HC Deb 23 January 1947 vol 432 cc420-35

6.7 p.m.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, to leave out paragraph (a,)and to insert:.

(a) The maximum limit of special Greenwich Hospital pensions under Section five of the Greenwich Hospital Act, 1869, shall be one hundred and lour pounds a year instead of thiny-six pounds ten shillings a year and twenty-seven pounds ten shillings a year in the respective cases referred to in that Section The object of this Amendment is TO continue a tradition of a century of government of Greenwich Hospital under which successive Parliaments have felt it their duty always to insert in Bills dealing with the matter a limit to pensions that should be paid from time to time, according to the amount of money that might be available for this purpose. The basic Act is that of 1869 under which pensions were set up—10s. 6d. for those who entered the hospital after the passing of the Act, and 15s. to those who had entered the hospital before that. This was subsequently amended in 1898 to 17s. 6d., so that at no time have powers been given to the Admiralty or the Government to pay pensions except on a scale authorised by this Parliament. The figure of £2 which has been put in this Amendment has been decided by a statement of the Financial Secretary during the Second Reading of the Bill. He said he hoped that the upper limit would be in the neighbourhood of 35s. The fixing of the limit at £2 in this Amendment is deliberately done so as to give a certain amount of latitude to the Admiralty, and to provide for any contingency.

The main reason we feel that this Amendment should be accepted by the Committee is that the capital fund of the Greenwich Hospital, from which all these payments are made, is now in the neighbourhood of £7million, and as far as I can make out, that sum is practically entirely the result of the donations, legacies, etc., of private people for this admirable purpose. We feel that this Committee should preserve what it has always done in the past—control of these funds given by private individuals for this good public purpose. The Government only provide a sum of £4,000 a year towards all the pensions and other good works of the fund, whereas the total expenditure is in the neighbourhood of £200,000 per annum. We feel that with these figures involved it is essential for the House of Commons to retain the power to check any Government, and see that they use this relatively vast sum of money in accordance with the wishes of those who for two centuries have contributed to this public purpose.

Major Bruce (Portsmouth, North)

I am afraid that I cannot possibly support this Amendment. It seems to me to impose a limitation which in all the circumstances I regard as undesirable, and which, indeed, the Minister himself has regarded as undesirable. The Amendment seeks to have individual allowances given in cases of this kind limited to £104 a year. The last time this Section of the original Act of 1869 was amended was in 1898, and the maximum ceiling fixed at that time was £45 10s. per annum.

When I looked at this figure I remembered what might be called the political extravaganza we had the other night from the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), who assured us that the existing cost-of-living index was a "phoney" one and, in fact, it possibly had risen considerably. I suggest that if the Opposition were going to put down an Amendment of this kind, they might have gone to a slightly higher level than they have seen fit to go in this Amendment. In the circumstances, I think it best to leave it as it stands. I would like to request the Parliamentary Secretary to review very carefully the sums involved which are paid to these pensioners. At present I am informed that there are approximately 179 pensions in issue to officers and 750 in issue to seamen and marines. I observe from the estimates for the coming year that it is intended to spend £7,810 during 1947, which works out at an average of about £43 per officer, if, indeed, it is proper to average it in that fashion. On the other hand, the seamen and marines are scheduled to receive £23,000, which works out at an average amount of £21 per head.

There are some cases where people, through no fault of their own, are not able to receive public benefit in a particular form, and where the pensions might well exceed the sums payable under this Bill. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that, within the limitations which are imposed by the amount of money available, he should administer the matter rather more generously than may have been possible in the past. I do not like very much the principle of limiting expenditure under this head purely because the money has been derived, to a very large extent, from a private source. In essence, of course, the fund is a private fund which, as the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) has pointed out, has been subsidised, originally by the Board of Trade but now by the Treasury, to the extent of £4,000 per annum. Obviously that, accumulating over a period of time, has reflected itself in the capital sum now available. The position of the Admiralty in relation to these pensions, surely, is that they manage them. The State has thought it advisable that the Admiralty should manage this particular type of pension which is raised by a voluntary fund. I do not think that the size of the capital sum available has any bearing upon any restriction which it is desired to impose on the Admiralty in this respect. It is necessary to remember that these pensions are something over and above the -normal pensions which serving people get in the ordinary way, by reason either of their service in the Forces or of disability caused by service. The Admiralty should be given the widest flexibility in administering them without necessarily being tied to any limit. The Committee ought to reject this Amendment.

