§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Lieut.-Colonel Sir R. SANDERS in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient to make provision for the increase of certain pensions and to authorise the payment, out of moneys provided by Parliament, of increases as from the first day of April, 1920, in the pensions payable to persons in receipt of pensions—
Where the existing pension exceeds fifty pounds a year, but does not exceed one hundred pounds a year in the case of an unmarried person or one hundred and thirty pounds a year in the case of a married person, it shall not be increased by more than forty per cent.
Where the existing pension exceeds one hundred pounds a year, but is less than one hundred and fifty pounds a year in the case of an unmarried person, or exceeds one hundred and thirty pounds a year, but is less than two hundred pounds a year in the case of a married person, it shall not be increased by more than thirty per cent."
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir LAMING WORTHINGTON-EVANS(Minister without Portfolio)
Perhaps I had better explain shortly to the Committee the provisions of this Resolution and of the Bill to be founded upon it. It is intended to increase the pensions in the case of retired civil servants, elementary school teachers in England and Scotland, National school teachers in Ireland, members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, and employés of any police, local or other public authority who are in receipt of pensions granted before 4th August, 1914, or pensions granted since that date to which the pre-War scale of pensions applied. The Resolution states the proposed scale of increase as follows: Pensions not exceeding £50 a year will be increased by 50 per cent.; where the pension is between £50 and £100 for unmarried, or £130 for married people, there will be an increase by 40 per cent.; and where the pensions exceed £100, but are less than £150 in the case of unmarried persons, or exceed £130 and are less than £200 a year in the case of married persons, they will be increased by 30 per cent. In considering what pensions were going to be increased and what were to be left where they were, it is obvious that some strict limitation had to be put upon those whose pensions were to be increased if the expense was to be within the limits of the country at the present moment. The Cabinet Committee, which examined this question very carefully with the Departments, endeavoured to classify pensions so that those which were intended as subsistence pensions should be increased, and that those which were given, not as subsistence pensions, but rather as service pensions and were generally held by those who were capable of earning a living apart from the pension, should be increased to a less degree. It was, however, found impossible to draw any logical distinction between subsistence pensions and pensions awarded for service, so a limit had to be found in another direction. The limit chosen has been an income limit on the one side and an age limit on the other, so that the increases in pensions relate only to those pensioners over sixty years of age, or those who have retired by reason of their infirmity under the age of sixty. 354 The limit of income has been arranged so that those who are married should receive an increased pension, nothwith-standing that their income was higher than that of those who were unmarried, but in no case will the pension and the private means of the pensioner exceed £150 a year for unmarried persons or £200 a year for married persons. There is a class of pensioners who were not pensionable before 1914, but were pensioned at a later date, and yet have not received the higher scale which is now in operation. Power is taken by the Resolution to deal with these cases. The cost to the Exchequer of the pensions provided for in this Resolution and in the Bill will amount to about £850,000 in the first year. That is a maximum sum, and it will gradually decrease as the pensioners grow fewer. But that is not the total expense which will be incurred. This Resolution and the Bill do not deal with soldiers and sailors. Exactly the same increase is to be paid to the pre-War, peace-time, service pensions of soldiers and sailors. These will be dealt with in the ordinary way, by Royal Warrant as regards the soldiers and by Order in Council as regards the sailors. These military and naval pensions will amount to about£ £875,000 a year. The total number of persons who will be benefited by both branches of the subject, that is, by the Bill and by the Royal Warrant and Order in Council, will be about 110,000 persons over sixty. There will be some few others, the numbers of which I have no estimate for—those who retired before they were sixty on grounds of infirmity—and there will be some few widows who also will be entitled to have their pensions increased at the age of forty.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
The Resolution which has been placed before the Committee is one which in its essence commands the sympathetic support of all parties in the House. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of it has treated it with the necessary seriousness, because it involves a very heavy charge on the Exchequer, which is by no means confined to the present year, but which is a permanent addition to the annual charges falling upon the Exchequer.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I daresay; but the thing to look at is the next three or four years. I am sure the Resolution will receive the earnest businesslike consideration of the Committee. In the details which the right hon. Gentleman has given of the class of pensioners I see that he puts down elementary school teachers in England and Scotland, and employés of any police, local, or other public authority. I presume he includes Scotland also in that, though it is not specifically mentioned.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I should like to ask when the Bill will be introduced, and whether it is intended to take it through all its stages before we rise for the Summer Recess. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will also let the Committee know, although, perhaps, it is not strictly relevant, but it is mentioned in the White Paper, what opportunity will be given to the House to discuss the increase in the naval and military pensions which are to be made by Order-in-Council and Royal Warrant respectively. I presume that a proper opportunity will be given to the House to discuss the proposals of the Government in that respect.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I should like to make one or two observations on the Resolution and to ask one or two questions. We are glad to see this Resolution on the Paper. It has been a long time making its appearance, but one can, of course, well understand that the Government have had a great many matters to consider. I am glad also to see that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) is now in agreement, or, at any rate, in sympathy, with the proposition, because I was not able to obtain his support to the memorial which was presented to the Prime Minister on behalf of, I think, nearly 300 Members of the House of Commons. I do not know whether it would be in Order to discuss the main points of the Resolution, or whether it would be better to postpone that discussion until the Bill is introduced. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that there would be some opportunity given to discuss the question of the Army and 356 Navy pensions. I do not know whether that opportunity will be given; but if it is to be given, in that case it will be better to postpone anything one has to say with regard to the Army and Navy pension until that opportunity.
There are one or two matters which require a little explanation. We are pleased to know that pensioners who did not participate in the bonus, and I refer here to Civil Service pensions, will participate in this concession. The limit is fixed as regards age at sixty, or those who retired on account of infirmity; but what about the pensioners who are under sixty and who have contracted, we will say, a disease of some kind since their retirement? Are they to be included? I take it that it is intended that they should, because otherwise you will leave out of the scheme a deserving set of men who, through no fault of their own, have unfortunately been disabled, although not disabled in the service of their country, but since they were pensioned. With regard to the married and unmarried, surely there ought to be some distinction made where the widower has to have the service of a housekeeper, or where he has people dependent upon him, such as an only daughter, who has to look after him, and who is naturally an additional expense. In cases of that kind, I suggest that there should be some difference made, and that they should be treated as married cases so that there may be common fairness all round. The mart who is unmarried and is fairly healthy, although he is sixty, does not need the same requirements as the invalid who is over sixty and is unable to attend to himself. I have another suggestion to make, and here I am afraid I shall fall foul of the right hon. Gentleman. I understand he is not in a position to raise the sum which has been allocated as the limit for these concessions. But I would point out where the existing pension does not exceed £50 per year the annual advance on that pension of 50 per cent. goes a very small way indeed. Imagine anyone at sixty years of age, or those with infirmity, having to live upon £75 per year. Surely that is not the intention of the Government. An hon. Gentleman suggests that a man with that small pension may also have to keep a family, and that cannot be done upon £75 per year. Would it not be possible for the right hon. 357 Gentleman to consider the possibility, where the existing pension does not exceed £50, of raising it by 100 per cent.? I feel rather strongly upon this point because I brought it forward some two or three years ago, and it was suggested then that pre-War pensions of £50, or about £1 per week, should be raised by 100 per cent. It was on that basis that we worked for a very long time, and it came as a surprise to many of us to find that small pensioners were only to receive an increase of 50 per cent. Would it not be possible to re-arrange the table and have three classes, say, of pensioners of £100 and £75 and £50, and make another section between the £100 and the £50, and give the pensioner of £75 per year a larger percentage of addition than the man with £100 per year? In that way you would assist the small pensioners, and I take it that that is the object of the Government's concession.
There is another point which I think all Members will recognise, and that is that when these concessions were made we were told that they would be given to necessitous cases, but the word "necessitous" is not mentioned in this Resolution, and whether the phrase is going to be inserted in the Bill or not, I do not know. At any rate, a necessitous case might be the case of a person who is not 60 years of age and who did not retire on account of physical infirmity, and if it is the intention of the Government to abide by their original suggestion, namely, to deal with all necessitous cases, I venture to think some change must be made in this Resolution. Again, it seems rather hard upon men and women who have saved a little money with great difficulty, say, a few pounds a year, that those few pounds a year should practically put them out, I do not say of receiving any concession at all, but at any rate of receiving the higher concession. That seems to me a very unfortunate thing, because we are asked to encourage thrift, and in years gone by people were thrifty, although I am afraid now there is a vast expenditure going on in the country and that a few pounds would not be considered very much, but in the days when these pre-War pensioners were living on a very small amount, some of them were able to save even out of that and invested sums which are now bringing in three or four 358 pounds a year, or perhaps a little more. Surely the Government can allow them to keep these small amounts without taking them into consideration.
