§ Mr. Speaker
I have not selected any of the Amendments on the Order Paper. May I remind the House that this debate, which means so much to both sides of the House, is curtailed because Private Business is to come on later. I urge every hon. Member who takes part in the debate to speak as briefly as he or she thinks reasonable.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
I beg to move,That this House, recognising that despite earlier increases in the awarded pensions of retired public service and armed forces personnel there is hardship, specially among older pensioners, urges Her Majesty's Government to make provision during the current Parliamentary Session for the improvement of such pensions.The purpose of this Motion is to declare that the time has come for the Government to propose to Parliament measures to increase public service pensions. Timing is of the essence of this problem. The more time is expended, the greater the hardship which is growing day by day and month by month. In our view, vague assurances of good will from the Government are not enough and will not be enough. I know that there is strong support for this view on both sides of the House. I also know that many hon. Members wish to speak and, therefore, I will compress my argument into the minimum possible time.
The basic argument is hardship in the face of rising prices. We on this side are not arguing for the principle of parity, although many people believe in it and the Labour Party, at one time, were committed to it. We doubt its justification and think that its cost would be excessive. We argue that the facts show quite clearly that the time has come for another move forward on this front.
The Prime Minister, in his famous statement in December, 1964, said:We have also called for public service pensions to be linked to some economic in- 642 dicator, so that pensioners are not only compensated for rising prices, but also receive their full and fair share in rising national prosperity.That was the right hon. Gentleman's pledge, to which we now wish to hold the Government. There has not been recently very much rising prosperity, but pensioners are suffering considerably because of rising prices, and they are not receiving their fair share of the attention of the country or of the House.
The right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity gave figures in the recent debate for the rise in real wages between 1966 and 1968. The more the Government stress the rise in wages, the more acute is the contrast with pensions, because if wages in real terms have been rising, despite rising prices, the fact is that, because of rising prices, pensions in real terms have been falling during the same period.
There is no doubt that prices have risen since the last pension increase became effective on 1st January, 1966. The price of food, accommodation, transport, fuel and lighting has increased and is increasing. I need not repeat what was said so clearly in the recent debate on rising prices. This is the basis of our claim today—the fact that the cost of living is going up substantially to the detriment of public service pensioners, civil and armed forces. This cannot be denied.
What will be the answer of the Government? They may say three things: first, that prices have not yet gone up enough; secondly, that National Insurance pensions have gone up substantially; or, thirdly, quoting the Financial Secretary, "It is a question of priorities of claims over resources". I wish to deal briefly with all three points.
Since the last increase in pensions, the Retail Price Index has risen by eight points, or about 7 per cent. That is a very substantial amount and a real cut in the living standards of all public pensioners. But how much more is in store for them in the way of increased prices? The right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity said in the recent debate that during the coming year there would be a 5 per cent. increase in the cost of living, bringing the increase to 12 per cent. since the last time these pensions were increased.
643 I believe that that was an optimistic assessment. The right hon. Lady's 5 per cent. was based on the assumption that the Government's policies, particularly on incomes, will work. There are few Members in the House who would like to bet too much money on that assumption. Therefore, in the light of these facts—the increase which has taken place since the last improvement in pensions and the increase in prices forecast by the Government—the case for an increase in these pensions now is overwhelming.
I notice that the Amendment in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot), which you, Mr. Speaker, have not selected, proposes that something should be done whenpracticable during the lifetime of the present Parliament.But this Parliament may go on for another three years, although I hope not, and I doubt it. But that will be a very long time for these pensioners to wait. What is meant by "practicable"? Why is it not practicable to increase pensions during the present Session? It certainly cannot be a matter of incomes policy. A Government who say that there should be a 3½ per cent. norm for wage increases can hardly neglect the case of people whose incomes have fallen by a norm of 3½ per cent. over the last two years. There can be no question of an incomes policy coming into this matter.
There is the argument used by the Financial Secretary on a previous occasion referring to the increases, and I agree substantial increases, in National Insurance pension. We totally reject this argument. We regard it as quite irrelevant. National Insurance pensions are received as of right by all citizens who are taxpayers and contributors. We are talking about something quite different, namely, the Government's obligation to people who have been employed by the Government in the public services—the Civil Service or the Armed Forces. This is the obligation which should concern them.
