§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Macdonald
I beg to move,That, in the opinion of this House, immediate measures should be taken to establish a scheme of pensions on a scale which will facilitate and encourage elderly workers to retire from industry, and to remove certain anomalies in the operation of the existing law.It is only 50 years since the distinguished father of the present Prime Minister conducted a ceaseless campaign in the Conservative party and in this House for the establishment of old age pensions. Joseph Chamberlain was not a man of half measures. Whatever he thought fit to do he did with his whole energy, and with most indomitable courage he pursued this policy with the same vigour and determination as he pursued every other question which he espoused. He met with many rebuffs, especially inside the Conservative party. The acceptance of the principle of old age pensions was more difficult than to get an extension of old age pensions. He fought a lonely fight in his own party for many years, but he succeeded in 1898 in getting the House of Commons to set up a Select Committee to go into the question, and they reported in 1899 in favour of pensions at 65 for necessitous and deserving poor throughout the country. When he was asked by a member of that Select Committee whether he himself as Colonial Secretary would stand by it—the questioner was no less a person than the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) —Mr. Chamberlain replied "Yes." A few weeks later the Boer War commenced. I have often felt that not the least tragedy of the Boer War was that it deflected the course of Joseph Chamberlain in social reform. I have felt the same as regards the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs; that not the least tragedy of the Great War was that it deflected him from his policy of social reform. That little historical allusion tells us what the fight has been in this country for over half a century on behalf of the aged people.
What surprises me is that the arguments of the Conservative party against an extension of old age pensions are the same to-day as they were against the principle. The Conservative party stand very much where they were in 1908. I have been 2098 through the Debates of 1908 on the Second Reading of that Bill, and I have culled from them just one short statement by Lord Robert Cecil, who was then Member for Marylebone. He was seconding a reasoned Amendment to the Old Age Pensions Bill. Here is the statement:He did not wish to be an alarmist, but he felt that with the vast responsibilities of this country they had in the last resort only the national character to depend upon. They had no right to assume that during the next 25 years they would have so peaceful a course to steer. No one who looks, even from outside, at the present international situation, could fail to see certain elements of difficulty and danger in the future, and if they had to enter upon a great life and death struggle, as might well happen, and they had weakened the fibre of their people by a system and by a policy of which this was only the beginning, then the statesmen in this House who had sanctioned that miserable backsliding from the true statesmanship of Empire would have much to answer for.I find the spirit of that statement very much akin to the Amendment which is on the Order Paper to-day. However, I do not expect that anyone who intervenes to-day will advocate the policy of discontinuing State pensions for aged people; there will be general agreement that since the scheme is in operation it ought to continue.
With regard to the last sentence of my Motion, let me say this: There is a reference there to anomalies. That there are anomalies existing under the present law is admitted by all. I expect that every Member of the House, like myself, has had many cases brought to his notice. I shall refer very briefly to two sets of anomalies. First, there is the case of the man of 65 with a wife who is less than 65. A striking case of this sort I had brought to my notice during the Recess. The man is on unemployment benefit and is receiving 26s. for himself and his wife. When he attains 65 years, while his wife is only 62, the income of that old couple will drop at once from 26s. to 10s. I do hope that both the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will tell us where they stand with regard to that anomaly. Are the Government in favour of removing the anomaly? The second case is that of the widow whose youngest child leaves school. Here is another case brought to my notice in my own division. It is the case of the widow with one child. The 2099 child leaves school and gets work a few miles from home. Her travelling expenses and out of pocket expenses are equal to, if not in excess of, her wage. There is no pension for the mother or child because the mother is not 55 years of age.
Again I ask, will the Financial Secretary to the Treasury tell the House whether the Government intend to allow that to continue? It is an anomaly which inflicts very serious hardship on many deserving widows throughout the country. I am told there are some 40,000 of them, a diminishing quantity, but nevertheless these are cases that ought to be dealt with. The trouble does not arise there. We shall get general agreement on that one issue. The trouble with regard to the scheme hinted at in my Motion will arise on the question whether first of all it is desirable, and, next, whether it is practicable. I suggest that it is most desirable that men of 65 years of age, and women too, should be in a position to retire. That is my first reason for emphasising the desirability of such a scheme. Let us remember that these people of 65 have given at least 50 years of service to industry and the State. After such long service they are entitled to more consideration than they are now getting from this House. They are entitled to be in a position to say, "Here I am; I can not only retire, but I can live my retirement in decency and comfort."
The first reason for emphasising the desirability of my proposal is that the aged people of 65 are entitled to be in that position of retirement in decency and comfort. The second reason, and I do not wish to exaggerate it, is that the scheme would make some contribution to the solution of the problem of unemployment. I know that we shall differ about the figures, but suppose that I say this: The response to a decent pension at 65 would result in such a number of men and women giving up work as would find employment for quarter of a million who are unemployed. That is a very low estimate. But it would be some contribution and one that I should think any Government would welcome. It is a contribution which the quarter of a million unemployed would certainly welcome. It is desirable, there fore, that a scheme of the kind should be accepted.
2100 My third reason is that the proposal would remove from the lives of those approaching 65 the worry and anxiety which are so paralysing. When a man sees 65 coming and realises the possibility of his being told those heart-rending words "Your services are no longer required," he would like to know that at that age he would be able to hear those words with less anxiety. There are those—I hope they are not in this House—who seem to think that poverty and penury and hardship and insecurity urge a man to give of his best in industry. I doubt whether that is so, and I can never understand the mentality of any individual who thinks so. I have yet to be convinced that worry and anxiety have enabled any man to add to the quantity of his output or to improve its quality. This scheme would remove the sense of worry and anxiety, and in doing that it would be an economic factor of inestimable value. I shall leave the desirability of the scheme there.
Now I come to a wide divergence of view. I expect that the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment will say that they support the desirability of this scheme and that they are more anxious even than I am in the matter. They will say how desirable a goal it is to reach, but they will ask, "Is it practicable?" I am prepared to admit at once that no one has a right to come to this House and ask for approval of impracticable schemes. If I thought that the scheme I am outlining was not practicable I should not be here supporting it—never. But let us see. For years past the Labour party has gone into this question with great care, and protracted investigation of every issue involved has been undertaken. The result is that as a party we are convinced that not only is such a scheme desirable, but it is practicable. What are the essentials of a practicable scheme? First, it must provide a pension of sufficient size to induce the elderly worker to retire. Otherwise we fail in our object.
Here I would make a reference to the Prime Minister. He seems to have read the document to which I am referring, but not with the care that he ought to have shown. I have been very disappointed in the Prime Minister, because of two speeches in which he referred to this document, one at Scarborough and the other at Edinburgh. I know that the right 2101 hon. Gentleman was addressing his followers and that he had to cheer them up; that is the trouble with the leader of any party at any party conference. I know also that the right hon. Gentleman is a very stern Conservative and a very keen one, who holds his views with great tenacity. But I have always given him credit for being a very fair-minded debater, and I have always thought that he would fight in an honourable and straightforward manner. He failed us at Scarborough and Edinburgh. He resorted to abuse in place of argument and used rhetoric in place of reason on both occasions. He mentioned the picture on the cover of the document. That picture does indicate some joy in a family, but there is not an artist on this earth who could paint the real joy of any family if this scheme were in operation. I think we might have changed the picture.
I have received lots of correspondence on this subject. To-day I received a postcard which I think might have been used as our frontispiece. It shows three old men, all over 65, going through Lochgelly, in Scotland, carrying sandwich boards, and on the sandwich boards are the words "We want bigger pensions." That might have made a better picture as a frontispiece to the document I have mentioned. Does the Prime Minister think that it is the best way to get bigger pensions that sandwichmen should carry boards through the towns? The Prime Minister says that it is cruel for any party to mislead the electors. I agree. It is cruel for any party to promise a scheme which is impracticable, but it is just as cruel for any party to withhold an improvement which is possible. For the Prime Minister to charge the Labour party with being ambiguous, vague, uncertain and misleading, is to me most refreshing. I have not known the party opposite to be anything but ambiguous and vague when dealing with this subject. I predict here and now that in the Prime Minister's next election manifesto he will mention pensions, but in a vague and ambiguous way. The manifesto will probably state: "We think something ought to be done. We are not sure how far the resources of the State will allow it to be done." We shall get that vague reference.
It is not for the Prime Minister to take exception to a clear document. A clearer document was never issued by any 2102 political party in the world's history. We have not withheld anything from the country. We have emphasised all the disadvantages and the burden. The first thing to be considered was the pensionable age. I do not want any hon. Member to say that we advocate pensions at 60. We believe that a man who has worked until he is 60 is entitled to a pension, but as a result of the prolonged investigations I have mentioned we decided on the age of 65. This document states clearly and definitely that the Labour party after prolonged consideration has decided for 65 years of age. The reasons are given in the document to which I am referring. We considered whether the pension should be given at 60 years of age, but we rejected that proposition as being impracticable,, because we believed we could not get the money that would be required. Therefore, the pensionable age was fixed at 65 years. The next thing that had to be considered was the man's wife. At what age should she be entitled to a pension? Was a wife of any age, no matter how young, to get a pension when the husband became 65? We considered that that would not be reasonable. We decided that the wife must be 55 years of age or over in order to qualify for a pension when her husband qualified at 60 years of age.
After fixing the pensionable ages, we asked ourselves whether, in order to get a practicable scheme, it should be on a contributory basis. There was a time when the Labour party believed that all pensions ought to be on a non-contributory basis. We felt that all the time the workers are contributing by their work in various industries towards the payment of pensions to everybody. Nevertheless, after considering the question, we felt definitely that the scheme must be on a contributory basis. It would not have been practicable to suggest otherwise. The Prime Minister has said that we have not suggested how much the State would have to pay. Surely, the Prime Minister knows that it is difficult to say that now. If to-day we were having the Second Reading Debate on a Bill, knowing what the condition of the country is to-day, we could say what we thought the country could afford to pay. Surely there is some element of uncertainty as regards the future. In our document, we tell the workers that we 2103 may have to call upon them to pay as much as is. a week in addition to what they are paying now, and we tell the employers that the scheme may be brought forward at such a time in the affairs of the nation that we shall have to ask them to pay Is. a week for each worker, whether male or female. We tell women engaged in industry that We may have to ask them to pay 9d. a week. We say that those figures are maximum figures.
Let me now make the position clear as to benefits. We intend in this scheme that there shall be £1 a week for the man and that where he is married and the wife is 55 years of age or over, there shall be 35s. a week. If a person is unemployed and over 60, and the Unemployment Assistance Board will certify that that man or woman is unlikely to regain unemployment, he or she will be able to get a pension at the same age and in the same conditions. As regards children, widows and orphans, we suggest raising the benefits to 10s. a week for the first child, 7s. 6d. for the second child and 5s. for each subsequent child. According to an estimate based on official figures, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will probably realise, the cost would he £85,000,000. Therefore, the scheme would be on a contributory basis, the maximum contribution that would be asked from workers would be is.
A question which we have to ask ourselves is whether it is reasonable to-day to suggest asking for an additional Is. from the workers. As hon. Members know, I am mainly interested in the mining industry. No industry is more depressed or has been more depressed for many years, than the mining industry. The wages of miners are not very high and certainly are not sufficient; but I know my mining community so well that I am prepared to say here and now that if one took a referendum of the miners of Great Britain and asked them whether, although their wages are low, they would be prepared to pay that contribution of Is. from their wages for this purpose, they would say, "Yes." And if the miners said "Yes"—and I guarantee that they would—who in the world would say "No "? The other workers of the country would agree. As to the employers in the mining industry, I have 2104 been looking at the figures, and I say that the employers in that industry could, on their side, bear the burden. I have done some arithmetic as to the average output and the number of miners employed, and I find that it would not cost 2d. a ton of coal produced if the employers paid the extra is. Who will rise in this House and say that the employers cannot afford that sum. I come now to the State's contribution. Will the Financial Secretary to the Treasury stand at that Box later on and declare that the £25,000,000 or so required from the State cannot be found? Will he say that it is not worth trying to find it for so good an object? Will he say that the aged people in this country are not entitled to have an effort made to find it?
Let me say in all fairness that I do not mind any hon. Member trying to prove that this scheme is an impracticable one. If hon. Members can prove that, the Motion ought to be defeated. But there ought to be no attempt to defeat this Motion by such Parliamentary methods as are sometimes used. I see no reason for the House not facing such a scheme. If we cannot afford to carry out the scheme, then let us not do it. I ask hon. Members opposite, who represent the workers just as we do, and who are as interested in their welfare as anyone is —for I have never doubted the sincerity of a man because he is a Conservative—to face this issue: do they believe it is impossible for the State to find the £25,000,000 required to finance this scheme? The workers would pay ungrudgingly; the employers could pay their share in the mining industry, and if in that industry, in every other industry. What we have to ask ourselves is whether it is fair to ask the State to pay its share? Hon. Members on these benches believe that it is.
