§ 22. Mr. Marlowe
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence what steps were taken by the Service Departments prior to the stabilisation of officers' pensions in 1935 to secure the agreement of the officers concerned; and, having regard to the fact that these were previously adjustable to the cost of living, in what form the agreement of any individual was secured whereby he consented to the abolition of the sliding scale and the substitution of a fixed pension at 9½ per cent. below the rate agreed upon in 1919.
§ Mr. Marlowe
Is it not the case that in 1920 these officers were given the option to adopt a pension rate which was adjusted to the cost of living? Does not my hon. Friend's answer mean that in 1935 it was abrogated unilaterally without their consent? If they had that rate today would not they enjoy much greater pensions than they do now?
§ Mr. Shinwell
If, as the hon. Gentleman admits, the new code was imposed without the consent of those concerned, does not that strengthen the case for reconsideration of this matter now, apart from other factors?
§ Mr. Marlowe
Is it not the case that the original idea was that these pensions should be adjusted to the cost of living? Would my hon. Friend not agree that the changes in the cost of living in the last 10 or 15 years have made these pensions wholly inadequate in present circumstances?
§ 23. Mr. Marlowe
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence why his noble Friend has rejected the proposal to establish an advisory committee for the purposes of the pension and related problems of the retired officers of the Services and their widows; and what steps are taken to ensure that these retired officers and their widows are represented at discussions concerning such matters.
§ Mr. Birch
The reasons for my noble Friend's decision were explained in a letter to the Chairman of the Officers' Pensions Society dated 11th February, 1953, of which I am sending my hon. Friend a copy. The interests of retired Service officers and their widows are represented by those members of the 206 Board of Admiralty and the Army and Air Councils who are responsible for personnel administration in the Armed Forces.
§ Mr. Marlowe
Is my hon. Friend aware that the reasons given by the Minister of Defence were wholly unsatisfactory? Is it not the case that for retired officers to be represented by serving officers is unsatisfactory, because those serving officers have no idea of the unfortunate position in which pensioners now find themselves? They should have an opportunity of explaining to those concerned the very strong case they have for an increase.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Now that the hon. Gentleman has intimated that there is to be a debate on Friday week on a Private Member's Motion, will he not make representations to his noble Friend that in view of the strong feeling which exists in all quarters of the House on this matter he should be put in a position in that debate to give a favourable reply to the complaints made?
§ Mr. Nicholson
Will my hon. Friend cause the letter to which he referred to be printed in HANSARD and not merely sent to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe)?
Following is the letter:I am directed by the Minister of Defence to refer to the letters which you addressed on 13th January to him and to the Service Ministers asking for representatives of your Society to be included in consultations when the retired pay and pensions of officers, their widows and dependants are being discussed.As you may be aware, certain members of the Board of Admiralty and of the Army and Air Councils are charged with the specific responsibility of representing the interests of officers in these matters. While the Minister will always be glad to consider any representations which may be made by your Society on these matters, he cannot undertake to consult the Society when the retired pay of officers of the Forces, or the pensions to be awarded to their widows and dependants are under discussion, since these are matters of 207 Government policy to be decided by himself and the Service Ministers in consultation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.As regards the practice in civil life, I am to point out that the machinery of consultation between the Official and the Staff Sides of the National Whitley Council for the Civil Service does not provide for the inclusion of representatives of retired Crown Servants or of their widows. While the Government is prepared to consider representations made by recognised outside bodies on behalf of State Pensioners, it cannot undertake to consult them. The Government consulted the local authorities last year before the introduction of the Bill for the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1952, as those authorities have to meet the cost of a considerable part of further pensions increase.