§ Considered in Committee. (Progress, 28th February.)
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]
§ CLAUSE 8.—(Supplementation of old age pensions and widows' pensions.)
§ 4 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
On a point of Order. I understand that you do not propose to call the Amendment in my name which stands first on the Order Paper, and which proposes to insert a new Sub-section (1) in the place of that which is now in the Clause. I do not wish to ask the reasons for this decision, as I understand the Chairman is entitled to select Amendments, but I should like to put this point—
§ The Chairman
In this case I can give the hon. Member the reason. It is not a case of selection. The Amendment is not being called because it is out of Order.
§ Mr. Gallacher
May I ask you, Sir Dennis, whether you are aware that this Amendment represents the demands which the Old Age Pensioners Association, representing the pensioners themselves, has been making for the past three years?
§ The Chairman
I am afraid that does not affect the position. I have to deal with the matter according to the Rules of the House.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not desirable to place on record the fact that the demand made by the old age pensioners themselves is considered to be out of Order?
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I beg to move, in page 6, line 4, to leave out "(not being a blind person)."
I move this Amendment solely for the purpose of obtaining information. I do not propose to press it to a Division, but I wish to ask the Minister of Health, or whoever replies, to state the precise reasons which have prompted the 2288 Government to omit from the operation of this Measure persons who are in receipt of pensions because of the fact that they are blind.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Colville)
The right hon. Gentleman, in moving his Amendment, said that he did so for the purpose of eliciting from the Government a statement of the reasons why blind persons have not been included in the scope of Part II of the Bill for supplementary allowances. I am glad to give the explanation for which he has asked, and I think it is one which will fully satisfy the Committee. Under the Blind Persons Act, 1938, a blind person is entitled to draw a non-contributory old age pension at the age of 40 where other persons draw such pensions only at the age of 70. Under the Blind Persons Act, 1920, as amended by the Act of 1938, it is the duty of local authorities to make arrangements for promoting the welfare of the blind, including the provision of financial assistance and a number of other forms of assistance. That assistance is provided under the Blind Persons Act and is not given by way of poor relief. The purpose of Part II of the Bill is to assist a number of people who at present have their pensions augmented by public assistance authorities, actually as poor relief, and it has been represented to us among other reasons why the proposed change should be made, that a certain stigma attaches to that form of relief.
In the case of the blind, however, the assistance which is given to them is under other Acts of Parliament and that assistance, as I say, includes other types of assistance as well as domiciliary assistance. For example, apart from the local authorities, a network of organisations for the assistance of the blind has grown up in the country. These include voluntary agencies, such as the Outdoor Mission for the Blind, which receive grants from local authorities; clinics for the prevention and treatment of blindness and workshops in which the blind are employed. There are also schemes for the home teaching of the blind to fit them for various crafts; for the marketing of goods made by blind persons, and for the provision of books in Braille for the blind. All these various activities are in addition to the domiciliary assistance given to the blind, and they 2289 take the form of a scheme of blind welfare. In the view of the Government it would be inappropriate that that scheme, which, on the whole, works fairly and well, should be changed by the method which is employed in this Bill for dealing with old age pensions generally. I do not argue the point about the demand on the local authorities because we are saving the local authorities considerable expense in another way but we feel that, in the interests of the blind people themselves, and recognising that they are to-day receiving not only domiciliary assistance in money, but assistance in many other ways, it is not desirable that the administration should be changed as regards the blind. Therefore we have not included them in the scope of Part II of the Bill.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Messer
I am not sure that the statement just made by the Secretary of State for Scotland meets the case with reference to the treatment of the blind. One of the things which could have been said about the Act of 1938 was that while it reduced the age at which blind people could receive their pensions, it left untouched the anomaly that a vast variety of schemes prevailed throughout the country for the provision of assistance of the blind. The right hon. Gentleman, in referring to these various activities, seemed to suggest that they represented a general scheme, but that is not by any means the truth of the situation, because the agencies—very largely irresponsible and indiscriminate—which undertake this blind relief work are not bound to do what they are doing, and they do it in varying degrees in different parts of the country. For instance, in the three county areas of Lincolnshire three different schemes are in operation. The Government have never attempted to unify or to level up the various schemes of assistance for blind people. I do not suggest that this Amendment would have that effect, but while I am not by any means favourably disposed to the proposed new Assistance Board, yet it will be a national authority, and the supplementation of pensions will be placed by it on a general level over the whole country. One very important thing would have been done in regard to the pensions of blind people, if they were given the right to apply for supplementation of pension to the Assistance Board.
2290 The situation at present is that there is in existence a domiciliary assistance scheme. In the main, the domiciliary assistance which is granted by county and borough councils is granted to people of what may be termed "the trainable age." Under a certain age people who have been born blind or who have gone blind early in life are still at an adaptable stage of their development, and it is possible to train them and that training may give them some capacity for earning money. But everybody knows that, with few exceptions, they cannot earn enough to maintain themselves. There are a few exceptions, such as those who can fit themselves for pianoforte tuning or typewriting or some other specialised occupation but in the general run of the crafts open to blind people such as basket-making and mat-making, they cannot earn enough to keep themselves. Local authorities are authorised in those cases to give augmentation.
In regard to the people who draw the pension at 40, we find that in many cases the supplementation which may be derived from public funds varies considerably throughout the country. The inclusion of blind people in the scope of the Bill would be a step in the direction of bringing these supplementations up to a general national level—though it would not accomplish that purpose entirely—and it is eminently desirable that such a step should be taken. There are several instances at present of adjacent counties in one of which the domiciliary assistance may be 27s. 6d.—that is, the income can be made up to that amount—while in the other it may be as low as 15s. That is indefensible, and there is no ground of logic for the continuance of such a system. I would have preferred to have found in this Bill some tendency to deal not only with those anomalies but with other anomalies relating to pensions generally. The Amendment would, at any rate, be in the direction of a unification, which is eminently desirable.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Macdonald
If it can be shown that the exclusion of blind people from this Bill is solely on the ground that they are better treated under the existing system than they would be under the Bill, then I shall be satisfied, but any other explanation of their omission would be unacceptable. It is because I have some doubt on that point that I wish for 2291 further information from the right hon. Gentleman. I find that blind people in one section of the area which I represent are treated very differently from those in another section, because they come under different public bodies. Is it not possible to deal with that state of affairs in this Bill? I agree that it might be difficult to do so in a Measure of this kind, but I think something ought to be done. I find blind people complaining that the allowances which they receive now are insufficient to meet their needs, and when I first saw this Bill I thought if the blind people were brought under it, there was a chance that with the additional allowances they would be in a better position than they are in to-day. The right hon. Gentleman has stated clearly that in his opinion they get better treatment under the existing Acts for the care of the blind than they would under this Bill, and if that be the case I would prefer that they should remain as they are. I agree with what has been said about the agencies which are helping to meet the demands of the blind, but I am not satisfied that the treatment which the blind are getting now could not be improved under the Bill.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Colville
The hon. Members who have spoken have very rightly expressed the desire which everyone has that the blind should receive the best treatment possible. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) asked me, in effect, whether the blind people would lose or gain by being brought within the scope of the Bill. I think they would lose, because at the present time the treatment which is given to the blind all over the country by the local authorities working in co-operation with the various agencies which have been mentioned, is, in the main, not ungenerous. I agree that there may be cases in which that treatment could be improved, but I think it is the case that in the majority of the large boroughs and also in a number of the counties now, blind persons get a matter of 27s. 6d. a week and in other areas the assistance is fixed at a rate which exceeds, usually by as much as 5s. per week, the amount which would normally be granted to the recipient of ordinary poor relief. Of course, the Assistance Board, in dealing with pensions and in giving supplementary pensions, are to have very 2292 flexible powers, but I think that in the case of the blind it is more in their interests that we should maintain the arrangements for their care which at present exist. I do not know how far I could go on this occasion in discussing the operation of the Blind Persons Act. I do not think I could go very far without being out of Order, but perhaps I may be allowed to add to what I have already said that I agree with hon. Members opposite that there is room for improvement in certain parts of the country in the position of the blind and that I am anxious to do my utmost in that direction.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
It may not be convenient to bring the blind within the scope of the Bill, but at the same time the State has recognised the special disability of the blind by entitling them to an old age pension at an earlier age than the ordinary old age pensioner. It is true that the law makes provision for domiciliary assistance, but that falls on the rates, and there is no uniformity of treatment. One of the principles of Part II of the Bill, as I understand, is that there will be some uniformity of treatment. Surely it is difficult to justify leaving the blind out of the Bill altogether and leaving them to the good will and generosity of a local authority. It is one of the claims of the Bill that it takes old age pensioners away from local authorities. It does not satisfy me for the State to provide the blind with books in Braille, because they do not appease hunger. While I do not fancy the blind being subjected to the imposition which the Bill imposes, the Government have not recognised that old people ought not to be a burden on local rates. I think they might have made some kind of effort to deal with the blind, who have been treated as a special case and are drawing pensions years earlier than the ordinary old age pensioner.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Can we have an assurance that the scheme dealing with the blind shall be made obligatory on local authorities? At the present time they can refuse.
§ The Chairman
I think possibly I ought to have called the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) to Order or interrupted him. This question seems to me to raise a point which would necessitate an alteration of the Blind Persons 2293 Act, and it is, therefore, outside the scope of this Bill.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I realise that it would not be in Order to discuss the Blind Persons Act, but we are anxious to make sure that those who receive a pension on account of blindness at an earlier age shall, under this Bill, be treated as well as those who will draw supplementary pensions.
§ Mr. Colville
I cannot go beyond what I have already said, but I can assure hon. Members that the Government recognise the feeling in all parts of the Committee that the best possible treatment should be given to the blind. I do not think the Amendment would secure that.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The Chairman
The next Amendment that I propose to call is the one in the name of the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) in line 10, to leave out "the prescribed manner," and to insert:accordance with the provisions of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1936, relating to the determination of claims and questions.It deals with much the same point as the Amendment in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner), in line 18, to leave out Sub-section (4). In calling upon the right hon. Gentleman, I must ask him to explain his Amendment in order to persuade me, first of all, that it is not out of Order and that it is a complete Amendment, because I think there is a possibility that if he brings in as the regulations dealing with this matter the regulations under the Old Age Pensions Act, 1936, he may be going outside the terms of the Money Resolution on the Bill. I am not certain about that. The other point is that if the words "the prescribed manner" are left out, there is no "prescribed manner" left in the Bill.
§ The Chairman
I think the hon. Member is asking about his Amendment to leave out Sub-section (2). That really has the effect of negativing the Clause, and I think the hon. Member must make his point on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Chairman
We shall be able to discuss the Clause when we get to it, and I hope that I shall not have to interfere with the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am fully seized, Sir Dennis, with the points you have raised. I regard my Amendment as a pure question of machinery. It is a question of the method by which supplementary allowances shall be determined. It is true that if the Amendment were carried it would mean very substantial consequential alterations in the Bill, but I submit that we are entitled in Committee to alter the machinery of a Bill although we cannot alter fundamentally the policy of the Bill. In those circumstances I should have thought the Amendment was in Order.
§ The Chairman
The Amendment is not in Order if it makes the Bill impracticable. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman has rather given his case away. If the hon. Member is proposing to alter the machinery of the Bill, he is in Order.
§ Mr. Greenwood
It is really a fundamental point. If we leave out "the prescribed manner," and the Amendment is carried then the responsibility will lie on us or the Government to provide the necessary consequential Amendments to implement the decision.
§ The Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman is aware that we have another two days in which to consider Amendments, or any new Clause which might be put down. I would ask him to consider the case of a Bill in which it was probable that the Committee stage would finish very soon and that it would therefore be practically impossible to deal with any new Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman may have put down an Amendment which makes the Bill impracticable unless he suggested an alternative to complete the scheme and so put the first Amendment in Order.
§ Mr. Greenwood
There are two points there. The first is that this is purely machinery, and that if it was carried it would be for the Government to provide time to get the Bill through. With that we are not concerned. The second point 2295 is that so far as my recollection goes it has never been regarded as essential that consequential Amendments should be put down at the same time as an Amendment. It clearly depends on whether an Amendment is carried or not, whether there is any necessity for providing machinery to implement the Amendment which has been carried.
§ The Chairman
I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman. It is impossible for the Committee to give proper consideration to an Amendment unless they are in a position to consider consequential Amendments as to what is likely to take the place of what is to be left out. In this case the right hon. Gentleman proposes an alternative, but, as I have pointed out, there is a possibility that his alternative might be outside the terms of the Money Resolution. I should not have selected this Amendment at all unless I had been given to understand that the Opposition attached considerable importance to it, and I may have to rule it out of Order as the discussion proceeds. In that case perhaps the Committee will agree to discuss the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) at the same time.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I think my hon. and gallant Friend will agree with that course. We do not desire to raise anything more than a question of machinery, and we shall obey your Ruling if it goes outside the terms of the Money Resolution.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Major Milner
I beg to move, in page 6, line 10, to leave out "the prescribed manner," and to insert:accordance with the provisions of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1936, relating to the determination of claims and questions.The point raised by this Amendment is quiet a simple one, namely, the substitution of one tribunal for another. The Clause says that the question of need shall be decided in a manner to be prescribed. I presume that the administration of this provision will be in the hands of the Assistance Board, and that a determination of this question will be on the same lines as those laid down in the Unemployment Act, 1934. The determination of this question will be left to the officers of the Board, subject to an appeal to a small committee appointed by 2296 the chairman of the Unemployment Assistance Board, or the Assistance Board, as it is to be called in future. The proposal in the Amendment is that the tribunal provided under the Unemployment Act, 1934, namely, the officers of the Board, should not be the tribunal to decide questions under this Bill, when it becomes an Act. My hon. Friends and I submit that a more suitable tribunal would be either the old age pensions committee or a tribunal constituted on similar lines. Such a tribunal is democratically appointed; it is appointed by the local authority. It can, and in many instances does, consist of public representatives alone, and it is entirely at the option of the local authority whether they shall appoint or co-opt strangers to that tribunal. I contend that this tribunal has worked very effectively in determining claims and questions under the 1936 Act, and I believe it would work to the far greater satisfaction of the public and of those who will apply for supplementary pensions than would a tribunal which, presumably, would be prescribed under regulations to be made under this Bill.
I would remind the Committee that when the Bill becomes law, the old age pensions committee will remain in operation, and it seems to me unnecessary to go away from that tribunal for one purpose and leave it in operation for another purpose. There is an appeal from the old age pensions committee to the central pensions authority, the Minister of Health, where as the appeal from the officers of the Unemployment Assistance Board is to a Committee appointed by the chairman of that Board. I believe that it would be far more in accord with democratic principles, that it would be more satisfactory to the old age pensioners, and that it would give them confidence if the tribunal constituted under the 1936 Act could be used for the purposes of this Bill. In my opinion, far too much is left to bodies of officials in these days. The element of democratic election and appointment is being departed from little by little in various institutions. In every Department, officials decide all sorts of matters which in years gone by would have been left to the elected representatives of the people.
Little by little we are getting into the hands of officials of one sort or another. Frankly, I prefer to be in the hands of 2297 elected representatives. I know that in my own city, Leeds, the old age pensions committee has worked very satisfactorily. People have come before it with complete confidence that their needs would be recognised and that the particular circumstances of their family life would be known. I hope that that sort of procedure will be made use of under this Bill. To do so would not really entail a complete alteration in the Bill, but would merely involve the substitution of a much better tribunal, and certainly a much more suitable one, for that which would be prescribed under the Bill. I should like now to say a few words about the later Amendment—
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan
On a point of Order, Sir Dennis. Before my hon. and gallant Friend proceeds, I should like to ask you for a little enlightenment. Do I understand that we are to have a general Debate on the two Amendments now, and that you will then put the other Amendment to the Committee without any further discussion?
§ The Chairman
I thought it would be convenient, if the Committee agreed—and I understand they did—to have a discussion on both the Amendments at the same time. If that were done, it would necessarily follow that when the first Amendment had been disposed of, the second Amendment would be called, but the Committee would divide upon it without further debate.
§ Mr. Bevan
There seems to be some confusion on that point, Sir Dennis. The Amendment which my hon. and gallant Friend has moved relates to the question of what authority should assess the supplementary pension. Sub-section (4) deals with the entirely separate point as to how, when, and where, supplementary pensions shall be paid. I submit that it would be confusing to debate the two matters together.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member ought to have raised that point before. The Committee generally appeared to accept my suggestion that the two Amendments should be discussed together. I must point out that the hon. Member was not correct in his description of the Amendment which I have called. The first part of that Amendment seeks to leave out the words "the prescribed manner." Sub-section (4) deals with the rules for 2298 prescribing. It seems to me that the Amendments are eminently ones which could be debated together.
§ The Chairman
If the hon. Member persists in his objection, I must confine the present Debate to the first Amendment. I must warn the Committee that in that case it may depend upon this discussion, or at any rate be open to me, whether I select the later Amendment.
§ Mr. Bevan
Do I understand your Ruling to be that we may have a general discussion on the two Amendments and vote on the second Amendment without discussion, but that if we insist upon taking the Amendments separately you will claim the right to refuse to call the second Amendment, although you have agreed that it is sufficiently in Order to be discussed and voted upon?
§ The Chairman
No question arises about its being in Order. It is a question of my right to select Amendments, a right which is given to me by the Standing Orders.
§ The Chairman
No question arises about its being in Order. My reference was to the question whether or not I would select the second Amendment.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Further to the point of Order, Sir Dennis. I know that you have power to select Amendments, and I have no right to challenge your selection, but may I put it to you that the matters raised in the two Amendments appear to be very important and that they ought to be separated because they are not contingent one on the other? As you have already decided that we may vote on the second Amendment, may I humbly submit that we ought to be allowed to have some sort of discussion on it, especially as some of us feel that 2299 in some respects it is more important than the first Amendment.
§ The Chairman
I am prepared to take those matters into consideration. I ask hon. Members to realise that I have not said I shall not select the second Amendment. What I felt bound to say was that, if as a result of the discussion on the first Amendment, I see no reason for selecting, but good reason for not selecting, the second Amendment, I shall exercise my power. I am bound to reserve that power. As the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has objected to what I thought would be a convenient course, the Committee must confine itself now to the Amendment which I have called.
§ Major Milner
I will continue my remarks. Sir Dennis, with due regard to your Ruling that I must confine myself to the first Amendment. I urge upon the Committee the desirability of substituting a democratically-elected local tribunal in place of the officers of the Unemployment Assistance Board, who, presumably, if the Amendment were not accepted, would be the authority prescribed by the regulations. I feel that if the course I propose were followed, it would give great satisfaction to the old age pensioners and also prove that the Government are not altogether regardless of democratic rights and interests.
§ The Chairman
I must make a further reference to what I have already said. In this case I do not feel that the point is sufficiently clear to be able to say that the Amendment is out of Order in proposing the alternative of the provisions of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1936. Therefore, I shall not rule the Amendment out of Order on those grounds. That to some extent disposes of my other objection to the Amendment, namely, that it is of a destructive nature in that it does not put anything in the place of what it eliminates; but I have stretched my conscience to some extent, because the Question I shall have to put is, "That the words 'the prescribed manner' stand part." Therefore, I am prepared to call the Amendment, but without for one moment admitting the contention, which I understood the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) to put forward, that the Committee should consider an Amendment which is destructive of certain necessary machinery will be in 2300 Order without the person responsible for such an Amendment putting something in the place of what he proposes to destroy.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The reason I put my name to this Amendment is my experience of the working of the respective Acts under which it is proposed that this alteration should be made. I have had the privilege of serving on an old age pensions committee for the last 29 years. This particular machinery which it is suggested should be substituted in place of some machinery to be set up under the words "the prescribed manner" is one which I think anybody who has had any experience of it will agree has worked admirably. The principal objection to the old age pensions committee is that there is little work for it to do. It seems to me that to set up new machinery when there is in operation already machinery which could be utilised for the purpose—and which indeed was provided for such a purpose—would simply be duplication for the sake of duplication. One of the principal reasons given for the change which is taking place is the removal from the stigma of the Poor Law. Everybody is agreed that that removal should take place and is desirable. But I think I may say without casting any aspertions on anyone in particular that something of the stigma attached to the Poor Law is carrying itself over to the Unemployment Assistance Board, and that we are in danger of creating in the country a new kind of stigma against which people will feel just as strongly. In all the years I have been connected with old age pension committee work I have never heard it suggested by anyone that there was a stigma attached to the inquiries made by the Excise officers. It may be that anything connected with Income Tax is always looked upon as respectable, and that if the Income Tax officer comes to you at any time, it is one of the marks of respectability. That may be the reason why there is no stigma in the case of these committees where the Excise officer is a servant. I think the argument holds good that there is no stigma attached to this particular machinery. It works and provides all that is needed for the administration of supplementary pensions. Far from looking at this Amendment as destructive, I think the Government would be well 2301 advised to accept it and adopt the existing machinery for the purposes they have in mind.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Tasker
This Amendment seems to me really a little contradictory to the Act. Hon. Members opposite desire to leave out "the prescribed manner" and put in:accordance with the provisions of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1936, relating to the determination of claims and questions.I would point out that there is no provision in the 1936 Old Age Pensions Act which allows a supplementary grant. If the argument was addressed to using the machinery of the 1936 Act for supplementary grants, then I should be in complete accord. I believe every Member who has served on an old age pension committee would agree that the machinery employed there should be precisely the same machinery for supplementary pensions. But I submit that if this Amendment were carried, it would not achieve the object they have in mind.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Macdonald
I rise to support the Amendment, because the question of the machinery determining supplementations is of vital importance. After all, the body referred to in the Amendment is already deciding cases on these lines—whether a person shall receive any pension at all. That is really a test of means. It is applying a means test now, and I see no earthly reason for changing to a different body. To-day old age pensions committees deal with people whose means vary in some cases, and decide whether there shall be a 2s. 6d., 5s., 7s. 6d., or a 10s. pension. I think that a body which has had so much experience for so many years would be most suited for the work. It is discharging its functions to the satisfaction of most people, and I would emphasise the point put by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) that it is a democratic body under the control of county councils, borough councils, and urban district councils. That question appeals to me because I feel that any authority set up by a local council carries conviction with the applicant. He is more satisfied and feels that his application has had better treatment. The Minister should give some fairly strong reason why he prefers the body in the Clause to that in 2302 the Amendment. I would much prefer the present body, which has dealt with all types of cases to the satisfaction of most people.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
I would not have intervened in this Debate were it not for the fact that I have some interest locally, on the subject in my constituency. Hon. Members have much greater experience than I have had on this question, but I happen to have received from the Gloucester County Council a resolution, passed by them on the advice of their public assistance committee. It expresses considerable fear as to the operations of this Part of the Bill. In their resolution they say:Your committee are of opinion that certain provisions of this Bill are likely seriously to prejudice the administration of the social services as at present undertaken by the county council.They go on to ask that the administration of the supplementary pensions should be left in the hands of the existing body, namely the public assistance committee, who deal with other matters of a similar nature. While I am not going to advocate that should be done, I do think the Amendment which has been moved is the right way to deal with the question. The administration of these supplementary pensions involves a family means test and is likely to arouse feeling among many people. The more sympathetic the manner in which it is administered, the better for the effective working of the Bill when it becomes an Act. Therefore, I suggest that it is better to have a committee which is more directly in touch with the people concerned, than one which is somewhat more aloof. I think the old age pensions committee is just the body. It is reasonable that where the taxpayers' money is concerned one cannot leave the matter in the hands of a purely locally-elected committee with only the interest of the ratepayers at heart. There must be some body who will have the interest of the national finances at heart too, and the old age pensions committees are more likely to create confidence in the administration of the Act and at the same time guard the rights of the Exchequer.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
I rise first to ask about a point which I wish to have elucidated, and, second, to make a com- 2303 ment on the Amendment before the Committee. The words we are now discussing are "the prescribed manner." Turning to the Definition Clause, it appears that "prescribed" means:prescribed by rules having effect for the purposes of this Part of this Act.Then there is the Section which possibly we shall deal with on a later Amendment. Sub-section (4) refers to certain rules. Am I right in thinking that the rules which are to be prescribed under Sub-section (2), and which are specifically mentioned in Sub-section (4), are rules to be made by the Minister and not by the Board? I think that is so, and if it is, there will be two sets of rules. The Minister will make rules as to how claims are lo be made, and in what manner, and the Board will make rules adapting the present unemployment regulations.
