HC Deb 30 June 1953 vol 517 cc267-355

6.44 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Transfer of Functions (Ministry of Pensions) Order, 1953, be made in the form of the Draft laid before this House on 18th May. This draft Order is one which, if carried into effect, will merge two Departments into one. The Government's decision on this matter was announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as long ago as 26th February, and a White Paper was published on 13th May. The Order was laid on 18th May. The White Paper was very thorough and comprehensive in the details which it gave and I do not think the House would wish me to go through it all. The Ministers who are most concerned are here to give any further explanations that may be required and to answer any questions which may be put to them, but I should like to confine myself to the main factors which have caused the Government to decide to put these proposals before Parliament.

It would be a truism to say that the whole question of the structure of the Government machine should be constantly under review by any Government. Changes occur, and what seems best in the public interest at one time may very well have to be modified at another. That is especially true of Her Majesty's present advisers, because it was this party which undertook to make a searching inquiry into all branches of administration.

Let us be quite clear about what we are going to discuss tonight. It is a purely organisational matter. This debate has nothing to do with the amount of pensions, the rights of pensioners, allowances, or anything of that sort. It is concerned only with how the best service can be given to the pensioners and their dependants while, at the same time, simplifying the machinery of Government and, where possible, reducing the cost.

Before going any further, let us consider the background to these proposals. The Ministry of Pensions was set up in 1917 and, as a result of the First World War, by 1920 there were in payment 1,600,000 pensioners. That was the peak. After that, right up to 1939, in the natural course of events those figures dropped until, at the beginning of the last war, they were down to 750,000, which was under half the peak figure of 1920. Those were mainly stabilised disablement pensions, which form the chief day-to-day responsibility of the Ministry

Then came the Second World Wax, and the figures rose again, but, thanks be to God, nothing like the same level was reached as was reached in 1920. In the period which corresponded to the peak period after the First World War—let us say, March, 1947—instead of being over 1½ million the disablement pensions in issue amounted to 766,000. In other words, we were nearly back to the 1939 figures. Since then they have been dropping, and by March of this year they were down to 667,000, which is well below the lowest figure in the inter-war years.

The reasons for that are quite simple. First, it is the sad fact that many of the First World War pensioners have died. The average age of those left is now 63. Secondly, many of the 1939 pensioners have gone off the books of the Ministry of Pensions because their recovery has been such that their pensions have lapsed.

Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)

Why does the White Paper say: … by March, 1955, the number is expected to have fallen to 894,000.

Mr. Crookshank

That is the grand total. I am talking about disablement pensions. My hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions confirms that that is the case. One has to set off against this decline the fact that new pensions are now issued for peace-time service. For this year the figure of new awards is 12,700. The general picture is the great decrease after the First World War; the drop to 1939; the rise again, but nothing like so high a rise, and now a drop again, until we have now reached a figure lower than that for 1939. That is the figure I give to compare with the likelihood of 894,000 pensioners in two years' time, to which the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) has referred. The corresponding total number in March, 1947, which was the peak, was 1,136,000, so there is a drop in the same way there.

We get the same sort of graph with regard to the staff of this Department. In 1921, the great peak year, the staff was 26,000. Then it dropped, until at the beginning of the Second World War, it was 3,000. Then, with the casualties of that war, it rose again, and by 1946 it reached 13,200, only half what it had been at the peak period after the First World War, but still the same tendency—the rise and then the drop—and today it is something like 9,000. It would be much less if it were not for the fact—to which I shall refer in more detail in a moment—that the Ministry of Pensions today do a lot of agency work for the other Departments. That has tended to keep the staff more numerous than would have been the case had they been limited to purely pensions work on their own account. That is the staff picture.

Next, there is the position of the hospitals. In 1921, in the peak year after the first war, there were 67 Ministry of Pensions hospitals. Today there are only eight. One naturally asks for the explanation, and it is, broadly speaking, that since the war the National Health Service has come into being, which has greatly altered the picture. If hon. Members look at the White Paper they will see from page 2 the marked decline in the use by war pensioners of the special hospital and treatment services of the Ministry of Pensions and their use of the National Health Service. That is one of the reasons which have moved the Government to come forward with these proposals.

After the first war, the time came when there was a general settling down of pensions problems and pensions work, and that sort of thing is happening again. There are two differences. First, the National Health Service has come into being for all classes for medical treatment. Secondly, the Ministry of National Insurance has come into being, and, amongst other things, it does very similar work for the industrially disabled as is done for the war disabled by the Ministry of Pensions. That is part of the justification of this change: the Ministry of National Insurance continues to have a great many contacts with the present Ministry of Pensions because the vast majority of pensioners are ordinary insured persons and therefore come within the purview of the Ministry of National Insurance when unemployed or sick or receiving retirement pensions. There is already a considerable link in case work between the two Departments.

If I may sum up that part of the argument, the background is diminishing work owing to declining numbers for the Ministry of Pensions and, as a consequence, a need for fewer rather than larger staffs. Secondly, there are the many contacts which both the Health Departments and the Ministry of National Insurance already have with the patients and pensioners of the Ministry of Pensions.

It was with those facts in view that the Government felt it was time to examine whether the Ministry of Pensions should continue, with its own pensions hospitals and its own medical services. The result of the review which the Government undertook is now before the House.

It is perhaps interesting, in passing, to note that in the debate last July the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who has made a considerable study of the problems and machinery of Government, suggested the division of the Ministry of Pensions. What he called the therapeutical side, he said, should go to the Department of Health, and he said the cash paying and appeals machinery should go to the Ministry of Labour. That was an interesting suggestion, but the Government do not agree that the Ministry of Labour should be the legatee of the Ministry of Pensions. Nevertheless, it is clear that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale at any rate shares our view about the division and redistribution of functions—and, after all, this is merely an organisational and certainly not a political issue.

The details are in the White Paper and I will not go through them all, because I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members who are specially interested will have studied them and will want me to answer questions rather than give this description all over again. Either my right hon. or my hon. Friend, as the case may be, will be able to deal with any queries.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

The right hon. Gentleman has made this part of the case on the basis of the run-down of the Ministry of Pensions, but he has failed to point out to the House that there is one marked difference between the present position and what happened after the first war. The decision has been taken by the Service Departments that all disability pensions after 3rd September, 1939, for both Regulars and National Service men, should be paid by the Ministry of Pensions. Since 1946 25,000 pensioners have been added to the Ministry of Pensions. That will go on year after year. That factor was not present after the first world war.

Mr. Crookshank

Even if I accept that, it is a very small proportion of the total. I am aware of the fact but, on the hon. Gentleman's own figures, it is only 25,000, whereas we are dealing with 500,000 or 600,000 or 700,000, so that it is a very small fraction of the total. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to develop that, I am sure my right hon. Friend will be able to satisfy him about his anxiety.

In a sentence, efficiency and administrative economy is the aim we have in view. I will not go over the points as to why we think efficiency will be increased by our proposal, but I want to make this point, which I think is worth making: when the National Health Service was started it had thrust upon it and the Health Departments responsibility to supply artificial limbs, surgical appliances and invalid vehicles to civilians. As a new Ministry it had no facilities for doing any of these things and it therefore handed that part of the work over to the Ministry of Pensions on an agency basis. That was an obvious thing to do, because that Department had special experience in this field, but it must have been in everybody's mind that sooner or later the Health Departments would have to do their job and not leave it under the agency of the Ministry of Pensions. We think the time has come for that change, because the great bulk of the work the Ministry of Pensions is now doing in this field is not for war pensioners at all but for civilians, who are primarily the responsibility of the Departments of Health.

Let us take the other point—economy. It is accepted that when we simplify things we get easier and cheaper administration. The sort of economy which is envisaged here, when it has all settled down, is about £500,000 a year. That is only a very small fraction of the total which appears on the Estimates for the services of this Department, but it is a very high proportion of their administrative costs, which are something like £4 million. A sum of £500,000 out of £4 million is a large proportion to be able to save in the course of whatever is the number of years before it settles down. One must not be misled by the gross total which appears in the Estimate for the Ministry of Pensions, because that reflects the higher rates of pensions payable compared with 1939. It does not mean that there are more cases.

Turning to the effect on individuals, we think a lot of time in travel and trouble will be saved by the fact that the Ministry of National Insurance has something like 900 offices all over the country whereas the Ministry of Pensions has about 90. If there are 900 instead of 90 to do the same sort of work, it will obviously entail much less travelling in a number of cases than is entailed now. In the same way, in many areas there is already one boarding centre which does the work for both the Ministry of National Insurance and the Ministry of Pensions. That system is not universal, but it has been successful, as is shown by its existence and by the fact that no complaints have been made about it. We have looked at the question of whether there is any justification for maintaining a separate Ministry of Pensions in view of the dwindling number of war pensioners, and whether we should keep the Ministry with just that duty and no other to perform. We have come to the conclusion that that justification has now come to an end.

This is the most vital point we have to bear in mind—and we have had it in the forefront of our thoughts all the time: that however we consider the problem, it is of the utmost importance that the pensioners themselves and their dependants are in no way adversely affected by the changes. That is the point. As regards the staff of the Department, one has to bear them in mind, too. They will be first of all absorbed, and then, as the work diminishes, it will not be necessary to make fresh appointments, and so on; and so I think, to use a colloquialism, they can be looked after all right in this sphere.

When it comes to the pensioners themselves and their dependants, I can say categorically that unless the Government had been absolutely confident that the changes would not be detrimental to the war pensioners they would never have dreamed of producing them to the House at all. We give in the White Paper the comprehensive arrangements. There hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will see that the war pensioners' privileges will not only be preserved but extended. There is no down grading or submerging, but the process of the sympathetic welfare system will be fully maintained. Another source of anxiety has been the preferential system in regard to hospitals. That will go on.

I will quote what the Prime Minister said when he forecast these proposals in February, because I cannot put it in stronger words. He said: We regard it on our side as a matter of honour …that their treatment shall in no circumstances be allowed to deteriorate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT,26th February, 1953; Vol. 511, c. 2317.] It is because we are satisfied that that is the case that we come forward today with these proposals. If we had not been, the House would not have heard of them at all.

The fact remains at the end of the argument that, while there will be economies, as we hope to see, they are on what we may call the mechanical side of pensions work, the recording, the paying out, the making out of books—all that. The all-important welfare work will continue, and just because a particular welfare worker in the future writes a letter on the writing paper of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance instead of on the writing paper of the Ministry of Pensions, or telephones from the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance instead of from the Ministry of Pensions, that mere change is not going to mean that the welfare worker loses his sympathetic method of approach to these problems which has been so much praised and which is so very splendid.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)


Mr. Crookshank

I think I had better finish what I have to say on this point. On the other hand, the hon. and learned Gentleman never sees me without wanting to interrupt me, so I think I had better give way at once.

Mr. Paget

I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, because this is a most friendly question. Will they be the same welfare officers? Particularly I am interested in the children's officers, who have established a special relation, a parental relation, with a lot of their wards. As I understand it. they are to go.

Mr. Crookshank

The answer to that is that they are going to be kept on, subject to normal retirements. The time may come when the individuals now there will not be there, but from the take over they will be there, and doing the same sort of work as they are doing now. The mere fact that they go on to the payroll of another Department will not make them automatically into bureaucratic robots. They will be the same people dealing with the same sort of problems.

Mr. Paget

I am most grateful to have that assurance.

Mr. Crookshank

If the hon. and learned Gentleman has a further point he would like to develop, perhaps he will do so later on. The staff will be absorbed on the take-over, and the welfare workers will continue doing what they are doing now. That is not the field on which the administrative economies come, but I must make the point about retirement, because they are not going to be there for the rest of time, any more than the rest of us.

I hope that what I have said is sufficient to show the House that the Government have gone very carefully and sympathetically into all the problems that have arisen since the announcement was first made, and I recommend these proposals to the House for the reasons which I have given, but I cannot finally advise the disappearance of the Ministry of Pensions without saying how much the nation as a whole, and the pensioners and their dependants in particular, owe first of all to the long series of Ministers who have held that office, beginning in 1917 with the late Mr. G. Barnes, and ending, I presume, with my hon. Friend, and his immediate predecessor the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs).

I have seen, I think it is, 12 in that office in the time I myself have been in this House. I have always found them all sympathetic and kindly administrators. It is not only to them that the nation and the pensioners owe a high debt of gratitude. It is also to successive generations of civil servants who have been in the Department, and who have, like the Ministers, had only one aim in view, to serve those who suffered as a result of war. I am confident that their successors in the work, even if it is in another Department, will have the same high purpose constantly before them.

7.5 p.m.

Mr. George Isaacs (Southwark)

I do not question for a moment the belief of the Government that what they are doing is in the interests of the pensioners. We believe that to be so, but we have some doubts which we should like to have cleared up.

The right hon. Gentleman, the tone of whose speech we appreciate, made use of one or two phrases to which I should like to draw attention. He said, "How can the best service be provided for the pensioners and their families? "But he went on to say," This is a purely organisational matter." The White Paper makes a reference, which is disturbing, to possible staff economies, and that seems to be the chief question in the White Paper.

I should like to put a number of questions to which I should like an answer. It is a pleasure to see tonight so many Ministers here, having to face up to the barrage of questions coming to them. They will have to sort out between themselves who will answer which. My job, and that of my hon. Friends, is to shoot the questions, and we hope to hit the right target when we shoot.

I myself can look back to and remember—though I may not look old enough—the end of the Boer War, and I remember the barrel organs in the streets of London. I remember the disabled soldiers going about on peg legs, and the barrel organs which were used by them in their efforts to cadge money. In 1917 the establishment of the Ministry of Pensions put an end to that sort of thing, and ever since then the Ministry have carried out their task for the country and earned the approbation of all who have had anything to do with them and their work.

In 1925, there were 1½ million pensioners and 32,000 staff. In that period, an economy stunt was in progress. We remember the May Committee and the Geddes Axe. When the Second World War began the staff was down to 3,000. What a debt of gratitude this country owes to that staff. How happy we must all be that we did not have the idea then of merging the Ministry of Pensions, but rather left it as a separate unit. Upon the work of that staff of 3,000 has been built that great and inspired service which has earned not only the thanks and appreciation but the commendation of everybody who has had anything to do with the "veterans," as they term them in America.

I remember being in America before I became the Minister of Pensions, and I met those in charge of what they call the Veterans' Service in America, and heard how they envied the services we were able to give here. There were some services that they gave that we did not, but they were anxious to be able to give those that were in operation here. The Ministry of Pensions have been a pioneer in new ideas and practices. The Ministry of Pensions, in their development, have in many ways cut away the red tape, dispelled the red tape atmosphere, and brought into being the humanitarian spirit of hospital blue. To say that is to give some idea of the changes which they have brought about.

Even the Service Departments, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, realised that the Ministry of Pensions could do better for the pensioners than they could, because they took jolly good care to pass over to the Ministry of Pensions those with injuries which were non-war injuries, or industrial injuries that happened to men in the Services. I think that kind of service will be needed more in the future because, with the mechanisation of the Armed Forces, there will be more industrial injuries.

We want to know, first of all, that that will remain, and that the new Ministry if it is established—we hope that it will not be—will carry on that part of the service. There are some specialised services of the Ministry. One has only to mention Roehampton or Queen Mary's Hospital. Almost the last public function which her late Majesty Queen Mary undertook was to spend a day at that hospital. It was established and created for war pensioners. Thank goodness, it did not have enough work to do to keep it fully occupied with war pensioners, so it turned its activities to civilian people as well.

I well remember being fascinated by the sight of a little girl with two artificial legs walking up to Queen Mary and presenting her with a bouquet. I think that that incident repaid her late Majesty for all the interest she had ever shown in Roehampton Hospital. Roehampton is not a geographical location, as they call these things in "Twenty Questions"; it is not a building; it is something better. It is the Mecca of the limbless ex-Service men and women. They want to go to Roehampton.

One has to go there to understand what is done there—how they pioneer in finding out new types of artificial limbs, how they find out new methods of training in the use of artificial limbs—and to see young and middle-aged men who have been used to the old heavy type of limbs being taught how to walk again with the new kinds of artificial limbs. To see is to understand. This great "know-how" is now available for civilian Departments as well as military Departments, but we are very anxious to know what is to be the position of Roehampton in this new set-up.

There is another specialist centre at Stoke Mandeville, which is just a name to those people who have not been there to see what is done. We find there people with spinal injuries, paralytics. It was conceived and developed by the Ministry of Pensions and is now at the service of civilians. I know that I shall not be misunderstood when I say that the days of miracles are not past. Go to Stoke Mandeville and see a miracle. It is not a question of "Take up thy bed and walk," but of" Get out of that bed and walk," and I have seen it. People who had been there for three or five years, unable to move, are now walking about.

There was a man who had a broken back who had been in this hospital. He took a bet with the doctor that he would never walk again. The doctor, knowing more about it than the man himself, had a bet that he would. I was there to see the final of the race. This man had to walk a measured distance along a passageway. He had two sticks and with their aid he walked. When he came back the doctor said, "Throw one stick away and now walk," and he did. The doctor then said," Throw the other stick away." The man looked at him, took a chance, threw the stick away, and walked. I think that the happiest picture that I have seen in my life was the look on that man's face and the look on the doctor's face when he said. "I have won my bet."

