HC Deb 23 January 1947 vol 432 cc390-410
Mr. Morley

I beg to move, in page 2, line 6, to leave out "forty", and to insert "fifty".

I did not come to this Committee prepared to move this Amendment, as I was more interested in the first Amendment which has not been called. Rather than allow this Amendment to lapse, however, I will move it. The Bill says that if the pension does not exceed £100 a year in the case of a married person or £75 a year in the case of an unmarried person, the increase shall be 40 per cent. of the amount of the pension. These pensions will be very small, and a 40 per cent. increase will mean a comparatively small increase in actual amount. A person with a pension of £90 a year will get an increase of £36 a year, a very small increase. As to the higher rates of pension, it will be possible for a married person with £350 a year pension to get an increase of £60 a year.

A single person with £300 a year pension would have an increase of £45. It will be seen, therefore, that as the Bill is drafted, the smallest increases are given to those with the smallest pensions. As these increases are given on the basis of need, and not on an actuarial basis, calculated on contributions made by pensioners during during their contributory periods, it would appear that there is a case for a larger increase for those who are most in need. For these reasons, I move that the figure of 50 be substituted for the figure of 40 in Clause 1 (2).

Mr. W. R. Williams (Heston and Isleworth)

In supporting this Amendment I should like to say a few words regarding the action which has already been taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary. I, personally, wish that this, whole subject had come up for reconsideration in regard to the basic principles of the 1944 Act, so that we should have been in a position to deal with all the many injustices and anomalies of the parent Act, but I realise that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has the responsibility of holding the delicate balance between the Treasury on the one hand and on the other the demands made upon him by all sections of the community. I should have liked to see a considerable all-round improvement, but if, as stated by the Financial Secretary on a previous occasion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not in a position to undertake a complete review, I have to ask myself since the possibility of concessions is to be limited, which concessions I would most strongly support, and which are the cases of greatest need. I have unhesitatingly come to the conclusion that I should like to see something further done for the class of persons dealt with by this Amendment.

Hon. Members who were present at the Second Reading Debate will remember that I submitted that there was an unanswerable case for improvement in so far as the lowest paid categories were concerned. My first reason for coming to that conclusion is that those who receive pensions of less than £100 per annum, more nearly approach the category of persons which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) had in mind, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the original Act of 1944. He stated on that occasion that it was primarily intended to deal with cases of real hardship, and I submit that this Amendment deals with' the cases of severe hardship which the right hon. Gentleman had in mind. It might be argued, as I think it was argued by the right hon. Gentleman in 1944, that during a period of national emergency most members of the community have to stand up to some measure of additional hardship. I do not think it can be disputed that, even today, that still holds good. But I suggest to the Committee that there comes a point beyond which we cannot go without im- posing a real measure of hardship upon an individual. There comes a point at which if we do less than is reasonable, we are imposing a very severe burden upon a certain group of people. In my opinion, the category dealt with by this Amendment fall into this class. I am, therefore, very disappointed indeed that the Government, through the Financial Secretary, have not found it possible to meet the plea which I and other hon. Members made on Second Reading, that there should be an increase beyond 40 per cent. for persons in receipt of pensions of less than £100 per annum. I pleaded with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, through the Financial Secretary, that he should make one further effort, even if it cost a little money, and that, in justice and in equity, he would be doing the right thing.

There are thousands of ex-Post Office people who fall into this category, and who are in receipt of pensions of less than 42s. per week. Parliament has already approved this figure as being the minimum upon which a man and his wife ought to be called upon to exist—that was in connection with the National Insurance Act. During the Recess, I had an opportunity to study the proposition I put to the Financial Secretary during the Second Reading, and I have been able to get some more figures. I am not going to weary the Committee by quoting them all because I understand that a number of hon. Members would like to take part in the Debate on this Amendment, and I shall, therefore, confine myself to examples covering the group of postmen. There are other grades, including telephonists, who fall into the same group, but I should like to direct the attention of the Committee to the case of postmen who retired before 1938. These men were qualified to receive the maximum amount of pension, which is based on 40 years' service. This is what they receive at the present time under the 1944 Act. In Class 3 offices—that is in the smaller provincial offices, which constitute by far the largest number of offices—the weekly equivalent of the pension granted is about 41s. 6d. per week. In Class 2, which covers intermediate offices, a man receives 43s. per week. In Class 1 offices, which cover provincial offices, including such offices as Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow, men receive 44s. 6d. a week, and in London it would be 49s. per week.

