§ Colonel Sir J. REMNANT
I beg to moveThat, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that the pensions of all police officers and men retired before the 1st day of April, 1919, should be increased to such an extent as will meet the increased cost of living.I am anxious by this means to call attention to the very urgent necessity of giving relief to our old and faithful servants who retired under the 1890 Police Act and before the 1st April, 1919, from which date the increased scale of pay and, consequently, the increased scale of pensions take effect. The House will recollect that in March last year the Home Secretary appointed a Departmental Committee to deal with the whole question of the conditions in the police force. It was generally admitted at that time that the unrest which was known to exist among the men was justified, and that the wages paid them, even with the war bonus, were not sufficient to meet the exceptional conditions of the time. That Committee, feeling the necessity of dealing with the wages question, decided to divide its Report into two parts, the first of which, dealing with the wages and, consequently, the pensions, was presented to the Home Secretary with as little delay as possible, and the Home Secretary, to the satisfaction of everybody, both in the force and out of it, zealously and expeditioustly met those recommendations and gave effect to them. The second part of the Report which. by the way, was presented some time ago—I for one regret that it: has not been circulated to Members of the House, although it was laid on the Table last night—dealt more particularly with the whole question of pensions, as well as with various administrative details. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will not think that I 1812 am divulging anything which I ought not to divulge when I say that, so far as these pre-War pensions were concerned, the Committee were very anxious to report upon them, but that they were ruled out by the Home Secretary as not included within the terms of reference. Although not able to recommend any improvement in these pre-War pensions, I would add that during the course of our investigations a considerable amount of evidence was given before the Committee dealing with the matter, and so strong was the case that, while we had to state in the Report that the subject had been ruled out by the Home Secretary, we were very strongly of opinion that as a matter of right and justice the subject should be taken in hand at once. As the House knows, of these ex-police pensioners, very few are able to supplement their income by extra work. A very large number are old men and men who have been disabled in the service and have had to retire either from injuries or on medical advice. Those men depend entirely upon the meagre pension awarded to them under the 1890 Act.
I cannot help thinking that whether the Committee were or were not appointed to deal with the whole question of the conditions of the Police Force, it is a pity that this question was ruled out of order to be left to an occasion like this. I make this suggestion to the Home Secretary now—that so far as I am concerned, and I believe my hon. and gallant Friend will agree, we will ask the House to allow us to withdraw this Motion if the Home Secretary will consent to refer this particular question to his own Committee, the members of which are in London and can be called together at once. If he will refer it back to them to consider and report we will ask the leave of the House to withdraw this Motion at once. I venture to urge that that is a very reasonable proposal. I take it that the Home Secretary is not prepared to do that. It remains for us, therefore, to persuade hon. Members of this House to urge the Government to take into very serious consideration at once this particular matter. I was one of those who urged that this question did come within the reference to the Committee, but in face of the ruling we were able to do no more than express our opinion about it. If any proof be required to justify this Motion, surely it is to be found in the return of 1813 all police pensioners prior to August 4th, 1914, which the Home Secretary gave to the House. Since that date and up to April 1st, 1919, I think the House may lake it, very few have retired on their pensions. The figure, so far as I am able to estimate it, is about 400. The figures in the Return may be taken, therefore, as roughly the total of ex-pensioners prior to the date to which this Motion refers. We have been told by those Members of the Government who, I can hardly think, are in earnest or are anxious to help these men, that it is going to cost the country a prodigious sum of money if we give them a large increase in their pensions. The total number of old pensioners prior to that date for England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland is only 24,662. Of that total 21,000 are in receipt of pensions less than a maximum of 30s. a week, a very large number receive less than 20s., and I know a great number of cases where men are actually paid a small pension of something like 10s. to 15s. a week, on which they and their wives are expected to exist. 21,000 out of the 24,000 are in receipt of a mere pittance.
I have worked out the amount of money that would have to be paid if these men were given a 50 per cent. increase on existing pensions. If you take the maximum for each, that is to say, where it is stated that they receive from 20s. to 30s., you take 30s. as your figure, and where they say 20s. a week and under is paid, you take 20s. as the figure, and so on right through, you will find that, including Ireland, the total amount of a 50 per cent. increase in these pensions would not exceed £929,000, of which Ireland would take £211,000, making for England, Scotland and Wales a balance of £718,000, half of which, roughly, would fall on the localities and half on the State. I hope that that is not a very excessive amount to ask for when you are dealing with men who have devoted the whole of their lives to the service of the State and who, during that service, have contributed out of their weekly pay, which was none too good, towards the very pensions which were allotted to them. These pensions were allotted before the War, based on the old rate of wages received. It would be unreasonable to expect men, after the War, to be content with pre-War wages, and am I asking too much that pre-War pensions should be deemed as unreasonable after 1814 the War and that these men should be given something with which to end their lives, if not in comfort, at all events, without great anxiety?
These pensions under the 1890 Act were fixed at a scale which was intended to allow those men when they retired to live in comparative comfort, at all events, without the anxiety as to how they would get their bare existence, and are we going now to attempt to say, as was said the other night by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that if you deal with these old pensioners you would be practically re-opening a bargain that was made some years ago? Technically that is so, but have the Government not re-opened their bargains and their contracts? Was not the contract with the men before the Committee was appointed that they should serve for a certain pay? The Committee recommended a re-opening of their bargains, and the Home Secretary, all thanks to him for it, did as the Committee recommended, broke the previous contracts, and gave them better conditions of wages. It is said that the police could not be dealt with separately, but why not? Everybody imagined that they were included in the reference to that Committee, and why they were taken out I cannot understand. There is one thing very certain—if they had not been ruled out by the Home Secretary their case would have been dealt with by the Committee, and there would have been no necessity for this Motion to night. We are told they cannot be dealt with separately, and that the Civil Service must be dealt with as a whole, but are other civil servants as poorly paid as these people—15s. a week?
§ Sir J. REMNANT
Then the sooner their case is remedied the better. I hope my hon Friend does not attempt to seek to prove that these retired policemen should not be dealt with when the oppotunity occurs. When you are saving drowning or shipwrecked people, surely your first endeavour is to save those who cannot swim before you save those who can keep afloat for a bit.
Then I would ask the House to remember that there is a second lot of men who have retired on their pensions, and who of their own free will rejoined. 1815 They were retired as late as the 31st March, the very day before the new scale came in, at fourteen days' notice. Surely it was known that the committee which was appointed to deal with the conditions was sitting, and everybody understood that there was not contentment with the scale of wages. Those men who were retired one day before the new scale came in have a very special grievance at being treated in the way they are. I have cases innumerable, and you will find sergeants retiring one day later than inspectors and drawing very much larger pensions than the inspectors who retired just before them. I am very glad the now men have got the increase, but I want to help those who by sheer bad luck are reduced almost to the starvation stage. There is a constable retiring on the 1st April found to be in receipt of a pension not only far greater than that of one of his own rank, but considerably greater than that of an inspector who retired a little before that date, and a sergeant who retired after the 1st April was found in receipt of a pension far greater than that of a superintendent who retired a little before that date. The Government is supposed to be a model employer of labour. I venture to put it to the right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secretary, can they claim that description if they are going to treat these men this way and put them off from what everybody considers is fair treatment?
I asked the right hon. Gentleman a question in this House whether, in the event of this pension question being raised in the Committee that was appointed, fresh legislation would be necessary in order to carry it into effect, and he said "No." Therefore it is up to him, if he wishes to deal with this question, and I should like to hear from him to night whether, besides sympathy, which I admit he has extended freely to these men, he really intends to take action to try and improve their position. He can deal with it if he likes, I honestly believe. His position, if I may say so, is to me a little curious. The Eastbourne Watch Committee were anxious to help two very hard eases that came before them, and they applied to the Home Secretary to know whether they might do so. He said, so it is reported, that he had not the power to move. They then passed a resolution 1816 urging him to take steps in order to enable him to do so. Chat is the negative. You get on the other side the question of the City of London Commissioner. The Committee there dealing with police matters refused to increase from £1,700 to £2,000 a year the salary of the Chief Commissioner. They urged and claimed that he was getting £1,700 a year, and, in addition, a pension from the Liverpool Pension Fund of £850. You would have thought that was a matter that the City Authority might be left to deal with themselves, but the Home Office writes to know the reason for their having refused to increase the salary from £1,700 to £2,000. It is a little difficult to understand all this, to be told at one moment that the Home Secretary had not the power to deal with these questions and at the next moment to rind the Home Office wanting to know the reason for a refusal to increase a large salary of a chief officer.