There is our scheme. We make no claim that it is perfect. We shall find imperfections in it. We say that the work of the aged people in the past demands this scheme, their precarious position at present demands it, and the future of the country demands it. I know it would be difficult to carry it out. No one would suggest that it would be an easy thing to carry through such a scheme; but that is no reason for not doing it. In winding up the Debate in 1908, Lord Asquith, after referring to the difficulties that would 2105 be met in giving old age pensions, used these words:But are we because of the complexity of the task to sit still, with dumb lips and folded arms, and bewildered brains and palsied energies, while this great procession of poor and necessitous and unbefriended linger out the last days of lives, the strenuous years of which have been given to the service of industry and of the State? We say not, and we ask this House to say not, but to take the first step towards the accomplishment of this great beneficient work.My appeal to the House this afternoon, an appeal which I hope will not go unheeded, is that, by passing this Motion, it should carry that great beneficient work one step further.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Quibell
It is with great pleasure that I second the Motion so ably and eloquently moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald). I support the Motion because I feel that the present pensions scheme is full of glaring anomalies and altogether out of date, and its provisions inadequate to meet the needs of old age. My hon. Friends on these Benches believe that the country can afford the expense of the proposed change; indeed, we believe that the country cannot any longer afford not to make the change which my hon. Friend has suggested. What are the arguments which, presumably, will be used against us? I suppose that principally the argument will be that, owing to the stupendous amount of money that is to be spent particularly on rearmament, this reform, which is likely to cost a considerable amount of money, must, even if it be essential, remain in abeyance until such time as we have passed the period of crisis and extraordinary expenditure.
In answer to that argument, I say that up and down the country, not only at Tory conferences, but at Tory meetings, every speaker boasts of the tremendous increase that there has been in the wealth of the country during the last few years. Their claim is that, as a consequence of their being in power, the country is in a tremendously improved financial position as compared with the position a few years ago. In the Motion we propose that the improved financial condition of the country should be reflected in the lives of the common people. That was the reason the Motion was placed on the Order Paper. On every conceivable occasion we hear 2106 speeches in the House in favour of a certain amount of economy. We suggest that there should be this expenditure under this scheme because we believe that the taxpayers themselves will willingly approve of expenditure which will bring such joy, happiness and security to so many of our deserving fellow citizens. It may further be contended, as indeed my hon. Friend said, that the scheme would not relieve unemployment very much, but this at least may be said for it, that it would give aged industrial workers the opportunity to retire from employment at the age of 65 years, and to end their days in comfort, happiness and relief from the toil of the present industrial system. Moreover, it would secure what in my view is the most important thing, a more just distribution of the wealth of the country.
The man of 65 years of age who has to leave his work—for many workers are automatically dismissed at that age—has little or no purchasing power. He receives a pension of 10s. a week, which in most cases is entirely absorbed by rent and rates, and then he is dependent upon his family or upon the Poor Law, which God forbid! In my division, such people do not like to go to the public assistance officer for relief. They would as soon go to the other side and meet the devil himself as go to almost any relieving officer for relief. In this respect the position is worse than ever it was, for there is not the touch between the guardians and poor people that there was in former days. They are so far removed that one cannot get anything done for these poor people.
Let me tell the House of one case of which I know. It is of an old man, bent and worn, who has worked in the steel industry all his life, in general, until the past few years, for a miserable wage. He came to me and said: "I have only 10s. a week. I am living with my son, but his wife says she can no longer afford to keep me. I don't know what to do. I don't want to go to the workhouse, but there is nothing else to be done, because I know she cannot afford to keep me for 10s. a week." What is to be done with such men. The local authority cannot give work to all of them. The local authority in my district is already employing 62 of these men, most of whom have three days' work a week, because they are already in receipt of 10s. a week pension. In most of these cases the first 2107 consideration was to ensure that these poor men employed by the local authority should be able to pay their rates. In addition to those cases at the Employment Exchange in my own town there are 12 men over 65 who are signing on at the present time. They have automatically been given their cards and their lives have become tragedies. That is in the industry which I have already mentioned, and I cannot help thinking that many hon. Members opposite would hold a different view on this subject if they knew these people personally as we do, and realise what they are suffering. They include some of the finest working-men in the country, and they deserve a better fate than that of having to go cap in hand to the relieving officer to beg for some addition to the miserable pensions which they receive at present.
I had in my own division recently an example of the possibility of a scheme of this character being put into operation. It will, no doubt, be urged in this Debate that the present time is not opportune for such a scheme. The terms of the Amendment on the Paper indicate the line of argument that will be followed. The Amendment is a survival from the Middle Ages. It has always been the Tory party's "get out" when any reform is proposed, to say that "the time is not opportune." It has never been opportune, and it never will be opportune. Hon. Members opposite are still living in that inopportune world of theirs, and they will tell us on this occasion once more that the time is not opportune. But let me give this example from my own division. The United Steel Companies have taken a ballot of the whole of their employés on this question—and to justify what was said by my hon. Friend, who moved this Motion, I should mention that the ballot also included several collieries in the Yorkshire area. The ballot was on the question of whether the workers were in favour of a contributory pension scheme or not. Those earning less than 50s. a week agreed to a stoppage of 1s. a week from their wages, and the employés earning over 50s. a week agreed to a stoppage of 1s. 6d. per week from their wages for a pensions scheme. That, I think, is one of the most astonishing things that has ever happened in industry. The total number of employés concerned is about 26,000, and 94 per cent. voted 2108 in favour of the stoppages which I have mentioned, thus proving that the one thing which working men and women look for after middle age is security against the time when, under present industrial conditions, they know that their labour will not longer be required.
We all know that this is an age of machine production. We know the ease with which wealth is being produced. Man is the victim of the system. On the one side, we see an ascending sequence of the increasing power of the machine, and, on the other side, a descending sequence of increasing servitude and helplessness on the part of the workers. Probably the two hon. Members whose names are attached to this Amendment come into contact with poverty in some of its forms, but I think they would probably think differently if they were in constant and close contact with industrial workers who are prepared to make sacrifices of the kind I have mentioned for the sake of security in old age. The workers of the younger generation in the case which I have mentioned, are prepared to begin their contributions at 21, and to pay those contributions until they reach the age of 65. At 65 they would get a maximum of 22s. 6d.
If these private employers can afford it—and they are indeed anxious that their employés should have the security—then I cannot understand why hon. Members opposite and their party should be content to remain camp-followers in regard to this reform. I cannot understand why the party opposite does not avail itself of the sentiment and emotion of these people as expressed in the sacrifices which the younger workers are prepared to make in order to do something for the older workers. Under the scheme which I have mentioned a man who reached the age of 65 on the very day that the scheme came into operation, received his 10s. a week pension. That was made possible by the sacrifices of the general body. Their sacrifices made the scheme a good one. My hon. Friend the Mover has admitted that in existing circumstances it might not be possible to get a scheme of this kind through without making it contributory. We need not make any apology for that, because he who produces all, pays all, whether he is taxpayer or rate-payer, and whatever schemes we provide, all must come out of the wealth of this country produced by 2109 the hands and brains of the working masses. Far better that workers should contribute for something that will give security to them and their wives and families than that they should go on as they are doing in existing circumstances.
Now we come to the scheme which we have put forward, and which, as my hon. Friend the Mover rightly pointed out, the Prime Minister affected to treat with a sort of contempt at Scarborough. He said that it had never even been thought out by the party who put it forward. It is difficult to foretell the budgetry conditions which will obtain when this party gets into power, as I hope it will soon, and it is difficult to give an exact actuarial forecast as to any such schemes, but I think it is safe to say that the burden on the Exchequer would not amount to more than £25,000,000 or £26,000,000. I have made a rough calculation the result of which, I think, agrees with the figures arrived at independently by my hon. Friend the Mover. Would such a reform as we have proposed not be worth that amount of money? The Prime Minister looking at the picture on the cover of our pamphlet said that under the Labour party's scheme every one in that picture would get a pension, and said he was not certain that even the teddy bear would not be included. Apparently the right hon. Gentleman is so materialistic that he grudges that poor family pictured on the pamphlet, the possession of a teddy bear. I can only say that in my view there is nearly as much soul in that teddy bear as there is in the Prime Minister. If anyone ever impressed me with an exterior behind which there appears to be no soul, it is the present Prime Minister. I judge that somewhere beneath that stern exterior, if you understood him better, you might perhaps be able to get at the real man.
I sincerely hope that the House will carry this Motion. I know what it would mean to the homes of the people. It would enable those who have reached old age to retire from what it described in this pamphlet as gainful employment, to make room for the younger generation who ought to be doing the hard and useful work of this world. It would give these people in the evening of their lives, a competence which would keep them in decency and comfort, and prevent them from having to go to the Poor Law in order to augment their scanty pensions. 2110 I would like to quote some lines from the writings of a great man, one of the greatest men, in my opinion, that we ever had in England. I refer to William Morris, whose poems for many years have influenced me and helped me in my work, as I have no doubt they have been an inspiration and a help to many another man and woman who may at times have felt depressed by the hopelessness of the task of achieving progress and reform, a higher civilisation and a more contented people. William Morris wrote:Then, for why and for what are we waiting?While our brothers droop and die,And on every side of the heavensA wasted life goes by.These poor people after 65 feel that life has no more use for them. Many times an old person has said to me "The sooner I am gone the better." To resume my quotation:How long shall they reproach usWhere, crowd on crowd, they dwell,Poor ghosts of the wicked city,The gold-crushed hungry hell.They are gone and there is none can undo itNor save our souls from the curse.But many a million comethAnd shall they be better or worse?
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Captain Harold Balfour
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House recognises the great value of the existing pensions schemes, and welcomes the recent inclusion of black-coated workers on a voluntary basis, but, while in favour of a further extension as and when practicable on a sound financial basis, is of opinion that in present circumstances a scheme on a scale sufficient to encourage and facilitate the retirement of the remaining elderly workers from industry would, in addition to placing a heavy direct burden both on industry and on those employed in industry, involve such additional demands upon the National Exchequer as would jeopardise that financial stability upon which must rest not only the wellbeing of industry and employment but also all the existing social services.I am sure it is the wish of hon. Members in all parts of the House that I should pay a tribute to the sincerity and eloquence of the hon. Member who moved this Motion in a speech which impressed me as a Parliamentary performance if not by its facts. I also desire to congratulate the hon. Member who seconded the Motion. They both asked hon. Members on this side to face realities and this 2111 afternoon I shall endeavour to do so. The first reality I wish to face is a criticism of the speeches we have just heard. They seem to me to appeal rather more to the heart, than to practical considerations such as the House must have before it in dealing with such a vast scheme. The Mover made part of my speech for me. He told me what I was going to say and even what the next Tory election programme would be, but it is fortunate that the most successful political party of the past and also of the future, should not have to rely upon the guidance in tactics of the hon. Member. The Amendment admits frankly the desirability of the principle of the extension of pensions. At the same time, it pays a tribute to the existing pensions scheme which is not, as the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) pointed out, the province of any one party. Indeed he paid a tribute to Mr. Joseph Chamberlain's work in that direction. But, of course, that tribute to all parties for contributing to the pensions scheme in this country was immediately contradicted by the hon. Member who seconded the Motion, who said that the Tory party had never done anything in this direction.
Before embarking on the more controversial aspects of this question, I think it would be well to review the part in our national life which insurance is increasingly playing. Insurances to-day cover approximately 18,000,000 workers out of an approximate industrial population of some 30,000,000, and in respect in particular to pension insurance, I see that the State contribution of 1913–14 was £12,000,000 and that it has risen in 1937–38 to an estimate of £61,000,000. If we are paying tributes, I think that is a tribute to the strength of the capitalist system, which, in spite of the War and of the losses of capital and in spite of the retrogressions which it has suffered, has still been able to advance steadily the contributions which industry is able to pay towards the social welfare of our country.
It seems to me that insurance is something more than deferred pay. In the modern State, irrespective of whether you have a Left Government or a Right Government, insurance is the means of conversion of the skill of labour into currency of the realm for provision in old age or distress. That is, I believe, a definition of the purpose of insurance in a modern 2112 industrial State. Some hon. Members and some people outside have currency in the bank and others in the skill of their hands, and I believe that each is complementary to the other and each entirely necessary to the other, but insurance puts them on a common basis in the time of their retirement. Therefore the provision of insurance is a vital and growing question in the social progress of this country, but it must depend on the proceeds of industry, whether it be capitalist or Socialist industry. We can only find the proceeds necessary by taxation, for raising revenue for social services, from the wherewithal of a healthy and prosperous industry. Therefore any scheme, whether contributory or wholly State paid, depends for its success and its soundness on the calculation of what burdens, and in any matter of extension of what extra burdens, if any, industry can bear, and here, I believe, is the first great weakness in the Labour party's proposals.
