will be taken more appropriate to the position there, in order that the widow with three children may come up to the level of the wife with three children. My hon. Friends will see that the two things are not altogether comparable. We all hope that the separation allowances will be wiped off in a year or two, but the pensions will go on for a long time, and the cost of living may come down. I think I am in a position to say that we are now putting forward a scheme for a bonus—I think it is a flat-rate bonus—to apply to all pensions having regard to the increased cost of living at the present time as compared with the price when the scale was fixed. We are trying to get that put on to the pension to compensate for the increased cost of living, and I hope that we shall get it through.
§ Mr. BARNES
I do not know about before the election, but I have every reason to believe that we shall get it through, and, if I had any doubts about it, those doubts have been largely removed by the many expressions of opinion to-day.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
We have had very conciliatory speeches from the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down and from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Admiralty, but unfortunately these poor women with large families cannot live on sympathy. What they want is the hard cash. We have had to-day actuarial calculations of the increased cost of living based upon four different systems, and varying, I think, from 89 per cent. to 125 per cent. during the last four years To these people for whom we are pleading, the women and the children to whom these separation allowances are paid, these actuarial calculations have no value. Their actuarial calculations are based upon the prices which they have to pay to the grocer, the bootmaker, and the various shopkeepers in their localities. Therefore, though what the right hon. Gentleman has said may to a certain extent be soothing to Members of this House who are accustomed to deal with figures in ah actuarial way, they will not be soothing to the masses of the people in the country, particularly as the ordinary person will at once fix upon a point which has been overlooked by the two right hon. Gentlemen. They take as a basis the allowances 1702 made in 1914, but we all know that the allowances were inadequate in 1914. I do not think that either of the two right hon. Gentlemen or any Member of this House will say that the allowances which were fixed in 1914 were even at that time more than a poor subsistence allowance. They would not even then enable a Woman to clothe and house her children decently and bring them up healthily and comfortably and in such a manner as the children of our Empire should be brought up. Therefore, the whole of these actuarial calculations are based upon false premises. In addition to that, all these increases, as the right hon. Gentleman admitted, have been belated. On one occasion, my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Admiralty has to-day had to confess, he went a little before the band, but in regard to most of these allowances the Government have been a long way behind the band. I do not suggest that it was possible for them to make the alterations week by week, but none of these increased allowances were given until they were dragged by the protests of Members of this House. We have on this subject been what may be termed the ginger group, and the Departments which had this matter in hand badly needed ginger. However, every one of these allowances was belated, with the result that there is an accumulated debt owing to these people because they have never really had all they were entitled to. There have always been some arrears. That has been going on for years. If you were to make actuarial calculations you would find you are still very much behind the times. When we say that the cost of living has increased by so much and the allowance has been increased by so much, and the difference after all is not much—it is only 20 per cent.—what does that mean to the family life of these people? Twenty per cent. is 4s. in the £. It does not sound much when you discuss it as 20 per cent. Even if you say it is only 10 per cent. that is 2s. in the £, and when these people go to the shop to buy it makes a great difference whether they have 18s. or 16s. Therefore we must not camouflage the real facts of the case by these not very helpful calculations. To the people of whom we are speaking a shilling is a matter of very great importance, and the lack of it is not made any the less severe by the fact that you call it merely 5 per cent.
Now there comes the point of when the increases are to be paid. The right hon. 1703 Gentleman (Mr. Barnes) said it was administratively impossible to make these increases, which were known to be overdue, before a period of two months. I can hardly take him seriously. If that is the case he ought to apply some ginger to the Departments concerned. I will guarantee that there are plenty of men of business in the country who, if they had had this put before them as a possibility two months ago, as it must have been before the Department, would have taken such steps as to make it possible to begin these payments on 1st November, because during these two months these people will be short of money. It is a kind and generous thought of the right hon. Gentleman to say the payments will be made retrospective, and that, although they might not handle the money until 1st January, it will come in the nature of a Christmas box. I am delighted to hear it, but in the meantime these people are at a disadvantage, and certain things are going to happen. One is that between this and 1st January it is likely that a great many men will be demobilised, and would it not be nice if they came home to contented wives instead of to wives who are blackguarding the Government and Members of Parliament for not having done their duty? I am not thinking of myself. I was quite honestly thinking of the soldiers coming home. It is true that many of the soldiers' wives are earning money, but a great many of the factories which are employing these women are likely to be closed down between this and 1st January. I believe if I were to ask the right hon. Gentleman—I will not do anything so indiscreet—he would not dispute the fact that many people are to-day being dismissed from various factories, or that steps are being taken to reduce the employment of those factories, and therefore tin possibility of the earning power of the wives of the soldiers is going to be reduced between now and 1st January. Therefore I urge him, if it is possible, not merely to promise this increase retrospectively, but to make it from the earliest possible date, and we all know what can be done and that where there is a will there is a way.
The right hon. Gentleman made the very interesting statement that out of some 400,000 childless wives only about 100,000 had been married prior to the War.
§ Mr. BARNES
I have no figure. I said there were 400,000 childless wives, and the great bulk of them had been married during the War—probably 390,000.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
The right hon. Gentleman's information is that the number of childless wives who were married before the War is small. In that case it would cost very little to treat them liberally. His argument was that the childless wife, married since the War, who had only been with her husband for a short time, was not entitled to any very great consideration. But inferentially the wife who was married before the War is entitled to more consideration. Why not give it? You would remove a certain amount of ill-feeling and heartburning. I have never been one to stir up trouble in any of these matters. I have always endeavoured to smooth matters over. But there is only one real way of smoothing matters over and that is to remove real grievances. Imaginary grievances can be talked out. People can be educated and expostulated with and made to see the folly and error of their position, but real grievances can only be removed by redress. I urge the Government to take into immediate and serious consideration how they can best take prompt steps to remove grievances which exist, and to enable our men to return to contented wives and properly fed and clothed children.
§ Mr. ALDEN
I wish to deal with the question whether the allowance has increased together with the increase in the cost of living. Let me take a definite case of a wife and four children. She gets 35s. 6d. She tells me that she had to pay this week 22s. 6d. for boots. If in addition you deduct 7s. 6d. for rent there is very little left for food. You may say a wife ought to have prevision enough to be able to spread the cost of boots over a certain number of weeks or even months, but many of these women are living actually from hand to mouth. My knowledge of the matter is obtained from seeing these women every Saturday night. I sit in a room and listen to the stories they have to tell. If you take any of these four scales of the increase in the cost of living which have been given us to-night and apply it practically in the district in which you are working, probably it does not come out according to your own previous thought. In many localities the prices of many things vary considerably. The Board of Trade figures, however carefully they 1705 may be gathered, do not really represent the actual facts as they present themselves to the ordinary working-class families in a poor district. They have to give more than the Board of Trade figures really represent, and the money is simply poured away. The women say, over and over again, "No sooner do I break into a sovereign than it has disappeared." I do not believe the Government has gone scientifically into this question of the cost of living. I should like to have an examination dealing scientifically with the question whether the food actually provided and sold is of a certain definite quality, and whether people can live upon what they are able to purchase with their allowance. I think that would open the eyes of a great number of people who have not really lived with the poor or understood them, or judged them in a satisfactory fashion. I believe the actual allowance to enable people to live comfortably and satisfactorily ought to be not less than £1 per woman and 10s. for each child. If you were to give them that and then live with them and help them to spend it, it would only just about go far enough.
The difficulty is that there are very few of us capable of placing ourselves in the position of those who have to spend these comparatively small sums. The average man in the House, even the average Labour man, is under the disability of not having to consider every penny. He spends out of, at any rate, a little surplus, but these people are spending out of what is not really a sufficiency. If anything happens to deprive them of a few extra shillings, if any illness comes into the house, they have to deprive the children of the food they require. It is no good making speeches. I would make every Pension Minister and every man who is responsible for allowances, while he is administering, to spend one week every month with a family which has to make both ends meet. It is not necessary to say they are unsympathetic. We are living in a different world altogether, and when you get people saying, "For God's sake get me a larger allowance or I shall commit suicide," as a woman said to me the other day, you begin to see that there must be something behind it. People may plead no doubt this woman could have saved a little here and there and been a little more careful. 1706 The real truth of the matter is—and I have gone into hundreds and hundreds of these cases, I see twenty or thirty every Saturday night—they cannot make both ends meet and they are pawning and selling everything they possess. Then the husband comes on leave and sees the condition of the house. He sees that his wife and children have been driven from four or five rooms into two rooms, and he says, "This is how the country treats me. This is what I find when I come back." I know every hon. Member has had this kind of experience, or, at any rate, anybody who has really taken any trouble in regard to this matter. I hope very much that the concession that has been made or promised that the 1s. extra per child shall be made retrospective will not be broken, but that it will be a definite promise and will be kept. I hope very much, at the same time, that the Government will remember that there ought to be automatic increases in the separation allowances in accordance with the increases in the cost of living. There ought to be some arrangement by which every three months increased allowances should take place in accordance with the increases in the cost of living.
