§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
I beg to move,That this House calls upon His Majesty's Government to institute for all workers reaching the age of 60 years a scheme of pensions sufficient in amount to encourage the retirement from industry of these workers and thus relieve the volume of unemployment.I think that this is the first time that the very important question of pensions at 60 years of age has been debated in this House. Since this Motion has appeared upon the Order Paper I have received a very considerable number of communications from all parts of the country, which shows conclusively that it is a subject in which a great number of people are vitally interested. The 420 necessity for the Motion rests fundamentally upon the question of unemployment. Times have changed. In the past we have had two or three Old Age Pensions Acts, but the position to-day is that, in spite of the possibility of bringing prosperity back to industry and commerce, it is an absolute certainty that the problem of unemployment will still remain. The invention of to-day is superseded by the invention of to-morrow, and the effect of that is an ever-increasing hard core of unemployment which grows greater and greater each year.
This phase of the problem of unemployment has from time to time received the attention of a great number of persons. It has been talked about in this and in the other direction, and, if it had been possible to offer sufficient inducement to people between the ages of 60 and 65 to leave the labour market and to be pensioned off, that would have been a very excellent thing. The other 421 evening, a gentleman representing the employers of this country made a speech over the wireless which was of significance in relation to this subject. He said:There is nothing new about the idea of distributing employment among those for whom it is socially most desirable. The old age pensions have established the principle that when age diminishes strength and skill men and women shall no longer drudge, but shall be given support by the State. Why should not industry take upon itself the responsibility of organising its labour intake and outgoing?When one comes to realise—[Interruption]—After that pleasant interlude perhaps I may be allowed to proceed.
§ Mr. LAWSON
On a point of Order. May I draw attention to the fact, Mr. Speaker, that a Government Whip is at the present moment engaged in trying to organise a count of the House? Is there any protection against that?
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY (Lord of the Treasury)
On that point of Order. Is it not a fact that, at your request, I went to ask a certain hon. Member if he wished to take part in the Debate? That was the only errand that I was pursuing at the time when the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), in a very unparliamentary manner, threatened me with certain things with which he dare not threaten me outside this House.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I challenged the hon. Gentleman with doing what he was doing. I heard him at it, and am prepared to assert, either inside or outside, that that is what he was doing.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) challenged me with having been responsible for a count being called on Friday last. I had nothing whatever to do with that count being called; I was not on duty at the time; and I ask the hon. Member to withdraw that charge which he has made against me. Further, I was not engaged at all in the mission that he assumed. If he wants to know exactly what was taking place as regards the conversation at the moment that he came up, I may say that I was informing my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Todd) that in no circumstances did we want a count.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I think it is right to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) came to me and asked if I wished to take part in the Debate. I was sitting in the vicinity, and not a single mention was made of a plot to call a count. Therefore, I think that in the interests of the House the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) ought to withdraw his statement.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I absolutely refuse to withdraw. I challenged the hon. Gentleman, and he did not for a moment deny it. Last Friday I saw him organising it, and challenged one of the Whips who was acting with him in the Lobby outside, and he did not deny it then.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has challenged another hon. Member, who has denied the accusation. It is the common practice of the House, when an hon. Member makes an accusation against another hon. Member who denies it, that the accusation should be withdrawn.
§ Mr. LAWSON
If you ask me to do so, and as the hon. Member has made that statement, I am prepared to withdraw, and am sorry I made the statement. I made it on a rumour which has been running strongly through the House all the evening, and on the experience of what took place and what I myself saw organised on Friday. I withdraw the statement and apologise to you, Sir, for having made it.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
I was drawing attention to the fact that, because of the introduction of new inventions, it was extremely likely that the number of unemployed would remain at a very high 423 figure, in my opinion very little less than 2,000,000 or 2,250,000. I would ask the House to remember that it is the men between 60 and 65 who are likely to become unemployed soonest, and whose chances of getting employment become steadily less as each year passes. I think, therefore, the House will agree that the question of unemployment comes in here, and that there is a case for taking people out of industry if possible. I think it will also be generally agreed that the present old age pension of 10s. per week is totally inadequate, and that even those who, with the best possible intentions and the highest possible ideals, brought in the old age pension originally, would now be the first to admit that in a great measure it has failed in its purpose.
The underlying idea of giving first of all an old age pension at 70, and then a contributory pension at 65, was that it would be doing something to provide for such people in their old age, but it has not worked out in that way. I am informed that, of 440,000 people receiving pensions under the Contributory Pensions Act of 1925, no fewer than 330,000 are working for varying periods during the year. Obviously the reason for that is that it is impossible for them to live on the 10s. per week which is provided as an old age pension. Having had some considerable experience in local government, and having served on a board of guardians for many years, I know that we were terribly disappointed to find that, instead of the majority of the old people being taken out of the Poor Law, they were still compelled to come to the Poor Law, and, since the abnormal rise in rents, more and more of them have come to the guardians to ask for relief and assistance because the 10s. is not sufficient. Speaking from my own personal experience in a small way among my own people, I know that, of 27 persons employed in a bakery here in London, no fewer than 11 are drawing the old age pension at 65 years of age and are still continuing to work. It is obvious, therefore, that the present old age pension is inadequate, and does not achieve the purpose that it was expected to achieve, and the effect is that, instead of being the means whereby decent people after many years could have a comfort- 424 able old age, it has fallen very short indeed of that ideal.
As regards unemployment, we are not only faced in industry to-day with the question of the machine, but also with the situation created by amalgamations of companies, by trusts, and by cartels. In my own constituency, in the town of Wednesbury, a very few years ago, the prosperity of the town depended upon the production of tubes. There was a great works there, employing 4,000 or 5,000 men altogether. An amalgamation took place, the whole of this big firm's business was brought into an amalgamation, and the effect was that that works was closed down and 4,000 or 5,000 people were thrown out of employment. Many of them have never had a day's work from that day to this, and obviously those who have suffered most have been the old men.
I want, if I can, to point out to the Government that the whole system of old age pensions needs overhauling. The pension at 70 is bad in itself. Among the many letters that I have received in connection with this matter is one from a woman whose husband is about 70 years of age. He was never a contributor to the old age pension under the Act of 1925. She herself is somewhere about 65 or 66. He is unable to work. He has an old age pension of 10s. a week, and she is obliged to go out caretaking, and the result of that woman of 65 or 66 going out to work to keep her sick husband is that, under the rules governing the pension at 70, his pension is immediately cut to 4s. a week. I want to submit to the House that there is a case for overhauling the whole question of pensions, and, further, that there is a very strong case indeed for realising that, besides insured persons, there are other classes who are in need of provision for their old age. There is the professional class, there are the small tradesmen, and I think that, if there is one thing more than another that causes bitterness in the minds of many people of the lower middle classes, it is that in connection with social services they are left high and dry in nearly every respect. I would put it to the House that it should be possible to bring in a proper pension scheme which would cover every section of the community that cared to contribute to it.
I want now to say something about the people between 60 and 65. I do not pro- 425 pose to suggest to the Government that a pension should be paid at 60 unconditionally. The first condition must be that, if people take their pension at 60, they must absolutely retire from industry—in other words, that the pension should be optional at 60 years of age. If I am to achieve the object which I have set forth in this Motion, I must get as many people out of industry as I possibly can. I believe that millions of pounds now spent in unemployment pay would be better spent in pensions for the aged, that we are spending the money in many instances at the wrong end, and that it might be possible—and I think it should be possible—to pension men and women at 60 and take them out of industry and to bring in the young people to do the work of the community, the work of commerce, and the work of the nation during those years when they are most fit and able to do it. The gentleman who spoke on the wireless for the employers the other day used some very wise words. He said, speaking of people retiring at 60:You can retire, and during our prosperous years we will, with some assistance from the State, make provision for your future. Even for machinery we are quite used to setting aside a certain sum for depreciation, so that we need not work plant to the last possible turn of its parts. Some manufacturers still use 50-year old plant, but the progressive producer realises that it does not pay. How much stronger is the argument in favour of making provision through industry for industry's retired personnel. In time we shall realise that it does not pay to work people when they are too old merely because it has not occurred to us to plan a human depreciation fund so that they can be given an adequate pension at the right age.Those words can be endorsed by a great many men and women of good will irrespective of party altogether, and I heartily endorse them.
There is another point. We have pension schemes for certain people—for municipal employés, civil servants and teachers—and certain private firms have superannuation schemes for their work people. In this respect the co-operative movement sets an example which might well be followed by a good many private firms. These classes of people cover nearly 4,000,000 persons. Their retiring pensions are the one bright thing that they hold on to during the whole of their working days. They feel that they have a sense of security because they have a pension at the end. If it is a good thing 426 for the 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 persons, surely it cannot be a bad thing for the nation as a whole. Municipal employés are pleased to have the chance of contributing weekly to a pension scheme, and I believe a vast number of our people would be pleased to have the chance. If it were possible to give an adequate pension to ensure a really comfortable old age for men and women, a good deal of the scraping and saving of comparatively small sums need no longer take place. It is somewhat pitiable to see the efforts and the sacrifices that are made, and many times they fail in the long run. This money, if it were not hoarded and put on one side, might be spent with advantage to the nation as a whole. We are beginning to learn that the true patriots are not those who hoard money up, but those who spend it and make trade. A very considerable sum of money indeed would be made free by an adequate pension scheme.
Having said as much as I have, I suppose hon. Members will be asking themselves the question that they will be asking me later on: Where is the money to come from? What is going to be the cost of this? We are here as a very responsible authority, and we must really consider how much it is going to cost. I am suggesting a national contributory old age pensions scheme. I believe it should be possible to bring in every one who wishes to contribute with the help of the Government and the employer and a direct contribution by the people concerned. I should like to quote Mr. Ernest Bevin, the secretary to the Transport and General Workers Union. He says—and I agree with him—that he would be in favour of direct taxation, but so vital is the problem that he would not quarrel with a contributory scheme. He suggests that, if we could work this thing out on an actuarial basis, it might be possible to get a scheme which would give £1 a week to men and women at 60 years of age optionally, and which would give to a man and his wife, irrespective of the age of the wife if the man achieved the age of 60 or 65, at least 35s. a week, and if this could be done—and we suggest that it might—on a total Government, employer and workman contribution of 1s. 6d.—compare that with the 2s. 6d. 427 that Unemployment Insurance costs us now—if Mr. Bevin is not hopelessly wrong the scheme that I am putting forward would in all probability deliver the goods and would be sufficient to induce people to leave employment and come out of the labour market.