As to old age pensions, I think they should stand by themselves. The old age pension is given when a man or woman arrives at a certain age, and surely it should not be taken into consideration when you are giving these very small concessions to very small people. If you left the old age pension and then raised the 50 per cent. there might be something in that which would be appreciated by the small pensioner, but to take away his old age pension and then only to give him a 50 per cent. rise on his small amount a week is hardly doing justice to the view which I am sure the Government are desirous of adopting. If the right hon. Gentleman can see his way to consider these few points, I feel certain that the Resolution will be accepted unanimously by the House and that it will be very much more appreciated by the pensioners than it is at present, although I think I may say, from what I have heard from the pensioners with whom I have come in contact, that they are one and all very grateful indeed to the Government for considering their cases, but they feel that something is wanting, and that something I have endeavoured to express. I again appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give this matter consideration, so that when the Bill is brought before the House we may see some improvement in the Government's proposals.
§ Mr. MILLS
I think we can view this money Resolution as slightly different from the average money Resolution which is brought before this House. The average money Resolution dealing with the projected expenditure of a Department is almost invariably accompanied within a very limited period by a supplementary money Resolution, which in many cases doubles the original grant; but in this particular case the money Resolution is to cover a proposition which will dwindle with the death of the recipients and is, of course, one of the many minor problems, viewed nationally, arising out of the War. I would urge upon the Minister responsible to press upon the Government the need of reconsidering the amounts that are proposed to be granted, if at all possible. I want him to realise just exactly what are regarded as the 359 very minimum rates paid to the least intelligent labourer of our day and generation, and if he bears that in mind he will realise the utter inadequacy of the proposals outlined in this Resolution. Surely the fact that they are only applicable to pre-War pensions, and will decrease as recipients die out, makes it all the more necessary that we should recognise the serivce these people have rendered. There are many of them who, by reason of their occupation, are entitled to a little more of the amenities of life than those who have struggled all through their lives on a much smaller scale of living. These people during the days of their service were able to live a life of comparative comfort, and it is rather hard that in their declining days they should be reduced to a state of abject extremity, and for that very reason, if for no other, we think this sum might at least be doubled, so that provision can be given to people who have served the State, and who, because of the abnormal developments arising out of the War, are now reduced to a state of absolute penury and exhaustion.
§ Sir J. REMNANT
Ever since this question of giving pre-War pensions was brought before the House, practically everybody in the House has been in favour of giving some of these poor old servants of the State a pension which would in some way relieve the extreme difficulties of living at the present time. May I also tender my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Resolution for all that he has done in order to give something towards this desirable object? I am not quite sure how one ought to proceed. Will the Resolution be put Section by Section or as a whole, because there are one or two Amendments which I should like to move in connection with it which I think will improve it and relieve some of the hardships which are likely otherwise to occur under it? In regard to the limit of 60 years, while sympathising very strongly with the other members of the Civil Service, I feel that in the case of the police that age limit of 60 is a particularly hard one. In the Civil Service generally, the age limit for retirement on pension is 60, but in the case of the police, under the Police Pension Act, 1890, the corresponding limit is placed at 55 years. That can only be taken to mean that in the 360 opinion of the House of Commons, based on experience, the life of the policeman is not as good as the life of an ordinary Civil Servant. That is to say, the duties which he has to perform, which expose him to great personal risks, and to all kinds of weather conditions, do not give him the same chance of long life as the ordinary Civil Servant has.
If I may mention another point in connection with that, there is the postman, for instance, who has served four years in the Post Office service, and transferred to the police force. Those four years are only counted as three years in the police service, really showing that a smaller limit for the police is reasonable, and should be recommended to the Government for consideration, rather than treat all on the same basis where the conditions of service cannot in any sense of the word be considered as identical. As regards the question of examining into the personal position and income of all the Civil Servants, it is a most inquisitorial suggestion, and one which I do not believe will commend itself to this House. May I refer to a statement by the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain? The Committee, I am sure, will forgive me for quoting him, as he has expressed what I would point out in far better language than I could express it. In addressing elementary teachers at Birmingham, he said:I regard the pensions so granted as being part of the acknowledgment of service. I regard them as a system of compulsory thrift enforced by the State upon its servants. They are deductions from the salaries of servants, and they are taken into account when they accept their positions.That must commend itself to the Committee. The suggestion that the Government should start this inquisitorial formula amongst the men who are to-day in a very distressing condition has aroused an amount of indignation amongst them, which, I am quite sure, the Committee will not allow if they can possibly stop it. We are all asked to economise in these days, but surely that is a very expensive way of working out this system. I do not know how the Government propose to do it. Are they going to make their own inquiries by a special staff, or, if not, are they going to give it to the Old Age Pension Commissioners, which would be a most unpopular suggestion, and, if I am allowed to do so, I shall move the deletion of the Sub-section 361 altogether, because I am sure it is not the wish of the Committee that such should be adopted. Of course, one feels the difficulty of really discussing the subject in detail, but I would ask my right hon. Friend if he would give us some hope that, in the case of one of these pre-War pensioners who has died since 1st April last—the date fixed for the commencement of this increase—his widow will be allowed to have the difference between his old pension and the proposed new increase. It is not a very great matter, and it would help, I am sure, many a home to-day.
There is another point which I wish to bring before the right hon. Gentleman. There are many cases of the kind. A police officer has retired after his full service. I have a case before me which can be vouched for. This man retired from the Metropolitan Police after 26 years' service, with a first-class certificate, on a pension of £65 4s. 6d. When leaving he had to sign the usual official form to the effect that he would rejoin the service if called upon. Then he obtained a post in the Bank of England. It may have been the post referred to by the right hon. Member for the City of London. He remained there till the outbreak of War, when he was asked to rejoin the force, which he did on 5th August, 1914, and remained there till the 31st March, 1919, so that he served a period of over 30 years in the Metropolitan Police Force. He retired on the very eve of the day when the new pay was coming in. That man cannot get any employment now. None of these pensioners can get re-employment. The Government themselves are turning them off. While the men themselves do not object to allowing the ex-service men to have all the jobs they can, they urge all the stronger that, in the case of these pensions, which are miserably mean and almost contemptible in some cases, they should be brought up to the level originally proposed, namely, that those pensions were granted on the understanding that in their declining years they should have a competency to live upon. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has drawn special attention to the Royal Irish Constabulary—one of the finest body of men in the whole world, men who are to-day boycotted and cut off from the ordinary social side of life. They are not allowed to be served at the ordinary shops, and 362 the lot of those men to-day is anything but a happy one. I should like very much to see the age limit reduced to 55 in the case of police constables of all forces, and the whole of the Sub-section dealing with this inquiry into the private means of these pensioners deleted. I feel strongly on this subject, and when we come to it, I shall ask your permission to be allowed to move these two Amendments? Shall I be in order in moving?
§ Sir J. REMNANT
Then I would like to move in Sub-section (1, b), after the word "years" ["age of sixty years"] to insert the words "or in the case of a police constable the age of fifty-five years."
§ Mr. HOGGE
I am obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend for his action. It is probably better that we should have the general discussion before we come to Amendments. We see here one of the difficulties of procedure in the House revealed in this Money Resolution. We see the extraordinary difficulty of discussing a money resolution without having seen the Bill, and the difficulty also of expressing one's views just as clearly as one would wish, knowing that any private Member who makes a suggestion in regard to increased expenditure of money would be promptly ruled out of order by the Chair as exceeding his rights. There are, however, one or two criticisms which I think ought to be made about this Resolution. We should keep clearly in mind that pensions are deferred pay. That is the first point, which the Committee doubtless will agree with, but which the Government, judging by the speech of the Minister without Portfolio, does not seem to have grasped. If it be true that all pensions are deferred pay, then it is unfair to your pensioner, who is drawing deferred pay, to treat him worse 363 than you are treating employés in the Government service to-day.
Take the example of war bonus. My right hon. Friend must know that a great number of Civil servants to-day are drawing as much in war bonus as in pay, due to the increased cost of living. If that be true about the pay of Civil servants, then it is doubly true about the pension of the Civil pensioner. It is much more difficult for the pensioner, with his circumscribed payment of a few pounds, to meet the new situation, much more difficult for him or her than it is for the Civil servant who is in receipt of war bonus. This principle has been applied by the Government, not only to their own servants, but to the ranks of industry in this country. Members of the Committee will remember that railway servants' wages are governed by a sliding scale, which is drawn up from month to month by the Board of Trade, and which increases—I do not complain about that; it is the right thing—with the cost of living. That does not apply to the pensioner, yet my right hon. Friend, I think, agrees that the pensioner is still a Government servant, only that he or she is in receipt of deferred pay. I should like to hear the argument of my right hon. Friend, who is a Member of a Government that throws money about, how he can defend depriving these old Civil servants, who have a potential right to participate in the increases which have been given for existing work and 'servants—how he can defend that in this Financial Resolution?