The Labour party have prepared a scheme and then said that the State, the employers and the employés must pay for it, which is, in fact, saying that industry must be responsible for the cost. I think that is putting the cart before the horse. We take our stand rather on saying that we must first look at industry's capacity to pay and then frame a scheme within the boundaries of that capacity. Thus, I think, the horse and cart will be in the more conventional order. There is a limit to industry's capacity to pay, and I do not believe that any hon. Member above the Gangway would challenge that statement. We all remember, in the time when they were in office, that on this very question of pensions and on other questions the House of Commons was told that reforms could not be introduced owing to industry's inability to carry the additional burden. Therefore, we must ask ourselves in this House in relation to the Labour party's proposals, Has the limit been reached of what industry can bear? The Mover of the Motion asked, "Where do we stand as regards existing anomalies?" I would reply that there are so many existing anomalies in the proposals put forward by the Labour party, anomalies which would cost a great deal of money to put right, that it ill befits him to ask me where I stand as regards minor anomalies, which I would be very glad to see 2113 removed when the revenue can afford it.
There is the word "immediate" used in the Motion before the House. Does that word mean the commencement of the fund immediately, in order that it shall be built up for distribution at some future time, or does it mean the immediate distribution of benefits under the scheme put forward? If it is the former, it means that there is a long time ahead before this immediate scheme can have any benefits for those whom it is supposed to benefit. If, on the other hand, it means its immediate introduction in respect of benefits, where, in the financial proposals put forward here, is the provision for the capital reserve which will be necessary for several years at the start of the scheme if benefits according to the scheme are to be distributed to what one might call actuarially unsound subjects? That is a reasonable question to ask, and I hope that when the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) replies, he will give me an answer as to the way in which this word "immediate" is meant to apply.
I was surprised that not a word was said by either the Mover or Seconder of the Motion with regard to withdrawing men from industry at 60 who are to be certified by the Unemployment Assistance Board as not likely to gain employment in the future.
§ Captain Balfour
Yes. Could one long maintain that preference of treatment for a man certified as not likely to get work over a man not certified who has not got work? That again is a reasonable question to ask. Moreover, if this treatment is to be given to the unemployed after 60, how can it be withheld from men who are unemployed and sick, or partially sick, because sickness has often some contributory cause towards a man being out of employment? Take the case of women in the scheme. There is a number of loose ends in the proposal. The hon. Member for Ince quoted the case of the widow whose pension was discontinued under the present scheme, but take the case of a woman between 55 and 65 who is a wife of an insured old age pensioner. If she became a widow, her pension would be reduced from 15s. to 10s. under this scheme until 2114 she was 65. Then the wife, aged 55, of an uninsured old age pensioner, if she became a widow, would lose her pension altogether until she became 70, unless she herself was insured. The Labour party may say they would grant a pension of 15s. for the widow, but if that is so, it would be difficult to maintain the ordinary widow's pension of 10s., and that would have to be scaled up. If wives and widows are each getting 15s., we know the pressure there is for spinsters' pensions, and so, I suppose, we should have to come to them also.
There are so many anomalies in this particular scheme that not only will they cause grievous electoral discontent to any party that introduces them in their present form, but the cost of putting right the anomalies would put out all the financial provisions on which the Labour party take their stand at present. With regard to the alleged attraction of taking men out of industry, the actual figures of pensioners over 65, both contributory and, over 70, non-contributory, are 2,500,000 men and women. I believe the hon. Member for Ince has stated that the number to be withdrawn from industry will be 250,000, but the figures which I have got of pensioners in industry are approximately 340,000 men and women.
§ Captain Balfour
Yes, but I submit that it is unfair to say, in presenting your case, that those people will all be taken out of industry and that in their place others will be put into industry. It is really a case of taking a particular figure of a number of people in industry over a particular age and then, if you are logical, not drawing any deduction as b advantage or disadvantage of this particular scheme to any extent at all. What it really means is practically doubling all the non-contributory pensions and lowering the age to 60, by the time you have wiped away all the anomalies which will pile up if you try to introduce the scheme at the present time. Other hon. Members, I believe, will draw attention to other anomalies, but I have drawn attention to a few, and I hope we shall have some information as to how they are to be removed and what the cost of removing them will be according to the Labour party. I estimate that the cost of the whole scheme will be far greater than 2115 the cost which is put forward in the Labour party's pamphlet.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was attacked by both the Mover and the Seconder of the Motion for some criticism which he made of the picture on the cover of that pamphlet, and the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) said that the Prime Minister even begrudged the Teddy Bear in the picture, but the point really is that it is not a fair representation of a political programme to put forward the programme in inside sheets and then, outside, to make the most lovely picture which the Labour party has ever issued, but which has no connection with the subject. if Interruption.]All parties may have done it, but the Labour party should not come here in a white sheet and say, "We are innocent." I have calculated out this beautiful family. I went to some owners of shops who have a knowledge of photography, and I found that the lady's silk dress in the picture could be bought for £4; I understand, on reliable authority, that the children's shoes could be bought at Daniel Neal's for 30s.; the gentleman's suit would, I am told, cost £3 or £4 and the children's clothes approximately £2 each; while the much discussed Teddy Bear, Messrs. Hamley reliably inform me, would cost 25s. The point that I am trying to make is that the total value of the clothes depicted on that cover is about £20. It is a bourgeois family that the Labour party are using for their political propaganda, and I cannot see any reason why the Prime Minister or any hon. Member here should not criticise misrepresentation of this sort. The Labour party has put forward a pamphlet which says one thing but gives a picture of an entirely different class of person, whom the pension will hardly affect at all, and, in fact, who are wearing clothes costing approximately six months of the pension that the family would be paid.
To revert to the question of how much we can afford, the Labour party put forward these proposals in an unco-ordinated manner. I do not believe we can take them without taking into consideration all other proposals for social reform at the present time, such as holidays with pay, higher insurance benefits, and lower age limits. All these are desirable, but not one of them can be dealt with in an 2116 isolated manner without thinking of the total effect in relation to industry. The latest return of expenditure on social services shows that in 1934–5 the amount distributed in this country was £488,000,000, or £10 17s. per head of the population, as against £1 10s. 9d. in 1910. That is again a tribute to the strength of the capitalist system in difficult times. It is worth noting that, in spite of the Exchequer burden of debt and rearmament, which we shall have to face as factors in slowing down social progress, the Exchequer contribution to social services has risen by £48,000,000 since 1931, when the figure was £171,000,000. Although the burden of debt and of rearmament must have a slowing-up effect, no one can say that the social services have not been held stationary but have been extended.
The Labour party's scheme would add about £80,000,000 to the present bill of £90,000,000 for pensions. The State pays £60,000,000 now, but that will automatically jump to£80,000,000 by 1948, so that if the Labour party's scheme were in operation then the additional burden for pensions would be £45,000,000. The Labour party scheme puts another £30,000,000 directly on industry as compared to its present burden of £12,500,000. This must affect the cost of production and our ability to compete in overseas markets with other countries that have not the social standards of this country. It is a little contradictory that the Labour party should say that it really does not matter what burdens you put on industry because industry can afford it, while in the next breath they tell us that we are to have a big industrial slump. We should warn ourselves against too rapid an expansion of social schemes and be careful that we do not cross over the dividing line where you encourage schemes to help those who are out of work at such a cost that it will affect the ability of those who are in work to maintain their work and increase their wage standards. It is an equation which must be considered in relation to the burdens of industry and its capacity.
I want to come to the second weakness of the proposals of the Labour party. That is the persuasion to men to retire at 65 while still active, and then flattening them all out on to the same level of £1 a week. The proposal to put 2117 men out of work at 65 ignores the industrial status of men in relation to their past wage level and employment. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion gave us the instance of 94 per cent. of the workers in the United Steel Company in his division voting for a retirement scheme. He did not tell us whether that scheme reflected in the pension the wage status of the men in the years of their employment.
§ Mr. Quibell
No, it does not. All who join the scheme at 21 years of age receive a pension at 65 of 22s. 6d.
§ Captain Balfour
The hon. Member says that that scheme does not reflect a man's industrial scale and status in his past work, but all will agree, that great industrial concerns are launching schemes which do reflect the technical status of the men; and I believe any scheme which induces a man to retire while he still feels he has ability and energy will have to reflect his industrial status and wage levels. The very fact of the introduction of this big State scheme would put a stop to the schemes which big industrial combines are launching on their own. Industry will not be able to afford the two schemes running parallel. One will have to go.
I believe that the line of policy for the future for a scheme for earlier and greater pensions should be one which industry can afford, but it should be investigated from the point of view of seeing whether we can draft it on to those schemes which are being brought forward by the great combines, or, alternatively, whether the schemes of the combines should be taken over and become State schemes, but reflecting, to some degree, the industrial status of the men, which is vital if we arc to get men voluntarily to retire while they still have ability and energy. Before any extension of pensions such as the Labour party propose is brought forward, it should be gone into by some commission set up to review the whole question of the unco-ordinated insurances in our national life. We have so many forms of insurance, and it is now proposed to build on something more to the existing schemes. Has not the time come to review the whole question and to see whether we cannot co-ordinate all our insurances, possibly, at some time or other, under a Ministry of Insurance.
2118 Because of the inadequacy of the consideration of the whole question as put forward in the two speeches we have heard to-day, and in the literature of the Labour party; because they ignore the ability of industry to bear the additional burdens, saying that the burden must be created and that industry must then bear it, rather than investigating what industry can bear and then only putting that much on its back; because of the inequalities and flaws of the scheme which were not touched on by the hon. Members, and which will need clearing up if the scheme is to gain support, I beg to move the Amendment.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I beg to second the Amendment.
I would like to congratulate the two hon. Members who moved and seconded the Motion. They have rightly told us that we shall agree with the principle, for we are just as keen —I will not go any further than that—as they are that there should be some security for old people. We have some right on this occasion to claim that our ideas and suggestions should not be just brushed aside as the suggestions of people who always want to put things off. The suggestion has been made on the other side that hon. Members on this side would get up and say that it is a good thing we cannot do it now, but on this occasion hon. Members opposite are not those who can use that argument. It will be within the recollection of many Members that we on this side were taunted in February, 1934, for being people who merely wanted to put off and would not support a good scheme. In that month a Motion was moved in a sincere speech by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield), who proposed that pensions should be given at 60. He said on a contributory basis but his hon. Friends wanted no contributions. There were speeches on this side of the House as sincere opposing it. I voted against the Motion.
The interesting point to-day is that the book "Labour's Pension Plan," issued by the National Council of Labour, shows that the people who have gained the appreciation and admiration of the National Council are not those who voted for the Motion in 1934 but the people who voted against it. I am told in this book that the scheme against which I then voted would be a very bad scheme for the country and the sort that the country 2119 does not want. In this book on Labour's pension plan there is first a discussion of the cost of the scheme. I thought at first that this part of the booklet must have been written by the Secretary of State for War, because he was Financial Secretary to the Treasury in 1934 and the figures in the book are those that he gave at that time. After giving the information the book says:It is therefore clear that in the present conditions of wealth production and distribution the cost of pensions of £1 a week at 60 is impossibly high. Moreover, these pensions would not be an effective contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem for under a scheme such as the above it would cost more than £450 annually for each man re-employed.So that the National Council of Labour is now in favour of those who opposed this scheme. For once we are right on this side of the House, and hon. Members opposite are wrong. I come to the point brought out by the Mover of the Motion, whether the scheme is desirable and practicable. What is wanted according to the Motion is to facilitate and encourage people coming out of industry. I have for some time been studying the Labour party's pension policy, but as there are several contradictions it is in parts difficult to follow. They give us the various schemes. I presume, however, that the main proposal is that those who wish to retire at 65 get £1 and those who wish to go on in work get 10s. I have looked through this book over and over again but I cannot find whether the 10s. is to be retained by those who continue in industry. A doubt has been raised in my mind, because it is stated in this book that if a man or woman were to draw the 10s. and continue working it would have the effect of bringing down wages. Having read that, when I turned to the last page of the scheme I began to wonder whether men or women would be permitted to draw the 10s. and to stay in industry, because one of the benefits of the proposal as there set forth as thatIt will no longer be possible to use pensions to reduce wages.But it will be possible to do it if people are allowed to take their 10s. and to keep at work, because I gather they are not to be forced to come out of industry and accept the £1 but can keep in industry and take the 10s. if they like. I come next to the point whether the scheme will encourage people over 65, who to-day are 2120 working in industry, to come out of industry, or whether they, or even a majority of them, will prefer in present circumstances to stay at work.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I will come to that later. What we are dealing with now is whether the present scheme will, in the words of the Motion, "facilitate and encourage people to come out of industry." I can find no definite statistics, but I think there are 60,000 women and 280,000 men over 65 who are drawing pensions and who are working, and I have tried to find out whether the majority of them would find it better to come out of industry. I have to speak without statistics, but I have come to the conclusion that at the present time the majority of those people would prefer to have the 10s. and to stay in industry —that is, the ones who are now actually working. One of the reasons which have led me to that conclusion is that there are now working in industry older men who are very skilled men and are commanding high wages on account of the armaments programme. In a great many cases at present skilled men who would perhaps not otherwise be at work are in highly paid jobs teaching or overseeing the more unskilled men who have been out of work but have now found employment.