It may be said that people will not be induced to come out of the industry for a joint pension for man and wife of 35s. a week, but I am fairly positive that you would get a very large proportion indeed. The average wage for many classes of people for 52 weeks in a year is not more than round about £2 5s. or £2 6s. Here you get a thing which gives them security—52 weeks in a year at 35s.—at a period in their lives when in all probability their children have left home and their responsibilities are simply their two selves. I believe it would really induce many of them to leave industry, and it would relieve the unemployment fund of some millions of pounds, it would relieve the sick fund under the National Health Insurance of many more millions, and I believe on balance it would be found eventually that the cost was not as great as might be feared. I am not afraid to face the figures. In answer to a question during the time of the late Government, Miss Lawrence said the extra cost of a pension scheme—not of this kind, because she did not know about it being a contributory scheme—would be about £83,000,000 per annum.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Hore-Belisha)
Can the hon. Member give me the date of that question and answer or read the terms of it?
§ Mr. BANFIELD
Miss Lawrence was asked the question in 1929 and replied as follows:As regards the first part of the question, many communications have been received suggesting extensions of the Contributory Pensions Act. As regards the second part, it is estimated that the net additional annual cost of reducing the pension age from 65 to 60 and increasing the rate of pension to £1 per week would be approximately £83,000,000 in the first years, and would increase rapidly.428 It is only fair to say that in all probability that figure was given on the assumption that the £1 per week would be paid to everyone at 60. Apparently the question of making it optional was not included in that answer. The optional Clause must of necessity reduce the suggested amount, to some extent at any rate.
To summarise what I have said, I think it is agreed that, in view of the problem of unemployment, in view of the fact that unemployment is not likely ever again to come down to normal proportions for the reasons I have given, it would be advisable to consider taking certain people out of industry. Secondly, the present Old Age Pension schemes are totally inadequate. They do not work. They do not do the things that they were expected to do. Thirdly, a contributory scheme such as I have suggested is, at any rate, well worth the serious attention of the House. I hope the House, although it is small now, will not believe that this is a thing that does not matter. In my opinion it is very urgent, it should receive a great deal of attention, and, above everything else, it should not be dismissed with a wave of the hand on the ground that it is impossible and that the cost cannot be met. We have all lived long enough to see the impossible made possible. I believe that here is a case in which those who say this is impossible will live to believe with me that it can be made possible.
The Amendment suggests that the Motion, if put into effect, would be another drag upon industry. We are always told that. When I fought for shorter hours for the people in my trade, I was told that it would throw every one out of work. The suggestion has always been that every social improvement is going to send industry to the dogs. Even industry has some responsibility towards its workers. Over and over again men who have done 30, 40 and 45 years' good, honest service when they come to 55 or 60 are ruthlessly scrapped, because they are no longer as efficient as they should be. Industry ought to be proud to take some part in a scheme of this kind. It ought to recognise its responsibilities. I believe that there is a feeling in all ranks of society that here is a thing which should appeal to all men and women. I wish to make it clear that it is not a class scheme or one exclusively for those who work for wages and are in insurance. It 429 must be a bigger thing than that. It must be a real national old age pension scheme embracing men and women of all classes who care to contribute. If we are able to do something on these lines we shall bring happiness to people in their old age, provide work for young people when they ought to be at work, and take the old men from work when they should be in retirement. If we are able to bring peace, happiness and prosperity into the homes of our people, it will be a job worthy of the House of Commons.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I beg to second the Motion.
When the idea of old age pensions was first advocated it was treated with derision on the score of expense. Yet the scheme was inaugurated after many years of agitation, and it has been developed to an extent of which Parliament in the years before the War never dreamed. I know that the great stumbling block is expense. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury at once seized on to that side of the question. He wanted to know the reply given to a Parliamentary question, and my hon. Friend quoted the reply, which stated that £80,000,000 would be required to bring the old veterans away from toil after having given 46 years of service to their country. A man who serves in the British Army or Navy for 21 years receives a pension, but here are men and women upon whom everything in the country depends, the Army, the Navy, the Police, the Civil Service, teachers and Post Office workers. They all depend upon the workers in the workshops, shipyards, factories, the mines, the fields, the docks and the transport services. These are the producers and the men who do the work. They are the actual producers of the necessaries and luxuries of life. These individuals have given of their best, their youth and their manhood, for 46 years. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that they have done so from 14 years of age to 60 years of age. We are asking that they should be rewarded after having rendered valuable services which cannot be estimated in pounds, shillings and pence. They have built this country. The great upholders of this country say that this is the mightiest Empire on which the sun has ever shone, and the richest. We are asking that the richest Empire should do 430 its duty by those who have made this Empire possible.
I am in favour of a non-contributory scheme of pensions, and I have always advocated such a scheme. I have put it in my election address time and again. I have advocated old age pensions at 60 and an adequate pension at that. Ten shillings a week is absolutely ridiculous. Why do we treat our old veterans of industry in this fashion? We claim to be a mighty Empire and to have all the brains, and to act so humanely that no foreigner dare question our humanity, and yet this is how we treat our own kith and kin at home after they have given 50 years' service toiling in the mines, the shipyards, the docks, and the engineering shops. Think of the colliers deep down in the bowels of the earth, some in Lancashire, working in places where horses cannot exist. We ask that those individuals should receive an adequate pension. I support entirely the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) when he asks for a pension of £1 a week for a man, and 35s. for man and wife immediately the breadwinner reaches the age of 60, irrespective of the age of his wife. The hon. Member told the House that he had been inundated with letters from people explaining their hardships. The same experience has been my lot, because I recently drew a place in the Ballot in this House, which is the reason why I am seconding the Motion. I drew third place on that occasion, and therefore I was not able to bring forward my old age pensions Motion.
I ask the House seriously to consider this proposal, even supposing such a great sum as £80,000,000 is involved. We should only be giving the £80,000,000 to those who produced it. Nobody else has produced it. Not only did they produce the £80,000,000, but, I would have the House remember, they also produce £350,000,000 of War Debt interest every year which this country can afford to pay to the individuals who lent the money with which to carry on the War. That is not paid to the individuals who were slaughtered or maimed, and to those who were blinded. We do not even give them adequate pensions. We do not even give adequate pensions to the widows of the men who sacrificed their lives, who made the supreme sacrifice for their country; indeed we have reduced them. The war debt was money 431 lent by individuals. It was something they could do without. It did not impoverish them in any way to lend that money. The lending of it did not take away their breakfasts or their dinners. It was no sacrifice to them; nevertheless, we pay to them £1,000,000 a day in interest, and that is to go on for ever, until we get a Socialist Government that will end it once and for all. Until then we have to go on paying to these individuals £1,000,000 a day. That is a first charge on industry. Those are the great patriots. Did they follow the example of the Lord President of the Council, who surrendered £250,000 of his War Loan to the country? He gave them a striking example of what the true patriot would do. How many followed his example? None that we know of. If they had done so we should have had £350,000,000 a year for our social services. All the things that we demand in order to ameliorate the terrible conditions that prevail in the country could have been provided.
Think of the lot of the old man and the old woman to-day. It is our privilege, the privilege of those who are physically and mentally fit, to defend those who are not able to defend themselves. It is the privilege of this House to accept the Motion that has been placed before them in a very reasonable speech, asking nothing revolutionary but something which the country could do. Let hon. Members not forget one of the most revolutionary things that has happened during the office of the present Government. When I go to the country and I am asked: "Shall we have to wait until the General Election?" I say "No." The most powerful thing in the country is public opinion. Public opinion stood by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he reduced the interest from 5 per cent. to 3½ per cent. The same thing could be done again. If we reduced the interest to 2½ per cent. we should have the money right away not only for old age pensions at 60, but money that would augment all our social services, including the giving of £1 a week for the unemployed man, 30s. a week for an unemployed man and his wife, and 5s. a week for the unemployed man's child.
We are told by some individuals that you cannot do these things under a dying 432 capitalism. I am not concerned about capitalism. My business is to smite capitalism, to get concessions, and I believe it is possible to get them on the Floor of the House of Commons. I want to usher in Socialism not in the midst of chaos and revolution but in the midst of plenty. We have plenty now. We have everything in superabundance. All that is required is the brain to produce a method of distributing the great power of productivity of which we are all the joint heirs. The suggestion which we make to-night is one of the ways of doing that. To give adequate pensions is one means of distributing our great productivity. When one goes to the workshops or to the mines to-day we know that in every branch of industry speed is the order of the day. If ever there was a time in the history of the world when it was a case of manhood's active might, that time is now. As a result of this speed, employers of labour have no alternative under the competitive system but to take the most efficient workers that they can possibly get. When a member of my class turns 50, never mind 60, he dreads losing his job. It is a constant nightmare to him. It is because we know these things that we suggest that they should get old age pensions at 60, adequate pensions. We suggest that our own people, our own kith and kin, our race, when they have worked from 14 years of age to 60 years of age—remembering that the allotted span of human life according to the Bible is three-score years and ten—should receive a pension. All we are asking is that after having served the community for 46 years they shall be allowed 10 years of leisure before they roll off this mortal coil. Surely that is not too much to ask.
It is not as though we had not other sections of the community as an example. When I was in the workshop I always felt that I was associated with individuals, no better than myself and no worse, who knew that when they came to a certain age they would be able to retire with a comfortable pension, comparatively speaking. Why should a school teacher have a pension and a worker, an engineer and a labourer, have none? Why should not the manual worker, the artisan, have an adequate pension. I come from a great shipbuilding and engineering constituency. What 433 has been the result of the policy of successive Governments in this country? They decided that the best thing to do in existing conditions was to rationalise the shipyards, and as a result several shipyards in my constituency have been shut down. Here are men, the finest workmen in the world, who have built some of the finest ships that sail the seven seas, who have been employed for 30, 40 and 50 years, thrown on the street because rationalisation comes along; and all they get is 15s. 3d. per week. That is their reward. The Prime Minister says that there is no social service comparable with ours; that is nothing of which to be proud. Why should I as an engineer have 15s. 3d. and a policeman £3. The school teacher, the civil servant, the Post Office worker, the municipal employé, all have pensions, but the actual worker upon whom they all depend is thrown on the scrap heap. He could not be treated worse if he was an enemy of the country, and if he was a criminal be would get better treatment than he does for being a decent, hard-working Briton.