The second criticism is this, that it is not quite clear that the increase is as stated in the White Paper or Memorandum which explains the Resolution. The Memorandum says that the proposed scale of increases is as follows: "Pensions not exceeding —50 a year—50 per cent," and so on. If you come to the Resolution it says:(2) The increase shall be subject to the following limitations: (a) where the existing pension does not exceed £50 a year, it shall not be increased by more than 50 per cent.The man or woman may not get the 50 per cent. He may get 40 or 30 per cent., "It shall not be increased by more than half." That phrase suggests that some body or other is going to be set up to administer these increases, or that the administration is going to be transferred to some existing Government Department. We have experience of that sort 364 of thing. My hon. Friend who spoke before me said—quite rightly in my opinion—that if there was one thing resented more than another by the people subjected to these Regulations it was the inquisitorial methods of the people who administer them. Take the comparative case of the Old Age pensioners and the examination by the Ministry of Pensions in connection with the alternative pension scheme. What happens in these two cases? The Old Age pensioner gets an Old Age pension, if he has a certain limited income. But immediately any addition is made to that income the Old Age Pension Committees are down upon the Old Age pensioner like a hawk in order to deprive him of the advantage of that Old Age pension.
An Old Age pensioner may be in receipt of the full amount. He may be, say, a personal friend of my right hon. Friend opposite, who may give that old man or lady five shillings a week out of his private pocket which has nothing to do with the income of the old gentleman. The Department concerned stops or reduces the Old Age pension. For instance, there were many widowed mothers during the War who lost their only sons in the War. They were without income, and were getting Old Age pensions. The moment a mother got the pension of 5s. for the death of her son in the War, which was a contribution to them for the sacrifice of the son, down came the Old Age Pension Committee and reduced the old lady's pension. I say deliberately that we ought to keep that kind of thing in our minds. We ought to be extremely anxious as to what Government Departments we are going to hand over the administration of this business, whether it means that these increases are to be standardised, or are to be governed by the conditions which will be set up under the Regulations after we dispose of this Resolution. Many of these pensions were those applying to discharged men. As a matter of fact, to-day the circumstances in England are being examined by bailiffs, and you have a bailiff going into the homes of working people and examining into their circumstances in order to determine whether they shall have this or that amount of pension. We want to be extremely careful that if these increases are going to be made they should be handed over to some Department that will administer them sympathetically in the 365 spirit as well as in the letter. I have another criticism with regard to the last paragraph in the Memorandum which deals with the increased sums in service pensions in the Army and Navy. Why is the age limited to 60? If a man is entitled to a pre-War pension for service rendered at a cheaper rate because he was going to get the pension, why should that man require to wait until he is 60?
I do not think the Government can defend this parsimonious way of dealing with the question. We have been told that this Bill affects 110,000 persons over 60 years of age. At any rate, they are getting very near the grave, and they are living in harder times than their predecessors, and unless we are very lucky they are entering upon times when conditions will be more stringent. There is one thing the State ought to do, and it is to give people who make the Empire something in their old age for the services they have rendered to the community. The Empire is made up in the homes of the people of this country, in the streets of our towns, and the roads of our villages, and I say deliberately that while it is difficult to criticise this Bill, I believe this House is generous enough to say that for people who have rendered such services there should be no parsimony, and the thing ought to be done thoroughly and well.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
The public at large will be grateful to the Government for having brought in a measure giving relief to a deserving section of the community. I believe the whole of this Committee would be glad to increase the allowances made to these pensioners if the country could afford it. Of course, all Amendments increasing this amount in the discussions on the Bill will be out of Order, but we are entitled to point out certain respects in which the Resolution might be amended, and when we come to the Bill itself we may point out certain ways in which the measure might be framed. I agree with what has been said about the age limit of 60. A specific case has been made out for lowering the age either to 55 or 50. It is quite true that in a great many cases in the civil service a pensioner does not receive his pension until 60 or later, but we are now laying down a hard and fast rule that in no case except where the pensioner suffers from some infirmity, in no circumstances can 366 any pensioner get a pension under the age of 60 years.
We are told that ex-Army pensioners will be treated the same as they are under this Bill. We all know that in the Army and Navy there are a great number of men who are pensioned before they reach the age of 60, and there are a great number of them who are in an extremely necessitious position. I hope the Government will reconsider this question, and give a certain discretion to grant this relief in cases where the age of 60 has not been reached. By the Resolution, persons who are getting under £50 a year pension can have that amount increased only by 50 per cent. I have spoken to a great many of these old pensioners, and very generously and chivalrously they say, if there is only a certain amount of money available they prefer that those in receipt of very small pensions should be benefited in preference to those who are in receipt of large pensions, and they say "Let the bottom dog have the money if there is only a certain amount available." The Government might so distribute this money that those who get a good deal less than £50 a year should get a larger increase.
May I refer to a class who have very few to speak for them in this House, and for whom I know many of my hon. Friends from Ireland have a great deal of sympathy—I refer to the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police. In a great number of these cases these men are in receipt of exceedingly small pensions, and owing to the condition of Ireland at the present moment there is no possibility of them increasing their earnings by getting employment because public opinion is so much against them. I have had cases brought before me of men who have been in the Royal Irish Constabulary a considerable number of years. There were times, especially in the eighties and later when this was a most dangerous service, almost as dangerous as service in the field, and yet some of these men are getting under £20 a year pension. Under this Bill a man getting £20 a year will only get 50 per cent. increase, that is an additional £10 a year. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be willing to accept suggestions from private Members on this question. If it should be found necessary to bring in a further Resolution altering the scope of this proposal, 367 and if this can be shown to be reasonable and right, I think the Government would be well advised if they would recast this Resolution.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Major GRAY
I join very readily in the tribute of gratitude to the Government for submitting this proposal, but I wish to associate myself with the hon. Member opposite in regretting that the amount added to these very small pensions is so exceedingly small. I would endorse, if I may, every word he said in regard to the redistribution of the amounts even if we cannot increase them. I know that in considering a proposal of this character we are faced with very great disadvantages. Any suggestion that the amount should be increased is on a Money Resolution quite out of order, and then when we come to the Bill we have to keep ourselves strictly within the terms of the Money Resolution and unless we can, at an early stage, appeal to the Government to meet us, it is impossible for the Committee to give effective expression to its own opinions. I notice in the first Clause of this Bill the Minister proposes to include certain teachers who were superannuated, or who received pensions under the Regulations of the Code of the Board of Education. These are exceedingly hard cases. They were established first in 1851. They were continued until 1862, and were then dropped, and were subsequently re-introduced. At no date did the highest amount awarded in pension exceed £30. Many were £25, and some were as low as £20. Adding 50 per cent. to the £20, how could a man possibly live on that amount? I know of no case more pathetic than that of a servant of the State, man or woman, who, after 40 years toilsome service—and educational conditions were not as prosperous in those days as they are now, for these people were pioneers in the work—has had to retire on this very miserable pension. That pension is now to be supplemented simply by 50 per cent. I think their need is far greater than that of men and women in categories where the pensions are to be increased by not more than 30 per cent. I hope there may be a redistribution of the amount in order that some of these very hard cases may be dealt with more adequately than they are in the proposal now before us.
368 This sliding scale is a very rough one. Usually, when one of this character is put forward, there is some Clause with regard to adjustments. Under this scale a man whose pension is £50 would be worse off than the man with a £49 pension, because he will only get an increase of 40 per cent., while the man on the lower pension will get 50 per cent. There ought to be some Clause securing that under the adjustment not less than £25 should be added to the pension. One strong objection I desire to voice to this proposal is one which finds expression in paragraph (c) of Section 1, namely, "that the pensioner must satisfy the pension authority that his means, including his pension, are less than £150 a year," and so forth. I will not dwell on the administrative difficulty or on the necessarily inquisitorial effort which must be made by the pension authority to ascertain what the amount is. I always regard a proposal of this sort as exceedingly vicious in principle, and I would never silently acquiesce in the retention of a proposal of this kind, which, in my opinion, is a direct discouragement of thrift. The thrifty man loses in deferred pay. The thriftless man will secure the highest amount of deferred pay. If it be right to regard pensions as deferred pay, then a man through his own thrift loses a portion of the pay to which he is entitled. The thriftless man gains. This is a principle which, I believe, has been observed far too long, and one against which the Committee will set its fact, I hope. I do not say it may not be absolutely necessary at a given moment, with the limited funds at the disposal of the Government, and the great necessity for restricting public expenditure, that these increased pensions should be given only to those in real necessity; therefore, the fixed income limit may be justified at the moment. I cannot refrain from expressing my strong opinion that, in principle, it is decidedly bad and unjustifiable from every point of view. I would rather have supplemented the work of the thrifty man than have added to the income of the thriftless. I know there are many men and women who have done their best to save during their lifetime, in addition to contributing to the Pension Fund, and these are the very people who will gain nothing under this scheme. That such should be the case is, in my judgment, deplorable.