I do not wish to labour these matters any more, but I should like to say something in connection with the question of supplemental allowances, which is a very important matter. There are many other points which I should have liked to raise. Would the Pensions Ministry and those responsible for the allowances publish a little booklet of four or five pages putting the principal facts clearly and succinctly—not all the details, but the principal facts—and let that booklet be sent to the local war pensions committees, telling them that everybody who calls should have one of these little booklets to which they might refer? These people, in most cases, are not responsible for their ignorance. We have not educated them, we have not cared for them, we have not looked after them as we ought to have done, and when people can hardly read or write it is not their fault that they are ignorant in regard to these questions of allowances. The thing ought to be made as simple as A B C. Why should it be necessary to explain to them things which are perfectly understandable if they had their facts clearly put before them? In many cases I have had very great difficulty in understanding what this woman or that family 1707 was entitled to. I want this booklet which will contain all the principal facts placed in their possession, so that when a woman goes to the local war pensions committee she will have this booklet handed to her certain pages will be pointed out to her, her case will be considered, and she will be able to read the book at her leisure and see if she is entitled to anything more. I do not Earths local war pensions committees are responsible for what I am about to say HOW. Sometimes it is the officials and sometimes it is a case of being overdriven, but you have sometimes to wring out or force out the information, the very opposite ought to take place. When people are in the position of these women and children, almost on the edge of starvation, the information should be thrust upon them, and should not have to be forced out. If there is any possibility of giving them any extra money, for God's sake give it to them at once. I do not believe that the Minister is unsympathetic. I do not believe the Front Bench is at all unsympathetic. I do not believe that the appeal ought to be made ad miseri cordiam but ad justiciam. I believe they want to do justice. There are hundreds and thousands of cases in which the people concerned are ignorant in regard to their rights, ignorant about their claim, and ignorant as to the way they should proceed. I want the machinery provided to enable them to get justice. That is what we ask for. We do not ask for any other consideration. We ask for justice for each individual case, and I am sure that the thing that will do more than anything else to give justice is information given in a simple, succinct and clear fashion. I hope that if no other suggestion I have made is adopted this suggestion will be accepted.
§ Mr. C. PRICE
I was very glad to find that a Gentleman spoke from the Front Bench on this question. I want to say quite frankly after the way in which many of our big leaders, Prime Ministers, and ex-Prime Ministers, Chancellors of Exchequer, and ex-Chancellors of the Exchequer went about the country in the early stages of the War appealing for an enormous number of people on the recruiting platforms, that when we compare their campaign at that time with the work they do in order to see that these men and women get their full allowances, it has filled me with very great dismay. Accordingly, 1708 although we have only had one speaker from the Front Opposition Bench, I welcome the fact. May I say how greatly we all rejoice at the position of the Allied cause in different quarters of the globe? All our hearts are filled with gladness, and the fact of that gladness should cause us to be more careful than ever to see that the rights of our fighting men at home are not suffering in their absence.
I want to refer to a subject which has not been referred to before I think I referred to it the last time I spoke on this matter. It is the fact that no disabled soldier has a legal right to claim his disablement allowance. I think that is grossly unfair. When men enlisted as volunteers they knew quite well in many cases the conditions about pensions. Of course, a great many volunteered for service without thinking of what they or their wives and families would get; they were carried away with enthusiasm, and enlisted regardless of consequences to themselves or families. Therefore, one does not blame these people. We have been told that the allowances are very generous in comparison with those given in the old days; but the fact remains that there is no legal right at this moment recognised by the Statute that a man can claim his disablement allowance. That is absolutely unfair, and it becomes more unfair if you remember that the men who volunteered did so with their eyes open. You have now passed a law conscripting them. You force men to go to the front, and yet the man whom you force to go to the front has no legal right to claim from the State his due. He comes back, and he has lost a limb or he is blind. You forced that man to go to the front, he has been subjected to the terrible condition of things there, and brought home, as I have seen many of them, in a pitiful state, and yet that man cannot go to a Court of law-and compel the State to pay him what he is entitled to. That is absolutely wrong. It is wrong to leave that matter in the discrimination of any individual When the man has had his disability allowance assessed, the State should be forced to pay-that, and the man should have a legal right to go to any Court of law and compel the State to pay him that allowance.
It is our duty to see that the allowances are adequate, and I am glad to welcome the statement of the right hon. Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes). Let me 1709 refer to a statement made by the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty. He showed what had been done in order to meet the increased cost of living. He thought that the House on the whole had done fairly well. I do not think so. I think you have allowed very grave discontent to arise in the minds of many women in this country. My hon. Friend (Mr. Adamson) and I attended a meeting in Edinburgh, and I have never attended a meeting where there was such passionate feeling of resentment because of the way the Government have treated this question. There is an enormous amount of discontent and sour feeling about it. Take the case of apprentices. You have allowed apprentices to be employed in the Army, some of them for four years, and although the State has had their service during that time, in the fighting ranks the State has paid nothing for them. You have allowed that to go on for four years. Many of these apprentices have been killed. I think it is criminal neglect that these things have been allowed to go on, therefore I cannot congratulate the Financial Secretary and say that this House has been fully alive to what should have been done. There have been a great many figures quoted showing the increased cost of living. The last time I spoke on this subject I gave figures as to the increased cost of living in poorhouses in Scotland. There you are dealing with feeding of people on a large scale and they buy at the cheapest possible price. In Paisley the average weekly cost per head has increased from 11s. 4d. in 1914 to 18s. 8d. in May, 1917. The right hon. Member for Black-friars said there has been an increase since July of 13 per cent. The figures I have quoted are only up to May, 1917. Therefore, these increases show the additional allowances have not been wholly adequate I have been questioned in regard to these figures as to what they cover. Whatever they cover they were on the basis of 1914 prices and the increase is on precisely the same basis as the basis of 1918. Therefore they show what the increase has been.
In regard to the position of the childless wife, the right hon. Member for Black-friars said there were something like 400,000 childless wives, and that 390,000 of them belonged to husbands who have married since the War began. That only leaves 10,000. I should like him to verify that statement, because I have very grave doubt about it. I do not like to question his statement, because I believe he made 1710 it in perfect good faith. However, in view of the fact that we have a citizen Army now, I should like to have that figure verified. I have grave doubts whether it is correct. Assuming that it is correct, why in the world do you want to have all this bother about 10,000 women? Why cause all this disturbance with local committees which have to deal with these people? I want to remove from the local committees the patronage which is in their hands. It is not worth while to leave these 10,000 women all over the country to have to go before these local committees or to be examined by them. It tends to the creation of discontent amongst them as to the character and type of the people who are employed to visit them in their homes. In regard to some of the paid officials, there has been very grave objection. At Aberdeen reference was made to the fact that there you have an inspector of police, if not a sergeant of police, and it is said that these men in making inquiries made their inquiries as if they were making a criminal investigation. Some of the people are promoted or recommended by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, and many of the people chosen for these posts have not been the most suitable people to visit the homes and to make recommendations. I want to remove this sort of work from the local pensions committees.