I propose to keep my remarks short as many other hon. Members desire to speak. This Debate is of vital importance to tens of thousands of as decent men and women as ever drew the breath of life. It should be our duty, indeed our joy, to alleviate their distress. All kinds of workers, no matter whether they are labourers, skilled workers, or semi-skilled workers, all those who have rendered service to the State have a Heaven-born right to be adequately maintained by the State; not as a charity. They have expended their energies and abilities in order to make Britain what she is to-day, and if Britain can afford to pay nearly one million pounds a day as interest on War debt, surely she might easily devote half that amount to prevent the terrible injustice which is being done at the moment to these old people. Here is an opportunity for the Government, the most powerful Government of all time in Britain. They have such a huge majority that they can push forward anything they desire, and if they desire to push this proposal through it would go through. Think of the joy that a Measure like this would bring. Think of the many homes which are desolate at the moment, and of the fathers and mothers who have given this country its youth. If the Govern- 434 ment would do this they would do something to justify their existence. Let the Government agree to set up an inquiry into the question, it need not occupy any great length of time, and let the country know the result of that inquiry before this Parliament turns down a proposal which is supported by many people throughout the country.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. CROOM-JOHNSON
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:is of opinion that it would be impossible to administer a scheme of retirement pensions at 60 years so as to make them conditional on actual and continued retirement, and that the heavy additional burden which such a scheme would impose upon the taxpayer and upon industry would check the present improvement and would diminish the amount of employment which industry is able to provide.The House does well, after having spent many hours recently in discussing the question of unemployment insurance, to turn for a moment or two to the gravity of the problem which lies underneath those discussions. I think we ought to be grateful to the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) for having introduced this Motion, not only for that reason, but also because this suggestion of pensions for old people at 60 is one which has been floating about for a long time without much critical examination of it; and it is certainly the first time since I have been a Member of the House that the matter has been debated here. The hon. Member put his case with great fairness from his point of view, and with such arguments as I have no doubt appealed to him and indeed would appeal to a certain extent to all of us who see in the world around us things we much desire to have otherwise. The speeches of both the Mover and the Seconder did credit to the softness of their hearts. Perhaps as I have spoken about their anatomy for one moment I may leave it there.
I want to examine this proposal and see where it is likely to take us. I recognise at the very outset that the Proposer and the Seconder do not agree between themselves as to what is, of course, one of the fundamental points which has to be faced. Are we to have a scheme which is contributory or a scheme which is not? I have heard it 435 advanced on many occasions from Labour and Socialist platforms that contributory pensions were things which ought to go, and of course it is going to make an enormous difference to the amount of money involved. But let us start at the very root of the proposal. Moving about the world and representing, as I do, a constituency which contains an overwhelming mass of working people, I do not recognise these old people at the age of 60. Indeed, while the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood) was speaking I took the trouble to look up his age, and I do not recognise him, and I am sure he does not recognise himself, as a person who ought to have an old age pension.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
It is perfectly true that I am a few years over 60, but the difference between me and those for whom I am appealing is that it is over 20 years since I worked in the workshop. If I had been working in the workshop till now I would have been ready for retirement. That makes all the difference.
§ Mr. CROOM-JOHNSON
The hon. Member has the advantage of me, because I am forced to work in my workshop every day of my life, and I am still doing it. But let us look at the proposal again. Who are these people who are said to be too old at 60 and who ought to be given the opportunity of retiring? So far as I am able to ascertain, ordinary working men—I include myself in that category, and all my friends in the various professions and industries who are not passengers in the world—are fond of their work and desire to do it. The suggestion here is that at the age of 60 these people are to be given an option. What working man, using that expression in the sense in which I have just used it, at the age of 60, if he is in full vigour, is going to agree to cut down his earnings to any substantial extent whatever? If the man is not fit for work, if the man is not able to work, if the man has lost his job, then he is no use within the terms of this Resolution for the purpose of throwing up a job for someone else to take.
Therefore, if you are going to get any advantage out of this scheme from that point of view, you must first of all predicate that a man is in a job, that he can keep his job, that he would be able to 436 go on working and would be able to make his earnings until such time as he comes under one or other of the existing pensions which are available for him. I do not know how many of those individuals would be likely to take advantage of the offer if it were made. I understand that the figure of £1 a week is suggested. I suppose the agricultural worker is to be included? Workers in the agricultural districts are not in the least inclined to exchange their present figure, which in my county is only 30s. 6d. a week, for £1 a week.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
I am sure the hon. and learned Member would not deliberately mislead the House. I made it very clear indeed that for a man and wife the figure would be 35s. per week, and I now suggest that the agricultural labourer at 60 years of age, with a wife, would be very pleased indeed to retire from agriculture on a pension of 35s. a week.
§ Mr. CROOM-JOHNSON
I think that is highly likely. But is it suggested that if a man is 60 and his wife is 35 the pension is to be 35s. a week, or that if the man dies at 70 and his wife is 45 she is to go on receiving her pension for the rest of her life, irrespective of whether or not she has contributed to one of the existing schemes? If that is the proposal the figures given are wholly fallacious, and the cost will go up with almost every word that is uttered from the benches opposite. But what else is to happen? Is industry to be deprived of individuals over 60, in all walks of life apparently, as long as they have been workers? Is industry to lose its most experienced foremen and charge hands? There is the shepherd, very often a man who knows the countryside and knows the habit of his animals better than any other individual. There are the men in various professions, the managing clerks, and so on. Are all these people at 60 years of age to have dangled in front of them the opportunity of going? If they take the opportunity, industry is going to be deprived of a great deal of the sane, balanced, experienced judgment which you get not only in people at the top but in people all the way down. What else is to happen? Is the proposal to stop at people who work only with their hands? Are Members of Parliament who devote their whole lives with great assiduity to politics to be there?
§ Mr. CROOM-JOHNSON
The hon. Member says "No"; the option then is not to be extended to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood)? It sounds an astonishing proposal. What is the next stage? Have any hon. Members worked this out at all? I gather that the system is to be under a strict condition. How are you going to carry out a strict condition? Once a man is 60 he is to have the old age pension and he is to do no more work. I can imagine no one more miserable than the man in any walk of life, be he well educated or not so well educated, be he a man at the top or a man without any responsibility at all, who finds himself at the age of 60 still vigorous, but unable to work, and, according to the hon. Member for Wednesbury, in danger of losing his pension if he dares to do a stroke. That is indeed, a new view of economics——
§ Mr. CROOM-JOHNSON
And a new view of the dignity of labour. Then there is the next step. Who is going to look after the man to see that he does not work? Hon. Members opposite have quoted figures, but have they included anything for administration? Who is going to watch to see whether somebody, be he rich or poor, who thinks he is unobserved, is going to do a job of work although he has passed the age of 60. If such a one is found, what is to be the penalty? Is he to lose the pension for a period or is he to lose it altogether? I gather that he is to lose it altogether. There is a pretty prospect for the healthy man of 60. After all the years which I understand the Socialist party have spent in working upon this problem, I expected that we would hear this evening, in some sort of reasonable detail, what they proposed to do.
§ Mr. CROOM-JOHNSON
Is there to be an army of inspectors? Are the inspectors themselves to retire at 60? What is to happen to them?
§ Mr. CROOM-JOHNSON
My hon. Friend opposite will pardon me if I do not give way again, but I am afraid his interruptions are in a language which I am wholly unable to comprehend.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am not going to allow a Member of this House to insult the language that I speak. I speak the language of the country boys who stood betwixt you and the onrushing Germans. Do not start to insult the Scottish tongue. I would allow neither you nor any man who draws the breath of life to do so. If you talk fair and be honest, then I will discuss with you as long as you like, but if you are going to try to insult my countrymen I will let you know all about it.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I did not understand the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson) to be in any way insulting to the language of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). I merely understood the hon. and learned Member to say that he was not very well versed in it, a state of affairs I must confess I share.
§ Mr. CROOM-JOHNSON
It was not my intention to offend the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs or to say a single word which would be a reflection on the gallant country to which he belongs. I was pleading my own ignorance.
§ Mr. CROOM-JOHNSON
If I were to reply to him in the language of my mother's, which happens to be Welsh, he would find himself in the same difficulty. To return to the subject of the Motion, has anybody thought of the wives of these men? What are they going to say about seeing a hale and hearty man knocking about the house all day long, receiving £1 a week pension, when his earnings would have been three or four times that amount. Hon. Members opposite might go to a mass meeting of women in some working-class district and ask them what they thought about this proposal? I have little doubt of what the women in my part of the country would say.
A great deal of argument has been addressed to the question of cost. Do hon. Members opposite still think that there is an unlimited amount of money available in the world for projects of this sort. Is it to be a non-contributory 439 scheme? Is the money to be obtained by taxation? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members cheer that suggestion. Do they realise that taxation and unemployment go side by side? To whatever country in Europe you go, you find the lowest state of the poor people in those countries where taxation is highest. Where taxation goes up, then of necessity—for people cannot spend their money twice over—economies have to be made, jobs are left undone and people have to be dismissed. The sooner members of the Socialist party get out of their heads the notion that we are going to make everybody happier and better off by piling on taxation, the sooner they will realise the way to deal with some of the root causes of unemployment.
If it is to be an actuarial scheme as we are told you will have to wait until you have piled up out of contributions a fund sufficient to make the payment of the pensions reasonably certain. If you are going to start your pension fund on an actuarial basis, it will have to be contributory and based on expectation of life, and I fear the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs and myself will have ceased to trouble this House long before such a scheme can be put into operation. Of course, I am sure my hon. Friends opposite would have no difficulty at all in getting rid of that objection. They would take the fund out of more taxation, which suggests that they have already forgotten, if indeed they ever learned, the lessons of those perilous months before August, 1931.