There are many cases of that kind. Is this to come to an end under the staffing economies? Is this to come under "financial stringency "? What we need at Stoke Mandeville is not a spreading over of the control of that department. May I beg of the Minister, if this proposal goes through, to say that so far as that centre is concerned he will keep it under the group of people now running it, and that he will not spread the control of administration by setting up another committee and another area board. The job that is being done there is of a kind that is not done anywhere else in the world. I saw a soldier there from Korea who had been shot through the back. When he came in he thought that he would never walk again but, talking to the people there, and seeing them in the progressive stages of walking again, gave him confidence and was part of the psychological treatment of this man. Do not let such people as these suffer under a merger.

A lot of sentiment is talked about these matters. A few weeks ago we saw a great display of sentiment in this country; and sentiment means a lot to us. I know that someone who died for her country said, "Patriotism is not enough." Someone may say that sentiment is not enough, but it carries us over a good many obstacles.

Someone asked a question about the children's officers. Those who are doing this official work, mainly women, have a very great personal interest in it. They know every child by name and they know their background. I know that when one goes into some camps one sees "pin-up" girls and, possibly, in other camps "pinup" boys, but when one goes into the offices of the children officers one sees "pin-up" children, photographs of each of the children they have cared for—they know all about them.

Go into one of these offices before Christmas and see how the staff, out of their own pockets, have bought a gift for every one of the children. See how they arrange their Christmas parties. The motto that should be written over the doors of these offices is "Suffer little children to come unto me," because there they get the greatest care and attention possible.

What is their official task? It is the supervision of orphans in their foster homes, whether with relatives or other persons; guidance in their education, clothing and holidays. I am sure that the present Minister, when visiting these officers and getting in touch with these children themselves, must have been entranced by the stories they could tell him: "Little Mary has won a scholarship"—and some go up to universities because of the help, guidance and care given to them by these officers. The children get pocket money for their holidays and advice about their clothing and other matters.

Then comes the time when someone wants to adopt one of these children. Who is to be responsible? It says in the White Paper that the Ministry will be responsible. That is not good enough. No Ministry can be responsible. Let us have the Minister, as an individual, responsible, because it is the Minister, after the foster parent has passed through all the examinations before finally becoming a foster parent and has been watched by the children's officers for a year or two years before, who, in the end, as the legal parent of these children, has to say yes or no. We want a person and not an organisation in charge of that particular job.

These are some of the activities of the Department. I think that the Department itself best expresses these ideals in its annual report for the year 1st April, 1949, to 31st March, 1950. I should like to put on record what it says, because I am sure that many hon. Members have not read it and that very few people outside this House know about it. It says: The prompt and regular payment of a cash award after entitlement has been established is not an end in itself. The full conception of social service calls for something more—friendly contacts, the human touch, social rehabilitation. Steadily improving provisions are well enough, but complete satisfaction is not achieved if to the individual the administration appears remote or bureaucratic. The individual is helped in his adversities not only by practical assistance but by the knowledge that someone has been sympathetic, that someone has thought that his affairs mattered, that someone has found time to dwell on them. It goes on to say: The award of a pension by the Department entitles the individual to more than merely the payment of a sum of money. It gives him a passport to the good will of a large Government service, to the benefit of a sympathetic interest in his affairs and to such help as may be given or obtained for him in the solving of his problems. Finally, it says: It entitles him to come forward at any time confident that he will find a sympathetic listener. Indeed he has not necessarily to come forward. The welfare activities of the Department are being shaped to seek him, to bring the administration nearer to him on a personal footing. He is not a cypher, not one of a million pensioners, but an individual who has a special claim on the community.… We hope that that spirit will be maintained, and it is because we think that it is a little premature yet to make this change that we ask the Government to wait a little longer before they make this drastic alteration.

I wish to put a few direct questions on the White Paper. Paragraph 8 says that there is to be an extra Parliamentary Secretary to assist the Minister in connection with war pensions. If that is to be done, is it not possible to have a Parliamentary Secretary with authority, on the same basis as the Secretary for Overseas Trade in the Board of Trade? If the change is to come can we not have a Parliamentary Secretary who himself will be directly answerable, certainly under the overriding authority of the Minister, but somebody we can question and shoot at if necessary—fortunately, there has never been much shooting either on one side or the other at the Ministry of Pensions—and who will be personally answerable to the House and to any hon. Member who wishes to question him?

Paragraph 12 refers to war pensioners receiving the treatment they need from "hospitals best able to provide it." Are the pensioners to have the choice of Roe-hampton or Chapel Allerton, in Leeds, or somewhere else? If they say, "I want to go to Roehampton" the Minister might think he has a little better service at Chapel Allerton or elsewhere, but if they can go to the place in which they have confidence that goes a long way towards helping them to recover from their trouble.

Paragraph 14 says: so long as a hospital is substantially used for war prisoners, the management committee concerned will be specially constituted to include adequate representation of ex-Service interests. What is meant by "substantially" and by "adequate "? Does it mean that a mathematical construction will be put on the phrase so that when the percentage of civilian pensioners is x then the ex-Service interest will cease. That is a point on which we ask for an answer.

There is another point on which I wish to ask a question in connection with Stoke Mandeville. On page 5 there is a reference to "a special responsibility" of the Ministry of Pensions for the Spinal Centre at Stoke Mandeville. I should like to know what is meant by "a special responsibility." If it means what I pleaded for earlier, direct responsibility without any intermediary in the form of any other board or control of that kind, I think that that will be very useful indeed.

Roehampton hospital is the Mecca of the ex-Service man. It is stated, in paragraph 14, that special arrangements will be necessary for its administration if and when it is brought within the National Health Service. I do not like that "if and when." Can we be told more about this matter? Is there any question of taking this wonderful institution away from its special association with Queen Mary's Hospital, and all its wonderful work? It is the grandest place in the world, there is no other place like it. We can remember seeing, years ago, the men in hospital blue sitting on the commons surrounding Roehampton, and everyone felt happy that there was a place like that. Can we have that place specially allocated if this merger is to be pushed through?

Another special institution which has arisen out of this service is the Duchess of Gloucester House, Isleworth. Paragraph 18 says: The residence is run in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and National Service, who will take over full responsibility for its administration. Curiously enough I had some contact in two Ministerial capacities with the Duchess of Gloucester House, Isleworth. What is meant by will take over full responsibility for its administration. Does it mean that the Minister of Labour is to be the housekeeper and hospital manager or does it mean administration of the other services for people who need some care and attention—medical, nursing and transport? Is all that going to the Ministry of Labour, or what does the phrase I quoted mean? We think it is necessary to have a clear line of demarcation to avoid confusion there.

Then there are the welfare services. We do not for a moment question the purpose and understanding of the words used by the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Motion, but let us see what are the words in paragraph 21 of the White Paper. It states: The existing staff of specially trained welfare officers will continue to be available for this work both at headquarters and in the regions. Do the words "existing staff" mean that the staff will be allowed to run down? Do they mean that the "staff of specially trained" officers is in jeopardy? Do they mean that only at headquarters and in the regions is this service to be maintained?

We appreciate that there are 900 centres in the joint Ministries which will be available, but we still feel that the pensioner should know for whom to ask for welfare purposes when he goes to any of these offices. There should be a welfare officer or a welfare officer's contact in every office, and where there is a large area there should be an assistant welfare officer who can make local visits and prompt contact for the regional offices. The welfare officers are doing a grand job. It is only when one leaves a Ministry where one has been in charge of a service like this, and goes back into one's constituency, that one realises what a grand job these men are doing for every disabled ex-Service man who comes to them.

It is not just a question of help in asking for a review of an assessment by the Minister. His aid is given in other problems. The welfare officer will take up matters of loans or finding a house for the applicant. Nothing is too much trouble for the welfare officer, and, while we are glad to know that the purpose is to maintain the welfare service, I would ask whether this merger will permit it to be carried on in the same way.

I have already mentioned war orphans and have suggested that there should be a person, not an organisation, who will be responsible for the final decision in all matters affecting them. I have two questions to ask on the Order. It is not quite clear, though I think it can be readily assumed, that this merger makes no change in any way in the Royal Warrant—that the Royal Warrant remains completely unaffected by whatever this merger may do.

There is also the question whether each of the Ministries should present a separate report of their activities on behalf of war pensioners, or a comprehensive report. We suggest that should the merger come about the report should be a centralised one. I do not want a report from the Minister of National Insurance saying what he has done for the war pensioners and another from another Minister, and so on. I suggest that, apart from the Ministries' reports on their general activities, they should get together and have one comprehensive report, showing in their own sections—so that it can be seen in one glance—what has happened to war pensioners and their services, should this merger come about.

The whole project depends on good will and co-operation. It depends a great deal on the co-operation of the ex-Service organisations. Some people, when they think of them, have in mind the British Legion, the Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association and possibly S.S.A.F.A. There are far more than that, and these organisations are used to a large extent by the Ministry of Pensions. While I was Minister, because we felt so grateful to many of those organisations for helping to do something for a pensioner which the Minister has no authority to do, we invited representatives of these organisations to come and have tea with us one afternoon at the Ministry of Pensions. I believe that there are about 80 such organisations in existence—regimental, brigade and corps organisations.

Their good will means a lot; they can do a great deal and save the Government a lot of money. For example, there was the case of a man who wanted a motor-assisted cycle. He was not nearly within the conditions which would have enabled him to have one under the Government scheme. But a little sentiment was expressed, and for me, as I have said, sentiment goes a long way. We got into touch with his organisation—he was an ex-guardsman—and they promptly provided what we were unable to provide. That is one of the many examples of the kind of thing that they do.

The right hon. Gentleman asked at the beginning of this discussion: how can the best service be provided to the pensioners? We pray that the run-down will be such that before many years are past there will not be any more war pensioners, but for the moment, until there is a much greater run-down, we believe that these men will get a square deal. We have to build the faith of these men in other Ministries of a similar kind. I believe there is a growing faith in the Ministry of National Insurance and a belief that the officers in that Ministry want to help those who go to them for assistance, that they are not sheltering behind red tape and trying to find ways of depriving applicants.

I want to see that spirit growing. It is because we believe that the best way to be of service to the pensioners and their families is to let the present system continue for a short while that we ask the Government not to press this Motion.

7.31 p.m.

Sir Ian Fraser (Morecambe and Lonsdale)

I think it was in February of this year that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister somewhat startled the House, and certainly startled the ex-Service community, by announcing that the Ministry of Pensions was to go. Almost immediately, the distinguished soldier who was the Chairman of the British Legion, Major-General Sir Richard Howard-Vyse, said that he, and he thought the Legion, viewed this matter with great anxiety. He was speaking, as he thought, for the whole of the Legion, although he had not had the chance of consulting them then. He felt that this proposal was "playing down" the status of ex-Service men.

That was before the White Paper was issued. Then the White Paper came out; the various committees of the British Legion studied it in great detail, and then we came to Whitsuntide when the British Legion held its annual conference. At that conference over 1,000 delegates from all parts of England and Wales resolved unanimously to instruct their executive to do all in their power to prevent these proposals coming into force. More recently the British Legion in Scotland has passed a similar resolution. The Royal Air Forces Association is associated with us in this matter, and so is the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association. A vast number of smaller specialist organisations which do not take much part in public affairs feel the same way.

I do not doubt for one moment that when the Prime Minister said that he believed that these new proposals would not abate in any way the care that it was intended to give to ex-Service men and would not worsen their position, he believed that to be so. I do not doubt that my right hon. Friend who opened this debate so courteously, and the Minister of Pensions himself as well as Lord Woolton whom we went to see in deputation only the other day, and the Government as a whole for that matter, feel that they are acting rightly for disabled ex-Service men in what they are doing. They may even feel that they are giving these men the additional service that the new and bigger Ministry is able to give them. But we do not agree with them.

I myself before the Budget said "By their fruits shall ye know them." What I meant to convey was that in my opinion it was not so much a question of machinery of one kind or another but rather what Parliament and the nation did for disabled ex-Service men that really mattered. I am bound to say that I hoped that in the Budget debates when we were considering our finances, provision would have been made to meet the requests which the British Legion and other ex-Service organisations have so frequently put before this House, but such provision was not made.

This brings me on to the main reason for my anxiety in this matter, and this anxiety is shared by a great many in the British Legion. Old soldiers have a way of speaking bluntly, and we have called every Minister of Pensions in turn for over 30 years by every conceivable name, but we have never yet called them redundant. There are still a million people receiving pensions from the Ministry. There is still a bill of over £80 million. There is still a good staff at the Ministry. The feeling created by the poignancy of war and the upsurge of sentiment that followed the war were reflected in the actions of the then Government in altering the attitude of the Ministry of Pensions towards pensioners, and instead of being on the defensive all the time the Ministry of Pensions became much more of a friend seeking to find out how it could help. That was greatly appreciated by ex-Service men.

The time may come when this admirable staff in the Ministry of Pensions becomes so small that it is not a good service to belong to, but I do not think that time has come yet. It is a good staff, and includes a great many disabled men. A certain number of disabled men, some of them particular friends of mine, blinded men who are physiotherapists in different parts of the country, are given cases by the Ministry. I hope this proposal will not go forward, but if it does I hope that the disabled men who are employed directly and indirectly will not lose their jobs. [AN HON. MEMBER:"Why should they?"] Somebody asks "Why should they?" That is the way things often go, and the time to take care of it is now when the Government are anxious—not tomorrow when they will not be quite so anxious, or perhaps when they will be a little more anxious—who knows?

It has been said that there are 900 branches of the Ministry of National Insurance throughout the country and only 90 branches of the Ministry of Pensions. There is admittedly something in that point. A pensioner may go to any one of these 900 branches and in time get some information which he might not otherwise be able to get. But there is not very much in it because there are 4,500 service committees of the British Legion throughout the country and he can go there and get the information. There are dozens of branches of B.L.E.S.M.A., and he can go there and get the information. There is not very much in it, and we need not exaggerate the point. Nor indeed will these 900 branches know very much about the matter. They will act merely as post offices passing the matter on.

What we are concerned with are two principles which I want to make clear. One is that the status of ex-Service men in the community is, we think, denigrated by this proposal. They are no longer a class apart. I do not use those words in any offensive sense, but every old soldier will understand what I mean when I say that he is proud that he has served in the Armed Forces of the Crown, and while he knows that he has been sustained in his fighting by the courage and good will of all the people who labour at home, he nevertheless is proud to have served His Majesty or Her Majesty in his regiment or corps. He likes to think that some little distinction remains.

In so far as we tend to treat him like any other sick or ill person, we denigrate his status and take away something of which he is proud. We also begin to teach Parliament, the public, civil servants and the newspapers that there is not all that difference between soldiers and sailors and others that there was before. The difference is strong when recruiting men for war, but it should not evaporate afterwards when days of peace settle down upon us. It is because this proposal takes away something of that separate feeling and pride that it is objectionable to many of us.

I do not say what I am going to say with a desire to hurt anybody, but I am quite sure it is true. Every person that I know who has been hurt in war likes to feel that there is some distinction in his disability which compensates him in some degree, and, curiously enough, we find that many a person who suffers an ailment which comes from a natural cause will, if he possibly can, try to find a traumatic reason for it. He will try to attribute it if he can to war. He thinks this not only because he can go to a benevolent Ministry of Pensions, but because he likes to think that the trouble which he carries with him arose out of some honourable service. We are to take away this special position, and there is really no very great need to do so.

When we had our own Minister, he was something of an advocate for us with the Government, in the Cabinet Committees and even the Cabinet itself. Even though that Minister was not a Member of the Cabinet, nevertheless, he had access to Cabinet Members and was an advocate for us. It is, of course, true that, once Government policy is established, all Ministers, under the doctrine of collective responsibility, become individually and collectively responsible for the Government's policy, but, during the months that precede decision, during the formative period, the Minister of Pensions is an advocate. I have often felt that successive Ministers of Pensions whom I have been to see and whom I have known personally—though they never gave themselves away to me—have been doing all they possibly could with the Chancellor of the Exchequer with the single-minded purpose of getting what we were asking them to do for us, and I am sure it is true.

We are to replace our advocate by this new Minister who is trammelled by responsibility for vast numbers of other people who are not ex-Service people. His single-minded advocacy can no longer be at our disposal. We have been robbed of our own advocate within the Government, and I do not think it can be said that it is advantageous. To put this matter on another basis, if we are continuing to fight, as we are, for the full recognition of our pensions claims, it handicaps us in that there is no separate Ministry or Minister who will take our line against the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I shall not weary the House with a repetition of the pleas made so often that our war pensions should be brought into better relationship with the currency of this present time, but the fact is that you are now going to make it more difficult for us to win that battle, which is the principal reason why I am opposed to this merger. I still hope that the Minister may be able to tell us something that will seem satisfactory, but I do not expect a miracle, and I have had to make up my mind. I have made up my mind that, unless a miracle occurs, which I do not expect, I am going to vote against this Motion tonight. I should like to make it clear that my vote against the Motion is not a vote for the Opposition. Rather than engage in arguments which would be misunderstood, I should like the facts to speak for themselves.