With regard to this Amendment, what in fact, is proposed is that responsibility for the determination of individual claims should be taken out of the hands of the Assistance Board and put into the hands of the local pension committee. I do not say that the system proposed in the Amendment is necessarily an ideal one, and I do not think the Mover of the Amendment would claim it as such. Personally, I always think it better, when dealing with these questions, to approach them nationally, rather than locally, providing that it is by democratically controlled bodies. Of course, that was not done by the Act of 1934, and it is not being done by this Bill. As I pointed out on the Second Reading, what is proposed in this Bill is that we shall hand the matter over to a body for which Parliament is almost entirely not responsible. I would rather have a local committee with some measure of democratic control than a national body without Parliamentary control. For this reason, if this question goes to a Division, my hon. Friends and I will support the Amendment.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Mr. McEntee
I hope the Minister will give some serious consideration to the point which has been raised and make some concession on it. I notice that everybody on the Front Bench opposite who has dealt with this Measure, both to-day and yesterday, during the time I have been here, have all been Scotch. With that international reputation which Scotsmen have of being generous, I hope that 2304 they will extend generosity to the old people in some way. I sat here for a good part of the day yesterday and saw no desire on their part for a concession of any kind on any of the Amendments moved. I hope we are not going through the second day without having something in the nature of a concession. If a concession is to be made, I hope it will be one which will be an improvement, and I suggest that the Amendment which we are now discussing improves the Bill. There are several points which appeal to me on this question. Most of them have been discussed already, so I do not want to repeat them, or emphasise them unnecessarily. There are committees with long experience, and we suggest that they should take over this part of the administration of the Bill. They have local knowledge and are infinitely better equipped by experience and by the machinery which they already have at their command to know exactly what are the circumstances of the home with which they are dealing.
Experience has taught me—and I have sat on one of these committees for many years—that, generally speaking, their judgment has been sound. I do not think anyone who has had knowledge of the working of pension committees would dispute that fact. The suggestion contained in the Amendment is infinitely better for the applicant, because in most cases he will have a greater confidence in a committee which he knows. There is a feeling growing up that the Unemployment Assistance Board, as such, is very little different from what the old Poor Law was considered to be a long time ago. There is just as great a reserve in the mind of most poor people and just as great a desire to keep away from the Unemployment Assistance Board as there was to keep away from the Poor Law when it was operating in full force. I hope we are not going to hand over greater power to the Unemployment Assistance Board over the people who need our attention and sympathy most, the old people, and I think the Minister might make this concession and let us continue to believe, as we all do, that Scotsmen are prepared to make a generous gesture and that this will be one.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
I shall not ask the right hon. Gentleman to be generous. I shall 2305 ask him to be wise, although that may be more difficult. If I wanted to burst up the machinery of the Unemployment Assistance Board, I could not do it more effectively than in the way the Government intend to do it now, because every student of this problem agrees, and the more they study the Bill the more they agree, that the Government are handing over to the Unemployment Assistance Board a task to which it is wholly unsuited. That personal relationship which necessarily must exist between those who are giving assistance to the old people and the old people themselves is so essential a part of the effective and humane administration of the assistance that people are frightened that this is to be revolutionised and that the old people are now to be passed under the control of officials over whose conduct there is no effective local check. The Unemployment Assistance Board is already exceedingly unpopular, because its officials are called upon to discharge such unpleasant duties in assessing unemployment assistance. In addition to those duties, you are now giving to the officers of the Board an infinitely more unpleasant duty still, because the National Association of Relieving Officers sent out a document full of the most pungent criticisms of the Government proposals. I think I know why the hon. Lady opposite smiles. She thinks the relieving officers may be somewhat self-interested in the maintenance of the existing machinery. I have never allowed my mind to be closed to advice merely because it may be said to be interested, otherwise I should not listen at all to what the hon. Lady says.
The relieving officers have given their advice out of deep and wide experience collected all over the country. They say that the application of the household means test to the recipient of supplemental pensions will produce such domestic acrimony that it is really difficult to see how the officials are going to do it without being regarded as the enemies and not the friends of the households into which they go. If the right hon. Gentleman has the future welfare of the Unemployment Assistance Board in mind, he ought not to impose these additional duties on the officers of the Board unless he is able to convince the Committee, which I am sure he has not yet been able to do. [Interruption.] I know that he 2306 has no trouble with the majority behind him. They cast a dumb and blind vote in the Lobby, never hearing the discussions. I ask him to recall the experience of the Secretary of State for War. In 1934 the clever people on that side of the House, by the use of the Guillotine and other methods, succeeded in driving through a piece of legislation in a manner which prevented effective discussion of it, and a few months afterwards the Government had the ignominy of running away from what they had done because they did not take the advice. Indeed, they prevented the Opposition as far as they could from giving any advice, and they turned down the experience of people who were entitled to speak. The hon. and learned Gentleman who assists the Secretary of State for Scotland in the law Department was one of the advocates of the 1934 Bill. I remember that he did very well. Indeed he spoke so excellently that he got very quick promotion, but it would have been far better if the Government had listened to those who knew the job better than he did. He got promotion from it, but the Government got the greatest humiliation in their experience.
Now he proposes to give the Unemployment Assistance Board's officer the duty of going into a house and saying that the daughter or the son with whom the old people now have to live, and who have to look after the old people, are at the same time to be subject to the further hardship of having their income taken into account in assessing the supplemental pension. The relieving officers point out in this Circular, which we have received this morning, that they cannot imagine any duty more unpopular than pitting the old people against the son or the daughter where she has no means except the income of her husband and, by taking her husband's income into account in order to assess the supplemental pension of her father, producing the most strained relations between husband and wife. Would it not be a wise thing if the right hon. Gentleman realised that he had been slightly too clever and allowed the assessment of the supplemental pension to be an obligation on a committee which is popularly elected, to which the old people can still go, and relieved the officers of the Board of a duty which is bound to be deeply repugnant and bound to make the Board even more odious than it is now. If the right hon. Gentleman 2307 contemplates the Unemployment Assistance Board being a permanent part of the machinery of our social services, he would assist it in doing its job better if he did not go on loading it with duties so irksome that the officers are being progressively looked upon as the enemies and not the assistants of the poor, as they really should be.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I know that the hon. Member speaks on these matters with practical experience, and I listen to what he has to say with the greatest attention. It may be that the account that he gave of the report of the relieving officers, a copy of which has not reached me, reflects the views of these people in England, but those are not the views of the relieving officers in Scotland with whom I am in touch.
§ Mr. Stewart indicated dissent.
That is not quite accurate either, because I think Scottish Members have received a circular letter from the Association of County Councils in Scotland with certain observations on the Bill.
Not quite on those lines. I was going to give not so much the views of an official central body with vested interests as the views that I have collected in the past week-end from one or two relieving officers in Fife. Their view is, of course, that they are themselves the best fitted to do this job, but I did not discover from the conversation that I had with them that they anticipated for the officers of the Assistance Board any more difficulty than they themselves are now experiencing, except that the assistance officer would, of course, be a comparatively new man to the district, whereas the relieving officer knew the district.
I would gladly give the hon. Member the benefit of their observations, but they do not quite touch the point. The relieving officers spoke to me on this very point. At present the relieving officer in Scotland takes into account every item of means that the family of the old age pensioner now has. He applies his microscope not only to the daughter or son living in the house but to the means of the daughter or son living in America, or in England, or in Wales, or anywhere, and if the task of the present relieving officer or public assistance officer in Scotland is a difficult one, the task of the assistance officer is going to be an easier one. That is the view of these men, who are experienced in the job.
§ Mr. Cassells
Does not the Memorandum which the hon. Member holds contain information entirely consistent with the viewpoint expressed in the Amendment?
No. I read the Memorandum to which the hon. Members refers as being an argument on the ground of administrative costs. It will be cheaper to use the present public assistance Board officers than to use the Assistance Board officers. I do not want to enter into that argument because it is slightly off the point. The question of costs has not arisen and I do not want to raise it. I do not find in my personal investigations the difficulty that the hon. Member gave us as at all representative of Scotland. I have just come back from two considerable conferences with old age pensioners in Fife, and I can claim to speak for some hundreds of people whom I met. When these people that I talked to understood, as far as I was able to explain it—[Interruption.] I was at a meeting at which many representatives of the Labour party were present. They heckled me consistently and, if I made any statement which was not justified, it was quickly challenged.
When these old people understood the Bill the great majority, with the exception, of course, of the Labour people who were present, were satisfied to try it. They recognised, as the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) did, that the State was to provide the funds for the supplementary pensions and that, therefore, 2309 they ought to be managed by a national body. The hon. Member, however, did not like the body which is to be responsible because the Unemployment Assistance Board had not done well. I have heard the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) state on more than one occasion that if anybody was to inquire into the means of old persons, he would rather have an officer of the Unemployment Assistance Board than anybody else.
The objection of the hon. Member for Dundee to the Board was that it was not under Parliamentary supervision. That was the point he made in his able speech on Second Reading, but I, not being a lawyer, was not impressed by his argument. We know that if this Bill becomes law and the regulations applied by the Assistance Board are discovered to be harsh and unsympathetic, the hon. Member for Dundee will be the first to raise the matter on the Floor of the House and I will gladly be with him. The hon. M ember for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) made the point that if the Board's actions were such as to deserve the condemnation of the old people and of this House, the will of the House would certainly be felt as it was on the last occasion.
§ Mr. Bevan
Before we pass machinery through the House of Commons in order to make regulationsmore humane, must we always first have riots and demonstrations in the country, because that is what we had before? The House did not move until the unemployed made demonstrations, and must we always have them in order to call the attention of the House to a grievance?
The hon. Member is pressing the point a little too far. What I say is that, despite the legalistic case made by the hon. Member for Dundee, if the operations of the Board in the application of the Bill to the old people axe found to be harsh and unsympathetic, the result will immediately be seen in this House, and, if I understand the House aright, the matter will immediately be remedied.
§ Mr. Foot
The position under the 1934 Act is that the Board can only change the scales by other regulations, and there is no Minister who can compel it to make fresh regulations. The whole initiative is in the hands of the Board. It is not a legalistic point. Are we to understand that the hon. Member and the party to 2310 which he belongs are in favour of that system and of having a national service but no Minister to answer for it?
§ Mr. Neil Maclean
Is it not the case that when the first regulations of the Unemployment Assistance Board were passed and put into operation there was much disturbance in the country, but that it took two years for the Government to bring in fresh regulations which removed some of the difficulties?
Again I say I am not a lawyer, and I can only regard this matter in a practical way. The hon. Member for Dundee says that there is no Minister who has any legal right to introduce new regulations. That is true, but surely the hon. Member does not ask me to believe that if the Government are satisfied that the regulations made by the Assistance Board for this new purpose are unsuitable, the Government are unable by one means or another to get new regulations? Of course they are. Therefore, I beg the Committee and the hon. Member for Dundee not to address an argument to suggest that we are here completely stultified in the application of common sense.
Coming direct from two conferences with old age pensioners, I can say that they are ready to accept this Measure on certain conditions. The first is that the scheme is worked sympathetically in their interests, and the second is that thrift shall not be penalised. There are other obvious conditions which can more properly be raised at a later point. Subject to those safeguards, which I shall not hesitate to voice at the right time, these people are ready to accept the scheme. There is another reason why I feel that the Government are justified in attempting this new method. There are 275,000 old age pensioners drawing relief. I have never been to an old age pensioners meeting when some old man or woman has not come to me and said, "I would like to have a supplementation, for I need it, but I do not like to go to the local people for it." It is no use hon. Members pretending that that is not so. If for no other reason than that we are taking the inquiry into means out of the hands of local people, I welcome the Bill. The old people whom I know rather welcome the opportunity which it gives them to make applications for supplementation to someone other than their neighbours 2311 and to be able to tell their private and intimate stories to an official of a national rather than a local board. These reasons make me feel that the Government are justified in resisting the Amendment and pursuing the course they have set themselves, because I believe that the old people will benefit directly thereby.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I do not like the procedure under the Act nor that suggested by the Amendment. It is as well, particularly in view of what the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) has said, that we should know what we are discussing. You must not take it as personal, Sir Dennis, if I say that I should be surprised if you extended to me the same toleration that you extended to the hon. Member, because what he said was miles away from what we are discussing. The Amendment is valuable in having raised the whole issue of how the old age pensioners should be treated. The issue is whether the proposed method of administration by the Unemployment Assistance Board should be adopted or whether we should adopt the system proposed in the Amendment. The hon. Member for East Fife said that he supported the procedure in the Bill because he did not want an old age pensioner having to tell his story to the local people. It is as well that the hon. Member should know what the procedure is. The present practice of the Unemployment Assistance Board does not do away with the necessity of an applicant going to his neighbour. One of the reasons why I do not like the Amendment is because the Board's procedure is not so different from that which is proposed. Under the Board's procedure an applicant first has to go to an official, and if he wants to appeal he has to appear before a board which is composed, perhaps, of a local trade unionist, a lawyer, and an employer, all of whom are neighbours of the applicant.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
In Fife the appeal tribunal consists of three or four persons drawn from different parts of the county and only one man in 10,000 finds himself appearing in front of his neighbours.
§ Mr. Buchanan
But they are locally appointed people who know the local folks pretty well. It is nonsense, therefore, to talk about applicants not wanting 2312 to go to local people. The officials, too, are drawn locally and are usually men who have been taken over from the public assistance committee. The Amendment says that we should adopt the system in the 1934 Act, which deals with non-contributory old age pensions, which it is said has worked satisfactorily. It does work satisfactorily now because there is practically no work to do under it, and anything can work satisfactorily if it has nothing to do. With the coming of the contributory system the work with regard to the non-contributory pensions grew less year by year. The pensions committees have no work in adjudicating on old age pensions, and all they have to do is to see whether an applicant comes within the statutory means and whether he is an alien. Outside that they have nothing to do and the Act confined their work so rigidly that they have practically little power left. It is said that the officials work well. I do not accept the excise officer as a suitable person to make these investigations. To me the excise officer is the person most removed from the poor that I know. I do not think an officer who is used to dealing with Income Tax is the best qualified for this class of work.
Further, it should not be thought that the local committee has the right to make increases, because it has not, even under the Amendment. The local committee may make the decision, but the excise officer can stop the committee from doing anything if he cares to. Assume that there is an income scale of £50 and the local committee say they will make a grant in a case where an individual's income is up to £70. They will not be able to do it, because the Excise officer will say, "You cannot do it."
§ Sir R. Tasker
Is not the procedure this, that the pension officer asks a question and that in effect is challenging the decision?
§ Mr. Buchanan
I am taking a case where the committee decide to go outside the law. Let us say that the person is an alien and the committee say they are going to give a grant, or that the applicant is someone with £100, which would be outside the Act, and the committee say they will give a grant. The committee could not do it, because the Excise officer would say, "I am appealing on this to the central authority." Who is the central authority? I put this to the party proposing the Amendment, because under 2313 the Amendment that they propose—[Interruption]—that we propose, myself as much as others—we place the matter in the hands of the Minister. I am asked what is my alternative. I say that the U.A.B. committees know the details and that on every U.A.B. committee there is a trade unionist. What guarantee is there, if it is left to the county councils in Scotland, that there will be one Labour man judging the cases of these poor people? Are we to hand these people over to county councils whose committees will not have a single friend of the poor on them?
§ Mr. Silverman
I appreciate the argument which the hon. Member is now making, but I should like to put a point before he leaves the question of the powers of the Excise officer. Will he tell us what is the relevance of an objection to this Amendment based upon the fact that an Excise officer could prevent a pensions committee from going outside the law? Under our proposal the law would be altered, and as long as a pensions committee kept within the law as laid down, the Excise officer could not interfere.
§ Mr. Buchanan
All that I am saying is that the Excise officer has the power over the committee and not the committee the power over the Excise officer.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Oh, yes, that is so. The real thing is not what this committee can do but what is the law which is to guide the committee. I say frankly to the Minister that I am not anxious to have these matters left in the hands of representatives of the county councils, as I know the county councils in Scotland, which are packed full of the gentry in most cases. I say the procedure ought to be this, that instead of the matter being handed over to a local body or to the U.A.B. this House of Commons ought to decide which body is to act. We ought to say in this Act which body is to do it and not leave it to be decided by some authority which may be good or which may be bad.
In my view neither of the present proposals is right. It is true that I have said that in some cases I would prefer an officer of the U.A.B. to an Excise officer. I think I know unemployment insurance as well as most people, because 2314 I have worked at it all my life, and I know the Excise officers. In my part of Scotland they are mostly women, and if I had to choose between the two, unhappy choice as it might be, I would take the officer of the U.A.B. But that would not be an ideal choice. I say this task ought not to be delegated to the U.A.B., but that within the terms of the Bill we ought to set up a properly-constituted committee to include local representatives and working-class people as a right. In the country districts the labourer should be represented and in the working-class districts every working-class association should be represented.
The hon. Member for East Fife says that his old age pensioners have accepted the scheme in this Bill and that they understand it. I defy many Members of this Committee to say they understand the Bill, and if they cannot understand it what prospect is there of a lot of old age pensioners understanding it? The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) and the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) were members of a small group that fought the last Bill. We remember then how everybody told us that the machinery was the finest machinery in the world, and that the unemployed were gasping for the Measure. Even people who were alleged to be friendly to us told us that. Within one month after the Bill had been passed everybody was cursing the Bill and the regulations.
The test of this Measure will be how generous it will prove to be to the poor. I say that under the Bill large numbers will be worse off and that few will be better off. The hon. Member for East Fife has contrasted the public assistance committees and the U.A.B. and told us how some people do not want to claim help from the Poor Law. My experience is that nobody wants to claim help from either the Poor Law or the U.A.B. The people want an income as a definite right without going either to this, that, or any other committee. They do not want inquiries by "Nosey Parkers" from either the U.A.B. or the Poor Law, and I say to the Minister that the Government ought to have swept away most of these tests and given to the old age pensioners what I feel they have a right to, without inquisitions, by either Excise officers or anybody else, and that is a decent pension on which to end their days in peace and happiness.
§ 5.40 P.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Elliot)
I think the Committee will feel that we have had a useful Debate on the important matter which is before us; that is, the machinery for the administration of Part II of the Bill. I think also that we should all agree with the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) that the test of the Bill will not be the machinery, but the treatment which is meted out under it, the sympathy with which applicants are treated and the adequacy of the supplementations of their pensions. While no doubt all in the Committee sympathise with the point of view expressed so strongly by the hon. Member for Gorbals in his closing sentences I think he disproved his contention at the beginning of his remarks that he would be rapidly called to Order if he went as wide of the Amendment as did the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), for as far as I could see he was debating not merely the machinery but the whole question of Part II, and whether a flat rate increase ought not to have been granted in place of having this method of supplementation. Whether I as a Minister will be called to Order or not, I feel that I should give an example to the Committee by keeping as rigidly as I can within the actual terms of the question we are discussing, namely, what is the most appropriate machinery to deal with the problem of administering these claims when they come before an adjudicating body of some kind or other.
The arguments of the relieving officers have been brought forward, but I do not think they are relevant to the subject, because it is the contention of the relieving officers that the business should be under the public assistance committees. The Amendment does not propose that it should be left under the public assistance committees but be worked by entirely different machinery, and I think it a little odd that there lieving officers should have submitted their contention and should have apparently obtained some support from local authorities, particularly the Gloucestershire County Council, when that council was represented, among others, in the great deputation which came to me and urged that the care of these people should be removed entirely from the local authorities and that they should be entirely under the Pensions Acts.
§ Mr. Elliot
The Gloucestershire County Council did that in the resolution passed at the conference of municipal authorities which was brought to me by a large and representative deputation, of which I gave the House details.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
The Minister is certainly not being fair. He attended the conference at which the resolution was passed, and he received the deputation from the whole of the local authorities, and the resolution which was presented to him did ask for the old age pensioners to be taken away from the public assistance committees, but what they expected was that a reasonable pension would be agreed to by the Government and that the old age pensioners would be adequately provided for. The resolutions that have been passed since by the Gloucestershire County Council and a number of other authorities have been passed because what they expected the Government to do for the old age pensioners has not been done. The Minister referred to this once before, and I hope he will deal fairly with this deputation, of which I was a member.
