§ 3.42 p.m.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (Fulham, West)
I beg to move,That this House regrets the failure of Her Majesty's Government to relieve the plight of old-age pensioners and calls for immediate action to improve pensions for Christmas, and to meet the hardships of winter.Since we on this side of the House put our Motion on the Order Paper, the Government have tried to save the situation by putting down a long and frothy Amendment which, after all, amounts to nothing more than another promise. The only way in which the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance can save the situation is by announcing new pension rates immediately and undertaking to adopt emergency methods for the purpose of implementing the increased benefits.
Today the House is to discuss the needs of aged people. These people are too old to be sustained any longer on promises. The Government must not underestimate the length of their memories. They demonstrated last Thursday at the Central Hall that the political implications of the delaying tactics of the Government had not escaped them. Moreover, they recalled that they had suffered in their youth from the self-same callousness of Toryism. The excuse that nothing can be done before the quinquennial review has been completed and the Phillips Committee has reported is nothing but an attempt to hoodwink the pensioners and the country.
Provision for the quinquennial review was, of course, embodied in the Act and it need have no relationship whatsoever to the immediate and urgent needs of the old-age pensioners. Similarly, the Phillips Committee is concerned with the broadest economic and social aspects of the life of the aged. This is an ad hoc committee which might well have been set up at any time. Today, it has no immediate relationship to the urgent needs of old-age pensioners.
The House will recall that this is the third debate which we have had on this subject in the course of the last few months and the second Motion of censure. The first debate was initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King), to which 224 the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance replied. The House was well attended on that occasion, and it will be recalled that the hon. Gentleman replied in the most conciliatory of tones. He hinted that as he was speaking just before the Budget he had to be exceptionally prudent, but he gave a very broad hint that the Government proposed to increase the pensions. On that occasion, which I think was last March, the House was grossly misled. Then came the Tory Budget, completely devoid of human sympathy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom I am pleased to see here today, offered sympathy to the aged. He offered sympathy throughout the year, but nothing more.
It was in July, when we were exasperated by the procrastination—and that is an understatement—that we put on the Order Paper a Motion calling upon the Government to act immediately to increase all benefits. The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance was on the defensive. He tried to put a case, but I think that even he would agree that he had great difficulty in doing so. Finally, he pledged the support of the Government to increase benefits, but only as soon as certain reviews had been completed—a further excuse for delay.
The Minister has taken up a quite unprecedented position. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly, it is unprecedented because there has been no other Minister of Pensions and National Insurance who, having conceded the fact that an increase was necessary, has then proceeded to try to prove the reverse, as the right hon. Gentleman did in July. Nevertheless, at the end of the debate he conceded that an increase was necessary. I think that even his supporters are beginning to feel a little uneasy as to the political wisdom of these tactics.
When the old-age pensioners were meeting at the Central Hall, the 1922 Committee found it necessary to hold a meeting simultaneously, which the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, I believe, the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, thought fit to attend. In view of all this, it is abundantly clear that the timing of these increases has no relation to old people's needs but rather to other circumstances of a political nature.
225 The discomforture of the Minister at the Dispatch Box, shown only last week, when he had to face a record number of Questions, as he obeys the instructions of his party machine, is becoming embarrassing. It was summed up last week in "Impressions of Parliament" in a famous weekly periodical which stated that the Minister… only makes his party points as if he was repeating a lesson someone had taught him, not very thoroughly, just before he came in.I am astonished that the right hon. Gentleman should lend himself to this form of political exploitation of the old-age pensioners. Before the last General Election we heard broadcasts calculated to mislead the housewife for the purpose of securing votes, but it needs a desperate political situation for the Tories to have to descend to these practices.
As I have indicated, in the course of the last year various spokesmen from the Government Front Bench have told the country that benefit would be increased shortly. The Minister of Defence is winding up the debate tonight. He is well cast for that role. It was found necessary to send him last Thursday to West Derby armed with a new excuse that, although something might be promised, some months would elapse before it would become effective because certain documents had to be printed.
Is not that precisely why no further time should be lost? If the Minister persists in this course there will be no relief for the old-age pensioners in the coldest months of the year. He cannot make capital out of the fact that we took a certain time to print necessary documents, because at no time did we deliberately drag our feet after we had made a decision to increase benefit. I ask the Minister whether he can tell me of any time when we were in office when a Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, having made a promise that there would be an increase in benefits, did not proceed with the necessary business? A promise was made and it was implied that an increase would be made next spring—
§ Mr. Bernard Braine (Billericay)
Perhaps the right hon. Lady will recollect that neither she nor any of her colleagues would admit the need until the eve of the 1951 Election?
§ Dr. Summerskill
The hon. Member has forgotten that we made two substantial increases and that immediately we had conceded the need we got on with what I admit is an important part of the work—the necessary printing. The Minister, having allowed his Parliamentary Secretary to make a half-promise at the Dispatch Box in the spring of this year, should immediately have ordered the printing to be done.
What is the record of the Government in regard to old-age pensions? In their period of office they have increased the old-age pension by 2s. 6d. a week. In three years they have increased the pension by 2s. 6d. a week, and that was in September, 1952. What has happened since then? The Interim Index of Retail Prices—I apologise for having to mention these figures, but they are the crux of the situation—stood at 136 in 1952. The latest available figure, for September, 1954, is 143, an increase of 7 points. That is higher than it has ever been before, with the exception of July when it stood at 145 and we put down a Motion of censure on the Government. This is not disputed by the Minister.
I would recall to the minds of hon. Members opposite, particularly those who have taken an interest in the subject, that the cost-of-living index is divided into eight separate components and that the most important, concerning the old-age pensioner, consists of food, fuel and light—all essentials in the winter. I do not think that anyone on either side of the House will dissent from that.
Since October, 1951, when our party left office, the food component of the index has risen by 20 per cent. and the fuel and light component by 18 per cent. Yet the vast majority of retirement pensioners have received only an extra 2s. 6d. per week, which is equivalent to 8½ per cent. That is our case. Food, fuel and light are, of course, priorities for old-age pensioners, and they have increased in price by 18 per cent. and 20 per cent. while the old-age pensioner has had a 2s. 6d. increase, only 8½ per cent.
We have heard that the price of tea is to be increased by 8d. per 1b. this year. At no time in these debates has the right hon. Gentleman examined these questions of the impact of the index on the budget of old-age pensioners and the weighting 227 of the index in this way against old-age pensioners.
One of the first things the Government did was to reduce food subsidies, an action calculated to increase the difficulties of the poor. It will be recalled that one of the arguments in favour of cutting the food subsidies was that they benefited the community indiscriminately. That, I understand, had a strong appeal for many people.
When I was at the Ministry of Food many well-intentioned people came to me and said, "Do you realise that you are subsidising the food of the rich?" They put a good case and I had the matter investigated with a view perhaps to providing a two-tier system, but it was impracticable. However, the argument that food subsidies should be reduced because they subsidised richer people can only be logically developed if the money saved by the Government is used for the purpose of relieving the poor and the old-age pensioners. In other words, here is the source of supply for the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance this afternoon, if he cares to look for one.
Now I want to say a word about fuel, that other very important component of the cost-of-living index. I think it would be agreed that fuel is an essential for the aged if they are to survive a harsh winter. Here, again, they are at a disadvantage. The price of coal has increased considerably. [HON. MEMBERS: "Since nationalisation."] I expected that. Furthermore, the old-age pensioner cannot usually avail himself of the Cheap summer prices because he has nowhere to store coal. Therefore, old-age pensioners are compelled, through their circumstances, to pay the highest prices for the smallest quantities, which is the most expensive method of buying any commodity.
While it might be possible drastically to reduce the consumption of fuel and go without food, one thing which the old-age pensioner has to pay is rent. I draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a Motion on the Order Paper which has been put down by several of my hon. Friends for the purpose of focussing attention on the effect on old-age pensioners of the Conservative Government's Housing (Repairs and Rents) Act, 1954. This matter has introduced a fresh anxiety 228 into the lives of old-age pensioners. It is bound to bear harder on retirement pensioners and those with fixed incomes than on other sections of the community.
I wish to call the attention of the Minister to the material published by the Oxford University Institute of Statistics on this question. I apologise for giving these figures, but they should be on record because this is a salient part of the case. The Institute of Statistics showed that persons with a gross household income of £100-£190 paid approximately 20 per cent. of their income in rent. Those with gross household incomes of between £200 and £299 paid 11 per cent. of their gross income in rent. That should be compared with families with gross incomes of £800 to £899, where the rent accounted for 6 per cent. of the annual income.
The proposals of the Government, as contained in the Housing (Repairs and Rents) Act, will increase this disparity. According to the Institute it is estimated that families with gross household incomes of under £200 a year will have to pay another £10 a year rent and those with a gross income of £200 to £299 another £11 a year rent. Surely the vast majority of retirement pensioners will come within this category, and from their meagre incomes they will have to find this extra money. Many will have recourse to the National Assistance Board, a large proportion of them, no doubt, for the first time.
I ask the Minister to tell the House precisely what is his attitude towards National Assistance. I am exceedingly disturbed at his statements regarding the functions of the National Assistance Board, which, I presume, reflect the attitude of the Government. This insidious change has come about since the Conservative Government removed from the chairmanship of the National Assistance Board one of the most humane—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—men who ever served in this House. I think I made my attitude perfectly clear when I was Minister when I said, in May, 1951:I want people to regard Assistance as part of the pattern of our social services."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1951; Vol. 487, c. 1995.]As far as I know, nobody dissented. I still believe that however generous are our insurance benefits, there are many who, through no fault of their own, need 229 extra financial help from some national source.
On this subject, the right hon. Gentleman seems a little confused. While, on the one hand, he claims that no beneficiary should be in want, because that beneficiary can have recourse to National Assistance, on the other hand he has declared very recently that he disapproves of the system. Again, he states that while applications for assistance increased in the first 2½ years of his administration, there has recently been a reduction. Would not he agree that the vast National Assistance machine takes a little time to change its approach; or it is possible and, indeed, probable—I say this deliberately—that the new 19th century ideas which he is propagating through his pronouncements are only just taking effect?
May I remind the House of what this important representative of the Government has said on this subject. On 1st November, in answer to a Question, the Minister said:Our object on this side of the House is to see as few people as possible drawing National Assistance, subject to a means test."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st November, 1954; Vol. 523, c. 13.]
§ Dr. Summerskill
Wait a minute. If that statement had coincided with a substantial increase in the Insurance benefits, it might have been accepted without comment. But that was not the case. There was no increase in the National Insurance benefits when the Minister made that statement.
What did he say in July, when I was unable to reply because he made the last speech? In the course of the debate he said:The former, that is to say, reliance on assistance, is probably cheaper in cash, but I believe it to be wasteful and expensive in terms of the damage that it inflicts on society by penalising thrift and undermining the virtues of independence and self-help. There is here a cleavage of political philosophy between the two sides of the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 1384.]Has the right hon. Gentleman looked behind him and contemplated the number of hon. Members opposite who have been subsidised throughout their lives by inherited wealth—
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)
Why does not the right hon. Lady look on the benches behind her?
§ Dr. Summerskill
—and has he condemned that system for the damage it inflicts by penalising thrift and undermining the virtues of independence? There is indeed a "cleavage of political philosophy" on this question.
I would remind right hon. and hon. Members that, years ago, there was a debate in this House on a proposal that the aged should be given 5s. a week pension. That was at a time when the workhouses were full of old people who had worked since they were children, and the proposal drew from a Conservative Member an impassioned protest that such action would undermine the moral fibre of the nation. Apparently circumstances may change, but Tory political instincts remain the same.
Let us look at those who, tonight, will be listening to a broadcast account of this debate and whose "independence" may be undermined if they are given a few extra shillings, and who may "fail to exercise thrift and the virtues of self-help." For the most part, these old men and women were born towards the end of the last century. As children, a large number of them toiled in the mills and factories to make Britain prosperous. The people we are talking about today are those who, at the height of their working powers, earned about £1 a week in agriculture, or 30s. in the pits, and corresponding rates in other trades. Women were used as sweated labour in the cotton mills and workshops.
These are the people for whom we are asking for an increased pension today. The Minister serves in a Cabinet of men not one of whom has intimate knowledge of the matter under discussion. There is certainly a "cleavage of political philosophy" between the two sides of the House—a fundamental cleavage—of which the country is becoming aware. The Minister must not underestimate the intelligence of the old-age pensioners. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] They are aware that the Government are prepared to use them for political purposes.
Let us see what is stated in their paper this week and what is said by their general secretary who, so far as I know, has not identified himself with either 231 political party. I am sure that the Minister knows the general secretary. Most of us know him and we know what kind of man he is. Let us hear what he has to say in the November issue of "The Old Age Pensioner," in answer to the Prime Minister's speech at the Tory Conference, when he criticised the Labour Party for their attitude towards the pensioners. The general secretary of the National Federation of Old Age Pensions Associations said this:Now, let us be quite fair in this matter, and point out that the Labour Party did, as soon as they came into power in 1945, at least make some attempt to mitigate the miseries of the aged people, for they did raise the pension from its appalling 10s. a week to 26s. Granted,"—he is being quite fair—this was not enough, but it did show at least an awareness of the position; granted that their subsequent performance left much to be desired"—
§ Dr. Summerskill
I would ask hon. Gentlemen to wait—but can the Conservative Party feel any more elated by their own performance during the past three years? True, they added 2s. 6d. to the 4s. which had already been given by the Labour Party just before they left office. Sir Winston's gibe at the Labour Party … can be equally applied to his own party, who also 'looked on helplessly,' for the only attempt they made to remedy a deficiency of 5s. was to give a meagre 2s. 6d.—less than 5d. a day to poor people who needed at the very least a further 2s. 6d. a day if they were to be able to live in any decency.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I will tell hon. Gentlemen what is said later.… pensioners have votes and now know how to use them.During the last three years I have observed that the Government's attitude to old-age pensions has been consistent with their handling of every social Measure. Whether it has been the Food and Drugs Bill of last week, the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Measure, or the question of maternity grants, the Government have deferred taking action until pressed by the Opposition. All these great human issues have been subordinated time after time to the commercial interests of their political friends.
The callous treatment of the aged which we denounce today is punishment 232 inflicted upon those whose expectation of life is necessarily short. Any action taken must be immediate. The very old have no future; they cannot live on dreams.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Osbert Peake)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:notes with satisfaction that the improvements in the financial and economic position of the country which have resulted from the policies followed by Her Majesty's Government now make it possible to raise pensions and increase benefits both under the insurance schemes and for war pensioners and their widows, thus completing the removal of the injustices brought about by the late Government; welcomes the declaration of Her Majesty's Government to lay before this House at the earliest possible moment proposals to this end maintaining the contributory basis of the insurance schemes and renews its pledge of support for their speedy enactment.The House will, I hope, excuse me if I begin my speech upon a slightly less contentious and partisan note than that struck by the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill). There is today a growing appreciation of and interest in the needs and requirements of elderly people. There is a new climate of public opinion. This, I think, is largely due to the widespread adult education resulting from the use of the radio and the television. One can hardly turn a knob without hearing something about the elderly people and their needs, and there is a programme this evening at 9.10 which may commend itself to hon. Members.
We all welcome this new attitude toward the problems of the elderly, which are certainly not confined entirely to their financial needs. Much is being done, and increasingly, by voluntary effort to remedy the loneliness from which old people suffer, especially when they have no children, and to make their remaining years more full of happiness than otherwise they would be.
When we come to consider, as we are considering this afternoon, their financial position, counsel is much darkened by the woeful, and I sometimes think the wilful, ignorance and misapprehension propagated by some organs of the popular Press. I must stress for a few 233 minutes, for it is vital to any consideration of this matter, the distinction and the difference between National Insurance and National Assistance.
The word "pension" has been much abused. Nobody quite knows whether, by a pension, we are indicating a payment payable as of right, due by virtue of contributions, or whether we mean a payment subject to a test of means by the National Assistance Board. The Assistance Board makes up the income, whatever it may be and whether it be from a National Insurance pension or anything else, to what the Board has recommended and Parliament has approved as the proper assistance scale. We must face the fact that assistance must always—it always has and necessarily it must—involve a test of means. Gifts of Exchequer money could not be justified without inquiry.
I do not think there is any contention about that between either side of the House, but hardly any organ of public opinion seems to realise that the insurance pension, since its inception at the 10s. rate in 1926, has never been sufficient for the average pensioner to live on unless he had some other resources. That I think is true even for those few weeks in 1946, after the 26s. rate was first introduced. I doubt whether anyone on the benches opposite would claim that at that time 26s. was sufficient for all the needs of the average pensioner; nor does anyone seem to realise that about three out of four of the insurance pensioners possess other resources. These resources come from personal savings, in many cases from part-time earnings, and from other pensions earned in the course of their employment.
The House may be interested to know that as a result of an inquiry we made recently we found that no fewer than three out of every 10 persons starting to draw the insurance pension today have a second pension from some other source. Moreover today, by deferring their retirement, people are earning the much higher rates of pension provided under the National Insurance Acts. I do not think it is realised very widely by the public that the one pensioner in four who comes to the Assistance Board gets a supplement to his pension which averages 14s. No one has to live or even try to live on the insurance pension of 32s. 6d.
§ Mr. Peake
I should think it is 6s. or 7s., but I will see that the correct figure is produced.
The point I am making is a simple one. The National Federation of Old Age Pensions Associations, to which reference has been made, have put forward a demand for a 50s. universal pension. I am pointing out that the recipient of the insurance benefit who has no other resources—the one in four who has no other resources—and comes to the Board, is supplemented to the tune of 14s., bringing his income up to 46s. 6d. As often such a person has other resources which are disregarded by the board in computing his needs, there are not many cases where anyone has to try to live on less than 50s. a week at present.
Lastly—and this is a point on which a lot of misunderstanding exists—it is not generally realised that one of the sources of income taken into account in full in assessing need by the board is the National Insurance pension. This is fundamental to the whole Beveridge conception of supplanting assistance by insurance payments. The reason why the National Insurance pension is taken into account in full is that assistance is designed to bring income up to a certain level, and any increase in income from insurance pension or any other regular source automatically reduces correspondingly the weekly grant of National Assistance.
We all hoped in 1944, I think, that incomes earned as of right, by contributions, would become the rule and that grants of assistance after test of means would become the exceptional method of providing for misfortune and old age. It is, therefore, obvious from what I have said that the cry of "Raise the Pension" is ambiguous in any event and might, in fact, be misleading. What most people mean, I think, although they do not themselves know it, when they cry, "Raise the pension," is, "Raise the National Assistance scale."
§ Mr. Shurmer
The right hon. Gentleman has stated, although he has veiled it, what is to happen to 1½ million pensioners; they will receive an increase in old-age pensions but will, in fact, get nothing because it will be deducted from the National Assistance, on which they are compelled to live as an addition to their pension.
§ Mr. Peake
The hon. Member can put his case as he likes, but perhaps he will now permit me to make my case. I listened courteously to the right hon. Lady.
May I say this about the National Assistance Board: it is not an easy target for hon. Members opposite to shoot at. It has made a very great success of its job. It has done what is thought to be impossible in the Civil Service; the officials have been courteous, they have been kindly, they have been humane. I think everybody, without exception, approves of the work of the National Assistance Board. In fact, I have heard representatives of the National Federation of Old Age Pensions Associations themselves say that the Assistance Board is the old-age pensioners' best friend.
The Assistance scales are higher in purchasing power, and have been higher in purchasing power over the last two years, since the increases made in 1952. than at any previous time in the history of the board. The scale has been 59s. for a married couple over the last 2¼ years, which compares with 40s. from 1948 to 1950 and with 43s. 6d. from 1950 to the autumn of 1951. Whatever index he may use, no one can show that the 59s. today is worth as little as the 40s. and the 43s. 6d. were in the three years to which I have referred. Moreover, the board exercises wide powers of giving discretionary additions, and in no fewer than 600,000 cases—one in every three of the cases which it handles—it gives extra money grants, amounting on an average to about 5s. a week.
The only valid ground on which an increase in the Assistance scales and the supplements to insurance by the board could be claimed today would be that so much has national prosperity increased in the last three years that the poorest people, and particularly the aged poor.
236 are entitled to a larger share of the nation's cake than the 1952 scales, the highest scales ever introduced, give them at present.
Let us have a look at the claim of the insurance pensioners, as opposed to those who are in receipt of a supplement from the National Assistance Board. Their case for a rise is based on different grounds. Their case is that they are not getting what we all intended they should get when we fixed the scale of insurance pensions in 1946. Inflation in the years following 1946 reduced that 26s. steadily and rapidly. The increases made to some of the pensioners, and to some of the pensioners only, in 1951, by the Government of which the right hon. Lady was a member, and the increases made by our Government in 1952, have not yet wholly restored the 1946 values which those pensioners were given and which, in our view, they ought to have restored. It would be a simple act of justice, we believe, to give back to the pensioners, at any rate, the value which their pensions bore in 1946.
I apologise for the length and the complexity of these introductory remarks, but this distinction between assistance and insurance is vital and fundamental to any informed discussion about the problem of the needs of old age. The question is, on what sort of income do we want these old people to have to rely? And to find the right answer to that is the problem which faces us again today, as it faced us in 1943. Do we want our old people to be dependent on a grant, to get which they must show need, or do we want them to receive an annuity earned by virtue of contributions paid into an insurance fund? That is the big issue.
I must now turn for a few moments to the Motion which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have placed on the Order Paper. This is a Motion of censure on the Government. On 21st July they had a somewhat similar Motion on the Order Paper calling for immediate action in the pensions scheme. That was defeated by 298 votes to 268 and the Amendment which I had moved on that occasion was then agreed to without a Division. Let me read what the Amendment said:That this House, while taking note of the action of Her Majesty's Government in 1952 237 in increasing pensions and national insurance benefits and of its success in stabilising the cost of living since that date, pledges its support for further improvements as soon as the current review of all the financial and other problems involved has been completed?No voice was raised and no vote taken upon that matter. The House then agreed, without a Division, that we should await the result of the current review before taking any further action.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The right hon. Gentleman has been in the House for a long time and he knows perfectly well that it is normal Parliamentary practice to take only one vote.
§ Mr. Peake
It may well be normal Parliamentary practice, but there was nothing whatever to prevent right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite from dividing against the Government.
What has happened since 21st July for us to abandon what we decided on that date by accepting that Amendment? What has happened for us, at this eleventh hour, when the review is almost completed, to abandon that decision and to ignore the statutory procedure embodied in the 1946 Act?
§ Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
Is the Minister aware that the statement he is making is just about as silly as the statement made by one of his hon. Friends, the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) who told people in a Liverpool constituency that we were chasing each other with knives around the House of Commons corridors.
§ Mr. Peake
I shall be going to Liverpool very soon. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite know that something good is to come out of this review, not only for the old-age pensioners but for the sick, the unemployed, the war pensioners, widows and even expectant mothers. They have a natural anxiety with which I can sympathise, to step in 238 and say, "Oh, the Tories are only doing this because we demanded it." When we announce what we are going to do, they will say that it is niggardly—we can forecast that now—and will go on to say, "Too little and too late." We all know the form.
