§ Sir J. Anderson
I beg to move, in page 10, line 10, to leave out from "or," to "then," in line and to insert "has at least one dependant."
This Amendment and Amendments following are all consequential on previous Amendments, enlarging the definition of "dependant."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I beg to move, in page 10, line 12, at the end, to insert:(a) if the pension does not exceed one hundred pounds a year, the authorised increase shall be thirty per cent. of the amount of the pension.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I beg to move, in page 10, line 13, to leave out "does not exceed one hundred and fifty pounds," and to insert:exceeds one hundred pounds a year but does not exceed two hundred pounds.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
I want to raise a point of Order, for the convenience of the Committee. There are, from this point onwards, on the Paper a number of Amendments in the names of various hon. Members—some in the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, some in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), and some in my own name and that of an hon. and gallant Member —dealing with the effect of that part of 1496 the Second Schedule which lays down the amount of increase that there should be. In the Schedule as it stands there is a proposal that, up to a certain size of pension, the increase should be so much per cent., and that beyond that, in other regions, it should be a less percentage increase, and so on. I should be very glad, Mr. Williams, if you can indicate how you propose to enable us to debate the Amendments on the respective percentages. On this part of the Second Schedule of the Bill it might be for the convenience of the Committee to know on what Amendment the discussion should be raised.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
I am in some difficulty on this point, which is not a very easy one. There are several Amendments on the Paper. The next Amendment is in the name of the hon. Member who has put this point of Order to me; then there is one in the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and one in the name of the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence). These Amendments would seem, in themselves, to cover almost the same point, and there are two or three Amendments following which seem to raise the same point between 20 and 30 per cent. and 35 and 40 per cent., or whatever it may be, going very nearly to the bottom of the next page on the Amendment Paper. I am entirely in the hands of the Committee, and hon. Members may wish to divide on this or that Amendment, but I suggest to the Committee that it might be possible to cover these figures in the various Amendments in one fairly wide discussion. If the Committee agree to that, I think it will be permissible to do so, but I would like to be assured that we shall have only the one discussion, say, on the next Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown). which covers the other points of change of increase of pension. If the Committee agree, I will proceed on that supposition, but I want to be certain that the Committee agree to it.
§ Amendment agreed to.1497
§ Mr. Brown
I beg to move, in page 10, line 14, to leave out "twenty-five." and to insert "forty."
This Amendment and following Amendments, which stand in my name and in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) are designed to effect substantial increases in the percentage improvements in pensions proposed by the Government under the Bill. I take the difference between 25 per cent. and 40 per cent., which arises on this Amendment, as illustrating the general issue that there is between us and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That will probably prove as good a way as any of getting the issue clear. The Government propose to increase pensions up to a certain amount by 25 per cent. If the figure in Subsection 2 (a) of the Second Schedule is £150, the authorised increase shall be 25 per cent. of the amount of the pension, and if the pension exceeds £150 a year, the authorised increase shall be 20 per cent. The Government approach this matter with the 20–25 per cent. mentality. Their view is that something of that order would represent a fair increase for the pensioners with whom the Bill deals. It is well known to the Committee that there is between many of us, in this House and elsewhere, a deep division in principle about the whole approach which the Bill makes to the question of pensions. The Chancellor of the Exchequer takes the view, which we strongly repudiate, that the approach of this Bill is what properly might be described as "the grace and favour" approach; he does not admit that the pensioner has any legal claim, and he does not even admit that he has a moral claim. He thinks—and this governs his whole approach—that the case is adequately met by an amount of 20 to. 25 per cent, increase, accompanied by all sorts of reservations and disqualifications.
I am not blaming him for taking that line at the moment, although on the Third Reading of the Bill I shall attack him hard about it. I merely say that that is the approach of the Chancellor. The approach of others of us is that there is, if not a legal claim here, an overwhelming moral claim to have pensions regulated, now that the cost of living has risen, as they were regulated when the cost of living was going down. That is the great issue which dominates our respective approaches to this Bill. Although I am 1498 moving to improve the amounts proposed by the Chancellor in his "grace and favour" approach, I do not accept that approach as being at all appropriate and right. I divided the Committee on that on Clause 2 of the Bill and I did not carry the Committee with me. There were very large numbers of Members on the benches opposite who had not heard a word of the Debate, but, seeing the Government Whips in their appropriate place, they went into the Lobby and voted down the claims of these old folk without knowing what the discussion was about. Hon. Members on this side of the House were caught in a situation which prevented them from doing justice to their position on these matters. Their difficulty was that what I might described as a trivial Amendment had been put down on this question of amounts by the right hon. Gentleman above the gangway, which the Chancellor very nimbly and swiftly proceeded to accept with alacrity, and the result was—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member really cannot go back into past history on a question which has been discussed in a previous Debate.
§ Mr. Brown
All that I say is, that there was on the Labour side of the Committee a trap. I argue that 40 per cent, is much more appropriate than 25 per cent., and I justify it by reference to the known facts of the cost of living after the stabilisation took place. It is from the stabilisation of pensions at a given cost-ofliving figure much lower than the present, that this whole issue arises. The actual cost-of-living figure at that time was 145 above the pre-last war level. The figure to-day is in the neighbourhood of 200—I think it is 201, but if I take it at 200 that is as near as makes no odds. We have a difference in the rise in the cost of living of something over one-third by reference to the Ministry of Labour index figure. But whatever else the Ministry of Labour index figure does, it does not reveal the rise in the cost of living. I vote, in the earlier stages of Debate, evidence from the Oxford Bureau of Statistics, and from publications of the Labour Party and other organisations, which shows that the real increase in the cost of living is not 30 per cent., hut very much nearer 60 per cent. I must point out to the Committee that at no stage has any Government spokesman 1499 controverted those figures, nor, do I imagine, will the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He may even agree that the real increase in the cost of living is of that order. But we are confronted with a situation where he is going to make it worse, because he gave us fair warning in his Budget speech that he deliberately intended to allow the cost of living—
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think my hon. Friend probably does not wish to misrepresent me to the extent he has done in his statement. I made it perfectly clear not only in my Budget speech, but in my winding up speech, that there was no question whatever of my doing anything to put up the cost of living; if the cost of living goes up, it goes up in spite of me. If I am not out of Order, Mr. Williams, I would say that what I pointed out to the House when we were discussing the Budget, was that the cost of living was going up through causes, some of which were controllable and some of which were probably not controllable; that, carrying out the policy of the Government, I had been in the past, by artificial means, offsetting the effects of those increases; and I pointed out, as I point out again, that that process could not go on indefinitely. It would be as wrong, however, to say that I am the cause of a rise in the cost of living as it would be to blame a fire brigade because a fire breaks out.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think that as an illustration the cost of living can be used in regard to these figures, but I am quite sure that neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer, nor anyone else, must go into the causes of the rise in the cost of living at the present time or in the future.
§ Mr. Brown
The last thing in the world I want to do is to misrepresent the Chancellor or anybody else. Really a good controversy is only possible between two men who do not try to misrepresent each other, and the whole Debate might have more colour if either of us tried to do that. But whether he is going to permit it or arrange it, whether he is going to welcome it or whether he is going to deplore it, there is no doubt that the cost of living is going up, and the Chancellor has just confirmed that. So I ask, in a situation where the real increase in the cost of living is somewhere perhaps 60 per cent. up since this stabilisation took place, 1500 and where it is as certain as anything can be that the rise, whoever is responsible for it, will go still further—does the Committee think than an increase of 25 per cent. in the amount of these pensions is a fair and an adequate increase, and that 40 per cent., while still being modest, would not represent a nearer approach to rough justice?
