§ Mr. Molson rose—
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
On a point of Order. May I ask whether it would be convenient for the Amendments to this Clause to be discussed together?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The Amendment which I have selected is the first on to-day's Order Paper, page 2030. The first Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown) on page 959 of the Amendment Paper, in respect of this Clause, is not selected. The second in the name of the same hon. Member will be selected, and when the lion. Member who is now about to address the Committee has finished moving his Amendment, I propose to put the first three words, so that the Amendment to which I have referred can be preserved.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
The proposal of my Amendment is to deal with what I may roughly describe as the amount of disregard permissible under the Bill and I hope that we shall have an opportunity to discuss whether the disregard in assessing the present income shall be what the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggests.
§ Mr. Molson
I beg to move, in page 3. line 24, to leave out paragraph (a).
I do so chiefly for the purpose of eliciting an explanation from the Government of why this particular provision has been included. It was made plain on the Second Reading that the general structure of the Bill is that, under Clause 1, pensioners who seek to obtain an increase in their pensions have to establish a position of hardship before they are entitled to claim an increase. Therefore it follows that a means test has to be applied. I do not understand why, in the case of pensioners who have some other source of income than their pen- 130 sion, the first £52 a year should be excluded. Taking the means test as a whole, there has been a tendency in recent legislation to introduce this policy of disregarding certain sources of income. I have had some experience of the means test in the case of the Poor Law and I have seen from experience how undesirable it is to have an arbitrary rule that certain sources of income should be excluded from consideration.
If it is desirable to relax the strincrency of a means test, it is far better to do it by taking account of the fact that a person who is in some special need has a greater need for income than a person who is not in special need. It is better from that point of view not to exclude from consideration part of the income which a man is receiving, but to recognise that he is in need of a larger income. Applying the same kind of consideration to this means test, we here treat in a special and more favoured way an income which is derived from some other source than we do the pension itself. It would be more in accordance with the principle of the Bill if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had decided upon a certain ceiling for incomes of all kinds, whether derived exclusively from pension or partly from pension and partly from other sources.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
I am amazed at the speech to which we have just listened. I seldom hear the hon. Member make anything but a perfectly sycophantic speech to the Front Bench, designed to get the Government out of their difficulties whenever they run up against any, and I think the repute of the Young Tory Party must be undergoing a series of shocks from the speeches of the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson). When we were discussing a ceiling to the Bill earlier today, and some of us were trying to increase it from the figure proposed by the Chancellor to a much more adequate one, there was no voice from the hon. Member saying that it would be very much better to leave out this paragraph than to increase the ceiling under Clause 1 (3)—or whatever it was. He was silent. He only raises his voice against the Clause when it is proposed to increase the disregard.
§ Mr. Brown
If so, the hon. Member's crime is worse than I thought, and the 131 degree of my disapprobation is increased. Now he lifts his voice against Clause 1 (a) which provides that the first £52 of a pensioner's income should be disregarded for the purpose of computing the ceiling under the Bill. The remedy is not to delete this paragraph but to keep it there, and to increase the amount from £52 to a much more substantial figure, in order that thrift should not be penalised. Those words ought to evoke a roar of applause from the Benches opposite. How often have We heard from them that thrift should not be penalised? How often has the poor old widow been dragged out, in discussions upon railway nationalisation? Here, the hon. Member would penalise thrift. He would not propose to disregard the £52 of income, but would include it, and therefore would cut out more people. I hope that the hon. Minister will disregard what the hon. Member has said 'and will keep the paragraph in, and that we shall discuss whether the ceiling should be £52 or something else and shall decide in favour of its being something else.
The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) has answered the points that were put by the mover of the Amendment, but I hope that the Committee will not conclude that I agree with the rest of his speech. The Committee is satisfied that the Clause is reasonable and that £52 a year is not an unreasonable sum to allow for this purpose. I am certain that if we were to propose now to increase it we should find ourselves getting into difficulties with the Chair on this Amendment, as being far in excess of any hardship scheme.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
I beg to move, in page 3, line 24, to leave out "fifty-two", and to insert two hundred and eight."