The Government talk about priority of claims on resources. The Financial Secretary argued that everything else that the Government propose should have priority over increased public service 644 pensions. Can this argument be sustained? Do the Government really say that they are better engaged in spending money on, for example, nationalisation schemes and maintaining the present very high level of the Civil Service. The Financial Secretary may smile, but this is a very good and valid comparison. Do they really believe, as they appear to be saying, that higher priority should be given to spending money on nationalisation than on higher pensions for people who have served this country well? That is all that can be meant by the argument about priority in resources.
Yesterday, the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science announced increases in student grants, at a cost of £5½ million. I have no doubt that those increases are justified. But if it is possible now to find £5½ million for student grants, is it not possible to find money for public service pensioners? Perhaps the Financial Secretary will say why it is not possible, or, if it is possible, perhaps he will accept the Motion.
In his last speech on this matter the Financial Secretary stated that he could offer no prospect of any increase this year for these pensioners. I want to know clearly whether the Government stand by this. Is it still their position that no increase is foreseeable this year? If they have changed on that, if they can foresee an increase this year, I see no reason why they should not accept the Motion.
No one can doubt that hardships exist. Many hon. Members have examples to quote. I will not, therefore, go into them at any length. However, there are two special cases to which I will refer.
First, those who have long been retired from the public service. Surely the more elderly these people are the greater the claim that they have on the care and consideration of this House. To take only one example, officers who retired on the 1945 Code have had increases of only 68 per cent. in their pensions while the cost of living has risen by no less than 120 per cent.—a very sharp comparison indeed.
Secondly, I call attention to the position of widows. They are of great importance. I understand that over 3,000 widows are on the minimum rate 645 of pension. For a major's widow over 70, this is less than the single rate of National Insurance pension, for which many of them are not eligible. A lieutenant-colonel's widow over 70, on the 1919 Code, receiving a maximum Service pension, will be entitled to a supplementary pension on National Assistance of £22 a year if she has no other means. Can there be any doubt that in these circumstances there are cases of hardship which deserve the attention of the House?
We on this side have made our policy in these matters very clear. We have three main points. First, that there should be regular review of the level of public service pensions at two-year intervals; secondly, that increases should start at 55, not 60; and, thirdly, that all these pensions should be brought up to the level of 1956, taking into account the increases that have taken place since 1956. I hope that the Government will not oppose these points.
On previous occasions when my right hon. and hon. Friends have argued for a two-year review, the Government have rejected it, but their reasons, with respect to the Ministers, have been totally inadequate. They have said, first, that such a procedure is unnecessary. But his argument is in conflict with what many senior Members of the Government now have said in the past on this subject. They have said, "Wait for the complete revision of the social services." But this will take a long time, while inexorably, week by week and month by month, the cost of living continues to press up against the living standards of those on fixed incomes and small modest pensions.
There is overwhelming argument for saying that this rather haphazard process ought to give way to a regular review. I fear that the Government may be moving further away from the idea of a regular review. In this connection, we are deeply concerned with the evidence given by the Government's departure from the principle of a two-year review on Forces pay. We hope that this principle will not go further from this whole problem.
Secondly, reducing the age to 55. We think that this is of great importance for those many people in particular activities—the Armed Forces, the police, and the 646 fire service—who retired below the age of 60.
Finally, I think that we are right in choosing 1956 as the date for equating pensions, because it is since 1956 that the regular process of Pensions (Increase) Bills has been introduced.
To sum up, because I said that I would present this matter briefly, we are not arguing for parity. We accept the arguments against parity are very strong. We say that there is great evidence of cases of hardship arising from increased prices and that the prospects of further price increases, revealed by the Government, are very severe. We say, therefore, that the Government must move soon if they are to carry out the promises given by so many members of the Government, promises to which the whole country fully subscribes. If they do not act as we ask them to act, they are breaking their undertakings. If they say that they cannot act this year, then certainly we condemn them, and condemn them out of hand. If they say that they can act this year, then they can accept our Motion.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Harold Lever)
This is the third occasion during the past 15 months on which the House has debated the question of public service and Armed Forces pensions. I make no complaint about this. These people have given many years of their lives to the service of their country and it is entirely right that in their retirement they should not be forgotten, but should continue to attract the anxious concern of the House. Indeed, far from complaining, I must express my lack of enthusiastic admiration for the way in which either party when in power—we all do better in Opposition—has treated this most deserving class of people.