They say, "It would be even better if we could hustle the Minister into some ill-considered, ill-advised, emergency action. We should then get the credit for compelling him to act and the Tories would get the discredit for the muddle, mess, chaos and confusion which are bound to ensue."
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
The right hon. Gentleman is not talking to the Primrose League.
§ Mr. Peake
The right hon. Gentleman for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) knows a lot about the mess and muddle which ensues from ill-advised and ill-considered action in this field. Let him look at the Parliamentary record for the winter of 1946 and see how he came to this Box week by week to apologise about the literally hundreds of thousands of pensioners who had not got their books.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Yes, it is quite true. But will the Minister not also accept that when we had to put these pension payments into operation I had to take an organisation which had been broken up and scattered all over the country, in all kinds of places? When I left office I left him a good organisation.
§ Mr. Peake
I accept that we now have a very fine organisation. But I said that 1946 was an example of the chaos, confusion and muddle and of the bitter disappointment which can be caused to old-age pensioners if the machine breaks down. I am quite determined—as the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West was determined in 1951—that this machine shall not break down this time.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the Parliamentary record. Would he refer to the one for the 24th May last when he denied in the House, in reply to me, that there was any appreciable rise in the cost of living? Upon what is his argument now based?
§ Mr. Peake
I shall be going to one either. Perhaps the hon. and learned 239 Gentleman will have the good fortune to catch Mr. Speaker's eye and make a point to which a reply can be given.
It may reasonably be asked why we did not take emergency action last summer, so that we could have increased pensions before Christmas of this year. Of course, if decency and humanity had demanded emergency action, then it would have been forthcoming without hesitation, as it was forthcoming in 1952 as soon as we took office. But there really is no evidence at all of hardship which could not be avoided by recourse to the National Assistance Board. The figures of food consumption given yesterday, in answer to a Parliamentary Question, were a complete answer to these charges of starvation.
§ Dr. Summerskill
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question on the subject of books? This is very important. Apparently, the whole thing is being delayed for months because books are not forthcoming. The right hon. Gentleman said that there was no evidence that they were needed. Has he read the debate in March and what his Parliamentary Secretary said before the Budget, when he very broadly hinted that something would be done? I know something of the status of Parliamentary Secretaries. They do not make these statements unless they are informed. If he was told to say that, why did not the right hon. Gentleman put the printing order in hand?
§ Mr. Peake
I am glad that the right hon. Lady has reminded me of that point. Does she really think we could proceed to change the insurance scheme without any statutory authority? She has grossly misrepresented the hon. Member who was then Parliamentary Secretary when he said, with my authority, that he hoped we should see improvements in the pensions in the lifetime of this Parliament—and they will be made.
§ Dr. Summerskill rose——
§ Mr. Peake
In June of last year, the National Federation of Old Age Pensions Associations sent to its numerous members all over the country hundreds 240 of thousands of copies of leaflets, a copy of which I hold in my hand and which some hon. Members may have seen. It is in the worst possible taste and has a picture of a corpse——
§ Mr. Peake
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. It is a skeleton that has been over-printed. This is how the leaflet begins:The Chancellor of the Exchequer has kindly described you"—It is addressed to old-age pensioners—as a 'first priority,' so the next time you cook your Sunday dinner of a few potatoes, a little onion, and an Oxo cube, stick out your neck and say, 'I am a first priority.' It might make you feel better, though I doubt it.It goes on:Don't these people make you sick? People who smoke cigars which cost as much as your pension.…
§ Mr. Peake
It goes on:In our last survey we got just over 2,000 replies. This time, we want not less than 50,000, and these should be easy to get if you are sincere in your demand for a fair pension. If we do get 50,000 then we can certainly convince the Government and the public that you are suffering privation and want. … so the very next thing you must do if you mean to be militant is to sit down and fill in the form below, and do, please, stick to the true facts.The Federation asked for 50,000 replies and circulated millions of these leaflets all over the country. At the end of two months, at the end of August, they sent me 15——
§ Mr. David Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division) rose——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
Order. If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes rose——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I must ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to resume his seat if the right hon. Gentleman does not give way.
§ Mr. Peake
No, I would not.
In June and July of this year, we were already in the year of the first great quinquennial review. In 1952, we had a mandate from the electors; but action in the summer of 1954 would have attracted charges of electioneering. The right hon. Lady opposite went up to the by-election in Liverpool the other day. She made a speech, which was reported in the "Liverpool Daily Post" and in the "Liverpool Echo." She asked why the delay of nearly a year, and went on:It is most significant that an increase in the pension is going to be made in the spring, and we all know that there is likely to be a General Election next year. This callous exploitation of the old-age pensioner cannot be forgiven.
§ Mr. Peake
Well, the right hon. Lady and her hon. and right hon. Friends opposite ought to know something about the subject. Who was it rigged the redistribution of seats in 1948 to give the Labour Party 17 extra safe seats? Who was it who deliberately withheld action—the right hon. Lady laughs, but this is not quite so funny—to improve pensions in the autumn of 1950 and arranged for the increase to take place on the very eve of the poll in 1951?
Here am I, with a dog-like devotion, standing here and following meticulously, 242 sedulously and most expeditiously the path of moral and statutory duty laid down in the 1946 Act passed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the right hon. Lady calls it electioneering. God rest her soul, if that is a Parliamentary expression.
I reaffirm my undertaking to make a statement before the House rises for the Christmas Recess, and I very much hope that it will be possible to make some progress with the Bill itself, possibly even to complete it, before the House rises for Christmas, but I do want to say——
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Whatever difficulty my right hon. Friend may be in on that point—[HON MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I thought the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. friends would like that interruption—may I suggest to him that there is no reason why he should be in any difficulty about the figure that he ought to be able to use before Christmas? He has repeatedly said in the course of this speech that the least that ought to happen is that pensions should be increased to such a figure as would restore the purchasing value in 1946. That is an easily ascertainable figure. In the right hon. Gentleman's office, they could tell it to him in half an hour. He therefore knows.
§ Mr. Peake
What I was trying to get from the Front Bench opposite was a statement on the immediate increase in 243 pension which they have demanded. I have here a pamphlet which has something to say on the subject, and I brought it in case I could not get an answer. I must confess that I do not know what the party opposite are waiting for. I am waiting for the report of the Government Actuary. Are they waiting for it? What are they waiting for? Here is "Challenge to Britain," issued in June, 1953, containing:… a programme of action for the next Labour Governmentand what it says is this:the next Labour Government will immediately restore all National Insurance benefits to the purchasing power which these commanded when the National Insurance Scheme was introduced.I have given those figures—
§ Mr. Peake
There will be an annual review and all that—that is, what the right hon. Gentleman said so definitely in 1946 was not possible—There will be an annual review of the cost of living, and in any year in which there has been an increase, immediate steps will be taken to ensure that the real value of benefits, pensions or allowances is restored.His immediate action seemed to be to restore National Insurance benefits to the purchasing power which they had when the scheme was introduced. I have given these figures in answer to Questions in the House—4s 9d. single and 6s. 3d. married. Are these the figures on which the right hon. Gentleman worked? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I really think that it is a pathetic exhibition when a Motion censuring the Government is put down demanding immediate action on pensions and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot even say what the amount of the increase ought to be. I am waiting to study two reports.
I should also like to know, quite apart from the question of the rate, what would be the date upon which the right hon. Lady would bring about an improvement, if she were responsible for the government of the country today.
Most people know that pensions are paid by means of books of 52 weekly orders, which are security documents, similar to a cheque or money order. These books are held by pensioners and 244 exchanged as they run out at the rate of about 80,000 a week. The pensioners affected by these proposals are, therefore, at any moment holding about 75 million of these security documents; and a steady stream of additional books of orders is going out week by week to them. All these orders must be replaced either by orders for the new rates, or by amending orders, properly authenticated, before the Post Office officials can pay the new pensions.
I would ask hon. Members to remember that. Some of them have suggested that this money might be paid out without our taking the usual precautions. I think it would be agreed by hon. Members on both sides of the House that that would be an entirely irresponsible approach to this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] What I have just said is a long quotation from a speech made by the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West, when moving the Second Reading of the National Insurance Bill on 26th April, 1951, and it will be found in Vol. 487, col. 592 of the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I agree with every word of it. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that in my opening speech I. said specifically that this printing would take a long time. I have had experience of it, and that is precisely what I told the House then. What I am saying now is that the right hon. Gentleman could have started at the beginning of the year.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
The right hon. Gentleman knows that he could have introduced the legislation in April as was done in 1951. The increased pension would be in force by now.
§ Mr. Peake
That interruption stresses the obvious. I said it myself, but I also explained that we did not do it because the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends would have been the very first to accuse us of electioneering.
I cannot give firm dates for this operation until I can announce our policy to the House, but I can tell the House that we shall carry out a bigger operation, covering war pensions as well as old-age pensions, at a more difficult season of the 245 year than when the party opposite did it in 1951, and when our offices are depleted by sickness among the staff. We shall also do it in a shorter time than was taken in 1951.
It may well be three weeks or a little more before I can unfold the complete plan to the House and the country. When I do, it will be a good plan. It will give satisfaction to my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House and to the old-age pensioners and the war disability pensioners. When I announce it, we shall watch the faces of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House, to see whether or not it gives them any satisfaction.
If hon. Members opposite would stop talking so loudly, there is one thing I would like to say before I resume my seat. On this side of the House we have taken our stand, as the Prime Minister made clear in his speech at Blackpool, in favour of the insurance principle, that is to say, in favour of pensions paid as of right without a means test by virtue of contributions, rather than by grants of assistance subject to a test of means. What the famous Beveridge Report said upon this point I believe to be profoundly true. It said:The insured persons themselves can pay and like to pay, and would rather pay than not do so. It is felt and rightly felt that contribution, irrespective of means, is the strongest ground for repudiating a means test.On this question of insurance or assistance, as on all others, there is a cleavage in the Socialist ranks. Hon. Members opposite do not know what their policy is. The actions and speeches of the Labour Party leave me in great doubt whether that party really believes in contributory insurance and really wishes to rebuild the insurance scheme and make it what we want to see it, the first line of defence against poverty and the basic provision for old age. During the term of office of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, National Assistance scales were increased three times and only on the third occasion was there any corresponding increase in the insurance pension; and then it was limited only to some pensioners. It did not go to the whole pensioner population.
I hold in my hand a very long and, I think, rather dull letter, dated 25th July, 1950, to the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) explaining why 246 the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West, found it impossible to increase the Insurance pension at that time at the demand of the National Federation of Old Age Pensions Associations.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether, if and when he intends to increase the basic pension, he intends to lift up the National Assistance scale by a similar amount?
§ Mr. Peake
The hon. Gentleman surely knows that the initiative with scales of assistance lies fairly and squarely on the National Assistance Board, and has done so ever since the Act of 1934, which was re-enacted in 1948 by the Labour Government. The letter to which I refer makes me wonder whether the right hon. Lady really believes in the contributory insurance principle. After going into a great many figures to show that insurance pensions could not possibly be increased, she ends as follows:I am afraid that at the present time we cannot contemplate incurring expenditure of anything like this order. We must make the best use of our resources by concentrating any extra payments on those cases where there would otherwise be hardship, and as you know we have recently increased the scale rates of National Assistance with this end in view.
§ Dr. Summerskill
The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt recall that I asked him a specific question on the subject. Will he tell the House what is to be his attitude towards National Assistance? What he has just said is rather ambiguous. Does it mean that he is going to abolish National Assistance?
§ Mr. Peake
The right hon. Lady is trying to darken counsel. We have made it clear that we favour insurance against the assistance principle. I am pointing out the great inconsistency between herself and the right hon. Gentleman for Llanelly who sits beside her on this question of insurance. The letter seems to imply that the right hon. Lady thought that assistance rather than insurance was the right weapon to rely on for meeting the needs of the elderly people.
§ Mr. Peake
I cannot give way again. I want the House to appreciate the very big cleavage between the right hon. Lady and the right hon. Member for Llanelly, 247 who is to wind up the debate for the Opposition tonight. In our debate on 21st July this year, the right hon. Lady said:It is inevitable that if insurance benefits are increased National Assistance must follow."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 1375.]She looked forward to, and expected, a corresponding increase in the Assistance scales if and when the insurance pension was raised. That was her attitude.
But let me now read to her what the right hon. Member for Llanelly said in winding up that debate, because it is directly opposite to what had been enunciated by the right hon. Lady. What he said was:I have previously said that I wanted to raise the basic pension before raising the basic National Assistance scales. It is not only the fact that the number of persons seeking assistance is increasing all the time which worries me, though if that goes on it will undermine the scheme and break it down. I am also worried by the number of people who will not apply for assistance.… Why is that? At 65 they make do with their pension until they exhaust their savings, and then, when everything has gone, they have to swallow their pride. I do not want that to happen. I want these people to get a pension and to keep their dignity and pride."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July. 1954; Vol. 530, c. 1476–7.]With those sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman I am in complete accord, and I commend them to the House as my final words on this subject this evening.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
The old-age pensioners as a whole will be bitterly disappointed by the grudging, reluctant and ambiguous speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance. In style it was reminiscent of Scrooge. In matter it was reminiscent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Indeed, in spite of its frivolity, no one can say that his speech was a labour of love. On the contrary, it is impossible to describe it as anything other than a desiccated analysis, uninformed in the slightest degree by the light of humanity.
The fact is that despite the sordid imputations put forward from the opposite side of the House, and supported this morning in the editorials of "The Times" and the "Manchester Guardian," had it not been for the initiative of the 248 Opposition in raising this matter, the voice of the old-age pensioners would certainly not have been heard in this House, and equally so their case would have been allowed by the Government to go by default. The only consistent champions in this House of the old-age pensioners have been my hon. Friends on these benches.
The reason the Government have at last found themselves urged to give some vague promises to the old-age pensioners has been that the Conservative Party is afraid of the organised power of the old-age pensioners. We all know that in the country today there is no single organised body of opinion which is electorally more powerful than that of the old-age pensioners. We know that had it not been for the pressure of the old-age pensioners' federation, expressed through their local organisations up and down the country, were it not for the fear of their electoral power, we should not today be in a position to extract even those vague, limited promises which the right hon. Gentleman has been willing to concede.
What has been the attitude of the Government hitherto, even taking into account what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon? The old-age pensioners asked for bread and they were given statistics. They asked for a Christmas bonus and they have been fed with promises. They have asked for their rights and they have been thrown a bone.
I must confess that I listened with astonishment to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food when, in reply to a Question yesterday, he said that the old-age pensioners today are eating more than they were eating in 1951. I cannot help feeling that the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) has a single prescription, and that is a bromide.
§ Mr. Edelman
The old-age pensioners of to-day are dying from a surfeit of bromides offered to them by the party opposite. The tragedy of the position of the old-age pensioners is that consistently they have been put off with promises, they have been duped by vague suggestions that they were going to receive benefits, and eventually, when the apparent benefit was put before them, they were 249 found to be even worse off than they were to begin with.
It may be that a certain section of the old-age pensioners—those who have some private resources or other opportunities of supplementing their pensions—in the freer circumstances of food today, are eating more than they were in 1951, but the great majority of old-age pensioners are living on a subsistence diet, and they are suffering because of the steady and inexorable rise in the cost of living.
Let me briefly illustrate from a few representative prices the plight in which the old-age pensioner finds himself today. We know that since the present Government came into power in 1951 butter has gone up by 1s. 2d. a lb., bacon by 1s. 2½d. a lb., carcase meat by 7d. a lb., sugar by 2d. a lb., milk by 3d. a quart, flour by 2¾d. a lb., tea by 2s. 8d. a lb. and coffee by 2s. 10d. a lb. These are basic foods. They are not luxuries. They are the fundamental foods on which the old-age pensioner depends for his basic diet.
Despite the supplements which the right hon. Gentleman was talking about, the old-age pensioner, with his already inadequate pension, finds that he is progressively less able to maintain the meagre standard of life to which his pension at its highest entitled him. These are very grim figures, although in themselves they convey very little of the deprivations which the old-age pensioner has to suffer. My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summer-skill) has referred to the cost of fuel, the increase in rents under this Government, and the hardships which the old-age pensioners will he called upon to face this Christmas.
The old-age pensioner is a person who, because of the progressive infirmity of old age, because of rheumatism, deafness and other ailments, has more and more to live an inward life. In those conditions, as every geriatrist knows, the old person is forced more and more to regard the small things of his life as being vital, essential and important.
Every doctor knows that the most important thing to an old person living in poverty is his food. The greatest event in the daily life of the old-age pensioner is his meals, and if he succeeds in obtaining satisfactory meals that is a victory. Consequently, it is not merely a matter 250 of statistics. We are here concerned with a grave and vital human problem.
When we on this side of the House ask that old-age pensions should be raised forthwith, we are talking on behalf of people who may not measure their lives in decades. They are people who in most cases measure their lives in terms of years, and even months. There are hundreds of thousands of old-age pensioners who will note very carefully what is said in this debate today, but who will certainly not live to enjoy the benefits which the Government dilatorily promise that they are going to introduce. That is why we on this side of the House have constantly insisted that the need for the introduction of old-age pension increases is something which cannot be deferred, but which must be done promptly.
There is no constitutional and no Parliamentary reason why legislation should not be promptly introduced to see that the old-age pensioners get something before Christmas. If there ever was any truth in the old adage that he who gives quickly gives twice, it is certainly true in the case of the old-age pensioners today. I am dealing with the question of Christmas, not merely because sentiment attracts our attention to the problem of the old-age pensioner at Christmas time, but because there is a very special psychological reason why the old-age pensioner, quite apart from his actual resources, will suffer more acutely than others with comparable difficulties.
The fact is that the old-age pensioner will feel his hardship more painfully and more acutely at Christmas time because, while office staffs and factory workers are receiving bonuses, and while largesse is being distributed and savings are being withdrawn in order to increase the opportunities for enjoyment of the festivities of the season, the old-age pensioner must sit in his corner, staring bleakly at a difficult present and at an uncertain future, unable to participate in, or to enjoy, those benefits which every person should enjoy at that season.
I read with very special care the leading article in "The Times," this morning, and I could not help feeling that it was invested with a very special form of meanness. I leave out for the moment the base motives which it imputes to the Labour Party, which throughout its career has consistently fought on behalf 251 of the old-age pensioner. I will leave out the fact that "The Times" imputes these sordid motives to the Labour Party, even though the Labour Party, as the champion of the old-age pensioner, has a record which no one can impute.
I wish to refer most particularly, however, to the slight insinuation in the leading article that there should be some sort of revival of the means test for old-age pensioners. When the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, I could not help feeling that when he laid stress on supplementary relief he was, perhaps, echoing in some way the suggestion in "The Times." The leader states:The need for a fresh adjustment is undeniable, but it does not follow that in the case of insurance pensions the aim should be, without other changes, simply to restore the true level of value intended for them in 1946, when the original rates were enacted.A little further down—and this is the point I wish to stress—it says:… other advanced nations, such as Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and Denmark, are also unable to provide without making at least a substantial part of all payments to pensioners conditional on proof of financial need.
§ Mr. Edelman
My hon. Friend says that it is untrue, but, however that may be, "The Times" is definitely suggesting that there should be introduced some form of means test in order to make it harder for those who may have adequate means to obtain old-age pensions. This represents a basic and traditional Tory attitude.
I shall ask the Minister of Defence, who will be replying for the Government, whether, in fact, this represents the policy of the Government. Is he prepared to disown the suggestion contained in "The Times" leader, because, if he is not, the old-age pensioner will have just reason to suspect that, despite the whole complex machinery which the Government have set up to investigate his conditions, despite quinquennial reviews, and despite all the specious promises made by the Government, the Government have in mind the introduction of some form of means test in order to apply their new form of social insurance.
The old-age pensioners will have the gravest suspicion of the Government's intention, and will suspect that before 252 they receive the benefit of the retirement pension they will, under the Government's new dispensation, once again have to undergo a means test inquisition, and, thereafter, will be harried to their death by the men from the Ministry who will come to inquire whether there is a piano in the parlour.
I do not wish to beg the question that there is a very grave problem in regard to our ageing population. We all know that in 1900 the proportion of old-age insurance pensioners to the working population was 1 to 10. Since then, the proportion has risen to 20 to every 100 of the working population, and within another generation it is likely that the figure will be 30 to every 100 of the working population. That is the vital problem of today.
No one suggests that the Government are ungenerous. We all know that the Government have shown considerable generosity to the bankers. Since the reduction of the Bank rate, they have made a contribution of £800 million a year to the bankers. We know that the Government have shown considerable generosity to the industrialists by reducing their Excess Profits Levy and Profits Tax to the extent of £200 million a year. Who can accuse the Government of lack of benevolence when we read of the vast fortunes being made by speculators and sordid company promoters in the financial market? Who can accuse them of a lack of benevolence when they allow such enormous social injustices to take place?
The fact is that we on this side of the House are asking that something should be done today for the old-age pensioner. We complain that the generosity and benevolence of the Government have hitherto been preserved for the undeserving, and we now ask that the old-age pensioners, who deserve so well of the country, should not be given vague and insubstantial promises for the future, but should receive their just deserts without further delay.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Mr. J. B. Godber (Grantham)
The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) covered a fairly wide field in his speech, but I do not propose to follow him in his arguments about the leading article in "The Times." He seemed rather involved in regard to that, and I 253 do not think that it is my place to follow him too closely on that issue.
There was, however, one issue which he raised at the beginning of his speech which seemed to me to be very significant. He talked of the electoral power of the old-age pensioner. Is that the real reason why the Opposition have chosen this as the subject for a Motion of censure on two occasions? Is that the reason they have chosen to move it again today, two days before the West Derby by-election? If not, it is an extraordinary coincidence. That is what is behind all the crocodile tears we have seen this afternoon and in recent weeks. It is time some hon. Members opposite were frank about it.
The hon. Member also mentioned the need for a Christmas bonus, or some kind of increase before Christmas. That is an attractive thought, and no doubt many of us would like to see it, but this is not the first occasion upon which such a thing has been requested. It was asked for in the last winter in which the Socialist Party were in power. On 28th November, 1950, the right hon. Lady herself was asked that question. Her reply was short and abrupt. She said:I have no power to do this."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 919.]If she had no power, the party opposite, by urging us to carry out such a move, is certainly showing its belief in the powers of this Government.
I now want to say one or two words about the right hon. Lady's speech. It was a most robust performance; suitable for any soapbox—I hope she will forgive me for saying that—but I could not help smiling when she talked about the last Budget being devoid of sympathy. I have recently been reading quite a lot of interesting literature in the Library, and I happened to read the Budget speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) in April, 1951, when he said, talking about social insurance and assistance:As far as I know, nobody has proposed any cut in these payments.That sort of attitude is the height of callousness that one could possibly achieve in approaching this subject. He went on to give details of the pensions assistance which he proposed to give and 254 he stated that the cost would be £39 million a year. He said:That is all that we can afford. I must make it plain that we are not able to raise any other social insurance benefits at the moment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th April, 1951; Vol. 486, c. 848–850.]That seems to me to be just as devoid of sympathy as anything which the right hon. Lady could possibly have read into this year's Budget speech of my right hon. Friend. The right hon. Lady also referred to the delay which had occurred after making the promise. There may have been a delay, but it was no greater than that which occurred on more than one occasion in the life of the Socialist Administration, and she should recall that fact.