6.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. John Dugdale)

I am afraid that I cannot accept this Amendment. I am interested in what seems to me to be a change of front on the part of the Opposition. I understood they were perfectly happy about the original Bill, but evidently the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) has occupied the Recess to some purpose and has discovered a number of important points which he has raised. To take the first one, the main object, at any rate of this part of the Bill, was to remove any limit. The amount fixed in 1869, and the amount fixed when it was altered later, was in fact a perfectly proper amount at that time. I am not saying that the amount suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest is not a perfectly proper amount now, but it may well be that in future years this amount may seem as improper as the amount suggested at an earlier date seems improper now. Therefore, we do not want to tie ourselves to any definite sum. I would like to emphasise that there is very full control over the administration of this fund.

First, there is Ministerial control. That may not mean very much perhaps to hon. Members opposite, but I would add that there is also Parliamentary control in so far as the sums which we propose to give, the limits that we propose, will be brought in as Orders in Council and paced on the Table of the House. Hon. Members will be able to see, from time to time, what in fact we are proposing to do and to question our action. Further than that, the Comptroller and Auditor-General's Department exercise very strict control over the pensions, over the details as well as the principle. Finally, I would refer to the point mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman about these being private funds. That is a very important point. However, I would like to remind him that the control exercised over this fund is considerably greater than the control exercised over large numbers of other private funds. For example, I need take only the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust. The control which I have described and which will be exercised over the administration of the Greenwich Hospital Fund, will be considerably greater than that exercised over this and many other private funds. I think hon. Members can rest satisfied that the control will be adequate and that Parliament will have an opportunity, whenever it wants, of questioning our expenditure and seeing that, in fact, we are administering this fund properly. With that assurance, I hope the hon. and gallant Member will withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. J. P. L. Thomas (Hereford)

I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary that there has been no change of front on this side of the House since the Second Reading of this Bill, however energetic the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) may have been during the Recess. We made it perfectly clear during the Second Reading of the Bill that we are entirely with His Majesty's Government and the Admiralty in their desire to remove the maximum figure as laid down by the old Act. We agreed with them that it was not nearly high enough but we warned them then that we were against them, as the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest said in his speech, in not including in this Bill a new and higher maximum figure. We want to be certain that this maximum higher figure is enshrined in this Bill, as it has been in the Acts of the past, and, quite frankly, not left to a decision of the Admiralty to come before the House of Commons as an Order in Council. I realise that it can come before the House in that way and I realise also that we can question it, as the Parliamentary Secretary has just said. But what we cannot do: and what we may wish to do, is to amend that figure. That is the important point which was brought out at the Second Reading and it is a position from which we have not moved.

As the Parliamentary Secretary says, in years to come this maximum figure of £2, which is a higher figure than the one he said on the Second Reading the Admiralty contemplated, may seem inadequate. If this figure in future proves not to be enough, surely the Admiralty can come down to this House, just as their predecessors have come in past years, and move an Amendment that the figure be changed once more. That brings me to a very serious point, which I have touched on already. As I said in my speech on the Second Reading, this is yet another attempt to remove the power from the people, as represented by Members of Parliament in this Chamber, and to put the power into the hands of the Executive. Therefore, although the Parliamentary Secretary has asked us to withdraw the Amendment, I can assure him that we feel so strongly on the specific point that the maximum figure of pension should be stated in this Bill, and on the more general point of this withdrawal of power from Parliament to the Executive, that we now propose to divide the Committee.

Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)

I wish to say only a word or two in support of what my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) has said. At far as I can understand from this Bill—and I have given it much consideration—in spite of what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce), these pensions are largely limited in their income, because it arises from capital and this Government grant.

Major Bruce

I hope the hon. Gentleman will not misrepresent me. I did not suggest that the Government should pay these sums out of capital. I meant that

they should pay the pensions out of the income arising from it.