§ Mr. Elliot
It was because the hon. Member was a member of the deputation that I brought it to the notice of the House and the Committee, and I again bring to the notice of the Committee the fact that nobody denies that the argument now is not that the cash benefit is sufficient or insufficient but that without the relieving officer, who is spoken of in one or two of these resolutions as the guide, philosopher and friend of the poor, they will not be adequately looked after. Hon. Members who came to me with that deputation cannot get. away from that. I say that the suggestion of the local authorities was that these people should be removed from the care of the local authorities, and the fact that there is a contrary view now does not seem to weigh against the considered judgment which was given at an earlier stage by the whole of the local authorities of this, country.
§ Mr. Elliot
It is very important that we should be at one in this matter. After all, it is not being discussed on party lines. One of the most powerful speeches delivered in this Debate was by the hon. Member for Gorbals, who certainly, in many respects, was not supporting the general lines of the Amendment that we have before us. I do not think that any body denies, and certainly not the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson), that the hon. Member for Gorbals is perfectly capable of delivering a powerful speech—
§ Mr. Elliot
The hon. Member for Maryhill must not constantly interrupt. The hon. Member for Gorbals has, I say, addressed arguments to the Committee which were not on the narrow lines of party. We are discussing a matter of the very greatest importance to many hundreds of thousands of old people, and it is desirable that it should be decided on its merits and not in the heat and passion of party. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is what we want to do."] I addressed myself to his arguments when I was; first dealing with the suggestion that the matter should be left under the public assistance authority. That seems definitely to be a mistake. Most of the Committee will agree with that, and particularly the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price), although I understand he was not in sympathy with the argument adduced by his local authority. I do not think that the argument has been advanced from any side of the Committee that the matter should be left to the public assistance authority.
§ Mr. Elliot
Well, we can leave that aspect of the matter to be decided, although arguments were adduced supporting the resolutions passed by local authorities and the Association of Relieving Officers which did argue that course. We mustleave that course out of account, with the assent of the whole Committee and not of only one side.
Now let me pass to the arguments adduced by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) and by those who spoke in support of them. The hon. and gallant Member said it would be better to use the committees which at present administer the over-70 2318 pension, and he added that those committees were working well and were the proper machinery to deal with the matter. The hon. Member for Gorbals suggested that those committees were at present working on a small amount of work. Let me tell the hon. Member how small an amount of work they are doing. They are reviewing some 70,000 cases per annum arising all over the country. About 5 per cent. Of those cases come for appeal on the ground of means. We are here dealing with 275,000 old age pensioners who are applying to the local authorities for supplementation of their pensions, and who, we hope, will receive the same supplementation in the machinery which we are now setting up; and there may well be another 200,000. It is suggested by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) that the additional number of pensioners who might come forward under the new machinery may be 200,000. The Committee will see that that is a multiplication by many times of the number of applications which are now being made for over-70 non-contributory pensioners.
§ Mr. Elliot
I hope that the hon. Member will not interrupt the argument which I am trying to put before the Committee, and which is of great importance to a large number of our fellow-citizens. Let us take the procedure which is suggested in the Amendment. I will quote the procedure laid down in the Old Age Pensions Act, 1936. It is the method of dealing with claims and it is as follows:The pensions officer, and any person aggrieved, may appeal to the central pension authority against a decision of the local pension committee allowing or refusing a claim for pension or determining any question referred to them within the time and in the manner prescribed by regulations under this Act, and any claim or question in respect of which an appeal is so brought shall stand referred"—that is the point made by the hon. Member for Gorbals—to the central pension authority, and shall be considered and determined by them.Turning to the Sub-section relating to decisions, we find that it says:The decision of the central pension authority…shall be final and conclusive.And in Section 10 (3) it says: 2319The central pension authority shall be the Minister of Health.I suggest that if we preserve that machinery there will be a flood of cases with which it will be utterly incapable of dealing.
I propose the method of local examination by a small representative body, which shall always contain, and must do so by Statute, a trade-union official. It will be watched over by a body which has had great experience in these matters, through the appeal machinery of the Board. Matters would finally come to the Assistance Board which will be giving a great deal more time to it than it would be possible for any Minister of Health to give. Naturally, the broad general principle would have to be decided, and regulations drafted by the Board and laid before the House with the consent of the Minister. I suggest that that machinery will be not only more expeditious, but more fair and practical, than that in the 1936 Act, which was for dealing with 70,000 cases per annum, of which only 5 per cent. come to appeal on the ground of means. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
§ Mr. Greenwood
The right hon. Gentleman says that local authorities are dealing with 70,000 cases per annum. What proportion of them comes to him? Is the number so overwhelming that he could not handle three times as many? Does he have to deal with one dozen cases a year?
§ Mr. Elliot
Let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman that he has not appreciated the point of my argument. Hon. Members may ask what reason there is to suppose that a greater proportion of cases, or an overwhelming number, would come to the central authority, over and above what come to me now. The procedure of the Act has only to deal with a ceiling which has been fixed by the terms of the Statute. The body concerned cannot go beyond the 10s. limit, whereas the new body will have to deal with an unlimited award. As one hon. Member said, in a somewhat paradoxical fashion the existing body is only determining means and has nothing to do with needs. The new body will have to deal with needs because it must meet the needs of the applicant however high those needs may be. Examples were given by hon. Members in all parts of the Committee 2320 of needs which were quite outside the statutory determination, which is all that the pensions committees have power to make. The case was given of a pensioner aged 72, bed-ridden, with a daughter of 49, who looks after her; rent 13s. 4d. The Board might need to give her, in addition to her 10s. pension, say, 23s. 6d. in summer and 25s. 6d. in winter, and that is a totally different—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. Gentleman is surely not entitled in the course of his arguments to quote the actual amount of an assessment, because it calls in question the assessment in other cases. Also, we should be discussing the assessments and not the machinery. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not go very far in this direction.
§ Mr. Elliot
I hope not to transgress outside the limits of Order, but it must be closely in Order to say that the pension machinery appropriate to a determination which cannot, under Statute, in any circumstances exceed 10s., may be totally inappropriate to deal with determinations which, as I have said, may go to 23s. or more, and must vary according to the circumstances of the applicant.
§ Mr. Silverman
I want to understand the right hon. Gentleman's argument. Is he saying that, were it not for the household means test, our proposal would be feasible and practicable and would commend itself to him, and that the existence of the household means test therefore prevents it being a practical proposition?
§ Mr. Elliot
What I am saying is completely and diametrically opposite. I am saying that if you are to determine need it might as well be done by the most appropriate body. When you have to determine by the needs how much a pensioner ought to receive, a totally different machinery is not only desirable but is indispensable.
§ Mr. Elliot
Then I totally failed to grasp it; but I think, if the hon. Gentleman looks at what he said, he will find that my own interpretation of what he said was right and his own interpretation of what he said was wrong.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not want there to be on either side any failure to understand. We only want to know what the 2321 Minister's argument is. I thought his argument was that, whereas there would be little work for the central authority to-day because local authorities had to ascertain only whether a fixed limit of income had been reached, or surpassed, if you were not to be content with that limit but took account of the other multifarious details which the household needs test makes necessary, then you got so thick and congested a line of traffic that that method became impracticable. I think I can fairly deduce from that that what stands between the right hon. Gentleman and us, in the proposal that we have made, is the household means test.
§ Mr. Elliot
Let me say again that the hon. Gentleman has totally misconceived the argument which I am laying before the Committee. What I am saying is completely the opposite of the conclusions which he advances. I am saying that the body which has to determine the varying needs of the pensioners—[Interruption]—no, not the means in this case, but the infinitely varying needs—
§ Mr. Elliot
In this connection it is not only a word. If the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) thinks that "means" and "needs" are interchangeable words in this connection, he and I differ, that is all.
§ Mr. Elliot
No, the need is not determined by the means. [Interruption.] Everybody in the Committee will see that the needs are not determined by the means. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Silverman
I just want to say a word more. I promise not to interrupt again. If I alter my statement by taking out "household means test" and substituting "household needs test," as that which stands between us, would the right hon. Gentleman agree that I have got his argument right?
§ Mr. Elliot
No. It is the needs of the applicant that stand between us. I have put what I consider to be a valid argument, and I think it should now be possible for the Committee to reach a decision upon it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, I hope it will be. The argument on both sides is now fairly before the Committee.
§ Mr. Elliot
To do something which is wrong is not a concession; it is an injury. Hon. Members on the opposite side have argued that to use this machinery would not be to the advantage of the old people but a disadvantage, and that it would produce confusion. The machinery which they propose to substitute is dealing with a limited problem, whereas the machinery which I propose is dealing with a very large problem. That large problem will need a much more thorough machine than the machine which is suggested here; first of all there will be a much larger number of cases to cover, there will be larger sums of money to disburse and there will be the necessity for adjusting those sums to the needs of individuals. I therefore beg the Committee to accept the propasals which have been set out in the Bill, and to reject the proposals which have come from the other side. It will then be possible for the Committee to conclude its deliberations of these considerations and to pass to other important questions.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am bound to say that the Minister has not convinced me. His argument is really fallacious. As I understand his argument, the bodies dealing with pensions handle only 70,000 cases a year and that if our proposals were adopted, they would have to handle probably another 200,000 cases. But those committees are not at present overworked. When I think that Part II of the Bill is to cost in administration an additional £750,000 a year, I wonder whether those bodies, now semi-unemployed, might not well be brought into the picture. The right hon. Gentleman says these committees have been dealing with the question of whether a particular person should receive 10s. or not. He says, "We have to examine every case meticulously; we have to consider the adjustment to individual needs and so on." Is the Unemployment Assistance Board to bear the brunt of that? Would anybody pretend that a highly bureaucratised body like that sitting in London will deal in this meticulous fashion with the needs of individuals? Of course not. If the right hon. Gentleman was sincere in the last sentences of his speech, I assure him he 2323 will get far more justice and consideration given to these particular needs of individuals from a local body responsible to some local authority than he will from a central board sitting in London, which for most of these people is further away than Heaven.
It is not true, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, that these people are to get unlimited awards—that is the phrase he used. What will happen is that the Assistance Board will develop a whole series of new regulations applying to individual cases of old age pensioners with a view to regimenting, grading and systematising every conceivable class of case, and payments will be made according to the regulations. There will be no consideration of the humanitarian aspect of the problem. It is ridiculous for the Government to pretend that this vast organisation costing an additional £750,000 a year will look into individual cases. If the right hon. Gentleman is concerned that each individual case should be cared for, it can only be cared for by a body which is on the spot. When I spoke on the Second Reading of the Bill I was asked specifically by the Parliamentary Secretary whether we preferred the public assistance committees to the Unemployment Assistance Board, and I said we did not like either, but the modern public assistance committee is a good deal different from this enormous bureaucratised body run from London and administered by officers who are unknown to hon. Members of this Committee, whose decisions cannot really be challenged, who are responsible to a Board, and who are really outside the authority of this House. In this Amendment we have suggested an alternative machine. True, that machinery is not carrying out all the functions which would have to be carried out under this Bill but it is a machinery which has been established in this Committe, which enjoys the authority of the law and which is varied in composition; local authorities are not all equally good but this is a machinery which is on the spot, a machinery which will give the aged people in the consideration of their claims a sense of intimacy which they will never get from the Assistance Board.
I draw a great distinction between the able-bodied unemployed and the aged. I 2324 fought the establishment of the U.A.B. as hard as anyone in this House, but I think that if the U.A.B. is a body which is not suited to deal with the able-bodied unemployed, it is still less a body to deal with the aged. I tried to make that case on the Second Reading of the Bill. I said that we are dealing with people who do not understand forms and committees, who do not understand Whitehall, and if anybody needs additional care, they do. They, therefore, should be treated by a body which can be expected to show some sympathy. The right hon. Gentleman has not made out his case. I do not pretend that the existing committees are ideal bodies; I am merely saying—and I think that this is the opinion of my hon. Friends—that they are infinitely better than the centralised bureaucracy which is suggested in the Bill. Therefore, I am afraid that the discussion of this particular matter must continue.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. McLean Watson
I do not know whether the interruptions of my hon. Friends pointing out the weakness of the Minister's case were responsible for the speech which we had from him; at any rate, as to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), I do not think the Minister made much of a case. I understood that the Minister of Health in England and the Secretary of State for Scotland were interested in and supporters of local government, and I believed that the local authorities were responsible for carrying out Acts of Parliament which they were called upon to administer, but here we have the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland putting up arguments why the local authorities should not be allowed to administer an Act of Parliament of this kind and stating that a body should be elected in order to deal with this matter. I would not have risen but for the speech which we had from the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). His speech created a considerable amount of resentment on this side of the Committee, and I would not be doing my duty as a representative of Fife if I did not repudiate his speech. He said that he had just come from two conferences of old age pensioners who accepted this Measure as a satisfactory arrangement.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I said that the majority of the old people present were prepared to give it a chance.
§ Mr. Watson
The majority of the old people present were prepared to give it a chance. Only, he said, certain things should be understood, that this was to be sympathetically administered and that thrift was not to be penalised, but I wonder whether the Committee would be interested in the views of the old age pensioners themselves. I propose to read a short extract from a letter which I received from Lord Gowrie this morning. He was telling me in this letter what an old age pensioner said to him, and I would suggest that this is more direct evidence than the evidence which we had from the hon. Member for East Fife. This letter says:To-night I had a visit from an old man to get his pension form filled up by me as a J.P., and we got talking about the pension. He told me he had a few pounds saved and now, he said, 'If the Government scheme goes through when it is used up I will have to seek assistance.' Well, he said he had never asked anything from anybody and he would not do so before he was compelled to, and wound up by asking me before he departed, 'Is the country worth fighting for?' He himself said after a pause, 'I do not think so.'
§ Mr. Watson
Yes, I am rather a long way off the Amendment. You have previously ruled, Sir Dennis, that the hon. Member for East Fife has gone very nearly outside the Amendment as well, and in attempting to follow the hon. Gentleman I dare say that I have been drawn into the same mistake. I will apologise and try to keep to the point before the Committee. The point is a short one, whether this administration is to be placed in the hands of representatives of the local authorities who will be subject to the influence of some sort of local opinion, or whether we are to have a centralised body. The hon. Member for East Fife evidently believes that a centralised body will administer this matter more efficiently than representatives of the local authorities. As one who served for many years on a local authority before I came to this House, I believe that the local authorities are more capable of administering an Act of this kind than is such a body as is proposed in this 2326 Measure. I am prepared to go into the Lobby in support of the Amendment, and I hope that hon. Members, not only on this side but on the other side as well, will show in the same way that they have not lost faith in the efficiency of local government, and that they trust the members of local authorities more than any bureaucratic body that may be set up.
§ 6.16 p.m.
Mr. Graham White
I am loth to continue this discussion, and I do so only for a limited purpose. For one thing, I want to repeat the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), as to whether the rules that are to be made under Sub-section (4) are to be made by the Minister or the Board. That is a matter which is very relevant, and I hope that the Minister can give an answer to the question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) drew a comparison between the proposal in the Amendment to revert to the practice followed under the National Insurance Act, and the proposal in the Bill to set up the Board. This is a great departure in policy. The Unemployment Assistance Board, in the ordinary course of events, without having these additional duties placed upon it, would soon have reached a stage when even its existence would have been called into question. We know the extra cost of the work that it has done. It is no surprise to me that, the cost of this particular task is to be £750,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wake-field was perfectly right when he pointed out the administrative difficulties. In country districts the question that arises in connection with work of this kind is whether a person can ride a motor bicycle 100 miles. This is an entirely unsuitable body. Here is a revolutionary proposal. The Minister proposes to hand over the care of these people to a central authority. There is a great deal more that ought to be done for the aged people in this country. As present, the work is being done by local authorities—some are doing it very well; others are not bothering about it—but if we are going to make a great revolution in these matters, and hand the work over to a central authority, that authority ought to be fully equipped to do the work. The phrase which appears in the Unemployment Act, 1934: 2327to promote the welfare of the unemployed,is significantly absent from the Bill. I do not think that the Government themselves are quite alive to what they are proposing to do. I hope that between now and the further stages, serious consideration will be given to this matter. The Unemployment Assistance Board looks like becoming a sort of "no man's land," into which any sort of social service which no other body wants to take up is likely to be thrown. We welcome many of the proposals in this Bill, but, in the interests of economy alone, we do not wish to see the proposal contained in the Clause adopted. The Amendment may not be perfect, but it is a great improvement on the Clause.
§ 6.24 p.m.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
The last words which the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) used made clear, I think, the feeling of many Members of the Committee. They may not accept this Amendment as being all that they desire, but they believe that, in view of all the rules and restrictions, it is better than the Minister's scheme. The Minister of Health, who represents a Glasgow constituency, referred to the fact that Scottish local authorities, including Glasgow, had applied to be relieved of the responsibility so far as old age pensioners were concerned; but he did not say why. In keeping back that explanation, he committed, in my opinion, a very grave offence. The reason why those local authorities desire a change to be made is not that they object to the administrative side of this work, not that they do not themselves desire to keep in touch with the old folks, as they have done for many years, but that the Government insist, not only that they should do this work, but that they should bear the full financial responsibility. They consider that, first, there should be established—under a central agency, if you like—an adequate pension for the old folk of this country. When the Minister referred to local authorities, which, before this discussion took place—at an early period—asked to be relieved of their responsibilities on this matter, he should have made it clear that there is no public assistance authority in Scotland which objects to this change being made, except for the reason that they think that an 2328 adequate pension should be paid to the old age pensioners out of State funds.
I listened very attentively to the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), and I want to say that the public assistance authorities in Scotland, while recognising the feeling that exists among many sections of the old people with regard to applying for this public assistance relief, to which an undeserved stigma has been attached, do not deny that a change might be acceptable to the majority of the people; but they do deny imputations that have been made that they have failed in their duty in the past. The Minister pointed out that the needs and means of the old people would require to be considered, together with many anomalies in their circumstances. The hon. Member for East Fife will agree that that is exactly what has been done in Scotland by nearly every public assistance authority, and that the public assistance authorities in Scotland are composed of men who have been elected to city councils and county councils, and who have devoted their lives to putting forward the case of the old folk on their own councils. Their only fear to-day is that, under this Measure, the Board will not be able to treat those old folk with the same sympathy. How will people in Stirlingshire and in the constituency of the hon. Member for East Fife be affected? They have to travel considerable distances, in some cases, even to get to a post office. They are known to the local councillors and members of the local assistance committees and their circumstances are quite familiar to those local representatives. Will that be the case with a central authority? Will a Board which knows nothing of the individual circumstances of the people of Stirlingshire or of East Fife or of Glasgow be able to take the same interest in and to extend the same sympathy to those people? It is impossible.
I trust that the Minister will never be able to quote from any speech of mine with the same relish as he quoted the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). The hon. Member stated that there were deficiencies with regard to those committees which we are asking should operate this Clause. That may be so, but what is the Minister doing at present under the Bill? He is giving to the Unemployment Assistance Board a 2329 completely new function, and imposing a new duty upon it. Taking away the word "unemployment" from the title of the Board does not alter its character, and does not alter the fact that it operates in a prescribed manner. Its members could not possibly understand the local needs of the old age pensioners, even if those members were gifted with all the abilities that mankind ever possessed. The old age pensioners have peculiar needs. They are not the needs of the average unemployed person or of the average person in any other section of the community. Those needs must be assessed on the; spot by people who understand them, who know the character of these people, and how they have existed in the past. Therefore, it is impossible, under the system proposed in the Clause, to extend to these people the fair play, or even the respect and sympathy, that they have received from the public assistance authorities in the past.
The hon. Member for East Fife said that he had attended certain meetings where the old age pensioners were pretty much in favour of the Bill, but he did not say that they were in favour of this particular Clause. The hon. Gentleman could not have placed before the old age pensioners at East Fife a stated case as to whether they would select this method or the U.A.B. As far as I can see from the old age pensioners whom I know, and from the resolutions I received from East Fife and the Scottish Old Age Pensioners' Association, and from Glasgow, Stirlingshire and Ayrshire, the old people object to the means test whether it is imposed by this committee or by the U.A.B. committee or any other particular committee. I ask the Minister to reconsider this question. He said that we ought not to discuss this matter upon party lines and should not engender any heat into this particular discussion. I trust that the Government will accept that axiom themselves, and that they will not maintain their attitude with regard to this matter simply on party lines.
The organisation that we ask should operate this Bill has been known, when it did its work in the past, for its practical sympathy, and it was accepted in all parts of the House. We are dealing with an organisation which was set up to deal with the problem, and which dealt with it sympathetically and effectively. The 2330 alternative is the Assistance Board, whose actions cannot be criticised effectively in this House. Their actions in the past, despite isolated cases; generally speaking, have created trouble among the working class, and they have not been described as sympathetic at all. The Minister is setting up a new organisation under the old rules of the U.A.B. to administer this particular Clause, and we cannot expect the sympathetic administration that we desire.
One last word to the hon. Member for East Fife. I have been in his constituency, and I know that old age pensioners have described this Bill—including this Clause, although not particularising it—as a dangerous Bill.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member rather gives himself away. We are not discussing the Bill, but the particular Amendment.
§ The Chairman
I did notice it, and I draw the hon. Member's attention to it so that he shall particularise.