I challenge the moral right of the Treasury to import a ceiling into the grant of pension increases, or into the disregard of so small an amount as £52 a year. I have said several times to-day, and I hope to keep on saying it until I have driven this point home, that when pensions were going down there was no question of a qualification of this kind at all. There was no means test, and no disregard, nor any of the other tests that the 132 Bill provides. There was automatic and mathematical reduction of pension as the cost of living figure went down. I submit that there is no moral case for refraining from the same automatic and mathematical increase, without all these ceilings and disregards, when the cost of living figure is going up. This is the inexorable and irrefragable logic and merit of the situation. In order to make this Clause innocuous I propose to substitute £208 for £52.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Sir I. Fraser
I beg to move, in page 3, line 26, after "Act," to insert:and any income accruing to the pensioner from any pension granted on account of death or disablement which arises from service in His Majesty's naval, military or air forcesIn 1934 I asked the House of Commons to agree to a proposal that the part of a disability pension paid in respect of compensation for disability, as opposed to the part which might be said to be paid for the sustenance of the affected person, should be left out of account when the State, through its various machinery, was considering the grant of public assistance. The principle was adopted, and has been a current part of our legislation ever since. The purpose of the proposed Amendment is to ensure that where a civil servant happens also to have been disabled, the part of his pension payable in respect of disability shall be left out of account, in addition, of course, to the £52 already left out of account in accordance with the Clause.
I am not quite sure whether the Second Schedule has the effect which I want to secure by my Amendment. If it has, and if the Financial Secretary to the Treasury can convince me that it has, I shall be very pleased. At this hour, and with so much business on hand, I do not think it is necessary for me to argue this case. The House of Commons has long recognised that a disability pension is a sum of money not only to live upon but to compensate a disabled person for the loss he bears day by day in his work. I cannot help thinking that the Committee will wish for a substantial concession to be made. If the concession is already in the Measure, I hope that an assurance will be given that any increases due to lower paid civil servants shall not in any way take account of any wound or disability pension which they may be also receiving.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I beg to support my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser). It seems to me quite clear that in the cases coming under Clause 2 of the Bill the disability pension is excluded from consideration by paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Second Schedule. But ex-Service personnel may perhaps be desirous of claiming under Clause 1 of the Bill. It may be to their advantage in certain cases if they do, and provision is made by Sub-section (2) of Clause 2, as I understand it, for their being able to claim under whichever Clause is to their advantage, whether Clause 1 or 2. If they come under Clause there is no provision to exclude, in assessing this £52 a year, the pension which they are getting in respect of their disability, and while the principle appears to be conceded by the words in the Schedule that a disability pension should be excluded from consideration, it appears to me important for the sake of having it absolutely clear that the same exception should be inserted in paragraph (1) (a) of Clause 3.
§ Sir W. Allen
I would like to support the Amendment proposed by the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser). I will give a case in point. A gentleman writes to me:… in a misguided moment after having served (in the R.I.C.) for 28 years, being on pension and holding a splendid job, I resigned and enlisted in 1914, winding up badly disabled in 19r8 in the Italian campaign, to return to Ireland to be further mauled up to 1922, and lost my job in addition. Consequent on being awarded a military disability pension I am only entitled to 1 75. 2d. under the Pre-war Pensions Act.There is a case in point where, because of a disability pension, the pre-war pension to which the man is entitled for 28 years' service is reduced to 7s. 2d. Under no consideration should the Committee accept a position like that, where someone who has fought through the war of 1914–18 and receives a disability pension, should have his former pension for 28 years' service curtailed. I hope the Financial Secretary will be able to tell us something and give us some reason why, if this Amendment is not to be allowed, it should not be allowed.
We are here discussing these pensions probably for the last time, and we must take the opportunity, although perhaps it delays the business, to put these points 134 before the Treasury. It seems to me that this Bill has been like the Hindenburg line. There is barbed wire all round the Treasury and we cannot get near, and there does not seem to be any chance of amelioration of the condition of some of these people. I have been accused of, or given credit for, taking the part of the old disabled pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary and their widows. I am also considerably interested in the ex-soldiers on pensions, and this particular Amendment is one which goes to the root of the matter. Pensions ought to be completely disregarded, and those receiving them ought to get the full credit as pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary in addition to their disablement pension. I have pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
I want to raise two points. First, I want to support what has been said about the disregard of pensions due to men because they have been injured by virtue of their military service, or to their widows where the men have been killed. I want to ask the Committee to note that, On page the disregard of pension is provided for in paragraph 9 (a) and (b). And the language used there is this, that the pension shall be disregardedif it has been granted on account of death or disablement which is attributable to service in His Majesty's naval, military or air forces.We have had many Debates in this House in the past about the difference between "attributable to" and "aggravated by."
§ Sir I. Fraser
Are we not anticipating an Amendment which is down on this very Clause to deal with this particular point?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am not quite sure on that. I hope that if that is so the hon. Member will bear in mind that if he goes too far on that point he may cut out another Amendment.
§ Mr. Brown
I do not want to do that. I only want to see that what the hon. and gallant Member wants to safeguard is safeguarded in all parts of the Bill, and not only in that part of it in relation to which he has put down his Amendment. I merely mention the point that paragraph 9 as at present drafted may be dangerous from the paint of view of the men with whom he is concerned. I would 135 like to associate myself with his representations. The second point is that if the Committee looks at the Second Schedule, page 11,they will see this:For the purpose of determining the percentage by reference to which the authorised increase of a pension specified in the First Schedule to this Act is to be—
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
Are we in Order in discussing the terms of the Schedule here, when we are discussing an Amendment to Clause 3? Should we not reserve such discussion for the Schedule?