Mr. Williams

In the sentence which the hon. and gallant Gentleman used, I think he will find that he referred to the capital sum and said it does not limit these pensions, but I think that the capital sum itself must have a limiting effect upon the pensions, unless we are going to alter it comparatively quickly. There is something in that point, as he will see if he will look into it. I would like to congratulate the Financial Secretary upon the speech he has just made. Really,-he has learnt his part awfully well, and the Deputy-Leader of the House will no doubt notice how well he had prepared his case. It is just like saying that they will not make a decision now but will lay an Order on the Table in due course, when those Members of Parliament who have nothing to do but hunt through all these Orders may, if they find something wrong, possibly very late at night, be able to raise the matter. This is one more instance of the gross incompetence of a Government who cannot make up their mind about a small figure of this sort. I would suggest that, as the hon. Gentleman had learned his part so well, he might have spent a little more time in facilitating a decision upon this figure.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 249; Noes, 108.

Division No. 57. AYES. [6.23 p.m.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Brown, T. J. (Ince) Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S. W.)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Brown, W. J. (Rugby) Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Deer, G.
Alpass, J. H. Buchanan, G. Diamond, J
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Burden, T. W. Dobbie, W.
Attewell, H. C. Burke, W. A. Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)
Austin, H. Lewis Castle, Mrs. B. A. Dye, S.
Awbery, S. S. Chamberlain, R. A. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Ayles, W. H. Champion, A. J. Edelman, M.
Bacon, Miss A. Chater, D. Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)
Balfour, A. Chetwynd, G. R. Evans, E. (Lowestoft)
Barstow, P. G. Clitherow, Dr. R. Evans, John (Ogmore)
Barton, C. Cobb, F. A. Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)
Battley, J. R. Cocks, F. S Ewart, R.
Bechervaise, A. E. Coldrick, W. Fairhurst, F.
Benson, G. Collindridge, F. Farthing, W. J.
Beswick, F. Collins, V. J. Field, Capt. W. J.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Colman, Miss G. M. Foot, M. M.
Bing, G. H. C. Comyns, Dr. L. Forman, J. C.
Binns, J. Cook, T. F. Fraser, T. (Hamilton)
Blackburn, A. R. Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G. Gaitskell, H. T. N.
Blyton, W. R. Corlett, Dr. J. Ganley, Mrs. C. S.
Boardman, H. Cove, W. G. Gibson, C. W.
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W. Daggar, G. Glanville, J. E. (Consett)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Daines, P. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Davies, Edward (Burslem) Grenfell, D. R.
Bramall, Major E. A. Davies, Ernest (Enfield) Grierson, E.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Davies, Harold (Leek) Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)
Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Mallalieu, J. P. W Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Guntr, R. J. Mann, Mrs. J. Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Guy, W. H, Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.) Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Marquand, H. A. Simmons, C. J.
Hall, W. G. Mathers, G Skeffington, A. M.
Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R Medland, H. M Smith, C. (Colchester)
Hardy E. A. Messer, F. Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Harrison, J. Middleton, Mrs. L. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)
Hastings, Dr. Somerville Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R. Snow, Capt. J. W.
Herbison, Miss M. Mitchison, Maj. G. R. Stamford, W
Hewitson, Capt. M. Monslow, W. Steele, T.
Hicks, G. Montague, F. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Hobson, C. R. Morgan, Dr. H. B Stross, Dr. B.
Holman, P. Morley, R. Stubbs, A. E.
House, G. Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Hoy, J. Mort, D. L Swingler, S.
Hubbard, T. Moyle, A. Symonds, A. L.
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Nally, W. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Hughes, Heotor (Aberdeen, N.) Naylor, T. E. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.) Neal, H. (Clayoross) Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme) Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Irving, W. J. Noel-Buxton, Lady Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Janner, B. O'Brien, T. Thurtle, E
Jay, D. P. T. Oldfield, W. H. Tiffany, S.
Jeger, G. (Winchester) Orbach, M. Timmons, J.
Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.) Paget, R. T. Titterington, M. F.
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Telley, L.
Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Pargiter, G. A. Tomlinson, Rt Hon. G
Keenan, W. Parker, J. Turner-Samuels, M.
Kenyon, C. Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Usborne, Henry
Key, C. W. Paton, J. (Norwich) Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E Pearson, A. Viant, S. P.
Kinley, J. Peart, Capt. T. F. Walker, G. H.
Kirby, B. V Piratin, P. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Lang, G. Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield) Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Lavers, S Popplewell, E. Warbey, W. N.
Lee, F. (Hulme) Porter, E. (Warrington) Watson. W. M.
Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Proctor, W. T Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Lovy, B. W. Pryde, D. J. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Lewis, A. W. J (Upton) Pursey, Cmdr. H West, D. G.
Lewis, J (Bolton) Randall, H, E. White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)
Lewis, T. (Southampton) Ranger, J. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Reid, T. (Swindon) Wilkes, L.
Longden, F. Ridealgh, Mrs. M. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Lyne, A. W. Robens, A. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
McAdam, W. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
MoEntee, V,. La T. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Williams, W. R (Heston)
MoGhee, H. G. Rogers, G. H. R. Willis, E.
Mack, J. D. Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Wyatt, W.
McKay, J. (Wallsend) Royle, C. Yates, V. F.
McKinlay, A. S. Sargood, R. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Maclean, N. (Govan) Scollan, T. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
McLeavy, F. Scott-Elliot, W.
Macpherson, T. (Romford) Shackleton, Wing.-Cdr E. A. A TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mainwaring, W. H. Sharp, Granville Mr. Joseph Henderson and
Mr. Hannan.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)
Aitken, Hon. Max Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Maclay, Hon. J. S.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone) Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M. Maitland, Comdr J. W
Baldwin, A. E. Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D Marlowe, A. A. H.
Barlow, Sir J. Gammans, L. D. Marsder, Capt. A.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke) Marshall, D. (Bodmin)
Bennett, Sir P. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G. Maude, J. C.
Birch, Nigel Grant, Lady Mellor, Sir J.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Gridley, Sir A. Molson, A. H. E.
Bower, N. Grimston, R. V. Morris-Jones, Sir H.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V. Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Haughton, S. G. Neven-Spence, Sir B.
Butcher, H. W. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Nutting, Anthony
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Hurd, A. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Carson, E. Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.) Osborne, C
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Joynson-Hioks, Lt.-Cdr. Hon. L. W. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Crowder, Capt. John E. Kerr, Sir J. Graham Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Darling, Sir W. Y. Lambert, Hon. G. Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.
Digby, S. W. Langford-Holt, J. Raikes, H. V.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Rayner, Brig. R
Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W. Lindsay, M. (Solihull) Renton, D.
Drayson, G B. Low, Brig. A. R. W. Roberts, H. (Handsworth)
Drewe, C. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Ropner, Col. L.
Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry) Studholme, H. G. Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. Sutcliffe, H. Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Scott, Lord W. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne) White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow) Teeling, William Williams, C. (Torquay)
Smith, E. P. (Ashford) Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Snadden, W. M. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Stanley, Rt. Hon. O. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.) Turton, R. H. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Stoddart-Scott, Col. M. Vane, W. M. F.
Strauss, H. G. (English Universities) Walker-Smith, D. TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray) Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie Major Conant and
Major Ramsay.

