HC Deb 28 March 1956 vol 550 cc2292-310

Amendment made: In page 15, line 2, leave out "on the appointed day" and insert: at the passing of this Act."—[Mr. H. Brooke.]

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended (in the Standing Committee and on recommittal), considered.

10.41 p.m.

Mr. H. Brooke

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I nearly said "a Second time"—time passes so fast. TMs is an extremely complicated Measure—as those who have studied it will confirm—yet in less than two months from its launching, after navigation through Standing Committee and Committee of the whole House, the Bill has now reached at any rate the mouth of the harbour, and I have some hopes that within not too many minutes it may be safely in port prior to voyaging to another place.

In Standing Committee the ship's company was not always united. It is true that we had two Divisions and that on another occasion I sensed some restiveness—not quite mutiny—when certain widows hove in sight and attempted to board the ship. They were pre-Oaksey widows. They were a little premature in their boarding, but they have got on board at a later stage and, of course, I, as an experienced captain, ought to have been aware that there is always liable to be trouble in any ship when we have a woman on board.

It is with sincere gratitude that I should like to thank all Members of the Standing Committee, including my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) for the work done on that Committee. We did the work quickly; I think we did it well—and we did it with a great deal of good humour. We improved the Bill in a number of minor ways, Amendments were accepted from both sides of the Committee, and we had one final Amendment which was seized on as slightly dramatic by the Press when I mentioned that a most obscure correction had to be made in the Fifth Schedule on the recommendation of an unknown person who had called on the Clerk of the Parliaments of Northern Ireland. I now know his name and should like in this House to express my thanks to Mr. Samuel Turner.

I think I should report to the House that in Committee we made one important and rather far-reaching change, the responsibility for which rests primarily on my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings). In the Second Reading debate there was only one major criticism but it was voiced from both sides of the House and that was a criticism of the rather complicated arrangements introduced into a Pensions (Increase) Bill for the first time, whereby the amount of pension increase varied from 10 per cent. down to 6 per cent. according to the length of service of the pensioner.

As I explained in Standing Committee, the purpose of that arrangement was to safeguard, so far as possible, against certain anomalies that would arise, because if a Rat 10 per cent. were given all round that would bring the pensions of large numbers of pensioners and people who had retired some time ago actually above the pensions on which their counterparts with the same service would retire at the present time.

We were in a difficulty. The Government first chose that course of action, well aware that they were rendering themselves liable to the criticism that people with this same pension would receive different amounts of increase. In Committee, my hon. Friend moved an Amendment to remove the graduation of the scale, and I advised the Committee that if there was a general feeling in the Committee, as I had already sensed there was outside the House, in favour of the abolition of this graduated scale, I would not oppose the acceptance of the Amendment by the Standing Committee. That Amendment, therefore, was made. This graduation has gone out of the Bill.

As I warned the Standing Committee—and I must warn the House—it will produce some curious and anomalous figures, and no doubt hon. Members in the future will write to future Financial Secretaries complaining on behalf of their constituents that something has gone wrong. It will actually have been done by the will of the Committee and of the House.

The cost of the Bill as amended in Committee will be about £8,500,000 a year, of which one quarter approximately will fall on the local authorities. I am excluding from that the announcement which my hon. Friend has just made this evening about the pre-Oaksey widows. In addition to the total cost of about £8,500,000, there will be the further £3 million falling, as I explained before, directly on the Exchequer as a result of the increases in Armed Forces pensions made by Prerogative Instrument after the Bill has gone through.

So far as Government expenditure is concerned, I can tell the House that this additional expenditure which I have mentioned is provided for in the Estimates for 1956–57 because the Bill had already been presented to the House before any Estimates were published.

Finally, I am well aware that in the course of the preparation of the Bill I have been an unmitigated nuisance to a great many Government Departments, most of them perhaps, and countless people in them. I want to thank them just as I am now thanking hon. Members in the House for having rendered this Bill possible and facilitated its passage. I hope we can all feel this evening that we have completed here a good job of work and that we shall be giving help, which I know will be welcome help, to more than 300,000 people who, in a multitudinous range of activities, have earned their pensions in the public service.

10.48 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

We agreed that it was very desirable to get this Bill through this House before the Easter Recess. That, I think, is perhaps the reason more than any other why we are dealing with it at this late hour just before we rise for Easter.

There was a feeling that we would not spend too long on these final stages, but I think it would not be right if, from this side of the House, I did not indicate to the right hon. Gentleman that those of us who were privileged to sit upon the Committee felt that our time was not ill-spent. I think that for once party differences were largely sunk and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee belonging to the Government of the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) and those who were against the hon. Lady's Government did what they could to try to improve the Measure.