In the six years from 1945 to 1951, Parliament voted £12 million for war pensions; in the period of not quite two years from 1951 to the present day, Parliament voted £10½ million. [AN HON. MEMBER:"Do not spoil it."] I am not trying to spoil anything, but only making it quite clear that I am going to vote against this Government because they have not done well enough, just as I voted against the Labour Government in 1949 for the same reason. No Government since the war have done what we asked they should do. They have all evaded the issue of raising the basic rate to a proper level to match the currency, and I shall have voted against both quite impartially. I shall go on fighting until I am satisfied either that the country is bust and cannot afford to do what is right or until it is done.

May I conclude by asking the House to help me to try to secure redress of these grievances during the life of this Parliament? Whatever happens today, let us from all sides of the House tell the Government that something like the Motion on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) and some 70 or 80 other hon. Members is what we should like to see done. May we remember that, were it not that young men were willing, during two periods of great wars which occurred in the lifetime of many of us, to go into the Armed Forces of the Crown, sustained, of course, by the courage and goodwill of the people behind them, and to go out into distant and dangerous places, many of them, nay, all of them——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)

I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Member's speech, but it appears to go beyond the scope of the Motion before the House.

Sir I. Fraser

I was just bringing my speech to a conclusion, and I would not have thought that my sentence, when you had heard it concluded, would have offended you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because that is the last thing I should wish to do. I was going to say that perhaps we may remember that, had it not been for these young men, the administration of whose affairs we are now proposing to change, or whose Ministry the Government propose should be done away with, who went out with their faces to the foe or came back bearing their wounds courageously for the rest of their days, there would be no free Parliament and there would be no free people. May I hope that Members of this House of all parties with their constituents behind them may try, during the lifetime of this Parliament, to make it clear to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he would have the country behind him if he put these men first in the nation's Treasury as I believe they are in the nation's heart.

7.50 p.m.

Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)

It must be quite obvious to the Government, from the restrained speech we have just listened to from the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), one of their most faithful supporters, and from the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), that there is a good deal of apprehension on both sides of the House at the change which the Government propose to make in amalgamating the Ministry of Pensions with the Ministry of National Insurance.

I do not apologise for the words which the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale has used in advocating the claims of a section of this community affected by these proposals. It is true that in the First World War most of the casualties were Service casualties, but since then we have had a second world war with civilian casualties from the same causes. There have been almost comparable feats of heroism among civilians engaged in combating the enemy.

Nevertheless, ex-Service men feel that the country called them specially in the country's hour of need both in the First World War and in the Second World War. It has been said that they are treated with some preference. The hon. Member, in his speech, referred to the evaporation of public sympathy for ex-Service personnel after wars finish. It is really remarkable how history repeats itself. Only a few days ago I was looking at an old Report of a Select Committee of the House on the training and employment of disabled ex-Service men, which reported in 1922. I came upon this paragraph which seems, almost in terms which are apposite today, to explain what the hon. Gentleman has been saying to this House. It is from Command Paper 107, 1922, and it says: It is obvious that the sentiment in favour of preferential treatment and general sympathy towards disabled ex-Service men is on the decline. Whoever would have thought that the instrument for that today should be Her Majesty's Government, should be the Conservative Party which has always proclaimed so loudly that it is the ex-Service man's champion?

The report goes on to say: The reduction in the number of firms on the King's Roll is evidence of that decline in public sympathy The Select Committee went on to say that if there were no possibility of getting fair treatment and employment for disabled ex-Service men by voluntary means the Government would have to apply compulsion. It is part of the Government's case that compulsion is there, because in 1944 the late Mr. Ernest Bevin took the step, which we all welcomed, of trying to put civilian disabled casualties on to the same basis as ex-Service casualties. But the House should note that in the Act preference was given to Service personnel, both men and women.

Whatever the Government may say tonight about their general intentions to give some preferential treatment to ex-Service men, if they effect this merger there will arise in the minds of ex-Service men—and I am one of them and there are many hon. Members in this House in the same position—the feeling that they will lose their preferential status. That was the feeling expressed by the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale and by the unanimous verdict of the British Legion which, in the main, represents ex-Service men and women.

When we come to examine the Government's proposals, I do not think we can be honestly concerned about the change they want to make in the machinery for the payment of pensions except in one respect which I shall mention in a few moments. I do not think that the ex-Service pensioner minds very much whether his pension is paid from Blackpool or from Newcastle so long as he gets it regularly. But there is this difference, that the pensioners of the First World War have life pensions, because that was settled in 1920. The change was then made that where disability pensions were granted they were granted for life, and, therefore, those pensions can safely be handed over to the Ministry of National Insurance, because it is only an administrative matter of paying those pensions until the pensioner dies.

I believe I am correct, however, in saying, that in the Second World War that principle has not been accepted for disabled pensioners except in the case of amputations. Ex-Service personnel are not in the same position as the personnel from the First World War in the matter of life pensions. Those pensions are subject to review from time to time. If what I am saying is incorrect perhaps the Minister will correct me. What causes many of us apprehension is that these pensioners fear—and I consider not without justification—that their pensions can be reviewed by the Ministry of National Insurance and that they will be far more hardly treated than they would have been had they been dealt with by the Ministry of Pensions.

Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)


Mr. Bellenger

Every hon. Member in this House, be he Conservative or Labour, knows well that generally speaking—and I say generally speaking—one could push a point furthest with the Ministry of Pensions than one could with any other Ministry.

Mr. Renton


Mr. Bellenger

Whatever the reason was, one felt that if there was a chance of giving the claimant the benefit of the doubt the Ministry of Pensions was the Government Department that would do it. We are not sure, with all respect to the Ministry of National Insurance, that the same sympathetic treatment will be given to ex-Service claimants, either in regard to their pensions or their hospital treatment. In one respect I could only wish that the impact of the passing of the Ministry of Pensions and the handing over of the hospital part to the Ministry of Health would have the effect of bringing the standards of the Ministry of Health hospitals up to those prevailing in the Ministry of Pensions hospitals.

I believe, however, that the Ministry of Health hospitals are not today, despite the effort which has been put into them, on the same level as the Ministry of Pensions hospitals. In the White Paper the Government referred to the international reputation of certain Ministry of Pensions hospitals and I think that is unchallengeable. Other nations have come here to look at certain Ministry of Pensions hospitals and have learned a great deal from them. I do not think that the Ministry of Health can lay claim to the same fame as can the Ministry of Pensions.

We feel, as no doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite feel and as is evidenced by the speech of the hon. Member for More-cambe and Lonsdale, that this step, although logically right and at some time appropriate, has been introduced so abruptly that it is the wrong time to do it. We feel that there must be other motives behind the policy of the Government than merely to save £500,000 a year. The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale has been Chairman of the British Legion and I suspect he is right when he says that this is a step to damp down the agitation which the British Legion have been making, much to the embarrassment of the Government, for better pensions.

I shall not argue that tonight because, obviously, I should be out of order. It must not be taken for granted that I always agree entirely with what the British Legion demands, but the fact remains that the British Legion speak, in the main, for a well-organised and loyal body of ex-Service men and women. During the war, under a Coalition Government, because we spoke with the same voice on both sides of the House we were able to get from the Government of the day and from the then Minister of Pensions that preferential treatment which the nation then thought was right but which, I regret to say, the nation is losing interest in now.

There are certain practices that have grown up since 1917 which will have to be looked after if this merger takes place. For instance, I believe there is a register of disabled ex-Service men and that the firms employing them are given preferential treatment in Government contracts by virtue of their membership of the King's National Roll. That used to be the case, at any rate, and I presume that it still prevails because I see the seal on the note-paper of many contractors which indicates that they belong to the King's National Roll and without that I believe they are not entitled to be considered as Government contractors. Whether that is entirely so today or has been modified I do not know, but if that is so, how will this operate when there is a merger of the two Departments? Under the Disabled Persons Employment Act, 1944, civilian casualties are entitled to special treatment by virtue of their disability, and substantial employers of labour are compelled to take a certain percentage of their workpeople from the disabled persons. Will there be any difference between these two classes? Perhaps the Minister can tell me when he replies to the debate.

I do not go as far as some of my hon. Friends, who think that all Service pensions should be handed over to the Ministry of Pensions and, therefore, under the merger to the new Department. I believe that disability pensions are the province of the Ministry of Pensions, by whatever name they are called. However I do not believe that Service pensions for long service should be dealt with by anyone other than the Service Departments. I say that in case one of my hon. Friends who may speak later voices that point of view.

Neither do I believe that we should not keep in existence certain institutions such as the Royal Hospital, which deals with a particular class of long-service ex-Service pensioners. I believe that the ex-Service disability pensioner, because he needs hospital treatment as well, should have special consideration over and above the other disability pensioners in different classes of the community. In this connection I am not thinking so much of the widows or dependants because their case is more settled than that of the continuing ex-Service disability pensioner.

In conclusion, I regret very much that Her Majesty's Government have introduced this Motion, however logical it may be. It might be appropriate a few years hence, but it is certainly not so tonight and that is why I hope that my hon. Friends, and perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite, will vote with me against the Government.

8.7 p.m.

Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I had better begin by declaring four interests, first because I am an ex-Service man, secondly because I am a slightly disabled ex-Service man, thirdly because I am a member of the British Legion, and fourthly because I am Chairman of the Appeals Committee in the county in which I live for the Forces Help Society.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) for having drawn the attention of the House to the fact that there are other societies than the British Legion who work for the ex-Service man, as well as the Ministry. That is not to say that we do not all appreciate enormously the work which the Ministry have done and which I am sure the new Ministry will continue doing. As the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the South African war, it is worth recalling that the Incorporated Soldiers and Sailors Help Society, as it was called in those days, was a forerunner of all the other ex-Service organisations by a long time. The work they do for the disabled, especially in the Lord Roberts Memorial Workshops, is probably unparalleled. Again, they have paid great attention to paraplegics and have a wonderful scheme for an electric clock assembly which has given those men new hope that no one expected when they were first injured.

I have not heard anything said in this debate so far which has not passed through my own mind since the introduction of the White Paper, except possibly the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) that some of the pensions might be paid through the Ministry of National Insurance and others might continue to be paid through the Ministry of Pensions. My immediate reaction to it is that I doubt whether it would be a practical proposition.

All of us who have an interest in this subject have naturally done a good deal of thinking since this White Paper was introduced. I could not support the Government tonight if I thought for one moment that as a result of what is being proposed the service which was rendered to disabled ex-Service men would be worse than it is today. The worst thing about this proposal is the actual wording of the White Paper. The proposal itself is a sensible one, but I believe the Government have been so anxious not to over-state the case that they have understated the case for doing it. I believe that if the Government had come out straight away with a statement that it was their intention to improve the service being rendered to ex-Service men, and that after careful consideration they had decided this was the best way to do it, there would have been a very different reaction in the country. From what I have heard the Minister say elsewhere, and from what I have read of Government policy in this matter, I believe that is the intention of the Government.

The White Paper is a little halfhearted, to put it mildly. To say that in the long run we hope that an improvement may be achieved is hardly the stirring call to action one would hope would always be the sort of language coming from Ministers who have so close an experience with war.

I hope the House will forgive me if I say some things which, if I am stopped half-way through saying them, may be misconstrued. I should be grateful therefore if I may be allowed to complete my sentences, if not my paragraphs. What I am about to say is not very easy to do, particularly after we have listened to a speech such as was delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser).

There are few bodies in this country more ready to listen to wise leadership than the British Legion. In the criticism I am about to make I realise that my hon. Friend is not the first to deserve it. In fact, the Chairman is probably due for some criticism on this account. The immediate reaction of Legion Headquarters was not likely to lead to anything other than the eventual protest by the Legion against the whole of this amalgamation. The office holders at the head of the British Legion have an enormous responsibility as well as an enormous privilege. They have the responsibility for wise guidance. In this instance, I must confess that I think that they began by casting doubt which spread like wildfire throughout the whole Legion. As a result, we had at the conference a condemnation of the Government's proposals; whereas I believe that if only the leadership had been a little more thoughtful in the first instance, and if only one or two people had thought a little longer before they said anything, we might have had the Legion sincerely behind the Government——

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)


Major Legge-Bourke

—in their effort to do what I am quite convinced the Government are trying to do, and that is to improve the service rendered to ex-Service men.

Mr. Manuel


Major Legge-Bourke

I will give way in a moment.

I have read the speech made by my hon. Friend which is reported in the current issue of the British Legion Journal. However much he may have thought he was being absolutely fair, there was only one thing that I and others could be led to believe, that the senior officers of the Legion were advising the Legion to resist—[HON. MEMBERS: "Of course."] I am quite prepared to believe that an enormous number of members of the British Legion, when this was first published, had grave doubts. I was one of them. At the very beginning I had grave doubts. It was only after the most careful consideration, and after asking questions particularly of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance—he will remember the conversation on the subject—that I began to realise there was a great chance of an improved service coming out of this.

I am staking my political future on that. If I felt for one moment that this scheme was likely to reduce the service rendered to ex-Service men, I should not hesitate to vote against the Government for one moment. If I support the Gov-ernnment tonight and there is a falling off of that service—I am prepared to stake my political future on this—I would not come into this House deliberately to betray the ex-Service men. If I came here for nothing else. I would come to ensure that ex-Service men, especially Regular soldiers, should have someone here who was interested in their welfare.

Mr. Manuel

Is not the hon. and gallant Member being a little unfair to the leadership of the British Legion, to their integrity and loyalty? When they took the course they did, it was because of their knowledge that the chief reason for the change was the saving in actual money of £500,000. Therefore the claim for improvement is a secondary consideration. It is hoped it will come about, but there is no guarantee.

Major Legge-Bourke

I am quite prepared to see the point of view of the hon. Member. But I want to say that it was inevitable that the moment these proposals were put before the country ex-Service men would have many doubts. Because of that, and mainly because of that, it was, as I say, the paramount duty of the leadership to make certain before they said anything that they were quite sure they were saying the right thing.

Mr. Manuel

So they were.

Major Legge-Bourke

I do not deny for a moment that the first reaction of the leaders of the Legion was similar to the first reaction of the humblest member. I say that when one is the leader of an organisation of the size of the Legion one has greater obligations than merely expressing the opinion of the most humble member. One has the obligation of leading, and leading in the way one thinks to be right after careful consideration—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may interrupt me, but I am going to stick to this because I feel very strongly about it.

This was an issue so important that inevitably it would rouse feeling in the Legion, and it was of the utmost importance that nothing should be said until it was quite certain that what was being said was right. It sometimes happens that the first reaction is not the right one. It sometimes happens that if an opinion is expressed upon the first reaction it is impossible to withdraw from it. I honestly believe that something very much like that has happened in this instance.

Sir I. Fraser

If my hon. and gallant Friend will allow me one observation, I would say that the announcement was made in February and that I made only one brief observation by way of leading opinion, as he alleges, when I said in this House, "By their fruits shall ye know them." That was addressed to the Government Front Bench.

It was not until after the Budget, after three months, that I began to harden in the view that the Government had not done what we wanted and that this was a way of making it more difficult for us to obtain what we wanted. Then I began to make it clear where I stood in the matter. In the meantime opinion was welling up all over the country. I did not lead it, I just listened to it.

Major Legge-Bourke

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for saying what he has said. I think I made it clear that he was not the first officer of the Legion who expressed himself about it. In fact the person who did is a great personal friend of mine. But I still feel that what I have said has a element of truth in it and only the Legion officers themselves really know how true or how false this is. As a member of the Legion and as an hon. Member of this House I can only express what I feel.

My hon. Friend the Member for More-cambe and Lonsdale has referred to the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper which was signed by 70 hon. Members from all parties. There is only one aspect of that Motion which I think it would be in order for me to discuss. I should like to read the terms of the Motion to refresh the memory of the House. It is headed: Priority of relief for war-disabled ex-Service men and their widows and it states: That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government at an early date to take a further step beyond that taken in 1952 to accord to disabled ex-officers and men of the two world wars and their widows that priority of relief to which their sacrifices entitle them. Priority of relief has many aspects. It would be wrong for me tonight to discuss the financial aspect, and I do not propose to do so, but I say that priority of relief also involves an adequate machinery of relief. Unless we are absolutely certain that the proposal of the Government will give priority of relief to ex-Service men, I would say that any hon. Member who complimented me by signing that Motion ought to vote against the Government.

After all the inquiries I have made and all I have heard from the Ministers themselves, I am absolutely satisfied that it is their intention——

Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)

What did they tell you?

Major Legge-Bourke

—that priority of relief should be given. I ask the House to believe that I have taken considerable trouble to assure myself of this. If I were not sure I should not hesitate to say so. I am absolutely certain in my own mind that it is the intention of the Government to ensure not merely that the priority that ex-Service men get now is continued but that it is improved as the years go by.

Mr. Hynd

I signed the Motion and I am concerned about this. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman persuaded me to sign the Motion asking for priority of relief for ex-Service men, I certainly did not understand the position in that context. Is he satisfied as a result of his consideration that when the Government are actually imposing priority of economy on ex-Service men that is consistent with the priority of relief that he and I and other hon. Members ask for in that Motion?