4.30 p.m.

I would like the Committee to know that these people have been retired for at least eight or nine years, and I think it is reasonable to assume that they have already long exhausted whatever little savings they were able to accumulate from their meagre wages while still in the Government service. I would also like to point out that these men were in excepted occupations during their period of active service, with the result that they are not entitled to any benefits under the contributory pensions scheme, and are entirely dependent on the pension which they get for their service with the Government. During the war, a great deal may not have been heard about this hardship because, either from a deep sense of duty to the nation in a time of emergency, added, possibly, to a degree of real economic necessity, arising from the rapid rise in the cost of living, many returned to their offices to resume their old jobs or start new ones. These men—and this is equally true of women—carried on uncomplainingly and bravely during the war, despite infirmities and advancing years, and did very effective work for the nation. When they returned to do this work, at a time of crisis, their pension was absorbed into their wages, with the result that the nation saved their pension for seven or eight years while they were working at a lower rate than was proper for the job.

During the war, these people augmented their normal pension through working beyond the normal age of retirement. They are now too old to carry on. Many are above 65 or 70, although I admit that those over 70 are eligible for consideration for non-contributory insurance benefit, subject to a means test. But the fact remains that these people now have to fall back on their pension, with no additional credit whatever for the service which they gave for six or seven or more years during the war. The position of the men I am referring to—those who have qualified to obtain full pension rights based on 40 years' service—is very bad, but there are others who could not, by the very nature of things, have put in the full qualifying period of 40 years. I refer to postmen and male porters and others who came into the service of the Post Office and the nation after being in the Forces. Few have had any pension at all in respect of their service with the Forces. Possibly, their maximum period for pension would range from 30 to 35 years. I have tried to be fair towards the Financial Secretary by taking what I regard as a fair average. I am basing my figures on an average of 32 years' service. Under the 1944 Act, these people will receive an annual pension of £61 in the provinces, ranging up to £73 in London. Under the present amending Bill, they will get, according to my calculation, £88 in the provinces, ranging up to £102 in London. This Amendment would give them £91 in the provinces and up to £110 in London.

The figures in the Amendment correspond roughly to the annual equivalent to the 42s. a week which we have provided under the National Insurance scheme, and I would like to ask the Financial Secretary to agree that the nation should provide these people with, at least, the wherewithal to obtain bare existence. On this side of the Committee, we all accept that in the present condition of things even the 42s. envisaged under the National Insurance Act is sufficient only to keep body and soul together. Is it, therefore, unreasonable to ask the Government to give these people, who have served so loyally and faithfully for 30 or 40 years, that standard of living which we have already provided for for old age pensioners under the contributory scheme? I should like the Financial Secretary to say whether he thinks it is just to tell these people that, if their pension from the Government service is not sufficient, they can seek public assistance.

That is the alternative unless this Amendment is accepted. These people have earned every penny of their pension. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) during the Second Reading Debate said that at every arbitration court we have attended—and he and I have attended many in our time—the Treasury emphasised more than once to the tribunal that the pension was an important factor in the wages scales of the people whose claims were under consideration. It is my opinion that when a pension was conceded to these people it was never assumed that it would not be sufficient to keep body and soul together. This is not a question of charity; it is a simple act of justice and fair play to those who have served the nation long and well.

Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)

I would like to begin by saying that I cordially endorse the effort which is being made in this Amendment to induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary to think again about this matter. There are many cases in which the circumstances are even worse than the examples quoted by the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. W. R. Williams). I think Members of the Committee will be aware that it is usually the case that a civil servant precedes his established service under the Crown with a period of unestablished service. In some cases, the period of unestablished service may run into many years. When the time comes to compute the pension, it is not calculated on the total length of a man's service in each case. Many of the men to whom my hon. Friend referred would not have 32 or 40 years' service, and would, therefore, not get three-quarters of the full pension or the full pension. It is not calculated on total service, but on the established service—which may be only half the total service—and on part of the non-established service. But none of the non-established service put in prior to the end of the last war is taken into account. Therefore, one has to take into account here, not only men with 40 years' service or even 32, cases which themselves reveal the miserable figures quoted by my hon. Friend, but many scores of thousands of cases where the amount of actual service which can be taken into account for pension purposes will be less than even the lower of the two figures which my hon. Friend quoted. If we are to deal with this business on the basis of need, on the basis of relief of distress, there is every reason to commend the Amendment to the support of the Committee. Nothing could better illustrate the mental confusion which lies behind this Bill, and nothing could better illustrate the calamitous failure of the Government to look at this matter in principle, than the Debate we are having on this Amendment.

There are three conceivable bases on which we might determine the amount of increase to give to these pensioners. One conceivable basis would be that they should receive a sum which would restore the purchasing power of the numeral of £s. d. on which the pension is based. I am not asking for that at the moment. I am merely saying that would be one basis in principle. The second basis in principle would be to say "No. What we will do is to increase the pensions in the light of the rise of the cost of living, in exactly the same proportion as we reduced them for corresponding changes in the index figure, when the cost-of-living curve was going down towards its nadir in 1935."Neither of these bases is adopted in this Bill. The third basis would be to give most where the need was greatest. This Clause does not do it, and even the Amendment, which I am bound to support against the still less generous provisions of the Clause, does not do it either. Neither the Clause nor the Amendment adopts either the first, second, or third basis, because if we adopted the third basis we should obviously be giving a much bigger increase to the people with under £100 a year, than to the people getting £300, £400, or £500 a year. The precipitating and fundamental cause of nine-tenths of the issues which have been raised in the public service during my life has been the complete failure to think clearly in principle before tackling the individual point involved. This Bill is a first rate example.

4.45 p.m.

What then am I to do? I want to attack this Bill root and branch. I want to characterise it as a mean, ungenerous, unworthy, inadequate Measure of which we ought to be ashamed, but I cannot do that at this stage. When we were on the Second Reading, I stated the case for a logical approach in principle to this problem, and I recommended to the Government the second of the three alternatives which I have mentioned, namely, that we should give, when the cost of living goes up, an increase corresponding to the amount by which we reduced the pensions when the cost of living went down. Could there be anything more fairer and more defensible than that?

What are the facts? From 1921 to 1939, the cost of living went down. Every time it went down by five points, the amount of the pension was reduced. There was no argument then as to whether a man was married or unmarried; whether a widower with a housekeeper should count as a married man or an unmarried man. There was no argument whether a man was under 60 or above; no argument as to what were his private means, and whether he could afford to make up the amount out of his own pocket It was an automatic, mathematically merciless cut. From 1935 onwards, the cost of living went up, and it has been going up ever since, although I do not pretend to say by what number of points. We have an index figure which I regard as practically worthless. The index shows that the cost of living has gone up by 33⅓per cent. The common experience of most of us is that it has gone up by at least 100 per cent. However that may be, I submit that taking the index figure, we ought.to give as much when the cost of living is rising as we took away when the cost of living was falling.

This Clause adopts none of the three conceivable bases, and it is not logically just or fair. It does not follow out the logic even of the eleemosynary approach. I should like to vote against both the Clause and the Amendment. I wish that this Committee would join with me in so doing, as a demonstration to the Government that what we want is a Bill that deals adequately with every Clause, including Clause 1, and has regard to the position to which our old age pensioners have been reduced. I cannot do that because I know that, first of all, on this side of the Committee, I should not get the support that the justice of the case demands. Judging by the speech of my hon. Friend above the Gangway on the Second Reading, he felt that the road to hell was paved with increased pensions. That being so, I cannot expect him to support me in the demand for a radical approach to this problem. I cannot expect hon. Members opposite to vote for me. Why? Because, whenever a trade union interest comes into conflict with a party interest, it is the trade union interest which is subordinated to the party interest. The whip would crack, and I should be voted down even by most of the Civil Service representatives in this House, as well as by the rest of the party opposite. So it seems that there are very faint prospects of securing justice in this matter.