§ The Deputy-chairman
I think the point about the Schedule should come later, and that we should try to keep to this Amendment.
§ Mr. Brown
So far in these discussions, when we have dealt with a point on a Clause which affected another Clause to be considered later, we have rather taken the two together for the purpose of getting clear what we are seeking to do. The only point I want to ask is, assuming that the Financial Secretary will make it plain that Service pensions granted in respect of a man's military, naval or air service will be treated as a part of the disregard, will he make a statement at the same time about old age pensioners?
§ Mr. Brown
Again I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Williams, but if we are asking that one type of pension should be included in this disregard, there might be some force in the position of other pensioners being taken into account. I do not know the effect on the old age pensioners but the old age pensioners would very much like to know.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
I would like to say how very warmly I wish to support the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser). I feel it is a very great hardship if pensions which are granted for disabilities received in war by members of the Services are in any way to be a bar to their receiving the full pensions for their service. I would only add one word. I have known recently of cases of men who were in receipt of disability pensions on account of injuries received in the last war, which were assessed at a certain disability value, if one can use 136 that expression, by the Ministry of Pensions when the disability pension was first granted. They have definitely grown more serious with age and have handicapped them more and more in pursuing any form of vocation or work. Far from these pensions being a bar to receiving Service pension in addition I suggest that they might well in future be increased so as to take into account the increasing effect in the way of disability due to increasing age of the recipient.
§ Mr. Assheton
I should like if I may, if I can do so without getting out of Order, to make it clear to the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) that the Amendment he has put down to the Schedule, the very last Amendment, is one which, should the Chair be good enough to call it, I shall be anxious to accept. In order to avoid getting out of Order I am afraid I cannot pursue that aspect of the matter further now. With regard to the Amendment which is at present before the Committee it is clear that my hon. and gallant Friend wishes to amend the Clause and provide that for the purpose of this hardship scheme the whole of the disability pension should be disregarded. It has been made clear in the earlier stages of this Bill that this is in fact a hardship Bill, and this particular Clause in fact applies to Clause 1. This disregard of £52 income is quite an innovation, and is not to be found in earlier pensions increases Acts. I think it is a concession which the Committee has welcomed.
It seems to me, and it seemed to the Chancellor, that it was quite out of accord with a hardship scheme, and quite a contradiction in terms, to disregard income from whatever source it is derived up to any amount. It might well be argued, of course, that a person in receipt of a disability pension is put to additional expense and so on, and that some allowance should be made for that. If on those grounds a concession is to be made to a civilian pensioner who draws a disability pension for service in the Forces, it ought equally to apply in respect of a disability pension granted under the civilian injuries scheme, for example, or to an injured civil servant under an injury Warrant. I cannot help thinking that the Committee will, on consideration, agree that we must be satisfied with the £52 which is excluded, and accept the position as it stands. I 137 am afraid, therefore, I am not able to accept my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment.
§ Sir I. Fraser
It is a very great disappointment that the Treasury can make no concession in this matter, or even give me an assurance I had hoped for. I think the hon. 1Mernlber for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Suller), with his usual skill, has pointed out a flaw in the Bill which I half-suspected but did not fully see. I had hoped that the Schedule went a long way towards meeting the point I have argued. It now seems quite clear to me that the disability pension in certain cases is to come in for assessing the percentage of increase that a civil servant is to receive, but is not to be disregarded in a great many other cases.
I find the argument that the Financial Secretary used very unconvincing. He said that it would be difficult to do this without bringing in other categories, and so on: In the Determination of Needs Act, 1934, the first pound a week of a disability pension was disregarded in connection with measures of Public Assistance. The same Act said that the first pound a week of Workmen's Compensation and the first 7s. 6d. of Health Insurance should be disregarded. Why were these disregards made? Bear in mind that they were made in a Measure dealing with hardship and need. The Financial Secretary says it is inconsistent with a Bill based upon hardship to have disregards, but he has made a disregard himself of £52.