Where there is a will there is a way, and if the Government really mean what they express, that is, sympathy for these men, they can take action at once. If they do not, they can block motions such as this. The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day said that he was bound to pay attention to the general feeling of this House. I hope the Home Secretary will consent to the Whips being taken off to-night and that the House will be allowed to be consulted free from any influence of the Whips or the Government, and to express a clear opinion on this matter. I hope sincerely the Home Secretary, at all events, will feel that the general opinion of this House is in favour of instant action in these distressing cases. My hon. and gallant Friend, who will second this Motion, spoke the other day in the debate to which I have just referred. He said that surely this was a debt of honour. It is a debt of honour, and, so long as our debts of honour are not paid, it is a strange thing for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to come down to this House and tell us that all is well and that our balance sheet is sound. I hope the House will be allowed to divide on this Question, and I hope it will say in no uncertain way that in its opinion this Motion is one deserving of its support.
§ Captain LOSEBY
I beg to second the Motion. After the eloquent and forcible 1817 speech that has just been delivered, it will not be necessary for me to detain the House for more than a few minutes, more particularly as I inflicted my views upon this particular question only a few days ago, and I can only repeat the arguments that I then ventured to use, because it seems to me that this is a simple matter of equity and logic, and it either appeals to us or it does not appeal to us. I am very anxious to be perfectly frank with this House, and so I will commence by taking the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at his word, and, for the sake of argument, I will grant that it is not possible to treat these pensioners apart from all those servants of the State, the value of whose services was appraised prior to 1914. For my own part, I am prepared to acknowledge that any logic there may be in our proposal applies equally to them all. At the same time, I do think the hon. and gallant Gentleman who brought in this Motion was well advised in asking the House to consider this particular question separately, because I cannot help thinking that it should consider first of all the cases of those people whose position is the most difficult, and in regard to whom delay will have the most serious consequences. Those people in receipt of payment for continuing service have a weapon in their hands—a weapon which, for my own part, I hope they will not hesitate to use, a weapon which will enable them to force their just demands before our attention. In these days of collective bargaining the pensioner stands quite defenceless. He has no trade union behind him. I cannot imagine the machinery of the Triple Alliance being threatened on his behalf. He has no labour to withhold, and he relies on our sense of equity and justice alone.
At the same time, I do most cordially and respectfully agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that in these days of financial difficulties, if hon. Members of this House do think that such a matter as this is ripe for reform, then it is their duty to say so in no mistaken terms, and to accept responsibility for any expenditure involved, and relieve the Government from responsibility, which it. is not fair to ask them to undertake. This Motion asks this House once and for all to tackle this problem created by 1818 the decrease in the value of money. It asks the House to sit as a tribunal, to call its witnesses, to examine the Facts and to pass judgment upon which the Government can act. This problem is one which can be trifled with no longer. If I were presenting my case before this tribunal, I would commence by recognising that it would be necessary to ask it to satisfy its mind upon three points. I am only repeating myself, I acknowledge. First of all, is there anything in the nature of a moral obligation here disclosed? Can it be liquidated in the terms of money? Secondly, in these times of intense financial difficulty, are we entitled, is it necessary for us, to accept responsibility for an obligation which, I frankly must acknowledge, cannot be put higher than a moral obligation; and, thirdly, what is the penalty for default if we fail to bring in just reform in such a matter as this? My first question is, Is there a moral obligation here disclosed? I cannot imagine anyone but a trifler venturing to argue that there is not a moral obligation in this particular case. He can say "Yes, we contracted for a sum of money and that sum of money is being paid." That is strictly true if we are endeavouring to baulk our moral obligations.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do me the honour to answer me on this point. What, as a matter of fact, was done at the time the pensions were assessed? I assert without fear of contradiction that the pensions were assessed with a certain definite object: to provide a certain standard of living in accordance with the value of services rendered; in one case, the police, to provide the bare cost of existence: in another case to provide a contribution towards existence only: and in the third case they were calculated to provide a reasonable standard of life. Let me, first of all, deal with the obligation. What is it? The obligation is to my mind perfectly clear. To provide a fair standard of living at which we assessed these men according to their value at the time they were awarded their pensions. Can that be translated into terms of money? I respectfully suggest that it can be liquidated exactly in the manner which has been adopted by the Government in another case. I would remind the House what the House itself did in the case of disabled soldiers. Under the Barnes Warrant the pensions 1819 of disabled soldiers were, in 1917, assessed at a certain figure. In 1919 these figures were found to be entirely inappropriate. Therefore, the House put up a sliding scale automatically to readjust the pensions of the soldiers, and this will come into operation at an early date.
In the case of the police, I suggest that what should be carried out in equity is that on December 30 in each year a figure should be published, as in the case of the soldiers, representing the rise in the cost of living since 1914, when the pensions were last stabilised, and 1920. I would urge that scheme, because it appears to me that it is something more than foolish at the present time definitely to fix rates which, if my definition of the endeavours of pensioners is correct, must be wrong in two or three years' time. It would be a most optimistic economist who would argue that there is going to be permanent stabilisation in the course of the next ten years. It naturally operates that at the present time, provided the House decided to go to that extreme of equity—not of reform—of putting the police back again into the position of 1914, that a figure of something like 120 per cent. would be published, and that that would operate on all pensions assessed prior to 1914. That is strictly logical and strictly equitable. If the House is not prepared to go to the logical extreme which I am trying to advocate, I cannot imagine how and by what argument they would persuade themselves to refuse to do it in the case of pensions which provide for bare existence only.
It would be possible, for example, I respectfully suggest, to put into effect a sliding scale which would operate in full on all pensions, say, of £1 a week and less, which would operate, say, as to a 75 per cent., rise on a figure of £2 a week or less, and 50 per cent. on figures of £3 a week and less. Under that scheme we should ensure this—and for my own part I would be almost satisfied—that faithful servants of the State who had been promised, at any rate, a bare existence were not destitute, and that, I say, is something. These points must be argued, because certain opinions are abroad and in the House which are intended deliberately to foster in certain quarters the opinion that we cannot afford to pay our debts. We cannot, it is said, afford to 1820 discharge our debts of honour; we are incapable of meeting our moral obligations. I suggest that my hon. and gallant Friend has made out a case for a moral obligation. Are we capable of meeting it? To that I reply it all depends upon our determination, our sincerity, and our honesty to meet our debts of honour. I can understand full well any number of quibbles being put up upon the subject. I agree that if we in this House find it necessary that we must retain in this country extremes of wealth and allow those extremes to pass on untouched; I agree that if we desire to carry out a purely opportunist policy; if we desire to fool the people, and to persuade them that we are anxious for real, genuine reforms, when we are nothing of the kind, then, I agree, it would be most ill-advised to grant this reform, because I agree perfectly well other moral obligations will follow. But if you ask me: can we afford to meet and discharge proved obligations, then I say that the matter is not worthy of argument. I will only say this: when this House approaches the Treasury with an approved Agreement, the onus is upon the Treasury to sanction or reject. If they are prepared to say, as I have heard suggested, in regard to similar reforms, that we are practically insolvent, then the time is for us to meet that argument, and it if not worthy of this country. There is a point which appeals to me personally very much, and that is the penalty for default. It appears to me that the first thing that will happen is that if the Members of this House pursue the ostrich policy of putting their heads in the sand and refusing to recognise existing facts; if we refuse to carry the reforms to which we are pledged, the first thing that will happen will be the breaking up of this combination of supporters of the Coalition Government in which many of us most earnestly believe, and in which we are yet very far from having lost confidence. How did we come here? We went to the country, and I think this point is worthy of the consideration of hon. Members, at a time shortly after the War, and why were we returned? Mainly because we promised our support to a leader in whose vision and imagination and resolution the people of this country believed. Amongst his 1821 supporters were members of other parties, but the War had altered our consciousness and we were determined, sincere, and anxious to carry out the reforms to which we were pledged. Had it been otherwise, we should not have been here, and can it be possible, faced as we are with the first difficulties, that we should hesitate to follow a lead which is being given boldly and with resolution?