I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the way in which he strove to meet the points put from both sides of the Committee. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that between us we improved the Bill greatly. It is not all that some of us would have liked to see, but we can all be pleased with it; it will in no small degree help a large number of deserving people, including the pre-Oaksey widows, who have been mentioned this evening.

We can hardly consider this on Third Reading, because it is not in the Bill, but the proceedings upstairs produced from the right hon. Gentleman the announcement that in future the pensions would be paid monthly, as soon as arrangements could be made, instead of quarterly in arrear, and that is a great step forward.

Mr. Brooke

I did not make any pledge of that kind. I said that the pensions increases would be paid at the same time as the basic pensions were paid, but it is not for me to amend other legislation which may affect the periodicity, if I may use that word, in the payment of pensions.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I am sorry if I put words into the right hon. Gentleman's mouth which he did not use, but I have a distinct recollection that during our proceedings upstairs we were given to understand that arrangements would be made at some time in the not-too-distant future to see that these pensions are paid at a more frequent interval than at present.

Finally, I should like to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman which I should like him to answer, if he can, before we part with the Bill. Can he say when these increases will, to use a Parliamentary phrase, come in course of payment? Obviously, it cannot be with the pensions due at the end of this month. Will the pensioners have to wait until the pension payments which are made on 30th June? It would be interesting not only to ourselves but to the pensioners to know when they may expect these increases in the cheques which they receive.

10.53 p.m.

Sir Patrick Spens (Kensington, South)

I had not the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee, but I have a special interest in the Bill. I have to admit at once that I myself appear to benefit by it, but I speak not on behalf of myself but on behalf of one or two former colleagues in the judiciary in India and Pakistan. What has been done for them, I can assure the House, and particularly those hon. Members who served on the Committee, is very greatly appreciated.

Unfortunately there remains in the Bill one date—31st March, 1952—which decides whether or not those retired judges shall have any increase in their pensions. There is at least one, and I believe there are more, who, at the request of Her Majesty's Government and of the two Dominions, remained in India or Pakistan and did not retire until after 31st March, 1952. I do not think there can be more than half-a-dozen, if that; I know of only one for certain, but one particularly deserving of most careful consideration. It seems extraordinarily hard that that very small class, who stayed on at the request of the three Governments, should be penalised because of that date in the Bill.

I believe that paragraph 7 of the Second Schedule does, or may, give a discretion that they shall be treated as a special class and regulations made and brought before the House which would enable the benefit of the Bill to be applied to their pensions. I hope that is the case and that either here or in another place an undertaking may be given, as was given a few minutes ago on behalf of the pre-Oaksey widows, that regulations will be considered and brought before the House in order that these very exceptional and deserving cases shall be dealt with as I submit they ought to be dealt with. Subject to that, I rejoice with everybody else that Her Majesty's Government have brought the Bill forward and I join with others in thanking the Committee for its work.

10.56 p.m.

Dr. King

I will not follow the point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) except to say that we unsuccessfully raised the question of date in Committee and that I hope that the Minister will take notice of his right hon. Friend's words.

The Bill will give sums ranging from 3s. to 6s. a week, on the one hand, to a few cases of £3 a week at the top of the scale to a group of deserving State and local government servants. I am glad that the Minister mentioned a figure of 300,000 and that the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South has called attention to the quality and character of some of the more eminent public servants who are being helped, but among the beneficiaries of importance equal to that of the retired India judges whom he mentioned, and probably representing most of the people who benefit from the Bill, are those who will be receiving 3s., 4s. and 5s. a week. They are honest, ordinary folk who have worked faithfully throughout their years as postmen, policemen, teachers, firemen, clerks, and local government officers who have seen their pensions dwindling away in value in the last few years and to whom the addition of a few shillings a week to their meagre pensions will be of real value.

I am glad that we have managed to improve the Bill in Committee and that from Second Reading onwards pressure from both sides of the House has persuaded the Minister to get rid of the graduated system of increase and we have secured a flat rate of 10 per cent. I assure the Minister that whatever anomalies there are—and he has convinced us that there will be anomalies in a 10 per cent. flat rate—those anomalies would have been far outweighed by the anomalies of a graduated system whereby we paid a lower rate of pension increase to the lowest pensioner.