Major Legge-Bourke

To start with, I do not accept that the Government are insisting on priority of economy on ex-Service men.

Mr. Hynd

They are.

Major Legge-Bourke

I do not accept that. The hon. Gentleman quite fairly has said that he did not consider that a priority of economy on ex-Service men was consistent with my Motion. I agree, but I do not consider that the economies in this proposal by the Government will be made at the expense of the ex-Service men.

Mr. Manuel

Of course they will.

Major Legge-Bourke

If I did I should certainly be in sympathy with the hon. Member.

Mr. Hynd

That is the reason for the proposal.

Major Legge-Bourke

If I did I should not hesitate to vote against the proposal. But the economies are being made in the Civil Service—in the Department itself.

Mr. Hynd

At the expense of ex-Service men.

Major Legge-Bourke

If the hon. Member has taken the trouble to read the White Paper, and I hope that he has, he will have seen that there has been some run-down in the Ministry of Pensions itself. Certain duties are becoming more and more the duties of other Ministries. Surely we ought not to be so rigid and hidebound in our outlook that we can never change anything connected with the services for ex-Service men. We want to be sure that the best possible service is being rendered. I am convinced from every inquiry I have made and from all the thought I have given to the matter—and I assure hon. Members that it has been considerable—that there will be an improvement.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcos Lipton (Brixton)

What improvement?

Major Legge-Bourke

In the service rendered to ex-Service men.

Mr. Manuel

In what way?

Major Legge-Bourke

In particular, I ask hon. Members to read again paragraph 21 of the White Paper. My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale said that it was not necessary to have local offices because we have already got the local service branches of Legion. My feeling is that the quicker action is taken, the better. I am sure that the average service branch, certainly in the area in which I move mostly in Legion affairs, takes a good deal longer in these matters than ought the Ministry of National Insurance offices which are well placed to take up these matters. It is on that assumption that I am pleased about the proposal in paragraph 21.

I believe that if we can get the Ministry on the spot as close to the actual need as possible, we shall tend to get that humanitarian feeling which is absolutely necessary if we are to deal properly with the welfare aspect.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman saying that the present Ministry of Pensions is such that one does not get speedy replies?

Major Legge-Bourke

I am not saying that, but I do not say that conditions may not be made any better. Everybody knows that the officers of the Ministry of Pensions have done wonderful service. Nobody denies that; but they will not disappear. All that will happen will be that there will be more of them. Other men as well as them are to be trained to deal with disabled ex-Service men nearer to their homes. That is part of the policy. If I am wrong I hope that the Minister will tell me. It is on this assumption that I am so greatly impressed by the scheme.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is trying to ride two horses at once.

Major Legge-Bourke

The hon. Member has just said that I am trying to ride two horses at once.

Mr. Mellish

Gordon Richards cannot do that.

Major Legge-Bourke

I could give a jocular reply, because there was a time when I found it difficult enough to ride even one horse.

I have given an assurance, and I hope that by now hon. Members know me well enough to realise that when I make a pledge of some sort in this House I usually try to keep it. I have already half-made the pledge that I intend to make before I sit down. Perhaps the hon. Member has given me a lead. I give an assurance that, if it can be shown that as a result of this proposal by the Government the service to ex-Service men has deteriorated, I shall have no hesitation whatever in leaving the Conservative Party—absolutely none.

I came into this House with one main purpose in mind. It was to ensure that disabled ex-Service men, especially ex-Regular soldiers, had somebody who was prepared to stand up for them occasionally. I came into this House with that object more than any other in my mind. I assure hon. Members on both sides of the House that if the Government let me down on this matter I certainly shall not hesitate to dissociate myself from them in future.

I am backing the Government tonight because I believe that what they are proposing is a sensible, practical and humane plan. If it turns out that it is a money-saver without any regard for the future of the disabled men themselves, if it results in a falling off of the standard of care given to ex-Service men, I shall not hesitate to cast scorn upon those in whom I put my trust tonight.

8.29 p.m.

Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)

I oppose the proposal to merge the Ministry of Pensions with the Ministry of National Insurance. The test which hon. Members ought to apply to it is whether it will result in an improvement to ex-Service men or not. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) has staked his reputation and political future on the assumption that the proposals will benefit ex-Service men. He does his Front Bench less than justice by presuming that if they thought so they would have any doubt about saying so. There is no suggestion in the White Paper that the proposals are to benefit ex-Service men.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked my hon. Friends whether they had read the White Paper, but he might have asked himself whether he had done so.

Major Legge-Bourke

If the hon. Gentleman had been here when I began my speech he would have heard me say that I thought that the worst part of the proposals was the way the White Paper was drafted and that it gave an entirely false impression of what the Government intend to do.

Mr. Collick

I was here when the hon. and gallant Gentleman began to speak, and I also heard the Leader of the House open the debate. I wish the hon. and gallant Gentleman had been here when the Leader of the House opened the debate.

Major Legge-Bourke

I was.

Mr. Collick

I did not see the hon. and gallant Gentleman then, but I accept that he was here if he says so. If he was here, can he tell me that he was convinced by a single word that the Leader of the House addressed to us that the proposals are to benefit ex-Service men?

Major Legge-Bourke

My right hon. Friend made it perfectly clear at the beginning of his speech that he was dealing merely with the machinery of Government side of the problem and that his colleagues on the Front Bench would answer detailed questions about the work of the Ministry.

Mr. Collick

I am confirmed in my belief that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was not convinced—nor was I—by anything that the Lord Privy Seal said, that the proposals will benefit ex-Service men. I cannot imagine that any hon. Member, not even the most rabid Tory, was convinced, after listening attentively to what the Lord Privy Seal said, that the proposals were to benefit ex-Service men.

The White Paper specifically states, in paragraph 3, the Government's reasons for abolishing the Ministry of Pensions. The first reason is to simplify the machinery of Government, and the second is to reduce the costs. Those were the two purposes for which the Government have brought forward the proposals, and the Lord Privy Seal spent almost the bulk of his time in dealing with the first, the simplification of the machinery of Government.

Let us be honest about it. I do not believe that ex-Service men care very much about the simplification of the machinery of Government. What they are concerned about are the results, and they will judge the proposals, as will the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has staked his political future on this issue, by the results. We shall have occasion, in the future, to remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman of the pledge which, in perfect honesty I am sure, he has made.

The Lord Privy Seal ought not to be allowed to get away with all the things he said this afternoon about the simplification of the machinery of Government. The House ought to do itself the justice of examining for a moment the implications of what the Lord Privy Seal said. No one would disagree with the Lord Privy Seal when he says that it is the function of any Government periodically to review governmental machinery and to consider what improvements can be made. We are told that the Government have done that, and we are also told that it was in the process of doing that that the Government came to the conclusion that the Ministry of Pensions should be abolished.

We should like to know a little more about what other decisions might have been come to about the machinery of Government. The Lord Privy Seal went on to give the impression—I imagine hon. Members might well have had the impression—that the Ministry of Pensions is one of the smallest Departments of the Government. Nothing of the kind. Anybody who cares to make himself familiar with the facts will know that according to the staff figures published by the Government, the Ministry of Pensions now has a staff of well over 9,000. That is not a small Government Department, as Government Departments go.

Let us have a look at some of the others. If we take the Ministry of Fuel and Power we find that the staff of that Ministry is not 9,000, but 2,740.

Mr. Renton

Will the hon. Gentleman——

Mr. Collick

No, I am not giving way for the moment.

Why, for example, did not the Lord Privy Seal tell us why the Government had not decided to abolish the Ministry of Fuel and Power, which is a tiny Government Department with a staff of only 2,740? By what logic do the Government abolish the Ministry of Pensions which has a staff of 9,000, and, at the same time, retain in existence the Ministry of Fuel and Power which has a staff of, roughly, 2,700? Why not, for example, merge that Ministry with the Ministry of Transport?

If we are so concerned about the machinery of Government and all the rest of it, let us take another example. The total staff of the Ministry of Health amounts to 3,220 and that of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to 3,200. If we are to have a lot of merging of Departments, we might eliminate the Minister of Health and put him in with the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

Once we start examining this machinery of Government business, the onus devolves on the Government, and the onus will be on the Minister, when he replies tonight, to tell the House why it becomes so imperative at this time to abolish the Ministry of Pensions which has a staff of 9,000 and why, at the same time, they are perfectly willing to carry a Minister in a Ministry of Fuel and Power which has a staff of only 2,740.

So much for the issue of the machinery of Government. It has been suggested that this proposal is necessary in order to reduce costs. When the Prime Minister was asked, at the time that he made his first announcement on the subject in this House, what the saving would amount to, he did not know. He could not even give an answer. Therefore, it was abundantly clear that at that time the figure was not known because, otherwise, it would obviously have been in the Prime Minister's brief.

One would have expected that at the time the right hon. Gentleman made his statement he would have been able to tell us what the saving in cost would amount to, but he was not able to do so. When we insisted on a White Paper, we at last got the information that on certain assumptions we might in three years hence—not now—save £500,000. We are going to save that at the expense of the ex-Service men, while at the same time we can have a Budget of £1,400,000 with which to fight the next war.

Mr. Renton


Mr. Collick

It does not need an Oxford education to say "nonsense." An elementary schoolboy could put it better than that. If the hon. Gentleman will look at his White Paper, he will see that the figure is given in it. If he says "nonsense," it is the Government's nonsense and not mine.

In paragraph 33, the White Paper says: The immediate saving will not be large but … Then, in the last sentence, speaking of savings, it says: Within the next two or three years these should be of the order of £500,000 a year. "Two or three years," and "these should be," it says—perhaps. An hon. Gentleman opposite allows himself to believe that these savings will be for the benefit of the ex-Service man. He is the only ex-Service man I have heard say so. I have discussed it with hundreds of them and I have had resolutions from ex-Service men's organisations in my constituency. I recall when the hon. and gallant Gentleman on our Front Bench who will be winding up for this side, and I, started an ex-Service men's organisation after the First World War. We were on pensions committees at the time and I remember the sort of thing we had to deal with and the fight we had to put up against the Government of the day to get elementary justice. What have we today? We have in being a Ministry of Pensions which has created a reputation unequalled by that of any Government Department at any time in the history of this country. Does any hon. Gentleman want to deny it?

Mr. Renton

Yes. I consider that the Ministry of National Insurance has, on balance, put up a very much better performance during the last five years.

Mr. Collick

The hon. Gentleman, as a National-Liberal-Conservative-Unionist Member, and all the rest of it, can hold that opinion, but I do not think it is shared by anybody on this side of the House. Any Member of Parliament who attends to his constituency work must recognise that the Ministry of Pensions has established for itself, in the hearts and minds of the ex-Service men anyhow, a reputation which no other Government Department has. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wilfred Paling) has certainly played his part in bringing that reputation about, and succeeding Ministers have followed on.

We have a Ministry of Pensions now who even ask people, "Are you sure you are getting all you are entitled to?" That is the sort of thing the welfare officers ask men now. Is that why the Government want to abolish the Ministry? Look at the marvellous work the Ministry have done on this business on artificial limbs. I believe that the work has no equal anywhere. I have been with doctors, and other professional people who know this part of the work, and who can almost pick out in the street an artificial limb that was made at Roe-hampton and one that was made by private enterprise. [HON. MEMBERS:"Oh."] Yes, and other people have had the same experience. The simple fact is that the Ministry of Pensions stand on their own record and ought to continue. Without any question I say that the Government have failed completely to make out a case for its abolition.

I have a word to say to the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely. We are told in the White Paper that the Ministry of Pensions has 80 offices in various parts of the country while the Ministry of National Insurance have 900 offices. The inference is that because of those 900 offices the ex-Service man will in some mystical way get greater benefit. What nonsense any such suggestion is. Everybody knows that a welfare officer is attached to every one of these 80 Ministry of Pensions offices, and any hon. Member who is doing his constituency job knows the admirable work these men have done.

What is to be the position now? Are we to have a welfare officer attached to each of these 900 offices instead of the 80? If so, the Minister can lose his £500,000 right away. It goes immediately if he appoints welfare officers to the 900 National Insurance offices, and bang goes the one basis of authority for this proposal—the saving of £500,000. Apparently we are to have an additional Parliamentary Secretary, but the Minister goes and so the saving is on the Minister's salary.

I hope that the Minister will realise that no case has been made for this proposal. I believe that he is rightly proud of his connection with the Boy Scouts. One of the mottoes of the Boy Scout movement is, "Do a good turn every day." I say to the Minister with the utmost respect that he is not doing a very good one today. I suggest that before he finishes his speech tonight he should do the one good turn that he can do, that is, to withdraw the White Paper and the Motion on the Order Paper. There may well come a time when there may be no longer a case for a Ministry of Pensions but it is not now. It may be four or five years hence or any number of years that one may like to name, but while it is necessary to have a staff of 9,000 people to deal with pension problems that is not the time to abolish this Ministry.

I thought that it was the Ministry of Food that was going to commit suicide first. It is the Minister of Food who has been telling us that he wants to be in a position to liquidate himself, as it were. I am sorry that the Minister of Pensions wants to put himself out of existence before the Minister of Food, for if this proposal goes forward the Ministry of Pensions ceases to be on 31st August. I say, frankly and bluntly, that it is a positive scandal that the Government should bring forward a proposal of this kind without any real basis for it. No wonder that all ex-Service men are opposed to it. The British Legion and all other ex-Service organisations of which I know are opposed to it. I hope that hon. Members opposite will join the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), and I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Isle of Ely will have second thoughts before the end of the debate and will join us in the Lobby against the proposals.

8.49 p.m.

Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)

The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) said something a little unkind about my being at an ancient university. I suggest to him that, although I might have been a much nicer chap if I had been an engine driver, he probably would have been a more tolerant one if he had been a member of that university.

Probably the primary object of the Government in bringing forward this proposal was to save money and simplify administration. The hon. Member would probably agree with me that, leaving aside other factors for a moment, those two things in themselves are quite laudable public objects. He would probably also agree that this is a logical development—something which was bound to happen in the end—and that it is largely a question of timing.

When one contemplates that at the time when the Ministry of Pensions was first introduced there was no comprehensive State National Insurance scheme, whereas there is one now, it is reasonable to assume that sooner or later the two organisations could very well be fused, if they had both been a success, or even if one had been a little more successful than the other. I want to say a word or two about that, because my experience—which is eight years; not very long, but something—as a Member of Parliament for a biggish rural constituency has caused me to feel much greater satisfaction with the treatment I have received from the Ministry of National Insurance under Governments of both parties than that which I have received from the Ministry of Pensions.

I should like to give an example.

Mr. Ellis Smith

An isolated case.

Mr. Renton

It is not an isolated one. In this case it was pretty obvious that the Service man was entitled to better treatment than he was receiving. It took me three years to get it. Many, many letters did I have to write, first to the Parliamentary Secretary in the previous Government, and later to my hon. and gallant Friend and, if the House would not consider me immodest—I am not trying to make a personal point but merely to explain my case—when eventually I did succeed, my hon. and gallant Friend complimented me upon my persistence in going for his Ministry in this case.

Further, there is a body called the Pensions Appeal Tribunal. If every laudable statement which has been made about the Ministry of Pensions tonight had been true, there would have been no need for the sometimes very strenuous wrangles which the Pensions Tribunal have had to listen to. Sometimes that tribunal has merely to decide difficult technical points, about which there can be an honest difference of opinion between officials and lawyers or between the Legion and the Ministry, but that is not true of all cases.

Mr. Wigg

Does the hon. Member know that the administration of National Insurance is simply littered with cases before appeal tribunals?

Mr. Renton

I am only giving evidence, as other hon. Members have done. If that is so, it has not been my experience. There is a further reason why I believe the Government have reached the right conclusion in deciding as they have done. In the county of Huntingdon there is no Ministry of Pensions office. There is an office of the Ministry of National Insurance in the county town, and the local people have established contact with the officials there. When somebody has asked me about his pension, even on meeting me in the street, I have been able to say, "Let us go along and see the Ministry of National Insurance." On going there we have had very courteous, efficient and sympathetic treatment. One cannot say that with regard to the Ministry of Pensions. The nearest Ministry of Pensions offices are 15 or 20 miles away, in Cambridge and Bedford.

With this network of 900 Ministry of National Insurance offices spread over the country, and only 80 Ministry of Pensions offices, we are bound to find that many of the war pensioners have no office within a short distance, in a place to which they are regularly accustomed to go, such as their own market town. They can, however, go to a Ministry of National Insurance. That makes a very great difference.

Hon. Members may say, "Could not we let the war pensioners walk into the Ministry of National Insurance Offices? "I do not know whether they do or not; but I assume that, if they did so, the official in the Ministry of National Insurance would say, "It is not our responsibility, but we will pass your complaint to some more distant persons whose responsibility it is." If we achieve only the result that all the Ministry of National Insurance offices—900 of them all over the country—will throw open their doors to pensioners, and that their officials will be responsible for dealing with these cases, then we shall indeed have achieved something by this merger.