I do not want to spend all my time merely ridiculing the points raised by the Opposition, although it is very easy to do so, because I have long felt that there has been a need for something to be done for the pensioners. Ever since the early months of 1953, I have felt there was need for a further increase in pensions. Indeed, in the 1953 Budget debate, I am on record as having spoken on behalf of the pensioners. I should have liked to see some action taken to alleviate the needs of the pensioners long before now.
We cannot get away from the fact, however, that we had to meet a very grim financial situation when we came into office. We gave an interim payment to the pensioners to help them to a greater extent than had been done in 1951, and also to relieve the very great injustices which were done by the 1951 Act, whereby the Socialist Party gave pension increases for some but not all pensioners. That was a callous step if ever there was one, and it badly needed putting right.
Since that time it has become necessary to consider the quinquennial review and the report of the Phillips Committee, which are the two matters for which my right hon. Friend has repeatedly said that he found himself bound to wait before taking any definite steps. We must accept his view upon that point, however much we may regret the delay. I was glad that he brought out so clearly the effect of the National Assistance payments as a supplement to pensions, and 255 the fact that they are given to assist pensioners at this time. We all know that during the coming winter months pensioners will need all the assistance they can get.
I was glad that the hon. Member for Coventry, North mentioned the problem of the ageing population. We are all conscious of this question, and the need to see that the provision made for pensioners is within the ability of the country to bear. Whatever provision we make, unless the working population is able to prosper sufficiently it cannot carry the burden of an increasing number of old people.
We must face that fact. It is, therefore, only by expanding our economy and increasing the prosperity of all our people that we can hope to do greater justice to the aged. That is the way in which we should look at the problem. If we can still further expand our prosperity we can give the old folk a better deal.
We must, however, bear in mind the fact that as we increase the technical skill and the mechanical power available to the workers, so they will be able to work to a greater age if they so desire. When the amount of physical effort is reduced they may well be able to carry on effective productive work for a longer period. Even now, by continuing to work anything up to five years extra, they can earn a substantial increment to their pension.
I am not sure that that fact is sufficiently widely known, but it is encouraging to know that an increasing number of persons who reach pensionable age are taking advantage of it. I was heartened to read that no less than 40 per cent. of those persons who are reaching pensionable age are continuing to work. They are not all working for the full extra five years, but the average is as much as three years, and that enables them to add an extra 9s. a week to their pension when they retire. It is, of course, 3s. a week for each additional year worked.
That is a trend which should be encouraged to the maximum, and I am not sure that the incentive should not be made even greater in the review which is now taking place. It would benefit not only the old people but the country itself, 256 and I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider that point very carefully.
I want to turn again to the case of the Opposition. Why have they moved this Motion at this time? I can think of only three reasons. The first is that they thought the cost of living had risen so sharply recently. I think it is only fair to look at that point because, as I mentioned earlier, I have been concerned with this matter since early 1953, yet this intense pressure has come from the Opposition only since the middle of this summer. In April, 1953, the interim cost-of-living index stood at 141 points. Today it stands at 143. In that time it has risen only two points.
There was just as strong a case for bringing this matter forward 12 months ago as there is today. There was just as strong a case 12 months ago as there was in the summer. But that was not done. Why was it not done? Perhaps there was no by-election imminent. It may be that. I am not at all sure that there is not another reason, which I shall suggest in a moment.
Is it perhaps that everyone, and the workers in particular, are so much better off now under the Tories? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Do hon. Members opposite not agree? I am sorry that they do not agree with me, because I have here a page from the "Economist" of three weeks ago, and I am sure that they will agree with what is in the "Economist." The passage reads:Let's face it. Things aren't what they were. The face of Britain has changed. Money's changed pockets—and purses. Today … well, you have only to see where the most television aerials are to know where the spending money is. It's in the mass market—more than ever before.I should have explained, perhaps that this is an advertisement page in "The Economist." It continues:Is that why more and more shrewd advertisers are advertising in the 'Daily Herald'? It is. The 'Herald' with a daily readership of 6,786,000, has more readers per copy than any other mass circulation daily. Mostly better-off wage earners.Hon. Members opposite, apparently, do not agree with the "Daily Herald."
I said that the Opposition had three reasons for their present action. Is the third that they knew that the Government were going to increase pensions in any case, and were anxious to prevent 257 the Government having the credit for it? Is not that the real reason? Why cannot they be honest about it? They have seen this coming and were determined to try to see that we did not get the credit. There is no question that that is the real reason, if only they were honest with themselves. It is not, as I have shown, that the cost of living has risen so sharply in the last six, nine or 12 months, but because the Opposition know that the Government's policies have succeeded. They know that the Government are going to give the pensioners a square deal. They are afraid of the electoral results.
I must refer to the impatience for action shown by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They really have laid themselves wide open. After all, one has only to look back at their own record—and what a miserable record it is. They now want the whole thing to be done by Christmas, but when they introduced their own major Act in 1946 it took them six months to get the Bill, and another eight months before they got the payments into the hands of the pensioners. That was not very speedy.
In 1951 it took them 5½ months from the announcement to the actual payments during which time the cost of living had risen by 10 points. May I again remind the House that the index has risen only two points in the last 18 months? Those were the facts in 1951, and in that case there was a grim urgency. Indeed, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South himself said, in the Budget debate on 7th April, 1954:We put up the pensions in 1951 and I fully admit that even before the necessary Bill, which takes time to pass, had come into force, the rise in prices had gone beyond them …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 381–2.]The right hon. Gentleman there made two important admissions. The first was that the cost of living, during that time, was going up by leaps and bounds, and the other was that it took the Labour Government so long to bring in their Bill. That is the issue. That shows just how weak the party opposite are on this particular score. Let them, therefore, not chide us with being slow in these matters.
My right hon. Friend has indicated quite clearly this afternoon that he hopes to bring in a Bill as early as possible in the new Session. If hon. and right hon. 258 Gentlemen opposite really want to see the pensioners get the increases quickly, will they give the Government all possible assistance to get the Bill through at the earliest possible moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sit until Christmas."] Sit until Christmas, yes—and on Christmas Day, too, if necessary.
§ Mr. Godber
Nevertheless, I do hope that the Opposition will co-operate with the Government to get the increase quickly to the pensioners—an increase which has been made possible by the improved situation under a Tory Government.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
Which increase is the hon. Member talking about—the one the pensioners are to get next May? Or has he something else in mind?
§ Mr. Godber
If the right hon. Gentleman knows the date, he knows more than I do. It will be as soon as the necessary legislation can be passed by the House. I am not talking of any increase other than that mentioned by my right hon. Friend.
The case which the Minister has made today is extremely strong. It shows quite clearly the Government's intention; that the Government are determined to see that the old people should get a square deal.
§ Mr. Godber
I ask if hon. Members opposite will help to get this legislation through as quickly as possible, and I say that their present attitude is nothing but an electioneering move.
I believe that the old-age pensioners deserve something better than the cheap propaganda policy now being indulged in by the party opposite. I know the old-age pensioners in my Division just as hon. Members opposite know theirs—perhaps a little better. I know that mine realise that the Opposition's present move is just party trickery. I hope that, in the Division Lobbies tonight, we shall show that the Government are fully supported in the step which they are taking for the permanent benefit of all the pensioners.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Will Owen (Morpeth)
I crave the indulgence of the House for this initial submission of mine. The subject of this debate was foremost during the recent by-election at Morpeth. It is a matter which is not only of special importance in my constituency but is of general interest throughout the country.
I do not believe that 4 million old-age pensioners can be accused of political electioneering when they appeal to those in power to assist them in their difficulty. The difficulties in which they find themselves are unquestionable, and have not arisen only in recent weeks, but have been known to the Government for many months past, and so might have been listened to, so that measures might have been taken to alleviate their difficulties.
I suggest that this House will seek to solve the problem on broad humanitarian grounds. On those grounds alone, I feel that some immediate steps can be taken to meet the urgency of the present situation.
I think it wrong to assume that these people have made their nation-wide request on the basis of an organised effort. They have believed the statements that have been made over the past six months. They believed that they were statements of purpose and substance. When they were told that this is a prosperous Britain, they felt they had a right to ask for some meagre share of that potential prosperity.
When they ware told that consideration was being given to other sections of the community they felt an equal right to ask that their humble circumstances might also command the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They have felt that the problem of the increased cost of living is not resolved for them by juggling with the cost-of-living index; that does not meet their needs.
To promise that plans are in hand for tomorrow does not relieve the anxiety or the needs of today. These people, the aged population of Britain, have been compelled to solicit the interest of this House because of the rise in the cost of living, which has seriously affected their humble standards of existence. Therefore, they are asking that we should be prepared not only to promise that something will be done, even in the near 260 future, but to give them some early, indeed immediate, relief.
It has been suggested that the approaching festive season brings an opportunity for someone to become a Santa Claus in a major sense to these 4 million old-age pensioners. That appeal, I hope, will reach a heart capable of feeling more than a little sympathy, will be understood by a mind that is alert to the requirements of these people through knowledge of what they are.
It has been suggested that a decision must be taken whether to increase the basic pension or, alternatively, to provide facilities for meeting the needs from National Assistance. Those who know the old people best know their basic fear of making application for National Assistance is the fear of the means test, which has bitten so deeply into their lives in past years. It is not, therefore, to be expected that even a possible alleviation of immediate difficulties from National Assistance will meet the requirements of these people at this day.
I submit to the House, therefore, the simple appeal, willingness to support which has already been indicated on this side of the House, for the expedition of measures whereby some immediate alleviation of this problem can be achieved. I believe that such alleviation is practically possible before the end of the year.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I count myself fortunate to have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, at this stage of the debate for two reasons. First, because it gives me an opportunity to congratulate the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Owen) upon the maiden speech, which he has just delivered, and which, I am sure, has impressed the House with its eloquence and command. He may be sure that no speech delivered in this House which sincerely concerns itself with the condition of our people and derives from a direct acquaintance with it will ever fail of effect.
The second reason why I think I am fortunate in intervening at this point is that, though not in duty bound to do so, as was the hon. Member for Morpeth, I want to inject a somewhat uncontroversial contribution to the debate, since 261 it appears to me that the matters on which both sides of the House are agreed are of much greater importance for the future, of much greater importance to the nation, than the comparatively minor points upon which they disagree. However great may be the heat engendered between us by those minor disagreements, they will automatically be removed merely by the lapse of time.
If read in two or three months' time the terms of today's censure Motion will be quite meaningless, but the matters upon which both sides of the House will have decided together and without disagreement, the matters upon which they will decide when they come to pass through all its stages early in the coming Session the Bill which has been forecast today, will continue to concern Governments and the nation as a whole for years, and indeed decades, to come.
The basic matter upon which both sides of the House have shown themselves agreed is that in principle there ought to be a retirement pension of subsistence value—or higher, but at least of subsistence value—available, practically speaking, to all in this country without test of need. Broadly that is the point upon which both sides of this House find themselves coincident. Such is not the existing position, and it has not been the position since 1925 when contributory old-age pensions were first introduced.
From that time until now there have been two concurrent retirement pensions. One has been a subsistence pension available only upon proof of need. The other has been a pension of less value than the admitted subsistence standard at the time, but available without test of need upon fulfilment of certain contribution conditions. The contributions, however—this is a point on which I must enlarge later—have no necessary actuarial relationship with the size of this second retirement pension.
The position of having two concurrent retirement pensions was intentional from 1925 to 1946. At the introduction of the original Old-Age Pensions Act, 1925, the then Minister of Health made it clear that he regarded the contributory pension not as a complete safeguard against destitution but as a great assistance to people who were able to make some other provision for their needs in old age, as an appreciable leg-up in the form of 10s.
262 a week for an individual and 20s. a week for a man and wife both of pensionable age.
In 1946, the House took a different decision. Here again, there was agreement on the point. The House decided upon two great changes. The first change was to make the contributory retirement pension a subsistence pension. Whatever were the words actually used on both sides of the House at that time, that was the undoubted meaning of what was done in 1946; for in calculating the sum chosen for the retirement pension under the Act. Beveridge's figure of pre-war subsistence cost was multiplied by the rise hitherto in the then cost-of-living index.
Thus, the first great change, made legislatively in 1946, was that the contributory retirement pension was intended henceforth to be a subsistence pension. The second, and no less important, change was that contribution was made a practically universal obligation. Previously, since 1925, those who had been invited or compelled to secure some assistance in their old age by contributions had been a minority of the working population. After 1946, the whole population, practically speaking, was to be insured and the scheme was to be compulsory.
However, although that was the legislative intention, as laid down in the 1946 Act, it was never actually fulfilled; and, unintentionally, by reason of the fall in the value of money, we have still had, ever since 1946, the old position in which there was a contributory pension at a figure appreciably, and often very appreciably, below what was admitted to be subsistence level. We are now for the first time about to give reality in practice to those new principles upon which the House decided in 1946.
From a few months hence we shall have these three features in the insurance pension. It will be virtually universal; for after three years there will be no person, apart from accident or misfortune, who has not been able to fulfil the contribution conditions for a retirement pension. The pension will be at least at a subsistence level; this is implicit in the policy statement of the Labour Party and the words used by my right hon. Friend. And there is a third feature of great im- 263 portance, and that is that the new subsistence retirement pension, paid as of right without test of need, will have no practical connection actuarially with the contributions paid by the beneficiaries.
Let us be clear about this; the additional sums which will be paid to retirement pensioners under the new Bill will be no more earned by their contributions than if the corresponding sums were paid to them by way of National Assistance.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
Will the hon. Gentleman continue that argument and try to indicate how it squares with the speech of the Minister, who believes in the insurance principle?
§ Mr. Powell
I propose to devote the greater part of my speech to that matter.
At the moment I am asking the House to recognise that persons already retired who, under a future Bill, will receive increases in their retirement pensions, will no more have earned those increases by their contributions than if the increases had been paid by way of National Assistance. Consequently, we shall in future have what is, in fact, a universal subsistence retirement pension without test of need and without any necessary or more than formal connection with the contribution record.
It might have been possible a year ago, before the agreement on both sides of the House—it was really an agreement far beyond this House—had become evident, to take two routes from the point at which we had arrived. One course would have been to say that the prospects now are so different from those in 1946 that there is an arguable case for an insurance pension of less than subsistence value, that the apparent absurdity of inviting people, and, indeed, of compelling people, to contribute for a pension which, when they receive it, will be less than is necessary to keep body and soul together, is not a real absurdity in an age when an ever-increasing proportion of the population is being provided for in one way or another by supplementary pensions of various kinds.
That alternative is really no longer practicable politics. There can be no doubt that the demand of the country, photographed in the opinion of both sides 264 of the House, is that there shall be a retirement pension paid without test of need which is itself a minimum sufficient for the decent maintenance of body and soul.
Thus, the only remaining question to which in future the country and the Government will have to address themselves is whether the new form of retirement pension should continue to be paid in the form of an insurance benefit related, however distantly, to some form of contributory scheme. I find myself in very considerable doubt whether the form of insurance which is so clearly applicable to the other contingencies for which our insurance scheme provides—sickness, unemployment, widowhood and so on—will in the long run be found applicable, or at least convenient to apply, to this new form of retirement pension which the country so unmistakably demands.
Before we can answer that we have to look at, a related phenomenon of a fiscal character, something which the subjects of his late Majesty King Richard II would have recognised as a poll tax, which we in our generation know as "the stamp" or insurance contribution. This contribution, or tax paid at a flat rate by every employed person and every employer in respect of every employed person, is in the nature and, in a way, in the tradition of an assigned revenue. We have had whisky money for education; we have had the Road Fund for the roads—[interruption]—I chose the past tense intentionally—and we have here the National Insurance stamp which is a revenue, or, if I may use the rather odious word again, a poll tax, assigned to the provision of National Insurance benefits.
How is it that it is possible, I hope justly, to separate in the way I have done this fiscal arrangement from the retirement benefits which we have been discussing? That comes about in three ways. The first—and I think much the least important way—is the presence of an Exchequer contribution in any scheme of national insurance. We all recognise that the benefits of such an insurance scheme are the actuarial products not merely of the contributions, of the poll tax and the employers' tax—the tax upon the employment of labour—but also of an Exchequer addition.
265 That in itself would not seriously damage the relationship between contributions and benefits; but the two other factors are of much greater importance. The first of these factors was born simultaneously with the contributory old-age pension itself. It is what I might call the original sin of the contributory old-age pension, namely, the fact that, as it is impossible when we introduce a contributory scheme to wait, as we all individually in our private lives and in our private insurances must wait, 30 or 40 years before the scheme begins to operate, these schemes—the 1925 scheme just as much as the 1946 scheme—have been operated from the inception by the device of using current contributions to pay current benefits, of which the inevitable consequence has been the assumption of a fund where no fund exists. As a result of that, not only do we have a time-lag of a generation or a generation and a half before the persons who have paid the contributions come to receive the retirement benefits which they have earned, but even when they do, there is still an enormous and permanent accumulated deficit due to the assumed interest which is in fact not there because there is not a fund.
That was implicit in the 1925 Act just as much as in the 1946 Act, and it goes far to divorce the contributions which are paid from the benefits which are received. Indeed, both schemes explicitly started by divorcing the two, because they started by paying millions of people retirement pensions which ex hypothesi the beneficiaries could not have earned.
Finally, in a period of inflation such as we have come through, we have a third and almost equally powerful factor, that there is a demand, which cannot be resisted—that is saying, which ought not to be resisted—that the changed value of money shall be taken account of even in these pensions, which were supposed to be actuarially calculated.
Now, every time we put up insurance benefits, even though we make a corresponding increase in the contributions, we widen the gap between the contribution fund and the cost of the benefits, because only those entering into employment just when the change is made can pay the contributions for a sufficient length of time to earn the benefits. So every time this step-up in money values 266 has to take place, in order to compensate for the effects of inflation, we are magnifying the existing factors which tear apart contributions from benefits.
I hope, therefore, that I have not overstated the case by saying that we shall really have two parallel institutions existing side by side, which will have very little real connection with one another—on the one hand, the poll tax upon employees together with the tax paid by employers, and, on the other hand a subsistence retirement pension payable practically to everybody and practically independent of the individual's contribution record.
I think it is worth recalling what the proportionate figures involved are. The tax paid by the employee brings in at present, and will for years at present rates continue to bring in, roughly the level figure of £250 million a year, or, adding in the employers' contribution about £450 million a year. Let us relate that figure of £250 million or £450 million respectively brought in by the poll tax and the tax on employment of labour with the cost of the scheme on its present basis—and I must use the existing figures—when it matures about 1977.
At that time, after the payment of all other benefits has been met, only £150 million per annum out of the £450 million will remain over to meet the cost of retirement pensions at £700 million. What is left over after meeting what I might call the genuine insurance payments thus represents only about 20 per cent. of the cost of the retirement pension. That at the present moment is, I suggest, the true relationship between the fiscal phenomenon which we have been discussing and the retirement pension; and every increase which is made from now onwards in the size of the retirement pension will further reduce the proportion which the one figure bears to the other.
In these circumstances, I believe that the House, united as it is in determination to provide a means-test-free subsistence retirement pension, has very seriously to face this question, whether it is worth while trying to continue to treat this element in our social security system as an insurance element at all; whether there are really sound arguments for maintaining the whole as an insurance scheme, and not rather taking as insurance all the other benefits and meeting them genuinely year 267 by year on an actuarial self-respecting basis but putting the new retirement pensions on a similar basis to that which we have already in family allowances—a payment which is made without the forms of insurance, which is means-tested through taxation but not means-tested, as it were, at the source, and which is met as a charge upon the general revenue.
This is a matter which will engage the thoughts of the House, I believe, for some time to come. It is, perhaps, the major problem thrown up by the series of decisions of which the decision of the House tonight will be one. I think that we ought to interpolate into our arguments about the exact week or month of the change we are about to make a little consideration for this question of a more distant future.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
I am sure that I am voicing the sentiments of the whole House when I say that we all listened with complete attention to the observations of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). What he had to say struck at the whole basis of our conception of State insurance, and, speaking for myself, I was in a very substantial measure of sympathy with almost everything that he had to say. As to whether he will be able to convince the Minister of the correctness of his views, I am somewhat sceptical. The only complaint which I have to make about his speech is that he did not specifically say whether or not the particular plight of the old-age pensioner could be bettered in the immediate future. It is to that aspect to which I wish to draw the attention of the House.
I was sorely disappointed by the speech of the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), who moved the Motion, and with the speech of the Minister. The right hon. Lady devoted almost the whole of her speech to recriminations. As she spoke, I tried to imagine an old-age pensioner listening to her speech and wondering what satisfaction he could possibly derive from exchanging recriminations and exchanging charges of false motives. As far as the Minister was concerned, I at least expected him to indicate the measures which the Government proposed—after all, we have been promised 268 substantial measures for many months—and to give an indication of the timetable which the Government have in mind.
It seems to me that the real issue with which we are concerned tonight falls within a relatively narrow compass. It is an immediate human and administrative problem. That is why I deprecate—I hope I do not sound smug in saying so—the fact that almost every speaker, with the exception of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, has taken up time in trying to balance the relative records of one party or another in this field.
Both the Motion and the Amendment concede the existence of an injustice today. From the speech of the Minister last July, one would have thought that this point was not conceded, but clearly, by the wording of the Amendment, the existence of injustice in relation to the present payment of pensions and benefits is conceded. The sole point is, when the injustice should be put right, and how soon it can be put right.
Reference was made to what the then Parliamentary Secretary said as far back as March. With all respect to the Minister, the actual words used on that occasion by the Parliamentary Secretary were far stronger than the right hon. Gentleman suggested in his speech today. What the hon. Gentleman said was:It is, indeed, our aim that, should the finances and the economics of the country permit, the level of benefits and pensions should be restored without delay to the level which they had when the National Insurance Scheme was introduced."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 814.]That was a declaration that benefits and pensions should be restored to their proper level "without delay" when the economic state of the country permitted.
I think it will be conceded by the Government—I should have thought that they would concede it with pride—that the economic condition of the country has been such, during the last six months at least, as to warrant dealing with what they now recognise to be, and what undoubtedly is, a real injustice. The only question to which I wish to apply my mind is whether there is any difficulty in doing something to remedy this injustice without having to wait many months again.
269 Let me deal with just one category that is referred to in the Government Amendment: that is, the position of war pensioners and their widows. In this respect, the case is far stronger from the administrative point of view than in the case of pensioners generally. To alleviate the recognised injustice of this category, no legislation is required. All that is needed is an amendment to the Royal Warrant. Is there any reason why the Minister could not have announced today proposed changes in the Royal Warrant relating to war pensioners and war widows? Is there any reason why the administrative action to adjust that position should not be taken without delay? Is there any reason why this aspect could not be disposed of while legislation with regard to civilian pensions is being dealt with, and disposed of satisfactorily? I hope that the Government will deal with this issue later tonight.