I can only say that if we are so foolish and do not recognise that we are here and what we are here for, then I am as certain as I stand here that we shall go back to the obscurity from which we came, and a good thing too Unless we recognise the spirit that is growing up, unless we talk honestly and in a straightforward manner and recognise why we are here and what we stand for, our alliance will not bear those fruits which I most sincerely hope for. I hope the House will forgive me for having talked so long, but with all my faults I am sincere upon this particular point. Here is a reform clearly indicated from which the right hon. Gentleman cannot escape upon the plea of poverty and that alone. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that if this House insisted upon reforms clearly and in unmistaken language, it was necessary for the House to take the responsibility upon itself. I believe that this House is prepared to take the responsibility for this particular expenditure, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman, realising that there is a chance at any rate of this House taking from him a responsibility that we do not ask him to undertake, will ensure, at any rate, that to-night we may have an opportunity of giving our free and unfettered judgment, and if he will leave this matter to the unfettered opinion of this House I am sure my hon. Friend who proposed this Motion will be perfectly satisfied.
§ Sir JAMES BRUTON
I am addressing the House for the first time, and I hope I shall receive the same indulgence which is generally given to a new Member. Upon the question before the House I join with the mover and seconder of this Motion in urging the Home Secretary to grant the request contained in this Resolution. I know the time at our disposal is limited, and I do not want to take up time which other hon. Members wish to utilise. I have one or two cases which I should like 1822 to bring before the attention of the House. I know one case of a man who has given thirty-six years of service to the police force, who is receiving the pension of £1 2s. 8d. per week. He and his wife have brought up eight children, and consequently they could not save anything. What is the value of that, pension to him?
I know of another case of an inspector with thirty-two years' service, and his pension is £1 5s. 7½d. per week. On the last day of the month he pays £1 10s. for rent and he tries to exist on the balance. I appeal to hon. Members that this is a state of things that ought not to be allowed to continue. Surely these men, who have given the best part of their lives to the service of the State, ought not to be treated in this way. One of these men is seventy years of ago, and it is impossible for him to do anything to increase his income. The cost of the necessaries of life have advanced considerably, and this man is in the predicament that he must have these necessaries and pinch himself in order to obtain them, or go without. Surely this is a question which should be met generously, and I hope when the Home Secretary gets up to reply he will turn a favourable ear to what, has been said in regard to a body of men who justly deserve what they ask for, and which I hope the House will grant.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
I very much regret that the Home Secretary has not seen his way to accept, this motion. I shall confine my remarks within a few minutes for the simple reason that I do not want to see it talked out. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot see his way to refer the matter to the Desborough Committee, then I shall be reluctantly compelled to vote against the Government. I should like to place before the House a few figures with regard to the police pensions in Manchester and Sal-ford. The maximum pre-war pension of a police constable was £1 1s. per week; that of a sergeant £1 8s. 8d., and that of an inspector £2. Under the award of 1919 the maximum pension of a constable became £.3 3s. 4d., that of a sergeant £3 18s., and that of an inspector from £4 10s. to £5. If you take the first figures under the award of 1890, and add the increased cost of living, which, according to the last figures of the Board of Trade is 125 per 1823 cent., you arrive practically at the pensions given on April 1st, 1919. It is a scandal that in the majority of cases the police, who have served the public and the country so well, are not only deprived of their pensions, but actually have not the means to subsist, because no one in this House can say for one moment that it is possible for a man to keep his wife and family on £1 1s. per week. The thing is absurd. I would like to go into the case of a man who served for 24 years in the Metropolitan Police. He was then injured and had to leave the force. He recovered in a very few months, and he is now serving as Inspector of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He asked for leave to join the force for an extra two years in order to qualify for this increased pension. I put the case before the Home Secretary, and he treated it with great sympathy, but he informed me that it was out of his power to do anything for him. Of course, one can quite understand that if he made an exception in this case he would have to do it in all. That is one way how this matter is operating so unfairly.
I can only imagine the Home Secretary offering two reasons why he cannot grant some increase on the pre-War pension. He may tell us that the finances of the country will not permit it. I quite agree that the Government should be as stringent as possible in cutting down expenses in every Department of the State, but they must find some other way of cutting down their expenses than practically trafficking in the health and existence of these old servants of the State. The other reason which I fancy he may advance is that we cannot deal with this point alone. The Civil Service are in the same position, and they also are asking for an increase in their pensions. That argument will not do for me, because I say that they are equally entitled to an increase. In many cases some of their pensions are even worse, if possible, than those of the police. I include teachers in the Civil Service. If that reason be given by the right hon. Gentleman, I say that it will not do for me, because they also are entitled to it. The hon. Gentleman opposite said that this case wanted to be argued. In my opinion, no argument is necessary. It is either right or wrong to make it possible, not only for these men to live in comfort, but to exist. If it be 1824 right to make it possible for them to exist, then the Government ought to come forward and say: "We will increase these amounts."
§ Mr. MURCHISON
I wish in a very few sentences to support the Resolution which has been so fully placed before the House by the mover and the seconder, and I hope that the Government will see their way to remedy this very real and legitimate grievance of a large number of men throughout the country. It is right that they should remove this grievance if they can, and they can do so by the expenditure of a comparatively small sum of money. A case which I will give in illustration came to my knowledge a few weeks ago. I gave the facts to the Home Department, but I was not able to get any promise that they would consider the matter. It is the case of an ex-police superintendent at Hull who, by chance, retired just two days before the Commission's decision came into force. Had he remained another three days in the force, he would now be drawing £158 per year more in pension. There are many similar cases throughout the country, and, if the Government would only consider the matter, I am sure that they could remedy this serious grievance. This man wished to retire in 1918, but he could not do so because of the Police Emergency Act of 1915. He bad a very good civilian job offered him, and then when 1919 came he retired, but, owing to the advice of his Chief, he sent in his notice just at the wrong time. I am informed that the Desborough Committee have already decided that they cannot reconsider the matter. If it has not passed out of their control altogether, I do ask the Home Secretary to urge them to go into the matter thoroughly; but, if it has passed out of their control, he can easily deal with it and at the same time he can feel assured that he will not be involving the country in any serious expenditure.