There is one other question I am anxious to address to the Minister in 369 charge of the Resolution, because an answer to it will remove a great deal of anxiety which is experienced at this moment amongst a certain class of pensioners, whose income it is proposed to increase. Under the Teachers' Superannuation Act, 1898, a teacher was required to contribute a certain amount every year. The State received these sums and managed the funds, and determined the particular stock in which the money should be invested, and whatever sum there was standing to the credit of that teacher by means of his own payment when he reached the age of sixty-five, that sum was used by the State to purchase for him an annuity. The State supplemented that annuity by the grant of a sum of money dependent on the number of years' service. Practically the amount was £1 for each year of service, so that the teacher with forty-four years' service received from the State fund £44, and from his own contribution the Government purchased an annuity of something like £38. I want to know from the Minister in charge what he means here in this Clause by the word "pension." Is it the £44 granted by the State? If so, that person would become eligible for the 50 per cent. increase. Or is it the £44 plus the £38, which amount was purchased by the teacher's own contribution? Is that also regarded as pension? If so, the teacher only gets an increase of 40 per cent. Those interested in this question are very anxious to know what interpretation is being placed by the Government on the word "pension" in this particular case. I am familiar with no other scheme of that character. I do not know whether there are any other schemes in which the recipients have built up their pensions in the same manner as these school teachers in the public elementary schools. They have built up these pensions, or did until two or three years ago, by their own contributions assisted by a subsidy from the State. I think something is required on the part of the Government to deal with cases of this kind. If I had the power I would move the omission of that one pernicious Clause. There is the question of those who have been thrifty, and I would arrange so that the thriftless should not be provided for at the expense of those who had been thrifty, although that seems to be inevitable in schemes of this character. I would 370 willingly move, if I could, the omission of that provision, and, further, if I could I would amend the scheme so that the larger sum should be given to those who have not and the smaller sum to those who have. These, I think, would be improvements in the scheme.
§ Major NALL
I would like to ask the Minister in charge of this scheme whether he could not say a little more to explain who will really be included under the heading "A" for superannuation. There is a reference to employés of local boards and other authorities. Does that include the pensioners of local authorities? If that is so it raises a point which I do not think has been provided for in the Resolution. Does it cover in the case of local authorities the pensioners who were employed by local tramways? A few months ago in this House we passed a Resolution after a long Debate upon the hard case of the superannuated railway servants. The position of the Government which it has endeavoured to maintain was that these men were not State employés and have no claim upon the Government for increased pensions. That is a point of view which I think cannot be always substantiated. How can they include the pensioners of local authorities who are no more State servants than the railway men are? I put down a question for written answer on the 28th of this month, and the Minister of Transport in his reply said, "The question of increasing the pension of railway annuitants is not one for the Government, but is one for the railway companies and the trustees of the various superannuation funds." If that is so, how comes it that the local authority pensioners are to be covered in this scheme? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us an explanation on this point. The case of the superannuated railway servants is one of the hardest of all these hard cases among the pensioners. I submit that it would be most unreasonable in this scheme to grant an increase to pensioners who are not actually State servants and leave out another group of men who come almost within that category and whose services are just as vital to the State as some of those who are included.
With regard to the service pensions, while the House will agree to the proposal to increase the pensions of men over 60 years of age, I cannot see that it should 371 altogether cover all the others. In regard to the service pensions, should they be increased without any age limit? We have some who have arrived at the age of 60, but there are other service pensioners who are only 40 or 50 years of age who are able-bodied and in good employment, and I think we should hesitate before we propose to increase all service pensions, unless the whole question of these hard cases of pre-War pensioners is to be completely reviewed and provided for. I am not suggesting that the service pensioner should not have his pension increased. I am thinking, however, of the other hard cases, and the Government should consider the case especially of the old railway men. Some of them are on the verge of starvation, as we heard in the Debate on the Superannuation Fund. I think it would be entirely unfair, and the Resolution would be incomplete, if it did not provide in some way for them. As I understand it, the Resolution brings in one class of men who are not Government servants and ignores another class of men whose lot is every bit as hard, and whose case is every bit as deserving, as that of those men who are included.
§ Mr. T. DAVIES (Cirencester)
I hope hon. Members will have some sense of proportion in this matter and will make sure that while they are trying to do justice to one class of the community they do not inflict a serious injustice upon another class. On the last occasion on which I had the privilege of addressing this House I pointed out the great hardship, inevitable it may be but none the less a hardship, of those poor people who do not get a pension until they reach the age of 70. They have a little addition to their means of livelihood from the rent of two or three houses or from other savings, and they may get £10 to £15 a year, but they cannot by any possibility increase their incomes in order to meet the higher charges which are now being made in every direction. Someone may say that such people have not to pay Income Tax. That is perfectly true, but in many cases the local rates have so gone up that they are almost equal to the rent of a house. Take the case of some of these people who have been mentioned. They include one of the most deserving class in the community, not too well paid, and certainly a most grateful class. I refer to 372 the agricultural labourers. I myself worked on the land as a lad 8 years old, but I will leave that for a moment, and I will take the case of the agricultural labourer. As a boy he goes on the land at 13. He cannot acquire a pension until he is 70 years of age. We have heard of men who will get their pensions at the age of 55, but the agricultural labourer, when he has reached that age has to wait 15 years more, until he is 70, in order to get his pension, and then he probably gets 10s. a week. While he is at work on the land his employer is not able to pay him very large wages, the farmer has his ups and downs, and even if the farmer were able I do not think he is always willing to do much more. At the present time he could not very well do it with the best will in the world. The farm labourer is the class of person with whom we should have the greatest sympathy. He has to pay these high prices and in many cases he has to pay increased rates and rents. That class of man has to wait until he gets his old-age pension at 70 years of age. He can get little from his savings. In that case he is worse off than any class of pensioner that you can mention. Before we go with a light heart into the question of increasing pensions for these people, let us think a little about those who cannot help themselves. I voted some time ago for the Motion brought forward by the hon. Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant) for increased pensions to the police, and I am going to vote for this Resolution to-night. If I had my way, no one who has served the State, if he were single, should have less than 30s. a week. or, if he were married, less than £2. At the same time, I do not want an extra penny of taxation to be imposed, because I think we have got to the limit of our capacity for taxation. While I heartily approve of increasing these pensions, I am not going to agree to it if it means that those poor people who are already paying more taxation than they ought to pay, who have no chance of increasing their incomes, and are being crushed with high prices and high rates, even where Income Tax does not come in, are going to be still further taxed. If they are. I want to give notice to the Government that, while voting for this Resolution, I shall at the same time vote against every piece of extravagance for which they are responsible. in order to 373 save the money for this, rather than have any increased taxation. The next time anything comes up from the Government, whether for the Army, the Navy, or anything else, I shall vote that it be reduced by 5 per cent. in order to pay for this, and I hope that that line will be followed throughout. We should not commit an injustice upon one portion of the community by increasing their already too heavy burden in order to do justice to some other class. Let us think of those people who are poor, who are not able to go in for trade unionism, and who cannot raise their incomes, but who have to meet the increased cost of living and the increased rents and rates, and are being crushed out of existence to-day. I hope that that class of the community will have the sympathy of everyone in this House, and that we shall not agree to anything that would increase their burdens. I hope that, while we do justice to old-age pensioners and to those who have served the State so well, we shall see that these increases are met by corresponding savings from the Government Exchequer.
§ Mr. LANE-MITCHELL
I had a letter this morning from a constituent of mine who is an old inspector of police. He is eighty years of age, and his pension is 19s. a week, upon which he and his wife are just barely existing. His brother, who was in a similar position, died last week, probably because he had not the wherewithal to live. I want especially to plead that these increases should come speedily. I was astonished, on going into the cases I have mentioned, to find that what had happened was that this House had only provided the means to increase these pensions, and that the increases had not been actually granted. It makes one's heart sad to find that this is not proceeding as speedily as one would like. I hope that the Government will see that this is made an Act accomplished before July finishes, so that these poor people may have the money.