This does not mean, because we are traversing well trodden ground, and doing so today in a short debate, that we have no new idea to canvass before the House. I will try to speak briefly, and I will speak in reply with the utmost brevity, and then only if the House wishes me to do so.
In the debates on this question in recent years, a great deal of attention has been focused from both sides of the 647 House on the inadequacies of the Pensions (Increase) Acts, under which pensions have been increased from time to time to relieve the hardship to public service pensioners from increases in the cost of living. I do not suppose that any hon. Member would care to argue that these Acts have proved a wholly satisfactory way of dealing with these pensions. I am certainly not going to advance any such proposition this afternoon.
No Member of the House is kept more continuously aware than I of the views of the pensioners and of their real difficulties at the present time. The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) has asked us to institute a two-year review. It is not just a form of bromide words when I say that I earnestly and continuously keep this problem under review. My colleagues write to me about it, and I receive representations continuously. It is not just an academic concern I display or a soothing form of words when I say I keep it continuously under review. The fact remains that, despite these shortcomings, the Pensions (Increase) Acts have done much to protect the purchasing power of pensions—particularly of the smallest and oldest pensions, many of which have, indeed, outpaced the rise in the cost of living.
Moreover, in considering the relief of hardship, it is quite wrong, despite the right hon. Gentleman's arguments, to look at occupational pensions alone to the total exclusion, as he would have it, of the flat-rate National Insurance pension, for which well over 9[...] per cent. of all public service and Armed Forces pensioners now qualify on reaching the appropriate age. The increases in the National Insurance pensions, which have run far ahead of increases in the cost of living, have made an important contribution to the well being of very many of our pensioners.
Let me repeat that it is not my aim to suggest that the present system for increasing public service pensions is ideal. On the contrary, we have made it clear that we are well aware of its limitations, and that we intend to do something about them. But we have also made it clear that we do not believe that a satisfactory long-term solution can be devised until the problem can be studied in the light 648 of our general review of the social security system. That has nothing to do with the present difficulties. I am talking about the longer term comprehensive solution of the problem.
When we discussed the Public Service and Armed Forces Pensions Review Bill, I reminded the House that over the three years between the effective date of the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1962, and the last Act, which came into effect on 1st January, 1966, the cost of living rose by just over 11 per cent. The 1965 Act gave increases ranging up to 16 per cent., so that the older pensioners, with whom we are particularly concerned this afternoon, were more than fully compensated up to that time for the cost of living increase since the previous Act. To that extent something was done to repair the deficiencies of earlier Measures.
I went on to point out that the cost of living had not gone up by more than 6 per cent. since 1st January, 1966 so that the great majority of public service pensioners, but not all, stood to benefit from the up-rating of the National Insurance retirement pension which took effect last autumn. I concede that I am talking about the vast majority. It does not apply to all of them and we cannot ignore the claims of the 10 per cent. who did not get any benefit at all from that. I concluded, when I last addressed the House on this, that the figures did not support a claim for immediate action in our present economic circumstances.
Since that debate, the cost of living has gone up by just over a further 1 per cent. That is, the increase since the last Act took effect is now just over 7 per cent. as compared with just over 11 per cent. between the effective dates of that Act and its predecessor, and with the increases of up to 16 per cent. which the Act provided. This means that I cannot accept that the case is yet made out for an immediate Pensions (Increase) Measure.
What about the prospects for the future?
§ Lord Balniel (Hertford)
I know that the hon. Gentleman wants to speak very briefly, so I hope that he will forgive me for interrupting. He is correct in saying that 96 per cent. of the Civil Service pensioners receive the National Insurance pension. Would he also accept that 30 649 per cent. of the retired officers are either too old or too young to receive a National Insurance pension? This is a very important point, surely.
§ Mr. Lever
I have tried to emphasise that about 90 per cent. of the whole get these pensions, but that this does not relieve us of our responsibility to the remainder. One can pick out figures to highlight this, but the fact remains that there is a minority of about 10 per cent. of this entire class who do not get this National. Insurance pension benefit and we cannot ignore their situation. I want to proceed to deal with that and to examine the prospects for the future.