The only other point I want to make about that is this. In an earlier discussion, where the same principle was involved of whether the increases proposed were adequate or not, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury opposed my Amendment, because he said he would be giving the soldiers more than was taken away from them. I want to make it plain that that is not so. The soldiers in this connection have suffered not one loss but two. Number one loss that they suffered was the actual reduction in the amount of their pensions, which took place in the process of consolidation. Loss number two is the loss sustained by the rise in the price level from that date until now. I affirm that the amount of the second loss is greater than the amount of the first, and that the soldier has the same claim to benefit, by a larger increase than is proposed by the Government, as have ex-teachers, ex-policemen, ex-civil servants, ex-local government servants, and so on.
I have an immense admiration for the intellectual qualities of the Chancellor, although to-day I shall attack some weaknesses in the fabric, especially, as I shall show later on, a tendency to Bolshevism deplorable in so orthodox a figure as the Chancellor. As I say, I have very great respect for his intellect and also for his capacity for finding appropriate quotations. He made a speech a little while ago in one of those Salute the Soldier weeks. It was a powerful oration and in it, somewhat to my surprise, he fell back on the poet Wordsworth for an appropriate quotation. It was notLives of great men all remind us,though that would not have been inappropriate. The actual quotation he used was:High Heaven rejects the loreOf nicely-calculated less or more.I thought that was a magnificent sentiment for the. Chancellor of the Exchequer to utter, however improbable, but I tell 1501 him that high Heaven rejects the lore of nicely calculated less or more in dealing with these poor old servants of the State, and I ask the Committee to insist with me that this figure of 25 per cent. shall be increased to 40 per cent., and that the other figures shall be increased in the same ratio.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
In supporting the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend opposite, I would like to stress that it is in no sense a merely factious Amendment; on the contrary, it is a serious effort to better the position of these small pensioners. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has stressed throughout that he will deal only with cases of hardship, and has refused to consider the restoration of cuts made in any but the lower grades of pensioners. This Amendment is aimed to deal with cases of real hardship suffered by the smaller pensioners. There are very many who have very small pensions indeed.
I am not sure if it is realised how many very small pensioners there are, particularly amongst those who retired, from whatever their service may have been, before 1914 or, in many cases also, before 1919. I will, if I may, give some instances based on actual cases within my own knowledge, a private in the Army after 21 years service, can retire on a pension in round figures of £47 per annum, that is, after a very intricate calculation of years and days of service. A warrant officer in the Army, after 21 years' service, can retire on a pension of approximately £91 per annum. A private of the pre-1914 period retired on £31 4s. per annum after 25 years' service, though I am bound to add that was increased by the Pensions Increase Acts of 1920 and 1924 to approximately £51 10s. per annum, at which figure it would stand now.
I would remind my right hon. Friend and the Committee that a private of the pre-1914 period would be an old man now, and certainly not capable of earning very much for himself. Another instance is that of a police sergeant, pre-1919, who retired on a pension of £54. That, by the Acts of 1920 and 1924 would be increased to about £81 a year. In addition, there are very many teachers and postal servants with very low pensions indeed and for those with £30—I admit that is exceptional—£40, and £50 1502 a year, even an increase of 30 per cent. is a very small matter. For instance, on £40 a year an increase of 30 per cent. would be approximately £12 a year, making £52 in all. That, I submit, is a very small pension for the high cost of living in these days. This Amendment presses for a 40 per cent. increase in pensions not exceeding £100. For a private soldier with 21 years' service pension, the increase would be about £18 per annum, on a pension of £47, giving him a total of £65. Well, that is not very much, at the present high cost of living, on which to live.
If my right hon. Friend is going to say that 40 per cent. increase is an unconscionable amount, then I venture to say that the Act of 1920 allowed 40 per cent. increase in certain cases, and the Act of 1924, I think, gave a further To per cent. increase. Surely these incresaes are not excessive? I have here the case of a pre-war police sergeant who, with the increases of 1920 and 1924, has about £80 a year. With a 40 per cent. increase he would get about £112 a year, and he sees a post-1914 police constable—not a sergeant—getting a pension of £156 a year and in addition, of course, such further increases as he may get under this Bill. To ex-teachers with pensions of well under £100, it would be very galling to see their former pupils—possibly very recent and still quite young pupils—making very high wages indeed, possibly as the result of what those teachers had taught them but very often with no more qualifications for making those wages.
The fact is that it is all these recent increases in wages which make pensioners feel their lot much more bitterly, and which, if I may say so, offer a striking commentary on the Chancellor's admonitions as to the danger of inflation if pensions are raised more than he proposes. His statement as to the unfair burden on taxpayers, especially those with small fixed incomes, if any greater increases than those proposed are made, and also his recent statement as to a probable increase in the cost of living to 30 per cent. above pre-war, has a hearing on this case of the small pensioners for, while it was difficult for them when this Bill was introduced and before that statement had been made, it is going to be much more difficult for them when the cost of living has risen higher than it is at present.
1503 I do plead for these small pensioners, many of whom find it very hard to get along in view of the increased cost of living, and will find it still harder in future, in view of the prospective increase which has been foreshadowed by the Chancellor. Particularly is this so with such people as retired warrant officers and those who have been commissioned from the ranks or the lower deck. I have no hesitation in saying that these men were, in their day, the backbone of their Services. Now they are, in many cases, doing valuable work, in their retirement, in local life and local government. They and the many retired teachers and policemen have the right to a reasonable standard of living, something better than the lowest standard, especially when, with advancing age, they find it more difficult to earn money. They also have a greater need of some modest comforts, which they can hardly afford on the barest minimum of subsistence. I would stress again that they are on a different footing to others who have fixed incomes, however small these fixed incomes may be, for they are ex-servants of the Crown arid the Government have a definite and special responsibility for them, which is quite different from their responsibility for any other classes of the community. If the advance asked for in the Amendment can be granted I am quite sure that it would prove a great help to these small pensioners, and particularly to those people I have mentioned. Therefore, I hope the Chancellor will riot turn down this plea out of hand, or consider that an increase of 40 per cent. is either unprecedented or unreasonable.
§ Mr. Maxton
I wish to associate myself with those who are pressing the Chancellor for a more generous percentage on the lower rate of pension. I myself was in favour of the insertion of a minimum but when the Financial Secretary saw me privately on that point and made out what was a very strong case against the Government's acceptance of a basic minimum, I accepted his argument and I now fall back on the demand for a more generous percentage on the lowest scales of pension. When the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) spoke about old-established Service pensioners it reminded me of a story told to me yesterday by an hon. Member 1504 opposite. This story concerned a soldier who, when an officer asked him at dinner time if there were any complaints, said that the meat was bad. The officer of the day smelt it and tasted it and said, "Bad? Let me tell you that many an officer in the Crimean War would have been glad to eat that meat." "Yes," said the soldier, "but it would have been fresher then." It seems to me that a pension established at the time of the Crimean War or the Boer War, while it may have seemed an attractive allowance at that period, has become a little flyblown with the economic changes which have taken place in industry since then.