I am not going into figures, but in 1929 after the General Election of that year, when some of the pledges given in Socialist addresses to the electors were being examined, it was stated in this House that the cost of giving pensions of £1 a week to everybody over 60, was estimated at £375,000,000 per annum. In one polling district of my constituency an offer was made by a person—who was I am sure quite unauthorised to speak for my extremely fair-minded Labour opponent—not of this miserable £1 a week, but of £2 per week. I was implored by those who were taking me round, as an apprentice to this industry of politics, to go there and answer the suggestions which were being made. I refused to do so. It seemed to me that 440 those who believed in a promise that when the Labour party came into office after the 1929 Election, everybody was going to get £2 a week at the age of 60, would certainly not have sufficient good sense to vote for me. I left it alone, and my people in the county of Somerset did not choose to accept such a statement. That being so, the canvasser—again wholly unauthorised, I know—went round and added to the previous offer the offer of a bottle of whisky per week as well. Of course, that completely finished that particular issue. That shows the danger of suggesting things of this kind, which are really quite impracticable.
It is not a question of lack of sympathy with these people who fall by the way in any industry, it is not a question of not realising the motives which inspire the two hon. Members who have introduced this Motion. I am forced to look at this question through the spectacles of what I hope are common sense and political possibility. Looking at this Motion in that way, fully realising and accepting the motives which have caused the two hon. Members to introduce it, I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to administer such a scheme, that the heavy additional burdens that it would impose on the taxpayer and on industry are burdens which they could not bear, and that the right method to pursue in order to grapple with the unemployment question is to continue to endeavour to foster trade and industry by every means in our power.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Lord SCONE
I beg to second the Amendment.
If all members of the Socialist party at all times put forward their proposals with the sincerity and moderation that we have heard to-night, their stock, both in this House and in the country, would be considerably higher than it is. No one will question that the two hon. Members who have brought forward this Motion are perfectly sincere, both in their desire to help the aged members of the working classes and in their belief that such help is possible in the form which they have suggested, but unfortunately this proposal, which on the surface is one which would commend itself to everyone, when one examines it more closely is seen to be absolutely impossible of ful- 441 filment as things are to-day or as they are likely to be for a very long time to come.
First of all, as regards the administrative side of the question, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bridgewater (Mr. Croom-Johnson) has torn a few holes in the delicate fabric there, and I hope that without very much delay I can tear it completely to fragments. If all the members of the working classes and others are to contribute to this scheme, as I understand is the intention of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield), what is to happen to those who at the age of 60 do not wish to retire but who have been paying their contributions for many years past? That has not been touched upon. Are they going to be able to take those contributions out in a lump sum? Hardly, I imagine. Are the contributions to be forfeit to the State? That does not seem very fair. What then is to be the position? Furthermore, how on earth is one going to ensure, as my hon. and learned Friend has said, that those persons who do retire at the age of 60 are really going to be taken out of the labour market at all? The staff of inspectors necessary to supervise this scheme properly would be enormous and unworkable, and if we are not going to have such a staff of inspectors, either the elderly people are to be permitted to take up other employment, and so defeat the whole object of the scheme, or else the Government are to depend upon the Paul Pry and Nosey Parker activities of these people's neighbours in order to get information which would lead to a conviction; and I submit that neither of these alternatives is workable or worthy of this country.
We have not the slightest reason to suppose that, even were workers to take advantage of this scheme in large numbers, that would mean automatically that there would be an equal number of vacancies in industry. A very good simile was put to me to-day. Industry cannot be compared to a cab rank, on which, as the first cab moves off the rank, the bottom one moves up, and room is left for others to come on to it. There are a great many elderly people in industry who are maintained there by their employers simply because the employers do not wish to get rid of them after many years of good service. Sometimes they 442 are still fulfilling their normal duties, at other times their duties may be described as little more than sinecures, so that many of the vacancies which they would create would not be real vacancies at all, and a great number of them might not be filled up, or if some of them were, perhaps two new men would be brought in to do the work that six older men had been doing previously. I cannot see how it is possible to administer such a scheme satisfactorily, and I think the hon. Members responsible for bringing it forward would have been well advised to work out the details a little more fully if they expected us to pay really serious attention to it.
It is when we come to the financial side that the scheme really shows itself with all its many defects. As my hon. and learned Friend has said, there seems to be a complete lack of unanimity among the party opposite as to whether this scheme should or should not be contributory. I am very much disappointed that they have not thought fit to bring forward a few more figures in regard to the whole scheme than they have done. It is really very difficult to criticise anything so unformed, so nebulous, and so tenuous in character. I have put in a considerable amount of work getting out figures myself, and I propose to give a few to the House, reluctantly, as I know the House does not like figures, but it is necessary to give them to-night in order that the House may see how impossible the scheme would be from the financial point of view. The Minister of Health a few days ago, in answer to a question, said there were some 720,000 persons insured under the National Health Insurance Acts between the ages of 60 and 65. To these, for the purposes of this scheme, would have to be added men over 70 already drawing old age pensions to the number of 648,000, women over 70 to the number of 930,000, men drawing pensions under the Act of 1925 between the ages of 65 and 70 to the number of 437,000, and women of a similar description to the number of 262,000, the grand total being only 3,000 less than 3,000,000.
These figures are now mostly about a year old, although they were the latest available, from which the not unnatural conclusion to draw is that they are considerably larger to-day. To take them at the round figure of 3,000,000, in order to provide pensions of £1 per week for these 443 people would require the following outlay: for those of 60 to 65 who at present have no pension, it would cost £37,500,000; to raise the pensions of the other four classes to which I have alluded would cost, respectively, £16,000,000, £24,000,000, £11,000,000 and £6,000,000. I omit the odd hundred thousands. In short, the total amount that would have to be raised would be no less than £96,000,000 a year. If one goes a little further and takes it at 30s., as I understand that a man and his wife are to get 35s., the total amount would be——
§ Lord SCONE
That is so. If we take it that everyone would get 30s., the total is raised to the not inconsiderable sum of £175,000,000. It would probably not be as much as that, because we cannot say how many couples would be receiving 35s., but the figure would run to something over £100,000,000 per annum—say £120,000,000. That money has to be found somewhere, and this is where I fear I must cross swords somewhat violently with the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). I must tell him in language which will not be understood by the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson) that the figures he gave were "fushionless havers." He seemed to be under the impression that by reducing the interest on the National Debt by 1 per cent. enough money could he produced. When the conversion scheme took place and the rate of interest on War Loan was lowered by 1½ per cent., the gross saving was £30,000,000 and the net saving £23,000,000. How a reduction of 1 per cent. would bring in £80,000,000 passes my comprehension.
§ Lord SCONE
If the hon. Member will give the figures a little closer attention he will see that they really cannot be considered seriously. How is this £120,000,000 to be produced? We have heard only the vaguest statements from the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) as to the size of the contributions, but it is obvious that the contributions could not be on a uniform basis. Rates of wages will have to be taken into 444 consideration, and certainly age will have to be considered. There again I think the House has some legitimate cause to complain that we have not been given any fuller details as to how a contributory scheme would be worked out. Assume the figure to be £120,000,000—which I think is a reasonable minimum assumption—and assume that the sum to be raised is to be divided equally among employers, employed and the State, £40,000,000 would have to come from the employers which, of course, would be a cause of rejoicing to hon. Members opposite, £40,000,000 from the workers, which they would not find particularly amusing, and £40,000,000 from the State out of the already overburdened taxpayer. If, on the other hand, we adopt the suggestions of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs and have no contribution whatever, it is obvious that the State would have to provide the whole of the money. I submit that that is absolutely out of the question at the present time.
I think I shall not be out of order if I ask the House to bear in mind that this would not be the only proposal in the nature of extensions of the social services which would be brought forward by a Socialist Government when such a calamity overtakes this country, which I agree will be a long time yet.
§ Lord SCONE
We know that the Socialist party is committed to very many pledges. Take just a few of these——
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think that we had better leave the question of other pledges to some future occasion.
§ Lord SCONE
The only point I want to make is that this is only one of many pledges of the Socialist party, and that the extra expense a Socialist Government would incur would be something like £200,000,000, besides this trifle of £120,000,000. We know that the Socialist party is opposed to indirect taxation. This vast additional sum of anything up to £300,000,000 is therefore presumably to be produced in two ways—by a reduction of the Defence Forces and the reduction of debt. These two items could produce at most a hundred, more likely fifty or so, 445 millions, and the rest would have to be raised by direct taxation. The policy of the Socialist party is best described by the vulgar but forcible American expression, "soaking the rich." They must have come to realise the law of diminishing returns and to know that once you get to a certain stage in direct taxation every additional sixpence or shilling that is put on the Income Tax will not bring in more but will bring in less. The fact remains that it will be impossible at the present time without doing the gravest injury to the country to produce the £120,000,000 which would be necessary to finance the scheme.
Even if it were on a contributory basis, which would not be acceptable to the majority of the Socialist party, who are much more unreasonable than the hon. Member for Wednesbury, the direct charge of £40,000,000 on the taxpayer and the indirect charge of £80,000,000 would inevitably mean more unemployment and greater misery. Even though such a pension scheme might be set up, it would not last very long because the money could not be found with which to pay the pensions. We know what happened in 1931 and how near we were to reaching a point where there would not be money in the Treasury with which to pay unemployment benefit. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That is perfectly true. I do not know whether the applause is sincere or derisive. I suspect the latter, but the fact is that at the present time we could not hope to produce the money necessary to finance the scheme. Although one wishes to do everything possible to alleviate that distress with which unfortunately many older members of the working-class are too often faced, one must consider whether it is altogether an advantage for the working people of this country to have everything done for them from the cradle to the grave.
The whole tendency of recent years—and every Government has to bear some share of the blame—has been to spoon feed the people of this country. As far as we can see, the idea of the Socialist party is that there should be unlimited pensions and insurance and unlimited everything so that the workers may not have to move a hand for themselves and 446 so that the sober and honest may be in no better position when they grow old than the thriftless and those who have not shown themselves at all satisfactory throughout their working lives. If we are to admit an argument, of that sort, I am afraid that it means good-bye to the dignity of labour, and the dignity of labour is something——
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
If the Noble Lord would give way to me for a moment, I should like to ask him if he has any of this dignity of labour about him. Has he ever done any labour?