We fully recognise that the immediate outlook is for a more rapid increase in the cost of living than we have experienced over the past two or three years. Some of the figures that one hears mentioned from time to time may well be exaggerated, but I tentatively offer the assessment given by my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State in the House on 1st May, that in the coming year we face an increase of 5 per cent. in prices due to devaluation, the Budget and the rise in nationalised industry prices.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman was relying on that figure. I have no hesitation in agreeing that a rise of that order, on top of the increase of about 7 per cent. since the last Pensions (Increase) Act which I have just described, would represent a serious additional burden on our pensioners. But none of us can yet foresee precisely how the position will develop in the months ahead and it would be quite wrong for me today to commit the Government to take action by any specific date on the strength of that forecast. Nor would it be right for me to define any specific figure for the rise in the cost of living, although people may make any reasonable judgment they wish in the light of what I have said.
I cannot commit myself to any specific figure that should trigger off action. A decision to introduce a Bill to increase these pensions has to be taken in the light of all the circumstances, and that is a fact which cannot be blinked away. The right hon. Gentleman can make agreeable debating points here and there, but he knows that any increase of a substantial character in public expenditure 650 at a time like the present has to be weighed in the light of existing general circumstances.
§ Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewis)
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the rise in the cost of living between now and the end of the year may be less than 5 per cent?
§ Mr. Lever
Because I do not think that the Government can act on a forecast. They have to see what the situation will be. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the hon. Lady will wait in patience they will see what my approach is. One cannot commit oneself on a forecast, but that does not mean that one has to stand idly by and wait to see what happens and then go slowly into action. Hon. Members are aware of the problems of increasing public expenditure. This happens to be their day for clamouring for it: tomorrow may be their day for lamenting it. But we must all be aware of the problems of substantially increasing public expenditure and I will not waste time on this theme, which has been fully aired by many better or more enthusiastic speakers than I.
It follows from what I have said that the Government are not able to make a firm commitment to introduce a Pensions (Increase) Bill during the current Session. I think that hon. Members should wait for a moment and see whether it is reasonable to take up the position that I am not entitled to act on a forecast. Anxious as I am to remove uncertainty, it is inevitable that the date of Government action must remain undecided until a decision can be taken in the full knowledge of movements in prices and our economic situation.
But the House must not draw any wrong inferences from the inevitable caution which a Government must exercise when it comes to a prediction, even of the not-too-distant future. I welcome this debate because it enables me to put 651 publicly on record that we recognise that the time is not too distant when a Pensions (Increase) Bill will be necessary. We are already active in this matter.
§ Mr. Lever
These are not mere words. The preparation of a Pensions (Increase) Bill is an elaborate affair, but we are putting all the necessary work in hand. This is not meant as a mere token of our sympathy with the case for an increase in public service pensions. It has the practical effect that the inevitable delay in deciding when a Bill can be introduced need not put back the time at which the increase in pensions can become effective. As soon as the decision to go ahead is taken we shall be in a position to act without any technical or procedural delay whatever.
I hope that when I take this stand about refusal to make particular and detailed firm commitments based upon tentative forecasts of movements of prices or in our economic situation there will be some sympathy from responsible Members on either side and that nobody will draw any pessimistic inferences from this. I never tire of telling my hon. Friends, and there is no reason why I should not tell hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that in these days genuine compassion does not consist in writing post-dated cheques but in working hard to see that the money is there in the bank to meet the cheques when they are drawn.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
When my hon. Friend and his colleagues are examining all the factors upon which they will finally reach a decision to bring forward the Bill which we are told is being prepared, will they take very much into account the fact that those who have no State pension because of age are also the people with the very smallest pensions, again because of age; that they are the people who, because of the increase which has already occurred in the cost of living, are even today in need of an increase, and that it will, therefore, be very important that the decision is taken as soon as possible?
§ Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)
The burden of the Financial Secretary's speech seems to be that when the Government make up their mind, they will make up their mind. Can he not accept from us that they will find no obstacle to doing something about it if only they will make up their mind?
§ Mr. Lever
The hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to know that that is not gobbledygook. I would not come before the House and say these things were they not earnestly meant as a serious token of the Government's position.
