HC Deb 04 July 1951 vol 489 cc2318-20
48. Mr. Heathcoat Amory

asked the Minister of Defence whether, during the revision of Service pensions which he is now carrying out, he will ensure that any improvements made will apply to existing pensioners.

The Minister of Defence (Mr. Shinwell)

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 24th April by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble). Although my right hon. Friend was not referring specifically to Service pensions. the principle is the same.

Mr. Amory

As the right hon. Gentleman is not able to commit himself, now, will he, nevertheless, store away this point in his mind and do the right thing when the time comes?

Mr. Shinwell

We are only anxious to be sympathetic in this matter. It is a very complicated business.

49. Mr. Crouch

asked the Minister of Defence when he expects to he able to make an announcement on Service pensions.

Mr. Shinwell

I will make an announcement on this subject as soon as a decision has been reached.

Mr. Crouch

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that since he made a similar statement some 10 weeks ago there has been a great rise in the cost of living and a further fall in the value of the £ and that these people are finding it increasingly difficult to make both ends meet? Does he consider 10 weeks is a short period, because I consider it a very long period in this very important matter?

Mr. Shinwell

I will not quarrel with what the hon. Gentleman has said about the effect on these people. We have done everything that we possibly can to reach a decision. I hope to be able to do so very shortly.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite

Will the right hon. Gentleman's announcement cover those who took part in the battle of the docks?

50. General Sir George Jeffreys

asked the Minister of Defence whether he is aware that the rates of retired pay of naval, military and air force officers, who retired under the provisions of the Royal Warrant and corresponding instruments of 1919, in no case exceed, and in many cases are less than, the rates of 1919, in spite of the great rise since then in the cost of living; and whether, in view of the fact that the Royal Warrant in question authorised the raising or the lowering of the rates according as the cost of living should rise or fall, he will now cause all such rates to be raised accordingly.

Mr. Shinwell

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the statements made on behalf of the Government in the debate on the Adjournment of the House on 26th May, 1950. I am unable at present to add to those statements.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Does the right hon. Gentleman know of any other class or body of persons, wage earners or salary earners, who are now getting less than the rates of 1919—

Mr. Hamilton

What about the retired private?

Sir G. Jeffreys

—and will he urge upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is the person really responsible, that it is quite time the claims of these officers should be attended to and the terms of the Royal Warrant put into force?

Mr. Shinwell

This matter has been debated in the House more than once.

Mr. Paget

Is it not a fact that prices today are below what they were in 1919?

Earl Winterton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us have been pressing for consideration of the case of these men, many of whom are suffering considerable hardship, over the last five years, and will he give fair consideration to it despite the hatred of his side of the House for those who fought for their country?

Hon. Members


Mr. Shinwell

The noble Lord has in my hearing several times pressed past Conservative Governments without achieving any success.

Mr. Mellish

On a point of order. In view of the fact that many of us fought in the last war, and lost relatives in it, is it not right that the noble Lord should now withdraw that disgusting remark which he made?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order for me. It is a matter for the noble Lord.

Earl Winterton

May I say that I should not have made the observation that I did but for the fact that when my hon. and gallant Friend asked a question which he was entitled to ask about this hardship some hon. Member below the Gangway had the scandalous impertinence to shout "What about the privates?" as if officers did not matter?

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

We are obviously in a heated state. We had better get on with the next business.