With regard to the more general position of civilian pensions, pensions not connected directly with ex-Service men, both sides of the House are agreed that action is required and that the country can now afford to take that action. Today, the Minister again devoted a great deal of his time to trying to explain that people could run along to the National Assistance Board if they were in need, while, at the same time, the Government's own Amendment asserts that there is an injustice. The Government's case, as I understand it, is that they want to bring in a comprehensive Measure, and a Measure of considerable complexity—in the words of the Minister, "the biggest and boldest operation ever undertaken in this scheme."
Despite the fact that in March, 1954, the then Parliamentary Secretary talked about dealing with the situation without delay, the Government now advance two reasons for not doing something immediately. The first reason which is given is that we still await the quinquennial review and the Phillips report, and that it will be quite impossible to introduce comprehensive legislation until they are received and studied. According to the Minister, he is to make an announcement before the Christmas Recess; that is to say, unless I have misinterpreted his words, no Bill is to be introduced until the New Year. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The Minister has not told us when he 270 proposes to introduce the Bill. I shall be glad to be corrected, but I understood him to say that he will make an announcement before the Christmas Recess.
In any event, if the Bill is of the nature that the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, it will inevitably take some time to go through the House. We are concerned today with benefits and the question of whether it is practicable to give relatively immediate increases in those benefits. The Bill which the Minister envisages is bound to be complicated, and in some aspects it will be controversial. The Phillips report has had to deal with matters which include the raising of the age of retirement, particularly for women, the whole question of contributions and increases, and the share of these increases to be borne by the three classes of contributors. Those are matters, particularly the retirement age for women and the question of contributions, which of the nature of things, apart from any question of party controversy, are highly delicate subjects on which honest opinion is distinctly divided.
All I would say is that it is hardly fair to the House or to the importance of these issues that any Bill introduced should be hurried through. It would be grossly unfair to hon. Members to find themselves in the position of having to ask themselves, "Am I going to hold up giving benefits urgently needed to old people, or am I going to give adequate consideration to vital matters which are connected with our whole insurance scheme?" I say that everything possible should be done to avoid putting Members on either side of the House in that dilemma.
It is unlikely—I hope to be informed to the contrary—that the plight, which is the word used in the Motion, of old-age pensioners will be dealt with in any practical way for about five or six months. It is suggested that it is impossible from the point of view of sheer mechanics to do it any sooner. The quinquennial report and the Phillips report are not likely to throw much additional light on the matter with which we are concerned today.
The Government have conceded, in their Amendment, that benefits should be increased and that the minimum yardstick for those benefits is the restoration of the 1946 purchasing power of the pension. So those reports are not likely 271 to be of any additional assistance in the matter of benefits. I would ask the Government to consider whether the benefit aspect of this problem could not be dealt with in an interim Measure without having to wait a further six months before righting a recognised injustice to the old-age pensioners.
Obviously, there are arguments against dealing solely in an interim Measure with benefits of this kind, and I do not want to minimise them. Administratively, it is troublesome and, legislatively, it is untidy, and I do not for one moment put it forward as a precedent to be followed in legislative proposals generally. But the fact still remains that according to the present proposals nothing is likely to be done to alleviate the condition of these old people for several months.
The answer to the problem depends almost entirely on how much human suffering exists under present conditions, because if old-age pensioners are really having a tough time of it today, then I would respectfully suggest that the arguments about administrative tidiness and legislative troubles do not provide an adequate argument for withholding that assistance from them.
I will not go through the whole of the arguments as to whether or not old-age pensioners are really suffering hardship today. That has been gone into in considerable detail. All I should like to do is to express the view to the House that a substantial number of them—I do not say necessarily a majority—are suffering real hardship, and that we should not withhold alleviation of that hardship from them for a moment longer than is administratively necessary.
If the Minister is able to say that it is only a matter of weeks, and that we are only dealing with the difference between producing a comprehensive Bill of a sweeping character or producing a Measure of a limited character which would have to be repealed because it dealt with the question in piecemeal fashion, which would have to be repealed in a few weeks, then there would be nothing in it. I concede, too, that the Government have the perfectly honest intention of introducing a comprehensive Bill, but what I am perturbed about is that the introduction and the implementation of that Measure will inevitably take 272 several months. The plight of the old-age pensioner today is such that he should not be kept waiting those months. Something could be done and should be done to meet the immediate difficulty.
I would urge the Minister to act immediately as far as ex-Service pensioners are concerned, and to consider again whether it would not be possible to deal now, in an interim Measure, solely with the benefit aspect of old-age pensions; they could then be adjusted when the comprehensive Bill comes along later. In this way, the problem of alleviating without delay the plight of the old-age pensioners on the one hand, and, on the other, the desire to consider properly the vast problems which arise on this whole issue, could both be dealt with satisfactorily.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
The whole House may well feel that the case against the Government has been put more ably by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), who spoke for the Liberal Party, than it was for the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), who opened the debate.
It is fair to say, I think, that the case put forward by the Socialist Party and by the hon. and learned Member, who, on this issue, finds himself in such strange company, is based on three points: first, that action cannot be delayed; secondly, that retirement pensions can be treated in isolation from other pensions; and, thirdly, that the actuarial and other reports—a statutory obligation laid upon the Government by the Act passed by the party opposite; and, if one may use a rather Bevanite phrase, other emanations from desiccated calculating machines—can be laid aside. That is the gravamen of the charge put forward by the right hon. Lady and by other hon. Members on the other side of the House.
I am sure everyone will agree with the reference of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, West (Mr. Powell) to the moving and admirable speech made by the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Owen). He touched the right note which, I felt, moved all of us on the issue of the general case for the old people in this country today.
273 I think my right hon. Friend put forward the Government's case with clarity and conviction. He said, that we shall not merely ask people to invest in success but to share in success, and put forward the proposal, which we accept, for a comprehensive Bill which will be the best and the most sweeping ever put forward by a Government in this country.
I should like, if I may, to turn to the attack launched by the Opposition against the Government. The first point was that action cannot be delayed. On that point the Socialist Party have a very difficult case to make, in view of their own record. It has been gone into by the right hon. Lady and by my right hon. Friend, but I do not intend to weary the House with any details except to say that from 1952 to the present day there has been a mere increase of approximately 4 per cent. in the cost of living while, between 1946 and 1951, under the Government of the right hon. Lady and her hon. Friends, the increase was about 38 per cent.
§ Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
All that the party of the hon. Gentleman has done in all the years since 1951 is to give the old-age pensioners a miserable 2s. 6d.
§ Mr. Fraser
I am sorry that the hon. and extremely learned Gentleman should have fallen into the same error as his right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West. It is inaccurate to talk about a 2s. 6d. increase. The right hon. Lady will recall that in 1951 there was an advance from 26s. to 30s., for a number of pensioners, especially those whose birthdays fell on the right dates, before 1st October, 1951, but a large number of pensioners were not affected until we put the matter right in 1952.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
The hon. Gentleman is pretending to put one inaccuracy right by putting forward another. Is it not the fact that the Labour Government, before leaving office, took steps to give an extra 4s. a week and that the present Government, when they followed us, did nothing more than to add the miserable 2s. 6d. to which I have referred?
§ Mr. Fraser
I am sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman cannot follow my argument, or the figures available in a 274 large number of text books. The fact is that there was a 6s. 6d. increase for a large number of pensioners as the result of our action in 1952. I suggest that the hon. and learned Gentleman goes to the Library and finds out for himself and ceases to worry the House about this point.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
What the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) is saying is purely a quibble.
§ Mr. Fraser
The fact is that the Socialist Party has no case to make in view of its record. We believe that at the moment there is a buttress existing in the form of National Assistance. We all know, however, that National Assistance is not accepted by many people because of pride. That is why I think I am right in saying that the main feeling in the House is that there should be pensions based on a contributory principle.
At this stage it is difficult to prove that there is need for drastic action in the same way as there was in 1952. We must face up to the fact that grave decisions have to be taken, and that the time to take them is during the next month or two, when the actuarial and other reports are available.
I think my right hon. Friend has proved his case, as have several of my hon. Friends, on the first ground put forward by the Opposition, the necessity for immediate action. The second ground was whether these pensions should be considered independently of all the others. There, I believe, the case of the Opposition is equally weak. My hon. Friends have pointed out the trouble which arises if pensions, which are to some extent contributory, are considered haphazardly and independently of each other. We believe that when the right hon. Lady separated one element of the pensions scheme from another the result was disastrous, as we saw in 1951. Therefore, we believe that pensions should be considered as a whole.
275 On the third ground put forward by the Opposition, we believe that the reports which will soon be coming to hand must be taken into account. We say it is essential that the House should decide what is to be the element of contribution by the Exchequer. We saw what happened in 1951, when the rate of pension was altered without any additional contribution being made. Also, we believe that these reports must be studied carefully before right action can be taken because there are matters of principle at stake.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said that the House must consider seriously whether pensions are to depend on contributions or are to be the type of pension which he and others have advocated. These are grave and basic problems. This House must consider not merely whether our pensions scheme balances in any one year, but whether there will be sufficient funds available over a long period.
Professor Colin Clark has calculated that a contributory pensions scheme to provide £100 per annum for widows, orphans not in work, and persons of retirement age would need a contribution of approximately £30 per working person per year and also the funding of £11,000 million. These are gigantic figures which must be considered before the House decides the future of retirement and other pensions. A decision cannot be taken haphazardly.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said we must decide whether we are to have a contributory retirement pensions system or one based on the principle of National Assistance.
§ Mr. Fraser
I know that there are alternative schools of thought and that there are arguments on both sides, but it is not for me to discuss that matter at this stage.
We must have all the available evidence before us if we are to make important and lasting decisions. I believe that the Opposition Motion has nothing to support it on those three grounds of immediate urgent necessity, of not dealing haphazardly with one type of pensions, and 276 of taking a right decision on all the available data.
I also believe that in bringing forward their Motion the Opposition have done themselves a disservice because the fundamental question in the minds of all old-age pensioners, and others who, ultimately will have to live on a pension, is whether or not the purchasing power of the £ is stable.
The one thing that destroys any pension scheme and the peace of mind of the aged is the inability of the £ to buy what it should buy for the person who receives it. Since the present Government came into office we have seen by far the greatest steps taken to stabilise the cost of living since the end of the war. That has not been established completely as yet.
§ Mr. Fraser
Who stopped the people saving and putting away money in insurance schemes which had been set up by industry? It was the party opposite.
Today, we have to look at this broad, picture of an ageing population. Whatever schemes are provided by actuaries or politicians that population can only age safely and be well provided for if the country remains prosperous and in a position in which it can pay for these things. After three years of Socialist rule—[An HON. MEMBER: "Six years."]—after six years of Socialism and three years of Conservatism it is clear which party is able to provide the bases on which decent pensions can be paid.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)
In the course of my remarks I shall reply to several of the outrageous and inaccurate statements which have just been made by the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser). During the six years after the war there was in this country a vast redistribution of national income, with the result that the poorer sections of the community were better off than ever before, though no doubt the well-to-do 277 were made rather poorer. The Labour Government was a kind of gigantic Robin Hood. It fleeced the rich a little, but certainly raised the standards of the poor.
In the last 36 months, since the present Government came into office, the process of redistribution had been working in the other direction. The Budgets and general policy of the Government have depressed the standards of the poorer sections of the people and undoubtedly improved the standards of the well-to-do. In other words, the Government is acting as a kind of Robin Hood in reverse. To give one example, in the 1953 Budget, reliefs of up to £17 a week were given to a small section of the community whereas millions received relief of 1s. a week and a very large number of people received nothing whatever.
During these three years, wages and prices have kept roughly in step, but wages and food prices have not. The figure given in the Interim Index of Retail Prices, is an average figure and reflects a very wide range of incomes and their use. It does not reflect the position of the low, fixed-income groups, and of them about 4 million are old-age pensioners. In the old-age pensioner's household food is a very large item indeed. It may account for 50 per cent. of the total weekly expenditure. The result is that even a very small increase in food prices will completely upset the precarious balance in the budget of such a household.
There is no doubt whatever that the great increase in food prices in the past three years has caused real hardship, in spite of the fact that the Minister, in an amazing speech, said today that there was no hardship. I know from my own experience that a very great many old people are not getting sufficient food. In the past three years prices have gone up by 12 per cent., not 4 per cent. as the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone stated. Prices covered by the whole of the Interim Index of Retail Prices have increased by 12 per cent., but food prices have gone up by much more. The prices of items of food which are purchased by a typical old-age pensioner have gone up by over 20 per cent.
Another way in which one can obtain a clear picture of what has happened is 278 to look at the discrepancy between the index for food and that for all prices.
§ Mr. Short
In 1949, there was only a difference of three points, but in 1952 the difference had risen to 13.7 points. In other words, food prices in 1952 were 13.7 points above the index figure for prices generally. It seems to me that in such circumstances the index has very little relevance in assessing the wants of old-age pensioners. The figure which I have just given was for 1952, but the discrepancy between the two is even greater today.
While food prices have risen by about 20 per cent. for old-age pensioners, import prices during the same 36 months have dropped by 20 per cent. This change in the terms of trade has benefited this country to the extent of £600 million a year. That £600 million has certainly not been handed on to the old-age pensioners or to any other consumer. The case is quite the reverse. The consumer is paying 20 per cent., more when he should be paying 20 per cent. less for his goods. Obviously, that money has mainly gone in increased dividends.
In the past nine months dividends have risen by 11 per cent. This is pure Toryism. This is how it works out in every field of national life. [An HON. MEMBER: "In every generation."] The rich are made richer and the poor poorer. It does not matter how people try to disguise Toryism or how they talk about "Progressive Toryism" it always works out in the same way.
During the last three years there should have been a considerable drop in prices in the shops. If a Labour Government had been in office there would have been that considerable drop. The increase, instead of a drop, is directly due to the policy of the present Government. One very well-known example is their removal of the food subsidies, and it is fair to ask what the Government have done to mitigate the effects of their own 279 policy on the poorer section of the community.
The only increase that they have given is 2s. 6d. on the basic pension. Indeed, for a very large number—the married pensioners—they have only given 2s. There has been an increase of 8½ per cent. for the single pensioner and 8 per cent, for the married pensioner. At the same time, prices generally have gone up by 12 per cent. and food prices, on which old-age pensioners spend more than half their money, have gone up by 20 per cent. Even that increase in pensions was very carefully computed to offset the removal of food subsidies. Therefore, the Government have done nothing whatever to mitigate the effect of the rest of their policy. For example, they have done nothing at all in the past 36 months to mitigate the effect of their failure to stop the upward trend in company dividends.
In his speech, the Minister said that most pensioners live on at least 50s. a week. The pensioner who draws National Assistance has his income raised to that level and the pensioner who does not draw National Assistance, the Minister estimated, lives on about 50s. a week—£130 per annum. If we look at the figures of personal expenditure in the Monthly Digest of Statistics, and base a calculation on a population of 50 million, a great many of whom are children and young persons who do not spend anything on fuel, household goods, rent and rates, so that the figures I am about to quote are greatly under-estimated, we find this: expenditure on food in 1953, £71; on household goods, £15 12s.; on clothing, £20 10s.; on rent, rates and fuel, £25; a total of £132 2s.
Even on those four items alone the basic pension, plus National Assistance, is inadequate. That does not allow anything at all for entertainment, holidays, tobacco or anything else apart from those four basic items. On the Minister's own showing, even counting National Assistance, the amount is inadequate.
The greatest indictment of this Government—this shockingly bad Government, one of the worst Governments of modern times—is that they have depressed the standard of living of the poor in order to benefit the rich. Since 1951, there has been very little improvement 280 in production in this country. In the three years before the Labour Government went out of office industrial production went up by 17 points. In the three years of Conservative rule it has gone up by only 7 points. There has been little increased production, yet there has been a considerable improvement in the standard of the well-to-do. The only conclusion we can draw is that that improvement has been made at the expense of the poor.
All the arguments about printing, and so on, are unconvincing. The Government have deferred action for political advantage. Every week they can delay is a week nearer the General Election. Let us make no bones about it, that is precisely what is happening. This delay is, I believe, one of the most disgraceful manœuvres of recent political history; and I say that because it is made at the expense of the poorest and least articulate section of the community.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) started his speech by saying that he would expose some of the more outrageous statements made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser). I think he should examine his own speech in HANSARD tomorrow. I have never heard such a collection of outrageous statements during my time in the House as were contained in that speech. He referred to the Socialist Party as Robin Hood. I believe the hon. Member will find that Robin Hood, far from being a bandit who took from the rich and gave to the poor, was a thorough rogue who had an unfortunate and illicit relationship with Maid Marion. I hope that the hon. Member is not casting the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) in the rôle of Maid Marion.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the speech made by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen). I rather agreed with some of his remarks about the opening of the debate by the right hon. Lady. I have had the pleasure of listening to the right hon. Lady inside and outside the House many times and have had the pleasure of watching her from time to time making a speech with her tongue in her cheek. Never until this afternoon have I seen her perform the 281 remarkable feat of speaking with her tongue in both cheeks at the same time. There is a saying that nothing distorts the truth like stretching it. Certainly, this afternoon, and in the weeks before the debate, the truth about the situation of the old-age pensioners has been very considerably distorted.
I wish to quote from an article by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), who, I am sorry to say, is not in his place. I think it answers the point made by hon. Members opposite about the Socialists' record when in office. This is an extract from an article in the "Sunday Pictorial"—not a newspaper notoriously favourable to the Tory cause—which appeared on 7th November, 1954:We Socialists, said Mr. Crossman, fixed the new pensions scale in 1946. To our shame, we failed to provide that it should go up automatically if the cost of living rose. As a result, while prices, profits and wages all soared under the Labour Government, the standard of living of our old people went down. They were cheated even of the modest slice of the national cake which they had been promised.That, apparently, is the record of the Socialist Government when they were in office.
§ Mr. Hall
Now the Socialists have the effrontery to come to the House and move a Motion of censure because they say that we have not done enough for the old-age pensioners.
Enough people have been throwing stones at each other about who has done what for the old-age pensioners. It is really time that we took this question out of the cockpit of political fighting, as was done by two hon. Members on either side of the House—my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan. We should look at the problem as it is and as it will face us over the next few years.
If we look at the 1949 Report of the Royal Commission on Population we find that we can draw the inference from the figures given there that in the next 30 years the numbers of people over 65 years of age are likely to rise by nearly 3 million until, in 1982, the number will be about 8 million.
282 During that same period of 30 years the number of those under 65 is not expected to increase. These figures were mentioned, in a rather different form by an earlier speaker. Whereas, in 1952, for every group of active persons between 15 and 65 there were six active people to one retired person over 65, in 1982 the ratio will be four of the active group between 15 and 65—the producers—to every person over 65. That means that the future generation as well as this generation will carry a heavy and constantly increasing burden if, to any great extent, we depart from the principle of meeting pensions by a form of contributions.
I am well aware of the fact, pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, that contributions will always lag behind and that the liability for pensions will never be met at any one time for the simple reason that the pensions are drawn before they are paid for. At the same time, we have to maintain the principle of insurance—the principle by which we contribute some sum, whatever it may be per week or per year to the cost of benefits which the pensioners are likely to draw in the future.
I agree with the leader in "The Times" today that we cannot act on the assumption that we must give a pension as a pension—I am not talking of National Assistance—which will guarantee a reasonable subsistence to every person of retirement age without considering what other means they may have. As we have heard, and as we know, there are a large number of pensioners who have other means. They are in other pension schemes with private employers, or have savings, or private insurance policies. Many of them are not particularly affected by the size of the State pension. If we are to attempt to establish a pension which will give a reasonable standard of life to everyone on a pension basis alone, we shall build a burden for future generations which, with a proportionately smaller productive population, they will not be able to carry without serious damage to the whole system of social services.
I wish to look at one or two things not directly related to the payment of pensions. There are other things affecting retirement and old age than the payment of money. There is the question of loneliness, which was mentioned earlier. A 283 lot can be done to help old people in the eve of their years, when they are left without a family—or perhaps they may not ever have had a family—or when their friends have died; or when they may find themselves in a strange place. A lot can be done, and, in fact, is being done. I have had a good deal of personal experience of "Darby and Joan" clubs and associations of that kind, which try to provide meeting places for old people where they may find friendship and receive help with their problems.
My right hon. Friend has been quoted as saying that there was no hardship among old-age pensioners today. I think that what my right hon. Friend did say—if I heard his words correctly—was that there is no need for any pensioner to suffer hardship; that pensioners can get National Assistance to help them. And, in addition, we must not forget that there are many organisations—
§ Mr. Victor Collins (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
I noted exactly what the Minister said, and these were the words:If decency and humanity demanded emergency action it would be taken, but there is no evidence of such hardship.
§ Mr. Hall
I thank the hon. Member for reminding me of the quotation, which strengthens what I was saying.
The point is that in addition to the question of National Assistance, there are other methods by which assistance may be afforded to old people with inadequate incomes or who find it difficult to make ends meet. There are other ways by which they may obtain assistance. In nearly every town in the country there are organisations which will come to their aid and, in fact, do so.
I am not suggesting for a moment that these organisations should be relied upon exclusively. But they do provide very valuable assistance for all people with limited incomes. Not only do they afford help in financial troubles, but they also assist in helping people to overcome loneliness and personal problems which may not always necessarily be financial problems.
All the time we appear to assume that the State must always accept full responsibility for an individual when he or she reaches retiring age. One is always liable to be misunderstood for saying this, but 284 I think that there is a certain responsibility on individuals to try to make provision for their own retirement. They have to do that so far as possible. And furthermore, if a person has a family, there is some responsibility on the family to help their parents in their old age.
I can remember that being said at a meeting some time ago, and it was taken up by Socialists in that part of the country. They said that the suggestion was merely adding a burden to young married people who had their own children to look after and their own responsibilities to accept. They said that it was wrong that the suggestion should be made that parents should expect to receive any help or support whatsoever from the young people.
I do not believe that. I think that children who have been looked after and helped throughout the whole of their adolescent lives by their parents owe some responsibility, and should have a feeling of gratitude, towards their parents, and that, in their declining years, parents should be entitled to help from their children.
When we consider the figures of wages, I do not think it would be too great a burden on the children of today who are in work to make some contribution in that respect. For the first time the level of wages, the average rate of wages, has drawn level with the cost-of-living index. That has happened for the first time for a number of years.
Hon. Members opposite have been trying to prove that the cost of living has risen to a point where the poor are becoming poorer and the rich richer. But, as they well know, the average weekly wage rate is higher today than it has ever been and that the amount of spending per head has gone higher than it has ever been. Personal consumption has increased. People are spending more. The shops are selling more. That is not a sign that the nation has become poorer, and one is delighted to know that it is spread over so many people.
But it is because we are becoming richer as a nation, and because more people are earning more money, that it is right at this stage to consider ways and means of giving better pensions and allowances, not only to old people, but to all those who live on small fixed incomes for which they are dependent on the 285 State. We should welcome the speech of my right hon. Friend. We should look forward with confidence not only to an announcement in the near future about the proposals of the Government for the whole range of the social services and pensions and allowances, but also see that the Measure which is proposed gets through this House quickly, probably before Christmas.