I would urge the necessity of a circular being issued showing everybody what they are entitled to. I know cases where the local committees have not given persons that to which they were entitled. In one case a man who was an agricultural labourer was entitled whilst learning a trade to an allowance of 27s. 6d. a week. He was entitled to that allowance, but the local committee said that he was only an agricultural labourer before the War and that he ought to live on 20s., and they made that allowance. That was absolutely wrong, and it is an illustration of how necessary it is that these people shall be fully acquainted with their rights. I sincerely trust that the 1st January will be abandoned. There is nothing more disheartening to people than to know that in two months time they will get something they ought to get. It is wrong to keep them waiting that length of time, because the fact has been recognised by the State that they are entitled to the increased allowance and that increased allowance should be given at once. Another point is this. Something should be done, when we 1711 revise these figures, for the soldiers of previous wars. Take the miserable pittance given for some of the Crimean and Boer War veterans. I think something should be done in view of the increased cost of living to revise the amounts which we give to these men. I strongly commend them to the Government, and hope that now that they are revising the allowances, they will revise those given to men who fought in former wars, and who did as much to defend the country as any of those who are fighting at the present time.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
The Motion deals with a real grievance, a grievance that is causing a very large amount of dissatisfaction throughout the country. Even supposing the increased allowance was paid before the 1st January I am strongly of opinion that it would not remove the dissatisfaction in the country. There is evidence of that dissatisfaction everywhere. I need hardly remind hon. Members of the very large associations of discharged soldiers and sailors that are being formed everywhere. Not only have we associations of discharged soldiers and sailors, but we have very large associations of the dependants of our soldiers and sailors. The reason why these associations have been formed is that they feel that they are not being treated fairly and justly with regard to separation allowances and pensions. In addition to these indications every Member of the House is receiving numerous letters regarding these, questions. Resolutions have been passed at many of the recent Labour conferences, asking that the Government should deal in a more generous spirit with the soldiers and sailors and their dependants. During the course of the discussion we have had a very interesting statement from my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes). My only objection to that statement is that I think that he began from a wrong basis. If he had begun from a proper basis, his statement would not have taken on such a rosy hue as it did, taking the basis that he did for the interesting set of figures which lie gave to the House. I would have liked, if he had been present, to have reminded him that he himself in the early days of 1915 was strongly of the opinion, and gave expression to that view, that the wives of our serving men ought to be paid at least £1 a week. If that was necessary in 1915, when one takes into account the large increase 1712 that has taken place in the cost of living since then, there is little wonder that we have manifestations everywhere of dissatisfaction with the treatment that has been meted out to our soldiers and sailors and their dependants. I put to the members of the Government who are present this question. Do they think that that is the treatment that the men who enlisted in such large numbers, voluntarily, at the beginning of the War, expected their wives and families to get while they were fighting the battles at the front? Of course not. They expected quite different treatment. I believe that what they expected was—and, so far as I am personally concerned, it is what I claim on their behalf—that their dependants would, at least, be placed in the same degree of comfort as the families of those who were more fortunate in being allowed to remain at home.
Another question is, what do they think will be the effect on our men when they come home, realising, as they must do, that their dependants have not been treated fairly? We talk a great deal in these days about the difficulties of the period of reconstruction. These difficulties will not be lessened by the effect of that treatment on these men when they come home. Again, I refer to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Black-friars. He pointed out that there were certain difficulties that stood in the way of the Government giving as much as they themselves would like to give, and I think, if my memory serves me right, he said that the chief difficulty was in getting the consent of the Treasury. Why should that be a difficulty? The Treasury and all the members of the Government ought to-realise that the first charge upon the State funds ought to be the giving to our serving men and their dependants a proper standard of living, a standard of living that would at least be equal to the standard of living of those who remained at home.
Very little has been said by those who have replied on behalf of the Government about the position of the dependants of our unmarried soldiers and sailors. There, I think, you have as much dissatisfaction as with regard to the position of the wives and children of the married man. You have all sorts of sums being paid to dependants of men who are rendering equal service to the country. Within recent months I have sent on to the Chancellor of the Exchequer several lists made up of the sums paid to the dependants 1713 of unmarried soldiers from certain Scottish parishes. In these lists the sums range from the lowest figure, 3s. 6d. per week, to 37s. 6d. With such variations as these paid to dependants of men who are rendering equal service to the country, I do not think that anyone can expect anything else than a seething mass of dissatisfaction as the result. Not only have you these variations, but you have in some cases different sums being assessed in the separation allowances granted to the dependants of our unmarried soldiers by the various authorities. I am sorry that the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty is not present, because I wanted to bring before him a case which was brought under my notice a, very short time ago. The local pensions committee, when they considered this claim, assessed the liability in this particular case at 18s. per week. The pensions officer assessed it at 13s. 6d., but when both reports were sent on to the naval authorities they only saw fit to grant 6s. 6d. per week. With all these things going on in connection with the payment of separation allowances it is not to be wondered at that we have such a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction being expressed throughout the country.
In conclusion, I not only hope that the Government will at a very early date carry out the increases that they have already agreed to, but that they will see their way again to go further in this matter and, if possible, to grant a far more substantial increase than we have as yet had any indication of. I think that where the Government went wrong was that they started in 1914 on far too low a basis. The separation allowances that were granted then were not by any means adequate to give the dependants of our soldiers and sailors the same degree of comfort as was enjoyed by the families of those who remained at home. That is where they went wrong. And, in order to remedy that initial defect, what they require to do is to give a much more substantial increase than has been granted up to the present time.
§ Sir J. WALTON
Of one thing I am certain. That is, that the whole nation at the present time, when victory is ours, and when the magnificent work that has been accomplished in every one of the fighting areas in different parts of the world by our gallant men is going to mean a great advance in world freedom, and in a promotion of those principles of humanity 1714 and justice, greater than the world has ever known before, the whole nation will practically be of one heart and mind in acting not only justly but generously by the wives and dependants of our soldiers and sailors in the matter of separation allowances, and especially in the provision of adequate pensions for the dependants of those who, unfortunately, have lost their lives for the country. I happen to represent a district in which, at the outbreak of war, thousands of men flocked to the Colours, the great influx being that of coal miners. A finer type of soldier, and a braver and a more gallant set of men never assisted in defending the liberties of the country. They did not hesitate for one moment because they were in employment in which they were earning anything from £3 to £5 per week, but they volunteered and accepted 1s. a day to go and fight for their country. In those cases—and there are thousands of them—the present provision, both in the matter of separation allowances and of pensions, is miserably inadequate, and does not by any means do justice to these men.
But there is another view of the case. These men, who I understand as privates to-day in the British Army are receiving a pittance of only 1s. 7½d. per day, are fighting alongside comrades from Australia, New Zealand and Canada, who are receiving 4s. 6d., 6s., and even 7s., a day. How can there be that amount of satisfaction and contentment in the breasts of our soldiers, who, after all, are only human, in view of this enormous disparity of pay? I met to-day Australian soldiers who told me that some were getting 6s. a day and others 7s. a day, only 1s. being kept back from that, the balance being for their own personal expenditure, and their wives were receiving 2s. per day and 7d. for each child. I was told also by a Canadian, that they received $1 10c, or 4s. 6d. a day, that is $33 a month, that $20 were sent home to their wives or to be banked for their own personal future wants, and that they have $13 a month left to spend while they are under arms. Their wives in Canada receive £5 per month, and the children from £1 to £2 per month, according to their age. New Zealand is on a par with Australia; and I submit to the House that this enormous disparity must breed considerable discontent, and that our men, who most patriotically and gallantly volunteered to serve their country, will, when they come home, in view of these 1715 facts, certainly not be of the same un thinkingly patriotic mind that they were at the beginning of the War.
Let us take the case that has been mad by the Government. They tell us that a wife with three children will on the 1st January next, or possibly slightly earlier—I hope, at any rate, that they will get it from the 1st December, so that it may come into force before Christmas—receive 33s. 6d. per week. The husbands of these wives, in thousands of cases in my district, were bringing into the home £4 and £5 a week before they volunteered for service. I say, therefore, that the amount of the allowance is hopeless and insufficient. I do not entirely believe in the flat rate. The wife of an agricultural labourer with three children receiving 36s. 6d. a week, with no husband to keep, is in a different position; and as one of them said, "I never was so well off in my life—so much a week, and no husband to keep; I hope the War will go on for a long time." That was her view of the case; but though, at any rate, the wife of a husband with 36s. 6d. a week was never so well off in her life, in all probability, when the increased cost of living is taken into account, yet that does not apply to miners and others who volunteered, and who were earning high wages. We are told about the childless wife. Assuming that she gets the full 19s. a week, I think, in the case of a woman who is not able to work and earn money, that the amount is wholly insufficient. When you turn to the widow, the poor woman whose husband has given his life for his country, she is to have the paltry payment of 13s. 9d., and her children, forsooth, instead of being paid 10s. 6d. for the first child, is to receive 6s. 8d., instead of 8s.; for the second, 5s. 8d., instead of 5s. 6d.; and for the third 4s. What possible justification can there be for such a differentiation? The widow has lost her great breadwinner for ever. The wife whose husband may live, and who is fighting, may soon have the joy of welcoming him home, and the day of trial and tribulation will be past. Not so the poor widow who has to continue to receive only 30s. Id. Yet she has three children as against the wife of the soldier who is receiving 36s. 6d. I rejoice to know that some glimmering idea of the injustice of this amount to widows and dependants is coming home to the Government, because I think they hold out the hope of a 1716 further bonus to be added to the pension, so long as the present increased cost of living remains far beyond the pre-War cost of living. All I can say is that the Government will begin to realise how widespread is the indignation and discontent of the people throughout the country with the present condition of things. I have had hundreds of communications from my own Division on the question of separation allowances and of pensions; and, if there is one thing above another that we as a nation should aim at, if we are to make a rapid recovery after the War, if we are to have a reconstruction scheme carried out on lines which will create happiness and contentment throughout the land, and cement class with class; and if, by experience, educationally, and in every other way, we are to achieve prosperity greater than ever known before, it is that we must lay the foundation for it in just and equitable treatment of the dependants of soldiers and sailors, and especially in the case of the widows, whose husbands have given their lives for their country.