§ Mr. W. R. SMITH
It is not my intention to detain the House at any length upon this question, not because it is not possible to say a good deal in regard to it, but because I feel that the facts appertaining to it are well known practically to every Member. I rise mainly with the object of associating the party with which I am connected whole-heartedly with this Motion, and I think it is right that the 1825 Home Secretary should understand and realise how extensive is the feeling in the House that something ought to be done for these men. I would like to ask him whether he is prepared to suggest that there is not a real grievance, having regard to the smallness of the pensions of these men, small in many cases because they were injured in the Force before they had served for any great length of time, and some of them possibly injured to such an extent as to prevent them from taking up other employment and materially adding to their income. I would like to ask, further, whether it is felt by the Government that this grievance can in any way diminish in the course of time. At the present moment we have to admit that the difficulties of life which specially constitute this grievance are on the increase, and it has been indicated that those circumstances, in so far as they are liable to change in the near future, will gradually become worse. That being so, it is no argument to say that we can afford to delay this matter, because the grievance will become intensified, and a moral obligation will rest upon the House to give the fullest consideration to this matter. These men have nobody to whom they can appeal but this House. They are not in a position to protect themselves in any other way, and, even if it can be argued that this House has no legal obligation towards them, then certainly we are justified in saying that there is a very strong moral obligation which cannot be considered to be less binding than a legal obligation would be. I was hoping that the suggestion put forward by the mover of this Resolution would have been accepted by the Government. I am certain that there is no question upon which a Vote of the House would show greater unanimity than the question of doing something for these retired officers. We know that it cannot be done without an expenditure of money; but we have been told repeatedly from the Government Benches that in the expenditure of money this House is the final arbiter, and must always accept the responsibility. In this case I feel certain that the House is prepared to accept the responsibility, and to do so in the full knowledge that we cannot adjust the circumstances of these men without at the same time admitting the obligation to do something similar towards other 1826 men who have retired from other branches of the public service. I would like to point out the irony of a situation in which men who, simply because they served their country years ago, and who may have served just as faithfully as those who are now serving and are about to retire on their pensions, find themselves compelled to live on an income, in the form of a pension, which in many cases is less than half what is now granted to men who are merely retiring on the minimum rate of wages paid to the police at the present time. That is a condition of things which cannot be tolerated, and I do hope that upon this question we shall have sympathetic consideration on the part of the Home Secretary, if not in the direction of making a full concession hero to-night, at least in the direction of giving the House a chance to express its mind upon the matter, or, if that is not possible, of adopting the other suggestion, namely, that the Committee which has been dealing with the condition of the police service shall be given the fullest opportunity to consider the matter in all its aspects, and to present a report to the House which can form the basis of another discussion, and, I hope, of the acceptance of the principle contained in the Resolution.
§ Mr. PEMBERTON BILLING
I think the whole question hero is one of principle, and it is because it is based on principle that I fear we shall not succeed in the Lobbies to-night if we go there. I do not want to say anything antagonistic to the Home Secretary or the Government. Did I feel that by remaining seated we should be more successful than we are likely to be, I should never have risen at all. I want the House to appreciate the point that the Government have never of their own volition done a generous act. They have repeatedly done foolish actions when driven to them by organised threats, by fear of the consequences. Surely this is not the first occasion since 1914 that citizens of this Empire have faithfully served it. We have all gone mad in this country in giving freely and generously to the men who served in this War, totally forgetting those men who equally have served, not only in previous wars, when our honour, if not our national existence, was at stake, but in days of peace, entering into contracts with the State when the pound was worth twenty shillings, contributing to a 1827 general fund a part of a pound which was worth twenty shillings, to come back here, when their pension time arrived, and claim part of a pound which is worth 6s. 2d. It is because the whole thing does rest on an honourable undertaking of the Government that I fear we shall not be successful. But one thing I do know, that if only hon. Members here will show a little organisation, especially having regard to the position of the Coalition candidate at Paisley to-day, we may possibly get, by threatening the Government with the loss of their own existence, a square deal for these men who cannot organise and put their case themselves.
I am deeply interested in the matter of the police. Having been a policeman myself for three years, I have a certain fellow feeling with them. Having paid to superannuation funds a considerable proportion of my pay as a policeman, I realise that the Home Office have in hand a very considerable amount of money received from men who have contributed to these funds and have never drawn a penny from them at all. Therefore, I speak with a certain amount of bias. The Government, if they wish to do justice in this matter, can do it, and I will suggest a way. Let them bear this new load, this great financial burden, which I am certain will be the sum and substance of the right hon Gentleman s reply. Everyone comes to this House screaming for economy. The papers are howling for economy. If you want to come back to this House, you must remember you will have to face your constituents, and they will say to you, "Did you squander public money, or did you not?" I, for one, am perfectly willing to give an account upon this matter, at any rate. May I say to the Home Secretary, let him start this economy of public money on the official and efficient administration of the various Departments of State, and not try to save the public money by bleeding those who have served the State in the past
§ Major-General Sir J. DAVIDSON
I do not propose to criticise in any way the admirable speech made by the Mover of this Resolution, but I do hope that the case of those police who retired before 1914 is not going to be met by laying too much stress upon those who retired after 1914. As far as I am concerned, the remarks I have to make will apply, not only 1828 to the police, but to all other pre-War State pensioners—not only the Civil Service, but the Army and the Navy as well. I remember being in the House when the Chancellor said some time ago that if there was no more expenditure therefore there would be no more taxation. I should be very pleased to be taxed more in order to see these pensioners getting proper pensions, and I believe every other Member of the House would do the same, and the country as well. I asked the Chancellor some time ago what the cost of the extra pensions would be, and his answer was that it would probably be about six millions. I think it would be money very well spent. These people are a weak section of the community, from the point of view that they had no opportunity of putting money by for a rainy day or of providing for old age. Most of them are too old to work, and certainly that is so of those in the Army and a great many of those in the Navy. It may be argued that the rise in prices is temporary and that they will come down, and that, therefore, there is no need to increase the pension. I believe that that view is entirely erroneous, and that high prices have come to stay for a considerable time. Another point of view is that the Rent Restriction Act will shortly be relaxed, and a great many of these pensioners, who are starving themselves now in order to live in their cottages, will have to give them up. I came across a case the other day of a man and woman extremely badly off, who were starving themselves in order to live in their cottage, and who were getting thinner visibly week by week and month by month. I am of opinion that the Government are morally bound to see that the pre-war pensioners get their proper due.
§ Sir FORTESCUE FLANNERY
I think the House is indebted to the hon. Gentleman who has raised this very important public question. I hope to show that it is not merely as a matter of justice to certain helpless individuals, but a matter also of public safety and expediency that this question should be dealt with by the Government. The position of the Government in regard to the question of pensions is exceedingly difficult to understand. In the matter of old age pensions, the Government first of all, notwithstanding the plea of economy, gave a gratuitous allowance of half a crown 1829 per week. They then appointed a Committee of Inquiry, and on the last day but one of last Session passed a Bill increasing the old age pensions to 10s. per week, and all the ideas of economy that had been put forward with regularity were thrown to the wind. The matter was so very urgent that it must be dealt with at all costs and in all circumstances, and it was so dealt with because the sympathy of the House then, as the sympathy of the House to-night, was in favour of the helpless and the weak. That was a wise and proper action on the part of the Government a few weeks ago. On the other hand, we find that the Government during the War commandeered the services of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of Civil Service pensioners and other retired Government servants, and brought them back to work under war conditions, and then when the War was over threw them out and refused to count for pension time the years of service during the War, during which these men had been compelled, often at great personal sacrifice, to give for the benefit of the State. They were told that those years must not be added to the years of other service to qualify for increased pensions on the ground of rules and regulations. This was done, although the cost of food upon those pensioners is just as great as upon other pensioners whose years of qualification happened to be identical years during the War when those older men had to serve. To-day I asked a question with regard to a large number of postal servants who have had this experience, and the financial Secretary to the Treasury, whom I do not see in his place at the moment, said that the regulations could not be transgressed and that these particular men could not receive any allowance in regard to an increase of pension.
Let me examine this question on the double basis of justice and expediency. With regard to the question of justice, why do you give pensions at all. You do so as a recognition of past service to the community and a recognition to those who are no longer able to work. Even the old age pension was founded on the principle that the people concerned were too old to work, and that the community that they had served honestly should give them honourable succour in their old age. If the money that you allot to those people is given from the 1830 idea of justice alone, still more is it necessary to make this allowance on the ground of expediency. It has not been money merely you have allotted in the past to the various pensioners, but money's worth. That is the essence of the whole matter. Did you in the past allot to pensioners of all classes merely a sum of money or something in the shape of money to buy the means of living? If you examine this question fundamentally I think you must arrive logically at the conclusion that the allowance allotted to pensioners was an allowance based on money's worth rather than money according to a fluctuating value. The money that is now being given is less than half the value of the worth contracted to be given to the various pensioners. I claim, and I do not hesitate to say that I am speaking logically when I do so, that the pensioner has as much inherent right to an increase of the money amount given to him as the wage earner. True ho has not the same power of enforcing his demand, but though he has not the power of going on strike, at least he has the power of referring to this House which never failed, I venture to say, in the long run to do justice to those who have a grievance. So much for the question of justice.