§ Sir I. Fraser
That is the theory, that it does not matter very much if it is only a little one. I do not see how that argument can be sustained. My right hon. Friend says that, because this Measure is based on hardship, you must not have disregards—or perhaps he says that you must not have very many disregards or very great disregards. Take the cases of two men, one of whom has lost both his legs, while the other has not. In measuring their situations, you cannot disregard the fact that one has lost his legs, while the other has not. Each gets £150 a year. But the man without legs needs more. The State gave him his pension partly because he had lost his legs, and partly in order that he should not starve. In go far 138 as the State gives it to him as compensation for what he has lost, he ought not to be prevented from receiving an increase which all his fellows get, solely because he happens to be receiving compensation of another kind for a physical loss. The Government meet this matter for a great many under the Bill, but they do not do so for others. We must ask for some more convincing explanation than that which we have had.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I would like to support the very eloquent plea we have just heard. A man gets a disability pension for the loss of a leg or of an arm because he is handicapped in life. That handicap is going to continue, and, as has been said, it is going to increase with old age. The man without legs is going to be put to the expense of hiring taxis, for instance, because he cannot get about so well as other people. The financial assistance given by the State to help a man to get over the disability which has been caused by service to the State should not prevent him from enjoying the advantages of this Bill. This is a matter of common sense, not merely of sentiment; and I suggest that. if possible, the Government should reconsider their decision.
I feel very dissatisfied with the Financial Secretary's reply. We are creating a very serious anomaly. I thought that the omission was by accident, but apparently it is quite deliberate. Under Clause 2, the disability pension is entirely disregarded. That means, as I understand, that a person whose pension exceeds £600 a year will not have his disability pension taken into account. That is to say, the highest-rated pensioner will be able to disregard any disability pension he is receiving, in determining whether he gets an increase under this Bill. That seems to be the clear effect of Clause 2, with the Schedule. But when you consider cases coming within Clause r, you find that there is no disregard for disability pensions. The two systems seem entirely contradictory, and I see no logic in it. I do not follow the observations which have been made about not allowing people to have an unlimited disregard, because the amounts of disability pensions are clearly laid down. It does not seem to me that a disability pension can be regarded as ordinary income. It is deferred compen- 139 sation. A lump-sum award for injuries made in the Courts is not subject to taxation; and if, under Clause 2, you do not take into account such pensions, I cannot see any reason for bringing them into account under Clause 1.
§ Lady Apsley (Bristol, Central)
This is such an important point that I would very strongly support the plea made to the Financial Secretary by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) and my hon Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. ManninghamBuller). We should see that the dice are not loaded against disabled people. This anomaly which has been discovered completely stultifies the whole of the Bill, as it stands. I hope that the Financial Secretary will see his way to accept the Amendment which has been so ably proposed.
§ Sir W. Allen
I can see the difficulty in which the Financial Secretary find himself; he has no power to accept such an Amendment. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer were in his place now, we might appeal to him. I would like the Financial Secretary to put the whole matter before the Chancellor of the Exchequer again, and then perhaps, in another place, the Government may find an opportunity to accept the Amendment, to some extent. [Interruption.] It is not a question of Privilege. When the Government wish to amend a Bill, they can do it in another place.
I have listened to the whole discussion on this Amendment, and I am bound to tell the Financial Secretary that the defence which he put up did not convince me; and, from what I have heard, I do not feel that he has carried the Committee. Undoubtedly, where the question of these disabilities arises, the Committee is deeply moved. We are so greatly indebted to the men who risk their lives and limbs in these battles that when they are awarded disability pensions, we consider it very hard if those pensions prevent them from getting what they would get if those disability pensions did not exist. Undoubtedly, there is cdnsideraible feeling in the Committee. I appreciate, as the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh (Sir W. Allen) does, that it is very difficult for the Financial Secretary to give any concession without the 140 immediate presence and support of his chief. Therefore, I hope that he will ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to come in before the Debate on this Amendment is concluded, so that he may be apprised of the feeling of the Committee. If it is impossible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to attend, perhaps the Financial Secretary would be able to give an undertaking without committing himself, that his right hon. Friend will consider the matter before the Report stage. Then, I think the Government might have the Clause as it stands; but it is important that the Financial. Secretary should give some undertaking.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
Before the Financial Secretary replies, I should like to ask for guidance on questions arising out of the last two speeches addressed to the Committee. The first question is this. Should we not clearly be exposed to surprises if we accepted the advice given from below the Gangway, the suggestion that this might be put right in another place by Government Amendments; might not a matter of Privilege arise? I think it will make some difference to some Members of the Committee whether or not they can leave the thing as it stands, if they can be told that. Secondly, there is the point put by 'my right hon. Friend opposite, about the Report stage. I do not in the least wish to stand in the way of this Bill, or of the Financial Secretary; but can we be told when the Report stage is going to be? Can we be sure that there is to be any effective Report stage?
§ Mr. Assheton
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) for his sage advice, and also to other 'Members of the Committee. I am naturally anxious to do all I can to meet the wishes of the Committee, but, in the absence of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, I cannot give way. But I may say this. The Report stage is intended to follow immediately after the Committee stage. I have asked my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be here for the Report stage, and I will give this undertaking to the Committee. If my right hon. Friend is not here, we will not take 141 the Report stage to-day. In view of that assurance, and without in any way diminishing the strength of the views which I previously expressed, I ask the Committee to be good enough to allow my hon. and gallant Friend to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
I beg to move, in page 3, line 28, to leave out paragraph (b).