I do not know what the Financial Secretary will do about this, and if he intends to give us this miserable 50 per cent. I will give way if he wishes to reply now. I thought there would be no impetuosity in the rush to give it. In these circumstances, all I can do is to ask my colleagues opposite whether this Amendment will be withdrawn if the Financial Secretary says that he cannot do anything for us? If not, I shall vote for the 50 per cent. as against the 40. If I am not given an opportunity of doing so, I shall reserve the rest of what I wish to say until we reach the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Randall (Clitheroe)

I want to ass ciate myself with the plea that has been made to the Financial Secretary to accept the Amendment. I have reason to believe that the Financial Secretary will not be unmoved when I remind him of some of the things that he said in the Second Reading Debate. In referring to a yardstick, my right hon. Friend said: The only yardstick used, of course, is commonsense and hardship in relation to the cost of living today and the pension which the individual draws. He went on to say: It is the worst paid of those, with the lowest pensions, whom we desire to help."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1946; Vol. 431, c. 694–5.] I want to show that we ought to apply commonsense to this matter, and in my view to apply commonsense is to compare the cost of living addition that is being paid to the staff in the Civil Service at the present time and the proposal made in this Clause with regard to the cost of living. That is a fair and commonsense method. Let me begin by taking the case of a boy messenger in inner London. At 18 years of age, he has a wage, with consolidation, taken off for the time being, of £1 12s. 6d. a week, and with consolidation, that is to say, with the cost of living amount, he receives £210s. 6d. a week. That represents an increase, to the boy messenger on a wage of £112s. 6d., of 18s. a week.

Mr. W. J. Brown

What is the percentage?

Mr. Randall

I have not the percentage. A postman who has done 40 years' service will get a basic pension of £115s. a week. The effect of this Bill will be to give him £29s., an increase of only 14s. to the retired man on less pay than a boy messenger in inner London. Surely, if it is right to give to the established staff in the Civil Service a certain percentage of cost of living increase, that same increase is fully justified in the case of old age pensioners outside. To take the case of a boy messenger on a wage of £116s. 6d. a week at 19 years of age, with consolidation he gets x00A3;217s. 6d., an increase of 21s. The old age pensioner who retired after 1938 gets £118s. That is a fair comparison with the £116s. 6d. of a boy messenger. A pensioner who retired after 1938 gets £213s. under this Bill, with the cost of living added, which represents an increase of 15s., whereas the boy messenger gets an increase of 21s. If the yardstick of commonsense is to be applied to the old age pensioners, then the cost of living rate that has been given to the established staff should be given to the retired staff. The proposal in the Amendment to make an increase from 40 per cent. to 5c per cent. would achieve the purpose that we have. It would, broadly speaking, give the same cost of living increase to the old age pensioners as is given to the men at present in the Civil Service. I plead with my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to recognise that common sense demands that this should be done.

Mr. Harry Wallace (Walthamtsow, East)

I would like briefly to support the Amendment. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) placed my hon. Friends and myself in a dilemma when he invited us to go into the Division Lobby. He said we would not do it, because in a clash with trade union interests the Government always won. The hon. Member is a trade union official. In the course of the years he has accepted many things which he did not like, but he has accepted them because in doing so he was picking up something for his members. Today, I appreciate that the Labour Government have decided to spend a few million pounds improving the lot of these pensioners, and I propose to pick it up. My complaint is as follows. I agree with the hon. Member for Rugby in hoping that at some time the Government will deal with the question of pensions in a comprehensive and equitable manner. It is the inequity of the thing that I dislike.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Randall) gave some examples, and I want to emphasise them. My hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. W. R. Williams) was very generous in that he took the maximum, but that is not the reality. In the postal service in this country there are about 67,000 men, one half of whom come from the Colours, and have no hope of doing 40 years of pensionable service. I put the average service at 20 years. Therefore, when we are talking about their pensions, it is not a question of 4o/8oths of £100 a year, but 20/80ths of £100 a year. To give an example, when I was serving I took a check on the number of men working in a particular office who were re-employed pensioners. Of 100 men, 40 had pensions of under 20s. a week. I wish the Financial Secretary would look into this matter some time and let us have the figures. Forty of those 100 men had pensions of under 20s. a week, and each one of those men had good grounds for complaining of inequitable treatment. If his service with the Colours had been counted, that would have altered his pension. If his service as an assistant postman had been counted, that would have altered his pension. If his service as an auxiliary postman had been taken into account, that also would have altered the pension. I ask hon. Members to remember the case from Battersea, or Chelsea, of a man who had given 40 years to the service and received no pension. Those are the things that hurt. Consider the case of the re-employed pensioners. There is, for example, an ex-Serviceman who has given perhaps 20 years' service; at 60 years, of age he takes his pension, and then comes back to serve his country during the war. The service given to the Post Office after he was pensioned cannot count for pension. That is not fair and equitable. I should have thought that in reviewing these circumstances something ought to be done to see that such service is taken into account for pension.