This is one of the few occasions when hon. Members on this side of the House in this Parliament can thank a Minister of this Government on Third Reading for a good Bill and for his willingness to accept useful Amendments in Committee. I hope that the Measure will get on the Statute Book as soon as possible. I hope, also, that it will be taken as an example and that people outside the House, looking at the purpose of the Bill—people in nationalised industry, on the one hand, and in private industry, on the other—will act in the spirit of the Bill. I hope that they will do something for the hardest-hit group of the community, that is, those living on small fixed incomes, who have watched those incomes dwindle away. I would urge others to take a leaf out of the Government's book—I was glad to hear the Minister of Transport's announcement today about retired railway servants.

The Bill fulfils the promise made to some of us by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer about two years ago. He can indeed take credit for carrying out that promise, but the chief credit must go to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury who, during the two years has, as he told us tonight, carried out an enormous amount of detailed work to make the Measure the comprehensive one that it is.

Nevertheless, we must be frank on this side of the House. I say quite fearlessly this evening that this Bill has been made necessary by the Government's failure to carry out their Election promises to grapple with and control the cost of living, and that the pensioners whom we are helping in this Bill, and the pensioners who are not being helped because they are outside its scope, would have all been better off had this Bill not been necessary, and had the Government managed to control the cost of living. Having said that, I congratulate the Minister on a Bill which he has conducted and piloted through the House in a way which does him credit, and I hope that it will soon become law.

11.1 p.m.

Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)

May I also add my welcome to this Bill and my congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury? It is particularly welcome that the date on which this Bill comes into force should be 1st April. As I have said, I welcome the Bill, and it will be more than welcome to the 300,000 people affected. I am also glad to know that as soon as the Bill becomes law, the Royal Warrant giving corresponding increases to Service pensioners will come into force.

It has already been mentioned this evening that these pensioners covered by the Bill have given great service to the public, and that cannot be mentioned too often. They have served the public well in their time and, to use the words that my right hon. Friend used on another occasion, it is just and right that we should give this additional measure of practical assistance to those who served in that way. There is a special feature about this Bill, in that we remove the limitations which have prevented many people from enjoying the results of pension increases in other Bills of this kind.

There is one point to which I should like to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend. He mentioned at one stage a booklet, which it was hoped to produce, to explain just how the Bill affected the pensioner in relation to these pensions. I have in mind a corresponding booklet produced, I believe, by the Ministry of Pensions about two years ago, asking, "Are you sure you are getting your right pension?" The Ministry was not satisfied with that, and followed it up with another pamphlet, saying, "Are you still sure?" For some time I carried those pamphlets about with me, because they were so valuable in explaining the complexities of pensions generally.

The Bill is a complicated measure, and I am sure that every hon. Member of the House and everyone in the country would wish every pensioner to get his or her full benefit under the Bill and under previous Acts of the same character. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend to ensure that we shall see the booklet at the earliest opportunity, that it receives the widest possible circulation, and that we may all have a copy from which to advise our constituents.

Once again, may I thank my right hon. Friend for the Bill and his part in it. I am sure that he will feel happy at the great benefit which it will produce for such a very large body of pensioners.

11.5 p.m.

Mr. G. Thomas

It was not my privilege to be a member of the Standing Committee which dealt with the Bill, but I note with satisfaction the harmony which appears to have prevailed during its discussion. I have rarely known a Third Reading in which so many tributes have been paid.

The plight of these people has been on the conscience of the House for a long time. I believe that the House has been disturbed in past years to know that thrifty people who have been paying into superannuation schemes, expecting to get pensions which would give them a certain standard of living, have seen them being whittled away through circumstances over which they had no control. It is a terrible experience for people to pay through a lifetime of hard work for a pension, believing that they will then live in comfort, only to find that they come into superannuation in a period when money is losing its value.

During the inter-war years people could safely calculate what their standard of life was likely to be. People who retired knew just where they would stand in regard to their pension. Since the end of the war, however, that has not been the case, and people today are unable to be sure what value their pension will have during the next five years, or certainly within the next decade. Who in this House believes that he can guarantee that there will be no further inflation, that money will henceforth keep its value, and that the pensions envisaged here will hold, in ten years' time, the value that they hold at the present time?

I have received some correspondence about this Measure, and I want to refer to it because I think that we would be wrong if we congratulated ourselves too much and believed that this Bill really solves the problem of pensions which have lost their value. I have a letter here from a retired head master. He retired from a large school in Cardiff in 1942 and his pension was half salary, £237, plus annuity under the 1898 Act, £23, less allocation towards his wife's pension £25, leaving a pension of £235. The value of the £ today compared with when that man retired is only 8s. 6d. If he were to have today the equivalent of the pension which he expected, instead of £235 he should be receiving £553.