It will require co-operation, helpful co-operation, from hon. Members opposite, so that we do not get too much obstruction. I am sure that hon. Members opposite will not obstruct. They are quite as anxious as we are to see comprehensive Measures of this kind on the Statute Book at the earliest possible moment.
In a speech made from the benches opposite there was a reference, made by way of explanation, that it was difficult to get these Measures on the Statute Book quickly; that longer discussions were necessary and that several months had to elapse before that could be done. It was suggested that we should have some form of emergency legislation. But I understand that the hands of my right hon. Friend are tied by the Act of 1946 which he inherited. Emergency legislation is difficult, and if it is realised that it is so difficult what is the meaning of the word "immediate" in the Motion of censure? Why is there this call for immediate action if it is realised that this is a difficult thing to do; that it is difficult to translate words into actions, and that it will take some little time before that can be achieved?
I am confident that by the end of this year we shall have practically, if not quite, succeeded in placing on the Statute Book a new Measure which will give the old-age pensioners what they require and what they are entitled to under present conditions. That will be welcomed by all men of good will on both sides of the House, if the subject can be taken out of the realm of party affairs.
Accusations have been bandied backwards and forwards across the Floor of the House to the effect that what is now being proposed is being done for electioneering purposes, and that the party opposite introduced their Measure before the General Election of 1951, purely for election reasons. Cannot we forget all that for a moment? Cannot we consider what is the best thing to do for the people 286 mostly concerned? I do not think that the Conservative Party can be accused of adopting electioneering tactics, when we remember that if we have an election next October—which is a probable date—the increased pensions and allowances would have been paid about six or nine months before.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House know that human memories are very short indeed. Six months would be more than long enough for pensioners to forget anything they might owe to this Government, so I do not think that accusations about electioneering tactics get us very far. I can only hope that the proposals put forward by my right hon. Friend, will be considered dispassionately, fairly and without party prejudice, and that we shall bear in mind only what is in the best interests of those people which those proposals are designed to help.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
I have listened with great interest to the debate. First, I want to refer to the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall). I could not understand the logic of his argument on the figures. He said that wage rates had managed to keep pace with the increase in the cost of living and, therefore, the workers were much better off. From my knowledge of figures, I would say that anyone whose wage has kept pace with the increase in the cost of living can now purchase the same amount as he could before and, therefore, he is in just the same position as he was before.
§ Mr. John Hall
The hon. Gentleman will remember that throughout the years of the Socialist Government the index of wage rates lagged behind the cost of living.
§ Mr. McKay
But ultimately the worker got back to the position in which he was in 1945. The worker has the same purchasing power as he had then, and to that extent he is no better off.
287 The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) made an interesting speech. He put the cat among the pigeons. He put forward the new idea that, in the main, benefits from social security schemes should not be based on the contributions paid. He thought that the whole position should be changed and that we should recognise in the pension and social security schemes a subsistence level of full maintenance. He said that a subsistence level should be given to everybody, whether they are sick, unemployed or on pension.
We may differ about the subsistence level. The Minister may tell us that the Assistance Board makes its own decisions about what assistance it will give, but I think that he will admit that before the Board decides to increase the scales it must consult the Exchequer. It is only with the permission of the Exchequer that it makes increases. Therefore, in reality, the Board is recognised as a Government instrument.
Accordingly, it can be said that in respect of National Assistance the Government—Labour or Conservative—have allowed the Board, in consultation with them, to arrive at a subsistence level. If there is any idea that on this occasion the Conservatives intend to pay a pension which will provide a subsistence level, that will be one of the greatest surprises that we have had in this generation.
The subsistence level is not 59s. for the married couple, it is 59s. plus rent. I believe that the average rent paid by those in receipt of National Assistance is about 12s. a week, or more. It is admitted that since the basic subsistence level of 59s., plus rent, was decided, prices have increased. Therefore, the subsistence level would have to be more than 59s. and, to be a subsistence level, it must have rent added to a new subsistence level of about 65s.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West meant all that. If he did, it meant that a tremendous amount of money will have to be paid to the pensioners, the sick and the unemployed. I do not think that the Conservative Party will extend themselves so far. If they did, and it had to be done on a contributory basis, I am 288 afraid that there would be some hesitation about accepting the figure which the workers would have to contribute.
We can ask the workers to do many things, but a time arrives when the workers say, "All right, but we have difficulties in living as it is; we pay 5s. 7d. a week now and we are not prepared to pay very much more." There is bound to be a time when the workers, especially the lower-paid men who are not living in comfort but in poverty, will say in their millions that there is a limit to the amount which they can contribute to social security schemes. There is a limit beyond which the Government cannot go if the schemes are based on the contributory principle.
Some comments have been made, with which I agree to some extent, about the Motion of censure. If I have someone to censure I like to put some substance into my censure. I believe that there is every justification for the Motion and for the emphasis being put in this House on the fact that the time has arrived when pensions ought to be raised now as an interim measure. The amount of money to be paid as an interim measure would depend largely on what the Government intend to pay when they make a final decision. The Government would have had to make up their minds, to begin with, what the ultimate benefit was to be under their legislation. The probabilities are that the interim payments would be a little bit less than the final figure until the whole legislation was approved.
We often talk about questions in principle. I have always been used to talking not only of principle but also of facts to show why principles should be operated. When the Labour Party talks about raising pensions in accordance with the increase in the cost of living since 1946, that is a question of principle. That is not a maximum but simply a minimum. The Labour Party can go as far as it likes beyond that and it will get the support of all the people who put the party into power. There is no question about that.
The idea of the 1946 basis is simply a minimum which, whatever else it does, the Labour Party is bound now to put into effect. If we can manage to go a little beyond that, we shall all be a little more happy than we should otherwise be. 289 There could have been a great change in the cost of living between the beginning and the end of 1946. Consequently some reasonable arrangement must be made about the date to be taken for the basis.
Our considerations of such matters as subsistence levels are governed by current economic conditions and not by the conditions which will be obtainable when the legislation comes into force. Therefore, the economic situation at the time was the basis upon which we assessed the benefits when our social security legislation was introduced. Our legislation dealing with National Insurance and industrial injuries was introduced in 1945, and so I contend that the cost of living in January, 1946, should be our basis.
This is a matter which concerns not only pensions sickness and unemployment benefits will also be affected to some extent. Thus, in dealing with the cost of living and the actual benefits to be paid, we are faced with a mighty problem which affects a tremendous number of people besides the old-age pensioners.
The Government's attitude is that the only cost of living indexes which they will recognise are Government ones. There may be good grounds for that. That would certainly be so if proper indexes were operating in 1945, but the cost-of-living index that we then had was based on 1914, and for two or three years it showed no increase at all, whereas other indexes showed fairly substantial rises.
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury has admitted in answer to Questions that on the basis of Treasury indexes and others there was a rise of 8 per cent. in the cost of living between 1945 and June, 1947. The industrial review issued by "The Times" in September, 1954, contained indexes running from 1945 up to the present date. These showed a rise in the cost of living by July this year of 60 per cent. compared with 1945.
I decided to ascertain whether one could show to what extent the cost of living has risen on the basis of figures given in answers to Questions and, therefore, on the basis of the Government's own information. On 4th November, the Economic Secretary admitted that between 1945 and June, 1947, the cost of living had risen by 8 per cent. Thus, a coat bought for 100s. in December, 1945, would have cost 108s. in June, 1947. In 290 July this year the Ministry of Labour index showed a rise of 45 per cent. in the cost of living since June, 1947, and this represents a further increase in the price of the coat of 48s. Consequently, a coat costing 100s. in 1945 would in July this year cost 156s.
Therefore, I contend that official figures show the increase in the cost of living to be 56 per cent. by July, 1954. That means that, on the basis of information given in the House, it can be said that official cost-of-living indexes show a rise of 56 per cent, in the cost of living since 1945. This compares with the increase of 60 per cent. shown in "The Times" industrial review. When I take everything else into consideration I have no doubt that the actual increase shown by official cost-of-living indexes is 60 per cent. over the 1945 figure.
The question that arises, if that is so, is by how much can we raise the benefits? That is an ordinary arithmetical problem. If we put 25 per cent. on the present benefits, we shall bring pensions up to 67s. 6d, for a married couple and about 41s. for a single man. That would meet the rise in the cost of living since 1945.
How are we to get the money to pay for that? How large a contribution will each worker have to pay? Someone will tell us the Trades Union Congress has said it is prepared to accept the necessity for the payment of increased contributions. As a member of the Labour Party, I can say that does not mean we are prepared to pay all the contributions necessary to meet the situation.
There is a limit beyond which the workers are not prepared to pay for these things. In considering these matters, one has to consider the general economic position not only of the lower-paid worker, but of the worker working on Saturdays and Sundays and every day of the week to earn extra money which will be included in his standard wage when his wage position is considered.
All these figures that I am giving can be seen in "The Times" Review of Industry of September of this year. From these figures one can see that since 1945 wage rates have gone up 59 points according to the index that "The Times" review uses. According to that index, since 1946 wage rates have gone up about 47 points. It is true that the ordinary wages which a man gets for working a 291 five or five-and-a-half-day week are just about meeting the increased costs. According to the official indices of the Ministry of Labour, the cost of living has gone up almost 60 per cent.; food prices have risen 87 per cent. over the same period.
So, what are we to do about contributions? Most of my figures about contributions are taken from the Annual Abstract of Statistics. They show that the ordinary contributions of the employers and the workers are almost meeting the total benefits that are paid under the scheme. Of course, there are lots of other expenses but that is the general position. I do not know what will be the attitude of the Government on this matter. My experience of actuaries dealing with friendly societies and bodies like that, is that they want to see a tremendous amount of money lying about, just drawing interest and building up into funds galore to meet some suspected liability that may come if the scheme meets with some disaster.
In the National Insurance scheme today there is about £1,398 million in accumulated reserves. That money would pay the whole of the benefits for nearly three years. If the Government want cooperation on their new social security measures, they are making a big mistake if they imagine that—with the big increased benefits which I hope they are going to pay and which I hope will meet the National Assistance subsistence level of about 65s. plus rent—they will be able to operate them on a contributory basis by raising the contributions of the workers. If they think that, they will meet with opposition here and they will meet with opposition in the country. Where contributions are concerned we have gone far. Contributions are hitting the lower-paid workers, and they cannot pay much more.
I want to give this warning. The Trades Union Congress has said that the workers will pay some money to meet increased benefits, but they will not pay all. I hope that this matter will be seriously considered by the Government when they consider their new scheme. The cost of living reckoned on the 1946 basis is a principle laid down by the Labour Party as the necessary minimum, but it will have its own interpretation of what this means, and it is consistent in its decision to go beyond that.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
There was one thing which the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) said which I should like to take up. It was that if one had a Motion of censure one should put some substance in it. I looked for the substance in this Motion but I found nothing at all. I expected some substance from the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), who opened the debate, but I realised that she was batting on a very sticky wicket with rather cold feet. She will excuse my using cricket terms as I know she does not like boxing terms, with which I am more familiar. I expect she was glad to be batting in a fog so that the old-age pensioners were not here to hear her. She did not do very well.
I do not want to go into details, as other hon. Members have done that, but I am convinced that the Minister has done a great deal already and I am sure that he will do even better in the future. All those who have backed this Motion of censure today will regret doing so very much. I would remind hon. Members of what happened during the last war. We used to see on railway bridges and elsewhere signs saying, "Open a second front now." Those signs were put up for people who did not know anything about the second front, or how it would be opened, or anything else. Misguided people thought they were helping our allies by declaring, "Open a second front now."
I do not give quite the same credit to the Socialist Party that they do not know what they are doing. They are doing this as a deliberate political move to gain advantage and trying to pretend that they have pushed for increases of pensions. That is not so at all. They are trying to cash in and gain electoral advantage where absolutely nothing is due to them from their past record.
If we had opened the second front then and had gone on with it, we would have met with disaster, and if the Minister is unduly pushed to start this pensions scheme in a hurry, we shall have the same sort of policy as the Socialist Government themselves adopted when they rushed the thing through in about six months in a devil of a hurry.
293 I suggest to the Minister that we might have a compromise, as we had in the case of the second front. Just because we could not land in France when the Communists thought we ought to do so, we did not sit back and do nothing. We had the Dieppe raid, we landed in North Africa, and we did other things as well to try to assist our allies. Similarly, I think there are things that we could do today to try to assist the old-age pensioners without going the whole way and without waiting until all the pensions books and everything else have been printed.
I believe that we could raise pensions by, shall we say, 3s., 4s. or even 5s.—I do not know what the figure should be, but the Minister must know, because he has either received, or is about to receive, the actuarial report. If the figure was in the neighbourhood of 4s., every pensions book could be stamped to indicate that that addition could be handed over without any calculation at all. It does not need a chartered accountant or anybody else to work out the various figures. This would be a temporary measure until the complicated long-term calculations are worked out actuarially.
I agree that these pensions should be contributory, and that, to be able to pay this extra 3s. or 4s., we should raise the price of the stamps which have to be paid for by both employer and employee. The Exchequer should also give a grant in keeping with what the Government can afford to do. This would be only a temporary measure, and not something which would react unfavourably in about 20 years' time on the National Insurance Fund. This is a way in which pensioners, who, I believe, are hard put to it at present, could obtain some immediate relief.
I visited over 800 houses in my constituency in September and October, and although I do not think that the pensioners are in quite such a bad way as some hon. Members opposite would try to make out, I think they have had a feeling that everybody else was better off, including Members of Parliament. Let us not forget that it was Socialist Members who raised their own salaries before thinking about the old-age pensioners, and that the reason a Motion of censure was tabled in July was that they suddenly remembered that they 294 had better do something for the old-age pensioners. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame on you."] I am prepared to take all the shame that is coming to me, but I think the shame will be felt in the constituency of the hon. Gentleman who interrupted.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell the House whether he has taken his expenses allowance?
§ Brigadier Clarke
I have already told the House, and the Press, that I refuse to accept one penny for my own benefit until the old-age pensioners receive something. [HON. MEMBERS: "You do not need it."] Whether I need it or not is entirely my own affair, and I do not think I need any advice from prosperous-looking gentlemen sitting on the Front Bench opposite.
I should like the Minister to consider the possibility of giving the pensioners something now, and, in addition, to consider this suggestion. Will he please consider allowing a pensioner to earn more than 40s. a week without losing part of his pension? There are many people who want to work. Why not give them the opportunity by raising the limit to £3 or more, so that they can work and not suffer a reduction of their pension? I know that the argument is that, if they are really in need, they can apply for National Assistance, but I can assure my right hon. Friend that there are many people in my constituency who will not ask for National Assistance; and I am proud to think that I have that sort of people supporting me in this House.
Finally, since widows, the disabled and others do not require a new Act of Parliament to improve their situation, I hope that the Minister will really get down to producing a Royal Warrant which will give to the soldiers, sailors, airmen and the injured some assistance at an earlier time than would, I fear, be possible if we have to wait for the normal process to be followed, unless my right hon. Friend accepts the suggestion I have already made and gives some intermediate assistance to the old-age pensioners. I ask the Minister to give some relief quickly and generously, and not to allow the party opposite to say that we have dragged our feet, because I know very well that we have no intention of doing so.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Hubbard (Kirkcaldy, Burghs)
No doubt, the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke), who was speaking in terms of the second front, may have second thoughts on this matter before the time comes for the House to divide, because he said that he was in favour of an immediate increase for the old-age pensioners, whether he meant that declaration or not. We shall no doubt see a difference between his declaration and his action when the Division takes place, though I hope that he will take the opportunity to match his words by his action.
§ Brigadier Clarke
I am sure that the hon. Member understood that I was very satisfied with the record of the Government, and that I was not at all satisfied with the case put forward by the Opposition, and, therefore, certainly shall not vote for it.
§ Mr. Hubbard
The House will understand from what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said that he believed the old-age pensioners should have an increase now, and the record of the Division will no doubt show whether he stands by that belief.
A Motion of censure is a rather serious thing in this House. It is always dealt with as a serious matter, and it is right and proper that it should be so. A Motion of censure on the Government can only be moved by the Opposition. In this case, the Government must be well aware that this issue is one of the most serious matters confronting this country at the present time.
Those of my hon. and right hon. Friends who signed their names to the Motion on the Order Paper have not merely put it forward on behalf of this side of the House, but on behalf of a vast number of people in this country. There is not a local authority in the whole country which does not fully support the demand for an immediate payment for the old-age pensioners. There is not a doctor in the whole country today who would not say that the time has come when there must be an immediate increase in the old-age pension.
The two important considerations are the need and the time. The need has 296 been well established, and the time is obviously now. Therefore, when this Motion of censure is taken to a Division tonight, it may well be defeated, but it will not be hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House who will suffer defeat, any more than those on the other side. It will be the old-age pensioners of this country who will suffer the defeat, and I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to remember that.
I do not believe that hon. Members opposite are callous individuals. In the 11 years during which I have had the honour to be a Member of this House, I have got to know many of them quite well, and, individually, they are very decent people. I am quite sure that many of them make contributions to old folk's treats at Christmas time, and, individually, they are no doubt very helpful people, but, collectively, they are doing something for which they ought to be and no doubt will be sorry for the rest of their lives. This is not merely a question of votes at Election time, nor is it something which has been suddenly sprung upon this House.
I was a member of a deputation from the old-age pensioners which met the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance before March. My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) was also a member, and he knows that the Minister admitted at that time that there ought to be an increase in the old-age pensions. That was in March, before the Budget, and not only was the deputation from the old-age pensioners told not to be disappointed, but the Minister promised definitely that they could look forward with some hope.
In April, they got a shock, and all decent people in the country got a shock, because the need was there and had been proved. This is not something which has been sprung upon the House, because in July we had another debate on the old-age pensioners. Again the same question was raised, and again we had an indication that something would be given as speedily as possible.
We have had many speeches from the Government Benches tonight, but none has indicated that the old people do not require an increase in their pension. No hon. Member is so stupid as to make such a statement, because we all know 297 that an increase is necessary. So far, the only pledge has been that legislation will be introduced in the near future. There may be a Bill before the House before we rise for the Christmas Recess. The operative date is that on which the increase in pension can be paid.
I understand that the Minister of Defence will reply to the debate. He is the right kind of Minister, because the Government's attitude on this question needs defence. Will he say how soon legislation will come before the House, and how soon after that the old people will get an increase in their weekly pensions? Let him not merely say, "We, as a great Government, will bring forward legislation before Christmas." What is that to the old people who are sitting without coal at the moment?
Statements have been made about our failure to do something for the old-age pensioner, and our desire to make some by-election or General Election capital. Government supporters claim the right to go back as far as they wish in finding their arguments. Let me give my recollections. I remember when I was, before the war, a member of a public assistance committee in Scotland associated with a town council, and when I was sent here in 1938 and 1939 to press the same demand for an increase in the old-age pension. That was a unanimous decision of Scottish local authorities. Remember that the pension payable at that time was 10s. a week and that public assistance supplemented that by an average of 2s. over the whole country, plus a maximum of 5s. for rent.
I came here with a deputation to plead with the Government. That was the first time I came officially into the House of Commons. We had in power the last Tory Government, which was elected in 1935. We were then told that to give the old people even a 5s. increase in their basic weekly pension would cost £88 million and would bring the country to bankruptcy. The Old Age and Widows' Pensions Act, which was passed in 1940 became operative in August of that year, but it gave no increase in the basic pension. All that happened was that up to 9s. was to be paid by way of supplementary pension if there was need. There was a means test.
298 It is all very well to hear speakers on the Government side of the House saying that they are opposed to a means test. That was the legislation the Tory Government gave us in 1940. We must never forget that it was a Motion by the late right hon. Arthur Greenwood setting up the Beveridge Committee that put us on the way to doing something good for the old-age pensioners, and we must always be grateful to him for his action. He was responsible for the setting up of the Beveridge Committee.
Even when the Beveridge Committee issued its Report it did not propose to give an old-age pension without a means test. Neither did the Government at that time decide on such a matter. They proposed to give 24s. a week after 20 years from the time that the Act was on the Statute Book. It is well for Government supporters to remember these things, if they know of them. That is the sorry history of pensions.
§ Mr. Powell
That was the proposal of the Beveridge Committee. The proposal of the war-time Government was different.
§ Mr. Hubbard
I am coming to that as my next point. I remember being a Member of this House when the matter was discussed.
The Government was the Coalition Government, and the Tory Party issued a White Paper in which they proposed legislation giving 20s. for a single person and 35s. for a couple. We have a saying in Scotland which may fall on deaf ears in this House, but I will repeat it. It is:… facts are chiels that winna ding,An' downa be disputed.That means that we can talk as long as we like, but we cannot get rid of the facts. The things which I have spoken of are beyond dispute. The whole debate today has ranged around the facts.
Who is responsible for the welfare of the old people? It is as much the responsibility of the Government as of the Opposition. [An HON. MEMBER: "More."] No. It is as much the responsibility of the individuals of the Government; let us put it that way. We are dealing with matters of human life, with our fathers and mothers, with the people who made this country what it is, and not merely with a gag for the West Derby by-election. We are dealing with human values.
299 I read with interest an answer given to a Question by the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill), who gave a whole list of consumer goods which, he said, the old people were consuming. I have taken the trouble to work out the cost of these commodities this year, and the cost came to 16s. 5d. The list does not include bread. As an official of an old-age pensioners' association I am always collecting information, because I meet old people regularly.
We must add 2s. 6d. a week for bread. We must add 2s. for potatoes and vegetables. For jam, salt, pepper and a lot of other things, we must add a very modest shilling. For cereals, we must add a further 1s. and for fish another 2s. per week. For gas and electricity we must add a very modest half-crown. For two bags of coal for the old people who are compelled to spend their lives indoors during the dark winter months when the Government say they cannot give them anything we must make a further addition, bringing the total to 42s. 5d. per week. We must add another modest 2s. for the replacement of household articles, and we must allow the old people to have a daily paper and a Sunday paper, if only so that they can learn how good the Tory Government have been to them. All those items make a total of 45s. 3d. The basic pension is 32s. 6d., which means a shortage of 12s. 9d.
We may be told there is a supplementary pension, but it does not include the things that I have mentioned. It is meant only for rent and rates and additional needs. The Minister has said that the needy can be taken care of by the National Assistance Board; he is misleading the House. National Assistance can be increased only after regulations have been placed before this House, but it is long since regulations were before us on this subject.
There is a complete absence of realism in the debate. There is an undoubted need for an increase. There is no need to go any further in trying to establish the need. It is there, and has been certified by knowledgeable people all over the country. As to the time, who dare suggest that, once the need is proved, we should ask old people, our parents and sometimes our grandparents, to go through these dark winter days without an increase in their pension? Any Government worth 300 their salt ought to face up to the emergency.