Very good, Sir Dennis. They went over the Bill very carefully, and I know from the wording of this resolution that they would object to it strongly, and that if they were elected as Members of Parliament, they would be sitting on this side of the Committee, fighting for the Amendment which the Opposition have put forward; and the hon. Member for East Fife knows that as well as I do. Therefore, I trust that even now the Minister will reconsider his decision and give an opportunity to organisations which have administered this system sympathetically in the past to undertake this work. It would give the House, because of the Minister's responsibility to these committees, an opportunity of raising other points with regard to old age pensioners that we ought to be allowed to raise as representatives in this House.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I wish to say a few words with regard to the Amendment before we go to a Division. Personally, I am not greatly enamoured of either the U.A.B. or the committee that is proposed in the 2331 Amendment. It is perfectly plain that there is a very great resentment against the means test being applied to old age pensioners, and there is among old age pensioners an equal feeling of resentment against the Unemployment Assistance Board being given control in this connection. The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) will perhaps forgive me if I differ from him in regard to the somewhat modified eulogy he gave to the old age pension committee for sympathetic treatment. I remember that before the Labour Government amended the Old Age Pensions Act there was a tremendous outcry about the administration of the old age pension committees. For example, if an old age pensioner was in the habit of visiting members of his family and having dinner with them it was suggested that the amount of pension might be reduced to the extent of the value of the food he would supposedly get at the homes of members of his family. So I did not feel any enthusiasm for it. I recognise that the Amendment represents a protest against the administration by the U.A.B. of old age pensions. I also suggest to the Minister that he should reconsider the whole matter. I believe that the old people in the country are right, and that the Minister will be acting very wisely if he tries to meet the wishes of the old people by altering the basis of the Bill and cutting out the administration by the U.A.B. altogether and making it a flat-rate pension of £1 a week for everyone.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Batey
The Amendment has raised an important aspect in this Debate as to what shall be the machinery for administering these supplementary pensions. As there may not be a possibility again of discussing the question of machinery in Committee, I am taking advantage of the opportunity to say a few words, because I want to ask a question on the matter. The Government are now creating a third machine. The first machine to deal with pensions was set up under the 1908 Act, and a second machine was set up under the 1925 Act, and now the Government are to set up a third machine. No Government is justified in creating so many machines for this purpose. The machinery the Government propose to set up is the 2332 Unemployment Assistance Board. I am sorry that the Minister has gone out of the Chamber, as the reason I decided to speak was that the Minister of Health was sitting on the Front Bench. The Unemployment Assistance Board, the central authority, consisting of five men and one married woman, really deal with the whole of unemployment assistance. They really are the central authority.
At the moment there is a vacancy on that Board, and the Minister, in his speech on the Second Reading, said that it was proposed to appoint someone to fill the vacancy. What really are to be the duties of the man the Minister proposes to appoint to the Unemployment Assistance Board? When the vacancy occurred the person filling the particular office was being paid £3,000 a year. The Chairman of the Board receives £5,000 a year, and the Vice-Chairman £3,000. The Vice-Chairman resigned for some reason or other, and the lady member of the Board is now acting as Vice-Chairman. Is the gentleman that the Minister is to appoint to receive £3,000 a year, or is he to receive a salary on the same scale as that of other members of the Board, namely, £750 a year, to give not his full time, but to serve part-time? The central authority that is to administer these pensions will really be under one man, as the five members of the Board are only part-time members. I want the Minister to say when he is proposing to appoint this man to this Board, and what are to be his duties? Is he to deal with supplementary pensions or is he to be a full member of the Unemployment Assistance Board dealing with unemployment cases as well as pensions cases? We ought to know how the central Board is to be composed. That is one end of the machine that the Government are creating.
I come to the other end of the machine, to the officer who is to act under the Board and is to make inquiries in regard to the people. I take it that that officer will really be the means test officer, the man who will go to the houses to make inquiries as to the means of people. If that is so, it is difficult to understand how the £750,000 is to be spent, if all the machinery is to be that now used under the Unemployment Assistance Board which costs the country over £4,000,000. As far as we have been able to gather from the Minister, I understand that the 2333 officer who makes the inquiries will really be the means test officer. If I am correct, it means that that officer, when he is making inquiries into unemployment cases in a particular street, will also call at the home' of some widow or old age pensioner whom he has to visit. I want to remind the Secretary of State for Scotland that our experience is that these means test officers are not popular in the villages. It is one thing for an officer to visit un employed men of 30, 40 or 50 years of age, because they are not nervous, but it is another thing to visit old age pensioners whose nerves have gone, and who cannot look at things from younger people's point of view. It will cause them an immense amount of suffering—
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is going rather far. These inquiries have to be made by whatever bodies have to deal with them.
§ Mr. Batey
It looks like that on the surface, but it is not working like that. I was a member of an old age pensions committee for a number of years, and it has been my experience that an officer does not go to a household to inquire whether there has been an increase of income, but to make sure that a person is of a certain age.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member very ingeniously raises this matter, but I cannot allow him to raise the question of the means test on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Batey
I am leaving the means test until later on. I am dealing with the machine that is to cause the inquiry. If we had to choose between the old age pensions committee and the U.A.B., we would a hundred times rather choose the committee than the soulless U.A.B. I think the Government are wrong in creating the machine. They should have put the supplementary pensions under the old age pensions committees of 1908, or under the Widows and Orphans Act machinery. The Government could not have done worse than they have in putting the supplementary pensions under the Unemployment Assistance Board.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I realise that the Amendment has been moved as a protest against the new machinery which is going to be set up, with the abominable means test, to deal with these supplementary pensions under the Unemployment Assistance 2334 Board. I intend to defer my remarks on the means test until a later stage but we ought to consider now whether the proposal put forward in the Amendment is a better one than that of the Government. I think there is a still better alternative—a department directly responsible to the House through the Ministers. But I cannot enlarge on it at this stage as we shall be discussing it later. This point, however, does arise and I would like some information about it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he made his original statement about old age pensioners, said things would be so very much better in future because old people would receive pensions which, to quote his own words, were "under conditions entirely honourable to themselves." Were they dishonourable before? Is it dishonourable to receive an allowance from the public assistance committee? Is the Unemployment Assistance Board entirely honourable? What is the relative importance of this from the point of view of the new proposal? It would be interesting to have a statement from the Minister as to the meaning of this word "honourable." What is meant by suggesting that certain forms of payment to old people are less honourable than others? It is a serious reflection on them and more information should be given to us.
A point which arises in connection with machinery is whether you are going to include in it questions of welfare, such as looking after old people and giving them advice in various ways. I am trying to make up my mind as to which of the two alternatives we have before us are likely to be more effective from the point of view of welfare in addition to supplementary pensions. There is also the question of visiting in the homes. It was suggested by the Chancellor that under the new U.A.B. regulations visits would only be paid at isolated intervals. But we know there are many cases where old people change their residence every three or six months. They go to a son or married daughter, then, perhaps, to another son or another married daughter and obviously, in these cases, there will have to be continuous investigation, perhaps half a dozen times a year, or more, into all the circumstances of the family. I am wondering which of the two systems will cause least trouble to these old people. In view of the fact that the Debate has continued for some time since 2335 the last speech from the Government Front Bench I feel that a further statement is required in reply to the various points made since that speech. I should be glad of any guidance that could be given me on the points I have just mentioned.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Harbord
I want to ask whether the Government will give consideration to this proposal. I am sorry that this work should have been taken away from the old age pensions committees. I am against this bureaucratic proposal to give to a London body the power to consider the claims of these aged people, whose lot is miserable and whose present pension is not sufficient. We had all hoped there might have been a flat-rate increase, but, in the absence of that, why cannot the local pensions committees stillcarry on their good work? To my knowledge, there has been no complaint of their work made in this House. Hon. Members may welcome a Bill which promises to give additional pensions, or a chance of addition to a pension, but I cannot believe anybody would ever vote in favour of taking power from old age pensions committees. For a number of years past people on these committees have been in daily contact with these old people, yet you are taking from them this important work. As a member of one of these committees people have come to me time after time, and I have often helped them out of my own pocket when they have been in need. Those who have done the work so well ought not to be denied the privilege of adjudicating whether these additional sums should be given. It is a thousand pities, and I cannot help voting against the Government this afternoon.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
The wealth of experience with which the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Sir A. Harbord) has just spoken indicates that the Government should change their mind on this question. I cannot understand why the Minister fails to represent what he must know to be the desire of the old age pensioners themselves, particularly in this matter of machinery. We know that they would rather have a flat rate than a means test. We know we cannot discuss the means test now, but the question of machinery 2336 is important. While they would rather not have the U.A.B., or any other kind of Board that may be set up, they would prefer to have something they understand, and of which they have had almost universal experience. The Minister cited a case which I think I can use as an example. He referred to a case that the Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned in closing the Second Reading Debate—that of an old lady, bed-ridden and dependent for help upon her daughter. If the Minister will endeavour to visualise circumstances of that kind, he will perceive that it is a person in the neighbourhood who would be the best to pay a visit to that old lady in order to ascertain her circumstances. To send someone representing a Board, and a bureaucratic piece of machinery, to that old lady would be very unwise indeed, particularly if there was an alternative piece of machinery in existence. I know of councillors and ladies who sit upon local authorities in South Wales and who make it their business to visit old age pensioners from time to time. It is very easy for a council to delegate one of its lady members to visit a lady pensioner, and a man to visit a male pensioner. If a representative appears before these old people as a kind of means test officer, they will resent it. What the old age pensioners fear most is that "Nosey Parkers" will go to their homes from time to time to inquire about their circumstances, when it is common knowledge in the village that they are very poor and ought to receive the maximum assistance.
The Minister made two references to a deputation representing the local authorities which he received, and he said that he was carrying out the intentions of that deputation in transferring the burden from the public assistance committees to the nation, as is being done under this Bill. There is no doubt that his interpretation of the matter is correct, but he failed to explain the reason the local authorities, through the deputation, expressed that desire. They are carrying a very heavy financial load, and they are desirous that the nation should carry it. That is the reason the deputation visited the Minister. I should have thought that to-night the Minister would have said, "As far as it is possible for the local authorities to have some part in the administration of this Bill when it becomes an Act, we will give them any kind of machinery that 2337 they have been using in the past in order that they may help the old age pensioners in every way they can." Instead of doing that, the Minister really causes offence to the local authorities by saying, "You have not done your work in the past in relation to old age pensioners; we will take that work entirely out of your hands and set up a piece of soulless machinery." The Minister proposes to set up machinery in which there is at any rate very little humanity; he proposes to set up bureaucratic machinery, ignoring entirely the desires of the local authorities, whom really he, as Minister of Health, ought to represent in the Committee, and certainly ignoring the very evident desire of the old age pensioners. It is common knowledge that if there is one thing which the old age pensioners would like to have, it is that local persons whom they know should inquire into their circumstances.
The other matter on which I want to say a few words is a very serious matter for the House of Commons. It seems to me that the Government are deliberately setting up machinery to disfranchise entirely the old-age pensioners and the unemployed. Once this Board is in operation, we shall not be able to question any of its work unless new regulations are presented to the House. We are not able to question the old regulations which the new Board will administer—the regulations that are now administered by the Unemployment Assistance Board. The House of Commons will have no say whatever in the conduct of the Board. Moreover, at the present time the old-age pensioners have the opportunity of electing people from their own villages and districts to represent their claims before the county councils. Under the machinery which the Government propose, these people will be disfranchised, not only locally but in the House of Commons. Hon. Members opposite often charge the Socialists with trying to create bureaucratic machinery, but they themselves, by this means, by the Unemployment Assistance Board, by these means tests, are creating something which is entirely antipathetic to the elements of democracy. I hope hon. Members in all parts of the Committee will oppose the setting up of this machinery which the Government propose. For these reasons, and particularly for the reasons advanced by the 2338 hon. Member for Yarmouth, I trust that the Minister will reconsider this matter.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
My hon. Friends have done everything they could to persuade the Minister of Health to abandon the harsh, stonewalling attitude which he has taken up from the beginning of the Debates on this Bill in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) warned the Minister of the consequences that would follow an attempt to merge these aged people, so many of whom are infirm, in the mass of unemployed people who are already under the Unemployment Assistance Board. Unless the Minister has some ulterior motive which neither I nor, presumably, my hon. Friends have discovered, I cannot understand why he resists this Amendment, which is extremely important from the point of view of the old age pensioners, but not, as far as I can see, of extreme importance from the point of view of the Government.
What we ask the Government to do is to agree with us that, instead of leaving the aged people to be dealt with by this new soulless machine, the local representative committees should be asked to consider the pensioners' difficulties and decide upon the giving of supplementary pensions. Does not the Minister see that such committees would provide a safety valve which does not exist under the administration of the Unemployment Assistance Board? In that Board, there is a machine, controlled from a remote part of the country—from some building on the Thames Embankment—a machine in which there is very little, if any, room for humanitarian principles to express themselves. A committee of the sort for which the Amendment asks would at any rate provide these people with some measure of confidence. The old age pensions committees are composed of representative people who are well known in the localities, who are easily accessible to many of these old age pensioners, and who, besides being easily accessible, are very susceptible to public opinion. It is of no use the Minister telling us that the machine to be set up under the Bill can have the same human touch as the old age pensions committees, or can show the same kindly consideration and understanding of the lives of these old people. I repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale said, that the 2339 "racket" which there was about the Unemployment Assistance Board is nothing compared with the resentment and indignation that will be expressed when these old people, inevitably and unavoidably, are abused under the machinery which the Minister foreshadows will operate under this Bill when it becomes an Act.
The last speech made by the Minister came nearer to convincing me than anything else he has said in the Debates that he has no sympathy with these old people. In that speech he chased every kind of argument, and he repeated a mis-statement which once before was corrected by my hon. Friend the Member for Ponty-pool (Mr. Jenkins). It is not true to say that the public assistance authorities appealed to the Government to take away from them the care of these old people. The public assistance authorities did nothing of the kind. They claimed, and claimed rightly, that something which ought to be a national charge should not be allowed to bear so heavily upon the public assistance authorities. In my own district, a depressed area, this charge is an appalling financial burden, representing a rate of 3s. in the pound. But I must repudiate the Minister's statement that the public assistance authorities are anxious to get rid of the responsibility of caring for these people. What they have asked is that the burden should be made a national charge, and that they should be responsible for that quota which ought to be theirs. The Minister argued that the machinery of the old age pensions committee could not handle these cases, and that it would be flooded by them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) has answered that argument. The administration by the machinery proposed by the Minister will cost £750,000. Why should not a substantial part of these huge administrative costs be avoided by using machinery that is already in existence? Why spend this £750,000?
§ Mr. Davies
The reason I brought up that matter is that we are proposing an alternative machinery to that which the Minister proposes. I understand that the cost of that part of the machinery 2340 which will be concerned with the administration of old age pensions will be about £750,000. That is the only reason I referred to the matter, and I do not propose to pursue it further. Cannot the Minister abandon the stiff-necked attitude he has adopted? I cannot understand supporters of the Government refusing to accept the Amendment. It would at least be a safety valve. You would have a splendid local cushion against any resentment that might be felt among these people. They would be able to take their appeals to the local authority.
I hope hon. Members will remember what happened when the unemployed were forced to express their resentment against the Unemployment Assistance Board. This machinery will not be able to break up this section of the unemployed and hound and persecute them. These old people will be there until the grave takes possession of them. They are well known to the people among whom they live, and you will not be able to drive them away from their homes. Their troubles will become communal troubles, and I am certain that the social consciousness of the masses of the people is such that they will not allow the Government with impunity to hurt and humiliate and treat harshly these poor people as they will inevitably be treated if this soulless piece of bureaucracy is allowed to take possession of their miserable lives and what is now their miserable old age.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I only want to give two instances. Two months ago a mother who had three sons in the Army went to the Unemployment Assistance Board and sat for more than three hours in a room with benches by the side of the walls with many other women and men. They could do nothing for her. Next day a friend brought her along to see me. I said, "We will go to the public assistance committee." She said that she had never been to the public assistance committee but was certain that it could not be any worse than the place where she was the day before. We went to the public assistance committee, and after five minutes she was attended to, and got satisfaction for the demand she was making. I am not an apologist for the public assistance committees, but in that particular case they were capable of 2341 understanding the needs of a mother whose sons were in the Army. Do not let any hon. Members delude themselves with the belief that the Unemployment Assistance Board is a popular institution with the people of this country. It is not.
About a fortnight ago I was in Caerau, a Welsh village. After I had spoken at a meeting a young man came and asked whether I remembered seeing him some years ago. I said "Yes," and a woman who was there said, "Yes, I was there at the time." As a matter of fact, a number of years ago I went to this village to see a friend. I looked up the street and saw numbers of women at the doors talking in groups, it being a nice afternoon. But all of a sudden everyone disappeared from the street. I could not understand it. When I got to the door of my friend's house a woman peeped out. I asked if Mr. So-and-So was in. She said, "No," and closed the door. When I saw my friend I asked him what was wrong, and he said, "Oh, the women thought you were the means test man." They were in abject terror of the means test man, and you can go to any part of the country and find the same feeling. That is what the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) meant when he described the means test as a source of dread.
§ The Chairman
And the hon. Member will recollect that that was the time when I interrupted his hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The Unemployment Assistance Board administration is a source of terror to working-class homes because of the character of the work it carries out. The pensions committee is not, because the work it carries out is of an entirely different character. The machinery of the pensions committee may
§ not be perfect, but it is much better and more humane than the machinery proposed in this Clause. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) is an expert in the art of being for and against. He told us that the old folk understand the Government. I will guarantee that they do not understand the hon. Member for East Fife. I will guarantee that they do not know on which side he is. The hon. Member thinks that this should be a national charge and under national control, but if we are going to have national control, this is the place, the House of Commons, where we should have national control. Put this matter under the control of the Unemployment Assistance Board, and the House of Commons has no control whatever. Did the hon. Member for East Fife explain that to his constituents? I doubt whether he did, because I think he would get a pretty rough time in trying to justify this Bill. I suggest that in view of the fact that the machinery of the Amendment, while it is not the best that could be presented, is much more desirable and much more humane than the soulless machinery of the Unemployment Assistance Board, the Minister should at least accept the Amendment and at least make it much easier.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 196; Noes, 141.2345
|Division No. 33.]||AYES.||[7.26 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Boulton, W. W.||Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Brass, Sir W.||Colfox, Major Sir W. P.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Colville, Rt. Hon. John|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Se'h Univ's)||Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Craven-Ellis, W.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page|
|Assheton, R.||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Crooke, Sir J. Smedley|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Butcher, H. W.||Cross, R. H.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Crowder, J. F. E.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Cruddas, Col. B.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Carver, Major W. H.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||De la Bère, R.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Channon, H.||Denville, Alfred|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Doland, G. F.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Chorlton, A. E. L.||Drewe, C.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Christie, J. A.||Duekworth, W. R. (Moss Side)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Lindsay, K M.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Lipson, D. L.||Salt, E. W|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Lloyd, G. W.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Emery, J. F.||Loftus, P. C.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Etherton, Ralph||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Everard, Sir William Lindsay||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Selley, H. R.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||MacDonald, Rt. Han. M. (Ross)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||McKie, J. H.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Magnay, T.||Smithers, Sir W|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Maitland, Sir Adam||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Gledhill, G.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)|
|Goldie, N. B.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Spens, W. P.|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Storey, S.|
|Gridley. Sir A. B.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Mitchell, Col. H. (Brentf'd & Chisw'k)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Hambro, A. V.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Touche., G. C.|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Nall, Sir J.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Harland, H. P.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Palmer, G. E. H.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Higgs, W. F.||Peake, O.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Howitt. Dr. A. B.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Joel, D. J. B.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Robertson, D.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Lamb, Sir J. O.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Leech, Sir J. W.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Levy, T.||Rowlands, G.||Mr. Munro and Major Sir James Edmondson.|
|Lewis, O.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Liddall, W. S.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||John, W.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Foot, D. M.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Frankel, D.||Lathan, G.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Gallacher, W.||Leach, W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Gardner, B. W.||Leonard, W.|
|Barnes, A. J.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Barr, J.||Gibson. R. (Greenock)||Lunn, W.|
|Batey, J.||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Bevan, A.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||MacLaren, A.|
|Bromfield, W.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Maclean, N.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Mander, G. le M.|
|Buchanan, G.||Groves, T. E.||Marshall, F.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hall. G. H. (Aberdare)||Martin, J. H.|
|Cape, T.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Maxton, J.|
|Cassells, T.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Messer, F.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Harbord, Sir A.||Milner, Major J.|
|Chater, D.||Hardie, Agnes||Montague, F.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doneaster)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Harvey, T. E.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Collindridge, F.||Hayday, A.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Mort, D. L.|
|Daggar, G.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Muff, G.|
|Dalton, H.||Hicks, E. G.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Noel-Baker, P. J|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hollins, A. (Hanley)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Dobble, W.||Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Owen, Major G.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Horabin, T. L.||Paling, W.|
|Ede, J. C.||Jackson, W. F.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Jagger, J.||Pearson, A.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Badwelty)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Pethick-Lawrance, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Poole, C. C.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Price, M. P.||Sorensen, R. W.||Westwood, J.|
|Quibell, D. J. K.||Stephen, C.||White, H. Graham|
|Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'nx)||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Ridley, G.||Stokes, R. R.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Riley, B||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth,N.)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Ritson, J.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Wilmot, John|
|Sexton, T. M.||Thorne, W.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Shinwell. E.||Thurtle, E.||Woodburn, A.|
|Silkin, L.||Tinker, J. J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Silverman, S. S.||Tomlinson, G.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Sloan, A.||Viant, S. P.|
|Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Watson, W. McL.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Smith, E. (Stoke)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. Adamson.|
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Major Milner
I beg to move, in page 6, line 18, to leave out Sub-section (4).
I am moving this Amendment in the first place to obtain an explanation from the Minister on various matters referred to in the Sub-section. The rules which are to be made for carrying out this part of the Act are obviously extremely important from the point of view of the old age pensioners, and I think the Minister ought to be prepared to tell us precisely what he has in mindin regard to them. The rules, it is said in the Sub-section, shall prescribe the times at which, and the manner in which, applications for supplementary pensions are to be made. I would ask the Minister whether he would indicate what he has in mind in regard to the times at which, and the manner in which, applications shall be made.
I notice that there is an omission from the Clause in that the question of review is not mentioned. How often is it proposed that the Assistance Board, or the authority, whoever they are, appointed in the prescribed manner, shall review the supplementary pensions granted? Will they be reviewed every week, every month, or every three months, or what period has the Minister in mind? I understand that with enlightened local authorities, such as in Leeds, three months is the minimum time for review. If we can be told what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind with regard to the methods of payment of pensions, that too will be appreciated. Perhaps I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I understand that there is provision in the Bill to delegate those to whom pensions may be paid on behalf of the pensioners. There are a number of systems by which payment could be made. Obviously a large proportion of old age pensioners are bedridden and cannot even reach a post office. It has been the practice in many 2346 places to send pensions to them. In Leeds, 60 per cent. of the relief paid to old age pensioners is made by paid clerks who personally attend the house, assist the pensioner in everyway they can, and do helpful work on their behalf. Is there to be provision in this Bill for work of that nature to be performed? Will the rules allow pensions to be sent as in Glasgow, for example, by registered post?