Let me cite, once again, the particular case I have always had in mind, that of the widow of a police sergeant who lives on 10s. 5d. a week and endeavours to keep up, and does keep up, an appearance in the community in which she lives. The Financial Secretary in disposing of that case on the Second Reading of this Bill, with a wave of the hand, said that she would have an ordinary pension as well. How does she get an ordinary pension? She does not; her income is only 10s. 5d. a week. She has no entitlement to ordinary old age pension because her husband was not insured for it; he was in the Police Superannuation Fund, which gave him a certain pension so long as he lived. His widow does not come into the ordinary health insurance pension scheme unless she earns the right to it in her own life. She does not get a pension at 70 years of age, even, without having an investigation into her means, into what little money she may have saved or what little property she may have. Perhaps she is 56 or 57 when her husband dies, so that she has to live until she is 70 before she can approach the State for any other allowance out of public funds. Twenty-five per cent. on 10s. 5d. makes about 13s. That is what she will get and that does not represent even an approach to a miserable maintenance allowance, having regard to the general conditions which prevail at the present time.
There is another matter which operates in people's minds at the present time, when they are thinking of pension allowances and so on, namely, that the general circumstances prevailing now make it comparatively easy for old soldiers, ex-policemen or widows to get into a job, 1505 either whole-time or spare time, which enables them to make an addition to their incomes. But we know perfectly well that that is only a war condition. Young, fit, people are being taken into the Services and there are many jobs now that disabled men, or people who are not properly fit, can get into, but who would be immediately dropped as soon as fully fit people were available. In considering this matter we should not be looking at it with reference to the economic conditions that are ruling now but with a view to what the life of these people is likely to be in a more normal economic social situation. I should not have thought that an increase from 25 per cent. to 40 per cent. would have made such a splash in the general financial and economic pool of the nation as to rock the ship of State in any really disturbing way.
In conclusion, I would like to add a word on behalf of teachers, with whom I have been personally associated, and in whose welfare I am interested now, although I do not represent them in this House. The Chancellor represents a large proportion of them very directly in this House. Fortunately, there are not so many in Scotland who are on very low scales, because Scottish education authorities were given power to make their own arrangements with retired teachers and some did it very generously. Nevertheless, there are some who are living on a miserable level and I add my appeal to those which have been made for more generous consideration.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think it is desirable that I should intervene at this stage, without in any way desiring to stand in the way of others who may want to speak, because the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Peters-field (Sir G. Jeffreys) have brought the Debate into a region which I think is not touched by this Bill. They have been arguing as if the purpose of this Bill was to bring pensions up to some sort of subsistence or maintenance level. The hon. Member for Bridgeton referred to a particular case and said that the pension in question did not even represent an approach to a miserable maintenance allowance. Well, I tried to make it clear on the Second Reading that this Bill is not concerned, and could not be, with the fundamental structure of our pensions system. The pensions we are dealing with 1506 in this Bill are those granted under a system which does not involve consideration of subsistence at all: the pension is calculated arithmetically on a formula which takes account of retired pay and length of service. There are many pensions granted under such system which are small in amount and it is not, therefore, relevant to the provisions of this Bill to attack such pensions on the ground of their inadequacy as subsistence. Naturally, I recognise that there are people in the country who are in receipt of pensions which are wholly inadequate to their maintenance, just as there is a vast number who have no pensions at all.
What we have to consider in this Bill is to what extent, without any sort of legal or quasi-legal obligation, we can help pensioners of the State or local government—people who are deserving of consideration on the part of the Government—in view of the changed circumstances, since their pensions were 'granted. That is the approach. I have said before that they are uncovenanted benefits. Indeed pensions such as we are dealing with in this Bill would be a matter of contract, almost as much a matter of contract as a payment made by an insurance company in return for a premium. Circumstances may have changed between the time of making the payment available and the time when the arrangement was first entered into, and from what was then contemplated. That is the position. These people have served on certain conditions which entitle them to retired allowances, My hon. Friend declined to accept the position that these pensions represented deferred pay. At any rate, they are a mater of arrangement and they are payable for that reason.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
The right hon. Gentleman is trying to draw an analogy between a State pension and an annuity purchased from an insurance company. Is there not all the difference in the world between the two cases? I submit that there is, because no insurance company that I am aware of has begun by knocking down the amount of the annuity. We cannot ask the insurance company to pay more interest, because it has stuck to its original contract, but the State has not. It has reduced the pension on account of the cost of living and it has not increased, it when the cost of living has risen.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am bound to point out that the case of the pension which went up or down by reason of variations in the cost of living is specially dealt with in Clause 2, which we have disposed of. The parts of the Bill with which we are now dealing are concerned with the question whether, in view of the changed circumstances which have come about since the outbreak of the war, there is a case for increasing the pensions of various classes of public servants. I certainly approach this from the point of view that these are pensions granted on terms laid down in detail in Acts of Parliament and payable as of right at the appropriate rate, according to the terms of the Act of Parliament, to the persons concerned. In that way they are analagous to a pension secured by contributions. Indeed, there is a class of State pensions granted under the University Superannuation Scheme which is, in every way, very closely analagous to an annuity purchased by contribution. In view of what I have said, I think it will be clear that it is really beside the point to quote, as my hon. and gallant Friend did—I recognise how strongly he feels about the matter and the keen interest that he takes in retired servants of the Crown—particular cases of pension which are inadequate. This is not a scheme for making good any supposed deficiency in pensions, a deficiency which, according to his argument, has existed from the very beginning. It has not only come into existence because of the changed circumstances for which it is the purpose of the Bill to provide.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
I gave them as instances only to show how low some pensions were, and that an addition of even 40 per cent. would not make them very high.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am coming to that. In the first place he gave those cases as a background for a suggestion that he was going to make. He went on to ask himself the rhetorical question whether I was going to say that an increase of 40 per cent. was an unconscionable amount, having regard to the low level of these pensions. I am not going to say anything of the kind. What I am going to say is that we are here dealing with pensions payable under schemes the merits or demerits of which are not at the moment in question, and we are considering what increase in such pensions is reasonable having regard to such moral claims as the 1508 people in question may be thought to have on the Government and the change that has taken place in regard to the cost of living. When I introduced the Bill the highest increase proposed was 25 per cent. An Amendment in my name, which has already been accepted, increases that from 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. I proposed that increase and a corresponding increase lower down, on a review of all the circumstances shortly after the Bill had been introduced. I knew perfectly well the tendencies that were at work affecting the level of the cost of living and I had an opportunity of informing myself as to the general views of Members in regard to the Bill. I wanted to be as accommodating as possible, and I have been quite accommodating. I took account of what was done after the last war.
Let me take up the point my hon. and gallant Friend made when he said that after the last war a 40 per cent. increase had been granted. I can give a better figure than that. Fifty per cent. was granted, but in what circumstances? The cost of living, as measured by the index figure, had gone up by 155 per cent. and the corresponding increase provided in the Bill was one of 50 per cent. I am now dealing with a situation in which, according to the cost of living figure, there has been an increase of 29 per cent. I have proposed, after looking at the provisions of the Bill passed after the last war, that that should be reflected in the lower grades by an addition to pension of 25 per cent. I thought it was fair that such additions should be kept a bit below the actual increase in the cost of living as measured by the index. I cannot go into any question as to the validity of the index figure; it is the basis on which we work and we have to accept it for present purposes. But, knowing what I did about the tendencies at work, I thought I could justify putting the increase over the lowest range up from 25 per cent. to 30 per cent., and that I proposed in the Amendment that has been accepted. At the same time I raised the figure of 20 per cent. for the lower range of pensions to 25 per cent.