I have one suggestion to make. The Ministry of Pensions officials have a special experience in dealing with these cases. When the details of the merger are worked out, I want my right hon. Friend to ensure that in every pensions office in the country—Pensions and National Insurance Offices they will be called—there is at least one official who has this special war pensions experience. If that is done, I think it will be very helpful.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

Where will they live?

Mr. Renton

That is a very poor point. I should be out of order if I were to say that it is now a bit easier for officials to decide where to live than it was a year or two ago. This is a problem which, unfortunately, civil servants in regional offices have to face. Constant changes take place all the time, and that has always been the case in the public service.

May I say a word about the hospital and treatment side of the matter? Here again, I speak only with the knowledge of my constituency and of the Eastern Region. I have made inquiries and I find that there is only one Ministry of Pensions hospital in the whole of the Eastern Region, and inquiries I have made of the Regional Hospital Board indicate that, as far as they know, that Ministry of Pensions hospital will continue to be staffed and managed after the merger by the same people as at present.

Now here is a very interesting point. Under the National Health Service, that Regional Hospital Board have for some years been looking after hundreds of war pensioners; and, as far as I know, they have been doing so to the satisfaction of all concerned. If hon. Members look at paragraph 6 on page 4 of the White Paper, they will see that during 1949–1950 nearly 49,000 pensioners received in-patient treatment for their disabilities, 21,000 in the Ministry of Pensions hospitals and 28,000 in other hospitals. Already, therefore, a great deal of the praise which has been lavishly bestowed upon the Ministry of Pensions in this debate should be attributed in part, and indeed in very great part, to the Ministry of Health.

Like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), I am an ex-Service man and a keen member of the British Legion. Like him, I have made a point in election addresses and so on that I would do my best to watch the interests of ex-Service men, and I hope I have not failed in that duty. It is in the light of my personal experience in my constituency, and in the light of the examination of these proposals, which I, too, have considered carefully, that I support the Government, not merely because this is a measure of economy and simplicity of administration, which are in themselves good things, not merely because this is a logical step which, to my mind, the time has now come to take, but also because, as a result of the taking of that step, I do most sincerely believe that ex-Service men will get more ready administration in their difficulties than they have so far had.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) started off by amazing the House with a unique experience—his statement that it was easier to deal with the Ministry of National Insurance than with the Ministry of Pensions. However, that unique experience became understandable when he displayed the depths of his ignorance of the working of both those Ministries. However, I do not propose to follow him. We realise that he is a National-Liberal with certain special difficulties, and we let it pass at that.

I turn now to what I believe was the sincere, if misguided, speech of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke). I am very sorry that he is not in his place. One of the things he said was, quite emphatically, this, "I shall vote for this because I am convinced that it will preserve priority of relief for the ex-Service men." Because of that I want to ask a specific question of the Minister of Health, or, as the Minister is not here at the moment, of the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary.

In her hospitals is there to be a class of patients with priority of relief and another class of patients with second-class treatment? Is that the intention? Is there to be one group with first-class and another group with second-class treatment? Or are all to be treated not as pensioners but as patients, and each given the best that is available? Would the hon. Lady care to answer?

The answer, quite simply, is this, that in her hospitals patients will be treated equally as patients, and that once the hospitals are merged into the Ministry any question of priority of relief disappears. Is it not so? Would the hon. Lady care to say?

Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

On a point of order. Is it not better if hon. Members adhere to the correct rules of debate and put their points and have them answered at the end?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. and learned Member is making his own speech.

Mr. Paget

I can understand these attempts to try to save the Treasury Bench embarrassment, but the answer is a perfectly simple one. The hon. Lady did not have to give it. I gave it for her.

The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Heath-coat Amory)

I have had discussions with my right hon. Friend on this point, and shall be dealing with that in my remarks at the end of the debate.

Mr. Paget

Will those remarks include the statement that from now on, under the National Health Service, there are to be treated two classes of patients, one with first-class treatment, and the other with second-class treatment?

Mr. Amory

I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will stay until the end of the debate and hear what I have to say.

Mr. Paget

Then I shall be denied the opportunity of answering. I would much rather have the answer now. I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's position. I know that he hates this Motion as much as I do. I know that it is only the great loyalty which he possesses which induces him to be here at all.

Having, perhaps, extracted the answer which will decide the vote of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely, I want now to say a word about the speech of the hon. Member for More-cambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser). I think that every one of us was deeply impressed by the sincerity and courage of that speech. It is not an easy thing to vote against one's Government. I have done it, and I know that one does not like breaking with the loyalties of one's friends. One dislikes even more having to go into the Lobby with one's opponents when, as so often happens, one may doubt very much their sincerity on the real issue. I hope very much that he may be saved that experience and that the Government will bow to the clear and overwhelming feeling on both sides of this House that their proposal is premature, because it has been quite obvious in this debate, except for a few lone voices, that the overwhelming feeling of the House is against them, and for this reason.

The Leader of the House said that the Prime Minister had said that he would not for one moment persist in this proposal if he was not entirely convinced that he regarded it as a matter of honour that the treatment of these people should not be allowed to deteriorate. Let us make this clear. The treatment of ex-Service men, of pensioners, of injured people and, above all, of orphans is not something which can be expressed in £ s. d. It is not expressed simply in material benefits, but in personal relations and friendships. It is that friendship which the Ministry of Pensions have created for their beneficiaries. It is a personal thing coming from personal individuals in that Ministry and inspired by them.

I am a foster parent of two of the wards of the Ministry. As a customer, if I may put it in those terms, I have been in close personal contact with the Ministry. It has been mentioned that the civil servants in that Ministry have subscribed each Christmas to send a charming present to my two children, not from any public funds but from their own pockets. It is that personal relationship with these deprived children which is so vitally important.

An orphan always runs the risk of developing an inadequate personality. He or she has not, generally speaking, that stability and security which is the basis of the satisfactory development of a child. That stability and security has to be created. Not every foster home is satisfactory. A number of these orphans, as the Ministry can tell us, have to be moved from foster home to foster home. The children who are moved tend to be the most awkward ones, whose personalities are least satisfactory, and their link with reality, their anchor and their security is in one particular person—the children's officer.

The children's officers of the Ministry have, in my experience, and I have met them in my constituency, at Portsmouth and in London, been absolutely outstanding people, dedicated to their work. What has happened with regard to staff economy? These officers, I believe, in almost every case were temporary civil servants—temporary executive officers. To the children, they are substitute parents. They are the people who have always been there, the ones to protect them; they are their link with reality, but, to a Minister, they are redundant civil servants.

I would ask this particular question. How many of these experienced children's officers—those who have brought up these war orphans—are being retained? Is even one of them being retained? Are not all, in fact, being got rid of for reasons of stark economy, because the temporary civil servant must go first? What are the qualifications of the new children's officers, other than that they are permanent civil servants?

I take particular examples. The magnificent officer who has looked after my children in London—I will not mention her name, because I think it is contrary to custom—is she being retained or has she to go? What about Portsmouth? Which of these people who came up with the children during the war are going? Is it not vital at this time that that link should not be broken? These war orphans are growing up, and many of them are girls. They pass out of the immediate wardship of the Ministry, but, none the less, they keep the contact which is the one substitute for relations. It is the one link with security in their lives, and it is suddenly now being taken away. Can we have the figures of the periods of service of the children's officers? How many have gone in the past year or are due to go next year? I should very much like to know.

That is the position as I understand it, and it is an injury to ex-Service men, because they will no longer receive the priority of service which they have received. The prestige of being treated specially is to go, but I will say that those two things are of trifling importance compared with the breaking of the link of friendship, which is what is going to happen as a result of stark economy. That is more important than anything which money can buy, and it is to retain this link that I hope that the stark economy may be reconsidered.

9.14 p.m.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I think that most hon. Members have been impressed with the deep feeling and sense of responsibility that has been shown in this debate. It is curious that there is such a sharp division of opinion on this new proposal, because it is perfectly evident that, on both sides of the House, we are in complete agreement that, as far as is within our power, we intend to do one thing—to preserve the pensions services to those who have suffered injury in war; and I am sure that all of us look upon those people as among our first charges.

In common with hon. Members on both sides, I can speak very strongly, because I have been sitting with them in the Minister's Advisory Committee on several occasions, and I can say that we are as one in our desire to afford the utmost service to those who have suffered as a result of the disasters that have overtaken mankind twice in my lifetime. I am particularly interested because I have the honour of serving a constituency which has great naval traditions, and I am often called upon to deal with cases of disabled ex-Service men who have suffered in war. I have no doubt that a large number of hon. Members in this House, whether they represent naval constituencies, garrison towns or even sparsely-populated districts, have been brought face to face with the tragedy of the ex-Service man and his dependants. Therefore, we find ourselves on common ground tonight because we are trying to do our best for them.

Concern has been expressed in the debate, on this side particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), about these proposals, which will result in the Ministry of Pensions going out of existence on 31st August. But I feel that many of the fears that have been expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite are rather problematical.

I say quite frankly and emphatically that if I did not feel that the future of the disabled ex-Service man would be as good under the new arrangement as it was under the old, then I should not hesitate tonight to go into the Lobby and vote against the Government. I believe that it is the bounden duty of every hon. Member to ensure that the future of the ex-Service man is preserved and his rights assured. I am an ex-Service man myself and I prefer to wait and see.

Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

It will be too late then.

Mr. Burden

If the hon. Member wishes to speak, I have no doubt he will be able to catch Mr. Speaker's eye and put his point to the House. If he does not I hope he will allow me to make mine.

I say this, that if I find—and I have no doubt I am speaking for many of my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House—that as a result of this new arrangement the priorities that we consider are the right of the disabled ex-Service men are not being considered, then we shall make clear to the Government how strongly we disapprove of this scheme.

Mr. Shurmer

It will be too late.

Mr. Burden

I would remind hon. Members opposite that many of the prophecies they made in the past two years have been proved utterly wrong.

Mr. Shurmer

Tell us one.

Mr. Burden

The warmongering prophecies.

It is just as true in this case that they will be proved equally wrong. If, in fact, it is true that as a result of this move there is a decline in the service—[HON. MEMBERS:"Oh."] If the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene I will gladly give way to him, but if not, I ask him to let me continue. Surely what we all want to see is that the service rendered to the ex-Service man is maintained at its present level.

I do not believe that the disabled ex-Service men themselves care one way or another as long as that is the case. I am sure that if they find that as a result of this new arrangement their services will be as good as they are today, or indeed better, they will be perfectly satisfied. If those services can be retained at their present level, and, at the same time, some economy can be made in the persons administering those services, that will be in the general interest of the country.

What are the priorities? I believe it to be important that men who have suffered injury shall receive the utmost consideration, shall appear to receive it at all times, and shall know that they are receiving it. When I say "consideration" I do not merely mean the treatment they will receive, but the retention of the welfare services that have been performed by the pensions welfare officers. Those men have called upon the pensioners and have advised them as to their rights under the Pensions Act and have been able, in many instances, to help them in difficulties arising in their home life because of their injuries which, in many cases, have caused psychological difficulties. Perhaps the services of the Ministry of Health might be made more available in that capacity and be of even greater assistance than the services of the Ministry of Pensions at the moment.

If we can ensure that under the new arrangement men who need hospitalisation can have it with the utmost speed and efficiency, as is the case at present, then I believe that they will not lose but may gain by the proposed arrangement, especially if out-patient treatment can be made readily available to them in the Ministry of Health hospitals. If we can be assured that the pensions tribunals which will still remain in being will give them the same opportunities for appeal as they have today and will work as impartially, they will lose nothing. If we can make sure that the payment of pensions will be as liberal as it is today, then I do not believe they will lose through the change. I believe that it will be more than ever necessary that the Parliamentary Secretary, who will be specifically enjoined to care for the interests of and to preserve the right of pensioners, shall ensure that he has their interests at heart. I hope that we shall have at the Ministry such a Parliamentary Secretary.

I do not believe that this House is concerned with anything other than that, by this new service, pensioners shall receive the rights and privileges to which they are entitled. We regret the passing of the Ministry of Pensions, but the disabled ex-Service man will find a new friend under the new system. Perhaps in a year from now when the first reports are made we shall not look back upon this as a retrograde step, but as a forward step. Hon. Members on this side of the House will watch this experiment with anxious and critical eyes. We shall do our utmost to ensure that it works in the way the Government wish from the point of view of administration and that the rights and privileges to which ex-Service men are entitled are also preserved.

9.26 p.m.

Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)

I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), except to say that once the present Ministry of Pensions has died it will take more than the future tears of the hon. Member to bring it back to life. I regret that the Lord Privy Seal is not present to listen to this debate. He is the only person on the Government Front Bench with the authority to withdraw this Order immediately.

He sought at the beginning to justify his case by saying it was merely an organisational problem. The speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), the hon. and gallant Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) and my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) have shown that we are dealing with human beings and not merely with an organisational problem.

I wish to limit my remarks to the question of the future of Queen Mary's Roe-hampton Hospital. I declare my interest, as I am Chairman of the Governors of that hospital and on the board I have the very willing support of the hon. and gallant Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder). Queen Mary's Hospital occupies a special place in the treatment of ex-Service men, and I think it would be right if I gave, in a little more detail, an account of its functions.

It is a charitable trust founded in 1915 as a convalescent hospital for sailors, soldiers and airmen who lost their limbs in the first war. From 1919, in association with the Ministry of Pensions, and after 1925 under the terms of an agreement with that Ministry, this hospital has developed into the foremost hospital in the world for the treatment of limbless ex-Service men. Moreover, a research centre has been established there which has an international reputation, and there is also a limb-making factory and an excellent limb-fitting centre. This combination makes Queen Mary's Roehamp-ton Hospital deserving of the very special consideration of this House.

The primary object of the hospital, as stated by the Charity Commissioners, is: To provide and maintain a hospital which shall be used primarily for the treatment of disabled sailors, soldiers and airmen and to make provision for the fitting, repair and renewal of artificial limbs. Throughout we must stress the priority given in this hospital for that category of persons. But there is an obligation to treat any civilians who need artificial limbs and many of them are receiving that treatment. Further, it is the duty of the hospital governors to arrange for the manufacture of artificial limbs. The governors have agreed with the Ministry of Pensions that so long as priority was given to the needs of limbless ex-Service men beds could be used for other medical and surgical cases belonging to the Ministry of Pensions. I should like to say that there has been the utmost friendliness and co-operation between the governors, the Minister of Pensions and the Ministry of Pensions. This has worked to the great advantage of all the ex-Service patients who have been to Queen Mary's.

The governors believe that, as a result of this co-operation and this harmonious working together, an organisation has been set up at Roehampton which is second to none in the world. I believe that it is our duty to maintain that and that it would be a great tragedy if as a result of this change or any contemplated change in future there should be a worsening in the present position and, as a result, an inferior service for the pensioner.

Paragraph 12 of the White Paper which deals with the future of hospital services recognises that any new arrangements must ensure that the war pensioners always receive the treatment they need and that they shall get it promptly from the hospital best able to give it. For a wide range of pensioners—the limbless and so on—Queen Mary's is the obvious hospital for this kind of treatment. In paragraph 14 the Government indicate that it is their intention to bring existing Ministry of Pensions hospitals fully within the National Health Service, but they recognise Roehampton Hospital as a special case. They state that special arrangements will be necessary for its administration if and when it is brought within the National Health Service. It is this that causes some difficulty.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark said, we need clarification upon this issue. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us a little more detail about the future of Queen Mary's. As I see the position, it could mean that the Government do not intend that this hospital should pass to a regional hospital board and to a hospital management committee. I hope that that is so But the governors are convinced—and I am speaking for all my colleagues in this matter—that any special arrangements contemplated must ensure that the charitable purposes of the trust are carried out, that its real purpose in maintaining priority for ex-Service men should be safeguarded and that the hospital should be maintained more or less in its present position.

On the demise of the Ministry of Pensions the governors would be prepared to take full responsibility for the administration of the hospital either on a capitation basis, as they did up to 1924, or on a repayment of actual costs involved, as obtained between 1935 and 1939. But if the Government feel at some stage that there are overwhelming reasons why the hospital should come within the National Health Service, I am sure that the governors would be prepared to co-operate provided that the status of the hospital as a teaching hospital could be recognised and its administration entrusted to a board of governors in such a way that the essential character of Roehampton as an ex-Service men's hospital would be maintained.

We see many disadvantages in a period of uncertainty with regard to the future of the hospital. I hope, therefore, that a decision will be reached speedily upon this problem and that an announcement will be made as to its future at an early date. I ask for the assurance from the Minister—I am sure that it is one that he can give—that when he is working out the future of the hospital he will enter into consultation with the governors before any specific decision is reached. I say that because when the announcement of the merger was first made in February we had a case of an officer patient who went on a hunger strike for, I think, three days until we could convince him that he would not suffer under any-proposed change. I should not like to think that we were faced with a revival of that incident.

The governors will always do their utmost to further the excellent work of the Ministry of Pensions at Roehampton. and, whatever the organisation in future, they will strive to maintain the good name of the hospital, not only in its treatment of war service pensioners and National Health Service patients at home but also in extending its work in research and development and in the manufacture of artificial limbs, which has brought about the great renown of Roehampton throughout the world. I hope that the Minister will be able to give the reassurances for which I have asked.