§ Major Milner
I think the visit of an appropriate clerk or official is a much better way if it can be arranged, although I imagine it is rather difficult in large county areas. In other cases postal orders are sent which can be cashed at the local post offices. It is very necessary that we should know what provision the right hon. Gentleman has in mind and, in particular, whether these rules will provide anything in regard to the welfare work to which I have already referred. The Minister has assured local authorities that he has the question of welfare work well in mind. I do not know whether it is the proper place to raise it, and I do not intend to labour it, but will these rules make any provision for welfare work to be carried out, and, if so, by whom? It is essential that the Committee should know, before passing this Sub-section, what the Minister has in mind in regard to the very important matters mentioned in it.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris
I should like to know and, indeed, the Committee would like to know, who is to be responsible for drafting these rules. It would go a long way to meet the feeling of the Committee and the country as a whole, if we could have an assurance that the rules are to come before the House of Commons and be subject to criticism in due course. It 2347 would give a great deal of satisfaction if the Minister could assure us on that point.
§ Mr. Elliot
I think I can give the hon. Baronet that assurance straight away. The rules have to be laid on the Table of the House.
§ Mr. Elliot
The Board drafts them and they are confirmed by the Minister. They have to be brought before the House on the responsibility of the Minister, and have to lie on the Table of the House. They can be Prayed against if the House so desires.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Am I correct in under standing that under this Bill the Minister of Health has the right also to frame regulations, and, if so, can the Minister give an undertaking that he will consider between now and the Report stage that before the regulations are placed before the House he will do it in a way—
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) has asked me a Question, and I will try to deal with the point he has in mind at a later stage. What we are discussing now are the rules. The regulations are a different point. These are rules, and, as I have said, they are drafted by the Board. If I agree with the draft, I put it before the House, and, if the House does not object to them, then they come into force.
§ Mr. Lathan
Is it not correct to say that the only method of varying the rules would be by the cumbersome method of the procedure by Prayer?
§ Mr. Elliot
That is so, but I think otherwise there is, as everyone knows with all these things, a danger that each separate Clause would have to be examined piece by piece if this were not the case. I am suggesting here the procedure with which the House is familiar and well acquainted—that the rules will lie on the Table of the House, and if objection is taken, they can be Prayed against. That procedure is extremely effective, not merely in the Prayers uttered, but in the Prayers suppressed, because a Minister drafting a document 2348 that he knows is open to criticism by the House has to consider very carefully whether in fact such a rule is likely to have the approval of the House or not.
I was asked by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) for some indication of what was to be in the rules. It would not be possible for me to go into these matters in detail now, but he asked me in particular about welfare. There is an Amendment on the Paper which will be reached at a later stage which will be a more appropriate occasion to raise the general question of welfare. He asked whether I could give an indication as to how often it is proposed that pensioners would have to attend for a review of their claims. That is a most important point on which the Committee would like to be reassured. My view is that it should be possible under this to come to a determination which will run for a considerable time. It might run for three months or six months. I am thinking much more of the long periods for which, let us say, non-contributory pensions usually run, than of rapidly succeeding determinations under which people go, let us say, for unemployment assistance, or attend before a public assistance committee. The determination once having been made will run throughout its whole period, and a person with a little acquisition to their income during that period will not thereby fall under the ban of the law, or be subject to any pettifogging inquisition. That is what I have in mind. I hope to be able to draft these rules according to that. I want to give the utmost possible latitude and consideration to pensioners and treat the supplementation as a supplementary pension rather than as a temporary award of assistance.
§ Sir P. Harris
The Minister rather promises he is going to draft the rules. I understood that he was not going to draft these rules but that it was the Assistance Board, and all he could do was to confirm them—that he was not the draftsman and the rules were not going to be his.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Is it the intention of the Minister to say to the local officers that where a case has been granted it is granted for a minimum period of at least six months?
§ Mr. Elliot
I certainly have in mind a determination which would run over a 2349 period of months such as the hon. Member has in mind. I am not sure that it would be possible—I will look into the point—to lay down that in every case it must be for a minimum of so many months, because there might be cases in which that would be inappropriate. The hon. Baronet said, "Surely the Minister is going beyond his book. He says he intends that the rules should contain so and so." I have already been in consultation and discussion with the Chairman of the Board and others as to what sort of rules I should eventually have to put before the House. The statement that I have made is made after consultation with responsible people in the Board, and I have every reason to suppose that the rules will correspond with the outline that I have given.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
In considering this problem of what should be the length of the determination, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that in the case of at least some public assistance authorities in Scotland the determination normally in the case of old age pensioners is only six months?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
While I realise the difficulty of separating rules and regulations, it seems to me that the Minister has been dealing with regulations and not with the rules referred to in this paragraph. I take it that the rules to be made under these regulations, on which we want some guidance, are the rules which will govern the conduct of the pensioner in seeking the supplementation and not the rules which are to determine the amount of that supplementation. The wording of the Clause itself gives me that impression, and it is with regard to one word that I want to ask for information. It says:Such rules may provide for enabling supplementary pensions to be paid through the Post Office.The chief virtue of this scheme is that a promise has been made that they will be paid through the Post Office. I have not had much that is good to say about the Measure, but the one good thing about it is the impression that the pension is to be paid through the Post Office. If there is some doubt about it, I think it would be a great blot upon the scheme itself.
§ Mr. Elliot
Up to now we have not been discussing regulations but rules. Regulations are a different matter and are subject to a different procedure. They have to be passed by an affirmative Resolution of the House instead of merely being subject to a negative Resolution. It is our desire that, in every case where it is at all for the convenience or the good of the pensioner, the supplementary pension should be paid through the Post Office. But there are cases where it is, I will not say physically impossible, but highly undesirable, that the pensioner should be put to the pain and toil of going out of the house for the purpose of collecting the pension even through the Post Office. Therefore, we take discretion and say that it may be paid. I think the word "may" must be left here. The object of the provision is that the normal method of payment should be through the Post Office, but some discretion must be left for the convenience of the pensioners themselves.
§ Mr. Messer
Does that apply only to the supplementary or to the whole pension? In many cases pensioners at present are unable to go to the post office, and in those circumstances provisionis made for someone else to get it. Do I understand that that will still remain for the pension, but that the supplementary pension will be payable in a different way?
§ Mr. Elliot
No, I am only taking the same power for the supplementary pension as has been found necessary in the case of the main pension.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
That covers to a large extent the question I was wanting to raise on these rules. Surely it is desirable, not that there should be two days on which the pensioner should attend at the post office, but that his supplementation should be paid along with the pension proper.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
From the powers that are taken and from the wording of the Sub-section, it would appear as though the Board made one set of regulations and that there would be another for the pensioner.
§ Mr. Elliot
It is my desire and intention to make sure that no such discrepancy should arise. I will do my best to see 2351 that what the Committee wishes is secured if it is administratively possible.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The Clause says that the Minister shall prescribe the manner in which applications for supplementary pensions are to be made. Would the Minister give us some indication whether the application will be made at a post office, or on a form to be applied for at a post office, or through an Employment Exchange? Then the right hon. Gentleman said he would make the review period either three or six months. I take it that he will also bear in mind that, if there is any change in circumstances which warrants a pensioner in applying for an increased supplementation owing to some unusual occurrence which is now met by an immediate payment, he will make the necessary provision?
§ Mr. Elliot
Certainly. Obviously if there is some sudden change in the circumstances of the pensioner, it must and will be possible under the rules for an immediate re-determination to be made. As to the other point, I will undertake that application forms will be available at the post office. They will be available at the local office of the Assistance Board, but I will also arrange that they shall also be available at the post office.
§ Mr. Buchanan
There is one thing that worries me. I thought there was no doubt that the post office would pay in every case, but I have begun to get a feeling that it is intended to do with the old age pensioner what you do with the unemployed in some cases, and pay not in cash, but with groceries or something like that. There is another point that worries me, as to the place of payment. A man or woman living alone who goes into a hospital usually assigns the pension to the public assistance authority which pays the rent until the person comes out. I am wondering what method is to be adopted here to see that the home is there when he comes out. I was afraid that there was some ulterior motive behind this and that it was not intended to pay through the post office at all, but I understand that in the event of an emergency, such as flooding after a frost, the grant may be made at once.
Mr. David Adams
In Durham there are some 420 old age pensioners in receipt of institutional treatment. Can we know exactly how these people, who are very carefully protected at the moment, will be dealt with in the case of supplementary pensions?
§ Mr. Elliot
The point of institutional treatment comes up at a later stage. There are several Amendments down. It would be better to discuss that when the point arises. I can assure the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) that we have no ulterior motive. Payment will normally be made through the post office, but we had in mind cases where, owing to some disability, the pensioner would be unable to go to the post office. With regard to his fear that we might be going to pay out in the form of groceries, we have nowhere taken any such power and it would be illegal for us to do so. There is no power in the Bill to enable me to make payments in that form.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I beg to move, in page 6, line 23, to leave out "may," and to insert "shall where practicable."
The wording of the Clause leads to the possibility of all kinds of provisions being made which have nothing to do with the Post Office at all. To cover what the right hon. Gentleman has said, it would seem that it would have been better to say, "The rules shall provide that the supplementary pension shall be paid at the Post Office." At the moment the right hon. Gentleman opposite has the power, but a successor of his might not exercise that power so genially. He may provide or not provide for payments through the Post Office just as he pleases. Therefore we are anxious to have something definite in the Act. While we trust the right hon. Gentleman, we do not know what may happen in the future, and we would like the Act to provide for payment through the Post Office where practicable. I should be against saying that pensions must be paid through the Post Office, because there are pensioners who cannot reach a Post Office. There are parts of Scotland where there is no Post Office within miles of a pensioner. The Scottish Office years ago issued a very sympathetic letter telling authorities that they must pay special care to old age pensioners, 2353 because there had been cases of pensioners living alone, unable through sickness to attend to their own needs, and dying in distress because there was no one to look after them. It would be quite impossible to stipulate in the case of such people that pensions must be paid through the Post Office, and that is why I suggest the words "where practicable." But I am not bound by those words, and I recognise that they might be improved upon. What I do ask for is an assurance from the Minister that something will be put into the Bill making it obligatory, where practicable, to pay pensions through the Post Office.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I have examined the hon. Member's Amendment, and I went into it carefully with the draftsmen to see whether I could meet him. I am advised that the words "where practicable" are not apt to the object in view. The words would mean that pensions had to be paid through the Post Office unless it was absolutely impracticable that that should be done. It would turn the matter into one of administrative convenience, whereas we are concerned with humanitarian motives—the pensioner's convenience. It might be that some officer ought to go out and make the payment rather than require the pensioner to attend at the Post Office or at any other place. All we want is to be able to exercise discretion, and I can assure the hon. Member that that is the proper word. The best way is to let us have the Bill as soon as possible so that we can frame rules and lay them before the House and ensure by that means the object we all desire, namely, that the Post Office should be the normal source of payment, but that discretion should be allowed.
§ Mr. G. Macdonald
What we feel is that it is an advantage that pensions should be drawn through the Post Office, and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has emphasised that he intends doing that in every case where it is possible.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the matter with his draftsmen and see whether the Clause could be made to read that the rules shall provide that supplementary pensions may be paid through the Post Office?
§ Mr. Messer
When we were discussing the Military Training Act, exactly the 2354 same point arose in regard to the Regulations, and I pointed out then that the use of the word "may" left it that the regulations might or might not provide for a certain thing. We want the rules to provide for something and then for a permissive character to be introduced after you have said that the rule "shall provide." I think the Minister will see that there is something in that point.
§ Mr. Elliot
I will undertake to go into this matter with the hon. Gentleman himself. It may be possible that we shall be able to insert some words to ensure what he has in mind, but I think it will be better to put the hon. Member in touch with the draftsmen. Then we might either agree on a form of words or agree that the thing is not practicable.
§ Mr. Woodburn
In view of what the Minister has said, I would ask leave to withdraw my Amendment, and I thank the Minister.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I beg to move, in page 6, line 29, to leave out from "the," to "nineteen," in line 30, and to insert "second day of August."
I have been appealed to on several occasions to be forthcoming and to help the Committee in the difficult task upon which it is engaged, and so I should like to offer some contribution towards the mood of reasonableness which has come over the Committee. Doubt has been expressed as to whether we shall be able to carry through the very big administrative task in front of us, and also as to whether the Committee was altogether fulfilling its duty of vigilance with regard to the Regulations which must be made under the Measure. I am therefore proposing to put onwards the date of the coming into operation of this Part of the Measure. That proposal, I think, must appeal to those hon. Members opposite who do not like the Bill at all; to hon. Members who feel that the Bill is good but that there is doubt whether we can complete the task, and also to hon. Members who wish to have a further review of the matter. If this Amendment is made, it will enable the Board to submit regulations to the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland in time for those Regulations to be laid before Parliament, and an affirmative 2355 Resolution passed, before the end of July, when we hope that, even in war time, the House will rise for the Summer Recess. I suggest that the Amendment is a substantial contribution towards the removal of misgivings which have been expressed in some parts of the Committee. Parliament, by it, will get a second string on the Minister, if I may put it colloquially. On the ground both of administrative convenience and constitutional practice, I hope the Committee will see fit to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. George Hall
In the Debate on the two previous Amendments the Minister referred to the conciliatory spirit existing in the Committee, but he must have known that the objection to Clause 8 is really the kernel of the opposition to this Bill. Clause 8 contains the principle that a supplementary pension is only to be paid in case of need and we oppose the Clause for that reason. It is not necessary to repeat the arguments that were used in the Debates on the Second Reading of the Bill and the Financial Resolution. The attitude of my hon. Friends and myself was made quite clear then. We still hold the view that a flat rate increase should have been conceded. Whatever arguments may be used with regard to whether the needs test should be based on personal needs, family needs or household needs, I think a very large proportion of hon. Members are of the opinion that no kind of test should apply to an increase in the old age pension. We have some 3,000,000 persons in this country in receipt of old age pensions. With the exception of 375,000 who are in employment earning wages, the large majority are entirely dependent upon their 10s. a week old age pension.
It has been admitted times without number by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and every Member of the Government that the old age pensioner cannot live on his pension, and there is not a Member opposite who would maintain the contrary. If that be the case, why are the Government so anxious to apply a needs test to the supplementary pension?
2356 The right hon. Gentleman and the Chancellor said on Second Reading that it was no use giving a flat rate pension because some pensioners might need a pension in excess of any flat rate which could be conceded. That is not the point. Why should hundreds of thousands, possibly 1,000,000, old age pensioners have to submit themselves to the humiliation of an investigation every three or six months? Any hon. Member who has had acquaintance with the kind of investigation which must take place under the family means test, must admit that these old warriors of industry ought never to be submitted to it. We take the view that the blot upon this Bill is the family means test, and the Government really ought to be ashamed of themselves for applying it to the type of person to whom it will be applied.
Much has been said about the pensions which were introduced in 1908, but in that year industrial conditions were far different from the conditions of to-day. The fixing of the age of pension for women at 65 is an indication to many industrialists that these people are too old to continue their employment at that age. It has been brought to my notice that in many of the industrial concerns in South Wales when a person reaches 65 he receives his notice and has to leave his employment. I have known cases in which if the man is an exceptionally good man his employer, instead of tendering him notice to terminate his contract, asks him whether he is prepared to accept a reduction in wages equivalent to the old age pension which he will receive. The result is that a large proportion of men in the heavy industries are compelled to leave their employment when they reach 65. The estimate in the Memorandum to the Bill of the number of persons who will apply for the supplementary pension is far too low. Instead of having 300,000 to 400,000 as is suggested, I should not be surprised, and, indeed, it will not be the fault of my hon. Friends if that number is not far exceeded. We shall then see in this country the humiliating spectacle of old men and women being submitted to the household means test. Many of them have given over 50 years of their lives to the building up of industry and have not had an opportunity of saving to enable them to supplement their pensions. The wages in many industries are so low that when the 2357 household expenses have been met, they have been unable to set aside sufficient to enable them to live when they reach the age of retirement in the degree of comfort to which they are entitled.
Under this Bill, instead of the elderly people looking to retirement as a reward for their 50 years of service to the State, and instead of being benefited by a reward for those services, they will feel that they are a drag upon their families and the community. If there is one section of the community which should be able to feel when they reach the age of retirement that their jobs have been well done and that they can look upon their connection with industry with pride and pleasure, it is the section of industrial workers who will come under this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman must know that the one thing done by the Government since1931 which has embittered the working people more than anything else, is the application of the household means test to the unemployed man when his statutory benefit has expired. In dealing with the unemployed we are dealing with men between 16 and 64. Even if there is any justification for applying the family means test to men of those ages, there can be no justification, whatever the financial stress of the country might be, for applying it to the type of people to whom this Bill intends that it should be applied. As one who loves my association with some of these elderly people, I feel as though something has been struck into my very soul when I see that these men, who, after all, have been the greatest men this country has seen—modest, humble, industrious, cheerful—men upon whom the great industries of this country have depended, will in the eventide of their lives have to submit themselves to a family means test.
In the Second Reading Debate I recited the types of income which are taken into consideration in making up family means. I gather that the Regulations for the household means test will be similar to the Regulations now applied by the Unemployment Assistance Board. If not, these items are bound to be taken into consideration in the investigation: public assistance relief, national health insurance payments, workmen's compensation, soldiers' allowances, disability pensions, separation orders. Every one of them ought to make the right hon.
2358 Gentleman and every Member of the Government blush. I am not suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman himself is not acquainted with the operation of the household means test; he must be, as representing a constituency in Glasgow; but if he would come into the industrial areas of South Wales and inquire, not of members of my political party, but of representatives of his own party, representatives off the churches and public bodies, or any fair-minded man or woman, about the operation of this means test, I do not think he would stand for it.
I well remember how the first Regulations brought before the House were supported by the then Minister of Labour, who is now Secretary of State for War. All kinds of promises were given by him, just as the Minister of Health has given promises, that the Regulations would be administered in a spirit of generosity. Those Regulations had been in operation for less than a fortnight when the Minister had frankly to admit that they had not been drawn up and administered quite as he expected. He withdrew the Regulations which he had previously pleaded with the House to pass and he did so because he could see the damaging effect of them—not upon men between 60 and 65 or 65 and over, but upon men between the ages of 18 and 64. I am inclined to think that unless the right hon. Gentleman withdraws this family means test there will be no more disappointed man in the country than he will be when he realises the great injustices inflicted upon these millions of aged people.
We are not dealing with strong, physically fit people, who can fight. We are dealing with 3,000,000 people over 65 years of age. The right hon. Gentleman and the Government are the custodians of the well-being of those people, and they should see that they are treated as generously as possible, without asking a son or a daughter who may be living at home to sacrifice income because the Government feel that the family means test should be put into operation. The other day there was brought to my notice the case of a family quite as respectable as my own family and as respectable as the family of any hon. Member. There were two sons and a daughter. The two sons, who had married, had been driven away from the 2359 district on account of the continued trade depression. The aged parents were left with their daughter, who was resident in that place, where they had lived for 50 years. The parents, because they could not live upon 10s. a week, removed their belongings to their daughter's residence. The daughter's husband was a colliery worker earning a very low rate of wages. Those aged people did apply for public assistance and received it for a short time, but because the income of the son-in-law was such that the income of the house averaged so much per head, the amount of public assistance was reduced. This resulted in continual quarrelling between the daughter and the son-in-law because the son-in-law was being called upon partially to maintain his father-in-law and his mother-in-law.
Under this Bill incidents of that kind will be repeated in innumerable cases. The Government are not depriving the old people of income only but are depriving them of something which to them is very much more valuable than income, and that is the comfort and company of their children. A large proportion of them will not seek the company of their children if they think that by doing so they will be deprived of their supplementary pensions, be it 6s., 7s., 10s. or 11s. a week. If I were in the position of the Government, I should put the comfort of those aged people above anything which might be saved by the application of the family means test. The family means test can only be operated by the employment of a horde of officials, and, as is made manifest by the Unemployment Assistance Board, the cost of administering it is as great as, or almost exceeds, the amount which is saved by its application. A horde of officials is to be brought into being to harass and to harrow these old people. I say again that it is unworthy of the Minister and unworthy of the Government to proceed with a Bill which applies the family means test to these aged people.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Colville
Without wishing in any way to curtail discussion, I think it is right that I should reply at once to the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall), because he says that he regards this Clause as the kernel of the Bill. We do so too, because we believe it contains provisions for directing assistance 2360 to the places where it is most required. I know that the hon. Member and his friends feel strongly about this point, but he must also realise that in present circumstances the Bill must be regarded against the background of the war. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] Hon. Members cannot by saying "Ah" get away from the fact that we are engaged in an immense and terrible struggle, and having regard to that background we must make provisions for directing the assistance which we are making available, to the homes where it is most needed.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Does the Minister seek to defend the Government by saying that we are now at war, having regard to the numerous opportunities which they had of dealing with this question before the war?
§ Mr. G. Macdonald
And will the Minister keep in mind that when he was Financial Secretary to the Treasury three years ago he opposed the grant of better pensions?
§ Mr. Colville
I did so then. We cannot argue that point now, but I do say that to discuss this question now as if there were no war, would be folly.
§ Mr. George Hall
Is it not the fact that within three months of the outbreak of the war the Government were resolutely opposed to making any increase in pensions at all? Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman ought not to use the war as an excuse.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
As against the time when old age pensions were increased to 10s., the cost of living to-day shows an increase of 4s. 6d. to the old people. That was long before the present war.