If I were to do what has been suggested I should not be incurring much additional expenditure. Additional expenditure is not the trouble to me in this connection that it is in other connections. What I should be doing would be something against which the right hon. Gentleman 1509 the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) warned us in the Budget Debate. I should be encouraging a process by which prices and incomes chased each other up a vicious spiral. I could not possibly for the purposes of this Bill accept an Amendment which appeared to be anticipating further increases in the cost of living. I want everyone to join with me in doing everything possible to discourage further increases in the cost of living. I do not want to make it easy for people to be indifferent to increases in the cost of living, which must involve serious consequences for many people and which must bear hardly on many. I brought the lowest rate up to 30 per cent., though the increase in the cost of living at the moment, as measured by the index figure, is only 29 per cent. I ask the Committee to agree with me that, in doing that, I have adopted a considerate, a sympathetic and a generous course and that I could not possibly have gone further. The Committee will remember that in regard to this Bill the Government deliberately framed the Financial Resolution in wide terms to enable all these matters to be fairly debated on both sides, but I ask the Committee not to take advantage of that fact by pressing particular points unduly against the advice which, in the exercise of my duty, I feel bound to give the Committee.
§ Sir W. Allen
I support the Amendment. We appreciate what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done. We appreciate the fact that there is a Pensions (Increase) Bill at all. We appreciate the fact that he has himself decided to increase the 25 per cent. to 30 per cent., but I should like to reinforce the position that we take up by the Chancellor's own words:I want to say, as regards the action we propose to take now, that in view of the Government attention must be concentrated on cases of real, grave hardship. That will be essentially the approach which the Government propose to make, that is, to take account, as in the legislation following the last war, of the position of the pensioner and to provide increases for the lower ranges of pensions in order, so far as may he practicable, to mitigate really severe hardship.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1943; col. 673, Vol. 395.]Does the 30 per cent. carry out the Chancellor's words and the 'hardship cases that have been quoted? Take the case of a widow whose pension is £17 a year. With 1510 the addition of 30 per cent. it may be increased to £20. Surely cases of that character ought to be specially considered. The Chancellor has argued that there are many ex-Government servants who have no pensions at all and that those who are getting this increase ought to be delighted that they have any pension. I was told about the widow of a postman who lost his life by being riddled with bullets in an ambush in the course of his duties. Surely these cases require an enlargement of the heart of the Treasury. The taxpayer always comes into the argument in cases of this kind. I wonder if there is any one of the 615 Members of this House who would object for a moment to an increase of 40 per cent. to a widow's pension who has only £17 a year. Where is there a taxpayer in the United Kingdom who would object to it? The Chancellor has taken up the attitude that 30 per cent. is ample and generous. There are cases which the Chancellor himself has described as cases of grave hardship. What Governments in the past have done in my opinion this Government in the present can do. If the Government of past years could increase by 50 per cent., surely the present Government can increase by 40 per cent.
There is another question I would like to ask. The pension of a constable was raised to £70 a year by the Acts of 1920–24, and the individual had 12 years added to his pension. If the Government of that day could take that action, surely it is not too much to ask the present Government to do something similar and not to make all these excuses for a 30 per cent. increase. We appreciate any increase at all, but the Chancellor's words show that he recognises that there are cases of the gravest hardship. He must realise that 30 per cent. does not meet these cases. The proposed increase to 40 per cent. will relate only to cases of hardship which have already been recognised as such by the Chancellor and by the Treasury. This is an opportunity for them to do something genuinely honest for poor people who are living on such miserable pensions. It is an opportunity which will not occur again, at any rate in my lifetime, to give to these ex-soldiers, ex-policemen and their widows something to which they are entitled.
§ Mr. McEntee
As one who has been interested in this question of pensions for a long time, I have had a good deal of con- 1511 tact with such people as those for whom the last speaker was appealing. He has spoken on their behalf in this House on a great number of occasions. I want to tell the Chancellor that I have felt gratified with his attitude on this pension business right from the beginning. I am not dissatisfied with the action he has taken and, from personal contact and correspondence with a great number of people who are personally interested in the matter, I know that they are very grateful indeed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Everybody will admit that if the Government suggest an increase, somebody puts down a further claim from what the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) described as the abstentionist party—like my own—and the hon. Member himself used to be proud of it. For example, if we put down an Amendment for an increase of 5s., it is the easiest thing in the world to gain cheap notoriety by putting down another Amendment asking for 7s. 6d. That has been the practice in this House for a very long time. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) will be aware of that, because I think his party has practised it above all others in this House.
§ Mr. McEntee
The hon. Member may have learnt it from the Labour Party when they were in Opposition. I would not object to that, but he has practised it very assiduously since then. Circumstances are very different to-day. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has brought in a Bill which previous Chancellors have been pestered to bring in but have refused to bring in, as the hon. Member for Rugby will be well aware. I am one of those who have been pestering Chancellors of the Exchequer and up to the time the present Chancellor took office we were met with a blank refusal. The Chancellor brought in a Bill giving terms which, if not generous, were at any rate something in the region of reasonable. He suggested an increase of 25 per cent. for lower paid pensioners. I have not been personally interested in the matter in any way, but I have been in touch with some people who have been personally concerned, and I know something of the negotiations that have taken place on the 25 per cent. and the possibility of an 1512 increase. The Chancellor has just agreed to increase that 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. and the 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. We should be doing less than justice to him if we did not say, "We thank you for that additional increase to people who are badly in need," and I hope that the hon. Member for Rugby will take that attitude.
§ Mr. McEntee
At any rate, I want to say, on my own behalf and that of other Members, to the right hon. Gentleman, "We thank you very much indeed."
§ Mr. G. A. Morrison (Scottish Universities)
I wish to thank the Chancellor for the improvements he has made in the Bill. I am sure his proposals will be gratefully welcomed in many homes in the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has pointed out, correctly, that we have few teachers in Scotland whose pensions are less than £100. Most of them are in the pre-1919 group. I have pleaded their cause many times in this House, and in spite of what my right hon. Friend has just said, I am going to have one more try. I mentioned in the Second Reading Debate the case of one retired teacher, 93 years of age, whose present pension of £91per annum would have been increased by the original proposals of this Bill to 113; under the Bill, as amended, that figure will now be about £120. These people are now at least 90 years of age and some of them are more. Many are infirm, as I happen to know. I do not think that a 40 per cent. increase on pensions under £100 can be considered too great.