The present Sub-section provides that the income of a pensioner shall be deemed to include the income of the husband or wife of the pensioner. The Debate that has just taken place has revealed one of the ungenerous and mean aspects of this Bill, and this Clause reveals another of its mean and ungenerous aspects. If I am a pensioner whose pension has been reduced to one-half of its value, by reason of the increase in the cost of living, I am entitled to have my claim for an increase considered, without the slightest regard to whether my wife has an income or whether she has not. The whole emphasis of this Bill is on finding every conceivable excuse to deny the payment of the small benefits which the Bill provides, and it is only another illustration—one of many—of the fact that the emphasis of the Bill is absolutely wrong, mean and unjust. I hope we shall insist that, if we are to have a means test at all, and if we are to have ceilings at all, they should be ceilings and means tests related to the pensioner, and not to the pensioner plus his wife or anybody else that Treasury meanness can drag in.
§ Mr. Assheton
The effect of this Amendment is to delete the provision that, in calculating the income of a married pensioner, the income of the husband and wife shall be aggregated together. The provision, to which the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Browny takes objection, is one which has appeared in earlier Pensions Increases Acts and is a perfectly normal feature of any statutory provision which provides for assistance calculated in relation to income. I can quite understand that the Committee might have taken objection, if it had been provided that the income of other persons in a household should be taken into account for the purpose of assessing a pensioner's total resources, but that is expressly prohibited by the wording of Clause 3, Sub- 142 section (1) (b). On the other hand, I cannot help thinking that the Committee will agree that it is reasonable, if a husband and wife jointly have an income of £x a year, that that figure, and not the figure actually falling to husband or wife, should be taken into account in deciding whether or not the pensioner qualifies for increase under the hardship scheme. I have tried to make it clear to the Cornmittee on more than one occasion that this scheme is directed to hardship. All sorts of other schemes might have been introduced, and the Chancellor made it clear in his Second Reading speech, and has done so since, that this scheme relates to hardship, and it is for that reason that the Bill has been introduced. In view of that, it does seem to me that the Committee would not think it unreasonable for the income of husband and wife to be aggregated for this purpose, and therefore I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Assheton
I beg to move, in page 4, line 10, at end, to insert:(4) In calculating, for the purposes of the Pensions (Increase) Acts, 1920 and 1924, the means of any pensioner or the amount of any pension, any increase for which provision is made by this Act shall be disregarded; and where the amount of any pension, has been increased under the Pensions (Increase) Acts, 1920 and 1924, or by or under any other enactment, the increase for which provision is made by this Act shall, subject to the provisions of Sub-section (2) of this Section, be calculated upon the amount of the pension as so increased.This Amendment, which looks rather complicated, is intended to make it clear that the increases to be made under the Bill are cumulative to any other increases which may be payable to the pensioner. Sub-section (4) of Clause 8 was intended to achieve this purpose, but it is doubtful, I am told, whether the Sub-section is sufficiently comprehensive. Under the Pensions Increases Acts of 1920 and 1924, certain pensions which became payable before the 16th August, 1920, may be increased by an amount which varies according to the pensioner's means. Increases could be given where it was necessary to bring the income of an unmarried person up to £150 and that of a married person to £200 a year. If further increases were regarded as part of the means of the pensioner, the two increases might cancel each other out, and the proposed new Sub-section, therefore, pro- 143 vides two things: (a) that the increase shall be cumulative and (b) that any inccease payable under the Bill should not be regarded as means for the purposes of the Acts of 1920 and 1924.