I appreciate what the Government are doing, but I hope they will appreciate that there are many real grievances, and that it is time something was done to settle these matters. I support the Amendment. I hope that in the area of these low pensions, the Financial Secretary will be able to accept the modest proposal in the Amendment. In this area, the men have given their country many years of service, much of which was not pensionable, and surely the years that did not count for pension could now be set in the balance, so as to do something to help the men. Like the hon. Member for Rugby I should like to have seen a more comprehensive Amendment. I share with him the view that one of the greatest inequities on a man who has served his country and earned his pension is to be told that he will not get the same treatment as others, because he happens to be single. I think that' is the limit. I do hope that when the Financial Secretary to the Treasury replies to the Debate he will be able to say that he accepts the Amendment.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Walker (Rossendale)

Before the hon. Gentleman concludes I should like to ask him whether it is not a fact that when a pensioner during the war went into private employment, his pension was still paid by the Department?

Mr. W. J. Brown


Mr. Walker

And is it also a fact that by going into Government work, he lost his pension?

Mr. Brown

That is right.

Mr. Harry Wallace

If I may reply to my hon. Friend, he is quite right in what he says. If a man went to outside employment he continued to draw his pension, but it he went back to Government service as a re-employed pensioner, then his pension and earnings together could not exceed his pre-retirement earnings. Then there is the other case of the man who went out with 20 years' service where the maximum years were 40. If he goes back into the Post Office and serves another six years, the Treasury will not allow him to count the extra six years, and so he does not get a pension on the basis of twenty-six eightieths. I think that that is one of the unkindest things done by the Government to one who has been in the public service.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

A great deal of what has been said and very properly said has been criticism of the wages that were paid in the Government service in the past, and of the pensions that were based thereon. This Bill does not deal with the wage and salary structure of the Civil Service, nor, for that 'matter, with the pensions that have or have not been paid. In this Bill we are dealing with the situation as it is, and, because the cost of living has gone up as a result of the war, we are trying as far as we can to alleviate hardship for those with the smallest pensions. Therefore, all the criticisms which have been levelled at this Bill should have been levelled at the employees themselves, because it does show that they did not take their trade unionism as seriously as they should have and did not build up strong organisations. I am making that criticism for what it is worth. In the past, in certain sections of Government employment—though I may say not in all—if the union had had more of the employees behind it, perhaps it could have got better terms and conditions than unfortunately it did.

Mr. W. R. Williams

I want, if I may, to reply to those remarks. Several of the hon. Members who have made contributions on this aspect of the question belong to associations which have a pretty good history behind them in the matter of agitation for better wages and superannuation, and I do hope that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will qualify the remarks he has just made.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

In so far as my remarks need qualifying I do so. I would pay, as I did on the Second Reading, my tribute to the trade unions for getting better conditions for those employed by the State, but the point I am now making—and I think that it is a fair and legitimate one—is that it is against the rates, and conditions in the Service that that criticism this afternoon has been levelled and not against the provisions of this Bill, in which we are trying to help those who have the smallest pension with which to meet the rise in the cost of living.