I would not have taken steps to ensure that work was put in hand for the Bill if that was intended as a mere bromide. It is a tangible sign that we are of the opinion that action will be called for in the not too distant future. What I am candidly refusing to do is to give a firm date, to give a firm prediction which the country, in its present situation, and with the cost of living and prices still uncertain—they may move fast, or more slowly, ahead than has been predicted—cannot meet.
What I am saying, and not as a kind of sleight of hand oral fraud on the House, is that I have given instructions for the Bill to be prepared. I assure the House that we stand poised ready to act without any unnecessary delay when we see how prices move, and how our economic situation goes.
§ Mr. Maudling
The last time the hon. Gentleman spoke on this subject he said that it was unlikely that there could be any increase this year. Is he changing his position on that?
§ Mr. Lever
No. I am not making any statement in connection with the position as it seemed at that time. I am taking into account how things stand now, and the possible movement of prices at the present time. When we have seen how prices move, and how our affairs move, we will have the two determinants 653 for action. I am saying that action cannot be delayed beyond a very limited period of time. No Government with responsibility for our affairs in the present situation could go beyond that in terms of prediction.
§ Dame Irene Ward rose——
§ Dame Irene Ward
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. The hon. Gentleman says that he has put into operation the preparation of a Bill so that it will be ready when it is needed. Will not the Bill be based on forecasts?
§ Mr. Lever
We shall be grateful for any amateur drafting that the hon. Lady does. If it has the same precision as her interventions in the House, maybe we shall not altogether abandon the services of Parliamentary draftsmen.
I have made the Government's position clear. What is the difference between the right hon. Member for Barnet and myself on this? He wants me to pledge the Government, in all circumstances, in advance, to act this Session. It must be in October or November, not in December, January, or February. Is that the real division between us on this subject? Is the division between us a question of weeks or months in taking action?
§ Mr. Lever
The right hon. Gentleman has been Chancellor of the Exchequer. He knows that were he Chancellor of the Exchequer now—[AN HON. MEMBER: "We would not be in such a mess."] Let 654 us say that if he were Chancellor of the Exchequer it would not be the same mess, but a different mess. I cannot see the fine point of distinction which has been introduced. Immediately after the 1964 election there was not quite such an indulgent view of the right hon. Gentleman's achievements. The situation has improved as the results of the Gallup Polls have improved.
The right hon. Gentleman is a substantial figure in the House. As a former Chancellor of the Exchequer he knows that it is not honest for a Chancellor to predict what he will do in October or November of this year in terms of public expenditure, in advance of a possible rise in prices and in advance of knowledge of how our economic situation will move at this crucial time. It is irresponsible for anyone to say, "You are spending money on nationalisation and on civil servants; why not spend it on pensions for these people?"
One may deplore nationalisation, and expenditure on civil servants, but how, with his knowledge and experience, the right hon. Gentleman can dare to equate spending on increased pensions with spending on the nationalised industries or on civil servants baffles me. I appeal to his more responsible self and ask him not to turn what should not be, and is not, a football of party politics into one in today's debate or in any Division that follows.
§ Mr. Ted Leadbitter (The Hartlepools)
As I understand, the division between the two parties is that hon. Gentlemen opposite want something done this Session, and my hon. Friends and I in our Amendment want something done within the life of this Parliament. Only a small sum of money is necessary to deal with this urgent problem, and I hope my hon. Friend is not saying that the national situation is the reason for the difference in the time scale. I hope that my hon. Friend will stick to what he said earlier—that work on the Bill is in hand, and is being treated as a matter of urgency. I hope that he will say that if the work in the Department can be completed in time the Bill will be brought in this Session. The difference between the Motion and the Amendment is so small that it is a technical matter.
§ Mr. Lever
These interventions will probably save me having to ask the leave 655 of the House to wind up the debate, because I shall have answered almost every interjection. I hope that it will not be thought that I am taking too long over my speech.
I am not saying that action is dependent on the preparation of the Bill. What I am saying is that we are preparing the Bill to ensure that when we feel obliged to act, and able to act, we will not be delayed for a moment by any technical or procedural matters. Had the Amendment been selected for discussion I would not have had the slightest difficulty in accepting it and voting for it. I am happy to say that if it reassures my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. Leadbitter).