We are not today discussing the main issue of the pensions increase. We are saying that the old people need an increase now, and that is what the Motion says. The question of the main increase in pensions can be discussed at some other time. I suggest that hon. Members opposite who by their vote tonight refuse to make an immediate increase in old-age pensions should remember, when the Christmas bells ring out, that there is some old person sitting without coal and food simply because they have failed to face up to their responsibilities.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard) did well to remind us that there was a lack of reality in this debate. His own speech certainly amply illustrated the lack of reality in many of the speeches made by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He reminded us that this was a Motion of censure, not just a debate about pensions, but both he and the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) had to go back to the days before the war in order to launch their attacks upon the Government.
I have not got the facts regarding what happened before the war, and I do not think that they are very relevant to the Motion before us. Were we debating this matter elsewhere, I think that there might be a great many inconvenient facts put forward in answer to the hon. Gentleman. When the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) dealt with post-war history, his speech was well documented with the achievements of the present Government, and his suggestions demonstrated his complete and detailed faith in the economy of the present Administration.
What are the facts? What is this all about? The Government say that they are proposing substantially to increase old-age pensions. As I understand it, the whole question before the House today is whether that increase should take place immediately or at the time that the Government propose to make it. I should have thought that was the only issue before the House. In considering that, it is extremely relevant to look at what took place on previous occasions when old-age pensions were increased and to compare that with the situation as we see it today.
301 The last time that old-age pensions were increased was in 1951. We heard a great deal about that from the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), who opened this debate, and the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central also referred to it. He, incidentally, together with several other hon. Members opposite, made the astonishing statement that all we did in 1952 was to increase pensions by 2s. 6d. That, of course, is a complete travesty of the truth. I shall come to that later.
The right hon. Lady referred to the 1951 increase. That increase, it should be remembered, was confined to a very limited class of pensioners. I did not think that there would be any dispute today about such elementary facts, for, otherwise, I would have brought the two Statutes with me, the National Insurance Act, 1951, Family Allowances and National Insurance Act, 1952.
The 1951 Act increased the pensions only of men over 70 and women over 65. It was a very limited category, and affected only the pensions of those who retired before October, 1951. The cost of it in a full year was estimated at only £39 million. That was all that the party opposite did from the time of the 1946 Act to when they went out of office. For the great body of recipients of benefits under National Insurance they did nothing at all from the passing of the 1946 Act. Therefore, upon all those people fell the full force of the decline in the value of money from 1946 to the time of the General Election in 1951.
That is a fact, and one of those facts, no doubt, of which the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs was deploring the lack in the course of his speech. We should do well to bear that fact in mind, and we should also remember that when introducing the 1951 Bill, the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West said:It deals with certain questions which, we feel, cannot wait until the review of the whole scheme which is to take place in 1954."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1951; Vol. 487, c. 581.]The 1951 Bill dealt with certain matters which the Government of the day felt could not wait until the full review in 1954. That being so, I do not think it would be unreasonable to infer that they thought that all other matters could wait 302 until the review in 1954. However, I do not want to make a rigid point about that because, quite obviously, in the three years that would have elapsed before the review, they would have had freedom of action to do whatever they thought necessary.
When the 1951 Bill was introduced, the position of the old-age pensioners was worse than it is today as regards the purchasing power of the pensions which they received. The position today is that the retirement pensions have approximately—indeed, I believe, almost exactly—the same purchasing power as they had when the present Government took over in 1951. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I think that is so.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
How can that be so? The matter was in an entirely different context up to 1951. Then there were food subsidies which mitigated the cost of living, and various other benefits.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)rose——
§ Mr. Turner-Samuelsrose——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
If the hon. Member does not give way, the hon. and learned Member must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Bell
I really must ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to be quiet. The full effect of food subsidies is, of course, reflected in the cost-of-living index. If we compare the actual monetary pensions 303 with the cost-of-living index and make a comparison of their respective purchasing power, then, of course, we are taking into account such things as food subsidies which affect the cost of food. The level of the cost-of-living index is, of course——
§ Mr. Bell
This kind of heckling from the Opposition is very foolish, because this is, after all, their cost-of-living index. It is a great mistake to decry and destroy confidence in the criteria against which these matters ought to be measured. This cost-of-living index was used by the party opposite. We have both used it, and it ought to be a standard on which we can rely, and which should not be bandied about like that.
The fact is that in 1951, whether hon. Members like it or not, the purchasing power of pensions was lower than it is today. I make that point because it is extremely relevant to the question whether there exists today so remarkable an emergency that we should now do something which the Labour Government in 1951 did not do. The proposals relating to the National Insurance Act, 1951, were announced in the Budget on 10th April of that year. The Bill had its Second Reading on 26th April; it had its Third Reading on 30th May, and received the Royal Assent on 22nd June.
It was announced that payments would commence on 1st October, but this date was accelerated by one month. The whole operation took five months. The legislative arrangements took 2½ months and the administrative arrangements took 2½ months. So much for the argument that there exists today so extraordinary a position that we ought to do something different from what was done in the past.
The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) was under a misapprehension when he said that the Government do not intend to introduce a Bill before Christmas. I think he must have realised that that was a misapprehension, because my right hon. Friend made it clear that there would be a Second Reading before Christmas, and that he hoped to have the Bill through all its stages before Christmas.
304 That being so, does not the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman, who conceded the desirability of having a comprehensive Measure and not a piecemeal approach, mean that we should adopt a piecemeal approach and introduce a partial Measure to secure an advantage of about three weeks? I think that is what it amounts to, because my right hon. Friend said that he hoped to be able to make a detailed announcement of his intentions in about three weeks.
§ Mr. Bell
That being so, surely when my right hon. Friend is going to have in his hands in two weeks the statutory review and the report of the Phillips Committee, the purpose of which is to advise the Minister on changes which should be proposed, it is preposterous that he should jump the gun and announce his intentions and introduce a Bill to save a period of about three weeks. That, as I understand it, is all that would be saved.
§ Mr. Bell
I was not in any way avoiding that point, but, in my opinion, it is a separate point, and I was coming to it later.
The administrative lag between Royal Assent and payment is one thing. The Parliamentary lag between announcement of an intention and the end of legislation is another thing. If one accepts, as the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan accepted—and certainly the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West accepted—the inevitability of the administrative lag, then that will happen in any event. We are not considering that for the moment. But on the Parliamentary aspect, is it worth while to press my right hon. Friend, by a Motion of censure and so forth, to make an announcement which he will be making in about three weeks' time in the normal statutory course? Is that not an absurd proposal?
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
If the hon. Gentleman feels so keenly about this issue of the old people, why did he not go into the other Lobby last July to give the Government time to get on with the job?
§ Mr. Bell
I cannot follow the relevance of that interruption.
I am trying to deal with the matter in a fairly logical way to see what it all amounts to. What is the issue on which the two sides of the House are contending today? Bearing in mind that the Minister said that he is going to make an announcement and introduce legislation, there are only two things that the Opposition can say. They can say that the administrative delay can be swept aside by special procedure. I understand that, but I do not agree with it, and I will say why in a moment. The other thing they can say is that, granted the administrative delay, the Government should make a detailed announcement now and move the Second Reading of the Bill instantly.
I am dealing with the second point at the moment, and I am saying that that is an absurd argument. Why should not my right hon. Friend have time to consider the two important reports and announce his decision in three weeks' time? That is obviously common sense. I cannot believe that the Opposition would come here with a Motion of censure on that point.
If that is so, let us leave that point and consider the next one, which is the question of administrative delay. It has been suggested that we could get over this difficult by some kind of overstamping and, since one has to link contributions to payments, temporarily charge more for the stamps. It is not easy to argue about administrative difficulties in a Parliamentary debate, but I do not believe that that system would stand up for a week.
We could not have stamps in circulation, some of which were bought in advance to be stuck on the cards later, bearing a different value from that which appears on them, and so forth. That idea would not work. New stamps and new books must be printed. These payments are made by girls in post offices. There are many different rates of payment.
It must be obvious to anyone that these difficulties cannot be jumped just because one is anxious to do it. That is no doubt why the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West, who introduced the 1951 Bill, said the words which my right hon. Friend quoted in his speech 306 today—that however much one wanted to help the pensioners, the inescapable fact was that the machinery would break down if one tried to sweep away the administrative details.
If both those arguments are sound, as I believe them to be, I cannot see what censure there can be on the Government today. I ask myself why a debate of this kind should ever be launched. I cannot help feeling that there is a certain amount of political flavour in this debate. I hope I am not stating the obvious. The fact is that the operation about to be undertaken is very simple. I said just now, and I repeat it, that the value of retirement pensions today is approximately what it was when this Government took office.
§ Mr. Bell
In April, 1952, when this Government introduced their Bill, they did not give only a half-crown increase. That Bill brought a 6s. 6d. increase—I think I am right about that figure—to many pensioners. It was the first general increase in benefits under the 1946 Act. Pensions today are worth just about what they were in 1951, and the Government are now proposing to restore to pensioners what they lost in five years of Socialist administration.
That is the difficulty in which the party opposite finds itself. It told the people at the last Election that the Conservatives were warmongers; that they would bring unemployment, and would cut the social services. It was said that they were a danger to peace; a danger to employment, and a danger to the social services. The country has now seen what my right hon. Friend has done for the cause of peace; it has seen that unemployment is now at a record low level, and it will see, in a few weeks' time, that we have restored to the pensioners and those who benefit under National Assistance all that they lost in five years of Socialist inflation.
That will create a very difficult political situation for hon. Members opposite. That is their reason for this Motion of censure. For months past, by means of Questions and insinuations, they have been trying to deprive my right hon. Friends of some of the credit which ought rightly to belong to them for nursing the country back to such a state that all the 307 lost ground can be recovered. They are seeking to give the electorate the impression that these concessions are not the creation of an efficient Government but have been forced out of weak and bullied Ministers by the political action of the Opposition.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
If debating speeches delivered in the best Oxford Union manner disposed of the burning grievances of millions of our fellow citizens, I would be prepared to offer my congratulations to the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, but in his more sober moments tomorrow, after he has had the chance of reading the Press reports of this debate, he may have second thoughts about the success of his speech. Speaking for my constituents, I am quite certain that they will be shocked by it.
I would respectfully remind the House that the first duty of Members of this ancient assembly is not to make new laws, or even to amend old laws; it is to redress the grievances of the people, as their elected representatives. Never in the history of this Parliament has there been a period when so many people, for such good reason, were feeling this very serious grievance and sense of injustice.
I do not wish to weary the House by going over the economic arguments which have been presented so forcibly by my hon. Friends, except to say that the Minister sought to create the impression that the Labour Government had allowed the position to deteriorate before leaving office. In point of fact, we are entitled to remind the House that the Labour Government, in that period, laid the foundations of the Welfare State. That is something which we are entitled to claim as a piece of progressive statesmanship unparalleled in any other country.
Having done that, we now support the Motion of censure on the grounds that economic policy of the present Government has resulted in a whittling down and a reduction in the value of the benefits which the Welfare State sought to provide. This is not something which has happened fortuitously; it has resulted from a deliberate act of policy—the removal of the food subsidies. The sweeping away of controls upon the basic necessities of life may have pleased many 308 people who were relatively well off, and even large sections of the workers, who had been enjoying full employment for the first time as a result of the policies of the Labour Government——
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
Surely the hon. Member will agree that the Labour Party has not been in power for the last three years.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
The Conservative Party was in power for 40 years before we laid the foundations of the Welfare State.
§ Mr. Price
It is no use hon. Members opposite telling me—as a Lancashire-born man who has seen working-class life at very close quarters—that I am not being fair in complaining bitterly that thousands of my constituents have had their standards reduced, including the most helpless section of the people—the old-age pensioners—who cannot defend themselves and whom the Government of the day have a duty to defend.
§ Mr. Peyton
The hon. Member attributed full employment to the policies of the Labour Government, but he surely agrees that the Labour Government have not been in power for the last three years.
§ Mr. Price
I thought that these matters were beyond the realm of controversy. The economic history of the country is there for all to read. The period of the Labour Government corresponded with a period when this country, on the admission of the Prime Minister, was in a bankrupt condition to begin with. Against that background we erected a Welfare State, which greatly increased the social services and also swept away the Poor Law, one of the most hated features of our State machinery. We also abolished unemployment for the first time.
We are complaining today not with any wish to make political capital; I deny that. Probably half the people who are at present living on the basic pension and have no other sources of income are too proud and independent-minded to go to the Public Assistance Board. We may think that they are misguided in failing to take advantage of the services available. National Assistance has been revolutionised under a Labour Administration, and it has been made a human 309 institution for the first time. Nevertheless, in present circumstances many of the old folk are too proud even to take advantage of those additional benefits which are theirs for the asking if they seek them.
The Minister said in his opening speech that approximately only one-quarter of the pensioners were seeking National Assistance, and he assumed, therefore, that the other three million pensioners had other resources. That was an assumption that the right hon. Gentleman was not entitled to make, for it has no foundation in fact. If by some enlightened piece of administrative action the Minister would agree that instead of pensioners having to go to a different office and line up with all kinds of other people, not always aged people, to seek National Assistance—which, rightly or wrongly, they might regard as degrading—applications for supplementary payments could be made at the offices of his own Ministry, he might soon find that there was an additional million claims from the three million pensioners who do not seek National Assistance. In that way we might get round some of the more awkward administrative corners that present themselves to any Minister who deals with this matter.
There is another aspect that should be mentioned. So far, we have been talking as though this question could be regarded as a statistical guinea pig, and in anything but human terms. Yesterday, from the Dispatch Box, by our very peculiar Parliamentary machinery, which we all respect, we had a reply to a mysterious Question by the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather), who asked the Minister of Food:the nutritional value of the food shown in the food survey of his Department to be consumed by old-age pensioners; and how this compares with recent years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1954; Vol. 533, c. 16.]The Minister gave the anticipated reply that the nutritional value of food now supplied to, and consumed by, pensioners was higher than it was a few years ago. He said that he would append a table in the OFFICIAL REPORT giving the statistics of the analogy.
I have been looking at that table and I find it very interesting. I wish that 310 it could be published in the newspapers, because this is what it says:Estimated Energy Value and Nutrient Content of Old-Age Pensioners' Domestic Food Consumption.The top line of the table gives the energy value in 1951 as 2,264 calories and in 1954—a half year—as 2,486 calories. As a statistical proposition, therefore, those figures tell me that old-age pensioners were so much better off relatively that they were consuming an extra 222 calories—that is to say, a 10 per cent. increase—as a result of the munificent policy of this Government and that this energy ought to make them thankful and not complain, as they have been doing by the millions of petition forms which have come to the Floor of the House in the last 12 months.
From his own point of view and from the point of view of political acumen, the Minister did his case less than service in reading the pamphlet that had been circulated by the National Federation of Old-Age Pensions Associations. He poured scorn on a page which, it is true, was written in rather brusque and pungent language; he said that it was scurrilous. I should have imagined that the political pamphleteering of old-age pensioners would have been more fierce than that in circumstances similar to those which confront the House today.
In the list of items in the table given in the OFFICIAL REPORT, iron is referred to in milligrammes. In 1951, it states, an old-age pensioner received 11.2 mg. of iron in his ration, and in 1954 the figure has gone up to 12.3 mg. Whatever the nutritional experts may say and whatever the statistical evidence they produce to satisfy the Minister and bolster up his case, I suggest that the increase in the kind of iron that the old-age pensioners have got into their souls as a result of their experiences of the last two years is far greater than the increase shown in the table.
§ Dr. Morganrose——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
The hon. Member must resume his seat if the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) does not give way.
§ Mr. Price
Then we come to nicotinic acid. The nutritional expert says that in 1951 the old-age pensioners were supplied with 11.5 mgs. and in 1954, presumably as a result of Tory policy, the figure had gone up to 12.6 mgs. This is a rather frivolous approach to a human problem. I should have thought that even a Conservative Government, with all the inhibitions surrounding the Tory Party, would have shown greater acumen than giving frivolous figures of this kind to bolster up a case which does not stand examination.
Whatever we do about adjusting the contributory basis of the scheme, as was mentioned by the Minister today, the question of contributions does not affect the 4½ million people now on pension. It is useless for hon. Gentlemen opposite to argue that in 30 years' time we shall be faced with a crisis. I am familiar with these vital statistics. We are all concerned about them, but in 30 years' time the people on whose behalf we on these benches are speaking today will no longer be with us. Their problem will be settled. Today, therefore, we are putting forward a plea in the form of a Motion of censure on the Government—in fact, a demand—that something shall be done at once to increase the living standards of these old people who, in their age and generation, have served the country well.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan McKibbin (Belfast, East)
I should like to express on behalf of the pensioners of Northern Ireland their satisfaction that the financial and economic position of the country permits long overdue increases in the rates of pension and I hope that, when these increases are given, they will be as generous as possible.
§ Mr. McKibbin
I have every sympathy with old-age pensioners and have always maintained that we owe a debt of honour to the war disabled, who should have priority. This Government deserve credit for the fact that they are to give a second prize to the war disabled, and I hope they will not spoil it by postponing that rise until after Christmas because, rightly or wrongly, many of the war disabled believed that they would get that rise before Christmas.
312 I can understand that there may be reasons why it is impossible to give these increases to the old-age pensioners until next year, but I regret it. The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) said what I have always understood to be the fact, that no legislation is required to increase the basic rate of war pension, only a signature to the Royal Warrant being required. If this is so, I can see no reason why these increases should not be given before Christmas. If there is any reason, however, I shall be glad if the Minister of Defence will give it to us when replying to the debate, to satisfy the war disabled.
There is one class of persons which, I hope, will not be left out when the increases are given, the "ten shillings widows." The case of these widows is a hard one. Their husbands died too early for them to receive the new statutory insurance benefits and they receive only the old 10s. pension. Out of it they have to pay the National Insurance weekly contribution if they want to qualify for retirement pension. I hope, therefore, that their case will be considered also.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
At this late hour there seems to be little left to be said. The facts are not in dispute and I rise only because of the Minister's speech. I shall be quite frank in telling the House that I thought it was a mean and contemptuous speech. If I were he I do not think that I would have used a term like "a scurrilous campaign" about old-age pensioners. Even if he thinks that it is, it will not produce much political capital for him to say so. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman thinks, at least 4 million old-age pensioners think that they have a just and good cause. Whatever facts they have put forward they have put forward sincerely, with full knowledge of their case and in the hope of obtaining some encouragement.
The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) in a minor kind of sycophantic adulation, praised the Minister and said that there was no evidence of hardship among old-age pensioners. I do not intend to go into a lot of facts and figures about such things as nicotinic acid content measured in milligrammes, like the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, but I think that both 313 the hon. Member and the Minister of Defence, who is to wind up the debate, were at the Conservative Party Conference at Blackpool. I do not intend to quote the "Daily Herald" or any other organ of the Left, but to mention something that happened at the Blackpool Conference which was reported in the "People". The report states:So the nation-wide demand for higher old-age pensions has actually reached the floor of the Conservative Party Conference. There the delegates had to listen to this harrowing statement from Mr. Jack Sizer, a Leeds shopkeeper:Those were the words of Mr. Sizer, who, I assume, was a Conservative Party delegate.'Many old people in need would rather starve than admit defeat—yes, starve!—and many of them are doing it today. Their cupboards are bare'.
§ Mr. Johnson
Those words can be said again and again.
Hon. and right hon. Members opposite know the facts perfectly well. The question is, what are they going to do about the situation? It ill behoves the party opposite to talk about jerrymandering in the 1948 General Election. That will not help to fill the bellies of old-age pensioners, any more than will the statistics which were given yesterday by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food. Let us forget about the past; let us think today of what is going to happen. That is much more important. If we are honest, we must admit that there are others besides hon. and right hon. Members opposite who cannot appear in white sheets today. We on this side of the House might have done more in past years, but the party opposite are now the Government and it is their job to act now.
§ Mr. Johnson
The Minister of Defence is one of the worst offenders in boasting about the large national cake which the Government have been baking with the help of 25 million workers. If we are doing so well, and the Government can give slices of the cake to many sections of the community, including all manner of people who do not do the hard work, that many old-age pensioners have done in the past as coal miners and farm 314 workers, why cannot they give something to the old-age pensioners? Why cannot they disgorge some of the wealth which they allege has accrued during the last few years since they came into power?
That is all that we ask of them. Why cannot they give something to the old people, many of whom are the fathers and mothers of hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House. I am appalled by the casual, flippant attitude of Ministers who dabble in statistics about the needs of old-age pensioners. One has only to go to the constituencies and talk with old-age pensioners to find out what they think about their circumstances. We can no longer fob them off in the way in which they have been fobbed off during the last year or two. The longer the party opposite put off this matter the more shabby, the more shop-soiled, becomes the issue. I warn them that the longer they delay the more shallow will their manœuvre become.
I do hope that when the Minister of Defence replies to the debate he will have something definite to say, not merely to us in this Chamber, but to the much wider audience of the old-age pensioners and to the 50 million people in the United Kingdom. I hope he will have a message which will convince people outside this House that this Government mean to do something for deserving old-age pensioners—and that immediately.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
I am very glad to have a few moments in which to speak at the end of this debate. In following the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnston), I think it fair to remind him that this is not a new problem, but a very old one. It is the problem of poverty which we must all try, individually and collectively, to face in this House. I found it exceptionally hard to believe him when, like so many of his hon. Friends, he sought to lay the blame on my party and this side of the House for the present situation, because, in all conscience, the record of his party is by no means free from blame on just the very points which he sought to level at us.
§ Mr. J. Johnsonrose——315
§ Mr. Johnson
Surely the hon. Member will do me the courtesy of agreeing that I said a few moments ago that neither side could appear in a white sheet on this occasion. Both sides of the House have, perhaps, been failing in their duty, but the party opposite is in power. The Conservative Party is the Government and should be doing the job now, in 1954.
§ Mr. Peyton
The party opposite is levelling a charge which it is not qualified to make in view of its own rather dreary record in this matter.
I wish to go back to the speech of the right hon. Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill); and I am sorry that she is not in her place. I personally regret that in the course of her opening remarks, when levelling a very serious charge against the Government, she did not even advert to the leading article contained in "The Times" this morning. In my opinion that article was detached, fair and wholly unbiased.
§ Mr. Peyton
I am glad to hear the hon. Member say that, because in the last debate, when a similar charge was levelled against the Government, the right hon. Lady was only too pleased to say that she had the support of that newspaper. She said:If the Minister reads 'The Times' today, he will see that I have the support of that newspaper."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 1374.]
§ Mr. Peyton
I do not know whether she would ever find it worth her while to pull the leg of the hon. Member for Warrington (Dr. Morgan).
§ Mr. Peyton
The speech of the right hon. Lady today, levelling this charge against the Government, was different from her speech at the end of July in one respect only. That was that today she sprinkled it with a number of rather abusive and controversial epithets. She referred, for instance, to the delaying tactics of the Government hoodwinking the country and alleged that the House had been grossly misled in March in reference to the problem of aged people. 316 There was nothing which the right hon. Lady had to say today, any more than on the last occasion, to support a Motion of censure against the Government. In point of fact, the right hon. Lady knows very well—her party also knows—that hon. Members opposite are asking for something which is impossible—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They are asking now for an immediate increase.