May I turn for a moment or two to the question of expediency? There never was a time—and no one knows this better than the Home Secretary—in the history of this country when the loyal service of a contented police and constabulary was more important to the stability of the community. You have had strikes and lock-outs, and you do not look forward with any confidence to the time when strikes and lock-outs will cease. Whatever be your sympathy in regard to them, at least all classes are agreed that you must "keep the ring." You must avoid giving an opening for direct action. You must have constitutional methods which may include strikes and lock-outs as well as Debates in this House. You must have the ring preserved for the com batants to settle their grievances accord-to rules and regulations. Settle your trade disputes by argument, and ensure strong and reliable protection by means of a police upon which you can rely against Bolshevik methods of direct action and of enforced labour. Why did my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary increase 1831 the pay of the police not long ago? That pay was put up very considerably and it was put up because it was realised that the position of the policeman must be made clear and definite, and practically impregnable as regards his means of livelihood. That was done on the grounds of justice, it was also an act of expediency. If you allow the police to know, broadly speaking, as a result of this Debate, that their old age is reasonably provided for, if you agree in regard to widows' pensions that they too are in a very unsatisfactory condition, if you let the police know further that you secure to them pensions on a scale commensurate with their wages, then you will have a police force which will be contented and strong, and the agitator amongst the police will have no more chance. If my right hon. Friend will accompany me next Sunday morning to Hampstead Heath, the chances are ten to one that the orators who address the crowd from the rostrum there will be found to be police officers who are out of work on account of recent strikes. If you want to do away with that agitation—I do not believe it is of any importance now—if you want to do away with the possibility of propaganda amongst the police, then remove these grievances as thoroughly as you removed the grievances of the men in regard to pay. The offer of my hon. and gallant Friend, who moved this Motion, was a very reasonable one. He pointed out that the whole cost would be less than a million a year if his suggestion was granted. I think he was almost too moderate in that He made an alternative offer to my right hon. Friend that, if he did not see his way to grant the request in the Motion, he should allow the matter to be referred again to the Committee without the restrictions upon it which prevented that Committee finding in its favour previously. That seems to be a very reasonable suggestion, and I do strongly hope that, as a result of this Debate, the right hon. Gentleman will do the right thing for these distressed police pensioners, not only as a matter of justice, but also as an act of expediency and of good judgment in the interests of the community at large.
§ Mr. GILBERT
I rise as a London Member to ask the Home Secretary to favour ably consider the Motion now before the 1832 House. One reason why in the old days, when police were recruited, you got such good men to join the force—men who served quite loyally for 7 days a week and 24 hours per day, because a policeman is always on duty—was that they knew that when they retired they were guaranteed a pension which would keep them in their old age. In view of the very great hardships a great number of these men suffer—I am referring to ex-officers of the London police force—I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider the Motion from the point of view, that one of the reasons why he got such good men in the police force and such loyal and devoted service at all times was that they knew when they retired they would have sufficient money to live upon and would be kept from want in their old age. The value of money has now altered considerably. When the Government quite recently adopted the recommendations of the Desborough Committee it was a very great hardship that the men who retired before the date, partly by accident of date, had their pensions worsened. In a great many cases a few months' extra service would have meant a very much better pension, but unfortunately the men were compelled to retire because of ill-health or age. In addition to that, the pensions granted them now have considerably less value. The maximum salary of a constable before 1914 was 40s. The present maximum under the Desborough Committee for a constable is £4 15s., or, with a lodging allowance of 10s., 5 guineas per week.
I ask the House to consider the difference in the pensions now payable to men who served under both conditions. Surely men who served before the Desborough Commission reported deserve the thanks of the country just as much as the men who are serving at the present time. It has often been said that these men can have other work, but, from a Home Office return published on the 20th December, 1919, it would appear that 8,472 of them are turned 60 years of age. The Police Pensioners were called in during War time. It is true they were paid salaries in addition to their pensions, but, having gone out at the end of their War service, they are in a very much worse position with regard to taking any other kind of employment. They are mostly elderly men, and, naturally, after the War, the kind of light employment which that type 1833 of man can do is now being given to wounded men or men who have served in the War. I am convinced, and I am certain other London Members will agree with me, that this is a very great hardship to a great number of men who have served London and other cities very loyally in the past, and I hope the Home Secretary will most favourably consider it, and see if he cannot do something to relieve these men in their old age.
§ Sir F. BLAKE
I rise as a Member of the Desborough Committee to confirm in every particular the statement made by the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Remnant) with regard to the disappointment that we experienced on that Committee when we found we were not able to deal with the case of the old-age pensioner. We were told it was not within the terms of our reference. Notwithstanding that, we showed our sympathy by making the very strongest recommendation it was possible to make that the Government should take up this question with expedition and give these men justice. I am aware that this is a part of a very much larger question, but it is one which the action of the Government has brought into special prominence, because it has done so by its acceptance of the proposal of our Committee with regard to the pay of the serving police and the vastly improved pension scheme which men who retire after the new provisions come into operation can claim, and that has brought into special prominence the unfortunate position of those men who do not benefit as their confrères do. While the Committee was sitting, we had evidence of the distressing conditions under which even constables on full pay were struggling to maintain themselves and their families, and we also had the most piteous appeals from retired constables whose scanty pensions scarcely enabled them to obtain the necessaries of life. There is greater unanimity on this question than has been shown in this House during this Session, and it would be a misfortune for me to stand in the way of that Division which I hope we are going to have and which will confirm that unanimity. In joining in this appeal I am pleading the cause, along with all other Members who have thought about the matter, of a body of men whose loyalty and devotion to the community deserve a fitting recognition at the hands of the public, whose servants we are, a public which is not unmindful 1834 of the value of the services which have been so willingly rendered by the men on whose behalf I have been speaking.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Everyone in this House and everyone in the country will desire that we should return to the position in which we were before the War. There are undoubtedly a large number of people at present who are suffering from the effects of that war. There are no doubt some who have succeeded by various means in inducing the Government and other people to put them in the position in which they were before the War. They are by no manner of means the whole community, and there are a large number of people who are at present suffering most intensely, not only because their incomes are smaller than they were before the War, but because they have to bear a very large proportion of the burden, in the shape of taxation and rates, which has been put upon the nation. I should be the last person who would desire, if it was in our power, to prevent anyone from occupying the position which he did occupy before that very unfortunate War, but we have to consider where all this money is coming from which is going to give to everyone the same means of livelihood as you had before the War. There is undoubtedly a great tendency for people to say, "Jones has got something, why should I not have it?" It reminds me of the parable in the New Testament where our Saviour told the story of a man who engaged a certain number of men to work for a penny a day for the whole day. He also engaged a certain number of men to work for an hour, also for a penny a day. At the end of the day the men who had worked during the whole of the day objected. I need not go on any further, because everyone who has read the New Testament knows the rest. That parable should be read by everyone and should be read very often at present. It is no argument to say that because A has got something, B should have it too. There are a certain number of people—I do not blame them; it is only human nature—who are desirous of benefiting themselves at the expense of other classes. There is no place to which the Government or anyone else can go and pick up sovereigns. It is true there is a printing press where they can print Bradbury notes, but that means bankruptcy, and I do not suppose that anyone, 1835 however anxious he may be for the acceptance by the Government of this Motion, would desire such a catastrophe as the bankruptcy of the country.