§ Mr. Lionel Berry (Buckingham)
I have listened to all the speeches that have been made on this Amendment. I do not think there is any doubt that every Member of the Committee is in sympathy with the idea behind it, but I do not think we are now discussing whether these pensions are adequate or just. I feel that the Chancellor has already made concessions which should be, and are, appreciated —as I know—by the pensioners themselves, and that the Committee would be 1513 ill-advised, because of that fact, because of the concessions and because of the principle at stake, to accept the Amendment.
|Division No. 19.||AYES.|
|Adamson, Mrs. Jennie L. (Dartford)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Greenwell, Colonel T. G.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir d. (So'h. Univ.)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Petherick, Major M|
|Apsley, Lady||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Islington, N.)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Guy, W. H.||Peto, Major B. A. J.|
|Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Beaumont, Maj. Hon. R. E. B. (P'ts'h)||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Beechman, N. A.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Price, M. P.|
|Benson, G.||Heneage, Lt.-Col. A. P.||Pym, L. R.|
|Berry, Hon. G. L. (Buckingham)||Hepburn, Major P. G. T. Buchan-||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Hinehingbrooke, Viscount||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Reid. Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Howitt, Dr, A. B.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)||Ritson, J.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hutchison, LI.-Com. G. I. C. (E'burgh)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||James, Wing-Corn. A. (Well'borough)||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Salt, E. W.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Jennings, R.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. (Stl'g & C'km'n)||Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k Newington)||Scott, Lord William (Ro'b'h & Selk'k)|
|Bull, B. B.||Joynson-Hicks, U.-Comdr. Hon. L. W.||Shakespeare, Sir G. H.|
|Burden, T. W.||Keeling, E. H.||Shephard, S.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Cary, R. A.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Lancaster, Lieut.-Col. C. G.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Lawson J. J. (Chester-le-Street)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lees-Jones, J.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Chater, D.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Levy, T.||Storey, S.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lewis, O.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C.||Linstead, H. N.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Conant, Major R. J. E.||Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)||Studholme, Captain H. G.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Loftus, P. C.||Suirdale, Viscount|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Longhurst, Captain H. C.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Lyle, Sir C. E. Leonard||Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. Sir F. H.|
|Davidson, Viscountess (H'm'l H'mst'd)||Mabane, Rt. Hon. W.||Taylor, Major C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|De Chair, Capt. S. S.||Macdonald, Captain Peter (I. of W)||Teeling, Flight-Lieut. W.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||McEntee, V. La T.||Thomas, I. (Keighley)|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Drewe, C.||Mack, J. D.||Thorneycroft, Major G. E. P. (Stafford)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Tinker, J, J.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||McNeil, H.||Touche, G. C.|
|Dunn, E.||Manningham-Buller, Major Ft. E.||Turlon, R. H.|
|Eccles, D. M.||Marlowe, Lt.-Col. A.||Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, J. C.||Mathers, G.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Medlicott, Colonel Frank||Wardlaw Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Watt, Brig. G. S. Harvie (Richmond)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Mills, Colonel J. D. (New Forest)||Wells, Sir S. Richard|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Molson, A. H. E.||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Foster, W.||Montague, F.||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Frankel, D.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||White, H. (Derby, N.E.)|
|Fraser, Lt.-Col. Sir Ian (Lonsdale)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)|
|Furness, S. N.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, W.|
|Galbraith, Comdr. T. D.||Muff, G.||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Gammans, Capt. L. D.||Murray, Sir D. K. (Midlothian, N.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Gates, Major E. E.||Murray, J. D. (Spennymoor)||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Gibson, Sir C. G.||Naylor, T. E.||Wright, Mrs. Beatrice F. (Bodmin)|
|Glanville, J. E.||Neal, H.||York, Major C.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Grant-Ferris, Wing-Commander R.||Nield, Lt.-Col. B. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Oldfield, W. H.||Mr. W. M. Adamson and|
|Mr. A. S. L. Young.|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||McGhee, H. G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—|
|Cove, W. G.||MacLaren, A.||Mr. W. J. Brown and|
|Granville, E. L.||Maxton, J.||Mr. G. L. Reakes.|
|Lawson, H M. (Skipton)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Universities)|
§ Question put, "That 'twenty-five' stand part of the Schedule."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 195; Noes, 10.1515
§ Amendments made: In page 10, line 16, leave out "one hundred and fifty," and insert "two hundred."
§ In line 19, leave out from "and," to "then," in line 20, and insert "has no dependants."
In line 21, at the end, insert:
(a) if the pension does not exceed seventy-five pounds a year, the authorised increase shall be thirty per cent. of the amount of the pension.
In line 22, leave out "does not exceed one hundred," and insert:
exceeds seventy-five pounds a year but does not exceed one hundred and fifty.
§ In line 25, after "one hundred," insert "and fifty."
§ In line 30, leave out from "has," to "to," in line 31, and insert "at least one dependant."
§ In line 31, leave out "two hundred and fifty," and insert "three hundred."
§ In line 33, leave out "one hundred and seventy-five," and insert "two hundred and twenty-five."
§ In page 11, line 6, leave out paragraph 7.—[Sir J. Anderson.]
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
I beg to move, in page line 30, at the end, to insert:For the purpose of this paragraph the death or disablement of any person shall be treated as attributable to service in His Majesty's naval, military or air forces, if it is wholly or partly due to any wound, injury or disease which has been caused or aggravated by such service.Not all the pensioners under this Measure have disability pension disregarded. That has been a matter of complaint, but I am not going into it now. But those under Clause 2 have their disability pensions disregarded in deciding how much pension they are to receive. It is important that the kinds of disability and the classes of persons who receive disability pensions, shall be properly defined, and I do not think the words of the Bill as at first drafted made it clear. It is the practice since the last war to regard those whose disabilities are aggravated by war service as being in the same position as those whose disabilities are attributable to war service. To make it clear that the ordinary definitions used in the pensions code are applicable in this Bill, I have put down these words. I 1516 hope that the Chancellor will be willing to put them in the Bill.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
§ Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
It would be ungenerous not to recognise that some changes have been made in the Bill during the Committee stage which snake it somewhat less bad than it was before. We have adjusted the ceilings, we have improved the conditions of benefit, as regards dependency, we have increased somewhat the amount of pensions. But these changes do not make what was a bad Bill into a good Bill. This remains an ungenerous and a bad Bill. That is true whichever of the two angles of approach we may adopt to the problem with which the Bill deals. I said before that there were two angles of approach which might he adopted. One was the angle that nothing but an act of charity was called for, and the other was that an act of right ought to be done. If this is an act of charity it is a very inadequate act of charity. But, from the beginning, I have held, and I still hold, that that is the wrong approach to the problem. The right approach is that since, by direction of the House of Commons, from 1922 to 1935 pensions were brought down year by year, as the cost of living fell, they ought to have gone up, in corresponding measure, as soon as the cost of living began to rise. The turning point was in 1935. It has taken us nine years to get to this Bill. When the cost of living began to go down in 1921 and 1922, this House insisted within three months, that pensions had to come down; but, while the cost of living has been going up, we have been content to leave this matter for nine years. And when we came to deal with it, we dealt with it not as a matter of right, but as an act of charity, of "grace and favour."
I was interested to see what arguments would be produced by the Government for the extraordinary disparity between the 1517 line that they took then and the line they are taking now. I can gather only two indications of the mind of the Government. One is that the Government are afraid of inflation. They are suffering from what has been described as emphysematophobia, the fear of inflation, and they are also suffering from another disease called cardiac sclerosis, or hardening of the heart. Whatever be the fears of inflation, they do not arise specifically on this Bill. The total cost of the Bill is £6,000,000 or £7,000,000, including the cost of the Amendments that we have made in Committee. I can conceive that the issue of inflation might arise when vast sums of public money were being spent on "on cost" war contracts but we heard nothing of it then. When millions of men had their rates of pay increased, when we discussed the pay of the Army a few weeks ago and the fear of inflation was advanced by the Chancellor, pretty well every economist in the country wrote to "The Times," and asked him to stop talking nonsense. Then we had a new definition by the Chancellor. He now distinguishes between "inflation" and "vicious inflation." I cannot imagine that the £6,000,000 involved in this Bill can be brought under the head of vicious inflation.