§ Mr. JOWETT
I listened with very great interest to the statement made on behalf of the Government by my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. Although he is not here, I should like to make some remarks in reply to what he said, not by way of criticism, but rather for the sake of ascertaining the correct situation in regard to the position of this matter of separation allowances and pensions. If the Financial Secretary to the War Office would care to deal with my points he could, so far as they are points of substance, deal with them quite as well, I have no doubt, as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. The foundation, as I understand, of my right hon. Friend's statement was that the increases which have taken place since If 14, were, at least so far as large families are concerned, 100 per cent. advance on the 1914 separation allowance. He did not claim that the increase was anything like commensurate with the increase in the cost of living, for as was stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Macdonald), the increase in the cost of living was 127 per cent., and the Government only claim, through the Parliamentary Secretary, that the advance in the case of large families has been equal to 1717 100 per cent. I think that gives the case away, because large families compare best from the point of view of increase. The small families and the childless wife Are far more out of proportion to the increased cost of living. To my mind, the weakness of the right hon. Gentleman's case points to the necessity of something in the nature of a revision as the cost of living increases from time to time. It is useless to say that an increase has been given when that increase has not the same amount of purchasing power in the country that it would have had formerly. It is going in a vicious circle. All the Government has got to do is to give an increase in separation allowance and pension, and so on, and an increase of wages where trade unions are strong enough to demand them, and then inflate the currency by printing innumerable quantities of "John Bradbury's," so that the people cannot buy the same amount of food. The public is given the idea that there has been a concession which, by an increase in food prices, is more than taken away. That I say emphasises the need for revision regularly so as to bring the allowances and pensions into line with the actual cost of living. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester mentioned the fact that the increase in the cost of living was far larger than the increase in the separation allowance. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty said, "Oh, but 3s. 6d. of that was the soldier's own allotment." I really cannot understand a man of the ability of my right hon. Friend making use of such an argument. He knows, nobody better, that that 3s. 6d. was taken over by the Government not as a concession to soldiers' wives but as a method of increasing the soldier's pay. Having given it as an increase of soldier's pay the Government are not justified later on in counting it as an increase of the separation allowance. As has been pointed out it was necessary for a number of reasons to increase the soldier's pay, and surely the argument that it was at the same time an increase of the separation allowance cannot hold water.
My right hon. Friend pointed out that there is the local war pensions committee and the civil liabilities committee and that those supplement the allowance. That is perfectly true, but as has been very clearly emphasised in this Debate the local war-pensions committee and the civil liabilities committee have not given the amounts which they ought to have given, or 1718 immense number of persons who were really entitled to receive grants and allowances from those two bodies have never received them. The Government now say "we are going to make all that clear, and we are going to issue a Circular which will indicate to the person who is really concerned what that person is entitled to," but may I ask the Government what are they going to do about those persons who all this time have been deprived of the money that belongs to them? It was the duty of the authorities to see that they got that money and nothing has angered me so much during this period in dealing with people who were dependants of soldiers and sailors, as the fact that the ignorance and innocence of those people have been taken advantage of. Even Members of Parliament had very great difficulty with all the rules and regulations in picking their way through them and in getting those bodies to give the money which it is now advertised that the persons have been clearly entitled to all along. I would ask the Government what in common honesty are they going to do about the arrears. Are those persons to be entitled to claim the arrears because it is their money? Let me now refer to the question of the child- less wife and the supplementary allowance. I noted the announcement that the regulation was to be worded in such a way as to make it clear that the supplementary allowance of 6s. 6d. per week was to be paid as a matter of course to persons unaccustomed to work. Will my right hon. Friend recollect what that means. It means that the wives of men who are not of the working class will never have their cases inquired into because they have not been accustomed to work, and as a matter of course they would get the 6s. 6d. per week. But the workman's wife, because she is the workman's wife, must have an inquiry as to whether she has been accustomed to work, or is unable to work. Take it from me, there is going to be a terrible trouble about this if you put it into operation. Times are not now what they used to be; people are not putting up with these differentiations between different classes as was the case years and years ago, and the demand will be made that all shall be treated alike. The working man who took his wife out of the factory and deliberately, having taken her out of the factory, kept her out of the factory, and who looked upon her house work as being her real work and sufficient 1719 work for her—and any woman who keeps a decent home for a working man clean, tidy, and wholesome, of four or five rooms, does not need to work anywhere else but there; it is sufficient for her—if such a working man, who took his wife out of the factory and never intended her to go back there, has been taken into the Army, and if, when his wife goes and asks for the 6s. 6d. supplementary allowance, she is told that she has been accustomed to work, then there is going to be trouble, and I warn the Government that there will be trouble.
I will say no more about the general question except this, that I wish to associate myself with the general criticisms that have been made. I think that there should be periodical revisions to adjust the scale to the cost of living. But I want to make one or two special points which have not, so far as I am aware, been mentioned in the course of this Debate, and I have sat almost continuously through it. The first relates to the question of apprentices. The 5s. flat rate, I would suggest to the Government, should be amended in such a way as would allow a datum line to be taken into consideration as is the case in regard to some other portions of the scheme. For instance, the earnings that the soldier would have been making at a given date could be taken as a sort of standard and the amount from time to time revised on that line, so that it should not be merely a flat rate of 5s. But that is not all. I want to bring up the case of pensions, quite apart from the allowances. In this connection may I just quote from a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT when the flat rate for apprentices and secondary school scholars was stated in answer to a question in this House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman said—this was his written reply—This—the basis of pre-war dependence—is felt to be a great hardship from the point of view of parents of the lad who early joined the Colours, and the hardship is accentuated by the fact that pension on the soldier's death depends on the allowance his parents drew while he was alive. But so long as pre-enlistment contribution is maintained as the basis of the parents' allowance the grievance cannot fully be remedied."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th July, 1918, cols. 1821–1822. Vol. 108.]Let me just call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to this fact, that here is contained by inference—I do not think that can be denied—a promise that the 1720 pension of a soldier who prior to the War was an apprentice, or secondary school scholar, or in receipt of progressive wages, shall be allowed as a matter of course, because it is used actually as one of the arguments for creating a flat-rate system. But in answer to questions put by myself it has been stated from the Front Bench, by the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions, that only in cases where parents have been in receipt of special hardship allowance is the pension allowed, I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forster) is aware of that fact or not, but I do put it to the Government that it is a most unfair condition that, having conceded to the parents of apprentices the right to a separation allowance, it should follow as a matter of course that there should be a right to pension—whereas the right to pension depends on whether or not the parents have been able to get from the local war pensions committee a special hardship allowance. That is one point to which I wish specially to direct the attention of the Government.
Another point, of a special kind, relates to the provision in the Royal Warrant regarding widows who re-marry. Sometime ago I had occasion, to send to the Pensions Ministry a case where a mother whose son had been killed had not received a pension, and the ground on which she has been refused the pension was that she had re-married. If my right hon. Friend will draw the attention of his colleagues to this, and will ask them to read the Royal Warrant, they will there see it definitely and distinctly stated that the disqualification to pension only applies where a remarriage is after the death of the soldier and during the time that the pension has been drawn. This case, that I have in my mind, which I sent up to the Pensions Ministry, was a case where a soldier, a lad, had been killed, but whose mother had been re-married fifteen months before the separation allowance ceased. She had been drawing separation allowance, after her remarriage, for fifteen months, and yet, although the Royal Warrant does not cover the case at all, she is refused a pension because of her remarriage. She did not remarry after the soldier's death. She did not remarry while she was drawing a pension. She remarried while the soldier was serving, and actually drew a separation allowance as a 1721 dependant for fifteen months. What does the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions tell me in answer to my last inquiry? In substance, this: That the Royal Warrant was not very clearly worded, and therefore it would have to be amended—amended to cover a case that has already occurred. I think it is a perfect scandal. It is a shame. These things are continually coming up. One of my complaints against the Government is that in these petty things the different Departments—the War Office, the Ministry of Pensions, and the rest of them—seem to think it is a triumph to save for the Treasury 1s. or 2s., or some other small amount at the expense of some poor person. Savings are affected in many cases because dependants and pensioners are not aware of the amounts to which they are entitled. But every Department ought to look upon it as its duty if any dependant or pensioner is not aware of his or her right, to draw their attention to the fact that they are entitled to more, and to give it to them. That is the honest way, and I that were done land others would have less need to trouble the Department. I have no wish to complain of my right hon. Friend, who is very courteous to me. I know I have given him a great amount of work, but I should have given him less if there were a greater desire on the part of the Department to help these people and to tell them what is due to them, without leaving it to such as myself to worry it out of the Department.