May I remind the House of what occurred so recently as the 13th of this month? On the 13th February, which was the last day of the Debate on the Address, an Amendment was moved pointing out to the Government the great necessity of economy. This is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, in reply:—As to civil expenditure, I invited the House last autumn to consider what was the possible field for retrenchment or for criticism. I now invite hon. Members to do the same. Look at our Budget. Pensions are £124,000,000. Is there a single Member of the House who would cut the amount down? Not one. There is a great number of Members who would urge the Government to increase it. One hon. Member spoke in that sense to-day. He made the proposal that we should revise the pensions of people who had retired before the present War on the basis of post-war value and costs. Those people who were pensioned before the War have suffered profoundly when their means were small.We are all agreed upon that. He went on to say:—But they have suffered in common with immense numbers of their countrymen; with all who were living on fixed incomes; and who had not succeeded in increasing their earnings. Why should the State, whose bargain with them was complete—"[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I shall be prepared to answer that criticism later—and which would never have thought of reducing the pension against them if the cost of living had fallen, now be called on to reopen the bargain and make good in their case, and in their case only, a misfortune not caused by their public service, and which is shared by enormous masses of their countrymen? That request, I do not know what you would call it, would run inevitably through the whole Government service, it would run through the railway service, through the municipal service, and would run into figures which I have no means of estimating. I have taken the trouble to see what would be the immediate result on our own Estimates. It would add to our liabilities a capital sum of certainly not less than £50,000,000."—[Official Report, 13th Feb., Cols. 455–6, Vol. 125.]Some hon. Members said that bargain was not complete. I do not know what was meant by that. The arrangement with the police when they entered the Force was that they should receive a certain sum when they retired. I am old enough to remember perfectly well the 1836 cost of living in the years between 1870 and 1880, and I remember the disastrous year of 1879, which marked the commencement of the period which ruined a great number of farmers in this country, and landlords too, and which during the next ten years brought down the cost of living by a very large sum. Did anybody ever say that because in 1870 a pension was granted and the cost of living in 1880 had gone down the pension should be reduced? I never heard of anything of the kind, and if anybody had said it, would the pensioners have agreed? Everyone knows that the pensions were given on the understanding that a fixed sum would be paid. There is a large number of people who have saved money, and who have nobody in particular to whom to leave it. Their savings have not been very great. They have gone to an insurance office and bought an annuity. If they went to the insurance office and said, "It is true that we bought an annuity of £100 ten years ago, but the cost of living is now so much greater than it was then, therefore you must increase the annuity," the insurance officer would say, "The agreement made was that a certain sum per year should be given to you, and you have got to abide by that agreement."
I have attacked the Government very strongly on many occasions when I thought they were wrong; but that is no reason, when they happen to be doing the right thing, why I should attack them again. If hon. Members read the City intelligence of to-day they will see that the Funding Loan which was issued last year at 80 stands at 71, that is, a discount of 9 per cent., roughly speaking, within seven months, and the 5 per Cent. Loan which was issued at 95 some two or three years ago is now 88¾ per cent. The Bank rate, which is now 6 per cent., in all probability in a few days will be 7 per cent. We have £ 1,100,000,000 Treasury bills which will have to be renewed from time to time as they expire. We have already exceeded the expenditure estimated last April by £220,000,000, which is equal to the whole expenditure in the most extravagant year we had in the history of the country before the War. It is evident, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that if we were to agree to give this sum now we should have to agree with the whole Civil Service, the railway service, the Post Office, and all those 1837 people who have entered into a bargain to receive a certain pension when a certain contingency arises. The hon. Member who spoke a short time ago spoke about the inability of the pensioners to earn money. Just consider for a moment the difference in the position of the police pensioner and the Civil Service pensioner, the railway pensioner and the Post Office pensioner.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not include them. The civil servant, I believe, retires not before 60 years of age and he must retire at 65. I think I am right there. But what about the police? They retire at about 45 years of age.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
My hon. and gallant Friend cannot know much about his brief. The police retire after 26 years' service, and if they join the Force at 20 years of age, which is not unusual, they would be 46 years of age on retirement. Let me give an instance of what happened to a policeman who retired. Not so many years ago one of the police in the House, a good fellow whose acquaintance I had, told me that he was about to retire. He was quite a young man, about 45 or between 45 and 50, and he said to me, "I should very much like to be the messenger of a bank." I replied, "Very well." I was then the director of a bank, and I told him that we were only too anxious to get retired policemen into our service as messengers. We at once took this man and paid him full salary. That salary he received in addition to his pension, with rooms, fire and light, and all that sort of thing. There are numbers of pensioners who retire and do that sort of thing. The ease of the policeman is about the worse case my hon. Friend could have brought forward in regard to pensions, because policemen retire so very much earlier than other workers.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The Home Secretary is here, and if I am wrong he will contradict me. Let us get the information. I think my statement that the average age is between 45 and 50 will be found to be correct. I took the trouble to ascertain this afternoon what was the service that qualified a man for a pension, and I was informed it was 26 years' service. Therefore, these particular men, as far as the matter of hardship goes, are really in a better position than the majority of pensioners whose case has not yet been dealt with. One speaker to-night said that a pension was given in order to prevent people doing anything when they came to a certain age, and ho illustrated what took place at the end of last Session when all the rules of the House were suspended and the Old Age Pension was increased from 5s. to 10s. a week No one could ever have supposed that even in pre-war days anyone could have lived on 5s. a week; neither is it very likely that in these days people could live on 10s. a week. Therefore, the idea that pensions were given in order to provide something on which a person could live in absolute comfort without doing any work, is erroneous. Pensions were always given as something which would be regarded as a regular sum of money to be received and which, with whatever else the recipients might have saved or could earn, would enable them to live in comparative comfort. We really must make up our minds that we have got to suffer for the War [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Hon. Members opposite are very careful not to suffer for it, but the majority of people have, unfortunately, got to suffer on account of the War, and we must all make up our minds that if we are to restore this country to the prosperity which it had before the War, instead of coming down here and asking that the burdens which we have all got to share shall be passed on from our shoulders to somebody else's shoulders, we must all turn to and do our best, and put up with hardships—not to work for 48 hours at a stretch or nonsense like that, but for 12 hours, or 14 would be better still, in order to 1839 assist those of us who desire to see our country prosperous as it was before the War.
I happened only to-day to meet a gentleman, in connection with the work of the small Committee on which I have been asked by the Government to serve, dealing with the question of Austrian debts to British firms, and he said "The Germans are determined to get their country back to the same state commercially as it was in before the War, and all of them, from the smallest boy in the workshops to the master of the workshops, are working as many hours and as hard as they can." These are the people we have got to compete with. I am not arguing against the police, but that we cannot do these things, however good they are, and that we have got to make up our minds about it. We shall have to exercise a litle moral courage. Do not suppose I am doing what I am doing because I like it. I do it from a sense of duty. I may be wrong, but I do not think I am, and I feel so strongly that if this great country is to be restored to its pristine greatness—and I am certain that everybody wants to see that—we have got to do it by putting aside all sentimentality, by acknowledging that we have had a rough time and are going to have a rougher still, and we have to face it like Englishmen, and if we do that I think we shall come through, but if we allow ourselves to be governed, as I should like to be governed, by sentiment and by desiring to make everything pleasant for everybody, ruin stares us in the face.
§ Mr. MOLES
The Home Secretary has not had a happy moment since this Debate began until the right hon. Baronet who has just spoken rose, and I think the House will also agree that, however sure the right hon. Baronet may be on finance—and we all bow to him in that respect—none of us would like to follow him as an authority on Biblical history. I was fearful, indeed, lest he should break down, but the promptings of his friends saved him. I should like to suggest that he should carry his Biblical researches a little further. He would find this passage: "The labourer is worthy of his hire." We all suffer from the War. That is true, but I hope the right hon. Baronet does not suggest that some of us 1840 are to be ruined by the War. Let there he due proportion in the bearing of this burden. I listened to the Home Secretary in the course of this Debate. He was genial, almost benevolent, when we began, but as speaker after speaker made appeal he became frigid and repellant. We have all to go back home bearing this message—"Codlin is your friend—not Short." I want to put in a word rather for the Irish police pensioners, and I am perfectly certain I shall carry the right hon. Baronet in this matter. I listened with amazement to an hon. Friend above the Gangway declaring that a pensioner in his town had only a guinea a week. In the present condition of living, if that be his sole revenue, I think it is a disgrace to the country. Then we were told that in Manchester it was a guinea and £1 8s. 8d. Yet the pension which these hon. Gentlemen think niggardly and mean in the last degree represented more than the pay of the Irish policeman within recent years. There are 5,000 old pensioners in Ireland to-day maintaining an existence on 16s. a week, the purchasing power of which is 6s.