9.36 p.m.

Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)

I, too, am well aware of the very great reputation of the Roehampton Hospital, and I share with the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) his very natural anxiety that nothing shall be done to impair its usefulness. I look forward to a reassurance from my hon. Friend that its high reputation will be maintained in every way possible.

For very many years I have been a member of the British Legion. I am also the vice-president of one of the branches of the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association. I have recently had the opportunity of discussing the Order amalgamating the two Ministries with some of the officers of the Manchester branch of the Association. I had a very frank and friendly discussion with them and came away convinced that, whereas they are perfectly satisfied about the good intentions of the Government, they are still afraid of some of the results which may arise from what they call the "lumping together" of them with all other classes of insured persons.

They have the fear—I do not share it; I merely state what they told me—that the special position of the disabled—we must all agree that those who have been disabled in the service of our country have a special position—may be prejudiced if the Ministry of Pensions disappears as a separate entity. They would like some special assurances which are already given in the White Paper proposals written into the Order itself so that, as they put it to me, they will bind future Governments. They say—I think it is reasonable—that the fact that the Ministry of Pensions will no longer exist as a separate entity necessitates certain safeguards which are not necessary now because, by its very existence, the Ministry of Pensions provides them.

I want to draw the attention of my hon. Friend to some of the points which they would like written into the Order itself. I had to go out during the course of the debate and I hope I shall not be repeating what has already been said by other hon. Members. Paragraph 8 of the White Paper says that an additional Parliamentary Secretary will be appointed to the Ministry of Pensions, but paragraph 3 (2) of the Order states that the Ministry of Pensions and National Service may appoint an additional Parliamentary Secretary. I have already mentioned this to the Minister and I am given to understand that, in legal language, "may" and "shall" mean the same thing. [HON. MEMBERS:"No."] I am not a lawyer, and I should like the Minister's assurance that that is so. Even better, I and the members of the Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association would like "shall" used in the Order, because it is a word that we can understand although we have not had the advantage of legal training. I agree with what was said by the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), that it would be most desirable if the Parliamentary Secretary had a very special responsibility in regard to the pensioners, even extending to answering Questions in this House about them.

I turn now to paragraphs 15 and 17 of the proposals, which deal with limb fitting and appliances. Here, it seems to me, there is possibly a need for some definite safeguard, and for priority for the disabled to be made perhaps more clear than it is at the present time. Paragraphs 23 and 24 deal with the Ministry of Pensions Central Advisory Committee and the War Pensions Committees. It has been suggested to me that it would be a good thing if the terms of reference of those committees could be written into the Order itself, as I understand was done in the original Royal Warrant in 1919.

In paragraph 24 we see the words, "The Government is confident" that various things will be done. Perhaps the words "The Government is confident" are not very much of a guarantee, although I believe there is every reason for believing that this splendid work will go on. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but I can assure them that the point was made to me very strongly by the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association that it is not the intentions of this Government of which they are afraid. They want to safeguard themselves against the actions of any future Government. But be that as it may, they feel that whatever the complexion of the future Government, they would be happier if some of these safeguards were definitely written into the Order.

Mr. Shurmer

The hon. Gentleman says that the ex-Service men's organisations are concerned about the actions of future Governments. Is he aware that when the Labour Government were in power they did more to increase the benefits for ex-Service men than any Government had ever done before?

Mr. Johnson

They were expressing their fears about the future, and not about the past, which is not so much in favour of the hon. Gentleman's party as he may suppose.

Another small point which concerns the Order itself is that, according to paragraph 4 (1), it is apparently optional whether there shall be two reports or one. If I did not misunderstand the right hon. Member for Southwark, he seemed to think that what was required was one comprehensive report. It has, on the other hand, been represented to me that it is most desirable to make two reports not only optional, but compulsory. They would like to see a separate report from both sides of the Ministry.

I recognise, as we all do, that there is a natural anxiety on the part of the members of B.L.E.S.M.A. and of the British Legion as to their future under the new scheme, but I am bound to say that I do not share that anxiety. On the contrary, they will derive many advantages from the new scheme. [HON. MEMBERS:" No. "] No fewer than 900 additional offices will be made available to them, and I am equally convinced—perhaps I have a better opinion of my fellow men than have some hon. Members opposite who do not seem to be convinced—that they will get the same sympathetic consideration in the future as they have always had in the past.

As to the question of medical treatment and hospitals, the White Paper makes it clear that ex-Service men will continue to enjoy the facilities to which they have been accustomed, and that they will get the additional advantage of being brought under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and of making fuller use than they have already done of the National Health Service.

Finally, I would say once again that, although the disabled ex-Service men are anxious about their future position, their attitude is not one of hostility. As my hon. Friend the Minister is no doubt aware, they have made it clear that if the Government put this Measure through they will do all they possibly can to make it work. I hope my hon. Friend will find it possible to make some of the small amendments to the Order that I have attempted to suggest. Many hon. Gentleman on both sides of the House have served in the Armed Forces, and none of us would agree to a course of action if we felt that it would be detrimental to the ex-Service and the disabled men. I am certain that the Government would not have contemplated bringing such a proposal forward unless they were convinced that it would be in the best interests of the pensioners.

My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), in a most courageous and moving speech, explained why he believed that the Government were wrong. I attach a great deal of weight, naturally, to what he said, but none the less I shall vote for the Bill because I am convinced, and I go only on my own conviction—[Laughter.]—the hon. Member opposite may laugh if he likes—that the Government are right. I hope that when the Minister replies he will be able to give us further assurances.

9.48 p.m.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

We have not to rely exclusively on what we believe or on our hopes of the future. We have the evidence of what happened between the two wars. In 1917 the Ministry of Pensions was set up, with about 250,000 pensioners. When the war was over, at the peak point there were some 1,600,000 pensioners, and the 100 per cent. disabled pension was fixed at £2 5s. per week. At the same time, there were disability pensioners in the Service Departments. Therefore, on the one hand there was the 100 per cent. disability pension for the pensioners of the First World War, and on the other hand the 100 per cent. disability Service pensioners.

What happened? The Ministry of Pensions, backed by the British Legion, who were the watchdog of the voluntary organisations, kept the disability pension at £2 5s. for the 100 per cent. disability right up to the outbreak of the Second World War, but for the Army, Navy and Air Force, as a result of the economy campaign carried out by a Conservative Government, the pension was reduced in 1920 to 37s. 6d. After the Second World War broke out, the then Conservative Administration came to the House of Commons in October, 1939, with the proposal that the 100 per cent. disability pension in the Second World War should be cut to the same rate as the pension of the Service Departments.

We see very clearly what happened in the past when we divorced the Ministry of Pensions from the natural watchdogs, the voluntary organisations. It is extraordinary that in the period of the Labour Government that Labour Service Ministers recommended that all post-war disability pensions subsequent to 3rd September, 1939, should be transferred for payment from the Service Departments to the Ministry of Pensions. I should like to ask the Minister whether that arrangement is to continue and, if so, if he will tell the House why, in logic, the other disability pensioners who still remain in the payment of the Service Department are not transferred likewise.

This is a fundamental issue, because it is the fact, and perhaps the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) with his so-called concern for Regular soldiers will remember it, that Service pensioners, that is, Regular pensioners, of whom I am one, draw their pensions not in virtue of legal right but as a grace and favour and technically as out-patients of Chelsea Hospital. That element of charity in what we have earned has persisted from the 17th Century down to this day.

There is a world of difference between the way in which the Ministry of Pensions and the way in which the Army, Navy and Air Force treat their pensioners, though quite frankly I think the Army is the worst of the three Services. I had hoped very much that, with the help of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely—and he has been a help in Service matters when he has not been playing the party game—and that of other hon. and gallant Members who understand the Service point of view, over the years we should have encouraged the Service Departments to let go of the payments of all their pensions, irrespective of whether they were disability or Service pensions, so that after a period of time we would have transferred to the Minister of Pensions all the pensions payable by the Service Departments.

The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely, like myself, is concerned about recruitment and also about economy. This is a proposal to save perhaps in three years' time £500,000. At the same time the Service Departments spend sums far in excess of that in order to obtain Regular recruits, and they cannot get them. The present Government cannot get men to join the Regular Forces because the link has been broken between the ex-Regular soldier and his sons. He says to his sons the same thing as the miner said to his sons—" I have had my little lot. You keep away from them."

This is another example of a breach of faith between the Government and the ex-Service men. The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) is absolutely right. He has put his finger right on the spot. What we demanded in this House from 1945 right up to the present day was not equality of treatment for ex-Service men. We demanded priority for ex-Service men. I stand by that pledge, and if the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely stands behind this he will accompany me in the Lobby tonight, not to bring the Government down, but to force them to fulfil their pledge to ex-Service men.

9.54 p.m.

Captain Robert Ryder (Merton and Morden)

I want to support what was said by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) concerning Queen Mary's Hospital, at Roehampton. My interest is that I have the honour of serving on the board of governors. The hon. Member was speaking as chairman of the board of governors and he put forward the considered view of the board. I ask the Minister to give very careful consideration indeed to the speech which the hon. Member made.

As the hon. Gentleman explained, the White Paper uses these words: … if and when it is brought within the National Health Service. Those words suggest that it is in the mind of the Government that this may not come about. Over the years this hospital has earned for itself a unique reputation in the world and it would be hard if it were allowed to be swallowed up in the larger organisation of the Ministry of Health. I would, therefore, put a plea to the Minister to consider very carefully what is the best way in which the good work which this hospital has carried out can prosper in the future.

9.55 p.m.

Mr. Edward Shackleton (Preston, South)

I am sorry that the Leader of the House, who opened this debate, has been absent for so much of the time and, in particular, that he did not hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). The real trouble about this White Paper is that the matter has not been gone into as fully as it might have been. The basic proposals of the White Paper have very much to commend them. The two arguments are, very simply, the question of economy—though I think that is rather a doubtful argument and that the case has not been substantiated—and the inevitable rundown of the Ministry of Pensions and the consequent disappearance of satisfactory career prospects for the civil servants concerned.

I would remind the Minister of the basic arguments against the disappearance of the Ministry of Pensions. They are the views not only of bodies like the British Legion, but also the S.S.A.F.A. and others who are not extremist bodies in the matter of propaganda. Their argument is based on the theory that it is inevitable that the Ministry of National Insurance, the Ministry of Health, or whatever Ministry is concerned will seek to assimilate these new functions into their general pattern of organisation.

I should like to give an example in the matter of the Ministry of Health and hospitals. It is quite inevitable that the regional hospital boards, charged with the responsibility of building up a regional service, will attempt to fit these new hospitals into that service, on the basis of providing equality throughout their areas. We object to that principle. We know that the regional hospital board have to do it sometimes with unfortunate results, but the effect will be disastrous if the Government are hoping to maintain the pledge they have given in this White Paper, that there will still be priority for the pensioner.

The other example is when the Minister of Health or the Minister of National Insurance seeks to stick his claim at the highest possible ceiling of expenditure with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There again, the pensioner will be at a disadvantage, because he will be considered not separately, as we have asked—and as I believe the Government still think he should be considered—but merely as part of the general organisation.

It is of the utmost importance that, if the pensioner is to be rehabilitated—if he is a disabled man—and is to play his part in the life of the community, he should feel that he is getting a fair deal. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) made the very substantial point that the psychology of this White Paper is unsound. That is a good reason for withdrawing it. On the question of the rundown of the Ministry, it is surely not beyond the capacity of the Government to find ways of maintaining career prospects, over the next few years, for the officials in the Ministry of Pensions.

I therefore ask the Government most seriously to consider withdrawing this White Paper. Surely this is one occasion on which hon. Members opposite can safely vote against the Government without fear of the Government resigning. We all appreciate their difficulties in this matter, but I hope that some hon. Members opposite will take this opportunity to make the Government withdraw a Measure which, on examination, is shown to be unsound and unfair to the disabled ex-Service man.

9.59 p.m.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

I have listened to most of the debate, and one fact which has emerged is that several opponents of this proposal have expressed the view that there is a possibility of a future need for this merger. The great difference of opinion is on the question of timing. On the other hand, we have heard somewhat exaggerated expressions of fear from hon. Members opposite. I do not think there are any grounds for believing that the present officials in the Ministry of Pensions will be succeeded by an inhuman and heartless body of officials in the new combined Ministry. Indeed, the appointment of a separate Parliamentary Secretary to give special attention to the needs of pensioners is a sign that it is desired that these needs should have some special consideration. I only ask the Ministers concerned to ensure that that special emphasis is not only at the top but is at every level in the new combined Ministry.

I have been told by officials of both Ministries that in their view this step is not only a good one but one which many of them regard as overdue. I should not have regarded that information as surprising had it come only from the officials of the Ministry of National Insurance, but I have had a similar opinion, which is much more impressive—from the Ministry of Pensions.

Hon. Members opposite have not disproved the assertion of my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton), who pointed out that the fact that there will now be the possibility of immediate attention to the needs of pensioners in about 900 local offices, instead of the 80 existing offices of the Ministry of Pensions, will in a great many cases and some areas of the country mean a positive gain. It will mean that in some localities pensioners will have an easier and more prompt treatment of their grievances.

Many of us know how often these Departments overlap in cases which we have to take up. How often do hon. Members on both sides of the House find that, when they write to one Ministry, not only do they receive a reply from that Ministry but they also receive a letter saying, "As this case also affects the other Ministry, a copy of the letter has been forwarded to them"? That, too, is an indication that there is a possible need for this merger. We appreciate the fears of many people in all parts of the country. We appreciate the more moderate fears of hon. Members opposite. Hon. Members on both sides of the House would like the Minister, in his closing speech, to deal with those reasonable fears and not with the exaggerated fears which have been expressed from some less responsible Members.

10.3 p.m.

Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)

I feel that I have been completely justified in my original demand to the Leader of the House for a full day for the discussion of this Motion. The last two speakers have had to cram their remarks into five minutes, and there are a great number of hon. Members on both sides of the House who have ex-Service affiliations and a very keen interest in this matter who have not had the opportunity of expressing their opinion at all.

I very much regret that the Leader of the House is not here to face the music. In my opinion, it is discourteous to the House that, having opened the debate, he has run away. We know that he has a good war service record and that he was one of the first hundred thousand in the 1914–18 war, and we appreciate his gallantry and his service, but I am afraid he fails to appreciate the real work of the Ministry of Pensions when he says that the payment of pensions is their main job. He cannot understand the spirit of the Ministry of Pensions if that is what he believes.

The right hon. Gentleman said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) had expressed the view a short time ago that certain Ministries, including the Ministry of Pensions, might be amalgamated. Surely the Leader of the House knows that we on this side of the House plan a long time ahead, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale was no doubt thinking of some period in five or 10 years' time when this might be a possibility.

I welcome the Leader of the House back again. He used a clever debating device when he quoted the number of disabled persons, not all those persons in receipt of pensions. It may add to his comfort if I assure him I attach no evil motive to him in doing that. He also said that the Prime Minister had told us that it was a matter of honour to safeguard the position of the ex-Service men. Hon. Members who have expressed their opinions from either side of the House have done so with sincerity, and those on the other side of the House believe that the intentions of the Prime Minister and of the Government are good, but I would remind them of what place it is the way to which is paved with good intentions.

That economy and efficiency in administration may be achieved by the merging of Ministries is not denied. Some have unproductively employed civil servants and functions atrophied by lack of use. That is not the case with the Ministry of Pensions. It appears that the Government are anxious to implement one of their election pledges, and so they have made this hurried gesture. They got this idea but have allowed insufficient time for its gestation and have produced the abortion which is before us tonight. The decision was made without any consultation with the ex-Service men's organisations or the voluntary workers who have special knowledge of ex-Service men's problems and of the psychology of the war disabled. It was bad tactics, to say the least of it. The Government would not have dared to have treated the trade unions with the contempt with which they have treated the ex-Service men's organisations on this matter.

These organisations have expressed unanimous opposition to the merger. The pensions expert of a daily paper told me only a few days ago that he had received, since the merger was announced, over 1,000 letters from ex-Service men, not one in favour of the merger. So we have the ex-Service men unanimously, through organisations, against this proposal.

Here are a few facts taken from the 23rd and 27th Reports of the Minister of Pensions to this House. I take these two Reports because neither covers a period for which only one party was responsible. I think that will be the fairest way of dealing with the problem. The first of them, the 23rd, covers the period from April, 1939, to March, 1948. It was published by a Labour Minister of Pensions to cover the work of the Ministers of both sides of the House. The second one is published by the present Minister of Pensions, and covers a period during part of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) was responsible for the Ministry.

From these two Reports we gather that from 1920 to the outbreak of the last war the number of pensioners on the books declined by half, from 1,500,000 to 750,000. From 1947 to the present time the decline was from 1,136,000 to 981,000, nothing comparable to the decline over the other period. Between the wars the staff declined from 32,000 to 3,071. From 1947 to the present time the decline has been merely from 12,500 to 9,500. Expenditure was down to £38 million in 1939. It rose to £89 million in the peak year and is still £84 million. These figures do not present the picture of a dying or moribund Ministry. In fact, the 27th Report of the present Minister says, on page 1: There is, however, no abatement of general interest in the welfare of war pensioners. And on page 79— Public interest in the well-being of the ex-Service community shows no sign of diminution … I have a few more facts to give, if the House will bear with me for a moment, supporting the case for delay.