§ Lieutenant-Commander Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
Is the hon. Member not referring to the argument of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War?
§ Mr. Brown
Yes, the argument was advanced by the Minister of War. It was reinforced, however, by his colleague in the Treasury. Although the issue of inflation may arise, it does not arise on this Bill, and I discount that as the real key to the Chancellor's attitude.
The second justification was one to which I attach very great importance. The other day, when we were discussing this matter, I put the point—which I have put over and over again in this House—that when the cost of living Was coming down the Government forced pensions down, but now that it is going up they repudiated any connection between pensions and the cost-of-living figures. The explanation which the Chancellor gave us was that it was not this Government that tied up pensions and cost of living; it was an earlier Government. Now if there is one 1518 asset which the Chancellor possesses in Britain, it is not merely his magnificent intellectual equipment, but the appearance he has of solid orthodoxy. If ever that reputation for solid orthodoxy became endangered, the consequences for the Chancellor would be very grave indeed. But it often happens that things are not what they seem, that beneath the exterior of a saint there may live the soul of a sinner.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
I find it very difficult to see what the interior or the exterior of the Chancellor has to do with the Bill. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will stick to the Bill, and not go too much into outside topics.
§ Mr. Brown
But the doctrine advocated by the Chancellor is a doctrine which could be destructive of social order in Britain, for if one Government can repudiate the actions of their predecessors, what becomes of the doctrine of continuity of responsibility? Suppose this Parliament were to nationalise the mines, and agreed to pay the mineowners an annuity by way of compensation, and another Government refused to pay.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That would be quite outside the scope of this Bill. We can only deal with what is in the Bill, not with suppositions of that kind.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I was not disputing that. It was the hon. Gentleman's supposition with regard to the mines that I stopped.
§ Mr. Brown
It does not matter what. illustration I take, the case remains the same. From the point of view of the Civil Service, there is not one Government to-day and another Government tomorrow. There is only "the Government," with continuing responsibility. And it is wrong that a civil servant should not be able to rely on the word of the Government of the day. If he makes a contract with the Government, he should be able to rely on that contract being carried out, and lie should not be told by any Government, "We did not make that contract; we repudiate it." That is, in the strict 1519 sense of the word, Bolshevism. My affection for the Chancellor leads me to warn him of this crack in the superstructure of his respectability. I take a grave view of this matter. The old servants of the State to look to this House, as they have a right to do. They have received no justice, and very scant charity, and I think the effects are going to be very bad.
This is regarded as an act of charity to the civil servant, but I think that when he reads the results of our deliberations he will take a very dim view of the amount of charity that is being extended to him. There is also the effect on the serving public servants, because some day they will be pensioners too. And they will draw conclusions as to the sort of treatment that they are likely to experience later on. I take the view that this Bill is mean and ungenerous, and that not all the alterations we have made in Committee have turned it into a good Bill. I have heard no argument to convince me that the Government view is anything but wrong, and I regret that, after the pensioners have had to wait for over nine years before we give them any help, we should fail, at the end of those nine years, to produce anything but this unjust, mean, and ungenerous Bill.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I rise to try to bring some comfort to the heart of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), who is so gravely disturbed by what he considers, with due respect to the hon. Gentleman opposite, my backsliding. My hon. Friend accused me of repudiating a decision of a previous Government. He said that that was unorthodox, dangerous, arid almost revolutionary. What I have done is to adhere firmly to the decision of a previous Government about the stabilisation of pensions and salaries. The Government which was responsible for the introduction of the sliding scale was also responsible for the supervening stabilisation. That is what I have adhered to and that is what I have been criticised for not departing from in a very unorthodox fashion. That is all I have to say on that point. No one would be more eager than I am to ensure at all points that faith is kept by Governments with public servants, but it is sometimes possible to keep faith without repeating mistakes; and I am anxious to avoid what I think 1520 is now recognised as having been a mistake on the part of previous Governments in taking too light a view of increases in one direction following upon increases in another. In other words, not inflation—but vicious inflation.
I have only one other word to say. My hon. Friend was concerned to find an explanation of the action of the Government in introducing this Bill. I can give a simple explanation, which has the merit of being a true explanation. This Bill has been introduced in order that we may go as far as is consistent with present circumstances and with principles which must be maintained towards meeting grievances and relieving hardships on the part of very deserving classes of public servants.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I should be lacking in common courtesy if I did not say one word in gratitude to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the attitude he has taken in regard to the whole of this matter. I and many of my friends have been among those who have seen the importance and necessity of doing something for those civil servants—teachers, local government servants and others—who, having been pensioned or having had their pensions stabilised at a time when the cost of living was lower than it is to-day, were suffering at the present time. There is not a Member of this House who would not willingly increase the income of very large numbers of people, including pretty well all pensioners, who are receiving money from the State, but we have to face the responsibility both of those who are to receive and those who are to give. Bearing that full sense of responsibility in mind, we urged upon the Chancellor cases of hardship were involved in the stabilisation of pensions at a different period.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer took this into account and promised to bring in a Bill, but he warned us that it would be a limited Bill. He brought it in and he has not broken any of his promises because he did not promise much and has not done much. I asked on the Second Reading that, for good cause shown, he would be willing slightly to widen the limit which he imposed in the original draft of the Bill. On behalf of those Members who acted with me in this House, I put down three Amendments. The first Amendment was to make a class 1521 at the bottom end of the scale who would get a higher rate than the Chancellor proposed. The second Amendment was to widen the description of the term "dependant" so as to make it nearly all-embracing; and the third Amendment was to raise the upper limit so that those who were within the limit originally proposed by the Chancellor would get the full benefit of the increase and some of those above the original limit would be brought within it.
The Chancellor accepted them all. He accepted the first in regard to the lowest grade absolutely as I proposed it. He accepted the second in a way which I think was quite as right as the way I had put it on the Order Paper. With regard to the third, he made an alteration which I believe cost the Treasury quite as much as my suggestion, though it benefited different people in a little different way, but, in effect, it did what I proposed. I should be lacking in common courtesy if I did not acknowledge that the Chancellor had met the case which I put forward, not by myself alone, but on behalf of those who acted with me in this House. Of course, the Chancellor has not met my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) because he has a different idea of what ought to be done. My hon. Friend thinks he is right and the Chancellor is wrong. We all think that about ourselves and our ideas, but that, no doubt, is a common failing of humanity. However, the fact is that we in this House have the double responsibility —the responsibility to those who pay as well as to those who receive. I think that the Bill on its Third Reading, with the acceptance of the Amendment by the Chancellor, does meet that double sense of responsibility felt by this House and, therefore, I commend the Third Reading to the House. I believe it will be carried unanimously, and I extend to the Chancellor of the Exchequer my thanks for the wise judgment and careful handling which he has exercised in dealing with this matter.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
I am, I must confess, disappointed with this Bill, especially as regards the non-restoration of the cuts that were made between 1924 and 1934 except in the lowest ranges of pensions. I had ventured to think that such a restoration was a moral right if not a legal one, and the refusal of the Government 1522 to make this restoration, especially in view of the rise in the cost of living, constitutes a grievance—and I think it is a justifiable grievance—among the pensoners concerned. It is certainly a grievance among officers retired under the 1919 Warrant who had their pensions cut on account of a fall in the cost of living and got no corresponding increase when it -Went up. Whether it is worth the while of the Government to leave this grievance unallayed, especially in view of the comparatively small sums involved, is for them to say, but the grievance is there and I think it is a great pity.