The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) made a very forcible speech, but I am afraid that his sojourn on the other side of the Atlantic has made him a little rusty on the history of this matter, because he indicated in the course of his remarks that all Civil Service pensions had dropped with the cost of living. My information was not in line with what the hon. Gentleman said, but in order to make quite sure I had inquiries made, and I find that whilst it is true that certain pensions in the Civil Service did go down, it is not true to say that all or that the majority did. In so far as they did go down, the people in that position were given an alternative scheme under the 1944 Act, so that they could choose whichever suited them best—either under Section 1 or Section 2 of the 1944 Act. That being so, they have had made up to them some, if not all, of the loss they had suffered. I admit that as a result of the cost-of-living sliding scale in the 'twenties and early 'thirties some of those pensions did fall before they were actually stabilised.

Mr. W. J. Brown

We had better get this thing straight. If the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing a technicality—and I hope he is not—it would be true to say that not all Civil Service pensions were reduced when the cost of living fell, but purely as a technicality. The cost-of-living bonus started to come down in 1921. It is now 1947, and 21 from 47 leaves 26. Every man who went out on pension up to 1935 has had his pension reduced under the reductions in force. Since 1935, the men who have gone out on pension have not had their pensions reduced, but then how could we reduce pensions when the cost of living was steadily rising? What ought to have been done was to increase the pensions which had already been reduced. What was done was that no increase was given, either to the men who went out after I935, or to the men who had gone out before 1935, when the cost of living began to rise. So far from being rusty, I think I am particularly bright.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I do not think that I had better pursue this matter too far. I have made my point, and it has been -substantiated by the interruption and explanation made by the hon. Member for Rugby. He has admitted that some pensions were reduced before they were stabilised. We have to remember that here in this Bill we are doing one thing and one thing only, and that is to give an increase in pensions because of the rise in the cost of living. It is true that many of us were in the House in 1944, but that Measure was passed by a Government of a different complexion from the one now in office. We are building on the edifice which was erected in the past and trying to improve it if we can.

The percentage increase given is 40 per cent. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Rugby will probably disagree with me here, but the official cost-of-living index figure is about 31 or 32 per cent. above prewar, so that even 40 per cent. is above the actual cost-of-living figure as shown in the official index published monthly by the Ministry of Labour. In addition, we have to remember the considerable subsidies which are being found by the Government from the general body of taxpayers in order to pin down that cost of living. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated this afternoon in reply to a Question, these subsidies this year amount to over £300 million. That sum quite definitely is helping people with small pensions, who were in Government employment, to meet the increased cost of living.

Mr. Frank Byers (Dorset, Northern)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is really his own personal experience that the cost of living has risen only 30 per cent.? Is he telling the Committee what is his own personal experience? Surely we are not going to be fobbed off with this sort of "tripe," if I may so call it?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

This is a free country and the hon. Gentleman is entitled to call anything I say "tripe." I assure him that I should not object. I am only telling him and the Committee that the figure of the official cost-of-living index is as I have indicated. If we accepted this Amendment, the cost would be something over £1 million, and that brings me to this point. We want these pensioners to get as much as we can possibly afford, and we are attempting to improve the 1944 Act for them. But the present Amendment would cost as least £1 million in addition to over £9million mentioned in the Financial Memorandum which precedes this Bill.

Mr. Harry Wallace

It would be a diminishing cost.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The cost would, of course, be a diminishing one. But these percentages, particularly that which we are now discussing, were agreed with the people who were most interested in this matter.

Mr. W. J. Brown

Who were they?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I am about to tell the Committee. We went to the T.U.C., and we also consulted the staff side of the Civil Service National Whitley Council. I do not think I am being unfair to either body when I indicate to the Committee that the figure of 40 per cent. was theirs and not ours. Having obtained that figure, and learned from them that in their view, as the result of their knowledge and experience of these matters, that 40 per cent. was a fair percentage, we then consulted, as I think I indicated on Second Reading, all the other bodies including representative organisations of local authorities in England and Scotland, to obtain their views in this matter. Again, I think I am saying nothing I should not say, when I tell the Committee that some of these bodies were not at all enthusiastic about the percentage proposed, but that we eventually agreed that 40 per cent. was reasonable and that it was accepted, on behalf of the local authorities everywhere, that the figure of 40 per cent. should go into the Bill. Quite definitely, therefore, there was general agreement between representatives of organised workers and the authorities, both local and national, including police authorities and others who would have to pay these pensions, that 40 per cent. was reasonable.