Last year, 12,700 new pensions were awarded and 20,000 pensions are in payment to ex-Service disabled and their dependants in respect of service commencing after 1946. If the sensible course were taken of bringing Chelsea under the Ministry of Pensions, the figures would be substantially increased. Over 1,000 pensioners are in receipt of payment in respect of Korea and Malaya. In conjunction with these figures, I submit to the Government and to the House that we must take into consideration another fact, that in the latter period the Ministry of Pensions were doing much more for the war disabled and their dependants than was done in the years between the wars.

It is not merely the number of people who serve but the quality of the service given that is the real criterion on which to assess effectively the volume of the work accomplished. I wish to draw attention to the fact contained in these Reports, which are available to every Member of this House, that the Ministry is still catering for nearly 500,000 World War I pensioners—the Old Contemptibles and people like that with lively memories of the cold mechanical administration between the wars, who more than others have appreciated the new dispensation which has earned their gratitude and inspired hope in them.

These veterans, whose average age is 63, ask "Why pick on the war disabled when you make your experiment in simplifying the machinery of Government and reducing costs?' Why should we who were the guinea pigs for the experiments of generals in war now be the guinea pigs for the experiments of politicians in peace-time? "[HON. MEMBERS:"Shame."] What is the shame about that. Who were the victims and guinea pigs of Passchendaele? We speak from experience, we 1914 lads, and we do not want our lads to be the guinea pigs of Government experiments into simplifying the machinery of Government and reducing costs.

I have not been half so strong in my remarks as a man who wrote to "The Star": From Normandy beaches I heard a shout: 'The Ministry Merger Order is out! 'A Libyan sirocco sifting the sands Passed on that message to invisible bands. Have we forgotten the price that was paid? As time tramps on do memories fade? Some thousands of pounds saved in a year Is Parliament's answer to a pensioner's prayer, Social Security embraces us all; What of the warrior who answered the call? That is a bit stronger than what I say.

From the psychological and the emotional point of view this proposed merger is premature until there has been a much greater run-down in the numbers of the 1914–18 war disabled, needing the attention of the Ministry of Pensions, and this especially applies to welfare and to hospitals.

On the question of hospitals, I would ask for this consideration. In the 27th Report of the Ministry of Pensions, the Minister says: In general the Ministry's hospitals specialise in the treatment of characteristic war disabilities such as wounds, amputations paraplegia and tropical infections. The war pensioner has confidence in his own hospital and its staff. Such names as Roehampton, Dunston Hill and Chapel Allerton have a special meaning to the war pensioner, and to undermine the confidence which is thus created would be criminal.

The Ministry of Pensions has been criticised on the other side of the House because they have fewer hospitals now than they had two or three years ago, but that is a very strong argument against this merger and against the necessity for it. As Ministry of Pensions hospitals have become redundant, the Ministry has not hesitated to hand them over to the National Health Service and to see that special provisions were made for the ex-Service men in those hopsitals. We have a list in the White Paper of those hospitals which still remain with the Minister, and, in addition, we find that the Ministry of Pensions last year treated over 3,000 Health Service patients in Ministry of Pensions hospitals. The acquisitive instincts of the Minister of Health must not be allowed to deprive the war disabled of those hospitals which primarily cater for their special needs.

The chairman of the board of governors of Roehampton Hospital this afternoon gave us his experience and the feelings of his fellow governors. Roehampton has an international experience extending through two world wars, and it has made it possible for the civilian amputee to get a better limb much more quickly than he would otherwise have Been able to do. The White Paper, however, sweeps aside without recognition the work of this pioneer organisation, and coldly says that it should be handed over to the Health Department. Such cavalier treatment of this great institution and its work leaves such a smell that the word "sanitary" rather than "health" is the word that comes to mind.

Another sign of hasty improvisation is the failure to understand, on the issue of awarding and entitlement, that while the machine used by the Ministry of National Insurance deals with short-term cases, the Ministry of Pensions officials are highly qualified in dealing with cases calling for understanding of war service conditions and the effect of injuries over periods of many years. The same machine is not capable of performing both these functions, and the specialist staff which the Ministry of Pensions possesses ought not only to be retained, but recruits should be trained for future needs.

On the question of appeals, which has been mentioned this evening, the Ministry of National Insurance case law system is far too rigid for dealing with the war disabled, who prefer the elasticity of their existing machinery. The war pensions welfare service is another specialist service based on human personal contacts, and such a service is possible in a Ministry with specific and limited responsibilities, but not in one the responsibilities of which are diffused over a much wider area of between 30 and 40 million persons, as the Ministry of National Insurance is. It is the very fact that the Ministry of Pensions is a small Ministry which has enabled this personal service to be rendered to ex-Service men and war disabled.

The present Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary, with their experience, will admit that, under the new regime, a part-time Parliamentary Secretary could not possibly give as much personal attention and service as they and their predecessors have given to the ex-Service people whom they serve. It takes him and his Parliamentary Secretary the whole of their time to cover the whole of the war pension committees in the country in the course of 12 months. What will a part-time Parliamentary Secretary be able to do with the war pensions committee. What about the visits to hospital? I am now referring to our own Minister of Pensions who is the servant of ex-Service men, and I am saying that opportunities for service will be much less and the service rendered will be much smaller.

No figure is given for the immediate saving, which we are told will not be large. On the eventual saving we are told that after two or three years it should be of the order of £500,000, and for this niggardly result the Government are prepared to upset and make apprehensive the war disabled. The very fact that the anticipated savings are so insignificant is an additional argument in favour of our contention that the proposed merger is premature. Even so, if, as the White Paper claims, we are to have 900 Ministry of National Insurance offices opened for the convenience of ex-Service men, we are going to need 900 additional Ministry of National Insurance officers acting as extra welfare officers to man them, and even on a part-time basis, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) pointed out, that is going to cost about £400,000, which will nearly wipe out the £500,000 a year in savings.

The fact is that this White Paper and the accompanying Order have been so hurriedly drafted that vital considerations have been ignored, and we are bound to go into the Lobby against the Motion on the grounds of it being premature. I ask the Government if they cannot withdraw it. What is the hurry about this? We have had very little time for discussion and the whole of the ex-Service men's organisations have expressed their opposition to it. They have not been consulted. What is the strong objection to withdrawing the order and consulting the organisations most concerned?

If the Government will not withdraw the Order, what about a free vote? Many hon. Members on the Government benches and particularly those with ex-Service connections ought to be able to see the true position. We notice some of these hon. Members on the other side. It has been pitiable to watch them sitting on the fence and balancing very uneasily on this matter. If, however, they are precluded from voting as they desire because of the Whips, the Motion may be carried, but I still hope that many hon. Members on the other side will follow the example of the old Bible prophet Nehemiah, who is a particular favourite of mine. When Nehemiah was building the walls they sought to dissuade him on the grounds that it was inexpedient that he should go on with the job because someone did not like them. Then Nehemiah asked why he should flee from his responsibilities. I ask hon. Members on the other side of the House to ask themselves the same kind of question.

If this Motion is carried, I ask the Government to meet the ex-Service men's organisations on the question of safeguards and to implement those which are reasonable, even if it requires another Order to do so. I am not convinced—and in this I am supported by B.L.E.S.M.A.—that priority of treatment, or of supply of limbs and appliances is adequately safeguarded in the proposed Order. The position of Roehampton and Stoke Mandeville is not too clear.

I have tried to put a factual and constructive case for the postponement of this merger. I have tried to show that this is not a moribund and decaying Ministry. As a 1914–18 war disabled man I feel deeply on the matter. I am sorry if I have roused the ire of hon. Gentlemen opposite. If my final appeal to the Government is one to the heart and the emotions, I hope the House will bear with me. I am not ashamed to make an emotional appeal because an emotional appeal to the finest instincts of the young men of my generation led them into the armies of World War One.

G.B.S. wrote about the "social Socialist." I am scared of the coldblooded Socialist, Tory or Liberal who only sees things where he ought to see human beings, who is prepared to subordinate good emotional instincts to the promptings of a tidy mind. I speak especially for my old comrades of World War One, who are apprehensive of the proposed change. They have come to regard the post-1945 Ministry of Pensions as a friendly institution. The welfare service of the Ministry has eased their burdens and brightened their declining years. They have come to regard the officers of the Ministry as guides, philosophers and friends. Is it worth undermining their confidence and disturbing their peace of mind for such a paltry sum?

I must keep on stressing the value of this personal service to men whose minds and bodies have been racked by war. I know many will regard this as sentiment and emotion. I am a simple chap and, as such, I earnestly appeal to the wise and clever ones, at least on this issue, to let their mighty intellects give their hearts a chance to function.

For me attendance at an Armistice Day service is no formality. Even after all these years I am still deeply moved on these occasions. I feel when I go there and when I come away that the slain of our wars would appreciate that the best possible service to their comrades who served is the best kind of homage. And I feel in my bones that this is being jeopardised by this Order. It is because I believe that this will limit the opportunity of service that I earnestly and sincerely appeal to the Government to postpone it as long as we have with us those human problems created by war. Let a few more years roll by during which these war veterans may still receive the care and attention of their own Ministry.

They gave so much. It is so little to ask that the Ministry which they have learned to trust and almost to revere should not be taken away from them. If I have been too emotional in my final appeal for the traditions of this House, and if I have offended those traditions by so being, I am sorry but I cannot help it for "at the going down of the sun and in the morning" I still remember them.

10.29 p.m.

The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Heath-coat Amory)

I am perhaps in a rather unusual position this evening, and if the arguments I put forward in favour of my own liquidation seem a little reminiscent of a Communist trial, I should like to assure hon. Members that I have had no drugs administered to me by my colleagues.

This evening there has been emotion in the atmosphere of our debate. I do not quarrel with that because I think that on a matter like this we all feel emotional. Most hon. Gentlemen who have spoken from the opposite side of the House have spoken against the Motion. The hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) mentioned hon. Members on this side of the House who feel embarrassed. There may be hon. Members opposite who are not entirely free from embarrassment, because I know that a number of them feel that the step we are proposing is, in the circumstances, sensible. There are differences between us as to how it will work out but on one consideration we are all at one. That is our resolve that nothing must be done to the detriment of the disabled ex-Service men.

That feeling, which I believe is unanimous in the House, is one which the Government welcome and applaud. We understand very well the feelings of anxiety expressed by ex-Service organisations and hon. Members as to whether a change of this kind could conceivably work to the detriment of the ex-Service men. Most of us in the Government are ex-Service men ourselves. We look at things in the same kind of way. I ask hon. Members to believe that if we had been in any doubt whatever after studying the matter that it would work to the detriment of the war-disabled, we would not for a moment have contemplated bringing the proposal forward.

I should like to say in that connection what a debt we owe to the ex-Service organisations for the help which they give me—I feel this particularly in my position—and which I hope that they will give to my colleagues in the future in our work. I have felt intensely proud of the Ministry of Pensions this evening. On all sides there have been tributes to the way in which it is carrying out its duty. There has been no criticism of any kind. I have been Minister for only a short time and I can take no credit for it, but the Ministry of Pensions is at present doing a good job and is at the top of its form.

Why do we propose a change? First and foremost—and I claim that this is implicit in the White Paper—because, looking to the future, we are satisfied that the arrangements we propose will give opportunities for a better service than would be the case if we allowed the present Ministry to run down over the years. I believe that some hon. Gentlemen have said that that was not in the White Paper. I ask them to read the document again. They will find that it is implicit throughout almost the whole of it. That is the first and the most important of our reasons—because looking to the future we are convinced that this proposal will work out in that way.

Secondly, there are other reasons which are also dealt with in the White Paper—the simplification of administration and economy without detriment to the service. I claim that this change is an administrative reorganisation and does not affect pensions policy in any way whatever. All rights, privileges and priorities will be preserved. All statutory responsibilities—and I underline this—and discretionary powers which are possessed by the Minister of Pensions today will be possessed equally by my right hon. Friends who will administer this service in future, and equally the responsibilities will lie on their shoulders.

Some people talk as though we intended to bring the whole staff of the Ministry of Pensions to an end. The work will go on and the present staff will continue to do it. I do not think that there is any dispute among us that eventually some merger or other of this kind would become necessary. The run-down of the Ministry of Pensions is steady; indeed, during the last six years to the extent of about one-sixth. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, who opened the debate, quoted some figures, and I am not going to weary the House with more than just these—and they, I think, support the timing of the proposal. So far as hospital treatment goes, in the last three years the needs have been reduced by a quarter; medical boarding in the last two years, by a half; appeals in the last six years, by two-thirds.

We suggest that this move now—and I agree that it could be postponed—means that we shall not risk losing something which we have at present and which we might lose by postponement. [AN HON. MEMBER:"What is it? "] Let me explain. If we did not make the change now—and I do not want to exaggerate—there would be certain difficulties, growing difficulties, arising from the running down of the Ministry. We believe in decentralisation, and I hope that this work will go on being dealt with in a decentralised way. But as the work runs down it becomes more difficult to justify the smaller local offices simply because the work grows less. We have been told that we have eight hospitals, whereas there were 67, and one hon. Member—I believe it was the hon. Member for Brierley Hill—asked, why not hand over more hospitals?

Mr. Simmons

I said we had handed over hospitals as we found them redundant.

Mr. Amory

I thought that the hon. Gentleman implied that we could go on doing that; but if we reduced below eight, while continuing the present system, there would be difficulties because of the geographical situation of our hospitals. As the hon. Member knows, even now we have to take people a very long way to get them in.

Next, I should like to turn to the staff issue. I appreciate the tribute to the staff, all of whom have done such an excellent job; but, as the Ministry runs down, the opportunities for promotion will become fewer. In the days between the wars, when the work ran down, that was the case, and I want to make sure that there will be arrangements for our staff to be as good as at present.

There is the question of simplification and economy, and on this I think all I need say is that the subject is dealt with very adequately in the White Paper. The Ministries concerned are doing a good deal of the same kind of work. Both the Ministry of Pensions and the Ministry of National Insurance—and the Ministry of Health to some extent—have got over their initial "peak troubles," but the Ministries of National Insurance and of Pensions have an overlapping clientele. I think that about half a million inquiries are made of my Department and the Ministry of National Insurance in a year, and the economies will be largely in manpower and in the more mechanical departments, if I may put it that way, of the Ministry of Pensions, such as the actual payment of pensions.

The economies in the other department, as I foresee them, such as the awards of pensions work and the welfare work, will be extremely small. Later there should be some saving in premises. Though one cannot say that it is a cash saving, there will be a clear saving in national resources by the fuller use of the present Ministry of Pensions hospitals.

So far as the effect on our staff goes, I want to emphasise what is clear in the White Paper—that savings in manpower will be brought about very gradually. We do not expect any sudden redundancies of staff. The Ministry of National Insurance assure me that they will feel their way. Hon. Members would be surprised to find how great is the normal wastage in a staff like ours. Whilst we have run down quite a lot in the last three years the greater part of the reduction has been made by not replacing wastage. And we have the Whitley Council to deal with redundancies when they take place.

I do not want to make too much of the £500,000 to be saved by this proposal, but it is one-eighth of our total administrative costs. When one is seeking economies and finds an economy of £500,000 that one believes, can be made without detriment to the service, it would be quite wrong to overlook it, because half-millions add up. I want to give an absolute pledge on behalf of my colleagues that no single economy will be made unless the Ministries concerned are completely satisfied that that economy, big or small, can be made without detriment to the service given. We entirely agree that no economy of this kind would be worth considering if it would affect the quality or the effectiveness of the service.

I should like to give one or two reasons why we are convinced—and I hope we may convince some hon. Members who do not feel like that at present—that this change will give us opportunities for giving a better service. That will not be in the short term but in the long term. I do not think many pensioners will notice much difference in the short term. In the long term I think that it will work out all right.

Mr. Shurmer

They will notice the difference.

Mr. Amory

Well the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Dr. H. Morgan (Warrington)

It will be too late because of the poison in it.

Mr. Amory

We think it will be a better service, first because of the difficulties and even the dangers in the long term of allowing the present Ministry of Pensions to go on running down for a very long time.

The second reason, which has been mentioned several times already, is a really important one. It is that we shall have additional points of contact. My Department has at present about 80 local offices. We only wish we had more, because we believe in the principle of decentralisation and in carrying our service as near to the pensioner as we possibly can. The 900 offices, the use of which we shall share, will give us something additional to what we have at present, something supplementary. They are, as it were, antennae that are put out from the regional offices much nearer to where the pensioners live.

Wales is an example of where this proposal will bring an immense amount of benefit. I hardly ever have the courage to talk about Wales, and hon. Members can correct me if I am wrong, but it is a very large place with scattered rural areas where, I am told, people live quite a distance from one another. We have five offices there at the moment. The Ministry of National Insurance have 98. If we play our part aright those will be invaluable when it comes to putting over the service and establishing contact. They will not replace what we have at the moment; they will be supplementary. Some of these offices are very small.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance has already made arrangements whereby there should be at least one person in each of these offices, however small, who has been trained in war pensions work. Somebody in the course of this debate talked about enormous expense. This does not mean an additional person but one member of the staff, however small the number, who "knows his stuff" about war pensions. Already the Minister has got out quite a comprehensive instructional handbook on war pensions work.

The hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) said something about a queue of unemployed. I am sure he will agree that there is no queue of unemployed at National Insurance offices.

Mr. Mellish

In the five offices that the hon. Gentleman's Department has in Wales, he will find there qualified welfare officers, who are themselves ex-pensioners and who do a first-class job of work. In these 98 offices are we going to have the same welfare facilities as we had in the past?

Mr. Amory

I was going to say a word about the welfare service. We have about 90 welfare offices. The existence of these local offices will not interfere adversely with the work of the pensions officers. On the contrary, we believe it will give them opportunities for doing it more effectively. The hon. Gentleman knows how difficult it must be for our limited number of welfare officers to establish contact with pensioners who may be living 20 or 30 miles away. They will use the local offices as far as it is sensible to use them, but our welfare staff will still be there. They will be working partly through the local offices and they will be doing exactly the work that they are doing at present, which is contacting individual pensioners direct.

The whole idea is that we are going to give our welfare service a better chance to operate. In no circumstances whatever will we do anything to damage that service. I am not responsible for this service. I believe that its inception was one of the very best things that the last Government did. Let me pay a tribute here. I would say to the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) that everything I have seen of our welfare service makes me proud of it and determined to see that nothing happens which will make that work less effective than it is.

Then I want to come to this question of medical treatment. I want to say how grateful I am for the way in which my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Health have buckled to and shown that they have got their hearts in this job, that they are going to look after the war disabled thoroughly and take advantage of all these additional opportunities that exist.

Mr. Renton

Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentlemen to whom the Minister has just referred are already looking after more war disabled than his own Department are doing?

Mr. Amory

I will come to that point. In a sense, that is true. The same thing applies to their senior officials, who are already making valuable suggestions and are grappling with this proposal with enthusiasm.

My right hon. Friends have made a suggestion which, I believe, is of the utmost importance in enabling this project to lead to a better service. They have said that the war disabled who need treatment for their war disabilities shall receive priority not only in our existing war pensions hospitals but in all National Health Service hospitals. That priority is something that I have longed to have. It will be of the utmost value to the disabled ex-Service men, and I want to tell my right hon. Friends how grateful I am to them for having offered that suggestion without any request from myself.

Now what does it mean? It means this: that apart from the emergency cases the war-disabled person who needs medical treatment in hospital for his war disability will be able to go into his local hospital, or into one of our existing war pensions hospitals, whichever is thought best. I have mentioned this question of distance. There are many who would prefer to get into their local hospitals if they could, and, short of emergency cases, they are going to get priority to enable them to do this. But if there are no beds available, then there will still be these eight war pensions hospitals. Again, my right hon. Friends have made it clear that every bed in these hospitals will be available for a war pensioner as long as it is wanted, and the beds will then be used for National Health Service patients if they are not wanted for war pensioners.

Mr. Shackleton

Will the disabled pensioner have the choice as to which hospital he will go to?

Mr. Amory

Clearly weight will be attached to his wishes. But I do not know, I am not an expert in these matters. Even under our present system, the doctor's advice as to where he can get the best treatment is a pretty important factor. I would say that much weight will be attached to the wishes of the pensioner concerned. Even in the last few years the majority of cases of treatment for war disabilities have been carried out in hospitals other than those owned by the Ministry of Pensions. That will be seen from the figures. The majority of our patients have been treated in National Health Service hospitals.

My right hon. Friend tells me this is not going to be a very formidable problem today. Whereas in all our Ministry of Pensions hospitals last year 14,000 pensioners were treated, in the Ministry of Health hospitals 9,000 patients a day were taken in. That shows that this additional problem in regard to the Ministry of Health hospitals is not going to be an unmanageable one.

Dr. Morgan

It is not a question so much of hospital accommodation but of the difficulty of getting patients from institution to institution, and from hospital to hospital. There has to be the necessary transport and ambulance services to deal with the problem.

Mr. Amory

Yes, I know that is a problem, but it is one we are faced with already under the present arrangements.

I want to make it absolutely clear that we believe that this priority which is to be given to the war disabled in National Health Service hospitals is something that will be of the utmost value in the future.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Only in respect of their war disability.

Mr. Amory

Yes, only in respect of treatment for war disability. I am afraid I am having to deal with this terribly quickly, because I have a lot of points which hon. Members have raised and I want to give an answer to them.

There is another reason we think it will work out better in the future, and that is the quicker liaison we shall get with the Ministry of National Insurance in the numberless questions and queries which arise as to the social service benefits to which war pensioners may be eligible. As far as the fears and anxieties which have been expressed go, first of all there is this one of downgrading, submerging, and loss of identity. We are satisfied that that is not going to happen. The new Minister is going to be a Minister of Pensions and National Insurance.

I was asked the meaning of "May have a second Parliamentary Secretary." I am told that when lawyers say" may "they mean" shall." I do not know about that; I am going to shy off that one. But the Government intend to appoint a second Parliamentary Secretary to the new Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. I want to make it clear that the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance will have the same responsibilities not only for paying pensions and allowances but also for making any other arrangements which are necessary for the war disabled. In collaboration with his right hon. Friend, he will be responsible for ensuring that the war disabled get the right hospital treatment. Further, I would emphasise that the new Minister will have a higher status than the present Minister of Pensions.

As for the personal and individual nature of the service which the Ministry of Pensions tries to give, I hope I have said enough to lead hon. Members to believe that we have no intention whatever of cutting the welfare services in any way. The same comment applies to the work among children—the work with orphans; that work will continue in exactly the same way as at present.

Both the right hon. Member for Southwark and the hon. Member for Stockton-in-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) asked about Roehampton, as did my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder). We recognise the national status—indeed, the international status—of Roehampton, and arrangements for the future will safeguard that status in every way. As the White Paper states, at present the Government have no plans for altering the position of Roehampton in the sense of putting it more directly under the National Health Service, but we do not know what will be the most sensible thing to do in the more distant future. No change will be made without the fullest consultation with the governing body, of which the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees is the valued Chairman. Great weight will be attached to the views of that governing body, and Roehampton will go on fulfilling exactly the same functions as it fulfils now.

I was asked whether we could put some of these safeguards which I have mentioned into the Order in statutory form. I am advised that that is not possible. This is a Transfer of Functions Order and can deal only with existing statutory powers. We cannot put new powers into the Order; that would require entirely fresh legislation. The kind of safeguards we have been discussing do not lend themselves very easily to statutory form.

The right hon. Member for South-wark asked me whether peace-time injuries in the Services would be administered by the new Ministry. The answer is, "Yes, they will." The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) also raised that point, and he asked whether the situation concerning injuries in the Services between the wars would be changed. The answer is that there will be no change at all.

I was asked whether there would be a joint report or separate reports under the new arrangement. We thought that ought to be left for consideration by the Ministers concerned so that they could see whether there should be a joint report or separate reports. I am sure they will pay attention to the views of the right hon. Member for Southwark on this point.

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) asked about welfare and children's officers. I cannot forecast the number which will be required because, as he knows, our children are growing up; thus the numbers will go down and we cannot tell how many welfare officers we shall want. However, no change in the number is being made as a result of this amalgamation. Our staff of children's officers will be sufficient to deal with the number of orphans and none of our existing children's officers is under notice at present. I was pressed strongly to say whether there would be two classes of treatment in Ministry of Health hospitals. The answer, as I was sure it would be, after discussion with my right hon. Friend, is this. We have talked about priorities for admission to the National Health Service hospitals, and I can say that once somebody is in, all patients are treated the same.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) asked about training of officers. I have answered that already. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Basset-law (Mr. Bellenger) asked about the King's Roll and the Disabled Register. Both these come under the Ministry of Labour and will not be affected by this change. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) asked about Roehamp-ton limbs and said that they were much better than private enterprise limbs. But all limbs made at Roehampton are made by private enterprise.

Regarding the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir Ian Fraser), I understand so well his deep feelings on this matter. No one has a better right to express them in this House than he has, and I thank him for the restraint with which he put his views. I think I have answered the points made by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), and I hope I have not overlooked anything else.

Mr. Isaacs

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's courtesy in so fully answering most of the points I have put. There are, however, two points outstanding. Can he say anything about the future control of Stoke Mandeville, and something about what is happening at the Duchess of Gloucester House? The second point is not so important, as it is merely an administrative matter.

Mr. Amory

I am sorry. They are very important points. I think this happened since the days of the right hon. Gentleman, but Stoke Mandeville is at present administered by the Ministry of Health. We still have our connections there, and the work is being carried on in exactly the same way. Stoke Mandeville is recognised as a national centre, and almost an international centre, for the type of work it does. The work Dr. Guttman has done through his supervision, as the right hon. Gentleman said, is almost magic. I hope there will be no change there of policy or anything else. Regarding the Duchess of Gloucester House, that will be run by the Ministry of Labour, but very close contacts are maintained with Stoke Mandeville. Dr. Guttman goes there and, as far as the medical aspect is concerned, that connection will remain.

I am afraid I have spoken longer than I meant to do. The Ministry of Pensions will cease its separate existence this evening, if this Order is approved, in excellent shape and really on top of its job. I am sure our loyal and experienced staff there will continue to work wholeheartedly in association with their new colleagues in the interests of the war disabled. I am satisfied that the partnership will prove to be effective and fruitful. I know my right hon. Friends and their staffs are resolved it shall be. I believe each Department has something of value to contribute to the other.

I gather some hon. Gentlemen feel they must vote against this Order. I am sorry for that, but hon. Gentlemen must take whatever course they think right. I do not dispute that, but I am sure that if they had had the opportunity of making the appreciation that we have with the facts at our disposal they would, most of them, have reached the same conclusions we have. We are satisfied we can convince them that their fears are in this case unfounded, and that this is just a sensible step in the direction of more effective service in the long term.

Whatever the result of the Division, I hope that every hon. Member will con

-tinue to give the same help and encouragement to the Ministers who will be responsible, as they have given to me, and for which I should like to thank them, and that we shall manage to keep war pensions questions as much out of party politics in the future as we have in recent years, and that we shall work together to make the most of the opportunities that I believe this project affords us to provide a still better service for the war disabled and their dependants. None of us will be satisfied with less than that.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 226; Noes, 212.

Division No. 208.] AYES [1.7 p.m.
Aitken, W. T. Ford, Mrs. Patricia Linstead, Sir H. N
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Fort, R. Llewellyn, D. T.
Alport, C. J. M. Foster, John Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton) Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok) Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.
Arbuthnot, John Gammans, L. D. Longden, Gilbert
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Garner-Evans, E. H Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Godber, J. B. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Banks, Col. C. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A MoCallum, Major D.
Barlow, Sir John Gough, C. F. H. Macdonald, Sir Peter
Beach, Maj. Hicks Gower, H. R. McKibbin, A. J.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Graham, Sir Fergus Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Gridley, Sir Arnold Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Bennett, William (Woodside) Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Maclean, Fitzroy
Birch, Nigel Hall, John (Wycombe) Macleod, Rt. Hon. lain (Enfield, W.)
Bishop, F. P. Harden, J. R. E. MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)
Black, C. W. Hare, Hon. J. H. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Bossom, Sir A. C. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Harris, Reader (Heston) Marlowe, A. A. H.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Marples, A. E.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N. W.) Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield) Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton)
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Harvie-Watt, Sir George Maude, Angus
Brooman-White, R. C. Heald, Sir Lionel Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C
Browne, Jack (Govan) Heath, Edward Medlicott, Brig. F.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T Higgs, J. M. C. Mellor, Sir John
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas
Burden, F. F. A. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythonshawe) Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Butcher, Sir Herbert Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Nabarro, G. D. N.
Carr, Robert Hirst, Geoffrey Nicholls, Harmar
Cary, Sir Robert Holland-Martin, C. J. Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)
Channon, H. Hollis, M. C. Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Hope, Lord John Nield, Basil (Chester)
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W) Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P
Cole, Norman Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Nugent, G. R. H.
Colegate, W. A. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Nutting, Anthony
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Oakshott, H. D.
Craddook, Beresford (Spelthorne) Hurd, A. R. O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (llford, N.) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D
Crouch, R. F. Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh, W) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M. Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon. M)
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Hylton-Foster, H. B. H. Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Jennings, R. Osborne, C.
Davidson, Viscountess Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Partridge, E.
Deedes, W. F. Jones, A. (Haft Green) Peake, Rt. Hon. D.
Digby, S. Wingfield Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W Perkins, W. R. D.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Kaberry, D. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Keeling, Sir Edward Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Donner, Sir P. W. Kerr, H. W. Powell, J. Enoch
Doughty, C. J. A. Lambert, Hon. G. Price, Henry (Lewisham, W)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm Lancaster, Col, C. G. Prior-Palmer, Brig. D. L
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Law, Rt. Hen. R. K. Profumo, J. D.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Leather, E. H. C. Rayner, Brig. R.
Fell, A. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Redmayns, M.
Finlay, Graeme Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Rees-Davies, W. L.
Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F Lindsay, Martin Remnant, Hon. P.
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Renton, D. L. M.
Robertson, Sir David Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.) Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.) Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Robson-Brown, W. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Roper, Sir Harold Storey, S. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.) Webbe, Sir H. (London&Westminster)
Russell, R. S. Summers, G. S. Wellwood, W.
Ryder, Capt. R. E. D. Sutcliffe, Sir Harold Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Scott, R. Donald Taylor, William (Bradford, N.) Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Shepherd, William Thompson, Kenneth (Walton) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W) Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W) Wills, G.
Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood) Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C N Wood, Hon. R
Snadden, W. McN. Tilney, John York, C.
Spearman, A. C. M. Turner, H. F. L
Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.) Turton, R. H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Vane, W. M. F. Sir Cedric Drewe and Mr. Studholme.
Stevens, G. P. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Acland, Sir Richard Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)
Adams, Richard Grey, C. F. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mort, D. L.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Grimond, J. Moyle, A
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Hale, Leslie Mulley, F. W.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Murray, J. D.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.) Nally, W.
Awbery, S. S. Hamilton, W. W. Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Balfour, A. Hannan, W. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.
Bartley, P. Hargreaves, A. Oliver, G. H.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.) Orbach, M.
Bence, C. R. Hastings, S. Oswald, T.
Benn, Hon. Wedgwood Hayman, F. H. Padley, W. E.
Beswick, F. Healey, Denis (Leeds, S. E.) Paget, R. T.
Bing, G. H. C Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis) Paling, Rt. Hon W. (Dearne Valley)
Blackburn, F Herbison, Miss M Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Blyton, W. R. Hobson, C. R. Palmer, A. M. F.
Boardman, H. Holman, P. Pannell, Charles
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth) Pargiter, G. A.
Bowden, H. W. Houghton, Douglas Parker, J.
Bowen, E. R. Hoy, J. H. Pearson, A.
Bowles F. G. Hubbard, T. F. Peart, T. F.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)
Brockway, A. F. Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Proctor, W. T.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pryde, D. J
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Reid. William (Camlachie)
Burke, W. A. Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Rhodes, H.
Burton, Miss F. E. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Richards, R.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Carmichael, J. Jones, David (Hartlepool) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Champion, A. J. Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Chetwynd, G. R. Johnson, James (Rugby) Ross, William
Clunie, J. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Royle, C.
Coldrick, W. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Shackleton, E. A. A.
Collick, P. H. Keenan, W. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E
Corbet, Mrs. Freda King, Dr. H. M. Short, E. W.
Cove, W. G. Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Shurmer, P. L. E.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lewis, Arthur Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Crosland, C. A. R. Lindgren, G. S. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Crossman, R. H. S. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Skeffington. A. M.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Logan, D. G. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. MacColl, J. E. Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) McGhee, H. G. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Davies, Harold (Leek) McGovern, J. Smith, Norman (Nottingham. S.)
de Freitas, Geoffrey McInnes, J. Snow, J. W.
Deer, G. McKay, John (Wallsend) Sorensen, R. W
Dodds, N. N. McLeavy, F. Sparks, J. A.
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Steele, T.
Edelman, M. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Mainwaring, W. H. Stross, Dr. Barnett
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E
Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Swingler, S. T.
Fernyhough, E. Mann, Mrs. Jean Sylvester, G. O.
Finch, H. J. Manuel, A. C. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.) Mason, Roy Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Foot, M. M. Mellish, R. J. Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Forman, J. C. Mitchison, G. R. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale) Monslow, W Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda W)
Freeman, Peter (Newport) Moody, A. S. Thornton, E.
Gibson, C. W. Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. Timmons, J.
Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Morley, R. Turner-Samuels, M
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Usborne, H. C.
Weitzman, D. Wigg, George Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Wells, Percy (Faversham) Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Wells, William (Walsall) Wilkins, W. A. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
West, D. G. Willey, F. T. Yates, V. F.
Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John Williams, David (Neath) Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Wheeldon, W. E. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.) Williams, W. R. (Droylsden) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton) Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Kenneth Robinson.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Transfer of Functions (Ministry of Pensions) Order, 1953, be made in the form of the Draft laid before this House on 18th May.

To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.