§ Lord SCONE
I have; quite a lot of it in various directions, with various tools and implements. But whatever my record may be, it is not particularly relevant to this discussion. The whole fact is that we on this side of the House are just as sympathetic with the objects detailed in this Motion as are the party opposite. We wish to do everything that can possibly be done to make the lot of the workers easier, young or old, in employment or out of employment. On the other hand, unlike the party opposite, we face facts, and we recognise that this scheme is entirely impracticable at present. We believe that those who have brought it forward are sincere, and it is just because I hope that the remainder of the Socialist party are sincere that I trust that this suggestion will not be used as ground-bait to spread before the electors at the next General Election. If it is so used, it will not be honest then, though it is honest now. It will only be a method of inducing people to believe that the return of a Socialist Government is the only way towards an extension of the social services to an extent which has hitherto been undreamt of.
This country has the largest, best, and most expensive social services in the whole world. I am glad that hon. Members opposite admit that. If we look throughout the world, where do we find old age pensions, and if we find them, what is their extent? Where do we find widows' pensions? Where do we find insurance systems worked out as well as they are in this country? I submit that before hon. Members opposite indulge—as they often have before, though they 447 have not done so to-night—in tirades against the social system that exists in this country, they should count their blessings. If they do, they will find that this country, where that capitalism which they abuse is still in existence and in possession of power, has done more in the way of social legislation for the worker than any other country has done where there has been a Socialist Government for many years and where the workers have complete control. With the objects brought forward in this Motion we have the fullest sympathy, but my hon. Friend must realise that for the present they must remain a dream which, though it may be fulfilled in the future, is certainly not possible now and will certainly not be possible for some time to come.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) on the very reasonable speech in which he introduced this Motion, and to add one word to the speech of the Noble Lord. He cannot dismiss this question by simply saying that the Movers of the Motion will undermine the dignity of labour if this particular kind of pension is provided.
§ Lord SCONE
That was only one very incidental remark. I think I have shown that my main case lay in the financial impossibility of providing the scheme, quite apart from the effect which the hon. Member has mentioned.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
That was the main point of the Noble Lord, but I always think that it is unfortunate to introduce that kind of argument into a Debate of this description. The same point was made when the Liberal Government introduced old age pensions. That argument is not correct and never was. I cannot help thinking, though I say it with respect, that the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson) hardly did credit to the terms of the Motion, which make it quite clear that these are retiring pensions. Those are the words which are used on the Order Paper. So far as I understand the Motion—I am not saying for a moment whether I agree with it or not, but I want to do justice to it—there is no com- 448 pulsion: a man is not forced to retire at the age of 60. The hon. and learned Member spoke of a man being a nuisance to his wife, but that need not happen if the man does not choose to retire at the age of 60. So far as I see it, it is optional to the man whether he will take advantage of the pension or will choose to proceed with his work; if he does so, then he will receive no pension.
It is perfectly true to say that there are hundreds and thousands of people to-day drawing old age pensions who still remain in active industry, the reason being that it is impossible for a person to retire on the small sum that is granted under the present pensions system. It is also true to say, as the Mover of the Motion said, that if that be the case it does not help the problem of unemployment. I take it that this Motion is first of all an optional pension: if a man agrees to retire, he gets his pension; if he does not, he does not get it. The purpose of the pension is to take off the labour market the old men and to leave a greater opportunity to the younger men on the market. This question cannot be dismissed lightly, nor can I approve of it without knowing the cost. The fairest thing to do, I think, is to examine the question. It would be foolish of me to say that I could approve of this scheme unless I know without doubt what was the cost involved.
The question has arisen particularly, because we are living in what may be termed a second industrial revolution. The development of machinery is facing us with a new problem, the problem of the displacement of labour. I was very much struck one evening to hear the Minister of Agriculture tell us what a large number of men could be displaced in agriculture by one machine. Those of us who have given some thought to this problem feel that whatever we may do, and however much industry may recover in the normal way, there was a great deal of truth in the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—one which I think was very much misrepresented—that for at least 10 years during this period of the second industrial revolution, the new machine age, we shall be left with almost a solid block of unemployed for whom we shall have to try to find relief. Are we to say to these men that they must remain content with un- 449 employment, or is it incumbent upon us to examine the possibilities of providing for them a fuller existence? Because I cannot see any point in developing the machine unless it gives the peoples of the world a fuller existence, and some added leisure at an age when a man is capable of enjoying leisure.
There is another problem which the Mover of the Motion mentioned. I think that on consideration the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) will be inclined to withdraw the words he used about the social services of this country. It may be that he thinks they are not quite sufficient, but at least let us be honest and acknowledge that they are the best in the world. These social services, however, have in themselves brought an added problem. If we examine the actuarial tables of any insurance company—I think they are actuarial tables—it will be found that the expectation of life is greater now than it ever has been in this country.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
I am obliged for the correction. People are "living on," and that of itself brings another problem. The hon. and learned Member referred to the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs giving the lie to the statement that a man is old at 60, and I think that is true not only of the hon. Member but of people generally. To-day women of 50 have not the haggard appearance they used to have 20 years ago. Unquestionably the social services have given us a better population in every way, and certainly people are living longer. With the development of machinery and all the other conditions making for longer life and added energy I feel that it is remarkable that this country has been able to find employment for the number of people it has.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
The psychology of having a stable Government has undoubtedly given it an impetus. The State has accepted the principle of providing unemployment pay, and widows' and old age pensions, and we on these benches are proud to claim that we were really responsible for what I may call the foundation of our social services, though not the whole of them. And we 450 have gone a step further than that. The public authorities and the Government have instituted superannuation schemes for public employés—civil servants, policemen, teachers, etc., and great business organizations—all credit to them for it—have voluntarily provided superannuation schemes for their employés. In the City of Bradford the Bradford Dyers' Association and other organisations have gone a very long way in providing superannuation schemes. But this one thing has always struck me about the superannuation of civil servants and municipal servants—that the idea seems quite upside down. It is those who have security of employment and who in the main enjoy better wages than others who have been given superannuation, and I do not think we can dismiss lightly the question of a national superannuation scheme. I am not saying that I am in favour of it but I would like to see an examination of the possibilities of a superannuation scheme covering everybody.
I do not possess the necessary information to enable me to estimate its cost. I was given some figures, and they are open to challenge. According to the figures I got out there are approximately 5,000,000 men and women in this country over the age of 60, and 2,750,000 of them are now drawing either contributory pensions or widows' pensions. If the remaining 2,200,000 were given 10s. a week the extra cost would be £57,000,000. To-night the figure of £1 a week has been mentioned. At that figure the cost would be more than double that sum, because we should have to double the figure in respect of the people already drawing the pension, and the minimum cost, so far as I can estimate it, and I am open to correction, would be at least £150,000,000 a year—that is for the whole of the people over the age of 60. I admit that if the same rules were in force under this scheme as are in force under the present pensions scheme the cost would not be as large, because we should have to rule out those people who do not contribute, such as shopkeepers and other small business people—that is, unless the scheme was going to be compulsory on everybody. As against that there would be a certain saving on unemployment pay and a certain saving on public assistance—a thing which has not been mentioned this evening—and—another thing which no one can estimate—there would be a 451 certain saving on health services, because of one particular thing.
If there is one thing that causes illness, and particularly nervous disorders, it is worry, and I am certain that if such a scheme as has been suggested were in operation there would be a tremendous lightening of the burden of worry on most people. I read with some interest the figures in the pamphlet issued by Mr. Bevin. They are not quite Mr. Bevin's figures, because I think it is a Mr. Clarke, a Cambridge lecturer, who has given the figures in the second part, but I cannot accept those figures. They must be pure guesswork, and I should like to see the figures checked. I am not saying for a moment that they are deliberately given as wrong, but I am very doubtful of them, because the cost of this scheme is given in the pamphlet as £37,000,000, and I think that there must be some mistake.
I am rather interested as to what this scheme will cost, but from a point of view rather different from that of the Gentlemen occupying the Opposition Benches. I am perfectly certain that if we could bring in a scheme of this kind it would finally kill Socialism.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
I noticed that the Mover of the Motion said that this was the first time that the scheme has been debated. That is very strange. I remember studying very closely that wonderful pamphlet, "Labour and the Nation," and, if I remember rightly, it was there stated that pensions should be given at 60. The Mover said that this was the first time that the Motion for pensions at 60 had been discussed, and that was confirmed by the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
Exactly. That is the point which I am making. If this is such a worthy scheme, I am wondering what the Labour Government was doing between 1929 and 1931. It was because the leaders at that time recognised that such a scheme would kill Socialism that it was never discussed. I had almost the same experience as the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater with regard to a certain election which I fought. There was no mention of whiskey in that elec- 452 tion, but certain promises were given, and undoubtedly every constituency was flooded with leaflets promising this kind of thing.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
It would be perfectly futile. I do not think that Members of my party would go into the Lobby and say that the Government should bring in a scheme without further examination. If a man can be assured of provision against sickness and against unemployment, provision for his wife and children and for reasonable comfort in old age, he will not care two hoots about public ownership. There are not many people who are Socialists because of a belief in public ownership. What the workman asks for is a fair crack of the whip. It is worthy of examination as to whether a scheme like this is workable or not, and whether the fact of it being unworkable is that the cost would be so great. We ought to thank the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) who introduced the Motion. The question should be treated seriously and due examination should be given to it. The House should be possessed of all the necessary particulars, and should then come to a balanced judgment upon the issue.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) and I agree with everyone who has spoken since: It was one of the most simple and yet one of the most earnest and capable speeches to which I have ever listened. The hon. Gentleman made his speech with great capacity, but what were greater were his earnestness and sympathy. I say that quite sincerely to him. What we are debating is terribly important. I am not going into the ethical question of a non-contributory or a contributory scheme. This Motion does not ask me to bind myself on that issue. It declares for a pension at 60 in order that people will retire from industry. That is the simple and elementary claim of the Motion, and to that I subscribe whole-heartedly. I am not going into the question of cost, because it is for those who propound the Motion to make their case in that respect. If this nation wishes to see a pension inaugurated, it should show determination. If it would show the same deter- 453 mination to establish a pension to give human happiness to the old people that it showed in the Great War, I am certain that that would get a pension accomplished.