Mr. W. J. Brown

This is a matter of some consequence, and before the right hon. Gentleman sits down I would like to question him about it. He says that he consulted first the T.U.C. If so, he consulted them at a time when no single one of the Civil Service unions was affiliated to the T.U.C, nor could it be so affiliated, and I should like to know why he consulted the T.U.C. on a matter which was no concern of theirs.

Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)

There are other pensioners.

5.15 P.m.

Mr. Brown

So far as the Civil Service is concerned none of its organisations was or could be affiliated to the T.U.C. My second point is this: Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the staff side of the National Civil Service Whitley Council agreed, either in writing or verbally that it would accept the figure of 40 per cent.? I think it is important that we should have a categorical reply to this point.

Mr. Burden

Before the right hon. Gentleman replies may I ask him to give consideration to what I think is quite a wrong assertion on the part of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), that this matter is primarily a Civil Service one? There were other organisations involved, and the T.U.C. itself, prior to any direct association with Civil Service Unions, was pressing the unions on these matters with regard to improvements. I think it quite an unwarrantable claim that it was entirely a matter of the Civil Service organisations.

Mr. Morley

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman (MAJOR MILNER)

It may be for the convenience of the Committee if the following two Amendments are considered together.

Mr. Messer

I beg to move, in page 2, line 6, at the end, to insert: (b)If the pension exceeds one hundred pounds a year but does not exceed one hundred and thirty-three pounds six shillings and eightpence a year the authorised increase shall be the amount of forty pounds a year. As one principle goes through all four Amendments in my name of which this is the first, I do not propose to do more than make one speech. I think that if the principle of my first Amendment were accepted, it would not be necessary for me to do anything more in the matter. If it is not accepted, I shall be able to do very little after I make my speech. To put it simply, the Amendment has for its object the harmonising of the rate of progression of increase. The Clause as it stands leaves the percentages in such a way as to bring about differences which do not appear on the surface, and I am not sure that it would be easy for me to explain to the Committee how they work, except by giving an illustration. The words of the Clause are: if the pension does not exceed one hundred pounds. … If we assume that there is a pension of £90, then there would be an increase of 40 per cent., or £36. If the pension is £100, there will be an increase of £40, that is a difference of £4. But if the pension happens to be £10 more than £100, that is £110, the increase will be £33. which in this order of progression, will be £7 less than the previous increase. If the pension is £120, then the increase is £35. My Amendment is intended to bring those rates of progression into harmony. There is nothing more in it than the tidying up of this provision so as to avoid anomalies which will arise, it the Bill goes through, as at present drafted.

Mr. Heathcoat Amory (Tiverton)

I should like to support what the hon. Member has said. He described the object of his Amendment very clearly and I do not think there is any need for me to say more on that point. The single example given will show that if it is right that the increase in the case of a pension of £90 should be £36 and also right that in the case of a pension of £120 it should be £36, then surely between the two there should be no anomaly or inconsistency of the kind that has been indicated. I believe we are suggesting here only one extra graduation in the case of a married pensioner and one in the case of a single pensioner, and the principle seems to be adopted already in paragraph (c) of Subsection (2) of this Clause. If the Amendment is accepted, the result will be to eliminate inconsistencies which may be a source of aggravation. The extra cost cannot be considerable, and there will be no administrative difficulties, so I hope the Minister will see his way to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I can say straight away that we accept the four Amendments to which my hon. Friend has referred. They tidy up the Bill, and they help pensioners who are on the borderline and who otherwise might suffer. We do not want them to suffer. We want them to get every conceivable benefit within the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 2, line 7, leave out "pounds," and insert: and thirty-three pounds six shillings and eight pence". In line 23, at the end, insert: (6) if the pension exceeds seventy-five pounds a year but does not exceed one hundred pounds a year the authorised increase shall be the amount of thirty pounds a year. In line 24, leave out "seventy-five," and insert "one hundred."—[Mr. Messer.]

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I beg to move, in page 3, line 9 to leave out, "the month in which this Act is passed," and to insert "December, nineteen hundred and forty-six."