Question put, and agreed to.

6.30 p.m.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

I beg to move, in page 2, line 1, to leave out Subsection (2).

The reason why we are moving this Amendment is because, as we understand the drafting of this Subsection, for the first time in all legislation affecting Greenwich Hospital pensions, it is proposed to make pensions payable to "other ranks" dependent on what they are receiving from other sources. I would like to refer to what the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) said during the Second Reading Debate when he quoted from the Fourth Report of the Committee on Public Accounts. He told the House that these pensions were intended, from the time that the first Acts were passed, to be entirely independent of what a man might receive from other sources; that they would be something extra and something that was not to be taken into consideration, no matter what the State, from time to time, might grant to either this or that class of persons by way of pensions.

I think I am right in saying that this is the first time in something like 230 years during which the Greenwich Hospital has been in existence, that this House has been asked to limit its pensions in this manner. Although the Financial Secretary was unable to agree to the first Amendment, I hope that he will be able to accept this one because, in so doing, he would be preserving the spirit in which the Hospital was founded, in which it has been run and, I hope, will continue to be run. I would ask him to bear in mind that the amounts payable for pensions have been reduced from £70,000 to £30,000 in the last accounts. I know that the Financial Secretary said that this was due to the fact that £40,000 had been taken over by other Departments, but, surely, if that is so, it is all the more reason why these pensions should depend on something else. I can see a slight smile on the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary's face, and I hope I am correct in thinking that he will accept this Amendment.

Major Bruce

I am disposed to support this Amendment on the face of it. However, before I make up my mind about it, I should like an explanation from the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary. As far as I can see, the Subsection is completely contrary to the procedure which has obtained in the past. The 1920 and 1944 Pensions (Increase) Acts make it quite clear that any increases granted under either of those Acts shall not be taken into account in determining the eligibility or the amount. I think that each of those two points "eligibility" and "amount" are rather important.