§ Mr. Colville
I have listened to what hon. Members have said, but I cannot think that they can afford to disregard the fact of the immense scale of our national expenditure to-day. We have discussed the Bill very carefully and thoughtfully for five hours. I do not propose to go into the details of the Clause again, but I would remind hon. Members that the alternative to doing what we are doing in the Bill would be to pay a flat rate sufficient to cover the needs of everybody. No one has suggested, and hon. Members in their plan did not suggest, a rate which would cover the needs of everyone. Therefore there will always remain a residue which will 2361 have to be dealt with—on the basis of what? On the basis of needs. I suggest to hon. Members that they apply their minds to the question whether, if 5s. were added as a flat rate to all pensions as was suggested by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr.Dalton) when he wound up his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill, it would remove the necessity of giving further assistance to many pensioners in this country. If it did not, how would that further assistance be given? It would be given on the basis of needs. In examining this problem, hon. Members opposite should realise in fairness that this is a question of degree and not of principle.
We think that the right thing to do is to make available assistance on the basis of need. Having decided to do so, we have proposed machinery for administering that Part of the Bill. The explanatory Memorandum to the Bill says:It is impossible to forecast with any precision the cost to the Exchequer of supplementary pensions, but no doubt a number of person, will apply for supplementary pensions who under existing conditions refrain from seeking public assistance, and it may therefore be assumed that the cost to the Exchequer will be substantially in excess of this sum"—the sum of £5,000,000. That is our belief. In fact, the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken thought there might be a larger number of people applying than had been generally estimated. Our belief is that there will be an increased number of people applying, a considerable increase on the present number who are getting help by way of public assistance.
This afternoon we have listened to a long argument whether the public assistance authority should be left to deal with this matter and be given State money with which to do it. A good many old people in this, country refrain from seeking assistance that they need because they do not like to go to the public assistance authority.
§ Mr. G. Macdonald
We are being misrepresented. The Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman refers deals with pensions committees and not with public assistance committees.
§ Mr. Colville
In the course of the discussion a good deal has been said about the administration of public assistance committees. Speaking generally, they have done their best to handle fairly and 2362 well the matters that have come before them. I am not speaking without knowledge, because I have met deputation after deputation from public assistance committees and I know that they have done their best. There are many old people who do not go to the public assistance committee and who will come under our provisions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Question."] Well, I am putting my point of view. It is thought there will be many people who will do so, and that therefore we shall be improving the conditions of a great many old age pensioners.
§ Mr. Colville
That matter was dealt with and voted upon in the House. The opinion of the House was contrary to the view expressed by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. John Morgan
Is the Minister contending that, had a flat rate been given, this class of person would have no need to come forward at all?
§ Mr. Colville
It depends upon what the flat rate is. If it were 5s., as was suggested by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, a great number of people would, I think, still have to come forward. The criterion will be the humane and sympathetic administration of the proposals.
§ Mr. Colville
While there is room for controversy on matters of this kind—and I readily recognise that there is—hon. Members will agree that we are entitled to our point of view that our proposal will direct money to the homes where it is most needed, and in a manner that is not open to the same objection as the channels of assistance have previously been. Therefore, by adopting this method, we shall help many thousands of old people.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by saying that we had to consider the Bill in connection with the present circumstances. We remember quite well what happened when there was no war; the Government were prepared to do nothing at all. It was pointed out by some who intervened that it was not a very happy way of trying to defend the 2363 Bill. If you pursued that argument, it would mean that the worse the war became, the greater amount by way of allowances and old age pension the Government would give. This Clause deals with a matter to which people all over the country have been looking forward with a deep interest for many months. I know, because I presented in the month of July at Downing Street a petition from many thousands of my constituents. We brought up an old age pensioner and his wife. Those people were looking forward to all-round increases in the amount of the pension by 2s. 6d. or 5s. and were not expecting anything of this kind at all. They expected to be all treated alike, but I think they will be very disappointed that it has not been found possible to act on those lines and so to give general satisfaction.
There is one point on which I would like to make a passing reference. It concerns Sub-section (1), which states that the provisions shall apply toa person who has attained the age of sixty and is entitled to receive weekly payments on account of a widow's pension.It would have been very much better if certain words had been omitted, and the supplementary assistance were available to a widow, whatever her age. It is not a question of age but of need. At the age of 55, or even less, if the need is great, it ought to be met, regardless of age. The Government have acted very unwisely in introducing at this moment in the home field one of the most controversial issues that could possibly arise. We are all familiar with the intense bitterness that there has been since 1931 in the industrial areas all over the country over this question. Certainly there was no need to introduce it into fresh questions, and thus throw up a lot of further trouble where it did not exist before.
I do not know whether there has been any statement as to the cost of these pensions if the household means test were abolished, but I hope a statement can be made. A good deal of trouble will be created in the households of these old people, because there are not only their children living in these households; there are grandchildren and great grandchildren. You will probably find four generations living together, and three of them will have to have their case investigated one after the other in order to see 2364 what is to be left for the old people. There will be a tendency for people to be not so considerate in having the old people in their homes as at present. It will create all sorts of friction between sons, married daughters and other relations.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Cyril Entwistle)
I do not think it is in Order on this Clause to discuss the respective merits of the household test, the family test and the personal income test as these matters arise on the Schedule. It is only in Order on this Clause to discuss the needs test in general.
§ Mr. Mander
I appreciate that the matters of detail must be reserved for the question of the Schedule. However, I think I have made my point. My next point is this. The Government say it is well known that at the present time there is a certain number of old people in the country whose needs are great, but who because of a certain psychology with regard to traditions of the past—their feelings about what is right and proper—do not care to come out of their homes and go to the public assistance committee in order to have their cases investigated by the officers. They would rather suffer in silence than commit themselves to what they regard as an indignity. That outlook may be right or it may be wrong. The Government say all that is going to be changed, that things are so different now, that people will feel it will be thoroughly honourable to themselves, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, to come forward under the new conditions. But will there be all that difference? It is true that these people will not go to the public assistance committee to have inquiries made, but they will go to the Unemployment Assistance Board, which will make the same kind of inquiries and investigations as are so strongly objected to under the present conditions. We have had the old board of guardians with their taint of the Poor Law. That was changed by the present Prime Minister in 1929 to the public assistance committees, with the idea that that stigma would no longer attach, but it does to some extent still attach. Now it is proposed to change the name again with the idea of getting the stigma once more removed. The question is, What will be the conditions which will apply to these old people? That is what will decide them as to whether they can rightly and with dignity 2365 come forward and present their cases for supplementary pensions. I very much regret that the Government have decided to deal with the matter in this way. It would be far better and more in accord with the expectations and wishes of the country if an all-round increase were given.
§ Mr. Mander
Five shillings. The Government have been unwise in introducing one of the most acutely controversial subjects which will rage throughout the length and breadth of this land.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Macdonald
I rise to support the rejection of this Clause for two reasons. First of all, it is unkind to the old people, and, secondly it is unnecessary. After they have given from 40 to 50 years' good service to the nation, to treat our old people in this manner by telling them that before they can have a pension requisite for their needs the whole of their household income must be taken into consideration is most unfair. When the Government tell us that we must remember that the country is at war, I for one deny them the right to argue in such a manner. For over three years now this party has placed before the House the question of the old age pensions. Three years ago I had my case dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland—he was then the Financial Secretary to the Treasury—and f remember him saying that the Government had every sympathy with the old age pensioner and they thought that something should be done but the Labour plan was not too good a plan; they said there were defects here and there. I do not deny that even the Labour plan may have had defects here and there, but I do not think that three years later it is right that the right hon. Gentleman should say, "We have delayed doing anything for the old age pensioner until the war came. Now then discuss it, but remember that we are at war."
I desire to emphasise that as a party we agreed to a kind of test. I got what I expected from the Minister of Health during the Debate on the Second Reading. He reminded us that we ourselves fixed the age at 65 and fixed 35s. for a man and wife on condition that the husband retired from work, and he said that that 2366 was a very rigorous test. I agree, but it is a test which I myself would accept, because I do not think a person should receive a pension from the State if he is receiving wages or salary. The nation to-day is paying to old age pensioners money which they should not receive. I do not think that men who are receiving £3 or £4 a week wages ought to receive 10s. a week in addition, neither do I think that other higher placed men should be receiving substantial pensions in addition to substantial salaries. I do not follow the argument that because we have said a pension should apply only to people who retire from industry, therefore we should give up the right to criticise the needs test. We as a party say that the pension should be sufficient to enable a man to retire from industry and he ought not to receive that pension unless he does retire from industry. Now we are told that the plan is impracticable because there is a war on. It may surprise the right hon. Gentleman that I, for one, do not subscribe to that doctrine. I do not agree that to-day we cannot afford to provide adequately for the old people. The annual cost would be less than a week's cost of carrying on the war.
§ Mr. Macdonald
I say £30,000,000 or £40,000,000. The annual cost of the Labour plan—£1 a week for the individual and 35s. a week for man and wife—would be less than a week's cost of the war.
§ Mr. Macdonald
Yes. The rest would be found by the worker and the employer. The right hon. Gentleman will probably remember that I gave similar figures three years ago. That proves that there is no necessity to inflict this needs test upon so deserving a section of the population. It is said, "Yes, but surely the relatives who live with the old people should have some responsibility." They will have. When we have given this pension, the sons and daughters with whom these old people are living will, I know, still be quite pleased to do something for them. We object to telling these old people, "You cannot have the increased pension without the examiner coming into your household." In the 2367 Debate on the Money Resolution, I went into the question of how little difference exists between the U.A.B. and the public assistance committees. I do not want to repeat all that, but I want the Government to remember that there is very little difference. If the present committees are insufficient, increase them. I am quite satisfied that the investigations which will take place under the U.A.B. will be as rigorous as those now taking place under the public assistance committees.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I have said that we cannot discuss the household test in detail and also we cannot discuss whether the administration shall be by the U.A.B., because that arises on the next Clause.
§ Mr. Macdonald
We want the investigation to be as humane as possible, and we want to keep some control over the investigation itself. I find, right through this Bill, a great amount of craft, of cunning, and of ingenuity. I know that Governments pride themselves when they are crafty, cunning, and ingenious; but I prefer kindliness to craftiness and candour to cunning; and I should have preferred to see far more generosity in this Bill, and less ingenuity.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I am afraid that there is nothing further that can be said on this side that will persuade the Opposition to change their minds. As I have already dealt with the matter in an earlier speech, I do not want to take up the time of the Committee by repeating the same points. I would merely ask my right hon. Friend for one or two assurances. I have said already that I think this Bill ought to be supported, and I believe that when it is understood it will be supported; but it will be supported by the mass of those simple people who are old age pensioners only if there are certain safeguards made abundantly clear in the Bill. [Interruption.] Permit me to explain what I mean. The first safeguard is the one so often mentioned this evening—that the administration of the new scheme shall be as sympathetic, if not as generous, as is humanly possible. Largely as a result of the outcry which the Opposition have made, here and in the country, against what they call the means test and against the U.A.B., there 2368 is no doubt—I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree—that a number of old people are now a little nervous about this whole scheme. There is only one way by which you can overcome the feeling that this is an imposition, that it is humiliating, that it is pauperism. There is only one way to overcome that, as I think, unjustified criticism; and that is to prove, by actual practice, that the U.A.B. are not inquisitive and so on. I listened with the greatest interest to this passage in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, on the Second Reading:The actual conditions will be not less favourable than the present scales of the Board, worked with the full and sympathetic discretion of the officers of the Board, who I can assure the House"—these are the words that I wish to stress—will take into full consideration the special circumstances of old age. It is not doubted by anyone that certain infirmities are the normal accompaniment of old age and the Board will, I can assure the House, take that into consideration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1940; col. 1205, Vol. 357.]
§ Mr. Buchanan
He went further, and said that in no case will the old people be treated less generously than by the good local authorities. But the U.A.B. in dealing with cases in Scotland, are, as he knows, often less generous than the public assistance committees.
I was going to deal with that. Having gone into this matter, with some care, with the officers of the Board, as I am sure my right hon. Friend has done, can he assure us that he has worked out the details so as to be certain that the examination of the old people will be more sympathetic and more generous than that experienced by the unemployed? An assurance to that effect would give me greater confidence in supporting this Measure on its various stages. Here is another point. The public assistance officers whom I know personally in my part of the world are very helpful to these old people. I know one, in the St. Andrews area, who provides for them an enormous amount of kindly, generous service. He fills up their papers, and helps them in a great many ways. Will the Unemployment Assistance Board officer be able to do that? If not, we shall have lost something by the change; and I should resent that loss exceedingly. Here is another safeguard that I should like. At present, the 2369 public assistance authorities deal fairly rapidly with the old age pensioners' claims. A claim comes before the local officer, who puts it before the authority in a day or two days, and the award is quickly decided upon. Will that happen under this new scheme? I am a little worried about that. Again, in my own area I know that the public assistance officer can go around and deal with half a dozen cases of old age pensioners in one day. Under this new scheme, probably—
§ The Temporary Chairman
This is merely a question of detailed administration, which arises on the next Clause.
I do not want to be out of Order, and, therefore, I will gladly postpone raising that matter. There are certain things called "disregards." If this scheme is to be successful, these disregards have to be somewhat generous. It is no use this scheme penalising thrift; if it does, then it is a bad scheme. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to find that the Opposition agree with me.
The Chancellor and all the rest of us are persuading people to save, but if the Government come along and say, "Having saved, that will not be disregarded but will be taken into account in the determination of means," I shall have great difficulty in justifying that in my constituency. Therefore, as I said in my Second Reading speech, I propose to support the Amendments which appear later on the Paper seeking these definite disregards. One case occurs to me particularly in East Fife of the 5s. that is being paid to the old fishermen in the fishing towns. Is that to be taken into account, or is it to be disregarded? If the former is the case, we shall most warmly and without hesitation support the Amendment.
§ Mr. Denville
Is not the hon. Member asking what we are all asking, namely, that in no circumstances shall there be a reduction in any old age pensioner's money?
I ask for a reasonable application of this new scheme, and I say quite clearly that incomes such as those from the old sailors' fund, or means such as War Savings Certificates of a limited amount ought to be disregarded. In any case I would ask my right hon. Friend at the right time, as this may not be the place, but at any rate I ask him now in general terms to give an assurance that, while the scheme must be applied fairly as between one grade of persons and another, nevertheless, he will endeavour to the utmost of what is practically possible not to penalise thrift. As far as I am able in the later stages of the Bill, I propose to support every suggestion which carries that into practical effect. Given the safeguards for which I ask, I feel that this is a good Bill.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Batey
I was rather sorry that the Chair ruled the hon. Member out of Order, because no one knows how far he would have gone. I was interested in the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland. He really made only two arguments. One was that because we were at war, it could not be expected that the Government would increase the old age pension to £1, or, in the case of a man and wife, to 35s. The Secretary of State for Scotland wants it to be kept in mind that the country is at war, but I would remind him that there is more than one front. There is the foreign front, but there is also the home front. The one front that we cannot afford to neglect is the home 2371 front. Let the people of this country become disaffected, and the war would soon be at an end. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that the Government should keep their mind upon the people at home and make them contented, if they want to pursue and win the war. The Government do not always use the argument that we are at war when they are voting money for other things. I was reading to-day that the Treasury is paying about £40,000,000 a year to the agricultural industry. As the country is at war and there is need for economy, the Government might turn their eyes in that direction.
§ Mr. Colville
I think that the party of the hon. Member, when I was in charge of a Bill the other day, advocated large increases to fanners under more favourable conditions.
§ Mr. Batey
That does not affect the argument that I am making. If the country is at war and the Government are prepared to pay the agricultural industry £40,000,000 a year without a means test, why should they apply a needs test to the pensioners and not to the farmers? If they want to be fair and they apply it to one they should apply it to the other. Only the other day I asked the Home Secretary a question with regard to men with large salaries and pensions being employed on A.R.P. work and drawing another salary, and I received the answer that the right hon. Gentleman believed that he would find strong support for the view that nothing in the nature of a means test ought to be applied in that case. If members of the Government believe that where men are in receipt of large salaries or pensions and are drawing money for A.R.P. work the means test should not be applied, how can they justify applying a means test to the old age pensioners and to the widows? The Government are not justified in applying a means test to the old age pensioners and to the widows. At the General Election in 1935 the Government issued a manifesto upon which they were elected. That manifesto, which was published in the "Parliamentary Gazette" for December, 1935, reads as follows:As regards the means test, the Government believe that no responsible person would seriously suggest that unemployment assistance, which is not insurance benefit, ought to 2372 be paid without regard to the resources properly available to the means test.The Government in that manifesto deliberately went out of their way to draw a distinction between unemployment benefit and insurance benefit. Reading the manifesto anybody would naturally come to the conclusion that the National Government did not believe in putting the means test on insurance benefit.
§ Mr. Colville
I am sorry to interrupt, but in so far as benefit is paid for by contributions, there is no question of a means test being applied to it.
§ Mr. Batey
You are not applying it to the 10s., but what we have argued for all along is an increase on the 10s., and you are putting it on the increase on that amount, which means the same thing. That is what the National Government said at the General Election they would not do—[Interruption.] Well, hon. Members on the opposite side and I will never agree upon this, but it is crystal clear to me. The manifesto goes on to say:The question is not whether there should be a means test but what that test should be.They might have said on whom the test should be, but they did not put in those words. They go on to say:This matter is now under close examination but in any scheme great importance will be attached to maintaining the unity of family life.
§ Mr. Batey
I do not wish to argue the question of family life, but the cheers of my hon. Friends show that everybody on this side is satisfied that what the Government are proposing to do will injure family life more than ever before. We object to the principle of the means test; we say that it is despicable of the Government to apply the test to old age pensioners. The means test officials are detested in the villages. People do not like the idea of officials inquiring how much money they have. An old woman might have been saving unknown to her husband. Here is a man who says 2373 "In our house there was an old chest with nothing in the bottom drawer except a newspaper. Underneath that there had rested for many years a wallet that I had as a present, but never used, for the good reason that I never had any money long enough to keep. One week I did a good bit of extra time and on a Saturday evening put £1 into the wallet for safe keeping. Believe it or not, when I got home on the Monday my wife had found it out and had taken the pound." That is the kind of disclosure which will not make for the unity of public life.
I do not want to go over all the arguments we have so often used against the principle of the means test, but I want to suggest this as a case which comes to my mind from a remark made to-night. A son or a daughter may not be living at home but may have considered it their duty to the old people to send them a few shillings every week. If they continue to do so, and this Bill becomes law, the old folk will have to reveal to the officer how much money they receive, and it will be used against them. The Government could not have done a worse thing than apply the means test to old age pensioners. I think this pensions scheme of the Government is one of the most cock-eyed schemes I ever knew. No Government that was straight would have come forward with a scheme like it, and I hope that even now it is not too late for them to retrace their steps and put an end to the means test.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I want to say a word to the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), who has been a strong defender of the Government. Throughout the day he has been practically their only supporter to say a word on their behalf, and if that is the best support they can get, then, despite the qualifications he made, the Government will be in a bad wav at the finish. One of the things I want to discuss is not the general question of the means test but the supplementary grant which, according to the Bill, is not to be paid to anybody unless he or she resides in Great Britain. I am not going to raise the general question of paying people outside Great Britain other than to say that in the West of Scotland a large number of people are in the habit of going for a month or five weeks to see their relatives in Southern Ireland and, 2374 occasionally, are taken by younger relatives to the Isle of Man. For the purposes of this Bill these places are outside Great Britain, and I would like to ask the Minister for an assurance that there will be no interference with these grants providing the stay of these persons is of limited duration.
The question I want to raise refers not merely to the means test, but to what happens after there has been a means test. I ask the Government that once there has been a means test, once the inquiries have been made, and a person has been granted a certain sum as a supplementary pension, that sum should remain as a minimum for the rest of that person's life. I think that is a reasonable thing to ask. It seems to me that once the initial inquiries have been made and the sum has been granted, instead of spending further money on administration by making constant inquiries, it would be better to give the money to the old people. With regard to the means test, the Chancellor claimed that the Bill makes a step forward in comparison with the old Poor Law. He said that only the help given to the old people by other persons in the house will be taken into account and that relatives outside the house—a married son, for instance—will not be taken into account. If ever there was a case for the abolition of the test, it is contained in that admission by the Government. If the Government have no reason for going after a person who has left the house, then certainly the person who has stayed in the house with the old people ought not to be taken into account.
During the agitation for spinsters' pensions, the women for whom I had most feeling were those who stayed at home with the old folks. Although that is something which is done particularly by the women, it is not uncommon among the sons. My mother was left a widow when she was comparatively young. There were three sons. I left the house when I was comparatively young, one of my brothers went away to train as a medical student, and the other brother was left with the whole burden of keeping my mother. Let it be remembered that the poor fellow who stays at home not merely maintains the mother, but provides for holidays and for every other social part of her life. He has to bear the whole burden, whereas the son who leaves the house has no obligation. If I 2375 could choose—and I hope I shall never be asked to choose—which person should pay, the person who stays at home or the person who goes away, I should make the person who goes away more liable than the one who stays at home. The Government's admission that the person who has gone away will not be taken into account is an unanswerable reason for leaving out of account the person who has stayed at home with the old people.
The Government's admission in that connection raises this issue. One of the things which caused the trouble with the unemployment insurance was the fact that the practical administration was as different as night from day from the cocky speeches that Ministers make from the Front Bench. I remember the time when the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. He was a very able Minister. Speaking from the Front Bench, he almost made us believe that everything was perfect. I had never heard better arguments than he made, and—without being unappreciative of the abilities of the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland—I say that in making arguments he had few equals. In fact, if I had not been trained in the West of Scotland, I might have believed him. He put things across.
What is the position with which we are dealing here? Let us suppose that a son gets married and leaves the house. After a while his wife dies. He has a child, and he returns to live with his parents, and his mother is able to give some assistance with the child. While outside the house, he is not liable to the extent of a penny piece, but the moment he enters the house, every penny of his income, under this Bill, becomes attachable to the old people. I assure the Minister that in this matter I and my hon. Friends are not talking simply for the sake of talking. I put it to him seriously that one of the things which caused the collapse in the matter of unemployment insurance was the grouping together of two family incomes. That is one of the things which brought that matter speedily to an end. When a son has gone out of the house and then, later on, returns to live with the old people, you have no right to attach his income to the old people. There seems to be an assumption that a 2376 son gives to the old folks all the money that is allocated to them. If his income is £3 and £2 of it is allocated to the old people, it does not mean that the old people will get that sum. Good gracious, if the mother saw that £2 she would nearly drop.