Mr. T. WILSON
I wish to endorse what my hon. Friend opposite has said, that dependants should be told exactly what they are entitled to. They do not know what they are entitled to, and if some pamphlet were issued with definite instructions regarding the procedure to be adopted, it would simplify the work of the Department, and also that of Members of this House, and the people who are directly interested. I think my hon. Friend who has just spoken did not put the case quite fairly when he said the increase of pay to the soldier was really not an increase at all. It is an increase. If a mother has been drawing 12s. 6d. per week allowance for her son, and 9s. of that has been paid by the nation and 3s. 6d. by the son, and the Government take over the whole burden of 12s. 6d., and pay the soldier 6d. a day extra, certainly that must be an increase of pay to the soldier.
§ Mr. JOWETT
Does my hon. Friend realise that previously that 6d. was given to the soldier? It cannot be given twice.
I am quite satisfied that where a son in the Army has been allotting 6d. a day of his pay to his mother or father, and that is now paid by the State, there must be an increase in pay. We cannot get away from that fact. I would like to support what was said with regard to the position of apprentices who joined the Army. I am certain the Government are not doing what is right by them. I made an appeal to the Government when the Royal Warrant was under discussion, in the first week of August or the last week in July, to make the same allowance to mothers of boys of eighteen as to mothers of boys who have attained the age of twenty-one. At that time the Chancellor of the Exchequer said it could not be done. He refused to do it. Then I appealed to him, at any rate, to take over the responsibility of paying the 3s. 6d. a week which the boys allotted to their parents. I am glad to say that since then the Government have changed their mind and agreed to pay the 3s. 6d. a week. I suggest that there ought to be a flat rate paid in the case of all those who joined the Army at seventeen or eighteen years of age who have attained the age of twenty-one, raising the allowance to not less than 8s. 6d. or 9s. a week. It is only fair that the parents of those soldiers should have an increased allowance. During the early months of the War quite a large number of boys from sixteen and a half years of age upwards joined the Army. A good many are still living under twenty-one years of age who have been serving at the front two or three years or more. They are only entitled to 3s. 6d. a week—from 1st January. I understand it will be 5s.—but the least that the Government can do is to pay 8s. 6d. or 9s. in the case of lads who have been serving for one year, two years, or three years.
I want to make a complaint also against the system—it cannot be changed now, I am aware—of differentiating in the allowances paid to parents regarding the earnings of sons. It is causing an immense amount of dissatisfaction and discontent in the country, the fact that Mrs. Jones has a neighbour next door who is drawing 30s. a week for a son who was earning high wages, while she is only drawing 3s. 6d. or 5s., because in the one case the son happened to be a miner, whilst in the 1723 other the son was an apprentice, the parents having made immense sacrifice to give the lad a good training, it might be, in a profession. Therefore, I say this differentiation in the amount of the allowance is not justifiable. I am hoping that if it is possible to review the situation, the Government will give a more generous consideration to cases of the kind I have mentioned. I also want to refer to another matter referred to by an hon. Member opposite. That is the decisions—and this applies, I believe, more particularly to the Admiralty than to the War Office—and I should like to bear my testimony to the very courteous and generous mariner in which I have been met by the right hon. Gentlemen in the cases I have brought to their notice—of the Board of Admiralty when there has been a dispute between a pensions officer and the pensions committee in regard to the amount of dependency.
What has happened in two or three instances in my district to which my attention has been drawn? Even though the pensions officer differed from the pensions committee, and was in favour of a smaller amount then the Committee of the Board of Admiralty has decided in favour of a sum even lower than that recommended by the pensions officer. I do say that the authorities ought not to ignore the recommendations of the local pensions committee. Personally, I have more confidence in the decisions of the local pensions committee than I have in that of the local pensions officer, after investigating these complaints. Very often we find the members of the local pensions committee are fully acquainted with the whole circumstances of the case. I say that either the Admiralty or the War Office that ignores the recommendations of the local pensions committee, preferring those of the local pensions officer—I do not say that the pensions officer is not right, but his judgment may be at fault, and very often is—are taking the risk of causing a discontent might be avoided. In the case I have just mentioned, the Admiralty insisted upon assessing the amount of dependency which was placed at 1s. 9d. by the officer, and 3s. 9d. by the committee at 1s. per week. Even if the pensions committee had erred on the side of generosity it would have paid the Government—that is, the Admiralty or the military authorities—to have taken a higher Valuation. I do 1724 appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in every instance be possibly can to take the most generous view of the recommendations made by the pensions committee. I have before admitted that he has taken a generous view in cases brought to his notice. After all is said and done a contented public and contented parents and dependants ought to be a point specially to be taken into consideration when deciding the amount of allowance to be made on behalf of soldiers and sailors. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind what I have said.
§ Mr. FINNEY
I am not going to say very much, but I do wish to associate myself with the general discussion on the Resolution before the House. One advantage in discussing this matter is the fact that everybody in the House, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, in the Government and out of it, I believe, are imbued with a spirit of sympathy, and wish to do the utmost possible in all these cases of dependency. I am bound to say, so far as I am concerned, that from the right hon. Gentlemen I have received every courtesy and consideration in all the cases I brought under their notice. After all, however, it does seem that there is something lacking. There is a great deal of discontent in the country on this question. Very hard, very pitiful cases, in some instances, are brought to our attention, and we cannot help feeling that it would be to the interest of everyone concerned if these pensions and allowances were put on such a footing that the people receiving them would be able to pay their way and look after their children and keep the home going, at any rate, on something like the level it was when the soldiers went away to fight our battles. As a matter of fact, when the recruiting was taking place and everyone was trying to do his best to raise an army adequate for the demand made upon it, we all said—everybody said—that the wives and children that were to be left behind would have the utmost consideration and that adequate provision would be made for them. I am sorry to say that in many cases which have been brought to my attention I could not honestly say that adequate provision has been made. Some of these cases have been of a very heartrending character. They are calculated, not only so far as I am concerned, but in the case of everyone acquainted with the 1725 facts, to arouse a great deal of feeling and anxiety as to whether the best was being done under the circumstances.
I happen to be associated with a society that represents 700,000 or 800,000 men. Their delegates quite recently have met together, and this was one of the subjects that received very serious consideration this subject as to whether the allowances were adequate for wives and children, widows and parents, and dependants of all kinds. It was felt by everybody that these allowances were not sufficient. Pensions, it was said, were not always forthcoming according to expectation. Many of the people concerned were allowed to live and get along as best they could for weeks, and in some cases for months, without any income at all. They have had to sell their furniture, deplete the home of odds and ends of furniture, in order to provide food for themselves and their children. I am certain none in this House, or in the Government, or out of it, or elsewhere, desires that. There must be some misunderstanding or miscarriage in cases of the sort. That is the conclusion I have come to. So far as the allowances themselves are concerned, anyone who has had the misfortune—shall I say, of being compelled to live on a very inadequate income has some experience in these matters. We know what it must have cost the soldiers' wives to live on the allowances made to them from time to time. I do not know how they have managed to keep their homes going and their children fed and clothed. As a matter of fact, the amount would have been scarcely adequate in the past when the sovereign purchased more than half as much again as now. The pound sterling to-day does not represent anything like 30s. in pre-war times. How then do we expect these people to live, and to meet all the increased demands upon them, the higher cost of food and clothing, and all other things? How do we say, that we are keeping the promise we made to these people when recruiting for the Army? HOW can we say we are helping them to keep the home together in the condition it was when the husband and father first went away? It does not seem to me we are doing that.
I refer to the fact that the representatives of 600,000 miners—and the miners are not alone in this business, for the representatives of other trades and industries are affected to the same extent and in the same way—have been trying to 1726 bring this matter to the attention of the Government with a view to increasing not only the pay of the soldiers, but the allowances for their wives, children, widows, and dependants. We were very hopeful that our representations would have been listened to and dealt with in a more generous spirit than has proved to be the case. As a matter of fact, I believe I am right in saying that we have received an intimation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, in the opinion of those whom he represents, the scales proposed are adequate. That has caused great disappointment to our people; they feel it very acutely, and they would like to have an opportunity of laying before the right hon. Gentleman the facts of the case. Of course we are bound to admit that at this moment it may not be possible for him to meet us for some days, and incidentally I may express a hope that the mission in which he is now engaged on the Continent may prove entirely successful and satisfactory to all of us. But at the same time we want to secure contentment in the minds and homes of the people. We want the wives and children of the men who are fighting our battles to be contented.