I am glad that, at last, I see something coming before the House which includes National School teachers in Ireland. For years the Members from Ireland have pleaded with this House of Commons to do something for those teachers. I am glad that the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police have been mentioned. So much has been said recently regarding 374 the courage, endurance, and bravery of these men that it is unecessary for me to say more. Everyone seems to agree that they deserve better treatment than they are receiving. My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester (Mr. T. Davies) referred to labourers. As we know, the National School teacher in Ireland has not been getting a labourer's wage, and yet we depend upon him for the education and training of the children who are to be come the men and women of the future. It is painful to get some of the letters that we receive with regard, not only to the National School teachers, but to the other classes of pensioners mentioned in this Resolution. One who, after 32 years' service, retired through illness—probably brought on by insufficiency of pay—has a pension of £23 a year; another, retired after 31 years' service at the age of 65, through illness, has £16 a year; another, over fifty years of age, retired through illness after thirty years' service, and still ill, is in receipt of £13 a year. That is what we have been trying to remedy. We have been trying to induce the Government to bring in an Education Bill which will include pensions, and we have been told that there is no time. We have been told that other things must be selected which are of more importance. I suppose that the re-clothing of the Army in scarlet at a cost of £3,000,000 is more important than the training of the Irish children and the payment of their teachers. It is difficult for me to understand that kind of selection. I would make a special appeal to those who are in charge of this Resolution with regard to those who are in receipt of these miserable pensions. We must recognise that they are calculated on the salaries that these people have been receiving, and that seems to me to be one of the greatest defects of this Resolution where it relates to Irish teachers. When they were in receipt of salaries of £70 or £80 a year, naturally, their pensions were based on those salaries. It is true that a War bonus was given to them, but even that will not come in in the computation of their pensions. In Scotland, where the teachers have from £140 to £160 a year, my hon. and gallant Friend (Major Gray) told us that, in addition to their ordinary pensions, they get £1 a year for every year of service, and I take it that the pensions they have been in receipt of will be based not only 375 on the ordinary pensions, but on this additional sum. In addition to that, the teachers in Scotland also have the advantage of having the value of their residence included in the compensation. No such thing obtains in Ireland, so that, if we are to do justice to the old pensioners and school teachers of Ireland, we must get back to the bed rock on which these pensions were based. I think that is worth the consideration of those in charge of the Bill. It is absurd to say to a teacher who is in receipt of £16 a year, "the State is going to be magnanimous to you, and add 50 per cent. to your pension." We have to deal more generously with these people than we have done in the past, and it will be necessary to see if, by some means or other, we cannot increase the original foundation on which the pension was based, before adding this 50 per cent. The pensioned school teachers of Ireland have a distinct petition to this House. I am quite satisfied that if it were left to the good sense of the Members of the House, something generous would be done. We have from time to time appealed to the Government to do something for the teachers of Ireland, but nothing has been done. Here we have an opportunity of doing something for these people, who have spent all their lives in training the children of Ireland, and teaching them the best they knew how, but, unfortunately, on miserable salaries, with the consequence that we could not get the best people. I hope the Minister in charge of the Resolution will see that, when the Bill comes before the House, something will be put into it which will give comfort and consolation to these people in their declining years and in their old age.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has made a moving appeal for the teachers of Ireland, who have trained the children very well, he says, but certainly not in the South of Ireland, if we can judge by what we read in the papers. We are going to have a Home Rule Bill, and these things can be dealt with by an Ulster Parliament when it is set up.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The Southern Parliament will deal with the Southern 376 teachers, and we shall have the advantage of seeing how things are done when Ireland is governed according to its desire. I should like to bring the Committee back to the really practical situation of what is a most important proposal. What is this going to cost? The cost of this in the first year is estimated at not more than £850,000, but that is only the first year.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
The cost of the pensions provided in the Bill based on this Resolution will be £850,000 in the first year, diminishing as the pensioners die off. But that is not the total cost which follows from this operation, because the Army and Navy pensioners are not included in this Resolution. They will be included in the ordinary way by Royal Warrant or an Order in Council, and the total cost for them is an additional £875,000. Practically the scheme may be said to cost £1,750,000.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Lieut-Colonel Allen) is carried out, and 50 per cent. is added to pensions of £16, it does not amount to much, but what is going to happen? There will immediately be a demand to increase the scale, so that there is sufficient for these people to live more or less in comfort. What is that going to cost? I perfectly well remember when the Old Age Pension was instituted we were told that under no circumstances whatever would it cost more than £6,000,000 a year. My recollection is that at present it cots £27000,000 or £28,000,000. Therefore, I am a little sceptical when I am told it is only going to cost a certain amount. I shall be very much surprised if it does not cost a considerable amount more. What is it going to lead to? Take it for granted that when these pensioners have received what is proposed under this scheme they do not want more, which is a very big assumption, because during the last six years whenever a person's wages have been increased he has not been satisfied—he has only made it a jumping-off ground to ask for more—and as certain as I am standing here, if this Resolution is passed and the Bill founded on it is brought in, it will not satisfy the people who, it is supposed, are going to benefit, but it will only encourage them to ask for more. Then what about all the other people who will have to come in? I do not know 377 whether I am right or wrong in thinking that the pensions at present given by the local authorities are not included, because I have not had time to look up the Acts from 1834 to 1914. But if the local authorities pensions are not included, how much more is that going to cost? And where is the money coming from? The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Lieut.-Colonel Allen) said the State was going to pay. Who is the State? The State has no money. My right hon. Friend is in receipt of a paltry salary of £5,000 a year. That will not go very far towards finding all this money. The State has no money; the taxpayer has to pay. What is the position of the taxpayer? Take the case of the most deserving class that one can imagine. I congratulate the hon. Member (Mr. T. Davis) who has spoken out with so much courage which has enabled him to make such a striking speech. I do not know whether the class to which I am going to refer includes the agricultural labourer; he may or may not be included. The class to which I am referring is the class who have denied themselves of certain pleasures during their younger days in order to provide for their old age, and have not depended upon the State, or upon anybody else. Agricultural labourers, when they were earning 15s. or 16s. per week, were able in many cases to save money out of that towards their old age, and other people, mounting in the scale to those who have been earning £5,000 or £6,000 a year, have denied themselves of pleasures in order to save. Those are the most deserving class in the community. There are any quantity of them who have invested their savings in houses, and their rents are restricted in order that other people who are receiving two or three times the wage they had before the War may not have to pay more rent. Those people are just as much entitled to benefit under this Resolution as the people mentioned, because living is just as much to them as it is to other people. They are going to be taxed in order to provide money for these particular pensions.
The country is in a very serious position, and it is no use blinking the fact. I was in the City to-day, and I happened by accident to go into the office of a leading firm, where I was told that the Bank of England were asking them 7½per cent. for money. That will appeal 378 to hon. Members who have been in business. On the top of that serious position hon. Members come down here, and because there are certain hard cases and certain things that we would wish to relieve, if we had the money, demand money for the purpose. We have not the money to do these things. It is absurd for us to come down next week, when the Finance Bill will be before the Committee, and say that we are going to cut down the Excess Profits Duty, and this, that and the other, if at the same time we continue to impose all these extra charges on the community. What we have to do is to save money in every possible direction, and if hardships arise we cannot help them. I warn the Government that they cannot go on in this way. They must cut down expenses. It is absolutely necessary, unless they are going to ruin the country. However excellent this proposal may be, and however much we might individually desire to assist these people, we have not the money to do it. The country must recognise that we are in a position to spend no more money. If the Financial Secretary to the Treasury were here—he has a stiff back, and I wish he would communicate it to some other Members of the Government—I would ask him how much the expenditure of the country has increased since the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his Budget estimate. There is going to be a great deficiency on the railways. That deficiency has not been provided for in the Budget, and it runs into many millions. Let us pause before we go on in the way of the spendthrift, and let us consider whether or not, under the very exceptional circumstances in which we are placed, having emerged triumphantly from the great War, we are not going to lose all the good that we gained by the War by doing something which, though it may appeal to our humanitarian instincts, is absolutely against any business instincts.
I have always looked upon the right hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Banbury) as the high priest of economy, but I discovered last week that my idol in economy had feet of clay and, so far as I am concerned, the right hon. Gentleman's moral authority in regard to economy has gone for ever. I am not wrong in suggesting that he supported the Government in squandering 379 £115,000,000 in Russia, and in their extravagant proposals to re-clothe the Army, and in squandering £35,000,000 of money on the deserts of Mesopotamia. Therefore, when he lectures us about increasing the small pittance of these humble people I decline to listen to the right hon. Gentleman as the apostle of economy. It is always on these small things that he lectures us, but when millions are being squandered all over the world the right hon. Gentleman is dumb, except when he supports the Government in squandering hundreds of millions. Therefore, the lecture which he gave to us with so much show of moral indignation—
The right hon. Gentleman may possess his soul in patience about the efforts of hon. Gentlemen in trying to increase the amount under this Resolution, because the representative of the Government will tell us that he has pledged himself to the Treasury that he will not imitate Oliver Twist and ask for more. I should like to appeal to the Government in regard to adjustments under the scheme. Reference has been made to teachers. In Scotland there are a great many teachers, a very deserving class, male or female, who have much less than £50 a year. Some of them consider themselves passing rich on £40 a year. That is all very well in poetry, but in these days when everything is so dear it is a terrible thing that these men and women who have devoted their lives to laying well the foundations of education, should have to subsist on such a pittance. Education, after all, is very noble work, and men and women who devote themselves to the work of educating the youth of this country ought not to be allowed to spend the evening of their days trying to eke out a miserable existence upon less than £50 a year. Many, if not all of them are bearing their privations with the utmost dignity. The pensions of those whose income does not exceed £50 a year should be increased by more than 50 per cent., otherwise a very deserving class will be left in a condition in which they should not be left by what is still a rich country notwithstanding the remarks of the right hon. Baronet. I do not exclude others, but I emphasise the 380 position of the teachers because I know it better, and in all these cases where the amount is under £1 a week the authorities should have power to increase it by at least 100 per cent. The hon. Baronet (Sir J. Remnant) deserves great credit for the way in which he has pleaded the cause of the policeman in this House. He has told us that policemen do not live so long as other Civil servants. I do not know whether that is based on any statistical information in his possession, but I should like it confirmed before I accept it, because I think that a policeman's life on the whole is very healthy.