In the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill, as my correspondent points out, the statement is made that the purpose of increasing pensions is to meet hardship caused by the fall in money values. This 10 per cent. gives £23 to that man, and it is, of course, welcome. I do not for a second wish to be churlish about the fact that an increase has been given, but I do not want us to pretend that it meets the problem, because that man will still be receiving far below what he had expected to receive.

Mr. Cole

I appreciate the point which the hon. Gentleman is making, but has his constituent gained anything on the occasion of the previous pensions increase in addition to what he will receive under this Bill?

Mr. G. Thomas

I should not like to reply to that question, but I accept the point which the hon. Gentleman has made.

I have also received correspondence from the Post Office Retired Colleagues Association. If I may give an illustration from the City of Cardiff, I understand that of the 250 Post Office pensioners in Cardiff, West, there are at least 200 whose weekly pension ranges from 35s. to 70s. To these, writes Mr. Hurdidge, their secretary, any sum less than 10s. a week would be inadequate.

The man who has been a head postman for forty years and who retired in 1944, receives a weekly pension of £2 3s. His increase will be scarcely that given to people in receipt of National Assistance. A member of the Post Office engineering staff in Cardiff who retired in 1947 after 40 years' service, which is the highest figure given to me, is receiving £3 5s. 0d. Clearly, 10 per cent. on that is inadequate to meet the 14 per cent. cost of living rise in respect of food since the last increase was granted. The 10 per cent. increase cannot compensate for the increased cost of food consumption alone.

Again I would say, who would like to tell these people that their pensions will now keep their value? I trust that we shall move into happier times financially, when the £ will be stabilised at home; but until it is we shall have a special responsibility for these people.

Lest the Financial Secretary thinks that I am being churlish, I must say that I also am grateful for the way in which this Measure has been dealt with in Committee. I am glad that the graduated scheme has disappeared. It is true that even today the more one has the more one is given under this Bill; but I know that The Schoolmaster said a little while ago that there are questions not only of absolute hardship but of relative hardship, and we in this House must be willing to face up to the question. For that reason I welcome the Measure. I join in expressing thanks for what is being done, but I hope that the Treasury will keep a careful eye upon the needs of the old guard, and will not feel that it can now sit back, and that these people are all right for ever.

11.12 p.m.

Mr. J. C. Jennings (Burton)

I shall, of necessity, be brief. It is fitting that one who was a member of the Standing Committee which considered this Bill should, at this stage, pay tribute to the Minister and to the Treasury. I have not often heard the Treasury complimented while I have been in this House. We have got roughly £12 million out of the Treasury in connection with the Bill. To borrow a phrase from another quarter which was used in another context, I think the Treasury has turned out to be not altogether a cold, desiccated calculating machine.

When I was a boy and wanted something from my parents I learned to ask for what was expedient and practical. I asked for what I thought it was within their power to give. I found that I got a reasonable response to my request. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, I think, followed that idea. Our requests were reasonable and practical.

The Bill was a good one at its inception. It had two defects. One was the graduated scale, and the other the apparent omission of anything for the pre-Oaksey widows. I am glad that on these points the Minister and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department have seen fit to grant concessions.

During Second Reading, hon. Members opposite paid tribute to the work of the sub-committee appointed by the 1922 Committee. We who served on it were grateful for the tributes, and we are glad that in some small measure we helped to bring this Bill into being. May I pay tribute to hon. Members opposite, because they have certainly contributed to a large extent to the good result which has been achieved. I hardly dare to say that the lion has lain down with the lamb, because there might be argument as to who was the lion and who was the lamb, but we exchanged across the Floor mostly guarded geniality instead of hard basilisk stares.

I should like to pay tribute to the Minister. In the Standing Committee, my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary was calm and factual, but the warmhearted and sympathetic way in which he received our representations and the concessions which he gave showed his readiness to meet the very grave human problems which we put to him. I congratulate him and the Government on a very good job of work.

11.16 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

On the occasion of the Third Reading of the Bill we are in danger of becoming a mutual admiration society. Nevertheless, I certainly join with the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) in the words of praise which he has just uttered. The proceedings in Standing Committee were certainly very agreeable. There was only one savage attack made on the Government, and that was by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). The violence of her attack was modified, to some extent, by the fact that she had almost lost her voice; but apart from that attack we certainly got on in a very friendly way.