Those who have supported this Motion have a great responsibility. For good or for ill, great numbers of people will take this Debate as a message of joy and hope, and they will believe in it. While this Debate will not bring them their pension, it will bring them a stage nearer to it. I do not agree with the Noble Lord the Member for Perth (Lord Scone) about the Labour party being far from power. I think that the Labour party will get power at an early date. Whether that will be good or bad will be determined by future events. I say, as one likely to receive that power, that to-night hon. Members are promising these things; it means that those things have to be done. I sat in the House of Commons during the last Labour Government, and I am sceptical. I sat, watched and pleaded, but not for £1 per week. The hon. Member for Wednesbury is in some ways more extreme than I. I never issued the pamphlets about pensions at 60; I declined to do it. I said I would not issue them because I did not see a Government doing it. I would be happy to see it done at 65, and never mind 60.
I should have liked, when the Labour Government was in office, to see the old age pension increased not to £1 per week but to 15s. I should have liked to see widows get even a meagre 10s., but I have never seen that done. This message is one of great hope, and I plead with hon. Members of the official Opposition that when next they get their Government, as indeed I think they will, not to say what has been said before, because the responsibility will be upon them. One man who will occupy a prominent post in that Government is the late Minister of Transport, Mr. Herbert Morrison, who, speaking recently, said that this country had almost reached the limit of what it could do in the way of social alleviation under capitalism; and, knowing that he will occupy a place in that Government, I say that it will not be sufficient for hon. Members in these days to obey the Government and the Front Bench. To me one of the weak things in Parliamentary Government has not been procedure in the House of Commons, not 454 the scenes from time to time, but the fact that we see decent men and women in rags and misery, and that they say that they have trusted Parliament in the past and have little faith in it now. I say to the hon. Member in all sincerity that, in bringing forward this Motion to-night, he and his friends have a great responsibility—not the responsibility of being defeated or winning to-night, but a great responsibility because, when next they and their Government undertake the terrible task of abolishing poverty, they will be asked, almost in their earliest days, to implement this, and great courage will be needed on the part of the men who will have to do it. I hope that they will do it, and that they will remember, not their party and their movement, but what are to me greater even than my party and my movement — the great downtrodden masses—and will implement the promises that have been given to-night.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) has the distinction, I understand, of raising for the first time in this House a subject which has occupied many minds for some time, but has never before come under the notice of Parliament. I, too, have dreamed the dream that old age might be free from apprehension and anxiety, and it is the recollection of that steady and continuous development which we have pursued in the social services in this country, unparalleled in any other, that fortifies my hope that that day will eventually dawn. Therefore, I have no complaint to make of the tone in which the hon. Member moved the Motion, nor of the idealism which inspired his speech. I think he spoke with a restraint and a lack of dogmatism that should commend the Motion to the careful attention of the House. But it is not the desirability of freeing old age from insecurity that we are discussing to-night; it is not on behalf of those who have passed the time for work that this Motion pleads; we are dealing with those who are actually employed, and we are invited to give an annuity to them in order that they may yield up their positions in work to those who are less fortunately placed. Therefore, we may regard this Motion 455 without sentiment as a contribution towards the unemployment problem—at least, so we are told in the Motion.
The hon. Gentleman realises that, in order to persuade persons now employed to retire from industry, he must offer them pensions which are sufficient in amount. He considers that 20s. for a single person, and 35s. for a married couple, would be a proper figure to secure his purpose. He will admit at once that his view as to the figure will not be shared by many of his hon. Friends, and certainly will not be shared by some people who are not connected with his party at all. I recall that Mr. Cramp, who was so well esteemed, speaking at the Trades Union Congress and expressing the view that it would be a mistake to adopt such a scheme in addition to all the other schemes of social insurance, made the statement that not less than 25s. for a single person and 50s. for a person with a dependant would suffice. However, I will accept the lower figure which the hon. Gentleman gave, only observing that, the less attractive you make the figure, the less likely are you to achieve your aim of drawing workers out of industry, and the more attractive you make your figure the less will you be able to resist appeals by an ever-increasing percentage of the population to enjoy the benefits which you have to offer. I gather that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that.
It was not his purpose, I take it, to establish a privileged class of persons who would enjoy a pension only by virtue of the fact that they were in work on an appointed day. If that were the scheme, it would create, of course, as much indignation as satisfaction. You would have to admit into your scheme those who are unemployed just as you would include in it those who are employed. The hon. Gentleman admitted further implications, and I take it from what he said that he would not exclude others who are not at present within the insurance scheme—hawkers, small shopkeepers, and, indeed, members of the middle classes who would be contributing towards these pensions, being themselves sometimes less fortunately off than those to whose benefit they were asked to subscribe. If I have correctly understood 456 the hon. Gentleman, equity would demand, in the circumstances which he contemplates, that the extension should be made so wide as to involve, in effect, universal pensions.
The hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson), in his most interesting and closely analytical speech, justly observed that this matter had never come under critical review.
I take it that the House, like the hon. Member, would expect me to give them figures upon which they can base a judgment. I will make several assumptions. The first, because it is an assumption with which the hon. Member agrees, is that we are to give a universal pension at the age of 60 of £1 a week to a single person and 35s. a week to a married couple, payable even if the wife be under 60. The estimated gross annual cost of such a scheme, arrived at by averaging the cost over 40 years—because the cost in the first year is of no finality at all; it only contains a minimum number of persons—would be £372,000,000 a year, from which I must make certain deductions. I will deduct from this figure £93,000,000 on account of existing contributory pensions, old age pensions and pensions that widows would receive at the age of 60. That gives me a net figure of £279,000,000 a year, which would be the cost of a universal pension on the lines that I have defined to the House.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
That is the calculation. If the scheme were limited to persons gainfully employed, that is to say, persons working themselves as employers or as employed persons with incomes of not more than £1,000 a year, which I gather was the kind of figure that the hon. Member had in mind, it is estimated that the gross annual cost would be £289,000,000, less existing pensions, £82,000,000—net cost, £207,000,000. If the scheme were further limited to the existing insurable class, the beneficiaries and their wives would number 3,653,000, and the cost of pensioning them, including wives under 60 of men over that age, would be £222,000,000, less a deduction of £76,000,000, or £146,000,000 a year. That is the lowest average annual estimated figure that I can give the hon. Member.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
Certainly, because that is the hon. Member's scheme. That is the lowest figure that I can give him on the assumption that it would secure the object of inducing these people to take a pension. But suppose it was not considered an adequate inducement, what then would probably be the result? I have had open to me the same advice and the same statistical tables, brought up to date, as were before the Government formed from the Opposition party when they were in office and when they examined this scheme, which we must assume they rejected. If the hon. Member's 20s. a week for a single person and 35s. for a married couple were adopted, I am informed that, out of 3,635,000 insured persons, 3,190,000 would take the pension. That is the estimate. Of these 3,190,000 persons 635,000 would actually be working. The others would not be workers at all. These 635,000 workers are computed to make vacancies for 400,000 people, because many of them are old and their work could be done by fewer young men. I think that is a fair calculation, to assume two vacancies filled for every three old persons leaving work. So the result of the hon. Member's scheme would be that you would create vacancies for 400,000 people.
The scheme is represented as being a contribution towards solving the unemployment problem. What would it cost? Allowing for the offset in respect of existing pensions, of unemployment benefit and transitional payments, and making a suitable adjustment for savings in Poor Law relief in respect of the State's share, the annual charge in respect of the new scheme might be put at £114,000,000. That means that the cost of finding work for one person for one year under this scheme would be £285 which, according to the figures of wages given by the hon. Member, is more than twice the amount of wages that the man displaced might be earning. I hope I have made myself clear. The cost of putting one man into work for one year under this scheme would be £285, and I am not surprised that the Opposition, when in office, came to the same conclusion that we are bound to come to, that this is not an economic Measure. You have to bear in mind the point which was recalled to me by the 458 hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) in speaking of the mortality tables, that the expectation of working life at age 60 is only half the expectation of life. Consequently, you are going on paying for twice the period the sum of money which would atone for the loss of wages.
That is the cost. Would the expense of £285 per head achieve the purpose of the Motion? We are told in the Motion, inferentially, that the volume of employment would be increased, but there is no effect whatever upon the volume of employment. We are simply replacing one man by another. I fail to see how the Motion of the hon. Gentleman would succeed upon the claim that it would have any effect whatever upon the volume of employment.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I will answer that point. The increase of purchasing power receives the same answer. You are transferring money from person A to person B. There is no appreciable increase in the volume of purchasing power. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) desires to make some interruption. I am trying to deal with the Motion perfectly candidly, as the hon. Gentleman will agree. If he has any reasonable objection to make to any statement which I make, I hope that he will make it.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
This is a very important point. When the hon. Gentleman says that there will be an increased cost to the State of £114,000,000, is not that an addition to the wages which will be paid to the persons who secure work, and does it not follow, whether we agree with the proposal or not, that, at any rate, there will be a greater purchasing power in the hands of the recipients in consequence?
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
The hon. Gentleman, if he were here, must have listened to the case presented by his hon. Friend. He proposes to finance this scheme as to a half to be paid by the workmen, a quarter by the employer, and a quarter by the State. Therefore, you are taking a sum of money from one worker and transferring it to another. There can be no vast increase of purchasing power. There is merely a transference of purchasing power.
§ Mr. McENTEE
The hon. Gentleman himself said just now that the cost to the State would be £114,000,000.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I cannot have made myself plain. I said the cost of the scheme. The cost of the scheme, I said, would be £114,000,000, and, if the cost is to be apportioned as the hon. Gentleman says, that would be one method of financing it. If it were to be a non-contributory scheme, of course, the State would pay the whole of it. I am taking the scheme of the hon. Gentleman, and I assume that he knows the scheme that he desires to advocate. Of course, there are a great number of alternative schemes. The cost of the scheme advocated by the hon. Gentleman per week would be 4s. 9d. contribution per head and not 1s. 6d., as he hoped. That might be distributed in any proportion you like among workers, employers and the State, but I assume that the hon. Gentleman would wish it to be distributed in the proportions he mentioned.