§ Mr. Quibell
Does; hon. Lady know that in the case 'of the United Steel concern all men, skilled or unskilled, have to give up work on attaining the age of 65?
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I agree that a lot of working people are compelled to leave their employment at a certain age, but the Motion deals with those who have not been compelled to leave their employment, and the question, is whether it would facilitate and encourage them to give up work. I think that many who are at present working would still stay in industry. I have come across a good many women who are getting their 10s. and are continuing at work. Since September I have tried, wherever it has been possible, to find out from women who were continuing in work what they would prefer to do. I am willing to grant that some will come out of employment, but I think there are a good many cases in which they 2121 will not be persuaded to leave industry if they can have 10s. and their wages as against £1 or 35s. for man and wife and no wages.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
If the hon. Member will allow me to make my speech, I think I shall be able to put forward my arguments. I have been dealing first with whether this scheme would facilitate and encourage people to come out of industry, and I shall deal next with whether the facts put down in this book and the finance of the scheme relate to the actual facts of the case. But allowing that such a scheme could be carried through, I am still doubtful whether the offer proposed is a good enough one to "facilitate and encourage people to come out of industry," and that point ought to be considered. The offer is 10s. if you remain in industry, and £1 if you come out.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
It is 35s. for a man and wife, that is, an additional 15s; and I know of 60,000 men working in the pits who would come out to-morrow.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I had mentioned the 35s., but at the moment I was talking of the case of a single woman. I said that I had been considering the case of women, and although in this book the talk of spinsters' pensions is put away quickly with the observation that "among other reasons the cost would be prohibitive," we still have a right to consider the case of the single woman, and whether she would come out or stay in. I am coming now to consider whether, from the point of view of cost, this is a scheme such as the National Council of Labour suggests would he a good scheme. They say that the right type of scheme must be based on planned economy, be on a basis of sound ordered finance and strictly limited to what it is practicable to do, having regard to the Budget. They also say:The scheme must be so arranged that it avoids having to make any cuts in other social services and makes it possible to have a properly-balanced Budget.There we are all in full agreement. I have come to the conclusion that since the scheme which was put forward earlier was withdrawn, there is a greater mea sure of agreement between us. It is nice to notice how much nearer we have all come 2122 together. We agree that there must be a contributory scheme, that the scheme must avoid making any cuts in the social services and be based on sound finance and a balancing of the Budget, and we agree that there must be a means test at the age of 70. The only thing on which we do not agree with hon. Members opposite is that the scheme which they now put forward fulfils all those conditions. I agree that we want a scheme, and also that a lot of work has been put into the present scheme, but I would say to hon. Members opposite, "Go back and work out a better scheme." We turned down the scheme in 1934, and they brought forward a much better one; and if we reject this scheme perhaps, next time, we may have a scheme to which we can all agree.
Next I should like to deal with the anomalies. I have heard it said that we should get away from the anomaly of the man drawing the pension at 65 while his wife, because she was younger, cannot get it. I found it suggested in the book that the woman should get the pension at the same time as the manexcept in the comparatively few cases where a young woman has married a man of pensionable age or approaching pensionable age.I ask hon. Members whether they do not agree that that sounds a great deal more attractive than the plain fact that no woman will get the pension unless she is 55. We have come down from the young woman who marries the man of pensionable age, to the reducing age from 65 to 55 when a wife gets a pension. It has been suggested that the cost of making that change would be from £9,500,000 to £10,000,000, but that figure cannot be given very definitely. We know that there are 140,000 women between 60 and 65, but we do not know how many there are between 55 and 60. I should like to ask the Financial Secretary whether he could tell us what would be the cost of allowing the wife to have the 10s. pension at the same time as her husband if her age was not less than 60. I presume that the cost would be nearer £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 if the pension were given at the age of 60 and for this concession many are most anxious.
We have been told that no scheme will be any use unless it is financially sound and strictly within the limits of 2123 the Budget, and with that consideration in mind I should like to calculate the total cost of the Labour party's scheme. The cost of giving a pension of £1 instead of 10s. has been put down at a figure of £65,000,000, rising to an annual average of £75,000,000 The sum of £1,000,000 has been put down in order to give the pension to pre-Act widows between the age when the last child leaves school and they attain the age of 55, and £2,000,000 has been put down for giving extra pensions for the children. We find it stated that the voluntary pensions scheme is appreciated and that the extra pension and child's allowance is to come into the scheme. I would like to know how much that is to cost. It is stated in the book that it has been impossible to estimate the cost, but perhaps by this time some estimate has been made. Under the voluntary scheme as at present they say that the cost to the State will rise £2,700,000 per year. Perhaps we should put another £2,500,000, if we double the pensions and allowances to the children. That brings us to £80,000,000.
There is something much more difficult to calculate in the scheme—the cost of giving pensions to unemployed people who are certified as practically Unemployable and not likely to get work again. There may be a very great number of them. In all probability it would be very difficult to distinguish between all those who have been transferred to the Unemployment Assistance Board, from other unemployed, but the Board have to certify them. It might mean all those who were unemployed at the age of 60. It would mean a pension of 35s. a week for a man and his wife, and that would amount to a very considerable sum. I looked to see what I had to add to the amount, which is already up to £80,000,000 for the year. I found:It is impossible, in the absence of adequate statistics as to the age distribution and chances of re-employment of such persons, to make an accurate estimate of the cost of this proposal.That is one of the main features of the proposal and one which will cost a considerable amount of money, yet we have got up to £80,000,000 before we reach it. The anomalies will also cost a good deal of money. We shall be anxious to know from hon. Gentlemen what is to happen to the wife of between 55 and 65 who 2124 is getting a pension of 15s. if she has to go back to 10s. as a widow. What about the people who are 60 and unemployed and are sick, drawing National Health Insurance benefit. Will they and their wives get the chance of a pension? That is a big gap in the total cost, when you come to make up the amount for those people.
It has been suggested that we need not bother very much about that aspect of the matter, because there would be a saving to the State, by reason of unemployment allowances not being paid through the Board. When we had the last Debate we were told that we must clearly take into account some kind of saving. This matter is mentioned in the foreword to the pamphlet. I do not think the foreword can have been written by the same person who wrote any of the other part, because it states:There will be considerable savings on poor relief to local authorities, of unemployment pay to the Unemployment Fund, and of unemployment assistance to the Unemployment Assistance Board, the whole of which is a State charge.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
Apparently the hon. Member agrees with the gentleman who wrote the foreword. Perhaps he wrote it. We find quite a different story on page 24, where it says:Certain 'savings' would, of course, be effected in other branches of State expenditure by the introduction of some such scheme…"—that is to do with the people of 60—but these savings have been grossly exaggerated in amount…The great part of the savings on unemployment expenditure… would accrue to the Unemployment Insurance Fund. No Government could touch this to recover the savings, and there would, there-fore, be no savings at all to the Budget. Similarly, the savings on poor relief would accrue to the local authorities, who would certainly resist the recovery of the savings, and would desire the money for their own purposes. There would, therefore, be no savings to the Budget beyond a relatively small amount saved on unemployment assistance.The gentleman who said in the foreword that there would be considerable savings evidently had not seen what his friend had written there. Therefore, we cannot alter my figure of £80,000,000 plus what is to be spent on those at 60 and plus the anomalies concerning widows.
We are not altogether finished with the anomalies. There is the widow, over 55, 2125 of the uninsured man. Is she to lose the pension of 15s. until she is 70, and then get it back? I was looking at the treatment of the spinsters to start with, so now I turned to the widows. There is the widow of the unemployed man of 60 who was given a pension at 60 of £1 and 15s. for wife because he was unemployed. Is his widow to go back to 10s.?
§ Miss Horsbrugh
Is she to go back to the 10s. which she has at present or retain the 15s. which she gets because she has married a man with a pension at 60? There is a large collection of anomalies. There are the present widows and the pre-Act widows. It would help us to know whether the scheme is, as is said, sound from a financial point of -view and would not interfere with the other social services. We ought to be told exactly what the arrangements would be. If these widows are to get the extra pension, what would it cost and what would be the full cost of the scheme? I should like to know the suggested estimate of the cost of the pension for people at 60.
We all realise the difficulties of financing this scheme. This booklet reiterates over and over again that it would be wrong to give people hopes of a scheme which turned out to be financially unsound and therefore they did not get their money. The contributions of workers, employers and the State would go up. The miners' case has been mentioned to-day, but naturally I think first of the state of the industry with which I have most to deal, the jute trade, and the difficulties which may occur there under the trade board. There has been a small rise in wages which worked out at about is. 6d. a week because the trade board thought the industry could afford it. I want to be quite sure about such poorer industries. Will the people who have had their rise of is. 6d. a week have to pay is. per week extra under this scheme, and if those industries have to pay an extra amount, will there be a consequent reduction in the wages paid by those industries, under the trade board?
I fear that here is a scheme which is financially unsound. We should be careful not to give people hopes which would be dashed It would be disastrous if the 2126 scheme ever came into force, because the workers would pay from the age of 16 and probably before the time came for them to benefit not only would there be bankruptcy in the fund, but there would be bankruptcy in the country. I base that statement on what is contained in the booklet. [An HON. MEMBER: "The old story."] Yes, we have heard the old story from hon. Members opposite to-day. We have had the same arguments that were used on a different scheme in 1934. We turned down the scheme of 1934 because it was financially unsound and would ruin the people of this country, as has now been agreed in this publication. We are having the same arguments again. to-day. It does not seem to matter to, hon. Members whether it is financially sound or not, but the pamphlet makes it clear that it would be disastrous to put up a scheme that was not financially sound.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
Is there anything more unsound than giving money in subsidies where very often it is quite unnecessary? We are giving money away every week in this House. Why is it more unsound to give such subsidies than to give the pensions which are now proposed?
§ Miss Horsbrugh
The hon. Member has asked about the giving of subsidies; I consider that is far more sound. [Interruption.]I hope hon. Members will allow me to continue, if they want to know my reasons. I believe subsidies have kept in employment many thousands of people who otherwise would be out of work. I believe the present scheme is not sound and that it will be turned down as was the 1934 scheme. Can we put nothing in its place? I believe we can. I want a new scheme, and that is why I am seconding the Amendment. I hope that hon. Members agree with practically everything that is in the Amendment. They agree as to the benefits of a pension scheme and in welcoming a voluntary scheme. They will also agree that any scheme should be financially sound if it is to help employment and the social services of the country. If we are agreed so far, I would ask hon. Members to go further and consider whether it is possible to devise another scheme, something; better and more financially sound, and helpful.
2127 I believe the difficulty about this scheme is that hon. Members are trying to graft upon the present system a new sort of insurance that the system cannot bear. I think they will agree that when the old age pension was introduced as an amount of 5s. it was not thought necessary that the pension should be a subsistence wage. It was introduced to give the old people something of their own, some little help. Presumably at that time it was thought that they would also be helped by their relations or by the only other help then available for them, what we now call public assistance. We have gone more and more away from the idea of such people being helped by public assistance. It is regarded by many as shameful.
What hon. Members are now trying to do is to graft on to the present system the idea of a subsistence wage for these people. I am entirely in favour of the idea of a subsistence wage, but I do not believe that you can graft it on to the present system. We have to face something much bigger if we are to get a scheme of a retirement wage and not merely a small additional pension. I believe that sooner or later we shall have to face an all-in pension-and-insurance scheme, with in-for-all benefits and all people in. I believe the present proposal is merely tinkering and trying to make an already overladen system bear a further burden which it cannot sustain. I would agree to a scheme to give a retirement pension, but it cannot be brought in on this basis.