One of my objections to this Bill is that it treats every old person as being equivalent to an unemployed person. The Minister may deny that as much as he likes, or qualify it as much as he likes, but I am dealing with the facts. I have finished dealing with speeches, because they do not matter. What is in the Bill, what will be in the Act, matters. In Scotland we have a system of which we are proud. I was in the Committee upstairs—as also was the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health—which dealt with the Poor Law in Scotland. In that Committee we said that old persons were not the same as unemployed persons. We deliberately treated the old persons differently. At the present time, in Scotland, every old person is a sick person within the meaning of the Act. The moment a person reaches the age of 65, he or she becomes a sick person, within the meaning of the Act, without having to be medically examined, and the moment a person is defined as belonging to the sick poor class, he or she must be treated in a much more liberal way than the people below that age. This Bill abolishes that difference. The Minister may deny it as much as he likes, but that is what the Bill does. The person of 65 is put on the same level as an able-bodied person who is much younger than 65. I say frankly to the Minister that this is a backward step.
I will not go as far as one of my hon. Friends did when he said that he would not pay a supplementary pension to a man who is able to work, but I would have accepted, under the Labour party scheme, the exclusion of everybody who was at work from getting a pension. What was to hinder the Government doing that? At the present time every employer in the country must give a man a different book the moment he reaches the age of 65. He has no need to question the man, for the man gets a different insurance book. He discovers that the man has reached 65; he is dismissed, but a postcard is sent, and he starts again. His supplementary pension stops. That cuts out probably 300,000. The only 2377 vestige of justification the Government have is that somebody will get a supplementary pensioner who is at work. There is no need to create this elaborate machinery. The Unemployment Assistance Board is dead.
I said years ago that once the numbers of the unemployed fell below a certain number it was not a financial proposition to go on with the machinery of the Board for those who remained. I said that when the numbers were small and the administrative costs so great, it was far better to pay them. The number of unemployed to-day is 1,250,000, and the number of means test people has fallen by 300,000. In Glasgow the number has fallen by at least one-half. To-day it does not pay to run the unemployment assistance machinery for the unemployed. In the next few weeks it will pay less. One of the reasons why the Government think it necessary to keep the unemployment machinery going is that they know that after the war the workers will be walking the streets trying to get work. In order to justify keeping this machinery inbeing, the Government propose to give them the old age pensions. None of this is justified. The only justification is that the Government want to keep this machinery in being for the time when men return from the Army, and then it will be ready to be set in motion and start its morally devastating work again. The test of this machine will not be our Debates but the homes of the old age pensioners. I am content to leave the test there, and I say to the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland that their names will remain as the men who brought within the scope of this test a deserving and honourable class of the community.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey
The Secretary of State for Scotland said that this Clause is the heart of the Bill, and also that we had to consider this Measure against the background of the war. The Committee will agree that in that statement there was a tacit admission on his part that the Bill is not as he would have had it had the circumstances been different; that he recognises there are things in it which ought to be improved and which must be improved some day. He only justified it because of the stringent 2378 financial conditions brought upon us by the war. I think he will feel, as will also other Members of the Government, that it is not only on the benches of the Opposition that a grave sense of anxiety is felt about the particular machine which is set up in this Clause, and in particular the application of the household means test. I think this is a point where those who welcome a great deal that is in the Bill and recognise the value of the effort which the Government are making, do feel grave regret that the Government have not been able to take into account the eloquent plea of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and others of his colleagues. If it is not possible for them at this stage to alter the structure of the Bill, I hope that during the remaining stages the Minister may be able to give an indication of the way in which it will be administered, which will at least lessen some of the grave fears which have been expressed in the Committee.
The Clause is based on the need of the pensioner. I think that may be accepted without accepting the household means test. It is obvious that there is need in all the cases of pensioners of 70 who have already passed the test of the old age pensions committee and whose cost of living has gone up. Without any further test they surely need a supplement of their pension to correspond with the increased cost of living. We can all think of individual cases which we know, and we must all realise how hard conditions are. I think, for instance, of an old lady living in her cottage alone who has just got her old age pension and a few shillings which she may earn by washing as the sole means of her support. Should she have to go through a further test over and above the test which has already been passed before she gets some small increase in her pension? Is it not possible by rule or regulation to lay down for a large mass of pensioners that some increase, corresponding to the increased cost of living, should be granted without this painful ordeal—I know that the Minister thinks that it will not be so painful an ordeal as that of the public assistance committee—affecting a large number of homes? I hope that the Minister will be able to consider some modification along these lines, even if he cannot go to the deeper modification, which I should welcome, and substitute a 2379 simple personal means test for the household means test which is proposed.
I think we have to consider this against a background of war, but we have not only to think of the financial problems which the war has brought. The one good thing that we may feel is coming out of the war is an increasing sense of comradeship among all classes of the community and an increased sense of brotherhood, of membership of one great family. Surely if we can model our legislation, even in a time of difficulty like this, under the inspiration of that spirit, if we try to think of these old people as all members of our own family, we shall not want to impose upon any one of them a form of test which will mean any kind of personal degradation or any terrible worry of anxiety. I hope even yet the Government may be willing to make modifications that will reflect more fully that spirit of the family in this Measure of legislation which I am sure is intended by them as a great step forward in social progress.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Ritson
Nothing has touched me more in these Debates than the consideration of this particular Clause, and I have been amused to-night by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). I have been telling his colleague that he missed an opportunity of seeing his colleague turn somersaults the life of which I have not seen outside the circus.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Is there anything very unusual about a Member supporting the general principle of a Bill but desiring it to be improved in its details? That is exactly my position.
§ Mr. Ritson
Yes, but the hon. Member turned so quickly that I could not tell when he was starting and when he was finishing. I am always rather nervous of that seat below the Gangway. I have seen more men crawl on their stomachs to position from there than from any other part of the House. It is difficult to know what the Government are going to do. The Minister of Health is eloquent, and when you have eloquence mixed with Scotch caution, it is a serious matter especially when the sexes are mixed on the Front Bench. I warn the Minister of Health and his Parliamentary Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland 2380 that they have no right to impose these Scottish notions on the poor simple English. Then I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer speak the other night. He nearly made me believe this is a good Bill. I remember my old friend Bob Smillie being blamed for the Miners' Federation accepting a certain settlement. An honest old man, a friend of mine, said, "We came away believing we had half the Continent in our pockets, but when we got home we found that we had not a thing left." Had I not known the right hon. Gentleman for so long, I should have to take care of myself, because combined with a cool brain set in ice he has the nimblest feet for skating over difficulties that I have ever seen.
I tried to describe the right hon. Gentleman once to my constituents, and I told them the only way I could describe him was by giving an account of what happened to me once in the days before electricity. I had gone home late and found that my wife had left a note on the table saying there was something for supper in the pantry. I went into the pantry and drew my hand along the pantry shelf until it stopped when it came up against something cold. It was a piece of cold cod ready for frying up. That is the right hon. Gentleman. Yes, he is a piece of cod, but a clever piece of cod. But he is not palatable. The Prime Minister thinks he is the captain of the team himself, but he is not. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is very clever at this sort of thing. He gave us three cases from Middlesex the other night and told us what they would receive. They were all cases from Middlesex. I wish they had been cases from Durham which we could actually examine. I will believe in this Bill when those three people from Middlesex get their money. What I am concerned about is the family life of the people. This old country has been built up on family life—families of people sitting around the fire, men, women and children who love one another and feel that they are not dependent upon one another.
I have known people who would die rather than go to the workhouse, and people are in that state of mind yet. Only last week a lady met me—I went to school with her as a boy—and she asked, "Are you going to give me anything more on the old age pension"? I knew 2381 her father and her grandfather before her. I know how careful they were and how they saved and saved. I said to her, "Why don't you make an application?" She said, "No, I will not. They will make my sons pay, and I do not want that." She would rather starve than be dependent on her sons even. We were told last week by the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. W. Joseph Stewart) about a £300,000 building where there are kept two or three thousand old men and women. One of the delights of my life is to have had something to do with them. We all subscribe for those homes, and we give every facility that can possibly be given the people in them. We say to them, "You can go and visit your sons and daughters, but we will not allow you to live upon them. You are going to have a home of your own." We have put all this money into those homes in order to introduce a feeling of humanity.
The thrift of yesterday will be eaten up by the Government of to-morrow. Ever since I came to the House—I was away for some time through no fault of my own—I have taken a great interest in going round to these old people. I remember when I first came here we were told by hon. Members opposite that we had no idea of thrift. I remember three hon. Members—but I will not mention them by name—one of whom said, "What are you going to do? I was a working man, and I am worth hundreds of thousands." So he was, but, unfortunately, he went bankrupt and walked out of the door in his glorious spatted feet to disgrace. They used to tell us that we ought to be trying to save and that we ought to be getting ready for a rainy day. Now the rainy day has come, and the Government have taken away our umbrella. That is what it means.
I have never forgotten the time when the new regulations for the unemployed came in. A man came to me with tears in his eyes and told me that he had saved, and that on appealing to the Board they would not allow him anything. The fellow next door, so to speak, who had spent as he liked was able to get something. The Government are going to emphasise this system again. We have been chided that our pensions Bill was not actuarially sound, but neither is this idea of making 2382 families actuarially sound. I said in my maiden speech that I would prefer to be without money if I had the comfort of my family and the comfort of their love around me. When you take away love and bring in an enactment, you destroy it altogether. The value of the God-given love of family life is destroyed by a cold enactment of the Front Bench. We know that value in Durham and in our colliery places, and we do not boast. I have never been in a village where I have not found, when a man has been standing at the door in trouble, that the other fellow next door has been ready to ease his family burden. This is the sort of thing you are breaking up. One thing in this struggle—in this war—is standing out supremely, and that is that the firesides of Britain are beating the meeting places. You are smashing that up now. We have had long experience of people coming along in trade union life with their troubles, and many of us have settled disputes. I have settled more disputes in my own house than a magistrate will ever settle, but in a rather different way. We speak from that experience on this Bill.
I had another case last Saturday of a man whom I knew to be very industrious during his life-time. I had not seen him for a year. He goes to cricket matches with me sometimes, and he can tell whether the ball is on the wicket when I cannot see the wicket. He is 96 years of age, and he said, "What are you going to give me? Are you going to give anything extra? If I am to be put on the means test, I shall never go to the Board, even if I die." That man would rather die than go to the Board, and this type of case comes to us to-day. As for the Secretary of State for Scotland, you could not move him with a traction engine. But I appeal to the Committee that if the Government are prepared to withdraw this miserable Clause taking away the love and desire to be friendly even at your own fireside, I am prepared to accept the rest of it.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Viant
While listening to the Debate, I understood that the Minister of Health suggested that this Clause was the heart of the Bill. I said to my colleagues, "Well, what a heart." If it had been possible for all Members of the House to be here this afternoon, I think they would have formed the opinion ex- 2383 pressed by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) in the sense that he is already dubious about the effects of this Clause. Had others been here, they would have been equally dubious. While sitting here, my mind went back to the atmosphere that prevailed in the country when the original Old Age Pensions Act was brought into being in 1908. We all felt then that as a result of giving an old age pension, small as it was, we were at least enabling many sons and daughters to bring their aged parents into their homes and to end their days in peace and comfort. No one can help but feel, after hearing this Debate, that the proposal embodied in this Bill, and more especially in this Clause, is not going to enable sons and daughters to keep their aged parents in their homes any longer, not because they will not have the desire to keep them there, but the parents will say to their relatives, "In order that I may receive supplementary benefit and not imperil the conditions of your home, in your interest I shall have to go out." The old age pensioners will be compelled, in order to obtain the supplementary benefit, to go and live on their own.
That is a thing which this House ought not to entertain at any time. We have always enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing that sons and daughters were willing and anxious to take their parents into their own homes in order that they might be well cared for. The Government used to chide us with the statement that Socialism would break up family life and break up the home. We are now confronted with these circumstances where a Tory Government, by their legislation, are breaking up the homes of the people deliberately, knowing full well what the consequences of their legislation will be. Furthermore, we were always taunted by the Tory party that we were at no time desirous of encouraging thrift. Are they encouraging thrift as the result of this Bill?
Is it too late for the Government to appreciate the harm that they are doing to family life? There is no reason why they should offer the plea that in the circumstances of the day they can do no other than they are doing. That is not a reasonable plea. The plea of our being confronted with a war does not hold good. As a matter of fact, many hon. Members opposite in the course of the Debate have 2384 argued from the point of view that we were not prepared to accept any means test. That is not true. It is not fair. There is one form of means test which is just and practicable, which the Government could have accepted and which would have been accepted undoubtedly by a majority on this side, and that is the personal means test, just as we have to accept that kind of means test in regard to the payment of Income Tax. There you are dealing with the individual man and woman and the amount of money they may possess. But in these circumstances you are bringing in, not only the income of the son or the daughter, but the income of whoever might be taking food from the same table. It is grossly unfair and unjust. One would have imagined that the Government, who always try to shelter themselves behind the plea that they want to be just to the taxpayer, would at least be prepared to be just to those who may be occupying the same household as the old age pensioner.
There is no justification whatever for the means test that is suggested by the Government. Is it too late for them to appreciate the harm that they are going to inflict upon family life? Is it too late to appeal to the better sense and the better sentiments of even the Minister of Health? I know it has been argued that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is compelling him in this regard, but it is not too late, after the sentiments and arguments which have been expressed to-day, for representations to be made to the Chancellor to bring in a means test of a personal kind instead of a means test which is going to be applied to the household. If they were without experience, one would be able to appreciate it, but, as the result of the operation of the means test in regard to the unemployed, there is ample evidence throughout the country of the manner in which it has destroyed and broken up some of the best family life of the country.
That experience ought to have taught the Government something. I know the Government do not learn very readily or very speedily, but, none the less, here is the evidence from one end of the country to the other of the number of homes which have been broken up as the result of the application of this household means test. I appeal to the Government to reconsider the position. Let the voting 2385 on the Clause pass for to-night. Let us vote to-morrow or Monday on the Clause, and in the meantime give some consideration to a far better method than the household means test, and let us at least do our utmost to keep family life together. There is the bond and the strength and the unity of the nation. You are destroying that, and you will rob the country of the best communal feeling that can hold the nation together.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
It was said earlier in the Debate that the Government Front Bench was mostly composed of Scottish representatives. Every Scottish Member on the Front Bench is a disgrace to Scotland. There is not one of those men but has time and again taken pride in quoting our national Scottish bard, and I am certain that each of them time and time again has taken occasion to refer to the beautiful line:To make a happy fire-side clime, To weans and wife.Not one of them will deny that they are deliberately destroying what they have always; presented as one of the greatest pictures from the poetry of our national bard. They are destroying the "happy fire-side clime." I hope that when at any time the Minister of Health is called upon to propose the toast of the national bard of Scotland, he will think of the means test and that the toast will stick in his throat. I did not hear the speech of my neighbour, the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), but I understand he is in favour of a means test if there is no means test—that is to say, if all other sources of income in the household are ignored. I would expect that from the hon. Member. When I heard an hon. Friend on this side talk of the Durham miners' homes, I could not but feel that all the thrift which had been expended by the miners on this piece of humanity was to be stolen by the Government.
I remember the controversy about the raid on the Road Fund by the present First Lord of the Admiralty. There are the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland coming forward with proposals to raid some of the most deserving funds in the country. What an attack upon thrift! I remember that 40 years ago, when I was active in the temperance movement, we were taught 2386 thrift morning, noon, and night and how alcohol destroyed the possibility of thrift. All the leading people of the country talked about it, and I went to the bank every Saturday until I had saved up £10 7s. 6d. Then an impecunious pal wanted to get married, and he used my savings for the purpose. I learned my lesson, and I never went into a bank again. Others who did not have that experience went on saving, until to-day they have a certain amount put by for their old age. I know some very thrifty people, and how they have managed to save while meeting their household expenses is a miracle. When they get their 10s. pension they will not get a penny of supplementary pension. They will be penalised because of their thrift. If a man rents a room and asks for supplementary benefit, he will get at least sufficient to pay the rent to the landlord. If, however, another man gets a room from a son or daughter, he is not entitled to anything.
It reminds me of a time when I was walking along a street in Paisley. A man was roughly handling a woman, and a passer-by said, "Leave the woman alone." "Why?" answered the man, "She's my wife." The Minister of Health says that the landlord will get his rent all right, but a son is not entitled to get any rent. If the Minister of Health was living with his son or daughter, would he like to be in a position where he was not able or was not permitted to contribute to the maintenance of the home? Is any hon. Member opposite prepared to put an old man or an old woman in the position of not being allowed to contribute towards the maintenance of the home? It is shameful that the Minister should think of such a thing. Why should there be more concern for the landlord than for the son or daughter who is giving a room to the father? It is a shameful thing and should not be tolerated. It has been said that the preservation of the home life of this country is a very desirable thing. I have often told meetings of old age pensioners that we could never have village or town life as it is to-day were it not for the devoted services of the mothers in the homes. It is they who make it possible to keep the homes together and to keep our towns and villages together. They do not start work at 2.45 in the afternoon and go on occasionally to 2387 11 o'clock. They start work the first thing in the morning and finish up the last thing at night, for seven days a week, and are they, after 50 years of devoted service, to be left to become a liability to a son or daughter? Surely the men who have worked in the pits, kept the railways running, kept the engineering shops going, who have contributed so much to the wealth which other people enjoy, should in the last years of their lives be treated with the consideration which they deserve. I ask the Minister to withdraw this Clause, and I say to hon. Members opposite that they are not here to support the Minister no matter what he may do, that it is not a question of saying, "The Minister right or wrong," but that they are here to serve the best interests of the people of this country by abolishing a means test of this character. If the Minister will not withdraw the Clause I ask hon. Members opposite to vote against it.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am inclined to think that this Clause will go down in history as about the meanest and most paltry thing that the National Government have done since those long past days in 1931 when they managed to obtain the power which they are now misusing. Throughout all these Debates, on the Second Reading, on the Money Resolution, and on this Clause, there is no Member on this side or on the opposite benches who has attempted to defend the principle of the means test imposed by the Clause. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a long and skilful speech. Whenever there is a dirty job to be done, he will do it in the nicest, gentlest, easiest, most soul-soothing way; and in that long, skilful, eloquent speech, did he attempt by one word to defend this thing in principle? Not by one word.
What is the excuse that is advanced? "Ah," they say, "this is wrong, and we know it is wrong. It can't be justified. We don't attempt to justify it. We're at war, and because we're at war we can't afford to do the decent thing by the old folk in our country." The first thing I have to say about that plea is that it is not true. Is it the fault of the old people—I want the Minister of Health to tell me this, and I would like his attention so that he can tell me—that this Measure 2388 was deferred until after the war broke out? What the Government are saying is, "We do not attempt to defend this thing on its merits. We defend it on the ground that we are under an emergency which involves great financial stringency, and we are compelled to do what we believe to be wrong." That is their case. I ask them to say whose fault it is that this Measure was delayed until that position had arisen. Not the fault of these old folk, or of my hon. Friends on these benches. For years, now, the case for these people has been pressed and argued by appeal after appeal and petition after petition, until the day came when a majority of hon. Members on those benches pressed their Government and their Government felt that they dared not hold out any longer.
What then did they do? Again the Chancellor of the Exchequer was put up; it was before the war. What was his case? "We are very sorry for the old folk. We do not think that 10s. is sufficient. We know that they are destitute on their pension. We know that something ought to be done; but, unfortunately, with weeping hearts and tears in our voices, we are compelled to confess that we cannot afford to do any better." What was it suggested that the old folk should do? If the financial, social, and economic system under which we live has reached the pass at which we can no longer afford to maintain our parents in decent order and dignity in their last days, what are these people to do? Is it suggested that there should be some kind of mass execution, or peaceful euthanasia?
§ Mr. Silverman
Or some kind of mass concentration camp? We who are responsible for good government in this country ought to maintain these people decently and reasonably on a reasonable standard, and with such dignity as we hope to enjoy when our time comes. I do not think that in those days we could not have afforded to do it. The inquiry was intended to delay the Government's proposals until the eve of a General Election which was then expected, so that they could come out on the eve of the General Election and make political capital out of the successful agitation which my hon. Friends had for years 2389 pursued. Then the war came. What did the Government do then? Nothing. They were prepared to use this occasion of a tragic world war in order to retreat from the confession that that agitation had almost won from their unyielding hands.
§ The Chairman
I have not endeavoured to stop the hon. Member from discussing the principle of the Bill on this Clause, but when it comes to discussing the circumstances under which it was introduced, it is rather a long way off this particular Clause.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am inviting the Committeee to say that because of the means test which it contains this Clause should be rejected, and I am accusing the Government of dishonesty, hypocrisy and false pretences in the reasons which they advance for the inclusion of this means test. With all respect to the Chair and to the Committee, I fail to see that there is anything which I have said so far which is not a reasonable argument in support of the position which I am asking the Committee to adopt.
§ The Chairman
Then I am afraid I must warn the hon. Member not to persist with the line on which he was going.
§ Mr. Silverman
If I do anything which is outside the Rules of Order, I am very sorry, and I shall endeavour to keep within them. So far I do not think that I have gone outside them, subject to your Ruling, Sir Dennis. I have said that the Government used the occasion of the war for escaping from the position which was forced upon them—
§ The Chairman
That is what I said is not relevant to the present Clause. I thought I had given the hon. Member a hint which he would observe. But I must now warn him that he must not persist in defying the Chair.
§ Mr. Silverman
I certainly have no intention of defying the Ruling of the Chair. The Government have said that the reason for putting this means test into the Bill and the reason upon which they ask the Committee to vote for it is the war. I am saying that it is not the fault of the old people that the Measure was delayed until the Government had that excuse for putting that Clause into the Bill. With respect, I say that is not outside the Rules of Order. I will leave the point there.