Of course we have not done enough for the pensioners. We all realise that, but the Bill represents an advance on the present position, and for that reason it must be welcomed. It is extremely difficult, in these years of the declining value of money, to see that all deserving citizens are suitably protected from the injury that inflation causes. Here is a very large body of retired public servants for whom this House must have a special care, and the Bill is the expression of it—modest but nevertheless welcome to all those who will receive the benefits. I am sure that it has been a pleasure to all of us to have contributed something towards it.

When the Financial Secretary referred to his hon. Friend the Member for Burton, who moved the Amendment which the Government accepted—and we were all grateful for that—it passed through my mind what a great disadvantage it is that proposals of this kind cannot, apparently by constitutional practice, be discussed with representatives of those most interested and affected before a Bill is introduced into the House. It seems strange to me that amendments to National Insurance and industrial injuries schemes can be discussed with the Trades Union Congress before legislation is introduced, and that prospective legislation can be discussed with interested parties outside, yet in this instance public service pensioners are allowed to know nothing of the contents of the Bill until it is published and presented to the House. We all know the difficulties of getting changes made once a Bill has been introduced. There is no doubt that all the advice which the Minister got from representative bodies of pensioners—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is going beyond the terms of the Motion, which is, "That the Bill be now read the Third Time."

Mr. Houghton

I am dealing with the Bill, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I do not wish to transgress the rules of order. I think I have made my point, and I will leave it at that. I have said this on more than one occasion. I think that a better way of dealing with these matters ought to be found.

I shall not detain the House for more than a minute or two longer, and I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for raising belatedly a question of interpretation or explanation. I know that this would have been more properly done in Standing Committee, but this particular matter was brought to my attention only after the conclusion of the Committee stage. I have caused notice of this to be given to the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope that I do not take him unprepared. It is a comparatively small point, I think, though a somewhat intricate one.

I refer to paragraph 2 of the Second Schedule. This is an escalator clause, and such clauses are always troublesome, whether they go up or down. In past Pensions (Increase) Acts the escalators have gone up, and this one goes down. The point is this. This Bill gives a pension increase to those who retired before the end of 1947 whose salaries at the time of retirement were £1,500 a year or more; they get a 10 per cent. increase, with a limit of £100 increase. The Bill also gives a pension increase to those who retired between the end of 1947 and the end of March, 1952, provided that their salaries on retirement were below £1,500 a year, and they get a 10 per cent. increase, with in their case, no need to apply the ceiling.

I understand that it is possible—although I have no example which I can quote to the House—for the pensioner who retired between the end of December, 1947, and the end of March, 1952, on total emoluments of less than £1,500, to get, in pension and the pension increase together, more than a pensioner who retired before the end of 1947 on emoluments of £1,500 a year exactly, and paragraph 2 of the Second Schedule provides that in such a case the higher pension shall be reduced to the level of the lower, whereas similar escalator clauses in previous Pensions (Increase) Acts have enabled the lower pension to be lifted to the figure of the higher one.

That, as I understand it, is the explanation of paragraph 2 of the Second Schedule, and I should like the Minister, if he could spare a moment or two before we part with the Bill, kindly to explain whether my interpretation is correct, and, if so, why he has dealt with the matter in this way. Why has he thought it necessary this time to keep the total pension down instead of, as in previous cases where these marginal difficulties arise, allowing the lower pension to move up? There may be—and I am quite sure there is—an explanation. I am not asking the Minister to alter the provision. I am just asking him to consider the point which I have made, and to see whether he can convince himself, when giving the explanation, that it is a fair and a proper one. That is all I have to say, and I sincerely hope that the Minister will be able to spare a moment or two to deal with that point.

11.24 p.m.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

I certainly do not wish to detain the House any longer, and I am sure my right hon. Friend will forgive me if I therefore make my congratulations to him very short indeed, but nevertheless very sincere. I should particularly like to, congratulate him on the fact that included in this Bill are the members of the ex-Indian Government services. They are a comparatively small number of people who have felt, I think with some reason, that they have not received the full measure of the rights and deserts to which they felt entitled.

I wish to make briefly only one point in regard to these people. I know it affects only a few people, but it is matter of some difficulty. My right hon. Friend may not be able to reply to the point tonight, but I hope that he can consider it when the Bill goes to another place. It concerns some members of the ex-Indian Government services who stayed on after the transfer of power, in response to appeals made by Lord Mountbatten, who was then Viceroy, and Mr. Attlee, the then Prime Minister,. in pursuance of their duty, as they saw it. By reason of the Pensions (India, Pakistan and Burma) Act, 1955, they are disqualified from benefits or increases under the Bill. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at this case and do his best to remedy what I believe to be a genuine grievance.