Of course, they retire at 55, because after that age they are not suitable for the work in which they may have to engage. For instance, a policeman at 60 would have a tough job if he had to capture a strong active man such as the Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Sturrock). That is a possible contingency which illustrates the reason why policemen retire at 55. I also approve of the argument addressed to the Minister in order to eradicate the inquisitorial Clause which should not be applied at this time of day. I conclude with a note of gratitude to the Government for having brought forward this scheme. There is in it a great deal to be grateful for, but I do hope that it may be readjusted so as to bring those salaries more within a reasonable possibility of a decent living.
§ Mr. C. WHITE
I am not going to speak from the technical side of this question. I am not a rich financial expert like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, but I want to appeal distinctly from the human side. Nothing can excuse the payment of these miserable pensions, about which we have heard so much tonight. I do not care whether it is the introduction of the Home Rule Bill or anything else. We have no right to say that those teachers in Ireland and other pensioners in Ireland must exist on the miserable pensions they are now receiving. I have heard a good deal about economy from the right hon. Member for the City of London, but I seldom find him in the Lobby with those who go there to protest against the extravagances of this Government. This is no party matter. I believe that, with the single 381 exception of the right hon. Gentleman, the Committee would be perfectly unanimous with regard to increasing the concessions that are now offered by the Government, and so I support the appeal most heartily for some greater concessions than have yet been promised. There are none who suffer so much as this class of people who are covered by this Financial Resolution, and most of them suffer in silence. We must not forget that a great many of these people have a certain amount of dignity and pride. They do not parade their poverty in the eyes of the world; they are suffering much more than those who do.
I will just give two instance as sometimes concrete instance appeal to this House more than generalities. I know an old man who was a teacher from 1855, when he entered the teaching profession, up to 1907. He is now 78 years of age. His pension is £41 a year. He and his wife have to live on that with the exception that they get help and grants from friends, which just take them outside the amount that would entitle them to the old age pension. How can you expect, notwithstanding this talk about economy when you want a few pounds, this poor old man and woman who have moulded the character of the citizens of to-day to live on such a paltry amount such as this? Take another case. A man and wife, whom I know, are under 70 years of age. One is receiving £50 a year and the other £21-that is £71 in all. They were working for low salaries all their lives. Remember that the salaries paid to-day are not to be compared with the low salaries that were paid at the time when these people ought to have been saving money for their old age. And so with the police. In my own family I have a sister, whom this, I suppose, will help, because she is over 40, but if the right hon. Gentleman could have his way he would not allow her to have this help. Her husband died after 26 years' service. His death was hastened by service rendered during the War. He could have retired before the War. My sister has 10s. a week pension. She has an inbecile boy to keep out of it. By the Financial Resolution she will be increased to 15s. a week.
Will the right hon. Baronet tell me that she is not entitled to this? Is that economy? We were told by him last week that it was economy to purchase scarlet be- 382 cause it might increase the Army. There is much more true economy in what I am putting before the Committee. With regard to the police, let me say that I know them very well. Both in regard to pay and pensions what they are receiving now is not comparable with what they received some years ago. Here arises an important question. Who is to determine the income of these people? Have the same inquisitorial methods to be adopted that are adopted now with regard to Old Age Pensions? If so, heaven help some of these people when they come to have their incomes assessed. I have been chairman of an Old Age Pensions Committee since 1908, and in practically every case that has come before that Committee one or other member of the Committee has had to make investigations. Here is another concrete case. It is the case of a woman living not far from where I live. She is receiving 8s. a week parish relief, and has nothing else to live on except a little bit of bread or something sent by her two sons and daughter, who are working people in the same village. She applied at the age of 70 for an old age pension. The pension officer came along. He said, "How much is your income?" and she replied, "Eight shillings a week from the parish." That used to drop, I know, before the new Pensions Act became operative. The officer said, "Is that all you have?" and her answer was, "My daughter sends me up a little food sometimes and my son a shilling now and then. "said, "Oh, that will be 2s. 6d. a week, and that added to 8s. makes 10s. 6d. a week, which is 5d. outside the amount which will entitle you to a full pension of 10s. a week." And so he recommended her for a pension of 8s. a week. I say that if such methods are adopted with regard to these people, heaven help them when it is necessary to determine what their incomes are.
I have lived amongst the poor all my life, and I am almost as poor as anyone now, for I have to live on my salary without a subsidy, and to keep two homes going, one in London and one in Derbyshire. I know many scores of poor people and I know the suffering they are undergoing. I think we might, at any rate, ask that those who are not receiving pensions exceeding £50 a year shall have some further consideration given to their case, notwithstanding anything that they may have coming in besides. I 383 know that the Minister in charge of this Bill is intensely human; I know his great organising ability; I know what he has done in the past, and I appeal to him earnestly to reconsider, or to recommend the Government to reconsider, these cases especially with regard to those whose pensions are on the low scale.
§ Captain BOWYER
Although I have no hope that the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of this Resolution will listen to me, I am very glad of the opportunity of dissociating myself from every word uttered by the right hon. Baronet who represents the City of London. I do not say that to him without great respect. The hon. Baronet is always listened to with respect on questions of finance, but this is not necessarily a question of finance. The right hon. Baronet spoke against this proposal because he said the country could not afford it, but surely one can draw some sort of analogy between the State and its duty towards its citizens and the head of a family and his duty towards his family. I would put forward the plea that if the father of a family had to effect economy he would not economise with his parents or young children, but would do so with those who were earning a living wage and who were of an age to look after themselves. He would not deprive old people of the comforts of life any more than he would deprive the young children of the nurture necessary to make them good citizens. To me it is utterly false economy to deprive men and women who have served the State for 30 or 40 years of that which is necessary for the enjoyment of life. If we are going to have economy the true economy is to nurture young citizens and to look after those who have served the State well and to give them the sort of life which is even given by the hunting man to the hunter which has served him faithfully and well.
I am not appealing to-night for generosity or for charity. I look upon the question of pensions as a question of deferred pay and a payment which is due for services rendered. I regret very much that the Government can only deal with the hard cases. There is a case which I have been bringing before the proper Department for the last nine months of a man 82 years of age, who served his country as a teacher and has now retired 384 after 54 years' service. Six months ago he had a pension of £30 per year, and he has now got an extra £10. How can that man support life? The strength of a chain is in its weakest link, and I submit that you should estimate the amount of money which should be paid as pension by the lowest minimum of money with which the man or woman who receives the pension can afford to sustain and buy the necessaries of life. Nobody to-day can support the view that that can be done upon £30 or £40 a year. The minimum to which this Resolution should bring up pensions should surely be at least £75 per year. The man to whom I have referred cannot possibly under this Resolution get more than £60 per year. Every other form of wage or device for getting money bears some relation to the cost of living, but it is not so with pre-War pensions. It is on that ground I welcome this money Resolution for what it is worth.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
It is very desirable that we should get this Resolution to-night, because I am very anxious that the Bill should be brought in at the earliest possible moment, that the necessary steps may be taken to assess the increases of pension which the Bill will grant, and to bring them into payment as early as possible. It is quite true that they will date back to the 1st April, but to have a right to something as from the 1st April does not help much to pay weekly bills, and it is highly desirable, therefore, that the Bill should get through at the earliest possible moment. That must be my excuse to my hon. Friends who still wish to speak if I intervene at this moment. I really have not a very easy task this evening, and I have got to appeal to hon. Members to support me. They have expressed, one and all of them, an extremely natural desire either that the scale should be increased or that new beneficiaries should be brought in, and time after time the argument has been enforced by reference to some specially hard case. We have all of us got constituents who let us know about the hard cases, and it is perfectly true that the circumstances of the time are extrmely oppressive on those with small incomes, whether those small incomes be derived from pensions, or from past savings, or even from present earnings. We have got to be careful here 385 that when we are trying to benefit one class, the small pensioner, we do not at the same time inflict a grievous wrong on another class no richer than the pensioner and no more able to bear the burden.
Let me first deal with the argument that these pensions are deferred pay, a right which ought to be recognised. I agree with the general principle that a pension is in fact deferred pay, that it is taken into account in the service, that those who enter the service know that part of the remuneration they are to receive is the salary or wage which is paid weekly, monthly, or yearly, and that, in addition, there is something else, called a pension, which is in fact deferred pay, paid for by themselves in receiving a lower rate of pay than they would otherwise receive, but do not let the Committee forget that every pensioner entitled to a pension is at this moment receiving exactly the amount of pension to which he was entitled by the terms of his service, and which he reckoned on when he entered into the service. What is being suggested now is that that pension should be increased. That is not a right; that is a grant. It may be justified—I think it is justified—but it must not be forgotten that it is not a right, it is not that which he expected to get at the time when he entered into his employment.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
That is the reason why I stand here to-night, but let us judge the thing on its merits, and let us not have a false argument about it. It has been suggested that this is a right, but it is not a right; it is something more than a right. The right is already existing, and it is not being taken away, but what the Government is proposing is that in the lowest rate of pensions these rights shall be bigger by 50 per cent., that in the middle rate they shall be increased by 40 per cent., and that in the higher rate they shall be increased by 30 per cent. Then it was said that the inquiry that was to be made into the means of the pensioner was an inquisitorial inquiry. Why is the increase being given at all? It is being given to meet cases of real hardship. How are you to ascertain whether there is real hardship, until you find out first what 386 the other means of the pensioner are, beyond the pension itself? In some cases in the Civil Service, after short service, a civil servant might retire with a relatively small pension—a pension which would come within this scale—and yet his private income, or other means of livelihood, might be on a very considerable scale, running into hundreds, or even thousands of pounds a year, and there might be no necessity whatever to increase the small pension which he had earned by a very short service. Unless we are going to throw our money away—and we have no right to do that—we must make an inquiry to see whether there is a broad case of necessity, and, consequently, the limits have been inserted in this Resolution, so that we may see that those who really require the increase shall in fact get it in proportion to their requirements.
