HC Deb 10 May 1948 vol 450 cc1902-5

(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, the trustees may, for the purpose of alleviating special hardship, cause to be made out of sums appropriated for the purposes of this section or the income thereof such periodical or other payments as they think fit to or in respect of persons who have been members of the House of Commons whether before or after the passing of the principal Act, or the widows, widowers or orphan children of such persons.

(2) The provisions of the First Schedule to the principal Act (except paragraph 5 of that Schedule) shall not apply to payments made under this section; but subject to the provisions of the said paragraph 5 the making of any payment under this section, and the amount of any such payment, shall be in the entire discretion of the trustees.

(3) For the purposes of this section the trustees may appropriate out of the fund established under the principal Act—

  1. (a) a sum not exceeding three thousand pounds; and
  2. 1903
  3. (b) sums not exceeding the value of any property which may, at any time after the commencement of this Act, be accepted by the trustees under subsection (2) of section three of the principal Act, or the investments for the time being representing any such property.

(4) The House of Commons may in any year by resolution direct that there shall be appropriated for the purposes of this section out of the said fund such part, not exceeding one-tenth, as may be specified in the resolution of the sums deducted or set aside in that year from the salaries of members of the House of Commons under subsection (3) of section one of the principal Act.—[Mr. Glenvil Hall.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I beg to move "That the Clause be read a Second time."

I would like to move this new Clause with the addition of a new Subsection (5): In this section the expression 'year' means a year beginning on the First Day of October. This Clause empowers the trustees to meet special cases of hardship by payments out of the section of the Fund consisting of the original £3,000, any gift to the Fund under Section 3 (2) of the Act of 1939, and if the House so decides by affirmative resolution, 10 per cent. of members' contributions to the Fund in any one year. A fresh resolution would be required if it were desired to repeat the 10 per cent. grant from the members' allocations in a subsequent year.

Payments under this Clause will be at the entire discretion of the trustees, except of course, they can only be made to ex-M.Ps., their widows or orphans. In making grants under this special hardship procedure, the means test applied to the First Schedule of the 1939 Act may be disregarded by the Trustees, if they think fit. We think that this Clause gives flexibility to the Trustees and will enable thorn to meet the various cases of hardship which may conceivably come before them. The idea behind this new Clause is one which has been proposed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Ayr and Bute (Sir C. MacAndrew), who has done so much for the fund since he became the chairman of the trustees. We hope that it meets the point that he and his co-trustees have in mind and the wishes of the Committee generally.

With regard to the new Subsection (5), I understand that the trustees' year for this fund begins in October. If we did not move this Amendment to the new Clause, and if the Clause were accepted without the Amendment, it would be assumed the year ran from January to December. This would not suit the book-keeping and the auditing of the fund, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree.

Sir C. MacAndrew

I should like to thank my right hon. Friend—as much as I was angry with him just now—for this new Clause, which I think is a very good one. He has given us more than we wanted, although he does not trust us, I gather. I do not think it will take very much, because, as I said on Second Reading, the class of people who will benefit, those prior to July, 1931, are old and diminishing in number. However, I do thank the right hon. Gentleman for meeting our suggestion. I think the new Clause will help our position very considerably.

Lieutenant - Commander Braithwaite

The right hon. Gentleman emphasised that this was a domestic matter, a House of Commons affair. Perhaps, I differ slightly from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Ayr and Bute (Sir C. MacAndrew), but I think we ought to make two comments before this new Clause is incorporated into the Bill. The first is that the Government, even in this domestic matter, accept the principle of the means test. The right hon. Gentleman made that quite clear. I think it should go on record. It is rather interesting that, so far as the House of Commons is concerned, the means test is regarded as perfectly proper procedure.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I said the means test, which is laid down in the Act of 1939, may be disregarded if the trustees are so minded. In fact, if we are doing anything, we are allowing them to disregard the means test.

Sir C. MacAndrew

On that point I should like to make a correction. The means test still stands in the Bill, although the margin is raised by £100.

Lieutenant-Commander Braithwaite

May I make my speech? I think my hon. and gallant Friend and the right hon. Gentleman have between them established the point that Members of this House are to be subjected to a means test by a Socialist Government.

My second comment is this. I do feel—perhaps, I am a little old-fashioned—a certain contempt for a man who is content to live and support himself upon his wife or his wife's family. I cannot see any reason why the widower of a deceased lady Member of Parliament should be included. I think that that is a contemptible and lowering and degrading provision in the Bill. All one has to do is to court a lady Member of Parliament and succeed in securing her hand to live upon the charity of Members of the House of Commons. That is a typical Socialist proposal, which I find utterly contemptible.

Sir C. MacAndrew

I think we ought to make a correction in what has been said, lest it should go out that the means test has been abolished. It has not. An ex-Member, if he has £325, gets nothing, and a widow of an ex-Member, if she has £225, gets nothing. The limit has been raised by £100.

12.45 a.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I think we must clear this up. It is not the Government which is proposing any means test. We are dealing with a non-party matter. May I make that clear? I am not talking about the body of the Bill or what was in the 1939 Act in regard to the limits of income above which it would be impossible to make allocations from the fund: I am talking about this Clause. I cannot talk about any part of the Bill, because that would be out of Order. I am moving a new Clause in which it is laid down that the means test, which is in the original Act and continued in this one with higher limits, may in certain circumstances be disregarded.

Sir C. MacAndrew

I quite agree with all the right hon. Gentleman says. Surely it is not suggested that people who have never contributed are to be put in a better position than those who have. I am getting that idea most strongly.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.