I am not quite sure how far the circum-stances have changed since the Pensions (Increase) Act of 1944 to warrant the insertion of a Clause of this kind in the Bill. It seems to me that what the Admiralty are presuming in this case is something which has not yet happened They are presuming that the Treasury are in complete control of all these funds, and, therefore, they wish to consolidate all pensions, including the Greenwich Hospital pension, under the uniform rules which they are progressively endeavouring—and quite rightly—to bring into operation in order that pensions may be more standardised than in the past. But this is not so yet. It was envisaged in the Fourth Report from the Committee of Public Accounts, where it says, on page xiii: Your Committee note that the cost of Army and Air Force Age Pensions is already borne wholly by voted monies, and they raise no objection to the Navy Pensions being similarly borne in future. I believe it has been suggested that 1950 should be the date when all pensions, including the Greenwich Hospital pensions, might conveniently be consolidated into one uniform pensions system. I do not propose to pass any comment on that here; it will arise whenever the particular point comes up for discussion. But the important matter to bear in mind is that that position has not yet been reached, and, therefore, these are still technically private funds, although, for good reasons, it was long ago decided that the Admiralty are the best qualified persons to administer them. Neither do we know at this stage what is going to be the effect of this particular Subsection. I am not in possession of any figures, but I should imagine that the bulk of people drawing naval pensions at this time had their increases under the 1920 and 1944 Acts and that, by and large, the bulk of pensioners fall into the category affected by this Subsection.

I do not think that it is altogether good practice to endeavour to bring a larger number of people into conformity with that comparatively small number who, of course, have had their pensions consolidated under the new Pay Code issued earlier last year. Although that may well arise in the future, when the whole question of pension consolidation under the Government, including the Greenwich Hospital pension, comes to be considered, I do not think that it should be considered now. As I understand the matter at present, I feel that I must support the Opposition Amendment in this instance, but I shall be very pleased to receive an explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary.

Mr. Dugdale

The hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) is, I regret to say, in error. I am not at all surprised that he should be because it is an exceedingly complicated Clause. However, I think that if I explain the position he will see that we want to do exactly what he wishes to do.

This Amendment is quite unnecessary. It is only necessary to have a legal right to disregard if there is, in fact, a legal limit. As a result of debating the last Amendment, we have abolished the legal limit. As there is no legal limit, there is no necessity to have a legal right to disregard. Therefore, there is no necessity for the Amendment. But I would like to make it quite plain that although there is no legal right to disregard, we do intend to disregard the naval pensions in this connection. We intend, therefore, to do just what the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants, but there is no need to insert this legally. If we did, in fact, insert it legally, I am advised that it would make nonsense of the Bill. It is a curious legal point.

Colonel Crosthwaite - Eyre

Most curious.

Mr. Dugdale

But it is, in fact, so. The net result if this Amendment is withdrawn is that we shall, in fact, disregard the pensions, as I think both sides of the Committee are anxious we should do. I hope, therefore, that the Amendment will be withdrawn.

Mr. C. Williams

May I comment on what I think has been a most interesting and remarkable speech? I understand that there is no legal right to disregard, but the Government intend to break the law.

Mr. Dugdale indicated dissent.

Mr. Williams

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to say anything, I will give way.

Mr. Dugdale

We do not intend to break the law. All I have said is that under the law as it will be passed, if it is passed today, we shall be able to disregard these pensions and we shall not be breaking the law by so doing.

Mr. Williams

That is a great advance on what was said just now. The hon. Gentleman used the expression "no legal right" once or twice, and that is why I wanted to get the hon. Member to go a little further. He has now changed his mind. If he reads HANSARD tomorrow, he will see that his words were quite clear. Anyway, the point now remains, as far as I understand it, that if this Amendment is accepted and these words are deleted, the position will not be quite as satisfactory. There does seem on both sides of the Committee some doubt as to where we stand. We have had no really authoritative legal advice on the matter, and it has been admitted by the representative of the Government that this is a most complicated legal point. That being so, I do not intend to press for the Amendment to be put to a Division, and I shall not deal with it in other than a perfectly fair way. There is a doubt. There are two opinions as to whether this Amendment is good or not. However, there is the Report stage to come, and I think the Government might fairly say that they will consider the matter from the legal point of view once again, in case my hon. Friend is right. After all, he has been supported by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) in a speech which was much more able than those which we get from the Front Bench opposite. That being so, I think the Government might say that they will look into the matter from a legal point of view so that it will be absolutely certain that on the Report stage, or on Third Reading, we can have some statement from the Government after they have consulted their lawyers. If they would do that, we would be much happier. One or two of us are rather unhappy on the point whether we ought to divide, and I for one would like the position to be made clear.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Harold Roberts (Birmingham, Handsworth)