What can be said of a case of this sort? Take a family in which three or four sons have enlisted and gone to the front. Two were killed in action; another lost his legs. A few weeks ago the fourth son was killed. The father is getting old and infirm and cannot follow his work. There are four children under fourteen years of age. What would hon. Members say if they were informed that in a case of that sort all the allowances that had been paid had now been stopped and nothing is being given at all to the mother? Must not such a state of affairs breed disappointment, dissatisfaction and discontent, as well as aggravation in the minds of all who become acquainted with the facts? Let it be borne in mind that the miners, when the War broke out, volunteered in very large numbers, and many youths of sixteen years of age volunteered and went to the front. It was not expected then that the War would have continued for so long a period. But at the time they went the boys were assisting their parents to rear the younger children. Had they remained at home, by now they would have been taking their fathers' places in the colliery and been receiving adult wages, and probably getting from 15s. to 16s. a day. These lads, many of them, probably, would have taken their wages home and added it to the 1727 common fund, keeping back only a few shillings as pocket money. But now those youths are away, and their parents, after having done their best to rear them, are prevented from reaping the advantage of their maturer years. Naturally we think the Government ought to try and meet cases of this description. They ought to give them more generous treatment than they are doing. I suggest further consideration should be shown to these people. I have felt it my duty to associate myself with the discussion which has taken place to-day on this question. We are here in no sense antagonistic to the Government, but we take this course because we wish to assist Ministers in realising the importance of this question. When the time comes we shall have to face it in the country, and it would be very unfortunate indeed if the wives of the men who are fighting at the front were allowed to lapse into poverty and to have their homes broken up.
Now I come to the question of the discharged soldier. One or two cases have come to my notice which convince me that justice is not being done. I have, here the case of a man discharged from the Army on account of physical unfitness for military service. Representations have been made to the authorities with regard to him. He has a wife and several children, and an effort has been made to get some allowance for him. At the present moment he is in the depths of poverty. We have been trying to get his case investigated in order to find out who is responsible for the unfortunate state of affairs. I do not think it ought to be possible for one of our soldiers who has given his best to his country, who went away strong and hearty, who has done his best, but who through failing health has been returned to his home and family a wreck, to be without any income. It is from this point of view I wish to add my little quota to the pressure, if any is necessary, brought to bear on the Government to do their utmost to make adequate provision for the dependants of our soldiers. We have heard a good deal about percentages and of comparisons with the original scales. They sound very big, but when one gets to know the basis on which we started, one is bound to confess it needs increases to the extent of some hundreds per cent. to provide anything like a satisfactory allowance. We want these people to be content under the 1728 pressure of adverse circumstances. We want them to feel that however badly things may have turned out for them, yet as far as the country is concerned, the Government is prepared to do everything possible to lighten their burdens and ease their minds, making them feel that their sufferings and sacrifices have not only been in the interests of a great and good cause, but are fully recognised by the powers-that-be who realise what they have done to help their country in its time of need. I hope that the representations of the Labour Members will have due consideration from the Government, and that it will be found possible to increase the allowances.
§ Mr. BOLAND
The Government must have been impressed with the strength of the case brought forward for Great Britain, but I wish to speak for a few moments for my own country, because this is a question which also affects Ireland. I cannot speak specially for the great cities which have provided a large number of men for the Army, but there the conditions are well known. There is great want of employment, and the cost of living has been so great that the scale of allowances is not considered satisfactory. I want specially to draw attention to small towns such as those in my own Constituency. Whatever may be said about the agricultural prosperity of Ireland, whore the farmer has his own pigs and poultry, and is able to make a livelihood; in the case of the towns, where you have the wife or sister or dependants of the soldier, there is not the employment which you have in Great Britain. We have not got any great munition works or employment arising directly out of the War, in the same way as you have in Great Britain, and what happens in the country towns and places like Kenmare is typical of what is happening in other parts of the South of Ireland. There you have no employment arising out of the War, and yet the cost of living has gone up in such a way that the scale of allowances are inadequate to keep the dependants of the soldier.
Take the mere rise in the price of turf, because coal is not to be found there. The cost of turf has gone up four or five times the cost of what it was before the War, and that is the only sort of fuel which these people can buy. In regard to the price of eggs and fish, although the people there are living in a country where those 1729 articles are produced, economic laws operate as they do everywhere else, and the price is not defined by the origin but by the price obtained in the big markets of England and Ireland. These unfortunate people have had this enormous increase in the cost of living and this very great increase in the cost of fuel, and I hope that the representations that have been made as to the necessity of an increase in these allowances will come under the consideration of the Government I agree that as the War has gone on by degrees the Government have increased the scale, but the increase has not kept pace with the increase in the cost of living, and I hope we shall have a definite promise from the Government that without any further delay they are now going to increase these allowances.
§ Mr. COTTON
Early in this discussion a fully deserved tribute was paid to the tone that had been given to the Debate. I hope I shall not fall below that level during the time I shall occupy the attention of the House, but as a new Member I find myself rather in a quandary. We are told in the Press that the General Election is imminent, and apparently the electors are to be asked to give a blank cheque as a token of gratitude to the men who have won the War. If I go down into my Constituency and represent that point of view to the working men and women who form the great majority of the electors, what am I to say on that point? If I ask who won the War they will say, "We won the War, not the politicians, but our boys who went to the front and fought. And what have you done for them?" What sort of answer am I to give? I have sought for enlightenment from the speeches made this evening by the right hon. Gentlemen who are members of the Government, and I am bound to say frankly that I can derive very little instruction from them. In common, I suppose, with all Members of this House I have been during the short time I have been a Member inundated with letters of complaint with regard to separation allowances and pensions. How am I to answer them? Am I to present them with the actuarial calculations which were shown us to-night by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Black-friars Division (Mr. Barnes)? I am afraid that they will not carry much conviction to 1730 the mind, for instance, of the working woman whose letter I hold in my hand and who writes:I am a wife with six children. How can I bring them up and how can I struggle along on £2 5s. a week to keep my six children? if you will count up the money you will find I have 6s. for each of my children to provide food, boots, and clothing. Do you think yourself you could keep children well on that money?She has also said that her six children are actually waiting for boots from the National Boot Fund. She wrote three weeks ago and got no reply, and she cannot afford to pay the price demanded for the boots out of the money she receives. It is no good my going to her with the actuarial calculations we have had given us to-night. Her answer is plain. She says, "My husband has gone to the front, and if he had stayed behind he would be making his £5 and £6 a week, and if that were not sufficient he would have means for getting more. What is more, he is content to go there and do his duty." Does all that not make the obligation all the greater upon us? I am bound to say that the more I consider this question the more I feel convinced that we have not, in respect of the dependants of our soldiers and sailors done what it was incumbent on us to do. The idea seems to have been that the soldiers and the sailors were there, and that it was sufficient to go by degrees increasing the separation allowances. Apparently it was considered that the more important class of the community were those who had stayed behind engaged on munitions and other occupations of that kind.
I do not in the least wish to say that those who have worked in our munition factories have not deserved well of us, but I do not think they have very serious ground for complaint. I maintain that the wives and dependants of those who have fought for us and won our present victories have not received consideration on the same scale as the men who have remained behind. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions has left the House because I wish to make an observation, as perhaps this may be the last opportunity we shall have in this House of speaking on this matter, with regard to the administration of the Ministry of Pensions. I should like to call attention to the constant complaints that I have been receiving with regard to the inspectors and the system of inquisitorial 1731 visiting that seems to take place. The complaint made to me is, "This is done on the old charity society methods, and, so far as we are concerned, we do not want any of it." I can promise for myself, and I think for most Members of this House, a very warm time when the General Election comes along with regard to this and other kindred matters. Why is it that in nearly all the cases that come under notice the grievance is based upon the making of a mistake by the officer or committee concerned? Why is it, when that mistake is brought to the notice of the Ministry of Pensions, that it takes weeks, and sometimes months, before it can be rectified?
I have a case here which I want to bring to the notice of the House, because I am afraid it cannot be said to be an exceptional case. A reservist was called up, and, after a certain amount of service, he was discharged as he was suffering from tubercular disease of the kidneys. Although he was entitled to the full amount, by some official stupidity, he received only a pension of 3s. 6d. per week. Afterwards he went into hospital, and when it was discovered that he would have to pay 1s. a day for his maintenance, his pension was raised in a fit of generosity to 7s. per week, in order that the 7s. might be deducted for his maintenance. The net result was that his wife and family received nothing at all. It was only a few days after I was elected a Member of this House, in July last, that I brought the case to the notice of the Minister of Pensions, but I was not able to get it settled until October, and during the whole of that time this man's wife and family were left entirely without any sort of pension or allowance. When in the month of October I succeeded in extracting a letter from the Ministry of Pensions to the effect that the man was entitled to his full allowance, and that they regretted that a mistake had been made, the back payment only dated to 31st July, the date upon which the matter was brought to the notice of the Ministry of Pensions. Why in that case and in many other cases cannot the back payment date from the date of the discharge of the man from the Army? Surely, if he is entitled to this allowance or to this pension at all, he is entitled to it from the day of his discharge.