I am going to deal quite shortly with the various proposals which have been made. One hon. Member proposed that a pensioner who had been disabled since his requirement should be considered, although not 60 years of age, to be on the same footing as a pensioner who retired owing to his infirmity. That would be clearly wrong. There are a considerable number of pensioners who retired after short service, much under the age of 60. Is it said that a man who retires after short service, say, at 40, and who meets with an accident, which has nothing whatever to do with his Government service, ten years afterwards, should, because we are trying to meet the really necessitous cases, be able to make a claim for an increase of his small pension? And, mind you, when you are dealing with a very large number of cases—there are going to be 110,000 persons who will benefit by the Bill founded on this Resolution—unless you are going to have an enormous staff to investigate the merits of each individual case, you are bound to lay down fairly broad lines of classification, so as to sort out the claims that will come before the Department administratively.
Then it is suggested that there should be a lower age limit. The hon. baronet the Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant), who has taken a very great interest in pre-War pensions, and who has raised the matter over and over again in this House, has suggested that, as regards the police, at any rate, the age limit should be reduced to 55. I am not pre- 387 pared to make exceptions in favour of one rather than another. If the police are to be entitled to it at 55, what answer have I got to the soldier or the sailor or the civil servant? It is quite true that there are differences with regard to the police in some circumstances which, as a great advocate for the police, my hon. Friend put very clearly before us, but, at the same time, it would be equally easy to bring arguments to bear to alter the age of almost every other participant in this scheme. The additional charge which would be created is such that I really cannot accept the proposal, and, even if my hon. Friend were to move an Amendment to the Resolution in order that, as he indicated just now, the age of 55 might apply to the police, I should have to ask the Committee to refuse the Amendment, because otherwise I should be perfectly powerless, in the face of all the other Members, who, knowing the hard cases in otheir own constituencies, felt obliged to move Amendments in respect of those cases also. Unless the Committee, therefore, is prepared to support this Resolution as it is, I warn them that they jeopardise the whole scheme of increases of pre-War pensions.
Other suggestions have been made—one that there should be special relief in necessitous cases. We are following out that principle. There is the larger increase of 50 per cent. in the more necessitous case, 40 per cent. in the middle case, and 30 per cent. in the higher pension case. It has been suggested that the income from other sources should be omitted altogether. It was said that that would be penalising thrift. In one sense, whenever you take the income into account you may say that it penalises future thrift. It does not penalise thrift in the case of these particular pensioners, because their days of thrift are over. Whatever they do in the future will not affect their pensions to-day. What are we going to do? To deal with cases of necessity, or to make this a universal increase? If we are going to make it in relation to necessitous cases, then we are bound to inquire as to whether they are, in fact, necessitous—in other words, whether they have got a sufficient living income outside the pension. In connection with that, a question was asked as to the operation of the sliding scale. It was suggested 388 that the pensioner with £51 would be penalised as against a pensioner of £49. If the hon. Member who suggested that will read the Resolution, he will find that there are a specific three or four lines which deal with that particular matter.
A strong appeal was made for the Irish teachers in particular. I sympathise very much with those who are advocating the claims of the Irish teachers. They have had a very low rate—an absurd rate of pension in the past. So far, however, as this Resolution and this Bill are concerned, we are treating all pensions alike; all are being increased in their relative proportions. It may be—now is not the time to discuss it—that the Irish teachers' pensions are on the wrong basis. Indeed, my hon. Friend suggested so. It is quite possible they are. It may well be that any alteration in the basis of teachers' pensions in Ireland may be made retrospective, but now is not the time to do it. I am bound to deal with this matter of existing pensions, and treat them all in the same proportion. It is never pleasant to refuse to deal with hard cases, but if I were to accept all the suggestions that have been made to-night, the Bill, with these increases, would be something between £6,000,000 and £8,000,000 a year. If 1 tried to choose between one and the other, I do not think it will be possible fairly to accept one and reject another. I can assure the Committee that this matter was investigated by a Cabinet Committee, and the officers of every single Department were examined. Typical cases and groups of typical cases were taken into account, and the members of that Committee gave hours to the investigation of the various classes of cases which came up for increase under this Bill. With every desire to apportion the sum available in the fairest way, we came to the conclusion that the method of this Resolution was the fairest method that could be adopted.
The principle is that those who need it most are getting the most, and they are getting the largest increase. It would be quite simple if one were to be able to say, "We will raise everything up to the living wage of to-day," but remember what different classes of pensions we are dealing with. Some of them are intended to be subsistence pensions, that is to say, they are only given after, 389 perhaps, 40 years of service to men who retire after their earning capacity is practically exhausted, or, at any rate, after it is too late to begin to learn any occupation or trade. Other pensions are given for relatively short service to men who have retired in the full use of their faculties between 40 and 50 years of age. Those pensions never were intended to be full subsistence pensions. They were intended to be a reward for service, but they were always intended to be supplemented by the earnings of the people holding those pensions. You cannot deal with these two classes on exactly the same footing. It would be reasonable to say to the first class, it was intended that you should have, after your 40 or 50 years of service, enough to retire upon. It would be easy to say that to that class, but you could not say that with justice to the taxpayer who will have to pay the money to the second class, and between those two classes hon. Members will find that there are numerous other classes which merge either into the one or the other, and it is absolutely impossible to lay down a line of demarcation upon that basis. Those who are getting the least pensions are getting the highest increase.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Yes, they are getting the highest percentage of increase, and if hon. Members work it out, they will see that by the sliding scale it is also actually the highest increase. That has been the basis adopted, because it is believed to be the fairest. This scheme costs £1,750,000 a year. Not a single suggestion has been made in this discussion except to add to that cost.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I beg the hon. Baronet's pardon, and I wish to give him his due. I say that, with one notable exception, not a single suggestion has been made which would reduce the cost. If the suggestions which have been made were accepted, they would bring the total of the Bill to something between £6,000,000 and £8,000,000 a year. I can only say that the Government cannot accept Amendments which will increase the cost. This is not the time for extra 390 expenditure on the part of the Government.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I shall only be too delighted, and the Government will only be too delighted, if hon. Members will help them to cut down expenditure elsewhere, but that is not what I am dealing with to-night. It is much easier to stand at this box and say, "That is a good suggestion, and I will accept it." There has been hardly a suggestion made this evening that I would not like to accept. But it means money, and the money that is proposed in this Resolution is all the money that the Government considers ought to be spent on this matter. Therefore, I ask the Committee to give me the Resolution.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I understand that they will be subject to the increase, but I will inform my hon. Friend more accurately before the Bill is introduced, so that he can deal with the question on the Committee stage.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Can my right hon. Friend say whether super-annuities granted by local authorities are covered by the Resolution?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
My right hon. Friend knows that as regards the police there is a grant-in-aid from the central funds to local funds, and the probable cost of that grant-in-aid from the central to the local funds is included in the calculations on the White Paper. That represents 50 per cent., and there will be extra expenditure by the local authorities. The White Paper deals only with the expenditure of the Government. I have been asked about tramwaymen. The Government makes no grant-in-aid in respect of expenditure by local authorities in regard to tramwaymen, and, consequently, if the local authority increases the pension of tramwaymen or others who are not in a service for which a grant-in-aid is made, the Government does not contribute at all to that increased pension, and it is not included in the White Paper or covered by the Resolution. Some hon. Members have expressed gratitude for this proposal being brought forward. I am sure all will wish the Resolu- 391 tion to be passed, and I make a very earnest appeal to them not to bring forward Amendments, however strongly they may feel, to add this, that or the other to the cost. I can assure them, in advance, that it is absolutely impossible for me to accept any Amendment to this Resolution which will add to the charges.
§ Captain W. BENN
I should like to remark that we are entitled to spend money on this if we choose, if we think a complete case has been made out for it. But that does not interfere with my desire to curtail expenditure in other directions. What I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman is this. If he gets his vote to-night, and he has it in his hands to do so, for he can invite the Chairman to assent to a Motion for the Closure—will he consent that the Report stage of the Resolution shall not be put down after 11 o'clock? That, to my mind, is a very reasonable suggestion. I would like to remind the Committee of what we have done this week in the way of voting money out of public funds. We started a week ago suspending the practice which prevented these Resolutions being put down in the middle of the night, in order to pass the Money Resolution on the Irish Government Bill. The next day we voted £25,000,00 for operations in Mesopotamia, and on the following day we voted another sum—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
We did not suspend the Rule. An attempt was made to suspend it, but it was not carried.