The words "subject to the provisions of Sub-section (2) of this Section" are inserted as a precautionary measure. They cannot affect any pension which falls to be increased under the Acts of 1920 or 1924 because that pension must necessarily have become payable before the 16th August, 1920, and cannot have been affected by the payment of war bonus since 3rd September, 1939. But it is just possible—and this is why it is inserted in the Bill—ithat pensions payable under some local scheme may have been increased under local legislation, and, in that case, increases under this Bill will be calculated upon the amount of pension so increased, subject to one qualification, that, if the pension has also been increased by reason of a war bonus paid since 3rd September, 1939, the increase under the Bill mutt, in accordance with Sub-section (2), be calculated as if the war bonus has not been payable. I hope the Committee will appreciate that this Amendment is designed to make certain of what, I feel sure, all'hon. Members of the Committee would wish to see inserted in the Bill.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
I conceive that it is possible that this additional Clause may conceal a benevolent objective. I do not know what this Clause means at all, and I doubt very much whether any other hon. Member understands it either. I want to try to find out what its effect is. Let me take, first of all, a retired Civil Service pensioner who is also an old age pensioner, and is also receiving a supplementary benefit on a non-covenanted basis. I take a pensioner with a small pension of 3s. or 4s. a week, with the old age pension, who is receiving a supplementary grant under legislation debated not long ago by this House. What happens to him? The whole effect of the increase given under this Bill may be to make him ineligible for supplementary benefit and old age pension, and I do not know what the answer to that is. It appears that the Government may be taking away with one hand what this House gives with the other. We ought to know clearly what the answer is, but I cannot divine it. My second question is this. In the calculation 144 of the ceiling for the purpose of satisfying the conditions of this Bill, will a retired civil servant, an Army officer or anybody else, who is getting an old age pension, have that old age pension regarded as income for the purpose of satisfying the tests,of this Bill? If the answer is "Yes," what we are really doing is to take away with one hand what we have given with the other. I have taken two simple cases to which it ought to be possible to give a clear reply, and I would be very grateful if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would enlighten us.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I confess at once that I am at a disadvantage because I have not heard the whole of the discussion, but I will do my best to answer the two points which have just been put to me. I gather that my hon. Friend wants to know what would be the position of a Civil Service pensioner, who is also an old age pensioner, who might be an applicant for a supplementary Pension—[Interruption]. Let me put it my own way.
§ Sir J. Anderson
The whole point is that grants given by way of supplementary pensions are at the discretion of the Assistance Board; there is nothing final or permanent about it, and it is made in consideration of the income of the applicant. Therefore, the reply I ventured to make to the point put by my hon. Friend was perfectly reasonable. What the Assistance Board will do will be to look at the resources of the applicant. These things are reviewed at intervals. If you can imagine a pensioner under this Bill who is also an old age pensioner, and who has received an increase under this Bill, going to the Assistance Board for supplementation, I really do not see that any criticism whatever could be levelled at this particular provision. Unless the Civil Service pension and the old age pension, plus any addition that could be granted under this Bill, took the pensioner to a fairly high level, no question could arise and there would be no point whatever of criticism on the score indicated by my hon. Friend. The second point put—
§ Mr. Brown
On the first point, before we get to the second, I want to tell the Chancellor what he should know, that there are literally scores of thousands of pensioners, of ex-civil servants and probably ex-soldiers, who have half-a-crown 145 or five shillings a week, and even where a man is getting his Civil Service pension and the old age pension on top of it, he is still eligible for a grant of supplementary pension before he reaches the ceiling under that particular scheme. If we give him another 9d. a week under this wretched Bill, or whatever his due percentage on a few shillings a week is, is that amount to be deducted from the supplementary amount with the result that the man is worse off than he was before?
§ Sir J. Anderson
It is treated as if it were part of the pension, and the Board will deal with it as if the pension, plus the additional pension under this Bill, had been granted in the first instance. The point seems to be entirely without substance.
§ Mr. Brown
It the right hon. Gentleman thinks that it is without substance, then we are not talking the same language. Under the hypothetical cases I have quoted, the result of giving an increase under the Bill will be to cause a reduction in the supplementary grant, and if it does so that makes nonsense of the Bill. I want something put into the Bill to make it plain that the local assistance board is not entitled to regard the taking away of half-a-crown because of its having been received somewhere else.
§ Sir J. Anderson
If that is what my hon. Friend is aiming at, I cannot conceive of anything more preposterous. He might as' well suggest that the whole pension should be left out by the Assistance Board. I should not think that it was within the scope of this Bill to lay down conditions which the Assistance Board are to apply in dealing with the grants which they administer. I should have thought that it was quite out of the question.
§ Mr. Brown
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that it is out of the question, again we are not thinking in the same language. He has not thought it "improper," or "out of the question" to introduce disqualification after disqualification in this Bill or to bar men out who ask for a grant. So that what is 146 given with one hand is taken away with the other. If the Chancellor thinks that that is "improper" and "out of the question" I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the Chancellor is "improper" and "out of the question." May I have an answer to the second question? [Interruption.] On a point of Order. I put two questions to the Chancellor, and he was about to answer the second question when he went off into a discussion on the first answer and did not reach the second question.
§ The Chairman
The Chancellor is entitled to reply or not as he thinks fit. If he does not speak, it is for me to put the Question.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I do not wish to be discourteous, whatever the attitude of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) may be. I am afraid that I have not fully grasped the difference between the second question of the hon. Member and his first question. If he would care to repeat his second question in terms to make it clear how it differs from the first question, I will deal with it.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I can readily answer that question. I thought that, in providing for a disregard up to £52 a year of that income, I was acting generously, introducing an entirely new principle by way of concession and sweeping away difficulties of that kind, I think it very unlikely that an old age pension received in addition to a Service pension by a retired civil servant or officer would be found to be greatly in excess of the disregard of £52.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made:
§ In page 4, line 2o, after "for," insert "any of."