1732 The Ministry of Pensions will never serve a useful purpose until, first of all, they are able to provide officers and clerks who understand the mysteries of the Royal Warrant. Probably I am putting that rather high, because I doubt if there are many people in the world yet born or many people who will be born who will ever be able to understand the mysteries of the Royal Warrant. If that is so, the very best thing that can be done is to recast the whole procedure so that the ordinary person can understand it. In what position does a man find himself on being discharged from the Army? He has to apply for his pension. If he does not apply it is considered that no notice need be taken of it. When he does apply, his pension dates from the date of his application. No useful purpose will be served by the Ministry of Pensions until the whole question of pensions is put upon a statutory basis. There must be no giving of pensions at the whim or discretion of the Minister. The pension must be the right of the man and his dependants. Why should it not be so? The State has taken the man away from his occupation and from his wife and family. The man's health suffers shipwreck in the service of the State. He is injured fighting for the State. I say that he is entitled as a right to compensation for the services that he has rendered.
If a man is dissatisfied with the pension which he receives, to whom is he to appeal? To the very person who has decided against him. Is it to be wondered at, after cases of this kind, after cases of inequality in the matter of separation allowances such as have been brought to the notice of the House this afternoon by many speakers, and especially by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the benches opposite, that there is widespread dissatisfaction throughout the country, and that people in every house to which you may go and in every assembly of working men and women are saying the same thing? "There has been a great deal of talk and much profession of sympathy, but there has been next to nothing done, and whatever has been done has been done at the eleventh hour when peace is in sight, and when the whole thing as far as separation allowances are concerned may very soon come to an end altogether." The prevalence of that kind of public opinion is not satisfactory. It is not pleasant, and it is not confined to the wives and dependants 1733 in this country. Talk to a soldier when he is home on leave, and he will tell you exactly the same thing. The feeling of many of these men is that the square thing has not been done by them. They went to the front relying upon promises that their wives and dependants would be the care of the Nation. They find that it is not so. They find that they are not able in the homes to live as self-respecting human beings ought to live. It is impossible to imagine anything more ridiculous than the scale of some of these separation allowances, and some of these pensions that have been awarded, and yet we are to meet these people who are angry and justifiably angry with actuarial calculations! Talk about offering a stone to people who ask for bread. Those of us who feel strongly about this matter had expected more this afternoon from the Government than we have received. I am bound to say, having listened to the greatest part of the; Debate, that I shall find it very difficult indeed to go to my Constituents and to say that I have come away from this Debate with the feeling that everything is being done for these deserving people that ought to be clone for them.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I want to refer to the case of those young men who were apprentices or students at the beginning of the War, especially those who were in colleges preparing to be teachers. The flat rate of 5s. which is going to be allowed in respect of these young men does not meet the case at all. In many of these cases the parents have made extreme sacrifices, especially in sending their sons to college to be trained. In many cases they have borrowed money and put a strain upon themselves which they could not afford for long, and just when the young men were coming to the point at which they would begin to earn some money they were taken for the Army. The parents do not complain of that, but they complain that they are not helped a little more generously in bearing the financial strain that is thrown upon them. In very many cases by this time those young men would have been earning very substantial salaries as teachers and would have been able to allow their parents £1 a week, or something of that sort, and would have been taking over the burden of the debt which they had contracted. The 5s. flat rate is quite inadequate, and I hope it will be reconsidered. I earnestly press upon 1734 the Financial Secretary to the War Office that some means may be found of helping the parents who have made these great sacrifices and find themselves in this unfortunate position. I am aware that if they are in actual want they can apply to the local war pensions committee for assistance, but I do not think that meets the case at all. There might, perhaps, be a rule made that they can send in an application to the Civil Liabilities Commissioners and show that by this time their sons would have been earning a considerable sum and would have been helping the family and thereupon they should get a much more adequate grant than the 5s. a week without having to prove that they are actually in want.
Another point I want to dwell upon is the lateness with which this increase has come, and especially the fact that it is deferred to the 1st January. I understood the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Barnes) to say that some advance had been made in the pension rate in anticipation of a further rise of prices, but I could not follow that at all in his argument. On the contrary, even setting out the figures in the most favourable way, as he did, taking the whole family income, including the soldiers' pay, and taking the lowest figures of the four different ways of calculating the increase of prices in the most favourable way for his own case, I could not see that he showed there was anything in the recent advance which could be described as being in anticipation of any future advance. He was quite right when he spoke of the July revision as having been overdue, and I am afraid that is the criticism one must make upon all the revisions of allowances and allotments throughout the War. They have all been too late, and I am afraid the one we are now having is coming too late. If it had come six months ago it would have fairly met the case. I am quite aware that in the nature of things an interval must elapse between the time at which the figures are revised and agreed upon and the advance is actually paid but that ought to be met when they begin to pay them by paying them a little above the figure which at first might seem to be justified by the rise in prices, the reason being that the people have been waiting for months during which they have accumulated debt, and it is necessary that something above the bare cost of living should be given them to pay off that debt. I am 1735 quite aware the right hon. Gentleman said something about a Christmas box. I do not know what he meant by that. It-does not convey to one's mind the idea of a very substantial sum but I hope it is going to be a very substantial sum, and I would suggest that it would be far better to give it in the form of an increase in the allowance, either permanent or spread over so many weeks, than to give it in one lump sum. I give all credit to Ministers for having tried to do what was right in regard to these allowances. They have a very heavy duty not only to the soldiers, but also to the country, and it must not be forgotten that there was always a danger, if the War continued, that we might have come to the end of our financial resources, and therefore it was right for Ministers and for Members of the House to remember their responsibility to the country and to the War which we were waging. But now, happily, we seem to be in a much better position and are free from all anxiety in the matter of our financial resources coming to an end before the War comes to an end, and therefore there is the more reason why we should remember the other duty, which has always been there, and which has to be balanced against our duty to the country, and that is our duty to the individual family whose man was engaged in carrying on the War. The time has now come when Ministers can afford to deal with this matter generously.
§ Mr. KEATING
Like all other Members of the House I have had a great many letters on this subject. I have no reason to complain of the lack of attention which has been given to the matter, but there are several criticisms which I think it my duty to offer as to the existing state of things. The total amount of allowances and pensions is, in my judgment, absolutely inadequate to the needs of the people in receipt of them, and the authorities who are responsible for meeting the obligations of the Government in this connection have adopted a rather unsatisfactory plan by first of all telling the people concerned that they are going to increase the pay of the soldiers by 3s. 6d. and, instead of giving that 3s. 6d. to the soldier himself, they have said it would be very much better employed if it was given to the dependants, and then as the cost of living has increased they have run away on the excuse that already they are in receipt of[...] 3s. 6d. which ought to be put against the 1736 increased cost of living. I do not think that is quite playing the game. At all events it has created a great amount of indignation in the minds not only of the dependants themselves but of those of us-whose duty it is to complain of that sort of thing.
I wish to submit one or two other points. Take the case of the discharged soldier. I have several cases in my mind in connection with my own Constituency. The discharged soldier is entitled to certain benefits under the Royal Warrant. The Royal Warrant may be, in the official mind, as clear as crystal, but the unfortunate discharged soldier is in a very difficult position in regard to it. I must confess that I am in the position alluded to by one hon. Member when he spoke about the mysteries of the Royal Warrant. The Royal Warrant is a perfect mystery to me in some of its effects. I have seen instances of men in my Constituency who responded to the call in the proper spirit and sacrificed their personal interest. These men having done their duty become the victims of neglect on the part of the authorities, who say that they are entitled to certain rights and privileges under the Royal Warrant, but it takes months and months to get anything like a clear reply as to what those rights and privileges are. In one case I was three months before I was-informed what was the position under the Royal Warrant of a private on whose behalf I had made application, and I was then told that he must take advantage of something else. That criticism ought not to be allowed to be possible. These men are entitled to be treated in a proper way. It is a great mistake and a great injustice to them and a great reflection upon those who are responsible for it to put these men, who have given everything for their country, into the position of beggars to get their rights.