§ Captain BENN
On Tuesday last week we suspended the practice with regard to Money Resolutions in order to take one in connection with the Government of Ireland Bill. I have seen it in the Votes and Proceedings; I have refreshed my memory. On Wednesday we had the Army Vote and expended large sums. The next day we had the Transport Vote.
§ Major MORGAN
That is a Vote for railways, and the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) is interested in railways.
§ Captain BENN
I am trying to make a suggestion to support it by argument. On the Friday we passed no less than three Money Resolutions authorising expenditure not arranged for in supply. On Monday we passed the Report of those three Resolutions. To-day we have extended to the Government an export 392 credit of £26,000,000, and we are voting a sum of £800,000 for pensions, which involves another large sum for service pensions. After all, this House is the custodian of the public purse. Is it unreasonable therefore to ask that the Report stage of this Resolution should be taken at a time when it is possible for hon. Gentlemen to express their opinion upon it and to bring what influence they can upon the Minister. I can, of course, only speak for a very small number, but some of us would not then put the right hon. Gentleman to the necessity of asking for the closure. If he will not, then he will probably have to closure the Resolution, and it will put him in the invidious position of closuring the House of Commons at the very time that it is discussing the expenditure of a large sum of money.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
The hon. and gallant Gentleman finished his otherwise not unreasonable request with a threat that, unless I agree to do something which he knows I cannot agree to do, I shall be forced to ask for the closure if I want this Resolution to-night. I am glad to think that he speaks for a relatively small number of hon. Members, and I only hope that the rest of the Committee will not support those hon. Gentlemen if they take the course that he threatens. After all, we are here asking for a Resolution which, I believe, every Member of the Committee desires, and, because the hon. and gallant Member thinks that the report of that Resolution which has been discussed for between three and four hours should not be taken after 11 o'clock he threatens to so prolong the Debate —
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
That is what the hon. and gallant Gentleman did, because he said that if I wanted the Resolution I should have to ask for the closure. I never need ask for the closure unless he prolongs the Debate beyond 11 o'clock or up till 11 o'clock. Therefore, in fact, he threatens that unless I agree to take the Report Stage before 11 o'clock—
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
There was no other meaning to his statement. I am in the hands of the Committee. If the Committee choose to support that course, well, then I cannot get the Resolution.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
My hon. and gallant Friend must allow me to frame my reply in my own way, and he must try to contain himself. All that I said was that I can give no such undertaking, as my hon. and gallant Friend very well knows. I am not the Leader of the House, and the business of the House is in the hands of the Leader of the House. My hon. and gallant Friend has had a quite long enough experience of this House to know that no Minister except the Leader of the House can give the undertaking that he desires. If the House desires to get this Resolution, I hope they will accede to the request I make, which, after all, I think is a reasonable one. If, on the other hand, they do not want it, the hon. and gallant Member and his friends have it in their power to talk it out, if they so desire.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I desire to support the Resolution, but I should like a little more information with regard to it. The State has given an undertaking, and there is, undoubtedly, an obligation to increase these pensions. I want to know, however, how the Government propose to finance this Resolution, which we are going to pass. I have sat here for some time, and no one has asked how this is going to be paid for. Are these sums of money provided in the Estimates for the year, or is the matter an afterthought? We are dealing with a Financial Resolution, but there is no one on the Front Bench to answer a question of that kind. When we come to the real business of finance, the financial authorities of the Government are absent. If these pen- 394 sions are not provided for in the Estimates for the year, how does the Government propose to provide for them? Must the House of Commons take matters into its own hands and make reductions in other directions in order to provide the money for this Resolution? No doubt the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to answer a question of that kind, but that is the way in which the business of the country is carried on. It is proposed to provide £1,750,000 for a purpose with which everyone agrees, and yet the House cannot be told how that sum is going to be provided.
I do think it is the duty of some of us to express our sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman in the position in which he finds himself. Whenever a humane policy is brought forward in this House, and a niggardly sum is put forward to support it, we have the right hon. Gentleman protesting that the Government cannot find another farthing. Only the other day we had the case of the blind. With another £250,000 we could have acted with justice and humanity towards a great and deserving and pitiable class, with whom everyone sympathises. My right hon. Friend tonight, with perfect sincerity, tells us that he would do all he could if only the money were forthcoming. Where is it coming from? I will tell him where it will come from. It will come from savings on the ridiculous Transport Ministry; it will come from savings on the enormous expenditure which we are pouring out in Mesopotamia; it will come from savings on a new War in Turkey.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
We have had that same argument many times when the hon. Member has not been here.
I beg your pardon if I have indulged in what is called tedious repetition, but I enter my protest against the constant attempts of the Government to whittle down expenditure on what I honestly believe is a genuinely human policy in regard to these matters while we are squandering it elsewhere, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take back this Financial Resolution and consider it in the light of possible saving that might be made elsewhere and bring it up in a more generous spirit.
§ Colonel Sir A. SPROT
I was not present when the right hon. Gentleman 395 made his statement, and it is not clear to me why the case of soldiers is omitted from all mention in this Paper. I understand he told the House that they would be dealt with under the Army Estimates, as they come under the Royal Warrant, and I shall be very much obliged if he will confirm that to me now.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That is further repetition. That has already been stated on a previous occasion.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I rise to call attention to a matter that is not quite clear. I agree that the Resolution is more than necessary, but the scale is based on the principle of those who have most getting more than those who have least. Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the Resolution? It is, after all, to aid those who have some difficulty in getting a bare existence. The right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) was talking about people saving out of 15s., 16s., and 17s. a week. It has been my unfortunate lot to work for 15s. a week at various times, but I failed to save anything. I have known some people who have attempted to save on 17s. or 18s. a week, with the dire result that their family has cost more than if they had spent the whole 17s. or 18s. It is a criminal thing for any man to save for the future while his children are wanting it. I trust the Minister will give this further consideration. I support the Resolution with all my heart. I want to see it through. It may have been all right when they entered the service, but they did not anticipate the great increase in the cost of living; and after all that must be met.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
There is one question I want to ask. Is Wales left out of this? The Memorandum refers to England, Scotland, and Ireland, but Wales is not mentioned, and that is an injustice to Wales. Although I have recently left Wales, I am surprised that all Welsh Members have not discovered it, and it was an Englishman who pointed it out to me. However, it is a serious matter, and I want to know whether it is an act of omission or forgetfulness, or whether it is included? Anyhow, Wales ought to be mentioned.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Wales is all right. I can assure the hon. Member that it is included with England in English Acts. It is not an injustice to Wales.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
That is a greater injustice still, because I believe Wales is a nation, and if that is worth anything at all it is worth mentioning in this connection. I welcome this Bill, although it is not as perfect as I would like it to be, and does not contain as much as I desire. I was struck by the sincerity of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and I know he has spoken the last word so far as increasing the amount is concerned. I accept this as a long-deserved measure of justice and fair play to a struggling mass of humanity who have passed through great trouble in the past few years. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) said, "Let us pause." Yes, let us pause and consider how he and others may desire to economise when the suffering and poverty of the people is at the bottom of it. If we have to economise we must not economise by extending suffering and poverty. I sometimes wonder if there is need for economy in the sense that it will relieve certain people of taxation. When we see the impudent and vulgar display of wealth during Ascot week, and at other times, when people go about in their ninety-guinea hats, we cannot forget that there are people who are concerned in this Resolution who have scarcely a sixpenny hat to cover their head. I am out to economise in the right way, but not by adding pain and suffering to the poverty of these people. We heard a great deal to-night about the miserable wages and pensions. I wonder how many of the people who have been on Education Committees, County Councils and Borough Councils, and other spending authorities have voted for increasing the wages and salaries, and how many have voted against. It is a standing disgrace to many of the County and Borough and Rural Councils that the wages are such as they have been and the pensions such as they are. I welcome this as a measure of justice to a long-suffering and patient section of the community. We could multiply by the 397 hundred the cases that have been mentioned to-night. Every hon. Member must have scores of them. We do not want to bring individual cases to prove the principle involved in this measure. We will give the Government the Resolution to-night, and we hope the Bill will soon be introduced, because people cannot pay their debts on expectation. It is no good to try to build a home on retrospective payment until it comes.
§ Sir J. REMNANT
I did not move the Amendment in order that there might be a general Debate on the whole Resolution. I understand now that if we prolong the Debate the whole Resolution is in danger of being lost. It puts me in an awkward position, in that I feel as strongly as ever that the two Amendments of which I gave notice should be moved. The right hon. Gentleman, in his sympathetic speech, was not, I think, quite fair, in so far as he did not give the reason I had already given the douse for reducing, in the case of a special body of men, the age limit. But I do not wish in any way to jeopardise this Resolution, which, as far as it goes, is desired by everybody, and I do not propose to move my Amendment.
§ Captain BENN
On a point of Order. When the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Moles) rose on a point of Order my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) made way for him on the point of Order.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That is the hon. Member's version, but he is not sitting here or seeing all that took place.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.