I cannot forbear to refer to the fact that the Motion is in identical terms to a Motion put down by the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings)——
§ Mr. Lever
It is in virtually identical terms—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It seems that there is a division of opinion in the party opposite. That is rather rare. It seems that the right hon. Member for Barnet agrees with me that this is substantially the same Motion that was put down by the hon. Member for Burton, and the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), and that calls for some comment.
The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman enjoy the highest regard of both sides of the House. Nobody doubts their sincerity or integrity. Their good faith in this matter is beyond question. I regard it as a privilege to know them both well, and I do not wish anything that I say to reflect on them; rather the contrary. I have no doubt that they tabled their Motion in good faith.
I know that their concern in this matter is wholly genuine. They invited my hon. Friends in large numbers to subscribe to the Motion, which my hon. Friends in large numbers did. I am not sorry that they did. This was an expression of all-party feeling, which was absolutely right. Now that that expression has been given by hon. Members on both sides of the House, are we to feel that it should be translated into some kind of party political advantage?
656 I know that hon. Members would not want that. I appeal to the hon. Member for Burton and the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone to do their best in this debate to retain this sense of united expression of feeling for these people who have earned so much gratitude from their country, but have not always received speedy and practical recognition.
I want this debate to send out a message of the united opinion of the House that we recognise our duty to this deserving group. It gives us an opportunity to recognise the high priority due to them for the alleviation of their difficulties—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman may say that, but he has heard what I have said about commitment. It is for him to decide. He should reflect whether he wants to turn a warmhearted, compassionate and genuine expression of feeling by both sides on behalf of these people into a somewhat unattractive party political football, which will give an utterly false impression outside, instead of that which I have sought to convey. I hope that the debate will convey our united determination and our recognition of the high priority which their claim has now achieved.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. J. C. Jennings (Burton)
I congratulate the Financial Secretary on his fresh appearance today after an all-night sitting, at which I joined him, dealing with the finances of the nation. This afternoon we are dealing with the finances of a broad section of the community who need help, and I cannot congratulate him on his speech. Over the years, this section has always lagged behind the rest of the community in getting its share of what used to be called the "national cake". This is the position now. The classes concerned divide broadly into two groups—retired Armed Forces personnel and retired public servants of all descriptions.
Let me deal immediately with the two Motions, because the story behind them is important. This Motion, which was down in my name and those of hon. Members from all the three major parties, and the Welsh Nationalist—[Interruption.] I did not manage to get around to the Scottish Nationalist: she was so evasive at times that I could not catch 657 her. Nevertheless, this was an all-party Motion. The organisation behind it came from the Public Service Pensioners' Council, whose leader, Dr. Stanley Barnes, conducted a nation-wide campaign, the result of which was that hon. Members were inundated with letters from all sorts of people.
This Motion, which I put down as early as February, has been signed by no fewer than 301 hon. Members, which is a substantial proportion, almost half, of the total. Last Thursday, the Leader of the House announced this debate, and when I examined the Opposition Front Bench Motion, I found that it was almost identical to mine. It is no good my right hon. Friend saying that they are not identical. I have them here, and the wording in the Front Bench Motion has been lifted from mine. I am both proud and flattered. I offer my Front Bench colleagues congratulations on this fact and add, in the most friendly spirit, that, if they ever need inspiration and help in future, I am entirely at their disposal.
Therefore, I am delighted that this matter is being debated again. As I said, I could not altogether congratulate the Financial Secretary. What he told us was not even a step forward, although it is an edging forward. He said that, when the country has enough money to spare, he will have a Bill ready so that immediate action can be taken. That is the total of the crumbs which he offered us. I understand that both Governments—mine when in power and the present one—from time to time have needed considerable prodding. The attitude of a party in opposition differs from its attitude in power. I remember hon. Members opposite, when in opposition, fulminating against my right hon. Friends on this very question and arguing strenuously not only for an increase, but for parity, which both Governments ruled out.
We all recognise, therefore, the need for some action. This campaign has been waged nationally. It is an example to every other organisation which lobbies hon. Members, having been done quietly, persistently, thoroughly, moderately and on sound democratic lines, without demonstrations, flag waving, noisy scenes or inflammatory speeches. The result is 658 to be seen in hon. Members' post-bags, the 301 signatures on my Motion and today's debate.