In line 23, leave out from "pensioner," to end of line 24, and insert:
and 'the manner in which, in any such case, the pension granted to the husband or wife
of the pensioner is to be calculated for any such purpose as aforesaid."—[Sir J. Anderson.]
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I beg to move, in page 4, line 34, to leave out "Subsection (1)," and to insert "Sub-sections (1) and (4)."
Perhaps it would be convenient for the Committee to discuss this Amendment and the two following Amendments on the Order Paper which also stand in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn).
The purpose of the Amendment, as I am sure the Committee are aware, is to provide that the regulations made under this Bill under Sub-section (4), paragraphs (a), (b), (d) and (e), shall be subject to an affirmative Resolution of the House. The Committee will see that it is by Subsection (4) of Clause 3 that power is given to the Treasury to make Regulations and, in my view, it is a very wide power indeed. When one looks at Subsection (5), one sees that only certain of those regulations are subject to any sort of approval by this House. It is only regulations under Sub-section (1) of that Clause which are apparently coming before the House at all by way of negative resolution. What puzzles me is that under Sub-section (1) no power is given to the Treasury to make regulations. All that Sub-section (1) provides is that certain regulations shall include regulations providing two specific things. Coming back to Sub-section (4), one sees that the Treasury, by regulations, may prescribe the manner in which claims are to be made, the procedure to be followed not only in considering but in determining any such claim. Therefore the Treasury are going to say to a particular body, "This is what you have got to do, and this is how you have got to do it," and without any control from this House at all. That seems to me to be quite contrary to the real effect of Clause A person counting on an increase of pension, would see at the beginning of that Clause:Subject to the provisions of this Section a pension specified in the First Schedule …may,… be increased by the pension authority by an amount calculated in accordance with the provisions of the Second Schedule to this Act.That person, who is reading this Bill to see if he gets an increase of pension, will 148 not appreciate that it does not depend upon that at all. What it will depend upon is, what regulations may have been made by the Treasury as to the manner and procedure which is to be followed in considering and determining any such claim. Then if you go on to consider paragraph (b), you will see that the Treasury, again by regulations, may prescribe the evidence required for the purpose of determining whether a pension may be increased in accordance with the provisions of Clause 1 of the Bill. The Treasury, going a stage further, are not only going to show the authority how it is to act, but what evidence it must receive, and how much evidence it must receive, before it increases the pension. And all that without any control from this House at all.
Then, if we go on to paragraph (d), we find they are going further to define when a husband and wife who are still married, are to be treated as unmarried. It seems to me that that is a matter of which the House should have some cognisance. We may get all sorts of anomalies arising there requiring another Act of Parliament to correct them. Then, when one comes to (e), one finds it gives the Treasury, in my view, very wide and entirely unnecessary powers in providing that,in relation to any class of pensions specified in the regulations, all or any of the functions of the pension authority under this Act shall be performed on behalf of the pension authority by such other authority as may be specified.So that the Treasury, without any control from us, can say to Tom, Dick and Harry, "You are the people who are to decide whether or not these people come within the provisions of the Act of Parliament, to decide whether these are people who Parliament has decided shall have an increase of pensions." In my view it is desirable that these regulations should come to this House in some form or other for this House to consider. This House should at least have power to annul regulations. I think the powers are so wide that there ought to be an affirmative regulation with regard to them.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I hope not to be very long, but I do not apologise for attempting some slight elaboration of this group of Amendments. I should like to begin by expressing my regret that the Amend- 149 ment was not put down sooner, and that was my fault by a series of accidents. I quite see that it is difficult for Ministers to be confronted with Amendments of this seriousness at rather short notice. I think that this group of Amendments, in a sense, is the most important thing about this Bill because, although it may not seem so immediately practical as questions of percentages and ceilings, it does raise a very large general constitutional question.
It is quite true that this Bill deals in the main, and therefore this Clause deals wholly, with a comparatively narrow point—how much additional pension, on grounds of hardship, shall be given to certain classes of pensioners and, in that sense, the delegation of legislative power which is contained in this Clause is not so wide a delegation as has been the delegation in many Statutes passed by this Parliament. But within the latitude and longitude of the structure of this Bill, the sub-legislative power being here granted is, I think, wider in same respects than has ever happened before. I notice two or three things about it. One is that the principal beneficiaries are civil servants, are bureaucrats. Although I would not in the least wish to impute any bias or wrong motive to them or infer any failure of their critical powers when themselves or their ex-colleagues are concerned, yet if it were any other class of men, that would certainly be regarded as a reason for scrutinising this power with particular closeness.