The relation between the numbers working and the numbers not working in the community would in no way be affected by this scheme, except, perhaps adversely in regard to those in employment, for if, as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bridgwater pointed out in his able speech, you put an additional burden upon industry, then you may actually decrease employment. If industry has to carry another £114,000,000 for this purpose, you may destroy or affect its competitive position. Therefore there would be no advantage, but a possible disadvantage to those actually employed. You might, as I say, contract the volume of employment. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion did not in the least wish to press it to any logical conclusion. He was anxious to weigh all the difficulties that surround the acceptance of a scheme of this kind. All that he asked for was an inquiry. Such an inquiry was made by the last Government, as I have already informed him. All the facts and figures are available, and I have given some of them to-night.
We are grateful to the hon. Member for having brought this question into the arena of discussion, even if, by doing so, he has shown it to be impracticable. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) pointed out the danger which we incur in discussing in the House of Commons 460 Motions of this kind. Unfortunately, you do raise hopes. It may be that a certain section of the population will think that the House was divided into two classes of persons, one which was willing to give a pension at once to everybody at the age of 60, quite regardless of what it might cost—it would be a matter of indifference to them—and one which was not willing to do that. That would be an unfair conclusion to make from this Debate, when so much sympathy has been expressed with the views of the hon. Member who moved the Motion. I hope that I have convinced him that the matter will have to be thought out far more carefully and perhaps upon entirely different lines.
We have built up a system of social insurance, an extremely intricate scheme and an extremely costly one. There is no reason whatever why it should not be improved in accordance with our resources and in accordance with our experience. A scheme would have a far better chance of being accepted if it could fit into what we already have in the way of social insurance, rather than that it should involve the scrapping, as this would do, of a great part of our social insurance system. Industry already carries burdens in respect of social services of £490,000,000. At this time, whatever the merits of this Motion may be—and I am sure that it has not the merits that are claimed for it—I do not think anyone would suggest that industry could add a further £100,000,000 of burden to those which it already carries. Therefore, I am compelled to ask the House to reject the Motion. The speeches made in favour of the Amendment contained, in embryo, most of the arguments that I have used. There are administrative difficulties, as have been shown. There are reasons which tend to demonstrate that, far from diminishing unemployment, this proposal might increase unemployment. It is because the Amendment takes that point of view, and its supporters have so well argued it in that sense, that I invite the House, if it has to vote at all, to vote for the Amendment and against the Motion.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES EDWARDS
I speak so seldom in the House now that I need not apologise for intervening in the Debate. One might take it for granted after what has been said to-night that there is no 461 hope for the workers whatsoever, that the nightmare of old age must still remain with them and that nothing will be done. I do not believe that. We have had all sorts of figures quoted to-night. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury gave £114,000,000 as the total cost. We have been talking to-night about a contributory scheme. I confess that I prefer the other kind of scheme, because I think that national taxation is the fairest form of taxation and that everybody should pay according to ability. There has been talk about contributory pensions. If that was taken into account with the £114,000,000 it would make a big difference. It would mean that the total cost to the State would be from 4½ per cent. to 5 per cent. of the national expenditure of the country; and that is not a big thing to ask for the workers.
I listened to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment without being very much impressed. They told us what we had left out of the Motion and what we ought to have put in. They knew that we could not put in details in a Motion of this kind for discussion on a Wednesday evening. They said indeed, some rather queer things. Who said that a man is old at 60? I do not admit that I am an old man yet, and I am just about that age. What we do say is that there are so many unemployed in the country that a man of 60 ought not to be working while there are young men of 20 walking the streets. That is a different proposition. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion said that it would require a staff of inspectors to look after a man to see whether he got another job, on the assumption that a man will be able to leave his job, get his pension, and get another job the following day. Jobs are not to be got like that. There is no necessity to employ inspectors to see whether a man gets another job. It is really a little silly. Both hon. Members also talked about it being impossible to carry out a proposal of this sort. They are comparatively young men and the word "impossible" ought to have no meaning to them.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
It shows how very far removed they are from the actualities of 462 unemployment. I maintain that the proposal is quite possible. It may be that old men are kept on in some cases; but they are not numerous. The trouble to-day is that they are thrown off and they know that if they get out of work at 60 years of age there is no prospect of their ever getting employment again. It is terrible to live amongst these people, as I do, and have to meet this sort of thing. The hon. Member also hoped that this policy would not be talked about at the next election. It will be, I can assure him. There is not a single workers' conference held in any part of the country by any organisation but what this policy finds a place on its agenda. This is a policy which will have to be undertaken. There is a necessity for such pensions as these, but we want an expression of opinion before we do anything else. The Lord Privy Seal the other day said that we must have paper agreements before we can take further action, and I thought he made a good point. It is the same here. We must have an expression of opinion on the necessity of these pensions before we go any further. If we had pensions at 60 upon which people could live in decency and comfort, we should at least put unemployment in the right place, and we shall have unemployment with us for many years.
Is there a single hon. Member who believes that in the next 10 or 20 years we shall be without unemployment? The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of 10 years, and there was a lot of criticism about it. If we are down to anything like normal in 10 years I shall be very much surprised. I think we shall have unemployment with us for a very long time, and very large numbers of unemployed. If that is so, is it not right to put that unemployment at the right end of the scale, that is at the end of the scale where the man who has already done a good day's work will give a chance to those who are coming behind and have never had the chance of a day's work at all? That is the sensible thing to do, and I believe that eventually it must be done.
Machinery has come in and has resulted in increased means of production. We have not finished with machinery yet. Science and invention are still going on and they are not going to stop. I am not sure that it would be right to stop 463 them even if we could. There is machinery now for almost everything. Take the case of agriculture. If a man has an acre of ground and wants it mown he gets a machine to do it. Then there is the great machine in America which cuts and threshes and puts the grain into bags. All these things are cutting out labour. I was reading with some interest this week a speech made by the President of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. He was puting forward a case for a 40-hours week. Unemployment is compelling us to look around and see what can be done and we turn to thoughts and ideas that otherwise we should not have. He put forward a case for a 40-hours week and was complimented on the case that he put up.
He said that in engineering and iron and steel founding unemployment had risen from 52,000 in July, 1929, to 129,000 in July, 1933. The employers state that electrical and motoring engineering is relatively prosperous. Yet there are 57,000 people unemployed in that branch of the engineering industry. He pointed out how output had increased. It had gone up by 24 per cent. between 1924 and 1929. The Leyland Motor Company, using some German steel, were now able to produce 80 chassis in a week instead of the 50 produced before. At Vickers' works at Barrow gun mountings were now produced in half the time required before the War. An official of the Austin Motor Company said that the number of employés per car had fallen from 55 in 1922 to 24 in 1923, to 20 in 1924, 17 in 1925, 12 in 1926 and 10 in 1927. That is a reduction in the number of men from 55 to 10 in six years.
We have not finished with that sort of development yet. At Crewe, where a locomotive used to take six weeks for repair, the work is now done in six days. A special engine bearing which used to take 115 minutes work, now takes five minutes. So one could go on. The same thing is to be found in all industries. We are going to have unemployment for a very long time because even if trade improves, as we hope it will, invention will go on along with that improvement and we shall be left in exactly the same position as we are in to-day. Then consider the amount of short time which is being worked. There will have to be a 464 tremendous improvement in trade to employ fully those who are now in work, without taking into account a single unemployed man. There is no hope of anything but unemployment for a long time and we must begin to regulate the available employment and keep it at the right end and not at the wrong end as it is to-day. The great inventor Mr. Edison has said:With all our great inventions and our power of getting increased production for less expenditure of labour, we are still only in the infancy of invention. The process which has carried us so far will carry us much further, and the day is not far distant when most of the work of the world, which now demands prolonged and arduous labour, will be done efficiently with little more toil than is necessary to supervise a machine.I am glad of inventions which lighten the hard drudgery of work and Mr. Edison looked forward to a time when men would have more ease and more leisure at their disposal, but he assumed that everybody would be kept at work although so much less work would be required. That, however, is not so to-day. Invention has left us with another problem by throwing men out of employment altogether. That is the problem which we have to face. That is why we are moving this Motion. Sir Josiah Stamp has said that in a short time we shall be able to do with one-fourth of the manual labour which is required to-day. So, evidently, yet more men are to be thrown out of work. The time is coming when we must consider who are to be unemployed. To-day we do not consider that at all. A man of 60 has worked for 46 years from his school-leaving age. Should we not, as a nation, be lucky if we were sure of providing 40 years' work for every man? I fear we are a long way from that position. I submit that 46 years work is enough for any man, especially in the heavy industries and in the kind of work which some of us have known. To-day we find fathers and even grandfathers at work while their sons and grandsons are walking the streets. There is no sense in that, yet it will continue until some such system as we propose, is brought into effect. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury asked what advantage there was in taking one man out of employment and putting in another.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I did not ask what advantage there was in it. I said 465 it would not have any effect on the volume of employment. It would merely substitute one man for another. I did not say whether it was a good thing or a bad thing.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
In any case, it would be a great advantage to set to work the young man who has more energy and staying power than the man who has done 46 years work can expect to have. Another advantage is that the man who has reached 60 and has done 46 years work is no danger to the future. What of the young man who has never done a day's work in his life and who has learned no craft? He has lost the discipline that work brings. To me, the future of a nation with so many people in it like that is not very bright and is not one that one likes to contemplate. The old men are not a danger, but the young men who have nothing to do are a danger to the future, and that is the great advantage to me of such a scheme as we have talked about to-night.
I do not know much about figures. It seems to me to be one way of getting round a business to put forward a lot of figures that nobody understands. We have had too many figures; they confuse the issue, And we do not know where we are. One hon. Member said there were no fewer than 1,750,000 people over 60 in work. That was one statement, and a reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) to-day put the number between 60 and 65 at 720,000. I suppose that would bring it up to 1,000,000, because there is quite a number over 65 in industry to-day. In Mr. Bevin's scheme that has been talked about to-night, he says from 750,000 to 1,000,000, so I think it is safe to say that there are about 1,000,000 persons in employment to-day over 60 years of age, and we have 1,000,000 or more young men walking the roads doing nothing.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
We had a reply the other day from the Minister of Mines to the effect that there were less than 10,000 on the colliery books just now over 65, but that in June, 1927, there were 80,000. That shows what a number have had to leave that employment. What a prospect for these people who have come out of the mines without any provision for them except perhaps 10s. a week. I 466 have a figure here, but I do not know whether it is right or not. One does not know what figures to use. I would like to have a committee set up by this House to go into this whole question. The Minister said that an inquiry had been held, but I do not know anything about that inquiry. I daresay some auditor or someone else has looked into the business, but I would like a Committee of this House to go into this question, to get together all the information it could, to, take evidence from those in a position to speak with authority on this subject, and to bring up a report to this House. I think that would be very useful, because we are not discussing this subject for the last time by any means. I think the Government or some other Government will have to pay attention to organising the unemployed, so that we can get them out at the right end of the scale.
