§ (1) Where it appears to the Minister that, with a view to the better administration of the War Pensions Acts in any county, it is expedient so to do, he may by order make a scheme for dividing the area of the county into such number of districts as he thinks proper, and for establishing for each of those districts a committee to act as a committee for the purposes of the War Pensions Acts in that district: Provided that before any order is made under this section, an opportunity shall be given to any regional advisory council, established by the Minister, within whose area it is proposed to make a scheme, to express an opinion on such a scheme, and that due regard shall he had to such opinion in the making of any subsequent order.
§ (2) Committees established by the Minister under this section shall be deemed to be local committees within the meaning of the War Pensions Acts, and the scheme estab- 2760 lishing any such committee shall provide for the representation on and inclusion among the members of the committee of persons who are required to be representd on, or included among the members of local committees constituted under the Act of 1915, and may also provide for the inclusion among the members of the committee of persons appointed by any local authorities whose area or any part of whose area is comprised in the district.
§ (3) Every order by which a scheme is made under this section shall provide for the dissolution of the local committee established for the county, and for the transfer to or distribution among the committees to be established for the several districts in the area of the dissolved committee of any business pending before and for securing so far as practicable that officers in the employment of the dissolved committee shall be transferred to the committees to be established as aforesaid for the several districts, and employed by those committees in posts suitable to their standing and qualifications, and any such order may contain such other supplemental and consequential provisions as the Minister thinks necessary for the purpose of securing the due administration of the War Pensions Acts in that area.
§ (4) Where the local committee for a county is dissolved under this section, any local committee established for any borough or urban district in the county in pursuance of the provisions of section three of the Naval and Military War Pensions, &c. (Administrative Expenses) Act, 1917, shall exercise the functions of a local committee set forth in paragraph (f) of section four of the Act of 1915 without being so directed by the Minister in pursuance of section eleven of the Act of 1918.
§ (5) If the local committee for the County of London is dissolved under this section, the provisions of section four of the Naval and Military War Pensions, &c. (Administrative Expenses) Act, 1917, shall, as from the date of the order, cease to have effect, and provision shall be made under section three, subsection (1), of this Act for the establishment of a separate local committee for the City of London and for each metropolitan borough.
§ (6) Every order made under this section shall be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made and if an address is presented to His Majesty by either House within the next subsequent 21 days on which that House has sat next after the said order is laid before it praying that the order may be annulled, His Majesty in Council may annul the order, and it shall thenceforth be void, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.
§ (7) Any order made under this section may be varied or revoked by a subsequent order made in like manner and subject to the like conditions.
§ (8) In this section the expression "county" means the area of a local committee for a county.2761
§ Sir E. WILD
I beg to move to leave out the Clause.
I move this Amendment in a friendly spirit to the Government. But there is a strong feeling in the counties, particularly in county boroughs, that the effect of this Clause may be to take away the compactness and autonomy of the local committees. By the Act of 1915, Section 2, there was established a local committee for every county and every county borough. The constitution of that Committee was determined by the scheme framed by the Council of the county or borough, or by the local district. When the Act of 1916 set up the Pensions Ministry, Section 4 contained the provisions for the constitution, powers and duties of the local committees. The House knows that the local committees have been formed at the instigation of the local authorities, do represent the feeling of the localities, and so tend to the adequate administration of the pensions.
This new Clause 3, as proposed to be amended by the Minister of Pensions, enables him to divide the country into districts. The fear that is expressed by the people I represent—the soldiers and sailors in my constituency—and that fear I understand is not confined to them—is lest the net result of this alteration is that two or three county boroughs are amalgamated for the purposes of the local committee with a larger area, and the same thing may happen in regard to the counties. You may, therefore, get this unfortunate state of things: instead of having a compact area as at present, you may have a large area, and an overlapping area, with the result that you may have two local authorities represented upon the same local committee with divergent interests, and that will tend to defeat the main object of these Committees that they should be independent local committees. I feel certain that the Minister of Pensions will be able to give us an assurance that although it may be with regard to certain small local committees convenient to put them into large areas, yet the case of county boroughs such as that with which I am associated, where the population is something like 350,000, then autonomy will not be interfered with. If I can have an assurance to that effect I shall ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Major TRYON
I am glad to be able to assure my hon. Friend that in such cases as he has referred to there would be no advantage whatever in the abolition of the local committees. We believe that under the arrangements we contemplate their autonomy and independence will be even greater than at the present time, and they will have more direct access to the higher authorities. We fully appreciate the work of these local committees.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendments made: In Sub-section (1) after the word "district" ["Acts in that district"] insert the words "or in the case of any such district for amalgamating the district with the area of an existing local committee."
§ Leave out the words "Provided that before any order is made under this section, an opportunity shall be given to any regional advisory council, established by the Minister, within whose area it is proposed to make a scheme, to express an opinion on such scheme, and that due regard shall be had to such opinion in the making of any subsequent order."—[Mr. Macpherson.]
§ In Sub-section (1), after the words last inserted, add the words "Provided that where the Minister proposes to make a scheme under this section he shall give notice of the proposed scheme to the committee of any county affected, and if the Committee within fourteen days after the receipt of the notice make to the Minister in writing any representations with respect to the proposed scheme the Minister shall take those representations into consideration before making the scheme."—[Mr. Raffan.]
§ In Sub-section (3), leave out the words "to be established for the several districts in" and insert instead thereof the word "comprising." Leave out the words "committees to be established as aforesaid for the several districts," and insert instead thereof the words "said committees."
§ In Sub-section (5), leave out the words "under Section three, Sub-section (1) 2763 of this Act" and insert instead thereof the words "by the scheme under Sub- Section (1) of this Section."—[Mr. Macpherson.]