This is certainly a matter which is rather obscure. It is evident that certain Statutes provide for disregarding certain increases of pensions, and we have heard from the Government Front Bench that those provisions will not now be necessary. If the Amendment were carried, it would have the effect of striking out Subsection (2), and there appears to be no object in directly repealing the Sections referred to in Subsection (2). If it is intended to continue the practice which already prevails, why repeal those Sections and then do the work administratively?

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

I have heard hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite explaining away their double negatives, but I have never heard a treble negative before, and if we start with a positive I do not know where we shall finish. Would the Financial Secretary give an undertaking that when he comes to draft regulations and implement this Bill, he will make it abundantly clear, without any use of double or treble negatives, what the policy of the Admiralty is in this matter?

Mr. Dugdale

I will make it abundantly clear.

Mr. C. Williams

Would the hon. Gentleman arrange for these matters to be carried out in such a way that Parliament may know what is being done? It is a matter which many of us feel would be adequately covered if we could put a question—

Major Cecil Poole (Lichfield)

There is nothing to stop the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Williams

Surely, there is no harm in asking a question of that sort.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave,.withdrawn.

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

Major Bruce

There is one question I would like to ask. Paragraphs (b) and (c) of Subsection (1) are not quite as clear as many of us would wish. It will be observed in paragraph (c) that under the Act of 1872, the limitation on the amount which was payable formerly to the daughter of any officer is, in fact, withdrawn, but at the same time the limitation on the number remains. When we come to consider the restriction imposed by the Act of 1872 on the number of daughters of warrant officers, noncommissioned officers and men in the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines, we find that the limit on the number is removed but not the limit on the amount. Under the Estimates for the current year there is going to be paid in aggregate to the daughters of warrant officers, N.C.Os. or men, £6,100. I understand that at the moment there are about 249 of them affected, so that it works out at about £24 a head: So far as the daughters of officers are concerned, I understand that the Estimates for this year are about £1,500. There 'are about 30 officers' daughters affected which works out at an average of about £50 a head. There seems to be a disparity between the amounts which are paid in these various cases. I commend to my hon. Friend the democracy of the Act of 1872, because that Act provides in Sections 4 and 5 that in each case, whether the person is the daughter of a warrant officer or a rating, or of a commissioned officer, the limit is the same. It is actually £20 in each case. I am a little curious to know why the limitation on the amount has been removed from the daughters of officers, and has been left at £20 in respect of the daughters of other ranks, and why the number in the case of the daughters of other ranks has been removed from restriction, while the restriction on the number in the case of officers remains. I would like to have some explanation.

Mr. Dugdale

No, Sir Under this Bill there will be no limit, either as to the amount or the number in either case, in the case of the daughters of officers or in the case of the daughters of ratings. Our object is to remove limitations in this case as we have in other cases. There will be no limit.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

Can the hon. Gentleman state under what conditions in this Bill the restrictions to which the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) referred are withdrawn?

Mr. C. Williams

Could the hon. Gentleman not chance giving an answer to that? After all, he has not been terribly accurate this afternoon. The hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) has made this point, and has taken very great care in looking it up, in regard to restrictions on the number of daughters. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary wants to give the right information to the House. He says that this limitation does not arise. Will he answer the question which has just been put to him, as to exactly where this limitation is removed? We welcome the fact that he has given an answer that it is removable, but I do feel it would not be quite fair either to himself, the Committee or the hon. and gallant Member who has taken the trouble to raise this point, not to be quite certain about this matter before we allow it to pass on. I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to give the information asked for.

Mr. Dugdale

I have said the limitation was removed. The only other thing I wish to say, which I think will interest the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), who is always out of date with his facts, is that it was removed 20 years ago.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 2 and 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.