The need always has been great in this respect. I want to ask two simple questions. First, have they a case? Second, what is that case? It is proved by the signatures that they have a case, but let me call in aid a prominent Member of the House, no less a person than the Prime Minister. This is another illustration that an Opposition Leader tells a different story when he gets behind the Government Dispatch Box. In October, 1964, before the General Election, the Prime Minister is on written record with the following words, part of which were repeated earlier by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling):Since we feel the position is a positive disgrace, we have persistently brought this matter up in the House of Commons and criticised the Government for its meanness. We have also called for public service pensioners to be linked to some economic indicator…".If I had no other evidence, that would prove the case.
Reduced to its simplest terms, what is that case?
§ Mr. Harold Lever
Is it not right, at this point, to mention that, in 1965, one of the earliest measures which we introduced was precisely an increase of 16 per cent. overall in these pensions?
§ Mr. Jennings
This is true, and if I were asked to defend my Government I would say that we brought in no fewer than four Pensions (Increase) Bills, amounting to something like the percentage which the hon. Gentleman mentioned and it was we, when in power, who brought in the estimator scale which gave those who had been retired much longer than others a far bigger share. The Prime Minister was convinced in 1964 of the rights of this case. How much more so now? He did something, in 1965, after considerable prodding, but it did not come into operation until 1st January, 1966. The Labour Government were returned in October, 1964 and it took them all that time to bring into operation their pre-election pledges.
What is these people's case? Reduced to its simplest terms, it is that, despite all the economic difficulties which this country faces, others get pay rises—despite devaluation, despite incomes policy, despite tough Budgets—while this 659 group, which is large in numbers, remains at pension levels which are years out of date. I have plenty of figures with me, but I will not bore the House with them. One incontrovertible fact, however, is that, if there is no rise this year, this will be the first Government ever, the only Government, to let more than three years go by before giving a rise. If I said nothing else, that fact must be met.
I have two practical suggestions—the hon. Gentleman can check up, and, if I am wrong, I will withdraw my claim, but I am sure that I am right—[Interruption.] I repeat, this will be the only Government who, if they do not give a rise this year, have gone longer than three years between rises——
§ Mr. Harold Lever
Does it not follow from that that the hon. Gentleman could wait until the three years was up before he made a condemnation in advance on the basis of this charge?
§ Mr. Jennings
The hon. Gentleman is so skilled in Parliamentary affairs that he knows that there are only a few months of this Session left and that the legislative programme is overloaded. If anything were to be given to these people for 1st January next, the Government would have to get moving now with a Bill. Therefore, it is not right to say that I am condemning in advance. The whole point is that something should be done now.
I have two practical suggestions. First, to give a rise now would cost money, of course, but it is a question of priorities. We give family allowances. Are children more valuable than elderly people? It is a different story during General Elections, when politicians are talking to the old age pensioners' associations. We give family allowances and students' grants. Are these people to be behind those classes in the list of priorities?
Within the Government's prices and incomes policy, they could be given a rise of 3½ per cent., but by next January they will be three years behind. Therefore, if they received 3½ per cent. for each of those years, the Government could, even within their own policy, give them a rise of 10½ per cent. I know the reason given, which is valid—that 660 these people should wait until there has been a review of the social services.
§ Mr. Jennings
For far too long the excuse has been, "We must await the review of the social services." Those people cannot afford to wait.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
The hon. Gentleman must not misrepresent me. I have not suggested, and I do not suggest now, that a rise in pensions must await the comprehensive review of the social services. A satisfactory, permanent and honourable way to proceed is for the matter to be completely put right by that review, but certainly I am not saying that we must await that review before increasing pensions.
§ Mr. Jennings
In the long-term, that must happen. I appreciate, however, that a Bill is to be drafted, ready for action, whenever the opportunity arises. That is something for the immediate problem, but I urge that these people be given some priority and their position looked at immediately.
If the Government cannot do this for the broad mass of pensioners in this category, I suggest that there is a section of pensioners who are very badly off. I refer to those who retired many years ago and whose pensions were geared to low salaries. As a result, they are drawing low pensions. Can at least this section of the retired community receive priority? I accept the Financial Secretary's sincerity. I trust that he appreciates that if nothing is done bad feeling will be exacerbated and that there will be disappointment and frustration among an ageing section of the community who deserve help and support now.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
My feeling about these pensions is less one of, as the Financial Secretary put it, compassion, as of ordinary honesty. "Pensions", in this context, is a misnomer. We are dealing with deferred pay. Over the generations the government received service of high quality for a considerably lower wage than industry and private enterprise had to pay for similar service. That service was received at a lower price because the Government promise4 to look after the future of their servants 661 and widows. That promise is being performed with bad money.