Next, there is the question of the disability pensions, wound pensions, being reckoned as income for the purposes of this Bill. It seems to me that the £52 per annum is too little to allow for these and that they are on a different footing from such things as workmen's compensation and National Health Insurance. Surely, wounds and disablement incurred in the service of the country ought to be reckoned on a different footing altogether from such payments as National Health and workmen's compensation. Very few of these disability pensions are large. It might be said, in fact, that none of them is on a generous scale, for the man who has lost his health or the use of his limbs in his country's service, should be entitled to some degree of comfort and freedom from anxiety as to his living. Moreover, I would remind the House that many disabilities get worse with increasing age, and pensioners become less able to earn any part of their living. On that point I and many hon. Members are disappointed in this Bill. The Treasury attitude always appears to be to give the very least amount possible and—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I should remind the hon and gallant Gentleman that on the Third Reading of the Bill he cannot bring forward what he thinks he would have liked to see in the Bill. He can only comment on what is actually in the Bill.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am merely saying that I am disappointed in the Bill and that the Treasury attitude has been, as it invariably is, so parsimonious. At the same time, I am thankful for small mercies, and I recognise that the smaller range of pensioners have received in- 1523 creases under the Bill which will, undoubtedly, be very useful to many of them, even if such increases are not on as generous a scale as I, personally, could have wished. That range of smaller pensioners does include some of the pre-1919 officers—in fact, it includes many pre-1919 officers—and most, if not all, of pensioners of other ranks. They will all get something, although I regret that, in many cases, they are not getting rather more. I recognise, and I think many of us recognise, that half a loaf is better than no bread, and, to that extent, I am appreciative of what has been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the smaller pensioners under this Bill. However, I hope that at some future date, and not a far distant one, he may make up a little more to some of the others who have had deductions made in their pensions.
§ Mr. Burden (Sheffield, Park)
The vocabulary of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) is peculiarly his own, and I shall not attempt to follow him or to emulate his somewhat imaginative flights, but I must dissent from him in his description of this Bill as a mean Bill, a bad Bill, and so on. I want to join with the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) in expressing thanks to the Chancellor for the accommodating manner and spirit in which he has met the Amendments proposed from this side of the House. I express my regret, however, that the Chancellor could not go just one step further and extend equality of treatment to the local government service as compared with the Civil Service. There is a measure of accommodation for civil servants whose superannuation has been subjected to cuts owing to a fall in the cost of living, but no such provision is made for local government service. There is a further point which I raised in connection with the Clause. The description given to this Bill by the hon. Member for Rugby—that it was a bad Bill, a mean Bill, and so on—is controverted by the interest which people are taking in the Bill all over the country and the inquiries we are getting respecting its application. The Chancellor said that this Bill applies to persons whose superannuation or pensions are governed by statutory funds. I want to ask the Financial Secretary a point which I put 1524 earlier in the Debate. How can these benefits, for which we express our appreciation, apply to members of other statutory funds? Will there be consideration of their position if and when the time arrives for that to be done?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am sorry, but this point was too wide on the Committee stage, so it must be too wide for the Third Reading. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could not reply.
§ Mr. Burden
I rather took it, when you interrupted me on the Committee stage, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that it would be appropriate to raise it on the Third Reading.
§ Mr. Burden
I can only throw myself on the generosity of the Financial Secretary or the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ask their consideration of the point I have made.
§ Major Nield (Chester)
Most hon. Members have, I imagine, been approached by State pensioners of one sort or another for their help during the passage of this Bill. That has certainly been my experience. I mention it merely to emphasise the human importance of the decisions which we have to make under this Measure. My right hon. Friend, speaking a moment or two ago, recognised the human importance of these matters, and I do not think that it is any exaggeration to say that the decisions made here may make all the difference between, on the one hand, a feeling of hopelessness and of being cast upon the scrap heap, and, on the other hand, the contented enjoyment of well-earned leisure. I welcome the measures in this Bill for increasing the level of State pensions in certain directions and for certain sections of pensioners. I welcome particularly the decision of my right hon. Friend to widen the limits within which those increases may be allowed. During the Committee stage one was rather deterred from mentioning specific cases, but I do wish to call the attention of the House to one case. A constituent saw me not long ago with this history. He started his career as a teacher in 1884 and his salary was then £10 a year. It was quite a long time before it rose to £12 10s., and it was, indeed, not until he was over 40 years of 1525 age that he was earning £3 a week. I feel that it will be recognised that such a man has rendered a great service to the State and that, when the time comes for his retirement, a pension of reasonable dimension has indeed been earned.
During the discussions on this Bill much has been said as to the qualifying conditions for increased pension, in other words, the means test. In this connection, I would make this point—that, if the means test has to remain, as it does remain in this Bill, it must be looked at from two points of view. There are the widely divergent cases of pensioners who may be in a position to earn quite considerable weekly sums, and, at the same time, having their pensions, and others who are not able, by reason of disablement or otherwise, to earn anything. I know of the case of a Post Office official who had to retire some years ago through chronic asthma with a pension of 30s. 10d., and who is unable to add to his income in any way. I feel that the Government will keep in mind the great distinction between those who can and those who cannot supplement their pensions by earnings.
In the Explanatory Memorandum attached to the Bill in the first instance, it was promised that, so far as Service pensions were concerned, the appropriate amendment to the Royal Warrant and other instruments would be made. From certain Amendments put down during the Committee stage, some of my hon. Friends appear to have doubted whether that would be done. I do not share that doubt. I feel quite certain that the Royal Warrant and other instruments will be so amended, and without delay. I conclude by expressing two hopes. The purpose of the pension increases in this Bill is to meet an increased cost of living in cases of special hardship. The first hope I wish to express is that, should the cost of living further increase—and one hopes, indeed, that it will not—this question may be again reviewed. My second hope is that, in any event, at some opportune time, it may be possible to institute a wide inquiry with a view to making just and generous provision for those who have served the State faithfully and well.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
There is one feature about this Bill which I should like to mention, and it is a commendable feature. It concerns the question of the time of payment. The Bill was intro- 1526 duced or printed in February, yet the date of payment is to go back to 3rst December, 1943. It is a rather unusual feature, upon which I think I ought to comment, because it has not often happened here. It has always been recognised in the past that, when a Bill is on the Statute Book, payment does not cornmence till then. Parliament has seen wisdom, by providing that, when there has been an agitation for some change that can be dealt with immediately, it should not be necessary to make people wait for six or 12 months. Take the present instance. It will be five months from the time the Bill was introduced to the time when it goes on the Statute Book, but the people concerned will get five months' back pay. That is very pleasing to me.
We had a long controversy on another matter on which we could not get back payment, because all the cases could not be reviewed in time. Therefore, I am very pleased that our efforts do impinge on Parliament and make it recognise that justice should be done. I commend this Measure because it recognises that principle, and also because it tries to redress many genuine grievances that ought to have been redressed long ago. I would have liked to support some of the Amendments, but we had made an agreement with the Chancellor on certain points which he accepted. In those circumstances it would have been unwise to vote on the Amendments after we had got the Chancellor to stretch a point in our favour. The Bill is a big step forward which ought to be welcomed by the House.