In asking for support for the Amendment we appeal to hon. Members in all parts of the House. We all agree with a contributory scheme now, and the inclusion of a needs test at 70. If a retirement pension is to be provided which will be a subsistence wage, we agree that we must have a scheme financially sound if it is to he accepted. Instead of pushing this Motion and the Labour party's scheme, hon. Members should realise that the scheme is not financially sound any more than their scheme in 1934 was, and they should join with us in supporting the Amendment, and asking the Government people on all sides of the House and the best brains in Britain to-day, to bend their minds to producing a scheme of all-in pensions that will provide, not merely 2128 an additional sum, but a living and subsistence wage. It is because I want to see a better scheme and more encouragement given to the workers to retire, that I second the Amendment.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
In view of the very admirable though somewhat extended remarks of the hon. Member who has just spoken, I intend to compress mine into the shortest possible space. I rise in order to give whole-hearted support to the Motion which is before the House. The scheme it outlines, while no doubt capable of improvement in its details, seems to me to be an admirable one. It may not be practicable all at once, but it is the sort of objective which we all have in mind and towards which we should strive to work. Certainly, a figure of £1 a week is not excessive for a pension. One feature which I think will be as popular as any other is that the wife should have a pension when the husband has attained the age of 65, and personally I do not think the scheme would be complete or satisfactory unless something were done for the spinsters, who at the present time are active in organising their point of view and have a reasonable and practicable programme.
It is said that the finance is more than the country can afford, but it always seems to me that, if you want a thing keenly enough, there is always money available for it. We want armaments at the present time; we find them necessary; and there is not the slightest difficulty in providing the money. The suggestion has already been made that, if some of the unnecessary subsidies were cut down, we could find the money for this scheme there; and I would suggest also that if we adopted a different foreign policy it would be possible to find large sums of money for social reform. I support the Motion because it seems to me to bring in an essential element in human freedom. Any individual who feels that he is approaching the period when he hears:Time's winged chariot hurrying nearis naturally anxious as to the future, and wonders how the last few years of his life are going to be spent. He is not a free man, he does not enjoy full liberty, unless he is secure and knows that he is going to live those years in peace without any trouble or anxiety as regards his 2129 household. I also support the Resolution because I believe that at the present time far too much wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, and far too little distributed among the many. I believe that the existence of a scheme of pensions financed by contributions and by taxation is a very wise and statesmanlike method of at any rate going some way towards spreading the wealth of the country more generally throughout the whole population. Moreover, it will do something towards solving the unemployment problem. I want to say a word of sympathy with what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour) and by the hon. Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) with regard to trying to further and encourage private schemes in industry, because I feel that we may not succeed in carrying out all at once, or as soon as we should desire, the whole of the proposals that are before the House, and that anything which can be done in the meantime or in addition is wholly to the advantage of those employed in the industries concerned.
Perhaps I might be allowed to give one example that came under my personal notice, because it illustrates another question. We have a joint works committee —I happen to be introducing a Bill on that subject to-morrow—and some 10 or more years ago the workers' side, for it is wholly representative, said that the thing they would like more than anything else, if it could be devised, was a scheme for pensions of 35s. a week at the age of 65. I do not think that they or anyone else thought it was likely to take place; it seemed somewhat above the realm of practicability; but we went very carefully into the whole scheme, and I am glad to say that for a considerable number of years that scheme has been in operation. The workers pay a contribution of is. a week, and, of course, they are very glad to do so. I feel that that is an example of the willingness there would be to contribute towards a scheme of this kind.
§ Mr. Dalton
The hon. Member says that under that scheme the workers pay 1s. a week. May I ask what is the payment made by the employers?
§ Mr. Mander
The actual contribution by the firm is between 5s. and 6s, a week. 2130 Everyone, of whatever age, was brought in at once, so the contribution was very heavy. When the State pensions for husband and wife are taken into consideration, in many cases this would bring the total up to 55s. a week. It is not really too bad. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the firm is not bankrupt !"] We are very well satisfied from every point of view. I merely mention that by the way, as a personal contribution to this question. I am supporting the Motion because I want to get those people who are in trouble and difficulty out of their difficulties as quickly as possible, and I believe that if we pass this Resolution and start the scheme in operation we shall be achieving that end.
§ 5.54 p.m.
I feel that I am rather at a disadvantage this afternoon, because I seem to be one of the few Members of the House who have not had the advantage of studying the Labour party's pamphlet which has been so much discussed during the Debate. It has been very well advertised, and I shall try to remedy my deficiency and discover where it is on sale.
A great deal of difference of opinion has been expressed as to whether these elderly workers at the age of 65 would or would not prefer to retire at that age. It seems to me that, if it is considered desirable that they should retire in order to make room for younger workers, the proposed pension should have some sort of relation to what they are actually receiving while they are in active work. I suggest that the inducement to retire will have to be something pretty considerable if it is to have the effect which the party opposite wish. It is, however, my firm belief that there is a very large number of people who have no wish to retire whatever the inducement may be. One meets them in all walks of life. They do not want to feel that they are too old to take an active part in industry, and I do not believe that, even if the inducement were the equivalent of their wages, they could be persuaded to retire so long as they were physically capable of doing the job to which they have been accustomed. We have evidence of that fact at the present time. The return of the Ministry of Labour a few weeks ago showed unmistakably that there is a growing 2131 number of men over 65 remaining in industry, as a result of the very greatly increased activity that there has been in the last two or three years. I think that that condition of affairs will always exist as long as there are jobs for these people in the industries in which they have been accustomed to work.
I gather that the Labour party's proposals would include a pension for the wife as well. I understood, from what the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) said, that the wife would become entitled to a pension of 15s. a week provided that she had reached the age of 55 or more. It seems to me that, if you are going to grant a pension of 15s. a week to a married woman of 55 or over whose husband is 65, you cannot leave out the spinster. The House is very well aware that there is a growing movement in the country for the granting of pensions to spinsters at the age of 55. I am not expressing any opinion on the merits or demerits of that claim, but it seems to me that, if the party opposite are proposing to grant pensions to married women at the age of 55, they will have to open their arms a little wider and embrace the spinsters as well.
It is, of course, understood that in this pension scheme the State would play its part, as it does now, and this would represent an addition to our expenditure on social insurance. As has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour), the present expenditure for this year amounts to £61,000,000, and it is anticipated that within a comparatively few years it will rise to £80,000,000. I am not making any complaint about the amount which the country finds in order to provide old age and widows' pensions, but one has to realise that this charge for pensions is being met for the most part by the younger section of the community—those who are in active work and who are producing the bulk of the country's income. As everybody knows, the expectation of life is daily growing longer; people are living to a greater age than they did; and I do not think that, after last Monday's Debate, the House needs to be reminded that the birth rate is going down. The result is that the balance of population is shifting gradually over towards the 2132 older people, so that, if any addition is made to the Bill which is now being paid by the country on account of social insurance, it is going to put a heavier burden on the younger section of the community which is gradually declining in numbers.
I am inclined to wonder whether it is desirable in fact that men should be encouraged to retire at 65, so long as they are able to follow their normal occupation. One knows that there are many parts of the country and many industries in which there is a shortage of labour now. I was talking a few days ago to a large employer of labour in a cotton mill, and he told me that it is almost impossible nowadays, with the increased activities in cotton mills, to find the necessary number of suitable people to fill the vacancies they have. If you encourage older people to retire, that shortage of labour will increase, and it is a mistaken idea to imagine that their places would be taken by the unemployed people in other parts of the country and in other trades. I am not suggesting that the present old age pensions are sufficient to keep people; but I do not think they were ever intended to do so. They were intended, as the hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) has said, as something that people could always rely on.
It can be assumed, since something like 9 or 10 per cent. of old age pensioners are supplementing their pensions from public assistance, that the majority have some sort of resources to enable them to supplement their pensions. One is encouraged in this view by the figures relating to the Post Office Savings Bank. One finds that these deposits have risen between 1931 and 1936 from £290,000,000 to £432,000,000. The great bulk of these savings are those of people drawing weekly wages, and, in my judgment, what would make better provision for comfort in old age would be a continuation of the process now going on everywhere in this country, the tendency to make considerable increases in wage rates.
Very much increased wages are being paid in many industries to-day—a tendency which I hope will continue until the gap between rich and poor becomes smaller than it is now. I believe very largely in individualism. I think that 2133 every individual should have the opportunity, within reasonable limits, of working out his own salvation, and that the present old age pensions scheme does provide a reasonable foundation, which will enable each individual to build upon it according to the way which he thinks is the best and most appropriate to meet his needs.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Lathan
The speech to which we have just listened is an indication of how far from the realities, to which the Mover of the Amendment called us, some Members actually are. The speaker who has just finished indicated his belief that a considerable proportion of the money invested in the Post Office Savings Bank belonged to working people or to those who come within the category we are considering to-day. Nothing could be more remote from the fact. I wonder what sort of constituency the hon. Member represents, if he not heard of the terrible distress which numbers of old age pensioners are suffering to-day.
I represent an industrial constituency in Lancashire, which during the slump experienced great hardship. I am quite aware of the fact that there is hardship endured by a certain number of those people. My contention is that the great majority have savings.
§ Mr. Lathan
The hon. Member would find abundance of evidence, if he made inquiries, to support our contention that large numbers of old age pensioners are dependent on public assistance or the meagre resources of their family to make ends meet, in the barest sense of the term. I have in my hand one of a number of letters which I am constantly receiving from old age pensioners in my constituency—which is also an industrial constituency and is supposed to be sharing in the prosperity resulting from the rearmaments boom. The letter is written by a woman who, I am sure, would not, except under considerable stress, approach a Member of Parliament. She speaks as one who, with her husband, lived in four reigns, and she indicates the kind of difficulties they are confronted with now. I will not go into the whole letter; I will only say that, after taking everything into account, the old age pension and also all they receive from the public assistance committee, she and her husband are left 2134 at the end of the week with 13s. to maintain the pair of them and to buy all the necessities of life. She says:How is it that old people are never mentioned in the House of Commons.She has not heard the questions we are always asking in the House of Commons from this side; and it would, I am sure, disturb her and dispose of any illusions she has if she heard the replies we receive from the other side of the House. She goes on to say:Please ask Mr. Chamberlain that question. He has had a mother, and if he was like my husband, in low water, I am sure it would make him bitter.The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet, in submitting the Amendment, said that his speech had been anticipated. That is perfectly true. It was anticipated nearly 30 years ago. I, like other Members, have been refreshing myself, snore or less, by reading the Debates which took place in 1908, when the meagre provision of round about 2s. or 3s. a week—because pensions were scaled down; there was a means test—was introduced. The hon. Lady the Member for Dundee can rest assured that there was nothing in what she said of an original character. Ingenious as her observations were, they were anticipated, in varying degree, by those who at that time occupied this side of the House.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
Were the same speeches not made in 1924, and the same rebukes given to us on a different Bill by hon. Members who are now on that side of the House?
§ Mr. Lathan
The hon. Lady will forgive me if I do not pursue her down the path along which she is trying to lead me. Remember that the meagre proposals of those days amounted to a charge on the Exchequer which was estimated not to exceed £7,500,000. Notwithstanding that, we had the same cry that the country would be ruined, that friendly societies would be broken up, that all thrift would be destroyed and that it would encourage the wasteful; and the pensions were scaled down, as low in some cases as 2s. or 3s. a week. One Noble Lord said that they all desired to alleviate, as far as possible, the lot of the deserving poor. Believing, as I have no doubt he did, that there were no deserving poor, he proceeded to vote against the proposal before the House. 2135 Hon. Members on the other side may have difficulty in understanding the scheme put forward by the Labour party, although it is a little difficult for me to understand how any person of average intelligence—I want to be quite fair in the language I am using—could fail to understand it if he read it.
The Prime Minister was good enough to mention me specially in his speech at Edinburgh, assuming incorrectly that I, as treasurer of the Labour party, was wholly responsible for the scheme. I have a share in the responsibility, and I gladly admit it. While some comfort may derive to Members opposite because of their views on our scheme, there is comfort to us in the fact that there is responsible opinion of a non-Labour character which does support our view. The "Times "—not the "Daily Herald "—on 11th September, in its editorial column, delivered itself thus:The report on pensions includes a financial survey which bore the marks of a careful and objective preparation. The Labour movement has thus started a system of scientific inquiry into the policies that make up its electoral programme. It may in some instances require courage to accept the results. Certainly it did in the case of pensions.It was further stated:Theory surrendered to the plain force of facts,and the General Councilis intent on keeping its feet on solid ground.I do not claim that that involves complete acceptance or approval of our scheme, but neither do I think it would be fair to say that it is merely an expression of emotional feeling on the part of the leader-writer. It is, in fact, an expression of opinion by one who understands the question. Because it is a considered opinion, we are content to accept a judgment of that character, and believe, as all the circumstances warrant us in believing, that the scheme as propounded, and which to-day has not been disturbed substantially, is a scheme which is founded on fact, and founded upon proposals that are practical in character.