2390 I now desire to ask what the Government expect to happen if this Clause is passed. There used to be among old-fashioned people a list of homely, domestic virtues on which it was contended that the soundness of our nation depended. Thrift was one of them; thrift is penalised. What the old Romans used to call filial piety was another; that is penalised. It would be difficult to name a single one of those homely, domestic virtues that this means test is not deliberately trying to eradicate. I accuse the Government of being willing to sacrifice the whole of them and to sacrifice the foundation on which the prosperity of this country has so far rested, in the interests of saving the paltry pockets of the most mean of their supporters.
My hon. Friends have made appeals to the Government and to those who sit on the benches behind the Government. I make no appeal to the Government; I think it is a waste of time, and a waste of breath. They know the things that we have been saying; they know their force and their cogency. They deliberately ignore those arguments, not because they do not understand them, but because they are not prepared to pay the price of decency. If I made an appeal at all, it would not be to the serried ranks that are not in the Chamber, to those outside who are awaiting the Division bell in order to troop into the Lobby in support of the Government, on a case they have not heard and cannot defend. My appeal would be made to those who stay away. The Government's vote throughout these Divisions has been less than half of what they might have mustered. Where is the other half? [An HON. MEMBER: "In the Army."] What, all the half? Does the hon. Member really say that there are 250 Conservative Members in the Army? How many does he claim?
§ Mr. Silverman
I will not pursue it, but I still ask: Where are those who are absent from the Division Lobbies? They are absent, because they cannot bring themselves to vote, or dare not vote, against the proposals we are making; and yet they are afraid to go into the Lobbies in defence of a view that they know to be right.
§ Sir Henry Fildes
Could the hon. Member tell us what proposals he and his party made to deal with this matter when they were in office?
§ Mr. Silverman
The intervention is not worthy of the hon. Member. He does sometimes interrupt—not very often—and until this moment I was paying him the compliment of thinking that he never intervened without reason, without making some point that was worth making. I cannot pay him that compliment now.
§ Mr. Silverman
I will not reply to the question. The point is not what the Labour Government in 1929, with a minority, did or did not do, but what the National Government, with an immense majority, have failed to do during the past 10 years. I was not in the House in1929, but I did not think that among the crimes which the Tories have levelled against the Labour Government of 1929 to 1931 was that of not spending enough money. I thought their offence was all the other way. I say again, what I was saying when the hon. Gentleman interrupted me: Where are those people who are not prepared to stand up for what they believe to be the right and just thing? If they think the Government are right, let them vote for the Government, by all means—let them do their duty to themselves, to the House, to their constituents, and to the nation. But this is not a party question. We have been told, time after time, from that Box that this is not a party question. Therefore, the Government could not complain if these 200-odd Tory Members, who cannot vote for them because they believe them to be wrong, voted for us because they believe us to be right. Those Members would suffer no political consequences in doing so. Why do they not do it?
I have only one other thing to say. [Interruption.] There is a good deal more that I could say, but some of my hon. Friends would also like to speak. This is not a question which involves or should involve, any kind of ideological division between the two sides of the Committee. It is a simple question of whether citizens who have given of their best all their lives—many in my constituency work in the mills for 60 years, before earning the right to any pension at all—are entitled, when they are no longer 2392 able to render that service to which their lives have been devoted, to a measure of decency, of leisure, of security, of freedom from the feeling of charity and dependence on their struggling children. Are their hard-earned savings to be brought into account in the manner proposed by the Bill, or is the community, grateful for the services they have rendered, prepared to provide for them in their old age, decently and honourably? That is the question. Are we really too poor to do it? If so, then Heaven help us in the struggle in which we are engaged, because it would seem, in that case, that the civilisation which we are spending so much blood and treasure to defend is not worth saving.
§ 10.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
On a point of Order. We have had one reply from the Government already, and I wish to warn the right hon. Gentleman that if he is now about to indulge in another reply that will not close the Debate.
§ Mr. Tinker
The point of Order is that a Government spokesman has already replied, and it is not usual for the Government to put up two Ministers to reply on one Clause.
§ Mr. Gallacher
On a point of Order. Is it not a generally accepted ruling of the Chair that more than one Government speaker is not entitled to reply?
§ The Chairman
That is not a point of Order at all, and the hon. Member is endeavouring to assume the duties of the Chair.
§ Mr. Elliot
A great many important arguments have been adduced, and I think it is only courteous to the Committee that a speaker from this side of the Committee should reply to the arguments and appeals that have been made. I do not think that anyone would say that there 2393 was anything unusual in that course, and indeed it is the course which is generally adopted out of courtesy to the Committee. I have often heard such arguments addressed to the Front Bench as, "Why do not they speak?" and, "Why do not they give the Committee some response to the many arguments which have been put to them?" I therefore wish to reply to some of the points as far as they go. The arguments that have been adduced from the other side of the Committee would tend to make one think that something which did not exist just now was being brought in by the Government and applied to people to whom hitherto it had not been applied. That is a fundamental conception which we could not possibly accept, which is not accepted, and which ought not to be accepted, and which I hope very much the Committee will not find it necessary to pursue. The point we are considering this evening is whether the grave, severe and probably vexatious test which is now applied to many households in the country should be to some extent lifted, or whether the Committee desires that test to remain in its full weight. That is the argument we have to consider and discuss to-night.
§ Mr. Elliot
Hon. Members know that what is being suggested is that, as the Clause says, where it is proved in the prescribed manner that any person so eligible for supplementary pension is in need of supplementary pension, there may be granted to him a supplementary pension. That is what we are considering now, and hon. Members on the other side have suggested that the Clause should not be part of the Bill. The alternative to that is that the supplementation should still be given at the expense of the rates and under a means test which would be infinitely more stringent than the one to be put in force now—[Interruption].
§ Mr. Elliot
The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) is in error in suggesting that there are other issues before the Committee. I do not wish any Member of the Committee to shirk his or 2394 her responsibility when the Division bells ring and we go into the Lobby—[Interruption].
§ Mr. Elliot
Members on the other side have addressed many arguments to the Committee, and I think it is only fair that a number of arguments from this side should be put. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who is well acquainted with this procedure, knows that when you come to the Committee stage of a Bill you are dealing with it after it has passed its Second Reading and got its Financial Resolution. You are not dealing with an abstract position but with concrete facts. These are that supplementation shall be granted if Clause 8 is passed, and with the corollary that that supplementation cannot be granted if the Clause is rejected.
§ Mr. Elliot
The hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee), who was listened to with great attention when he addressed the Committee, must know there are hon. Members on this side who have also the right to address arguments to the Committee. Under Clause 8 we have proposals for administration by the Unemployment Assistance Board and a test which is not to be, and cannot be, compared with the test which is now in operation.
§ Mr. Silverman rose—
§ Mr. Silverman
Because the question he asked was an irrelevant one. I want to ask a relevant question.
§ The Chairman
Hon. Members expect me to protect them when they are speaking, and they must assist the Chair by allowing the Minister to reply without constantly interrupting him.
§ Mr. Silverman
On a point of Order, Sir Dennis. You addressed a direction to the Committee, and I want to ask, as a point of Order, whether the Minister is entitled to refer to arguments as having been admitted when they have never been admitted.
§ Mr. Elliot
We are discussing whether the supplementation should be changed from a local to a national charge. As every hon. Member knows; the practice differs very greatly between one local authority and another. I am extremely anxious not to be provocative. [Interruption.] A naturally argumentative disposition may have led me astray, but I am anxious not to be led astray. I want to keep to the matter before the Committee and to deal with it on the basis of the realities of the situation, and one of the realities is Clause 8. The point I am making is that we are changing the system of pensions supplementation from a local charge to a national charge, a change which has been desired in many parts of the Committee, and a change which, inevitably, draws with it certain consequences. One of these is that we must have regard to the conditions in the whole country. We must compare the reforms which we are introducing with the conditions not only in one or other selected part of the country, but in the country as a whole, and we must compare them also with the conditions in the backward parts of the country as well as in what some hon. Members would call the more progressive parts. The means test must be compared not with a position in which there is no means test, but with the means test at present in operation. I do not think that can be challenged in any part of the Committee. The supplementation is at present being given under a means test, and I want to examine the case where the conditions are notably worse than the conditions which are being proposed in Clause 8.
§ Mr. Elliot
A supplement is given to the pension by the public assistance committees. At the present time there is no other source from which a supplementation can come. I ask the Committee to admit that it is a supplementation to the pension. The person receives a pension, the pension is not sufficient to enable that person to carry on, and he goes to the public assistance committee to have that pension supplemented. That is the only authority to which he can go for a supplementation. Under the Unemployment Assistance Board there are many statutory protections for savings and moneys coming into the home and provisions with regard to the payments which must be disregarded. In 1932 this House passed an Act which laid down certain principles under which the Unemployment Assistance Board is obliged to disregard certain receipts in assessing needs. I have been considering whether any local authorities have adopted the principle of the Act of 1932 in considering applications for supplementary pensions. There are only 57 out of 200 local authorities which have adopted the principles of that Act, and in whose areas the applicants receive the statutory protection which Parliament has given them through' the Unemployment Assistance Board. Surely that shows that by making this Bill apply all over the country, the statutory protection which is now given by 57 out of 200 local authorities will be applied to all, and that will notably improve the position of those who have to go through this form of means test.
Take the point in regard to the treatment of the earnings of the unmarried sons and daughters. In the case of the county boroughs and large burghs, we examined 89 of those authorities and found that only three were more favourable than the Board and 55 were less favourable than the rules of the Board. Again we are entitled to say that the conditions of the test in this Clause are a great advance on the test under which present applicants have to seek supplementation of their pension. The same thing holds for county councils. Out of 40 where comparison is possible there was only one case in which the treatment was more favourable than that of the Board, 10 in which it is the same, and 29 in which the treatment is less favourable. Again we are entitled to say that we are not worsening but improving the position 2397 of old age pensioners. I do not say that we should not wish in time to go further than we are going now, but I am saying that this is a step in advance which we are asking the Committee to take, not a retrograde step as indicated by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
Will the right hon. Gentleman let the Committee have the names of those authorities before the matter is discussed again?
§ Mr,. Elliot
I will do my best to get all the information available and necessary for the hon. Member, but I do not wish to detain the Committee at this hour by reading out a list of names. Some of the names might not be so acceptable to the hon. Member as he might think.
I come now to the second point, as to the general conditions we should lay down under the Schedules. If the Committee desire it, I can give some general indication of the attitude which the Government are prepared to take when we reach the Schedules, but of course it can only be in the most general terms. It would be undesirable at the present time to re write the whole of the code in its application to supplementary pensions, but I would remind the Committee that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he hoped the House as a whole would consider how to improve the Bill. There are two matters which seem to call for special consideration. The first is one to which reference has already been made. It was suggested that pension payments in case of sickness—
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
On a point of Order. Does not this raise the question of the regulations? Are we to be allowed to debate this aspect of the Bill? If not, ought not the matter to be debated on the next Clause?
§ The Chairman
I had thought it would be to the convenience of the Committee that all Amendments of that kind should be taken on the Schedules and not on this Clause. If hon. Members for the purpose of considering this Clause wish to hear the Minister's views on the subject, I do not wish to debar him from giving them, but I do not think the Committee ought to discuss on this Clause details of what alterations should be made in the Second Schedule.
§ Mr. Elliot
I bow to your decision at once, Sir Dennis, and I will merely say 2398 that the Government are anxious when we are discussing the Schedule that we should take advantage of all the wisdom which the Committee can bring to our discussions, and that we shall pay the very greatest attention to representations made. Clearly it would not be desirable to prolong the Debate at this hour of the night, and I will not do so. It is our desire not merely to improve pensions by passing this Clause, but further to improve them, I hope, by modifications of later parts of the Bill. I say that as an earnest that when I ask the Committee to part with this Clause I do not do so in a spirit of blind obstinacy, refusing to pay any attention to the many representations made in the course of the Debate. We have gone deeply into these matters, and I hope very much that the Committee will not feel, as I certainly do not feel, that this evening has been wasted. They have brought forward arguments to many of which we shall pay the closest attention. Meanwhile I commend the Clause to the Committee, believing that it does represent a genuine advance on existing conditions, and that we shall be proud, and not regretful, that we have, added it to the Bill when it reaches the Statute Book.
§ 11.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am sorry that the Minister, for the second time to-night in my hearing, has made a most unconvincing speech. I am sorry also that he should have made a statement which I think he may regret, to the effect that on this issue we on this side are voting against a supplementation of pensions. That is not true. We are voting for an all-round increase in the flat rate. [Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite want the old kind of political fight, I am not too old for it, and I will not run away from it. All I am saying is that the Minister did make a rather petty political and party point when he said that if we voted against this Clause we should be voting against the supplementation of pensions. He knows perfectly well that there are no people more anxious to help the aged in this House than my hon. Friends and myself, and I am sorry he should have taken that line. Then he went on to say that we are standing by a more stringent means test than the one which is to be applied in this Bill. It is not true. I am no friend of the Poor Law system, but I would rather have a 2399 family means test than a household means test, and this Clause is on that very principle. I would rather have an individual means test. I would prefer enlightened administration under a family means test than a household means test which is indefensible on any logical grounds whatever; and it is this the Minister wishes to impose upon the aged. It is no good talking about what local authorities do. I have said, on more than one occasion on this Bill, that we do not want the charge on local authorities. We have pleaded for years that this should be a national charge and have tried to argue the kind of authority which ought to administer it. We would still rather have a measure of local responsibility with a narrower test than have a democracy in Whitehall administering a household means test.
The Minister threw out a little olive branch, after his rather insulting remarks earlier in the speech talking about the attitude of the Government to Schedule 2. We have many Amendments down to Schedule 2 which we shall have to debate. But whatever we may get on Schedule 2, and however much we may on particular items eat into the principle of the household means test, that will not in any way lessen our fundamental objection to Part II of the Bill; because unless that principle of the household means test goes, our objection will remain.
The right hon. Gentleman suggests that this is a step in advance. Looking forward to the difficult years of war and to the years of impoverishment which will follow the war, this is not a step in advance. It is a step in retreat. It is a step further along the road to the pauperisation of which I spoke on the Second Reading. Under this Government we are gradually destroying the fundamental principles of our social services, and it is that which is at stake. The integrity of our social services affects all our people at all ages, in all conditions and under all difficulties, and when the right hon. Gentleman says this is a step in advance I say it is not a step in advance. It is another indication on the part of the Government that there is to be during the war time no substantial improvement in the conditions of the poor, that they are going to try to save their faces and salve their consciences by saying 2400 that at least they are going to be kind enough to deal with hard cases.
I repeat what I have said on two or three occasions. I said it when we were debating the question of workmen's compensation. All cases of poverty are hard cases, and the mass of the people who are dealt with in this Bill are people who are poor. Their resources are negligible, and the right hon. Gentleman, in order to search out the man or woman who has a pound or two in the bank, is prepared to spend on bureaucratic administration £750,000 a year. It has been said on that side of the Committee by men of humane instincts that this household means test is a wretched thing. This is the principle that we are debating on Clause 8. I do not remember a speech except from the Front Bench—and they cannot help themselves; they have to defend it—in which the household test for the aged has been defended. The mass of the people who draw the old age pension are poor. Everyone knows in his heart that it would be the decent thing to show a generous gesture even during this time of financial difficulty and give the aged a little more and not drive them to a new kind of inquisition, which is what is fundamental to Part II of this Bill. We have argued against it. As long as the Bill is on the Floor of the House we shall fight against it. We shall use all our resources to object to it. We shall vote against it and, in doing that, I am quite satisfied that we are representing the intention and the desire of the country that those who now have passed their lives in the service of the nation should have honourable retirement.
There is no reason why the Government should impose on them a test harsher than the one they have to face under the Poor Law. We are not voting against the supplementation of pensions or against the aged poor having more. We are voting to-night on the Clause against the Government who are imposing harsher conditions on the aged poor than they have to face under the Poor Law. Much as I and my hon. Friends hate the Poor Law, we would rather have that test than the harsher household means test, which is broader and acts more viciously against the aged, and which no one in the Committee dare stand up and defend in his heart. I hope the Committee will have the courage of its honest convictions, even 2401 if it means postponing the passage of the Bill for a few weeks, to teach the Government a lesson and to teach them—what I regard as very important—that we cannot have our social services pauperised and that we cannot have the poor subjected to new shackles of examination, investigation and inquisition when, after a lifetime of service, they are entitled to honourable retirement. I hope the Committee will have the courage to reject the Clause so that the Government may have time to think again.
§ 11.17 p.m.
§ Mr. McEntee
I am sorry to keep hon. Members at this late hour, but some of us have sat here all the time when most Members opposite have been absent. I feel so intensely on this matter that I would not be doing my duty to the old people and my constituents if I did not take the opportunity to voice what I think about this Clause. I must apologise to the Minister for intervening while he was speaking; it is a thing I do not like doing, I am sorry, and to that extent I apologise. This Clause was born in sin and shapen in iniquity. It is an insult to our people. When I hear the Minister say, as he did to-night, that this Clause was an improvement and that if it were defeated there would be no alternative but to remain as we are, I feel compelled to say that that is a travesty of the Rules of the House and of the general method of procedure. The Minister and the House know perfectly well that if a Clause is defeated the Government take it back for reconsideration. If this Clause were defeated it would be the Government's duty, and not our duty, to consider the position which had arisen as a consequence.
What is it in this Clause that is objected to by us on this side and by many hon. Members opposite? It is the principle of the household means test. If the Clause is defeated the Minister knows well that it will not be because of opposition to the supplementation of pensions but because of the desire to defeat the means test. Let me say to the Secretary of State for Scotland that I think he put up an extremely bad case for an extremely bad Clause in an extremely bad Bill. I do 2402 not think I am doing him an injustice when I say that the only excuse he could offer for the introduction of the means test was that the Clause was drafted against the background of the war. We want it to be drafted against the background of human sympathy, and that is the fundamental difference between those who will vote for this Clause and those who will vote against it.
This morning, I discussed this matter with a friend of mine, a man of 75 who has given many years of public service on a local body and has done service in many other ways, in the towns where he has lived. He asked me, "What is to happen in my case? I am 75. I retired when I was 70 and took the pension. Since then I have spent all the money I had saved, and having lost my wife recently I am now living in the house by myself. My daughter, who is married, has offered me a home, and I am considering whether I ought to accept it and what the consequences will be." What will the consequences be? If the man goes to his daughter's home he will not get any supplementation of his pension under this Bill, but if he remains where he is, living alone, undoubtedly he will be able to get a supplementation. Will anybody in the House defend that kind of thing? During the many years I have been in the House I have heard over and over again that we ought to encourage thrift. Will anybody dispute it if I say that this Bill will kill thrifty habits? Everything in it militates against thrift and favours the spendthrift. Take any two men, brothers if you like, living in the same town, perhaps in the same street. One has been thrifty and the other not. The time comes when they are both receiving old age pensions, and they may both come before the same assistance committee. Can the Minister defend the position that will arise then? The thrifty man, because he has been thrifty, will get nothing in supplementation of his pension. The thriftless man because he is thriftless, will receive from the public funds, supplementation of his old age pension. The Minister dare not justify it, although he may make excuses for it. It is against every principle in regard to thrift advocated by him and most other Members of this House. If that is the case, why should hon. Members opposite go into the Lobby and vote in its favour? Why are they not honest with themselves and 2403 straight with their constituents, and why do they not stand by the principles which they have advocated outside? Possibly it is not worth while to plead with the Government Front Bench; I plead with the men behind the Front Bench that they say to the Government on this occasion as they have said on many occasions before: "We don't like the principle of this Clause, although you are our Government. Take the Clause back
§ again." The Minister can do it if he wishes, now. There is nothing in the rules of this Committee to prevent it; and the Patronage Secretary will find a way if the Minister is willing to do it and if hon. Members are sufficiently honest with their consciences to demand it.
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 155; Noes, 106.2405
|Division No. 34.]||AYES.||[11.28 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Etherton, Ralph||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. G. M. S.||Fleming, E. L.||Peaks, O.|
|Assheton, R.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Gledhill, G.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Goldie, N. B.||Robertson, D.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E B. (Portsm'h)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Rowlands, G.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Grimston, R. V.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Bossom, A. C.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Salt, E. W.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hambro, A. V.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Hammersley, S. S.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Harbord, Sir A.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Harland, H. P.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Selley, H. R.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N)||Spens. W. P.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Cary, R. A.||Joel, D. J. B.||Storey, S.|
|Channon, H.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Strauss, H. G. (Narwich)|
|Chapman, A- (Rutherglan)||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Christie, J. A.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Levy, T.||Touche, G. C.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Colfox, Major Sir W. P.||Lloyd, G. W.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Loftus, P. C.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||McKie, J. H.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Maitland, Sir Adam||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Manningham-Buller. Sir M.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Denville, Alfred||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Doland, G. F.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Mitchell, Col. H. (Brentf'd & Chisw'k)||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Duncan, J. A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Dunglass, Lord||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Elliot. Rt. Hon. W. E||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Emery, J. F.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Mr. Munro and Major Sir James Edmondson.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Adams, D.(Consett)||Banfield, J. W.||Cluse, W. S.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Barnes, A. J.||Cocks, F. S.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Batey, J.||Collindridge, F.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Cove, W. G.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Buchanan, G.||Daggar G.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Burke, W. A.||Dalton, H.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Cape, T.||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Charleton, H. C.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Dobbie, W.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Ritson, J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||John, W.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Ede, J. C.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Silkin, L.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Foot, D. M.||Lathan, G.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Gallacher, W.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Leslie, J. R.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Gibson R. (Greenock)||Lunn, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Stephen, C.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||McEntee, V. La T.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Maclean, N.||Thurtle, E.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Mander, G. le M.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Groves, T. E.||Marshall, F.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Hall. G. H. (Aberdare)||Milner, Major J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Montague, F.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Westwood, J.|
|Hayday, A.||Mort, D. L.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Muff, G.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Higgs, W. F.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Oliver, G. H.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Hollins, A. (Hanley)||Paling, W.||Woodburn, A.|
|Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Pearson, A.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Herabin, T. L.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt Hon. F. W.|
|Isaacs, G. A.||Price, M. P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Jackson, W. F.||Pritt, D. N.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. R. J. Taylor.|
|Jagger, J.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Ridley. G.|
Question put, and agreed to.
That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.