During the Second Reading Debate it was suggested that we might be able to make the Bill a Christmas box to pensioners if it could be passed into law in time, but we found that that was not possible. We now ask the Committee to agree to an Amendment the effect of which will be to make the Bill retrospective to 1st December, 1946.

Amendment agreed to

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)

Before we part with the Clause, I should like to make one or two observations. First, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury upon the honour which was recently conferred upon him, and which he so well deserves.

In the four Amendments which he has just accepted the object is to even out some of the inequalities which arise from the operation of the escalator provisions of Subsection (2), which deals with smaller pensions. A somewhat similar point arises on Subsection (3), which deals with the alternative scheme of pension increases. If the right' hon. Gentleman will look at the words of the Subsection he will see that in place of the words contained in Section 2 of the principal Act of 1944—which provide that where a pension exceeds £600 a year, but is less than £645 the pension may be increased to £645— there shall be substituted a provision that when the pension exceeds £600 a year, there shall be an addition to that pension of 5 per cent I can best illustrate the point I am putting by an example. Let us assume that where an increase has to be paid under the 1944 Act, the pension was £1 or £2 in excess of £600. In that event, the pension was made up, under the 1944 Act, to £645. By the provisions of the Bill, an addition of 5 per cent, will be made instead; that is to say, a pensioner who has a pension of £600 will receive an increase of £30 a year. That brings up the pension of a man who has just over £600 to £630. Under the Act of 1944, the increased amount would have been £645. The point I wish to bring Of the notice of the right hon. Gentleman is that certain pensioners may do worse under the provisions of the Bill than under the provisions of the 1944 Act. Of course, where the pension is £625 or £630, the provision as to 5 per cent. addition will be more generous, but where the pension is only a few pounds, or even a few shillings in excess of £6oo a year, there are bound to be pensioners who will do worse under the substituted provisions of the Bill than under the Act of 1944.

Seeing that the right hon. Gentleman has taken steps to smooth out the inequalities of the escalator provisions for other classes of pensioners, I suggest that something of the same sort is required in Subsection (3). I rather think that the point which I have made could be met by providing that, in any event, nobody should come out worse under the new provisions than under the old. I am afraid that unless something on these lines is done, some pensioners who expect to benefit will find, after this Measure is passed that, in fact, they suffer a reduction. The point is, I think, one of some substance and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look at it. He has tabled other Amendments which indicate that the Bill had not been considered in all its aspects before it was printed and circulated. This is a point in which the Bill is defective, and in which some alteration may be necessary.

Mr. Morley

Perhaps I can now raise the point which I had hoped to raise in the Amendment which was ruled out of Order, that of the widower, in relation to the proposed increase of pensions. The widower frequently suffers his bereavement just before or just after he receives his pension. He nearly always has a house, which needs cleaning and other domestic work. Generally speaking, these elderly men are unable to do the work themselves, and have to employ a housekeeper and provide her with wages and meals. This expense may amount to as much as £2 or £3 a week, and the widower may find himself worse off financially than when he was married. In relation to pensions increase it is proposed to treat him as a single man and give him a lower percentage of increase. Could not the widower who employs a housekeeper be treated, for the purposes of these proposals, as a married man? It would be a concession of value to the widower and of small cost to the Treasury. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give this matter his sympathetic consideration.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

We would, of course, like to do what the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Morley) suggests, but it would create more anomalies than it would cure. Although it is true that the widower may have to have someone to look after him, it is also true that a bachelor is in the same position when he reaches that age. The trouble is to know where to stop. There is the same anomaly under the Income Tax laws, where a widower, even if he has no children in the house, can get an allowance for a housekeeper and a bachelor cannot. Although we sympathise with the widower, we also have to sympathise with anyone, widower, bachelor, or spinster, who reaches this age and has to pay someone to look after them. We have taken advice on this, and it is impossible to accede to the request.

The reply to the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) is that those borderline cases are covered under Section 3 (3) of the 1944 Act, and they would get up to the £645 he mentioned in any event. I would, however, add that if he still feels that there is a query about it we will look at it again, although I am positive that I am right, and if any Amendment is necessary to iron out any anomaly that might occur, we will attempt to put it right in another place so that all pensioners, whoever they are, are treated alike.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.