May I draw the attention of those who are offering criticism to the clear statement within the scheme itself, printed on pages which I can indicate, if desired? The figures which are used in the scheme 2136 have been compiled and given either by the Ministry of Health or by other Departments concerned, or have been obtained in answer to questions which have been raised in this House. In every case we are prepared to do what has never yet been done by the party represented by Members opposite, namely, to substantiate them and to give information as to the sources from which our figures are derived, and to accept any fair unbiased opinion in regard to their soundness or otherwise.
Questions have been raised as to the possibility—and the Prime Minister again comes in here—of trade and industry in this country bearing the strain. The strain, in so far as the proposal which for the moment is under examination is concerned, would mean a charge upon industry of approximately £25,000,000 or £26,000,000, certainly not more. The Prime Minister took the figure, derived, I believe, from Conservative speakers' notes, which are not always the most reliable guide in matters of this sort. It was a figure of £27,500,000. I am prepared, for the purpose of discussion and if the Financial Secretary to the Treasury wishes, to accept that figure and to consider it in relation to another statement which was made by the Prime Minister in this House in different circumstances only a very short time ago.
When in connection with the National Defence Contribution he was assailed with the "ruination of industry" contention by his own supporters, not quite so mildly as they have been assailing us to-day, he took the liberty to remind them that it really could not be as bad as that. He said, or words to this effect, that industry is providing profits of from between £600,000,000 and £700,000,000 per annum. We ask for less than 5 per cent. of these profits for the men and women who help to make these profits. The Prime Minister has done what none of his followers has dared to do to-day. In spite of what they may say here they have to keep their eye on the electoral position. He spoke of the proposal being in the nature of "a glittering promise." I take leave to give an entirely different interpretation. I regard it as a long overdue debt which is awaiting discharge. These poor people, endeavouring to make ends meet, with rising prices, which the Government are doing practically nothing to prevent, are faced with contingencies which it is really 2137 too cruel almost to contemplate. They have been subjected all their working lives to limitation and shortage, and here at the end of their days—and everybody can speak nice words about them now—they are being subjected to still further limitation and privation, and are being compelled to go to the public assistance committees, or alternatively, to seek the aid of their already struggling families.
I believe that this proposal is of a character that the finances of the State are well able to bear, and I believe, moreover, that the great masses of the employed portion of the country would be only too willing, if they were given the opportunity, to subscribe to a scheme of that sort. I believe, as one who for 35 years has been intimately associated with the administration of large superannuation funds, in respect of which I could stand examination by the hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) out of actual experience and not theory, that it would be possible to meet the situation without affecting their position. It would possibly improve or stabilise their position by absorbing them and bringing them into our big scheme, or, alternatively, it would be possible to do what has already been done in respect of tens of thousands of employed people in this country, namely, to provide exemption from the national scheme, through being certified as already being members of an approved and satisfactory scheme. Because I do not think for a single moment that the finances of the country cannot fully bear this strain, I have the greatest possible pleasure in supporting the Motion.
§ 6.22 p.m.
Mr. Vyvyan Adams
The House has been impressed, as indeed it always is, by the speech which has just fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Lathan). But he has no right to regard the Conservative party as the inflexible defenders of archaic privileges who allow occasional concessions to be forced from their reluctant fingers. Successive Governments have in this country built up an immense and incomparable structure of social services. His own party since the eighteenth century has been in office for a total of three years and a quarter which were not conspicuous for any remarkable legislative successes. It is the senior parties in this country who are mainly responsible, and are indeed the main architects of our social 2138 welfare to-day. I shall try to emulate the example of conciseness set by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton East (Mr. Mander), although it is true that there is no clock which I can see. But I trust that the absence of any visible clock will not lessen that brevity for which I am resolute. I expect to be down again in my place in six or seven minutes from the present.
The Amendment that we are discussing to-day states that those who support it arein favour of a further extension as and when practicable on a sound financial basisThat does not mean, I hope—I trust profoundly that it does not—jam yesterday, jam to-morrow but never jam to-day. That would be too exact an application of the gentle gradualism which since the Debate on the Address is now and for ever to be associated with the constituency of the Isle of Thanet—Half a mile in 700 years! "Let us not," says my hon. and gallant Friend with that admirable caution which so well becomes him," have a too rapid expansion of social schemes." But there is, as it happens, a class of persons who might be assisted, and assisted now by the extension of State benefit. They are at present insured but unpensioned—namely, the spinsters above the age of 55 but under the age of 65. I suggest to the Government that it would be equitable, decent and desirable to assist that group of persons to-day, since something could be done for them—as I hope to show in a moment—without any serious financial strain on the Exchequer. There are at the present time—and I think that it is a number we can regard as more or less stable—170,000 such insured spinsters. To pension them at 55 instead of at 65 as at present would mean an annual charge of £4,500,000.
May I have the attention of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, because he informed me on a recent occasion that the cost of pensioning these ladies between the age of 55 and 65—these spinsters who are at present insured—would be £13,000,000. I cannot understand why my right hon. and gallant Friend made that statement, but the Financial Secretarymoves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.That figure, I suggest, could only be reached by him or by his advisers if they 2139 include married women. But the married woman has not the same claim to a pension as the spinster at the age of 55: a married woman, obviously, has the advantage of a home and a husband, and also the contingent pension rights which accrue from her husband's insurance. Nor, as far as I am aware, is there at the present moment any large body of married women who are claiming pensions at the age of 55. They do not, in fact, often remain in industry, as spinsters have to, until this particular milestone in middle life has been reached and passed. The only class who can make with the spinsters a comparable claim are the insured and unpensioned widows. And clearly they have not the same actuarial claim as have the insured spinsters. In any case, if they were included in the scheme which I would like to see set in motion, they would not seriously increase the annual cost above £4,500,000. It is interesting to observe that a total of £42,000,000 is annually disbursed to all classes under the national contributory pensions scheme.
These facts, of which I will remind the House with the greatest possible respect, show the very small proportion of public money which is at present allotted to the insured spinsters. Men and wives pensioned at 65 receive approximately £17,000,000 per annum; widows under the Contributory Act of 1925 receive £14,000,000, and widows under the noncontributory 1929 Act approximately £9,000,000; whereas the spinsters who are pensioned at 65 only are at present in annual receipt of £2,000,000. The total number of widows in receipt of pension under the two Acts which I have just specified, reaches the relatively very high figure of 700,000. Whereas the number of spinsters in receipt of pensions from the age of 65 and onwards is no higher than 80,000. That means that there are to-day 170,000 insured spinsters over 55 and under 65 who are compelled, as it were, to drag out their declining years in loneliness and in unrelieved toil. I have made every kind of representation in favour of this limited class of persons, and it would not be a very expensive reform—£4,500,000 a year. I ventured to make a speech of substantial length —anyhow, far longer than I am going to speak to-night—on the Second Reading of the black-coated workers Insur- 2140 ance Bill. I have also submitted to the Minister questions and sent letters to the Government on this matter. Therefore, I am not going to prolong my observations to-night except to say that this comparatively small section of the community is now beyond question suffering economic hardship as well as a quite peculiar state of loneliness which, I suppose, most of us in this House cannot imagine because we can never experience it. Their lot is easily remediable by legislation and fully controllable by Parliament. So I beg His Majesty's Government to take a step which is both suggested by generosity and demanded by decency.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
I shall not detain the House for more than a few moments as there are only three points that I want to make. The first is that when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman replies for the Government, even if he cannot accept the Motion, I hope that he will not put himself in the position of holding out no hope for any improvement at all. No one has suggested in this Debate that the present rate of pension is adequate. We all know that where pensioners are living alone, or where a pensioner and his wife are both drawing the old age pension, the public assistance committee in every case has to step in when there are no other resources. In my own constituency in every case the public assistance committee has to step in, where there are no other resources, and pay an additional 5s. If the time is not held to be propitious for doing anything else, I should think that it would be quite feasible to increase the amount by 4s. or 5s. in cases where there are no other resources, and to relieve these people—they are only 10 per cent. of the old age pensioners—from what is to many of them the humiliation of having to apply for public assistance week by week. That might involve a transfer of financial burdens from the rates to the taxes, but it would not involve any increased charge on public funds as a whole.
My second point is this: What is the difference between the Motion and the Amendment? We have had a great deal of discussion to-day about the pension plans put forward by the party above the Gangway. It is perfectly legitimate that they should use this opportunity to 2141 air that plan, but we are not asked by the Motion to approve that plan or any of its details. All that we are asked to do by the Motion is to say that immediate measures should be taken to establish a scheme of pensions. Hon. Members above the Gangway do not even say that such a scheme of pensions should come into operation immediately. They do not say that the pensions should be immediately payable. They say that immediate steps should be taken to establish such a scheme. That is an important point. Assuming that, sooner or later, we are going to have a scheme, and assuming that it is going to be a contributory scheme, there is everything to be said on actuarial grounds for starting now, because to years hence, and still more 20 years hence, we shall be called upon to bear an enormously increased burden for old age dependence. It is estimated that in 1946 there will he 1, 000,000 more people over 65 than there were in 1936. It has been estimated that the percentage of persons over 65 will be twice as high in 1966 as it was in 1931. That is to say, the longer we wait the more difficult it will become to initiate a contributory scheme, because the higher the proportion we have to budget for the smaller will be the proportion of younger people to help to carry the burden. Therefore, if the Government contemplate at any time within the next 10 or 15 years initiating a scheme of contributory pensions, it would be reasonable for them to start building up their fund as soon as possible, so that those who will be later coming on to the fund will be making some contribution towards their own pension.
My third point is this: A good deal of attention has been devoted to this question by all parties, and in particular by an organisation known as the Liberal National party. At their last annual conference in Peebles the Scottish Liberal National Association passed a resolution in favour, among other things, of an increase of old age pensions, and the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) has been going round the County of Fife for weeks making speeches to old age pensioners in favour of higher pensions. He and his colleagues have got a good deal of publicity by action of this kind. There are five hon. Members entitled to speak in this House for the Scottish Liberal National Association, and 2142 it ought to be put on record that not a single one of those five—the Minister of Labour, the hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Lieut.-Colonel Kerr), the hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. MacDonald), the hon. Member for East Fife, and the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Fildes)—has even taken the trouble to attend this Debate or to listen to anything that has been said.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I have only five minutes in which to speak, because I understand that the Financial Secretary desires to rise at 20 minutes to seven. I believe in keeping promises and I shall not occupy more than five minutes. Before coming to this House I spent 25 years in several workshops. A large amount of that time was spent in one of the largest factories in the country. As a result of that experience I know the men and women of this country fairly well, and I have sufficient confidence in them to believe that when an issue is put to them in a straightforward way, without any bias by the Press or without any bias by other interested parties, they will come down in support of our policy and principles. A few days ago I made a suggestion to the Prime Minister that he should consult with the British Broadcasting Corporation as to whether the proceedings of this House might be broadcast. As I sat here this afternoon listening to the speeches of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald), the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell), the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour), and the hon. Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh), I wished that the people of the country could have heard those speeches broadcast, in which case I should have been prepared to leave the issue to them, because I have sufficient confidence in them to say without hesitation that they would have come down on our side.
I am concerned with the immediate needs of old men and old women. I do not speak of them as "these people" or as being in a different category from myself. I am one of their category. I am concerned with the anomalies mentioned in the Motion. Is any hon. or right hon. Member prepared to say that 10s. a week is sufficient for an old age pension? In the Army, the Navy and the Air Force men are pensioned after 10 or 20 years' service, whereas the 2143 people to whom we belong, who have made this country great and have been responsible for the building up of the country, are only entitled to 10s. a week old age pension, after serving 50 or 60 years in industry.
The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet jibed at this party by suggesting that it must have cost £20 in order to find clothes for the men and women on the photograph at the back of our pamphlet. My reply is this. I occasionally read the Sunday "Observer," not very often, because it is a Fascist periodical, and I also read the Sunday "Times." Sunday after Sunday I find advertised in the Sunday "Times" and the "Observer" fur coats to be sold in London for £500 and £750. The same people who purchase those fur coats buy diamonds, pearls and plumes, which are advertised in the same newspapers. The people who are responsible for supporting the policy outlined in those newspapers are the same people who are opposing our Motion to-day; the same people who deny a decent pension to men and women after serving industry for 50 years and upwards.
If there is one committee that will be pleased with the result of this Debate it is the Labour Publications Department. A great advertisement has been given to our pensions plan to-day, and I hope that as a result more and more people will read that plan. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) reminds me that we might use the capitalist idea of advertising by saying that everybody is reading our publication now. When the Financial Secretary replies he will probably call attention to another publication of ours with regard to those who have made greater Britain. From now onwards, as a result of Continental experience, we say that the working people of this country have made Britain great, and the only policy that will make our country great is the policy outlined in our plan.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Lieut.-Colonel Colville)
The House always considers itself fortunate when the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) is selected, by ballot or other methods of selection, to put a case before us. He does it in a way that always 2144 commands our respect. The speech of the hon. Member and the speech of the Seconder of the Motion, and also the speeches of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) and the hon. Lady the senior Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) have all been on such a high level that the Front Bench representatives will have to make notable contributions to equal those speeches from a Parliamentary point of view.
