HC Deb 18 December 1919 vol 123 cc649-53
55. Mr. T. THOMSON

asked the Prime Minister if the Government will authorize local old age pension committees to make an extra grant to all old age pensioners in Christmas week on the same lines as boards of guardians do to their dependants?

67. Captain HACKING

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider favourably an Amendment to the Old Age Pensions Act to provide that no old age pensioner shall suffer any reduction in old age pension owing to he or she being in receipt of a war pension due to the loss of a son, etc., whilst on active service, where the receipt of the said war pension brings the total income above the maximum prescribed for in the Old Age Pension Act in determining the present conditional scale of old age pensions?

73. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have now reached a decision with regard to old age pensions during the winter?


The Report of the Departmental Committee on Old Age Pensions has only recently been received and it has not been possible to prepare and pass a Bill this Session. A Bill will be introduced as early as possible next Session. The point raised by the question of the hon. and gallant Member for the Chorley Division of Lancashire (Captain Hacking) will, I hope, he covered by an addition to the income limit. It is not possible by administrative action to make any extra grant to pensioners at Christmas as is suggested.


In order to secure to these old age pensioners a Christmas dinner, can it be arranged that they should receive their pensions on Wednesday in Christmas week instead of on Friday as is usual?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is it really impossible for the Government to take some emergency action by bringing in an emergency Bill? I am sure that the House would not mind sitting an extra day to increase the payment to these old age pensioners in view of the great distress many of them are suffering?


Is it not a fact that a Bill has been more or less in preparation, and is it not also probable that the House would welcome unanimously an opportunity of speedily passing the legislation to give to old age pensioners an increases? In view of these facts cannot the Prime Minister take some steps to call upon the House to afford an opportunity to do it?


The Government have agreed to submit definite proposals to the House of Commons, and a Bill has been drafted on those lines, but when we come to consider the possibility of it being carried through in time before Christmas we were not very sanguine. It is entirely a matter for the House of Commons itself. I am afraid it is too late now, because an extra day certainly will not secure the purpose. There must be a Money Resolution. There will have to be a Report stage upon that, and then there will be the different stages of the Bill, which afterwards has to go to the House of Lords. That is the difficulty. It is purely a Parliamentary difficulty. It is not a difficulty so far as the Government is concerned, but purely a difficulty which we all share.


In consequence of the deep sympathy expressed by all hon. Members, is there not a possibility of getting the Bill through at one sitting?


Could not the difficulty be overcome by an agreed suspension of the Standing Orders or by taking some such steps as were taken on a previous occasion when, without legislation, the pension was increased by 2s. 6d. a week?


Could it not be done by an Order in Council?


I am afraid not. This is the expenditure of money, and there must be a Money Resolution and there must be a Bill. I am not at all convinced that there would not be some criticism. Some might criticise us for having gone too far. Some might criticise us because we had not gone far enough. It does not matter from what point of view the criticism comes, it all takes time. It is only by the consent of practically all Members of the House that the Standing Orders can be suspended and a Bill of this character put through. I can assure the House it is not due to any reluctance on the part of the Government. If they are satisfied that there is a perfectly unanimous feeling in the House, there would no difficulty at all, but we should like to be quite sure of that before we start upon the matter.


Seeing that these old age pensioners are getting into debt from day to day through the increased cost of living, and seeing that the Government is unable to find time to introduce a Bill, will they make it retrospective?


Would the right hon. Gentleman take steps to ascertain what the-wish of the House is in the matter? I believe it would be unanimous.


I am afraid that is not quite the opinion we have upon the subject. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] We shall make further inquiries on the subject. It is not a question of the Government finding the time; it is a question for the House of Commons. [HON. MEMBERS: "We will find the time!"] We will institute further inquiries to see if the feeling is quite universal and if there are any indications of there being any delay in the progress. I want to put this to the House: If there is any insistence upon strict conformity with all the Rules of the House, we could not, as a matter of time, get it through now.


Is the Prime Minister aware that hon. Members with whom we act on this side of the House are unanimous in agreeing not to oppose any feature of the Bill which has been drafted?

Colonel Sir J. REMNANT

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, when he is making provision for increasing the weekly pay of these old age pensioners, he will also extend the provisions of his Bill so as to include the old police pensioners, who are suffering from the increased cost of living just as much as the old age pensioners?


That is an indication of the kind of difficulty we ex-perience—


It is meant to torpedo the Bill.


—the moment Amendments of that kind are suggested. It is impossible for any Bill of this kind to get through now before Christmas except as a consented Bill, which means that the House must be satisfied with the extent to which the Government is prepared to go.

Major Sir B. FALLE

Would not the same argument apply to all naval and mili- tary pensioners? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] They have earned their pensions.


That is meant to kill any proposal of this sort.

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