Secondly, this is of all Ministers the Minister whom it is most difficult for this House to keep in control in what might be called Parliament's general day-to-day business of making a market in the reputation of Ministers. We are often told that the proper method of control by this House over delegated legislation is by making clear its dissatisfaction with the Home Secretary, or whoever it may be, that that is the right sort of control, and not by means of trying to amend Bills as they are passing through this House. That argument is weaker with regard to the Chancellor of the Exchequer than in any other case, because the main function of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not a function of day-to-day administration. He is not thought of in that light by the House, or by the country, and it is almost unthinkable that you could have a Chancellor of the Exchequer being forced to 150 resign on some administrative point of this sort.
There is a third reason why this seems to me to be a particularly important instance of the general principle that this House ought not to part with sub-legislative powers except after convincing argument. Normally, we are told, when these powers are asked for by Ministers, that there is going to be an immense mass of factors to be considered in the making of these regulations, that those factors are going to be changing, that we cannot possibly now foresee what sort of subjects we shall need to regulate, nor can we now see how often we shall want to amend those regulations. That argument is one which I think my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will admit does not apply, to this Bill. What are the matters about which the Treasury is to make regulations? The Treasury is to make regulations prescribing all the procedure for determining these claims, the sort of evidence to be required, the conditions in which a married couple are to be treated as, financially speaking, not married, and then there is the wide power for delegating the authority generally to somebody else. Although I am open to correction about the technical meaning of the word "authority," the person to whom things can be delegated is not even necessarily, I think, a public authority at all. As far as I can see, they might delegate to a sub-committee of the T.U.C. or the F.B.I.
I would submit to the Committee—and I would ask the Financial Secretary to correct the impression if I am mistaken—that almost all of these things, if not quite all, are things about which almost all, if not quite all, the factors are already known. I do not quite see why there should be any sub-legislative power granted' in this Bill at all. It may have been impossible for a Schedule to have been put into this Bill providing the regulations, but at the very least it is fair to say that this sub-legislation will be of a more predictable kind than sub-legislation generally is. This is the occasion which has been chosen for removing this sub-legislation wholly from the control of the House of Commons. Under Sub-section (1) we have some control by negative procedure but under Sub-section (4), unless these Amendments are carried, the House of Commons has no control whatever over the exercise of this legislative faculty by 151 the Treasury. If I am not out of Order in referring to a subsequent Clause, it seems to me that some control is given there, where the class of beneficiaries is to be extended by Order in Council. If I may say. so without impertinence, that is obviously proper. But, on the other hand, from an ordinary House of Commons point of view of the control of back benchers over Ministers, it is less important in that Clause than it is under Clause 3, because you may be quite sure that where Ministers are anxious by Order in Council to bring a new set of persons under the benefits of the Act, there would be members who would be briefed and informed upon that, whereas you can almost be sure that very few would be fully briefed or informed on Sub-section (4) (a), (b), (c), (d), and (e) until it was too late. I beg the Committee to consider—although this may seem to some a constitutional pedantry—whether this is not really a Bill in which the House of Commons should exercise even more care than usual and exercise its right at this stage to see that all legislation is with its authority and by its consent.
§ Sir J. Anderson
The matters which have been raised to-day in regard to the problem of control over subordinate legislation, really involve important general considerations which, I should have thought, whould have been best dealt with apart from the provisions of this Bill, or any other Bill of a similar nature. There was the same kind of question on the Education Bill the other day. I think hon. Members are aware that it is the hope of the Government that an opportunity may be found at a fairly early date to discuss the whole of this very important question, which goes to the root of our procedure and may have a very important bearing on the capacity' of Parliament to deal with the legislative programme that lies ahead. This Amendment—and the subsequent Amendments—has, I think, only just appeared on the Order Paper. I certainly have not had adequate time to consider what may be involved and I would be very sorry to have to give a definite answer on the point now. I would prefer, if the Committee would agree, that we should break off our proceedings at this point, because there is other Business to be transacted, and that we should take the matter up at the next opportunity when I should hope that we 152 should be able to complete the Committee Stage and perhaps the other stages of the Bill.
The course I am suggesting, if it commends itself to Members, is this: A very important question has been raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) who, I know, would wish the Government to give full consideration to his proposal in the light of the speeches that have been made today on this subject. I, unhappily, for reasons which I could not control, was not able to hear those speeches and I would like to consider the whole matter. Quite frankly, if I am not out of Order in saying so, I do see very considerable difficulty because I think there are other categories, for instance, persons in receipt of Civil Defence pensions, in receipt of compensation for injuries suffered by enemy attack and in receipt of workmen's compensation allowances, which ought to be considered at the same time. Personally, I thought that the disregard of £52 would have covered all that. However, if we do as I have suggested, break off now by reporting Progress, that will give me the opportunity, which I should like to have, of considering all these matters very fully.
Ordered: "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again." [Sir J. Anderson.]
Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.