I am using a figure of 312,000 people who are working and drawing pensions at the moment. That figure might be all wrong, but everyone has given different figures this evening, so that I too can give a different figure. Anyhow, I think that is all wrong. I believe that when a man has a pension it ought to create a vacancy every time. I knew two men living next door to each other. The one was unemployed, with a wife under 65, and he was getting 10s. a week pension, and the other man, with his wife over 65, was getting £1, and he was working at the same time. There is no sense in that sort of thing. I know they are entitled to it, but I believe that whenever a pension is paid it ought to create a vacancy for somebody else. The whole system of social insurance should be gone into, and revised and co-ordinated. I fail to see any difference whether a man is unemployed or ill or injured; he cannot earn wages. Yet we have a separate fund for all these contingencies and separate administration. There could be a great saving if there were a co-ordinating scheme.
We are told again that there are 30,000 children under 15 years of age working. Would it not be better to have people between 15 and 16 working than have the children at work and old men struggling to work in order to enable them to live long after they ought to be resting? We are putting forward a case for these pensions that ought to be more 467 seriously considered than it has been to-night. We are asked if men would withdraw from work at 60. It depends on the pension. I believe many would be glad to do so. The Mover of the Amendment talked about the people at Bridgwater and asked what the wives would think of a scheme like this. If he went to the women of Bridgwater and talked about such a scheme they would give it a good reception. I recommend him to go there and talk to them about it. The workers in any part of the country would give it a good reception. Many men would withdraw from work because they are getting very low wages. If a man has to wait until he is 70 years of age for his pension, he has to be very careful of the risks that the 10 years will bring. If it became the rule to have these pensions, people would order their lives accordingly and make preparations for the time when they were 60. It would remove a life-long anxiety which workers feel as to their old age.
What of the cost? That is the great thing. I do not think it would be so very great to-day. There are men with their wives and children drawing unemployment pay and that would amount to almost as much as a pension for a man and wife at 60. I do not think all the millions that have been talked about to-night would be required. A scheme was drawn up by Mr. Broad, who was a Liberal Member in this House at one time. It was an all-in scheme with a 30s. a week pension on the present contribution, which it would be possible to pay by co-ordinating the different schemes of insurance. We pay some very good pensions to-day. There are some people who receive very large pensions. They have received, too, very good salaries and could have made provision for themselves. No means test is applied to them and no questions are asked. No one has ever suggested that they are demoralised by it, but, if you give 35s. a week to a working man and his wife, they are demoralised. It apparently depends on the size of the pension. Take the case of policemen. I have been looking at a reply given on the 8th February, 1932. I think it is the last complete reply of this sort.
My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) put 468 a question a fortnight ago and was referred to that reply, so that it seems to be the official reply. It deals with the pensions of police. I was going to the railway station last Monday morning and I met some unemployed—or, rather, they came to meet me. They said, "Our policeman has been pensioned off at £3 a week, and has been given a job as a watchman and another £3 a week, and we are only getting our 15s. a week." I do not object to any pension, but I do object to giving it to somebody who is going to take somebody else's job. A pension ought to create a vacancy, and that is my quarrel with the police pensions. The reply stated that in England and Wales there were 38,224 police pensioners at a cost of 3x00A3;5,267,995; an average of £137 16s. a year, or £2 13s. a week. Last week I asked the same thing about the Metropolitan Police, and about how many had retired on the age limit. The reply was two; you may not believe it, but that was the reply. Their average age was 57½, and their pension was £220 19s. a year, or £5 11s. 8d. a week. Ten inspectors and superintendents were pensioned at an average age of 53.7 years, and the average per year was £388 1s. 6d. and per week £7 9s. So we demoralise them considerably.
Teachers, again, have a splendid job. I rather admire the teachers, for when a teacher gets to college and secures a position he has no other worries; he knows he is right for life. I wish everybody was in the same position. The teachers pensioned were 33,000 odd; the amount of the pensions was £4,203,200, an average of £127 4s. a year, or £2 9s. a week, for men and women. Then there are the civil servants. The Post Office had 26,657 pensioners at a cost of over £2,800,000; that is an average of £107 13s. a year, or £2 1s. a week. The average of the Inland Revenue is £287 6s. a year, or £5 1s. 6d. a week. The Customs and Excise had 2,373 pensioners at an average cost of £259 a year, or £4 19s. 7d. a week. We hear about 35s. as being the highest figure possible for the present pensions and the dreadful prospects to the country if the pension is any greater; hon. Members say that they do not know where the country would come to if we paid more. We are, however, paying some decent pensions at the moment.
469 That is not all. Lump sums and gratuities are also paid. The Estimates given in 1932 for these lump sum payments, gratuities and so forth for the Civil Service were £1,770,000; for the Post Office, £1,880,000. All these are in addition to the pensions which I have quoted. We therefore pay pensions to-day on a fairly good scale, but everything would be finished if we paid pensions to the manual workers of the country. The people who produce everything are the ones who must be left out every time, left to get along on their 10s. and their friends as best they can. I have some more figures about the War Office and the Admiralty. I will give you the three Services as they are to-day. Of the three Services together, the average was £1 13s. a week, and there were also, of course, dependants' allowances.
I think I have said a good bit to-night. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Everybody seems to be in agreement with me. I had a lot of leeway to make up, and I had to do the best I could. What I have said I believe ought to have been said. We are talking about something which must eventually be brought about. To my mind it is the only way in which we can regulate employment. We have talked about optional and compulsory cessation of work at 60. I would like the pension to be such that we could make it compulsory. I would like to go even further; if unemployment were unusually heavy I would reduce the age to 59 or 58, so as to get the young ones into employment. If employment became better we could raise the age again. In that way we could make sure that the right people would always be working. I com-
§ mend this Motion to the House because, whatever comes of it to-night, I feel that we shall have to get back to this subject again and again. I believe the only sensible way of dealing with unemployment is to get the old ones out of industry and let the young ones work. No one can say a word against that, but instead of saying a word against it people bring forward a lot of figures that we cannot understand. I suppose that is the easiest way out. It is an important Motion, and one that ought to have serious consideration, and I hope the House will allow it to pass.
§ 10.57 p.m.
§ Mrs. COPELAND
When the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. C. Edwards) stated that there are 30,000 children under 15 years of age in employment to-day, does he realise that in a great many crafts it is an absolute necessity that children should learn the trade very young, because there is a skill of hand and eye that you never get if you wait until you are 16 years of age before starting? I am speaking from experience, because I know that in the pottery industry, for instance, there are certain occupations in which, if you only start at 16 years of age, you can do nothing. You must have the wonderful youth and skill of the earlier age in order to get on. Therefore, I beg to say that I think it was perhaps not fair to quote the figure of 30,000.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 42; Noes, 126.471
|Division No. 118.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Banfield, John William||Groves, Thomas E.||Maxton, James|
|Batey, Joseph||Grundy, Thomas W.||Milner, Major James|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Paling, Wilfred|
|Buchanan, George||Hicks, Ernest George||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cape, Thomas||Jenkins, Sir William||Price, Gabriel|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||John, William||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Daggar, George||Kirkwood, David||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lawson, John James||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Leonard, William||Wilmot, John|
|Debbie, William||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lunn, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McEntee, Valentine L.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. G. Macdonald.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Balniel, Lord||Bossom, A. C.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Radford, E. A.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Bracken, Brendan||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Remer, John R.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Rickards, George William|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd, Hexham)||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Robinson, John Roland|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Law, Sir Alfred||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Law, Richard K, (Hull, S. W.)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Loftus, Pierce C.||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Copeland, Ida||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Soper, Richard|
|Cross, R. H.||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Davies. Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Donner, P. W.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||McKie, John Hamilton||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Duggan, Hubert John||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Eastwood, John Francis||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Elmley, Viscount||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Templeton, William P.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Magnay, Thomas||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Martin, Thomas B.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Goff, Sir Park||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Moreing, Adrian C.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Munro, Patrick||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Nall, Sir Joseph||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Harbord, Arthur||Peat, Charles U.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Penny, Sir George||Womersley, Walter James|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Hopkinson, Austin||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Mr. Croom-Johnson and Lord Scone.|
§ Proposed words there added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put.472
§ The House divided: Ayes, 110; Noes, 38.473
|Division No. 119.]||AYES.||[11.10 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Harbord, Arthur||Radford, E. A.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Ramsay, T. B W. (Western Isles)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Hopkinson, Austin||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Balniel, Lord||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Remer, John R.|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Horsbrugh, Florence||Rickards, George William|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Robinson, John Roland|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Bracken, Brendan||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Law, Sir Alfred||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Soper, Richard|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Loftus, Pierce C.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Cook, Thomas A.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Copeland, Ida||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Cross, R. H.||McKie, John Hamilton||Templeton, William P.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Magnay, Thomas||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Martin, Thomas B.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Moreing, Adrian C.||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Goff, Sir Park||Munro, Patrick||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Nall, Sir Joseph||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Grimston, R. V.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Womersley, Walter James|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Peat, Charles U.|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Penny, Sir George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Percy, Lord-Eustace||Mr. Croom-Johnson and Lord Scone.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James|
|Banfield, John William||Grundy, Thomas W.||Milner, Major James|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Paling, Wilfred|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hicks, Ernest George||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Buchanan, George||Jenkins, Sir William||Price, Gabriel|
|Cape, Thomas||John, William||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Kirkwood, David||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Wilmot, John|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Leonard, William|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Dobbie, William||McEntee, Valentine L.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. G. Macdonald.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
That this House is of opinion that it would be impossible to administer a scheme of retirement pensions at sixty years so as to make them conditional on actual and continued retirement, and that the heavy additional burden which such a scheme would impose upon the taxpayer and upon industry would check the present improvement and would diminish the amount of employment which industry is able to provide.
§ The Order of the Day was read, and postponed.