When the right hon. Baronet makes an appeal to us to suffer for the war, I would suggest that it is pushing suffering a little too far. References have been made to a bargain. What bargain is there that has not been broken? And is the Home Secretary going to take refuge behind the letter of the law and violate its spirit? Surely not. I do not think that attitude is creditable to him at all. It is for the Irish police pensioner that I desire to speak more particularly. The case we have made has been admitted from the Treasury Bench. In response to a question which I addressed to the Chief Secretary for Ireland not so long ago, he admitted that the case of the Irish police pensioner was peculiar and exceptional. The average age of retirement in Ireland exceeds 60 years, and, leading the kind of life a policeman has to lead in Ireland, I am sure the right hon. Baronet would not give him employment as a porter, and when he told us of a policeman who was a bank messenger I expected him to go on and tell us that one of these days he would be a bank director. I think I am entitled to make this appeal on behalf of the Irish police pensioner, that the Chiei Secretary having admitted that this claim was peculiar and exceptional, and that pledge having been agreed to, the 1841 Treasury should implement its bargain. I support this appeal, and in these days when crime is very widespread, it is the police that stand between society and chaos in a great many cases. They venture their lives and limbs in a way the ordinary employee does not. They render a kind of service which the ordinary employee does not. Above everything else, as the State makes an appeal to the private employer to treat his employee with justice and generosity, let it show him an example! I support this Motion, and if it is carried to a Division I shall vote for it.
As a Scottish Member I desire to say just one word in connection with this subject as it relates to Scotland. Before doing so may I say that I owe a little reparation to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who introduced this Motion. When the Old Age Pensions Bill was before the House the hon. and gallant Gentleman raised this question, and I said that he tried in this way to torpedo the Old Age Pensions Bill. I ought not to have said so. I desire to express my regret, and to withdraw the observation. The case for the police in Scotland is exactly the same as the case for the police in England. A fortnight ago I happened to be in the neighbouring borough of Paisley. Some representatives of the policemen in Glasgow came to see me to put their case before me. Perhaps the House is aware that the bulk of the policemen in Glasgow are Highlanders; indeed, I think that is so in most towns in Scotland. Possibly the reason is that the bump of law or order is more highly developed with the Highlander than with others. The special case in Glasgow is that there is a police pensions fund, and, I am told, that the Corporation are quite willing that the extra allowance should be paid out of this if the Law Officers of the Crown permit it, and it will cost little, if anything, to the State. The Secretary for Scotland wrote to the Corporation to the effect that it was not in their power to pay out this money; therefore the pensioners engaged by the Glasgow Corporation have to go without the extra pension. If legislation or a short Bill be necessary, I think the Scottish Office might consider the special case of the policemen under the Glasgow Corporation, and do them this justice, which can be done cheaper than in any other city in the country.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Shortt)
This has been a very interesting debate. I quite agree with what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Northumberland, that it has disclosed complete unanimity so far as the feeling of this House has been expressed in the speeches upon the question raised in the Motion. This is not the first time that this question has been considered. It is raised to-night, it is true, in the name of the police, but it is a far wider question than that of the police alone. It is perfectly true, as has been put, that the police have no real legal right to any alteration in the rate of their existing pensions. That applies to almost every other kind of pensioner, whose pension, as pre-War fixed, is smaller than is requisite for the needs of to-day, and who is, therefore, suffering in consequence. They have no legal right to any change in their pensions. It is obvious that these pensions were not based upon the standard of living, because if that had been the basis of their contract the moment the cost goes down the pension would have to be reduced proportionately to meet the changed circumstances. It only requires a moment's consideration to show anybody that the basis of the contract was a nominal amount and not the mere standard of wage.
I admit that that does not meet the matter, but it prevents anyone getting up and saying the case of the police is special and that their contract is that their pension should be altered. They cannot say that. Those who champion the cause of the police are bound to admit that their case is exactly on the same lines as the Civil Service, the Army, the Navy, the Scottish and Irish police, municipal employés, the English, Scotch and Irish school teachers, and all the others who had their pensions fixed in pre-War times. This is a matter of extreme difficulty. I do not know how many hon. Members have calculated what the cost of this means if carried to its logical conclusion. May I remind the House that one thing is absolutely certain, and it is, if this House decides that measures should be taken to make alteration in the pensions for the police because of a change in the cost of living, and that there is a moral obligation on the people of this country to raise the 1843 pensions of these people, there will be no answer of any sort or description to any other class of pensioner who comes along and demands the same thing.
We must face the facts. If this demand is granted which the police ask for through their champions in this House, we have to face the granting of the same thing to every other class of pensioner. Not only those who are State pensioners, but we shall have to grant the same thing through the rates of corporations and county councils to every municipal pensioner in the country. That is a very considerable burden. It is no pleasant task where one's whole sympathies are with the claimant to have to say, "Really this is impossible,' but sometimes this unpleasant task has to be performed and it is forced upon us In this case, taking the imperial pension for service to the State, rather than the service to municipalities, corporations and county councils, it would be impossible to do it on the most moderate computation under a capital sum of at least £50,000,000 to provide the necessary revenue, assuming that revenue decreases until it disappears altogether. I do not understand the claim which is put forward for a moment. We have certainly calculated on the assumption that as pensioners who are under the old scale die the call upon the State will decrease, and, facing it in that way and taking the whole period, the smallest amount for which it could be done would be the revenue attributable to a capital sum of £50,000,000.
§ Mr. SHORTT
If everything that is demanded requires a capital sum of £50,000,000, and we are to agree to them all, then Heaven help this country. You have also to consider what is going to be the addition to the rates, and it is bound to be very considerable. I would ask the House to recollect who pays all this. Think of the thousands of people with small fixed incomes, hard put to it, as it is. The burden of this additional taxation would fall very heavily upon them. Therefore, the House will appreciate how extremely difficult a subject it is for any Government to deal with. The Government have given it their most careful consideration. I should not like to say how many questions have been asked on this 1844 subject, how many hon. Members have discussed it with myself, and how many letters one has received. There is no dispute as to the facts. There is no dispute as to the hardships in the case of pensioners, but that they are any greater than those of people with small fixed incomes, I entirely deny. The hardship is the same if the income be small and fixed; it will not expand as prices expand, and the hardship is the same whether they are pensioners or not. One has to consider what can be done in every case. It has been said that the burden of my answer will be that there is a cry for economy. So there is a cry for economy. Every newspaper, every public speaker, is shrieking aloud for economy. The Government are denounced because they do not carry out measures of economy in Government Departments. Government Departments are being cut down ruthlessly. Every day there are people who complain that they have been engaged during the War and are now thrown on the streets without employment. The Departments are being cut down as ruthlessly as they can be. Every possible avenue of economy is being explored by the Government, but if on every hand we are to be forced to enter into new expenditure, it will make the cry for economy absolutely of no avail, and it will make the attempt at real economy absolutely useless. Therefore, as I say, this is a matter of the most extreme difficulty. I appreciate to the full the motives of every hon. Member who has spoken on behalf of so many poor people. Everybody has sympathy for them. I know that sympathy butters no bread, but at any rate it does induce you to face this problem with a desire, if possible, to do all that can be done to satisfy the claims that are made. We have had papers showing the number of pensioners that exist. I may say at once to the House that it would be quite impossible for me to suggest to the Cabinet once again that they should consider the question of giving to every pensioner that exists a proportional or a percentage rate of increase. There is a proportion of those who are in receipt of pensions, who, although they are not as well off as we should like them to be, are still not in the dire distress which has been so pathetically described with regard to some, but that there are some who are in distress there is no doubt. There are 1845 hard cases. This matter, as I have told the House, has been already considered and definitely decided by the Government. Their decision was complete and decisive, and therefore, that being a final decision, I am not in a position to-night to say that anything of necessity can be done.