§ Mr. Peyton
The right hon. Lady is on record herself, in a very able and clear speech in the Second Reading debate on the 1951 Bill, as saying that there were certain inevitable administrative delays. She cannot possibly get away with that and come to this House and say that they want something done immediately.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels rose——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) must resume his seat if the hon. Gentleman who is speaking does not give way.
§ Mr. Peyton
I was endeavouring to say that the request made by the party opposite for immediate action is a request for something that they know to be impossible—[HON. MEMBERS: "That is not true."] In fact——
§ Mr. Peyton
If the hon. Member will allow me to do so, I will make my own speech.
The point I am trying to make is that the party opposite are not guiltless on this issue. They were returned to office in 1945, and in February, 1946, they introduced a Bill. It was not until October, 1946, 14 months after they came to office, that effective action was taken and money found its way into the pockets of the pensioners——
§ Mr. Peyton
As my right hon. Friend pointed out, there were troubles, disappointments, delays and mistakes. Why? Because they had not been able to prepare the ground. It is now proved that the party opposite tried to goad the 317 Government into precipitate action, with the ground inadequately prepared, and thus cause considerable hardship and disappointment to many old-age pensioners. In 1951, just before the election, the party opposite agreed to a small increase which, for some reason incomprehensible to most reasonable men, was limited to one section of the old-age pensioners.
§ Mr. Peyton
Then there was one signal difference about all the speeches made by hon. Members opposite. It was their respect for the statutory review. They laid upon themselves the obligation of undertaking this statutory review, a matter which has now lost its importance and significance in their eyes.
§ Mr. Shurmer
We did not expect the rise in the cost of living that there has been in the last three years.
§ Mr. Peyton
We maintain that the actions of the Government in this matter have at all times been clear; that it would have been a denial of their responsibility had they attempted to deal with this vast human problem in a piecemeal and a so-called emergency fashion as is irresponsibly demanded——
§ Mr. Peyton
I think we are entitled to lay that charge, as, indeed, the admirable leader in "The Times" laid the charge today. This Motion of censure contains nothing except electoral considerations of a most shallow nature.
§ Mr. Peyton
I should like to say to the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who is to speak for the party opposite, that the similarity between this and colonial affairs is to be found on one point. Here is provided a vast playground of human emotions—and the right hon. Gentleman considers himself to be an adept at playing upon human emotions. He is doing a poor service to himself and to his party—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."] Is it not strange to expect that hon. Members on this side of the House should sit here and constantly accept unlimited insults and gibes from hon. Gentlemen opposite?
§ Mr. Peyton
If any of us attempt to reply, what a degree of resentment is aroused among hon. Members opposite.
I say to the party opposite that we are sincere in our intentions, sincere enough to make sure that those intentions are properly carried out, and the foundations for their success properly laid.
§ Mr. Shurmer
The party opposite gave millions to the breweries and nothing to the old-age pensioners.
§ Mr. Peyton
I say to the right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite that, in launching this second censure Motion within three months on exactly the same subject, they have done nothing except try to fan the fires of political prejudice to their own advantage. Even though I have not been in the House of Commons for very long, I am bold enough to make one prophecy, which is that not all the stupid antics of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will gain them one extra vote at the next General Election.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I begin by expressing my regret to many of my hon. Friends and to hon. Members opposite who would have liked to participate in the debate. We have listened to very good speeches from this side of the House—as we always do when we discuss these matters—from hon. Members who have a close and intimate knowledge of the life of the people.
I wish to refer to one speech by an hon. Member opposite, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). At greater leisure later, I should very much like to discuss with him some of the problems which he mentioned, just as I have had the pleasure of discussing some aspects of them with him on the radio. If he will read the speech which I made on the Third Reading of the National Insurance Act, 1946, when I was casting my mind to the future, he will see that I raised precisely the same point as he raised today.
I must also make reference to the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Owen). We were very glad to hear his voice. I should like to say how much all of us look forward to listening to his contributions to our future debates. I give him a very 319 warm welcome to our counsels in this House.
The Minister again raised the question of 1946. I want to make a very short statement about 1946. I am proud of what we did in 1946. We gave pensioners the biggest single increase they have ever had since there have been pensions in this country. I was confronted with a task of bringing the increase into operation with an organisation which the Minister knows better than anyone else—he is now head of the Department—was broken, scattered and disorganised.
There were difficulties, setbacks and delays. I took all the risks, and I take full responsibility. I am certain that it was the right thing to do in 1946.
The Minister spoke about the old-age pensioners' organisation and their leaflets. When he comes to reflect upon it I think that he will regret what he said and especially the language that he used. These are old people at the end of their lives. They belong to the generation which remembers the '20s and the '30s. They have memories.
§ Mr. Griffiths
They remember what happened, and if sometimes they use language that may appear to some of us in Parliament to be extravagant, it is because they feel deeply about the position in which they are now placed.
We are discussing a Motion of censure. It is not the first, and this is not the first debate that we have had in recent months upon this problem. I do not want to go into past history. I want to begin with comparatively recent history, for there we find full justification for the Motion.
When the previous debate took place, in July last, I said something which I repeat now. I said that unless something was done quickly to mitigate the burdens of rising food prices and rising costs generally—to which there will be added this winter the effects of the Act for which the present Minister of Defence is responsible; the increase in rents—the cumulative effect of all these things would give the pensioners and those on benefit the worst winter which they have had since the war.
320 I repeat that pensioners will have their worst winter since the war because it is now apparent—let us get this clear to begin with—that there will be no increase in pensions or benefits this winter. I do not know whether the Minister of Defence will be able to tell us anything different from that when he speaks. It appears to be perfectly clear that there will be no increase this winter.
I will not argue at great length, although I am tempted to do so by what the Minister said today and in the earlier debate, and by what other hon. Members have said, whether or not there is hardship among the old and those who are on benefit. It ought to be established that there is. Is it denied? Do the Government deny that those people are suffering grave hardships? The whole country is deeply conscious and deeply worried about the hardships which the old people and others will suffer this winter. That fact should be beyond question. Nevertheless, the Minister said today—he also said it in July—that there was no hardship which could not be met by the National Assistance Board.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food yesterday gave us what he called provisional figures which have also been used by the Minister in previous debates, and they convey the impression that the old-age pensioners are very much better off than they ever were. What is the purpose of the figures which we were given yesterday? Every hon. Member knows that they convey a completely wrong impression of the situation of those who are on pension or on benefit.
Expressions of deep concern about the plight of pensioners are not confined to the Opposition. My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) referred to a speech made at the Conservative Party Conference at Blackpool this autumn. It is the function of the Opposition to ask questions and the function of the Government to reply, and I want to address some questions to the Minister of Defence, who was at that Conference.
I propose to quote from a resolution carried at the Conservative Party Conference. It is an expression of the views of the conference, and "The Times" of 8th October reported that it was carried unanimously. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) agrees 321 with the resolution. This is what the conference decided:This conference takes note of the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he is reviewing, as a matter of considerable urgency, the whole position relative to pensions, and in view of the very great concern felt on this matter in the country, presses for immediate action to be taken.That is not an expression of view by the Opposition; it is an expression of view by the Conservative Party Conference. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who were at the conference voted for the resolution.
§ Mr. Griffiths
That has already been referred to.
I take it, therefore, that the resolution represented the view of the Conservative Party that there was deep and very grave concern in the country. Is that accepted? Is it accepted that considerable urgency is called for and that there is a demand for immediate action? Perhaps the Minister of Defence will tell us what "immediate" means. It is their resolution and their pronouncement, and I therefore take it that it is agreed that there is urgency, hardship and concern.
Now I come to what is our charge against the Government and why we have tabled this Motion of censure. It is a recent history. I come first of all to the debate we had earlier—it was not a Motion of censure at all—on a Friday. It was on a Motion moved in an admirable speech, by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) and seconded in an equally admirable speech by his colleague the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley). It was supported by all sides of the House and accepted by the Government.
That was on 19th March. That Resolution, which was accepted by the Government and carried unanimously, and was, therefore, the expression of view of the House, was framed in terms expressing concern at the hardship experienced by the poorer citizens who were being driven to seek National Assistance in ever-greater numbers. The House having accepted that Motion calling attention to the hardship being experienced, we expected at that time that the Government 322 would listen to our plea and would accept it.
What happened in that debate? The then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance said in reply to the debate—which was held a fortnight before the Budget—that he accepted the Motion on behalf of the Government. I will quote his words in full. I am entitled to comment upon them. I am entitled to imply from them what was the will of the House on that Friday afternoon, and to accept the implication of the promise he made.
Let me quote his words:I had better explain my position at this Box. I remember that on 3rd March the Economic Secretary to the Treasury explained that he was replying to the debate because the Chancellor of the Exchequer had gone behind purdah. Now we are within a fortnight of the Budget, and both the Economic Secretary and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury have retired behind that screen. I am left alone to explain the position until the Budget Comes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 802.]That was a fortnight before the Budget. We all left the House that afternoon satisfied that in view of the universal view in the House that there was real hardship and that there was a need for urgent action, that when the then Parliamentary Secretary said he was left to deal with it before the Budget came, there was a clear understanding that in the Budget there would be relief for the old-age pensioners. That was not only the view of the House, but it became the view of the country.
A fortnight afterwards the Budget came. It was described as a dull Budget. It was worse than dull. It threw gloom over the House and even hon. Members opposite did not cheer.
§ Mr. Griffiths
It brought dismay to the whole country. Having in previous Budgets distributed largesse to those who could do without it more easily than could pensioners, and having in the previous Budget removed food subsidies, they brought their Bill forward.
I want to say a word about the Bill about which they brag so much. That Bill, with its pensions increase, came before this House after the reduction in the food subsidies, which every one who 323 understands the life, the budget and the menu of the old-age pensioner knows bore more heavily upon them. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite talked as if that Bill was a great gift from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Will the Minister deny that, in the Act of 1952, for every £7 of benefit £6 was taken from the contributor, and only £1 came from the Treasury.
That was the gift from the Treasury, the Chancellor or the Government. The poorest people in this country have paid for that increase, and the Bill about which hon. Gentlemen opposite bragged so much was the Bill which made the poorest people pay for it. The House and the country were sadly disappointed. I go further, and say that the House and the country at that time thought they had been badly let down, as well as the pensioners, by the failure of the Government to redeem what was regarded as a promise given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Budget in April.
Now I come to what happened afterwards, and here I want to raise some questions to which I hope the Minister will reply. First of all, they put forward a reason, which became an excuse or an alibi, but which is now completely destroyed. What they said then was: "We cannot make up our minds and come to a decision upon this very big and complicated matter until we have had, first of all, the report of the Government Actuary, and, second, the report of the Phillips Committee." Does the Minister deny that? May I have the attention of the Minister, because this point is important to the timing of this business? The question was how long we should have to wait.
In February, three weeks before the debate in March, there was a debate in the House of Lords and questions about the review, the Actuary's report and the report of the Phillips Committee were raised. The spokesman for the Government in the House of Lords, the Earl of Selkirk, in that debate told their Lordships, and through them in the country, that those reports would not be available until next year. Surely, the general feeling expressed in all parts of the House and in the country, was that if those reports were not to become available 324 until next year, with the sure knowledge that they would raise enormous problems which would take months of discussion, the case for rapid action became overwhelming.
Let us look at the problems raised by the review, which will be enormous—the future financing of the scheme, the future level of benefits and contributions, how contributions shall be levied, not only in regard to pensions, but all the other benefits, including unemployment benefit, and new provisions after the abolition of Section 62. All these problems are raised by the review, and yet we were told by the Government spokesman "Look at the problems which the Phillips Committee is examining."
The Government spokesman in another place said that the Phillips Committee was examining such problems as raising the retirement age, abolishing the retirement condition and raising the retirement age for women. If the Phillips Committee is examining all these problems, and if it is to report and make recommendations, does the Minister think that this House or the country will be able to make up their minds on problems the solution of which may take one month, two months, six months or even a year?
The Government knew that there would be controversy, and perhaps bitter controversy. Our view was that since the reports would not be available until next year, and would then raise enormous issues which would have to be debated for a very long time, the obvious thing to do was to meet the urgent need by dealing with the situation now.
Now the Government's alibi has gone. That was the position in July, but a lot has happened since July. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Benches have spoken of politics let me give them the political position from their side of the matter. I have described the position right up to the time when we had the other Motion of censure. Then things began to move. We said in July, "if the Reports are going to take so long, do not wait. Do it now." There was the strongest reason for doing it, because the old people were suffering great hardship, as is acknowledged by all of us in this House.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Let me explain how things moved. First there was the Conservative Party Conference, at which there was a debate, and the resolution to which hon. Members have referred. The 1922 Committee was called into action, and the Prime Minister was brought into that committee. Then there was a by-election in a marginal constituency. Now that there is another by-election, apparently the Government are not waiting for the reports. They have said all along, "Wait for the reports. Let us have them, and examine them." What does the Minister say now—not to Parliament but to Conservative supporters at a by-election meeting at West Derby? I will quote from his speech, as it was reported on 12th November, in "The Times." It was made on 11th November. The report says:Mr. Macmillan, Minister of Defence, speaking in the West Derby by-election campaign tonight, said that Government's proposals to cover old-age pensions would be put before Parliament next month. The necessary legislation would be introduced before Christmas, and we shall ask Parliament to pass it with all possible speed.I ask the House to pay particular attention to the next words of the Minister of Defence, which were:When you see the details of our proposals you will be satisfied.The Minister of Defence, therefore, knows the details already, although the Actuary's Report has not been published. The Minister of Pensions told us this afternoon that the Government had not been able to look at the report. The Phillips report is not yet published, but the Minister of Defence knows the details of the proposals already. If he does, why wait? What is the purpose of waiting for the reports when the Government have made up their minds before the reports are published? It is clear that all the talk about waiting for the reports was an alibi that has now been destroyed, because the Minister of Defence knows the details of the legislation already.
The basis for this Motion of censure is that the Government know that grave and increasing hardships are being increased all the time by their action. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food is not here. He may be in. West Derby—he is. I shall be there tomorrow night to answer him. I would say to the hon. Gentleman in connection with all 326 the figures that he used yesterday concerning the people about whom everyone has expressed deep concern and anxiety, that there is only one answer to the impression which he tried to create. It is the answer which was used in a broadcast not so long ago—"Chuck it, Charlie."
It is now clear beyond any possible doubt that there is going to be no immediate increase in pensions or benefits. The pensioners and those in receipt of benefits will have to go through the winter without an increase of any kind, and this at a time when the price of sugar and tea and that of many other commodities is increasing each week.
Every hon. Member knows perfectly well that this winter is going to be a hard, tough winter, the worst winter that the pensioners have ever experienced. For months the Government have said, "We cannot do anything until we get these reports." Now the Minister of Defence has stated that he is already in receipt of the details of those reports. As the right hon. Gentleman told a by-election meeting that he has the details, I ask him to let us have them now.
In March, in July, and, indeed, all the way through, we have been urging the Government to do something before the winter sets in so as to save those who are suffering grave hardship from experiencing still greater hardship. The reason given by the Government for not doing anything immediately is no reason at all, but only an alibi. For all these reasons we shall ask the House to vote for this Motion tonight.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
We have had a very interesting debate, and I should like to add to what the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said by paying tribute to the excellent speeches which have been made on both sides of the House. There was a notable maiden speech to which, as always, the House listened with pleasure from the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Owen) who, we hope, will contribute further to our debates.
There was a very well-informed speech, as usual, from my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), and a very fair and well argued speech from the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), to which 327 I shall refer in greater detail a little later. I shall hope to convince him and his colleagues that they should support the Government, and, incidentally, follow the lead of the "Manchester Guardian" and of the "News Chronicle."
We had a very charming though rather ingenuous speech from the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) who does not often address us. He made a very interesting and well-informed speech, and, in a very mild way, he managed to put forward some tremendously revolutionary sentiments. He said, among other things, that the present Government was the worst Government of modern times. That is a very high claim to make. If I may adapt the famous retort, "How dare he say that in the presence of his Front Bench?"
We had very good speeches also from the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard) and from the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price), on the one side, and from my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) and from my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell), on the other. Altogether, it has been a very agreeable, if somewhat unreal, debate. Nevertheless, this is, in form at any rate, a Motion of censure or its equivalent, and, if carried, it must involve the fall of the Government.
Such a Motion any Government has the traditional right to repel by all the means in their power. We know the old saying, "This animal is vicious; when attacked it defends itself." There are, indeed, many promising lines of counterattack with which I have supplied myself, but I shall use them as sparingly as possible, for the subject which the Opposition have chosen to exploit for purely party advantage is one which seems to us singularly ill-suited to that purpose. The national task of providing for old age fills a great human and social need, and it is also likely to prove a considerable financial and economic problem in the years to come. There is something rather unsavoury about trying to use the old people purely for the purpose of making party capital and scoring party points.
I am bound to say that if this Motion has rather an unpleasant flavour, it is quite well-timed for its purpose. When the 328 right hon. Member for Llanelly began one of his characteristic and lachrymose periods, with that far-away look in his eyes, his vision fixed dramatically upon the distant horizon, we all had a shrewd idea where his benignant gaze was really directed.
It was, I suspect, somewhere in the North-West of England, and it was for the old people of a famous industrial city that his heart bled so freely tonight. It was on the doorsteps of the houses in particular streets, in a special district of that city, that the milk of his human kindness was to be neatly and appropriately left, in well-labelled bottles, on the morning before the poll.
§ Mr. Macmillan
Hon. Members opposite asked for it and they are going to take it.
However, if the timing of the Motion was judicious from this rather squalid point of view, the choice of prosecuting advocates was somewhat peculiar, for if it is really a question of censure, there is only one place where the two right hon. Members should be, and that is first in the dock and then in the penitentiary. However, we are all by now accustomed to the right hon. Member for Llanelly, and we rather enjoyed his style. I am told that no one reads Dickens nowadays, but for those who do, he seems to have walked straight out of one of those favourite volumes, one of those serio-clerical or para-clerical figures—but I had better not particularise.
The right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) usually adopts a much more astringent and logical style, but I feel that today she was not altogether happy.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I am not at all surprised, for the right hon. Lady has many memories of these problems and has spoken much about them, both in and out of office, especially in. On 20th July, 1950, when the cost of living had risen by 14 points, and thus knocked over 3s. a week off the purchasing power of the 26s. pension, she wrote as follows:With the best will in the world towards pensioners, and a full appreciation of their 329 difficulties, any suggestion which seriously increases the cost of pensions must of necessity be weighed with the utmost care against the cost to the contributor and to the taxpayer, bath present and future.The right hon. Lady signed that. I do not know whether she wrote it. After some years of office it has a very familiar ring to me. At any rate, she signed it. Then, by 17th October of the same year, the cost of living had gone up a further point, making 15 points in all. She then stated in the House of Commons that she could not agree that pensioners were suffering hardship. That was when the cost of living was 15 points above that at which it stood when pensions had been fixed. On 21st November, after a further rise she said that she had nothing to add.
In March, 1951, after a further three points rise—making a rise of 19 points without any addition to pensions—the right hon. Lady was still absolutely adamant, and even when an increase was at last proposed, in the Bill of April, 1951—which, incidentally, did not come into force until 1st October, five months later—the increase was given only to part of the claimants, namely, those who had reached pensionable age before 31st October. In the light of subsequent electoral history that is quite a significant date. By a refinement of cynicism, subsequent pensioners were to be left without any increase, not for a few months, but for years.
That was her plan—or perhaps it would be fairer to say that it was the plan of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said that the cost 'would be £39 million, and added:That is all that we can afford."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th April, 1951; Vol. 486, c. 850.]The Bill of the late Government received a Second Reading on 26th April, 1951. By the time the Royal Assent was given, two months later, the cost of living had gone up another 4 points. The first increases were paid on 1st October, 1951, nearly six months after the Budget announcement. In those six months the cost of living had risen by 8 points.
Thirty-nine million pounds—"All that we can afford." That was the Socialists' refrain; the theme song of the new Utopia. Why, the increases which the Conservative Chancellor made in 1952, in pensions, family allowances and the rest, came to over £100 million. Yet the 330 hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) has the effrontery to appeal for "a little humanity" and to protest against the "eternal waiting." There was the waiting—during those long years, as the cost of living rose.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
The right hon. Gentleman might have added that in that year we had to find an extra £500 million for defence.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I quite accept that—and in these years we have had to find another £800 million.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, South is not ashamed to join in this chorus of cant. He is reported as saying last night, in West Derby:We are told that the Government is going to do something about pensions. I believe that is overwhelmingly because of the intensive pressure put upon them by the Labour Party in Parliament, where we have a censure Motion tomorrow, and in the country.If he can believe that he can believe anything. At any rate, it must be some satisfaction to him to know that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, in spite of the dismal inheritance to which he succeeded, will be able to afford it. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] I am coming to that. The longer I go on the worse it will be for the Opposition.
In those days the right hon. Lady was against a Christmas bonus. She turned down a suggestion of a 5s. bonus on 28th November, 1950. She said:I have no power to do this."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 919.]That was a brief, rather prim, but certainly correct reply. She had already rejected the idea in July, 1950. She then said:This would not be a proper provision to be made under a contributory insurance scheme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1950, Vol. 477, c. 2023.]Again, on 1st November, she repeated it. But what is the purpose of the reference to Christmas by the Motion except to make just that human appeal to strike everyone's human sentiments and yet to suggest the proposal which the right hon. Lady, when in office, quite properly rejected as unsuitable to this form of scheme?
Now I come to another point of great importance in this controversy. As for the immensity of the administrative task 331 involved in making the alterations in benefit rates, the right hon. Lady's speech on 26th April, 1951, on the Second Reading of the Bill, is, of course, the locus classicus. It is rather long—it has already been quoted—but it is so convincing that I really cannot deprive myself or the House of the pleasure of hearing some of it again. The right hon. Lady said:Most people know that pensions are paid by means of books of 52 weekly orders, which are security documents similar to a cheque or money order.
§ Mr. Macmillan
The right hon. Lady is going to have it again; it is so good.
Her speech continued:These books are held by pensioners and exchanged as they run out at the rate of about 80,000 a week. Pensioners affected by these proposals are therefore at any moment holding something like 75 million of these security documents; and a steady stream of additional books of orders is going out week by week to them. All these orders must be replaced either by orders for the new rates, or by amended orders, properly authenticated, before the Post Office officials can pay the new pensions. I would ask hon. Members to remember thatsaid the right hon. Lady. Whether they did or not, I do not know.Some of them"—continued the right hon. Lady—have suggested that this money might be paid out without our taking the usual precautions. I think it would be agreed by hon. Members on both sides of the House that that would be an entirely irresponsible approach to this matter. … We shall do everything in our power to bring the new rates into force as soon as possible. It depends on the present Bill passing through Parliament without undue delay. …There was no question of a sudden new administrative decision; it was simply the Bill and the Royal Assent.It depends on the present Bill"—said the right hon. Lady—passing through Parliament without undue delay and without serious Amendment, and on the co-operation of other Departments, particularly the Post Office, and the Stationery Office, for whom I think it will be recognised this work presents serious difficulties. Above all, it depends on the pensioners who will be asked in the weeks before the new rates become operative to apply at local National Insurance offices, on a staggered programme, to have their present order books altered or replacement books issued to them.332 Then, the right hon. Lady went on to use a very pregnant and powerful phrase:This is not a job which can be done by a stroke of the pen.It is not; that is true.I am quite satisfied that the administrative arrangements which we have in mind are the best and easiest way possible of giving effect to the changes provided by this Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1951; Vol. 487, c. 592–3.]