Take the case of a widow who has lost her husband in the War. I have cases in mind. Take the case of educated, cultured, and ambitious women who are anxious that their children should be worthy of the father who has died for his country, and become an honour to the family. Their allowances are utterly inadequate. It seems to me that the authorities do not take into consideration that aspect of the lives of dependants who are left without the means for the proper education of their children after their husband has been killed. It is true that after a considerable 1737 amount of trouble I was able, through the courtesy which I received, to get from the authorities a gratuity for the education of the children in one case. That is not a criticism that ought to be possible. I ask the authorities not to neglect the dependants of the when who have done their duty and to put them into a position of being beggars, but chat, on the other hand, they should give to them the benefits to which they are entitled by virtue of the services rendered at the front. I heard one hon. Member to-night compare the pay and allowances of the American, Australian, and Canadian soldiers with the allowances made to the soldiers of this country. It is very much to the discredit of the authorities in this country, and the primary burden rests upon us to see that this is remedied. It is our duty to see that our men and their dependants are not in a worse position than the men or the dependants of any countries who are associated with us in this fight. I hope the authorities will bear in mind the point I have raised, first, as to the disabled soldier; secondly, the widow who has to educate her children, and also the other points I have raised. I trust that these criticisms will not be ignored, but that the authorities will do something to see that the injustices are rectified in the future.
§ Mr. KILEY
I want to deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for East Finsbury when he spoke of the discontent amongst our fighting men at the treatment meted out to their dependants. I want to bring to the attention of the Minister of Pensions the case of two sisters, one who had married a soldier serving in the British Army, for which she would receive a separation allowance of 12s. 6d. a week, and the other, who was married to, say, an Australian soldier, and who would receive £2 2s. per week. There may be most excellent reasons why two sisters, living perhaps in the same house, may be receiving in the one case 12s. 6d. because she had married a British soldier, and in the other case £2 2s. per week because she had been fortunate enough to marry a Colonial soldier. No wonder the British soldier feels dissatisfied as a citizen of the greatest and wealthiest country in the world that his wife receives such a small sum in comparison with the sum paid to the wives of Colonial soldiers. I bring this point forward because I want the Pensions Minister to be in possession 1738 of it along with other facts when he approaches the Treasury. For that reason only I intervened in this Debate.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I do not propose to go over the ground which has been already covered by my right hon. Friend who has spoken from this bench. The points to which attention has been called are thoroughly well fixed, I think. My right hon. Friend who presides over the Cabinet Committee has promised that the representations that have been made in the Debate shall be submitted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be considered, and it is obvious that I cannot carry the matter any further. I should be very glad if the hon. Member who spoke last would tell me which of the Colonies it is that gives so handsome a separation allowance as £2 2s.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I was not aware that anything approaching that was given by Australia. The matter was looked into by the Cabinet Committee in the course of the autumn, and the information we were able to obtain was that it did not approach that figure. Possibly it may have been a direct contribution made by the husband. If the hon. Member will give me further information, I will enquire into it.
§ Mr. FORSTER
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, speaking of the supplementary allowance, with special reference to the flat rate of 6s. 6d. to the wife "unaccustomed to work," laid great stress on the necessity for equality of treatment in the matter of wives belonging to—what shall I say?—to different social strata. I entirely agree with him that the administration of these supplementary allowances should be absolutely equal, and that there should be no social distinctions. I quite appreciate what my hon. Friend says as to the possible misinterpretation of the wording of the phrase "unaccustomed to work," and if we can find words that would better express what we have in view—our intention has been made abundantly clear—we should not hesitate to adopt a different phraseology. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool found it difficult to believe that the administrative difficulties of bringing these allowances into operation before the 1st 1739 January were insuperable. I can well understand that anyone who has not made himself familiar with the difficulty of administering allowances by the million can have no conception of the difficulty of making any rapid change in the amount of the allowance that is issued. In the case of these allowances the flat rate allowances are paid by means of books, or forms, through the Post Office. These have to be printed. Some time ago I was anxious to get an amendment made in the books printed, and I was told that it would take at least three months. If we amend the amount in the flat rate payable in these books, either we shall be unable to amend them by the end of the year, or we have got to get a printed form. It is physically impossible to get that done under present conditions before the 1st January, or in time to issue them before the 1st January. It is for that reason that the administrative difficulty is so considerable. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Barnes) has promised to consider whether if these allowances cannot be brought into payment earlier, they should not be made retrospective to, say, the 1st November, or some other date, in order that, at any rate, by the beginning of the new year the wife should have some accumulation of funds in hand.
If we wore to decide that they wore to be payable from the 1st of November, we should inevitably create great disappointment, because we could not get the money into the hands of the people for whom it is intended, owing to the difficulties which I have indicated. The result of that disappointment would be—I have known it to happen before—a perfect torrent of correspondence pouring into the pay office, and another torrent of correspondence flowing from the constituencies to Members of this House, and from them to my unhappy self. The result is that we should all become congested with quite unnecessary correspondence, and the necessary work of making payments would suffer. My hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Alden), the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Jowett), and several other Members, were anxious to know if full information as to their rights could not be given to the wives, families, and dependants of soldiers by some means or other, so that they may be put in the position to claim from the local pensions committees the allowances to which they are fairly and properly 1740 entitled. My hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions says that a paper is being sent out with the ring papers, so that it will come directly into the hands of all those who are in receipt of these allowances, pointing out to them their rights under the new proposals. I hope by this means, as well as by the attention which this Debate will no doubt attract throughout the country, that they will become fully aware of what they are entitled to. The House ought to bear in mind when it criticises what is termed the flat-rate amount of the separation allowance that it is criticising an allowance which we all agree is insufficient in certain cases. We have got to remember that this is an average allowance based upon the needs of town and country alike; and it is quite obvious that in certain urban areas, where the cost of living is considerably higher than elsewhere, an allowance that may be sufficient for rural districts is not enough.
In order to supplement the allowance where it is shown to be insufficient, we have introduced a scheme of supplementary allowances; and we have got to judge of the scheme as a whole, not by reference to the flat rate only, but taking into due consideration the amount which is given out of public money through the supplementary allowance. And when we are asked to compare the provision made for soldiers' families to-day with that which was made in 1914, I think, in justice to the proposals of the Government and to the good intentions of the House, that we should remember that in 1914 there were no grants from the Civil Liabilities Committee and no supplementary grants from the War Pensions Committee. When you are criticising the present scheme for falling short of the increased cost of living, I think that is a material fact we ought to bear in mind. The views repeated in this Debate will be communicated to the Government and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by my right hon. Friend and by myself. They made certain proposals, and we recognise, and no one more fully than I do, that it is for the House itself to decide these matters. Let me remind the House that this subject was under discussion last summer. Responsibility in matters of this kind rests with the House of Commons, it does not rest entirely with the Government. The Government may make proposals, and if the House thinks they 1741 are insufficient it has the right to say so, and it has been evident in the Debate this afternoon that the House does not feel that its intentions are met. We make no complaint at all. We are just as anxious, Heaven knows, we who are responsible in any way for the administration of the Army, as anybody else, that there should be the fullest and fairest provision made for soldiers and their families. On the last occasion to which I refer I pointed out that the result of the increase raised the level of the separation allowance in the case of less well-paid wage-earners above the level of the standard rate of wages which used to be earned in civil life. [An HON. MEMBER: "Before the War?"] No, not before the War. Take the case of the agricultural labourer, whose wages were fixed within the last few months, at a level actually-lower than the rate of separation allowance which his wife will get when he is claimed as a soldier. I pointed out the difficulties which might ensue upon the man's return, and I was criticised with some ascerbity for my rather niggardly views. I am not afraid of criticism. I have now been a Member of this House for a great many years and criticism does not break anybody's back. But I felt it my duty to point out to the House that there was this element in the scale of separation allowances even as they stood at that time. I felt bound to point that out to the House of Commons, because the responsibility for ultimate decision rests with the House of Commons. The House of Commons, after listening to what I had to say, did not consider that the point outweighed the advantages of giving a further increase, and it was because the House then insisted upon a further increase being made in the provision which the Government has proposed that we are now debating the new and reconsidered scale which was fixed at that time. I do not know that I can say more. We have already shown our willingness to endeavour to meet the views of the House of Commons on one occasion, and I have no doubt that we shall make a further effort to do so in the immediate future. I hope, when we do come to the House of Commons with the results of our revision, that we may be able to arrive at a general agreement.
§ Mr. JOWETT
Can the right hon. Gentleman give any reply regarding the point as to pensions of soldiers, who at the time of being enrolled were apprentices 1742 and scholars in secondary schools, with progressive wages? There is great hardship in their case.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of PENSIONS (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen)
Pensions in these cases as my hon. Friend is aware, are only paid if there is hardship. Pensions for parents now are only paid on two conditions, namely, pre-war dependence—which there clearly is not in these cases—or if there is hardship. As a consequence of this flat rate for separation allowances, a flat rate for pension is now being established on the same lines, and I hope will come into operation very shortly.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.