§ Mr. Norman Bower (Harrow)
I would also like to congratulate the Chancellor on the manner in which he has handled this Bill. I was one of those who expressed a view on the Second Reading that the Bill did not go far enough, either as regards income ceiling or the percentage increases proposed. I then said that I could only give a frigid welcome to it. I am glad to say that, as the Bill has progressed, the temperature of my welcome has undergone a steady and continuous rise, until now it is quite warm. The Chancellor has met us, with regard to both these points, if not handsomely, at any rate, spontaneously, and with somewhat unusual readiness, which one is not accustomed to associate with his Department and for which we are duly grateful. In its final form the Bill will 1527 undoubtedly do a good deal to relieve hardship, which, I have come to the conclusion, is a perfectly proper and primary objective for a Bill of this nature. As we have been reminded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), we have to think, not only of the people who will receive the increase, but also of the people who have to pay. We ought to bear in mind that, where increases are given under this Bill, they will have to be paid for, ultimately, by the general body of taxpayers, which includes many people who have to live on very small fixed incomes and who are not State pensioners at all, and to whom, therefore, the provisions of a Bill of this sort can have no possible application.
I think, however, that it would be wrong to seek to do more in this Bill than to alleviate hardship. Many of these pensioners who come under the second scheme are getting back the whole of what they have previously lost, and that does not leave any cause for complaint on either ground. With regard to the first scheme, I am glad that the Chancellor has stood his ground and retained the principle of what is called the means test, or the upper income limit, because the great majority of the pensions under the first scheme were never paid on a sliding scale basis. Therefore, as we have already been reminded a number of times—though some hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), are still inclined to forget it—the increase which these pensioners receive will be in the nature of an uncovenanted benefit. If we are to retain the principle of the means test in the cases of people who receive other forms of uncovenanted benefits, such as the supplementary old age pension, it would be wrong to treat these pensioners in any different way. While I would not go so far as to say that this Bill will abolish all hardship among these people—I am certain that it will not do that—it will, at any rate, be a considerable help to many unfortunate people who have deserved well of their country and who are to-day finding it very difficult to make ends meet.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I was interested in some of the discussions that have taken place on this Bill. I always 1528 marvel at the glibness and smugness with which wealthy, comfortable, well-fed Tories on the other side can talk about maintaining the means test. What miserable creatures they are. What lack of humanity.
§ Mr. Bower
I imagine the hon. Member was referring to me. What I said was that, if we are to maintain the principle of the means test in the cases of people receiving uncovenanted benefits, it will be wrong to treat these people any differently. I was not saying whether we should retain the means test or not.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am in the memory of the House. The hon. Member said "I was glad the Chancellor has decided to retain the means test—
§ Mr. Gallacher
If the hon. Member had any understanding of it, he would be horrified with the operation of the means test.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The Chancellor, representing the Government, is in this Bill carrying through an obligation to servants who have demonstrated their loyalty in the particular positions in which they have been placed. In carrying out their obligations, they cannot help realising the difficulties that confront these people in the new circumstances that have arisen. The Government recognise that they ought to do something about it, but, because these people are not wealthy patrons of the Conservative Party or wealthy landowners, when they do attempt to do something about it they are as mean as they possibly can be. I had intended to vote on one of the Amendments put down, but certain of my Labour advisers here informed me that a concession had been made by the Chancellor and I accepted their advice not to vote, as I very often do. When I go wrong in this House, it is of my own volition, not when I accept advice.
Nevertheless, I recognise the fact that this is a question that is approached, not in a spirit of generosity, not in the spirit of actually freeing these one-time servants from worry and hardship, but in the spirit of meeting an obligation with the absolute minimum of expenditure. That is the sort of idea. I heard that the hon. 1529 Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) said something about the Chancellor of the Exchequer being a Bolshevist in his approach to the question of stabilisation. The hon. Member for Rugby, by accusing the Chancellor of the Exchequer of Bolshevism, was, in the eyes of the Tories opposite, putting the badge of respectability on himself. The Tories are asked to recognise him as being no Bolshevik. He is a respectable citizen, unlike the Member for West Fife. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets up and tells us that he is not a Bolshevik and he is not employing Bolshevist methods. Did he have to tell us that? Is it not as clear as anything that the Chancellor is a Tory and that he would never employ anything but Tory methods?
The Chancellor says that we have to approach this question of increased pensions very carefully because of the danger of the spiral. It is like the reply one receives when one asks the Government a question that they do not want to answer and they say, "It is not in the public interest." So with wages or pensions. They come along and say, when this poor section or that poor section of the community get a few shillings a week, "There is the danger of a vicious spiral." This is caused, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by increasing pensions or increasing wages. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) said that those affected by the Bill who have given service to the country should be treated in a much more generous manner than others who have not given service to the country, such as, I presume, miners, engineers, and railway men. We are to suppose that these people do not give service to the country and that the country could get on quite well without them. That is the sort of attitude we always get towards the workers. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) said these pensioners felt that they deserved more when they saw what wages the workers were getting. Always we have the Chancellor talking about the spiral—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
We have had the question of whether the Chancellor was a Bolshevist or not, and we have heard about wages and spirals. I do not think we should, on the Third Reading of the Bill, hear anything about miners, and we 1530 should try to avoid comparisons as it would only widen the matter.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am not going to talk about miners', engineers' or railwaymen's wages, although an amazing story could be told about these in relation to the wealth that exists in this country and the currency passing into other and less desirable hands. I want to challenge the Chancellor or his innocent assistant, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, on what the Chancellor said on the Third Reading when talking about the question of stabilisation. It is never increased pensions or increased wages that affect stabilisation. It is the continuous chasing of profit that disturbs stabilisation and brings about inflation. If the Chancellor would give generous consideration to all the poorer classes in his various activities and finish off those who are continually pursuing profits, he would be able to deal with the question of stabilisation. If we got rid of every profit-monger in this country we would never have any difficulty about stabilisation. There never was inflation but what came through the pursuit of profit by people absolutely regardless of the interests of the community. There are good features in this Bill despite its limitations. One of them, referred to by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) is that the Bill is retrospective. I agree with the hon. Member for Leigh that it is a good thing that these pensions should he paid back for the past five months. I agree with him that, if it is good they should be paid to civil servants, it is good they should be paid in the same way to the old age pensioners.
§ Sir W. Allen
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) in the eloquence he has shown on the Third Reading of this Bill. I wish that he could have been present when we tried to get the pensions of the widows increased. I want to thank the Chancellor and the Government for having introduced this Bill. We realise that it is purely an increase of pensions and is not an attempt to create further precedents. From the beginning to the end it was emphasised that that was the object of the Bill, and I wish to thank the Chancellor and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury for the attention they have given during the course of the Bill. The Chancellor was very helpful, although he has 1531 not given us all we wanted. For many years I have tried to get the British Government to realise what these old pensioners deserve—military, Royal Irish Constabulary, teachers and others who will eventually benefit. On the Third Reading of a Bill, for which we have waited for so long, I thank the Chancellor and the Government for having introduced it.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third Time, and passed.