I shall not be able in the time at my disposal to answer all the questions that have been put, for I should like to analyse the scheme which hon. Members opposite have put forward; but I must follow the hon. Member for Ince in one or two points. He gave a historical review of the attitude of the Conservative party in the matter of pensions, but he stopped his review too early. He stopped before 1919, when a Government which had a very large Conservative backing increased the pension to 10s. That may be represented as a Measure partly due to the cost of living, which had risen considerably at that time, but when we come to 1925, a date which the hon. Member apparently did not recollect, a very great Measure of social reform, the Contributory Pensions Act, was passed by a purely Conservative Government, led by Mr. Baldwin, as he was then. The Socialist party have yet to contribute to the Statute Book an Act of social reform equal to the Contributory Pensions Act which was passed by a purely Conservative Government.
The hon. Member's main theme was his party's new pension plan, and he asked me questions in regard to what he described as anomalies. These points were also raised by other hon. Members. The first point was as to the cost of giving pensions to pensioners' wives who are under 65 years of age. The cost of granting pensions to the wives of contributory pensioners with no lower limit of age where the wife has not attained the age of 65 would be £6,500,000 in a year, rising to £8,000,000 in 10 years' time. If the concession were restricted to wives of 60 years or over, the cost would be £3,750,000 in a year, rising to £4,750,000 in 10 years. I am sorry that I cannot without notice give the comparable figure with regard to a lower limit of 55 years of age. But we cannot consider these cases in isolation. Consequential 2145 extensions must also be considered. The hon. Member for Dundee and the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. V. Adams) have again urged the case of the spinsters. The case of wives cannot be dealt with without also considering the case of spinsters. Contrary views are held on the subject. Some people consider that spinsters have the stronger case, but at the present moment I am not dealing with that aspect of the matter. As Financial Secretary to the Treasury I am concentrating on the cost. If you take all the items together the cost might be £13,000,000 now, and £16,000,000 10 years hence.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Colville
Taking the cost without a lower limit of age it would be £6,500,000 a year for the wives, and then you have to consider the consequential extensions. Taking as well the scheme for spinsters and widows who are in insurable employment and wives who are in insurable employment, the cost might be as much as £13,000,000.
§ Mr. Dalton
These figures are very interesting to us. The Financial Secretary is taking the case without a lower limit and he is, therefore, taking the case of a young wife of 21 who is married to a man who is just about to get the pension. On the other hand, he has now put in consequential spinsters also without a lower limit of age.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Colville
No, I beg pardon. The figure included for spinsters was at the age of 55. I am sure hon. Members will not expect me to announce a reversal of the decision which has already been communicated to the House that in present circumstances this expenditure cannot be undertaken. The hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) indulged in a flight of oratory and referring to the speech of the Prime Minister said that the exterior of the Prime Minister had no more soul than the teddy bear appearing on the outside of the pamphlet. We can forgive the hon. Member his flight of oratory, but when he makes such a reference in connection with a man who has such a record in Parliamentary and municipal life as the Prime Minister, a record which will compare with any other man's record in the sphere of social improvement, then, I think, he was not the best selection hon. Members opposite could 2146 have made as a seconder for the Amendment.
§ Mr. Quibell
I, also, have had 30 years in municipal life, but I have not had so much advertisement as the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Colville
I think the record of my right hon. Friend can be left confidently to Parliament and to the country. What I want to do is to dispel any idea that this country is not already making a great contribution towards pensions. The cost of pensions, old age and widows' pensions, has been steadily growing. To-day it is £92,000,000, and of that total the Exchequer contribution is £63,000,000. The comparable figure for 1930, a year when hon. Members opposite were in office, was £72,000,000. Therefore, it shows considerable growth, and it ill becomes hon. Members opposite who were doing less in the matter of pensions to criticise the Government for what they are doing. Before the 1925 Act came into operation the sum was £27,500,000—and that Act was passed by a Conservative Government. Hon. Members will see that there has been a great growth in the expenditure on pensions during the last 12 or 13 years. This will continue to increase as I shall show later.
These pensions are in many cases supplemented by voluntary contributory schemes arranged between employers and employed. These also are increasing; and we desire that they should increase. The Government bless them not only with good words, but also by Income Tax concessions. The contributions of employers and employed, and any investment income of the pension fund are exempt from Income Tax. We deliberately en-courage these schemes. Again, the National Government have filled a real gap in the pensions scheme by the Act which was passed this year, giving a right to make voluntary contributions to persons with small incomes, whether working on their own or not. Since that Act has been in operation many applications have been received. The popularity of the scheme is demonstrated by the fact that over 100,000 applications for inclusion have been received, and the number is increasing.
§ Mr. Lathan
Am I correct in saying that, apart from the original entrants, the cost will fall on the contributing members?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Colville
Had it not been for the State it would not be possible to give them the same benefits as they are being given.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Colville
I think the hon. Member will see that the State's scheme is much more generous to contributors than the proposals the Labour party are making. The Motion contemplates a retirement of older workers from industry and the hon. Member for Ince believed it would be 250,000.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Colville
Yes, that 250,000 jobs would be found as a result of the retirement. I think the hon. Member is optimistic. There are at present in insurable employment over 65 years of age about 340,000 people altogether, 285,000 men and 60,000 women, and it is rather optimistic to assume that within that number the inducement of £1 is going to make vacancies which will be filled by 250,000 new entrants. That will require a good deal of examination. A doubt has been expressed as to whether such an inducement would lead to anything like that number of cases, and I strongly question whether a figure of anything like 250,000 new jobs would be found as a result of the Labour scheme.
It would clearly be impossible to limit the increase to those who stop work now; obviously it would have to be available for them whenever they stopped. The proposal of hon. Members opposite is really this: the doubling of all pensions subject to the condition that the recipient does not work while he is drawing his pension. Purely from the aspect of facilitating and encouraging retirement, is it really sound policy to give a 100 per cent. increase in pensions to the 2,500,000 pensioners for the purpose of persuading a much smaller number to retire? I am not denying that the increase itself would be welcome. I am not arguing that—I am arguing the point whether to facilitate retirement it is sound policy to give an increase of 100 per cent. all round for the purpose of persuading a small number to retire. Hon. Members opposite have invited me 2148 to analyse their scheme. The hon. Member for Ince said the scheme of pensions at 60 had been dropped. and that we could taunt them if we liked. I do not propose to taunt hon. Members, but we had to meet this policy on every platform during the election. They have changed their views. They have recognised that the scheme is not practical, and I take it, if they recognise that the present scheme is also not practical, they will change their views upon it as well.
Under the teddy bear pamphlet, as explained by a later broadsheet, the additional cost is to be met by increased contributions, the maxima being 2s. for men and 1s. 9d. for women to be shared between employers and employed, but there would be a State contribution of £25,000,000. This raises an important point of principle which has not been touched upon so far. Obviously when benefits under a pensions scheme are increased, there is a heavy initial capital loss, because benefits are extended at once to older contributors who have not paid contributions or many contributions towards the cost of the uncovenanted benefits—and I presume the intention of hon. Members opposite is to extend the benefits at once. For the younger men, the ultimate increased cost is met largely by increased contributions during a longer period. This loss must be borne by someone—and this is the point which has been missed by almost all hon. Members. Hitherto the State contributory schemes have been on the basis that you cannot ask contributors to pay for more than they actually receive. In other words, we make an actuarial calculation and charge contributors contributions appropriate to the benefits they stand to gain. An example of this was the 1925 scheme. This basis—and I think it is the only fair one—means that the initial loss to which I have referred is borne by the State.
The Labour plan is very different. They propose an arbitrary increased contribution designed, together with an Exchequer subvention, to bring in the amount necessary to meet the increased cost of their plan, and in no way mathematically linked with the benefits which the contributor himself stands to gain. This means that the capital loss, or a large part of it, is being borne not by the State, but by present and future contributors. What it would mean if the scheme was accepted is that young men would be taxed for the 2149 rest of their lives to pay for present benefits to older men. This scheme of the Labour party is fundamentally unsound in this direction and differs entirely from previous schemes, because it is going to tax younger men throughout their contributing lives for benefits given to older men now. The Treasury is sometimes regarded as being skinflint, but the Treasury, in examining the finance of this plan, is bound to approach that examination in a different spirit.
I have worked out figures showing what is a fair additional contribution to cover benefits to the contributors under the Labour plan. It is 1s. 1d. for men to be divided between employers and employed, against the Socialist proposal of 2s. and 1s. 9d. On the basis of contributions which I have explained, I will now give the House figures showing the cost of the Labour scheme. Pensions on the existing basis in the present year amount to £92,000,000, of which contributions bring in £29,000,000, and the net cost to the Exchequer is £63,000,000. The new scheme would add immediately £75,000,000, of which the contributions on the basis that I have suggested would bring in £34,000,000. The net additional cost to the Exchequer would be not £25,000,000 but £41,000,000. This has been very carefully worked out in view of this Debate. I am giving figures which have been carefully calculated for the purpose of showing how the scheme would work if worked out on the same basis as previous schemes which are regarded as fair to the contributors. If the new scheme was introduced to-morrow the total cost would be £167,000,000, towards which contributions would be £63,000,000 and the net cost to the Exchequer £104,000,000. But we must think not only of to-day but of the future in any pensions scheme that we set up. The automatic growth of the present scheme is of an extent that is not always realised. Even if we did nothing to increase benefits, the cost is bound to rise steadily owing to altering age groups. In go years' time—I may be asked why I have taken such a long period—it is because to years may be regarded as rather under the average period of a man's contribution. A young man going into insurance now will be drawing his old age pension in about 40 years' time. I have, therefore, taken that as a convenient figure.
2150 In 40 years time existing pensions will cost £147,000,000 if no change is made. Contributions will bring in £34,000,000. So in any case, even supposing that no improvement at any time is made in the pensions scheme, the inevitable net cost to the Exchequer at that time would be £113,000,000. Consider the effect of adding the new scheme. That scheme's present cost of £75,000,000 will rise steadily by about £10,000,000 every decade. In 40 years it will cost £112,000,000, towards which contributions will bring in £31,000,000, leaving £8r,000,000 for the Exchequer. If we consider, as we are bound to consider, the total cost that the State will be meeting by the time present young men are receiving benefit, we find ourselves faced under the Socialist scheme with a growth of the net cost to the Exchequer of these pensions from the present figure of £63,000,000 to no less than £194,000,000—more than treble. The total burden on the workers will be more than double what it is to-day even on the reduced contributions I have referred to. The contributions from employers and employed will bring in £65,000,000 and the total expenditure will be £259,000,000 as against £92,000,000 to-day. These are enormous figures, but they do not include the heavy additional cost of meeting many of the anomalies which would arise. Hon. Members have pointed out that the scheme is full of anomalies. Many of them would have to be met by extra expenditure—spinsters, widows under 65, the chronically unemployed between 60 and 65 and so on. These huge figures take no account of such extra expenditure, which has not been faced up to but which would have to be met.
Furthermore we must consider the whole picture. The Labour plan is said to be balanced with the rest of their programme of reform. Pensions in this year cost a little over a quarter of the money that we spend on the social services. We have other important social services besides pensions. Are they also to be increased proportionately? When this figure of £259,000,000 is borne in mind the phrase that it balances with the rest of the Labour party's programme must also be borne in mind. The pamphlet that has been referred to says that the plan is to be accompanied by increased 2151 provision for invalidity, and that the pension scheme has been balanced with other reforms, including further expenditure on education with maintenance allowances, nutrition, health services, improved conditions for the unemployed, the rehabilitation of the depressed areas and other things. We are getting very near to the figure that the hon. Member for the Park Division (Mr. Lathan) mentioned as the profits of industry, £600,000,000 to £700,000,000. If the Labour party got into power there would be no profit in industry at all. I should be glad if hon. Members will answer this. How do they propose to balance this immense expenditure on pensions with the rest of their re-forms? Mention has been made of pamphlets and broadsheets. I do not think that any one party is guiltless in the matter of trying to produce attractive pamphlets to interest the electors, but when I read this other pamphlet and its promises I find only one thing lacking, that is, the complete absence of any reference to finance except a proposal to nationalise the Bank of England, which would in my opinion have the result of blowing the rest of the programme sky high. We must consider the financial obligations of the country as a whole in viewing the Motion. This year the proposed estimated national expenditure is £862,000,000, not including the £80,000,000 borrowed under the Defence Loans Act. For social services the figure is £215,000,000. That is many millions more than has ever been spent by any previous administration on the social services. It is more than the party opposite spent when they were in office. That covers old age and widows' pensions, housing, health, unemployment insurance and assistance and education. By contrast, in 1925 the same group cost just over £100,000,000. In 1930 the comparable figure was £155,000,000, to which in fairness must be added £36,000,000 of borrowed money for the Unemployment Fund during that year.