§ Dr. Summerskill
I know that the Minister has 25 minutes to fill in, and it is very unusual in this House for him to repeat the speech made by the opener of the debate, but in reply to what he has already said, may I say that this is evidence that the Government knew precisely how long it would take to prepare the payment books? This is evidence that the Government knew that this proposal should have been introduced last spring.
§ Mr. Macmillan
The right hon. Lady cannot get out of it like that. I have given her account of the difficult administrative job. Today, she asks that it should be done before Christmas—that is what the Motion says. [Interruption.] That statement of hers was a very good and sensible statement.
I am a little concerned about the right hon. Lady, because not only is she a very distinguished and leading politician, but she is also a distinguished doctor and dietician. I must warn her of the dangers involved in having to eat so many of her own words. Even pre-digested or twice digested they make rather unpalatable fare.
Anyway, the Socialists took five months to do this job—five months from the Second Reading of the Bill to payment. I am confident that we can do better than that. And it is, of course, just as well—and this is the answer to the point raised below the Gangway—if we are to print these cheques, if we are to print millions of pounds worth of forms, it is just as well to know what are the sums to be printed before we start. Until the Bill is passed, there is no means of knowing.
Now I come to the next point, a perfectly fair one: why did we not introduce our Bill earlier?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I will tell the hon. Gentleman, and he will not like it either.
To the uninstructed, this sounds all right, but the right hon. Lady knows quite well that in the last debate in July many hon. Members opposite welcomed the appointment of the Phillips Committee. Some had suggestions to make of a very far-reaching kind for amendments and alterations in the whole structure of the scheme——
§ Mr. Macmillan
We will come to the plan and the hon. Gentleman will not like it when he hears it. All I hope is that he will vote for it.
The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) wanted to revise the present flat rate of contribution by a sliding scale according to wages or income, and that suggestion was repeated by another hon. Member. An authority whom I ventured to call in aid in the last debate, and will again, was Mr. George Woodcock, the Assistant General Secretary of the T.U.C., who still, I think, has some support among the party opposite. He was asked what he thought of the decision—that is, the decision complained of by the right hon. Gentleman—not to increase pensions in the 1954 Budget. This is what he said in a broadcast:I think it is generally acceptable in the sense that there are these inquiries going on and we of the T.U.C. are preparing evidence for the committee dealing with the implications of old age. Then there is the report and so on, so that at least it is reasonable to say, 'I will not deal with that at this stage'.That was his view.
Apart from the Phillips Committee, there is the Actuary's report. I have no particular brief for actuaries or statisticians; indeed, I have a good deal of sympathy with the man who defined an actuary as "a man who is dead on time." But who started the Actuary? Why, the Socialists. It is all in the 1946 Act. With one of those statutory valuations just about to be completed, in November—[An HON. MEMBER: "Get on to the old-age pensioners.]—were we to act without this report? Were we to have no regard to this report?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
That is a perfectly sound and feasible argument but the right hon. Gentleman said in West Derby that 334 he knew the details already before he had seen the report——
§ Mr. Griffiths rose——
§ Mr. Griffiths
Here is a complete contradiction. The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance told us clearly this afternoon—I did not interrupt, but it is within the knowledge of the House that I asked whether he had received the report. He said, no. Now the Minister of Defence says that it has been received.
§ Mr. Macmillan rose——
§ Mr. J. T. Price rose——
§ Mr. Price
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask your guidance with regard to the statement just made by the right hon. Gentleman, in which he said that a draft copy of the Actuary's report has already been received? Since he has referred to that document, ought it not to be laid on the Table of the House?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not think there is any point of order in that. The only real point of order which emerges is that on both sides of the House we should maintain sufficient silence for the speeches to be heard.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Further to that point of order. Is it not a well-understood rule that if a document is referred to it must be laid at the earliest possible opportunity?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I did not quote a document. The right hon. Member for Llanelly is, quite naturally, confusing two things. My right hon. Friend said that the Phillips report has not been received, but I said that the main headings of the Actuary's report have been received.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Hon. Members will remember that I asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance and he said and repeated that the Actuary's report had not been received.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I was in the House and I heard what my right hon. Friend 335 said, and the right hon. Gentleman will find that HANSARD will have reported it.
The Government have very properly waited before they bring legislation before the House until they have received the Actuary's report. They could not frame legislation until the new Session and they hope to be able to receive—although that is not quite certain—the Phillips report in time to make use of it in framing legislation. That is the position, which, I hope, is now clear and correct.
I am confident that when the heat and dust of this debate has settled——
§ Mr. Macmillan
The hon. Member has made some, too. I hope that when they have settled and the by-election is safely over, all of us in this House, on both sides, will join together in speeding forward a new Bill which will be a new landmark in our social legislation. Here I repeat what I said before, because it is a point upon which the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan insisted. The Bill will be introduced before Christmas. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which Christmas?"] If the Phillips report is produced we can have that also to work upon. The Bill will be introduced as soon as it is possible.
The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan suggested that it should be made as simple as possible so that it should be passed as rapidly as possible. That is a good suggestion and it may be there are more detailed questions that can be temporarily put on one side. The purpose is that the Bill should be short, clear and simple and passed into law as soon as possible. It is always difficult, with all the machinery of the House of Commons, as hon. Members know, but we even hope, that, with the efforts of the whole House, the Bill will be passed into law before we rise for Christmas.
No country in the world can beat—and few can equal—the record of our Parliament in Westminster in the last 50 years. All parties have contributed to it. There was originally the great pioneering effort of the Liberal Party. There was the work of the Conservative Administration between the wars and there were the 336 advances which we planned together, which it fell to the Labour Party to carry out.
That is a record of which we can all be proud. But the social security which we all want—security in old age, security in time of sickness or misfortune—is something that we cannot get merely by passing an Act of Parliament. It is one thing to put a figure in a Bill. It is quite another to make sure that it is translated into the essentials of life and the comforts that we want the sick and elderly to obtain.
§ Mr. Macmillan
If the right hon. Gentleman will contain his excitement for a moment, I will go on.
In 1946, we thought that the figure of 26s. a week was very reasonable in the conditions of that time, but, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, it began to buy less and less and the pensioners who had no other resources had to turn more and more to National Assistance. I do not accuse the party opposite of any lack of humanity. It was not callousness which kept them from making an increase until their last month of office. Of course it was not. The truth is that the state to which the general economic policy of the Socialists had reduced our finances was such that the Government could not afford to do anything.That is all that we can affordsaid the Chancellor on 10th April, 1951.I must make it plain that we are not able to raise any other social insurance benefit at the present moment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th April, 1951; Vol. 486, c. 850.]They could not afford it and, although their instincts of humanity and social justice may have made them wish to make a larger contribution, they could not do so. Now, of course, it is true that our national finances have improved. Our production is rising, we are earning more, we are saving more and we are spending more. As a nation we are paying our way. The world has a new confidence in us. The time has come when we can take up a new and heavy commitment knowing that we have the ability to meet it. We know now that any cheques drawn in favour of the pensioners will be genuine cheques and will be met.
But let nobody be under any illusion as to the cost. Hon. and right hon.
337 Members who study these matters know that it is a very big problem. Old-age pensions alone, at the present level, cost £350 million a year. In 25 years' time that will have risen to £700 million and the figure will rise by about £30 million a year now for each 2s. 6d. by which the pensions are raised and, of course, by much more in the future.
§ Mr. Macmillan
The fact that we are facing this human problem is a great tribute to the Government. That we are now proposing to shoulder burdens like this is not a matter for censure but a matter for congratulation that what the Opposition was not able to do we are now able to undertake.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I have lately had a change in my office and have become Minister of Defence. Defence includes counter-attack, especially against unprovoked aggression. I know how heavy the cost of defence is and must for many years continue to be. We can prune here and there, but if we are to follow the path of peace through strength, which alone offers any hope for the future, we have to reconcile ourselves to paying a very heavy bill year by year and that is the first charge. If we are determined, as I am sure we all are, to extend and improve our social services, not for the old people alone, but for the young, for the sick, the unemployed, the victims of war, we have a vast rising scale of public expenditure which can only be met out of what this country can earn.
In addition, we have to meet the heavy debts of two world wars within a single generation. Can we stand it, or will it bring us all down in another financial crisis in which the worst sufferers will be the very people we are trying to help? That really is the problem and that surely is the question which in a debate like this we cannot conceal from ourselves. Several hon. Members have raised it in the course of the discussion tonight.
The hope and conviction of this Government is that the burden will not prove too heavy and that it will not bring us down, but that we as a nation will be able to take it proudly in our stride. We have an ageing population, that is true. 338 We may have sacrificed most of our past accumulated wealth in the fight for world freedom in two great wars. We may have lost many of the natural advantages which our supremacy gave us in the Industrial Revolution, but we still have great assets. We inherited a high tradition in craftsmanship, skill, enterprise, adaptability, adventure and industry. I firmly believe that we, more than any other people, have it within our power to seize those glittering opportunities of the future.
If we encourage enterprise, if we free the energies of our people—and only if we do that—we can look forward with confidence to a steadily rising standard of living in which every section of the community will share, and not least the pensioners whom we are discussing tonight. It is in that spirit and in that spirit only that we can hope; it is in that spirit that with confidence we ask the House to reject this Motion.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Are we to understand from the Minister that, although the people of West Derby could be told by him that he knew the details of the new Bill, he will tell us nothing about them?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I never told the people of West Derby that I knew the details. I did not tell them any details at all.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
May I put one other point to the Minister? He said that with the good will of the House he hoped that legislation would be passed before Christmas. As to that, we shall see, because it must depend upon the nature of the legislation. But did he mean not only that legislation would be passed, but that the increased payments would begin before Christmas?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has asked me that. He knows the answer as well as I do. He knows that it is not possible to take the administrative decisions which it is essential to take——
§ Mr. Macmillan
—until at least the Financial Resolution has been passed and perhaps the Royal Assent given.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I said something about war pensioners, but I will repeat it. I am sorry that I did not make myself plain. Of course, war pensions can be raised by Royal Warrant, but certain administrative steps have to be taken. By tradition—I will not say that these things are all taken together—but there is some kind of balance between them, and I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will find, when our scheme is put forward, that it will be a fair scheme dealing with all types of pensions on a balanced and proper basis.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
The Minister has not yet cleared up the point about the statement which he made at West Derby. He deliberately conveyed the impression by his remarks that there
§ would be satisfactory figures contained in the forthcoming Bill. If he knows those figures, surely we are entitled to know them tonight. If he does not, will he admit that he was trying to deceive the electors of West Derby?
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. P. G. T. Buchan-Hepburn) rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 284; Noes, 305.343
|Division No. 232.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Crossman, R. H. S.||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Adams, Richard||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hannan, W.|
|Albu, A H.||Daines, P.||Hardy, E. A.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hargreaves, A.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Hastings, S.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Bartley, P.||Deer, G.||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Bellonger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Delargy, H. J.||Hobson, C. R.|
|Bence, C. R.||Dodds, N. N.||Holman, P.|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Driberg, T. E. N.||Holmes, Horace|
|Benson, G.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Holt, A. F.|
|Beswick, F.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Houghton, Douglas|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Edelman, M||Hubbard, T. F.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)|
|Blackburn, F.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Boardman, H.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A G||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Bowen, E. R.||Fernyhough, E.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Bowles, F. G||Fienburgh, W.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Braddock. Mrs. Elizabeth||Finch, H. J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Janner, B.|
|Brook Dryden (Halifax)||Follick, M.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.|
|Broughton. Dr A. D. D||Foot, M. M.||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Forman, J. C.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)|
|Burke, W A.||Freeman, John (Watford)||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Jones, Rt. Hon A. Creech|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Gibson, C. W.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Carmichael, J.||Gooch, E. G.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Champion, A. J.||Greenwood, Anthony||Keenan, W.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R||Kenyon, C.|
|Chetwynd, G R.||Grey, C. F.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Clunie, J.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Coldrick, W||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Lawson. G. M.|
|Collick, P. H.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Collins, V. J.||Grimond, J.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hale, Leslie||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Cove, W. G.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Lewis, Arthur|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Parkin, B. T.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Paton, J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Logan, D. G||Peart, T. F.||Taylor, John (Wed Lothian)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Popplewell, E.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|McGovern, J.||Porter, G.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|McInnes, J.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|McLeavy, F.||Probert, A. R.||Thornton, E.|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Proctor, W. T.||Timmons, J.|
|McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Pryde, D. J.||Tomney, F.|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Rankin, John||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Reeves, J.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Usborne, H. C.|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Reid, William (Camlachie)||Viant, S. P.|
|Manuel, A. C.||Rhodes, H.||Wade, D. W.|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Richards, R.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Mason, Roy||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Messer, Sir F.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Weitzman, D.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Ross, William||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Monslow, W.||Royle, C.||West, D. G.|
|Moody, A. S.||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Money, R.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Short, E. W.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Wigg, George|
|Mort, D. L.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Wicock, Group Capt. C. A. B|
|Moyle, A.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mulley, F. W||Simmons C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Willey, F. T.|
|Murray, J. D.||Skeffington, A. M.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Nally, W.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Slater J. (Durham, Sedgefield)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|O'Brien, T.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Oldfield, W. H||Snow, J. W.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Oliver, G. H||Sorensen, R. W.||Willis, E. G.|
|Oswald, T.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Owen, W. J.||Sparks, J. A.||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Padley, W. E.||Steele, T.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Paget, R. T.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Wyatt, W. L|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Yates, V. F.|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Pannell, Charles||Stross, Dr. Barnett||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson.|
|Parker, J.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Brooman-White, R. C.||Donner, Sir P. W.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton).||Bullard, D. G.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Maj. W. J.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Dugdale, Rt Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Burden, F. F. A.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Duthie, W. S.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Campbell, Sir David||Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Wrwk & Lmgts)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Carr, Robert||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Cary, Sir Robert||Elliott, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Barber, Anthony||Channon, H.||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Barlow, Sir John||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Erroll, F. J.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Fell, A.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Finlay, Graeme|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Cole, Norman||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Colegate, W. A.||Fletcher, Sir Waller (Bury)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Cooper, Son. Ldr. Albert||Ford, Mrs. Patricia|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Fort, R.|
|Birch, Nigel||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Foster, John|
|Bishop, F. P.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)|
|Black, C. W.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G.||Crouch, R. F.||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Gammans, L. D.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Davidson, Viscountess||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Braine, B. R.||De la Bere, Sir Rupert||Glover, D.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Deedes, W. F.||Godber, J. B.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Digby, S. Wingfield||Gomme-Duncan, Col A|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Robertson, Sir David|
|Gower, H. R.||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||McAdden, S. J.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Gridley, Sir Arnold||McCallum, Major D.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Russell, R. S.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||McKibbin, A. J.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maclean, Fitzroy||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Sharpies, Maj. R. C.|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Shepherd, William|
|Hay, John||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Simon J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Maitland, Cmdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Head, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Heath, Edward||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald||Smyth, Brig J. G. (Norwood)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Marples, A. E.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Speir, R. M.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Maude, Angus||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Hollis, M. C.||Maudling, R.||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Hope, Lord John||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Mellor, Sir John||Steward W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Horobin, I. M.||Molson, A. H. E.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Stoddart-Scott Col. M.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Moore, Sir Thomas||Storey, S.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Stuart Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Hughes Hallott, Vice-Admiral J.||Neave, Airey||Summers, G. S.|
|Hulbert, Wing Comdr. N. J.||Nicholls, Harmar||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Hind, A. R.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourns)|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Teeling, W.|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Nob'e, Comdr. A. H. P.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Oakshott, H. D.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Odey, G. W.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Jennings, Sir Roland||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Tilney, John|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Kaberry, D.||Osborne, C.||Turton, R. H.|
|Keeling, Sir Edward||Page, R. G.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Partridge, E.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Kerr, H. W.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Perkins, Sir Robert||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Pitman, I. J.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Powell, J. Enoch||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Lindsay, Martin||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Wellwood, W.|
|Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Profumo, J. D.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Ramsden, J. E.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Rayner, Brig. R.||Wills, G.|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Redmayne, M.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Lucas, Sir Joce'yn (Portsmouth, S.)||Renton, D. L. M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Ridsdale, J. E.||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn|
|and Sir Cedric Drewe.|
Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question put, "That the proposed words be there added."344
§ The House divided: Ayes, 304; Noes, 279.349
|Division No. 233.]||AYES||[10.12 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T||Arbuthnot, John||Barber, Anthony|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Barlow, Sir John|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Baxter, Sir Beverley|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Astor, Hon. J. J.||Beach, Maj. Hicks|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Beamish, Maj. Tufton|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Baldwin, A. E.||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Maude, Angus|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N)||Maudling, R.|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr S. L. C.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Harrison, Col. J. H (Eye)||Medlicott, Brig. F.|
|Birch, Nigel||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Mellor, Sir John|
|Bishop, F. P||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Black, C. W.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Monckton, Rt. Hon Sir Walter|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G.||Hay, John||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Heath, Edward||Nabarro G. D. N.|
|Braine, B. R.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Neave, Airey|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W)||Higgs, J. M. C.||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Nield, Basil (Chester)|
|Brooman-While, R. C.||Hollis, M. C.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Hope, Lord John||Nugent, G. R. H|
|Bullard, D. G.||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Odey, G. W.|
|Burden, F. F. A||Horobin, I. M.||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Carr, Robert||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Maro)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Osborne, C.|
|Channon, H||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Page, R. G.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.||Partridge, E.|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Hurd, A. R.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Perkins, Sir Robert|
|Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M|
|Cole, Norman||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Colegate, W A.||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Iremonger, T. L.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A|
|Cooper, Sqn Ldr Albert||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Jennings, Sir Roland||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyrs, Col. O. E||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L|
|Crouch, R. F.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Kaberry, D.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S)||Keeling, Sir Edward||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|De la Bere, Sir Rupert||Kerr, H. W.||Redmayne, M.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Lambton, Viscount||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Dodds-Parker, A, D.||Lancaster, Col. C. G||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Donner, Sir P. W.||Leather, E. H. C.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lindsay, Martin||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Duthie, W. S.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Russell, R. S.|
|Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Wrwk & Lmgtn)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Eden, J. B. (Bourne-mouth, West)||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Schofield, Lt-Col. W.|
|Erroll, F. J||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Fell, A.||Longden, Gilbert||Sharples, Maj. R. C.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Shepherd, William|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Simon, J E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Lucas, P. B (Brentford)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Fletcher, Sir Walter (Bury)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||McAdden, S. J.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Ford, Mrs. Patricia||McCallum, Major D.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Fort, R.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Soames, Capt. C|
|Foster, John||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Speir, R M.|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||McKibbin, A. J.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Gammans, L. D.||Maclean, Fitzroy||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Glover, D.||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Godber, J. B.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col A.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Storey, S.|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Maitland, Cmdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Strauss, Henry (Norwish, S.)|
|Gower, H. R.||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald||Studholme, H. G.|
|Gridley, Sir Arnold||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Summers, G. S.|
|Grimston Hon. John (St. Albans)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Marples, A. E.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastborne)|
|Hall John (Wycombe)||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Teeling, W.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)||Vosper, D. F.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Walker-Smith, D. C.||Wills, G.|
|Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)||Wall, Major Patrick||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Thornycraft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Tilney, John||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Touche, Sir Gordon||Walkinson, H. A.||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Turton, R H.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)||Sir Cedric Drewe.|
|Vane, W. M. F.||Wellwood, W.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Finch, H. J.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Adams, Richard||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Albu, A. H.||Follick, M.||McGovern, J.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Foot, M. M.||McInnes, J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Forman, J. C.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||McLeavy, F.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Freeman, John (Watford)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Freeman, peter (Newport)||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Gibson, C. W.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Bartley, P.||Gooch, E. G.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Bence, C. R.||Greenwood, Anthony||Manuel, A. C.|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Grenfell Rt. Hon. D. R.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A|
|Benson, G.||Gray, C. F.||Mason, Roy|
|Beswick, F.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Bing, G. H. C||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Messer, Sir F.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hale, Leslie||Mikardo, Ian|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Monslow, W.|
|Boardman, H.||Hamilton, W. W.||Moody, A. S.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G||Hannan, W.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hardy, E. A.||Morley, R.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hargreaves, A.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Hastings, S.||Mort, D. L.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hayman, F. H.||Moyle, A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Mulley, F. W.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Murray, J. D.|
|Burke, W. A||Harbison, Miss M.||Nally, W.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hobson, C. R.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Holman, P.||O'Brien, T.|
|Carmichael, J.||Holmes, Horace||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Houghton, Douglas||Oliver, G. H.|
|Champion, A. J||Hubbard, T. F.||Oswald, T.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Owen, W. J.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Padley, W. E.|
|Clunie, J.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Paget, R. T.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Collick, P H||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Collins, V. J.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pannell, Charles|
|Cove, W G.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Parker, J.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Janner, B.||Parkin, B. T|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Paton, J.|
|Daines, P.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Peart, T. F.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Popplewell, E.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Porter, G.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Price Philips (Gloucestershire, W)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Probert, A. R.|
|Deer, G.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Keenan, W.||Rankin, John|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Kenyon, C.||Reeves, J.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||King, Dr. H. M.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Edelman, M.||Lawson, G. M.||Rhodes, H.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Richards, R.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Lewis, Arthur||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Evans Stanley (Wednesbury)||Lindgren, G. S.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Ross, William|
|Flenburgh, W.||Logan, D. G.||Royle, C.|
|Shackleton, E. A. A.||Swingler, S. T.||Wheeldon, W E.|
|Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Sylvester, G. O.||While, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Short, E. W.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W|
|Shurmer, P. L. E||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Wigg, George|
|Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Simmons, C. J. (Brieney Hill)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||Willey, F. T.|
|Skeffington, A. M.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Thornton, E.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)||Timmons, J.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Tomney, F.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Turner-Samuels, M.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Snow, J. W.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Usborne, H. C||Willis, E. G.|
|Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Viant, S. P.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Sparks, J. A||Wallace, H. W||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Steele, T.||Warbey, W. N||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Watkins, T. E.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Strachey, Rt. Hon. J||Weitzman, D||Yates, V. F.|
|Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Stross, Dr. Barnett||Wells, William (Walsall)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E||West, D. G.||Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson|
Question put, and agreed to.
That this House notes with satisfaction that the improvements in the financial and economic position of the country which have resulted from the policies followed by Her Majesty's Government now make it possible to raise pensions and increase benefits both under the insurance schemes and for war pensioners and their widows, thus completing the removal of the injustices brought about by the late Government; welcomes the declaration of Her Majesty's Government to lay before this House at the earliest possible moment proposals to this end maintaining the contributory basis of the insurance schemes and renews its pledge of support for their speedy enactment.