I am sure the House will appreciate that it is not merely a police question, but is a question dealing with all kinds of other Government servants. It would, therefore, be idle to refer this back again, as has been suggested, to the Desborough Committee, because that committee deals, and can only deal, with the question of police. If you are going to consider this question, you will have to consider the case of every kind of civil servant—a far bigger number than these police, pensioners. You will have to consider the Army and Navy pensioners—a bigger number than the police pensioners. There are all kinds of other pensioners, and you would require a committee for each. But it may be possible—I am not going to say that it is—that the really hard eases might be considered. We have measures of that kind going on at present. The Civil Liability Commissioners are sitting throughout the country, and it might be possible. What the cost of that would be it is difficult to say. The proportion of those who retired on small pensions is, of course, a big one, and they naturally are the oldest. There is no means of telling absolutely definitely, or with any sort of precision, what is the average age of retirement; but to the best of the knowledge I possess, the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), although perhaps he understated it a little, was considerably nearer to accuracy than my hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Sir J. REMNANT
I said that the right hon. Baronet was certainly under the mark; certainly he is if you include Ireland.
§ Mr. SHORTT
If I am misrepresenting the hon. and gallant Gentleman I am sorry, but he certainly contended that it was considerably higher than it was put by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for the City of London.
§ Mr. SHORTT
For the police only, I should very much doubt if the retiring 1846 age was as high as 50; I should say it was under 50. Those who retired some considerable time ago are, of course, not so old as they would be if they had retired at 60 or 65. In Ireland I daresay they may retire a little later. There certainly are hard cases throughout the service. I can tell the House this. I will endeavour to the best of my ability to get such information as I can as to the really hard cases, and see what can be done to relieve them. Of course I am now in a position to say to my colleagues in the Government that the House to-day has shown a degree of unanimity which is seldom seen in this House on any subject Anyone who has listened to the Debate must have been very much struck by the absolute unanimity which existed. I am sorry it has had the evil effect upon my particular countenance which was described by one hon. Member, but I can assure him that my countenance did not in the least represent what my feelings were. The unanimity was complete—that I can represent to my colleagues in the Government, and I am sure I am only speaking what everyone will believe when I say that must have effect upon them. Finance is a question which requires more careful consideration, more thought, and more deliberation before you come to a decision than anything else. I do not wish the House to misunderstand me—I can give no pledge that anything will be done. I can give a pledge that I will inquire into the question of hard cases, to see what they cost in the first place, and how far we can assist them.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I will represent that to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, and I am sure he will. Then I will sec what can be done to help those hard cases, those cases which have been described as really not able to get proper food and nutriment for their bodies. Those cases are very urgent. I can promise the House no time will be lost. I am sorry I cannot promise more. I am sure the House will appreciate my position and at least give me the chance of seeing if I can do something to carry out that which I see to be the unanimous—I do not think I am overstating it—desire of the House. It may be, I dare say, that there would have been a sufficient 1847 number of Members who would not let the Government be beaten, but in spite of that fact, the feeling of the House is perfectly unanimous. I will do my best as far as possible to remedy, to find some means of remedying, those very difficult and hard cases which have been so eloquently brought forward. I hope, therefore, that the House will give me a chance, at any rate, to do the best I can to meet their evident wishes in this matter.
§ Sir J. REMNANT
May I put a question? We do not wish in any way to handicap the right hon. Gentleman in dealing with this matter. He says he believes the unanimous opinion of the House is in favour of this. Would not the best way be for him to leave the House free to Divide on this, so that he may see by the Division List that it has the absolutely unanimous support of the whole House?
§ Mr. WATERSON
I think the House realises this Question is not in the least a party matter, and we may feel pleased that it has been raised above any party issue, and that on all sides there has been unanimity of opinion. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for the City, said that some of us had not known him very long. I want to assure him that, whilst we may not have been Members of the House, there are many men belonging to the working classes who have watched his career for many years and who are not altogether satisfied with his attitude towards democracy. We may not have seen him in the body, but we have known his attitude to wards the working classes. I venture to say that the fight he was prepared to make to-night against helping these pensioners he was not prepared to put up on the Bill known as the County Court Judges Pension Bill. On that no Division was needed, and the right hon. Baronet's lips were not opened on the increase of some Members' salaries from £2,500 to £5,000. [HON. MEMBERS: "No! no!"] Is the Home Secretary prepared to ask the Government to consider the advisability of granting extra pensions to—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I interrupt the hon. Member? He has referred to 1848 some Bill of which I have not the slightest recollection. I have opposed increases of salaries to Ministers as well as to every other kind of person, but I do not remember the little Bill to which the hon. Member alludes. It is quite impossible to oppose every Bill brought in.
§ Mr. WATERSON
Is the Home Secretary prepared to ask the Government to consider the grant of some extra pension to men who were due to retire in the early days of the War. but were compelled under the Police Emergency Act to remain in the Service i When that matter was discussed in 1915 it was understood that their case would be taken into consideration, but there is a feeling in the country that that undertaking has not been acted upon. I hope the Home Secretary will give consideration of the case of men who continued to serve and thus stood by the nation in its hour of need, often, it should be remembered, giving up lucrative appointments in order to do so.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
We are glad to accept the assurance of the Home Secretary that he is prepared to advise his colleagues in the Government to consider hard cases among these men. May I mention two classes of case which I think especially require attention. The first are ex-Army service men who risked their lives for their country in former wars and are now suffering severe hardship—many being in great poverty. The other class are retired members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police who loyally and courageously served their country in times past under circumstances of great difficulty. Many of them have been unable to obtain employment in Ireland owing to their police service. These men deserve special consideration at our hands, and I hope the Home Secretary will bear their case in mind.
§ Question put, "That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable the pensions of all police officers and men retired before the 1st day of April, 1919, should be increased to such an extent as will meet the increased cost of living."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 123; Noes, 57.1849
|Division No. 19.]||AYES.||[10.55 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Gould, James C.||O'Connor, Thomas P.|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Armitage, Robert||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Hallas, Eldred||Palmer, Charles Frederick (Wrekin)|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Hanna, George Boyle||Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood.||Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Hartshorn, Vernon||Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W.|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Haslam, Lewis||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Hayday, Arthur||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hirst, G. H.||Redmond, Captain William Archer|
|Billing, Noel Pemberton-||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Remer, J. R.|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hurd, Percy A.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hurst, Major Gerald B.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Irving, Dan||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Johnson, L. S.||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Bromfield, William||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Kelly, Edward J. (Donegal, East)||Scott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Sexton, James|
|Brown, T. W. (Down, North)||Kidd, James||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Bruton, Sir James||King, Commander Henry Douglas||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel A. H.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Cairns, John||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Lawson, John J.||Spencer, George A.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lloyd, George Butler||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Casey, T. W.||Lunn, William||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Chadwick, R. Burton||Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Lynn, R. J.||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Cope, Major Wm.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Malone, Lieut.-Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Tootill, Robert|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Mitchell, William Lane||Walton, J. (York, w. R., Don Valley)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Moles, Thomas||Waterson, A. E.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Murchison, C. K.||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Entwistle, Major C F.||Myers, Thomas||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Newbould, Alfred Ernest|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Glanville, Harold James||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Sir J. Remnant and Mr. Seddon.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.|
|Courthope, Major George L.||Macmaster, Donald||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)||Maison, Major John Elsdale||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Foreman, Henry||Morison, Thomas Brash||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Forrest, Walter||Morrison, Hugh||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Mount, William Arthur||Whitla, Sir William|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Murray, Lt.-Col. C. D. (Edinburgh)||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Neal, Arthur||Younger, Sir George|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham|
|Grant, James A.||Parker, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Lord E. Talbot and Capt. Guest.|
|Herbert, Denis (Hertford, Watford)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Hohler, Gerald Fiztroy||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.|
§ Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that the pensions of all police officers and men retired before the 1st day of April, 1919, should be increased to such an extent as will meet the increased cost of living.