Turning to the Defence Estimates, this year they are £278,000,000. That is about £90,000,000 more than last year. £80,000,000 comes from the National Defence Loan. Hon. Members may say that if it were not for this expenditure we could spend more on the social services, but they cannot deny that Defence expenditure on this scale is necessary; there- 2152 fore, we have to face up to these facts. The Labour party when in office felt themselves unable to face the charges that they are asking us to face when they had not this heavy defence expenditure to meet. The Amendment faces reality. The Government has given abundant proof of its will to maintain and extend the pension scheme as well as other social services when possible, but that extension and maintenance, if they are to be secure and permanent, must rest on the basis of sound finance, without which the whole structure would crumble, and in the crumbling of that structure it is just those people with small fixed incomes whom the Motion wishes to help who would be most grievously affected. I urge the House to support the Amendment, which is not unsympathetic, but which faces squarely the fundamental issues.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
The short point is, Does the Government, or does it not, propose to do anything to improve the condition of the old people? The answer is short, and it is No. We have had that from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and we had it from the Prime Minister at Scarborough. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said he could not announce any reversal of the decision that nothing whatever could be done. We have put up specific proposals. They may be right or wrong, sound or unsound, but they are clear, and a great deal of labour has been spent on them and they were accepted unanimously without a single dissentient vote at the recent Conference of the Labour party. We are to-day almost engaged in a rehearsal of some of the performances of the next General Election. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour) and the hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh)— she is the rasher of the two, because her majority is more precarious—dashed into the fray in opposition to what has been picturesquely called the "teddy bear plan." They are asked a reasonable question which I will answer. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked what we meant by immediate. Did we mean this to be a scheme for immediate application so far as benefits and contributions are concerned? Our answer is that we mean immediately in both senses as soon as the country has given us the opportunity to carry out this scheme. The choice before 2153 the country is this scheme or nothing, and we believe that the country will prefer this scheme to nothing.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman gave the House some Treasury arguments supplied to him by clever officials, and I have no doubt that if we were sitting on that bench, the same Treasury officials would, on request, supply equally ingenious arguments in support of our case. Civil servants honestly serve their masters of whatever political colour, and they would give us just as good, just as ingenious and just as plausible a brief in support of this scheme as they have given to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. Therefore, I dismiss all the Treasury intellectual arguments in which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman indulged in the later part of his speech—the argument that if we were to have benefits of this kind there would be a greatly increased charge on the Treasury and various far-fetched arguments of that nature. I dismiss those arguments from consideration this evening, because in the case of the definite scheme which we put before the House and before the country —not a hypothetical scheme prepared cry Treasury officials—the Treasury officials will prepare plans for us when we are 'n office to carry out the scheme.
I would like to say a word or two in reply to the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Thank about the capital loss, a point which was also made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. Our plan is designed to balance over a Io-year period on a given scheme of contributions and benefit. It is worked out on the basis of the average cost over a 10-year period, a period during which, as all hon. Members know, there will he a very great change, and the aged will become more numerous and the young less numerous. That fact underlies any discussion of these questions. 'We may regret it, but we must make provision for it according to our power. Our estimates are that there will be, over a 10-year period, a complete balance in the fund. In the earlier years there will be a surplus of income over expenditure which will meet any deficiency in the latter part. We deliberately state that we do not consider it is practical politics at this stage to go beyond a 10 years' survey. It might well be that in the course of such a period the situation would become different and adjustments in the plan would 2154 be needed. But we consider that it is not shortsighted to take a 10-year period.
The hon. Lady the Member for Dundee asked some questions about various anomalies. She was deeply concerned by the thought that if the whole of our scheme were carried out, and if we advanced, as it were, to a new frontier, there would be anomalies on that frontier. There will always be anomalies on any frontier. In social reforms one is always able to discover difficult cases, and that will be so until we reach a classless equalitarian society in a Socialist commonwealth. [Interruption.]That will come, whether hon. Members like it or not. Then the anomalies will finally disappear. I am sure that the hon. Lady will admit that there are great anomalies now. The most stark of those anomalies would be removed under our scheme. It might well be that after it had been in operation, new anomalies would appear. If the hon. Lady is still a Member of the House when a Labour Government puts the scheme into operation, I hope she will assist that Government to go further and to remove those anomalies.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I am helping hon. Members opposite now by pointing out the anomalies, so that the people of the country will not suffer from them in that scheme.
§ Mr. Dalton
We are grateful to the hon. Lady. The fact that a few anomalies might exist is no reason for not making substantial progress in the right direction, and the mere fact that one person might be jealous—and might have a good case in equity for a share in some scheme —is no argument against conferring the benefit upon a very much larger number of people. We propose a substantial and clear-cut advance with regard to pensions provisions in a number of specific cases. I am delighted, as a Member of the National Executive of the party, and I am sure my delight is less than that of my hon. Friend the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Lathan), who is treasurer of the party, by the splendid publicity which is being given both to the teddy bear pamphlet and the equally attractive document which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman showed to the House during his speech. I hope that the one hon. Member who has spoken and who has not yet furnished himself with copies of these literary gems will take 2155 early steps to do so. We intend that the proposals which my hon. Friend has explained this afternoon shall be kept continuously before the country until the next General Election comes.
I wish now to say a few words as to the cost of this scheme. We have been very careful, first, to make our proposals specific as far as benefits are concerned, and, secondly, to make our estimate of the total cost as accurate as we can. I assure the hon. Lady the Member for Dundee that we have not put in our proposals a single figure which has not been vouched for officially in one way or another. The hon. Lady raised a query about the pension to be given to a married woman of 55 whose husband is 65 years of age. She was not sure whether the figure was accurate, but I think the figures mentioned by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on that same subject will have reassured her and led her to see that our estimate is pretty accurate. Indeed, I do not mind stating that our figure on that point is based upon Treasury data, and therefore I think it is reliable. The hon. Lady also raised the question of the cost of transferring from the Unemployment Assistance Board roll to the pensions roll people of 60 years of age and over when one is satisfied that they are unlikely to obtain work. I am not sure that the hon. Lady appreciated the fact that those on the Unemployment Assistance Board roll are paid out of the Treasury now.
§ Mr. Dalton
It varies according to the dependants, the family, and so on. Whatever the figure may be, it as ascertainable. Consequently, the additional cost to the fund will be in respect of the increase and not of the total amount.
§ Mr. Dalton
The reason the cost is not quite clear is that one cannot be definite without knowing what will be the state of trade and whether anything will be done to rehabilitate the distressed areas. It is not possible to make any estimate of the exact number of people in the 60–65 group who would be transferred, and it would be misleading to include 2156 any fixed figure. There is one other point to which I wish to refer concerning the cost. It is not the case—and this document does not state that it is—that the cost would require both an Exchequer contribution in the neighbourhood of £25,000,000 and contributory payments from the employers and employed of 2s. a week. It would not require both. The figures are clearly set out.
An interesting fact which emerges is that those who drafted this document very wisely refuse to say, in conditions which cannot at the moment be exactly foreseen, precisely how this total should be divided between the Treasury, the employers and the employed. For reasons which are set out in the pamphlet, and which I will not state now, as I have not the time, but which hon. Members who have the pamphlet will be able to read on pages 28 and 29, it would be very mistaken policy, and would in fact be dishonest as well as stupid, for us to attempt to give precise indications as to how that burden would be divided. What we do estimate—and this is a figure by which we are prepared to stand—is that in the extreme case of not a penny coming out of the Budget towards pensions improvements—and this is given only for illustrative purposes because naturally it is contemplated that there will be some contribution from that source—if there were an additional 1s. per employé paid by each employer, 1s. per male employee paid by himself and 9d. per female employee paid by herself, the total revenue would more than cover the £85,000,000 a year which we estimate as the total cost of the scheme. That is the extreme in one direction.
The extreme in the other direction, which we rule out as being quite out of the question, is that the whole £85,000,000 would come from the Budget and that nothing would be contributed by the employer and the employé. In truth, some variant between those two extremes will be the right decision when the moment comes; but in so far as one assumes that there is a contribution from the State of £25,000,000—the figure of £25,000,000 has been thrown out in debate as a pure illustration and does not commit anyone —that will be very nearly equal to one-third of the total cost, and will mean that there will have to be an additional contribution not of 1s., but of only 8d. 2157 or thereabouts, in respect of each employer and employé. The fact that the finance has been worked out in this careful way should, I think, be further evidence to those hon. Members whose minds are open on the subject that this scheme is worthy of very careful consideration.
The benefits to be conferred have already been enumerated, and in the time at my disposal I will say only one final word on the question of the inducement to retire. In so far as hon. Members are right in supposing that the inducements which we offer would be insufficient, correspondingly the cost of the scheme would fall, and it would become, from the financial point of view, more easy to carry out. The inducement which is offered is the difference between 10s. for
§ a man and 35s. for a man and his wife. That is the degree of difference. The final point I wish to emphasise is that over and above any inducement to retire, important though that is, is the lifting of the standard of life of the aged people of this country from the miserable conditions of poverty and semi-starvation in which great numbers live to-day, and making it possible for them, in the evening of their days, to look back upon a life of toil from an ultimate position of reasonable comfort and contentedness. That we shall continue, until and after the General Election, everywhere to advocate.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 144; Noes, 181.2159
|Division No. 35.]||AYES.||[7.30 p.m.|
|Adams. D. (Consett)||Hayday, A.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Riley, B.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ritson, J.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hills, A, (Pontefract)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Holdsworth, H.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hopkin, D.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Barr, J.||Jagger, J.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Batey, J.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Seely, Sir H. M|
|Benson, G.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Bevan, A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Shinwell, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, J. J. (Silvertown)||Short, A.|
|Bromfield, W.||Kelly, W. T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Burke, W. A.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Chater, D.||Lathan, G.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cove, W. G.||Leach, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lee, F.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees. (K'ly)|
|Daggar, G.||Leonard, W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Dalton, H.||Leslie, J. R.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Logan D. G.||Stephen, C.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lunn, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Day, H.||McEntee, V. La T.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Dobbie, W.||McGhee, H. G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||MacLaren, A.||Thorne, W.|
|Ede, J. C.||Maclean, N.||Thurtle, E.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Viant, S. P.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Mander, G. le M.||Walker, J.|
|Foot, D. M.||Marshall, F.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Frankel, D.||Mathers, G.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Gallacher, W.||Maxton, J.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Messer, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Milner, Major J.||White, H. Graham|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Montague, F.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Muff, G.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Naylor, T. E.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Griffiths. G. A. (Hemsworth)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Oliver, G. H.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Owen, Major G.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Paling, W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hardie, Agnes||Parker, J.||Mr. Gordon Macdonald and Mr.|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Quibell.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Price, M. P.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Fildes, Sir H.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Fleming, E. L.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Orr-Ewing, I. L|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Furness, S. N.||Peaks, O.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Porritt, R. W.|
|Balniel, Lord||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Gledhill, G.||Radford, E. A.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portom'h)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Bea, Sir A. L.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Robinson, J. F. (Blackpool)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Grimston, R. V.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Boulton, W. W.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Russell, R. J. (EddisburY)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Salt, E. W.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Briscoe, Capt. F. G.||Hambro, A. V.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Brooklebank, Sir Edmund||Harbord, A.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Savery, Sir Servington|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Scott, Lord William|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Butler, R. A.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Cary, R. A.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Higgs, W. F.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Channon, H.||Hopkinson, A.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Hume, Sir G. H.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Spens, W. P.|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Kimball, L.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D J.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Lees-Jones, J.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Groper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Liddall, W. S.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Lindsay, K. M.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Groom-Johnson, R. P.||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Cross, R. H.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Train, Sir J.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Locker-Lampoon, Comdr. O. S.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||McCorquodale, M. S.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander F. L.|
|De Chair, S. S.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Turton, R. H.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||McKie, J. H.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Donner, P. W.||Macquisten, F. A.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Drewe, C.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Marsden, Commander A.||Williams, H. C. (Croydon, S.)|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Maxwell, Hon. S A.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Moreing, A. C.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Elmley, Viscount||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Emmett. C. E. G. C.||Munro, P.||Miss Horsbrugh and Captain H.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Balfour.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
§ Question proposed, "That the proposed words be there added."
§ It being after half-past Seven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.