11.26 p.m.

Mr. H. Brooke

I can speak again only by leave of the House. I should like to be allowed to reply briefly to questions which have been raised. I have been feeling rather embarrassed at the congratulations that have been pouring in. I would assure hon. Members that tomorrow at Question Time the usual basilisk stare of the Treasury will be back again. In any case, those congratulations ought not to be addressed to me, because it would have been impossible for me to do anything had not my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed to find the money for the Bill.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) and my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) raised questions about certain Indian pensioners. I know they will not expect me to make any detailed reply. The chance of amendment of the Bill in this House has passed. I will study carefully what each of them has said. I am sure they will appreciate that I am not giving any undertaking that I can meet their wishes. As I explained earlier, I am anxious to avoid letting slip any word which might raise the hopes of some pensioner when those hopes are not going to be fulfilled.

The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who has taken a great interest in the Bill inside and outside the House, raised questions about paragraph 2 of the Second Schedule. It is complicated, but his interpretation was entirely correct. A pensioner who retired between 1947 and 1952 on a final salary of £1,500 a year would qualify for no increase, whereas if his salary for pension purposes had been £1,498 a year he would qualify. Clearly one must do something to prevent unfairness between those two men.

The way we have chosen in the paragraph is to lay it down that the man whose final salary was under £1,500 may not receive a pension increase which would put him in a better position than the man who retired during those crucial years on a salary of £1,500 a year, or over. I thought once that we might do it the other way round, but in fact we did it this way round. I should have been prepared, in Committee, to explain why we chose this way, but the matter was not raised.

The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in taking the opportunity of raising it now. The general reason was that Pensions (Increase) Acts are based on hardship, and the whole plan of having a different cut-off date for the over-£1,500 men from the under £1,000 men was formulated in the belief that it was the under £1,500 men who were likely to suffer the greater hardship. It was that principle that was followed through all our treatment of the over-£1,500 people. We may not have done it in the right way but I think that, on balance, we did, and had the point been raised in the Standing Committee I do not think I should have advised the Committee to make any change in this paragraph.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) raised a number of cases, which sounded like sad cases—and indeed they may well be—but I think that he will recognise that one must be quite certain, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) pointed out, whether the people concerned have, in fact, received earlier increases. Some of them will certainly have done—I can tell the House that straight away—under earlier Acts. The hon. Member suggested that there had been an increase of 14 per cent. in the price of food since the last Pensions (Increase) Act, but we established in the Standing Committee that the increase in the cost-of-living index since the passing of the last Pensions (Increase) Act has been between 11 and 12 per cent. We are raising pensions by 10 per cent., which is pretty close—though not, I grant, right up to the cost of living.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South, also asked about the explanatory booklet—the child's guide to knowledge. I think that however simple it is made, it will have to be quite an intelligent child who understands the intricacies of pensions increases. I would like to assure my hon. Friend, and to tell the House, that the first draft of the booklet is already prepared. We shall issue the booklet as soon as we can, but it stands to reason that we cannot issue it until the Bill has received the Royal Assent.

Finally, the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) asked how soon the payments would start. There, again, he will appreciate that no increased pensions can be paid until the Bill is actually on the Statute Book, but we shall get on with our preparations as fast as we can. This Bill is, in some respects, simpler than previous Acts because there is no means test, and as we have, in fact, simplified it still further in Committee by taking away the graduated scale it should be possible to be ready to pay increased pensions within quite a few weeks from now, provided that the Bill by then is on the Statute Book, and provided that the normal date for the payment of a periodical pension will arise at that time.

We are getting on very fast, and one of the satisfactory features of the Bill is that, owing to this greater simplification, the number of staff required to operate it, when the new calculations have been made, will be lower than it was before. But there are some 330,000 calculations to be made, and none of us would like to have that personal responsibility on his own shoulders. It is bound to take some time.

The hour is late. I hope that I have shown my appreciation of the way in which the House has received the Bill, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would like me, on his behalf, to express good wishes to all those who will benefit from it.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

May I just say that I did, unfortunately, attribute to the right hon. Gentleman, by inference, the fact that an announcement had been made as to the payments of pensions at shorter intervals than at present. We did discuss that upstairs, but I now recollect that it was the Minister of Education who actually made the announcement at that Box, and I therefore apologise for attributing it to the Financial Secretary.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.