It may be said that private enterprise would also fulfil its bargains with bad money. I agree, but private enterprise is not responsible for making the money bad. Successive Governments have done this as a matter of deliberate policy. To a considerable extent they have been right, because I am heritical enough to feel that a full employment policy requires an element of inflation, and I doubt whether we could have got by without it. However, this should not be an excuse for defaulting on our bargain with the people whom we persuaded to serve the nation and who have served well.
Britain grew great on this service, which in a sense was a hereditary one in that the families of public servants—officers and non-commissioned officers of the Army and other Forces—were a great recruiting ground for the Service. From their earliest childhood the members of those families were brought up in the atmosphere of the Service and they provided the real morale and esprit de corps which we wanted.
Successive Governments have killed that recruiting ground. Few people do not have an uncle, aunt or other relative who does not feel a sense of real and bitter injustice. Instead of making those families, which for so many years have had a public service tradition, the recruiting ground, there is now a strong anti-Service feeling within them.
It is not only dishonest; it is not good sense. It is also bitterly unjust. Men served as professional soldiers in the First World War with the rank of major-general and brigadier-general. I suggest that we who served in the last war got off lightly compared with the earlier generation and the conditions in which they fought. These men and their widows now find themselves being pensioned at a lower level than a young major prematurely retired at the age of 40—at an age when it is not difficult to step into good new employment. This is a bitter injustice. We are speaking of men who served on the basis that they would be assured a dignified retirement for themselves and their widows.
In the battle which we have often tried to wage against poverty my hon. Friend 662 and I have been keenly aware of the bitter indignity of poverty. Affluence is a relative matter. To some it is a full rice bowl. To others that same rice bowl is starvation. It is a matter of relativity between various people. I would say that one is affluent if, each year, one is a little better off, and that one is impoverished if, each year, one is a little worse off. A declining standard is a cruel standard, and that is the standard which, year after year, has been imposed on these people—each year feeling that they have economised to the utmost but finding that an additional economy is necessary.
Without apology, and contrary to the views of both the great parties, I believe in parity; that it is only honest to pay for the same service in the same kind, so that there should be the same pension for the same service, whenever and wherever it was rendered. After all, that was the specific pledge given by the Labour Party when in opposition. I had the misfortune of giving that pledge from the Front Bench in two successive years. That pledge had been carefully considered and it was given with the full authority of my party because we thought that it was just. I regret that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not equally feel that it is just. It is on this matter that I have on previous occasions felt it my duty to vote against my party.
But that is not the issue tonight and I hope that there will not be a Division on the question of timing. If there is to be yet another Pensions (Increase) Bill, then whether it is introduced in October, November, December or January is not a matter on which the House should vote—that is, for any reason other than party advantage. The Opposition have had assurances which should satisfy them. Although what they want is not what I want, I hope that, for the sake of the dignity of Parliament, we will not have a squalid party Division in which each of us will be expressing feelings which we do not really hold.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
I had the honour and privilege to sign the Opposition Motion.
The House listened with attention to the noble speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I 663 am sure that he will agree that it is surprising that a Minister representing the Armed Forces is not on the Government Front Bench. Although that is a pity, the hon. and learned Gentleman can be said to represent the spirit of the Forces on the benches opposite. Indeed, many of us regret that he did not achieve the Ministerial office which I believe was due to him.
The answer given by the Financial Secretary to the debate has not been satisfactory. I accept that it is easy for debates of this kind to become party slogging matches and, looking back on the record of my party, I admit that our record was not all the best in these matters.
§ Mr. Fraser
The older I get and the longer I am in Parliament the more I believe that it is the first duty of the House to carry out its obligations. I departed from my hon. Friends on the question of our obligations to the Asians in East Africa. I believe that we have obligations in the matter we are discussing and I completely agree with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton that the greatest obligation of those who legislate for the country is for those who have worked in the service of the nation.
It is true that, by and large, these people had a good life and enjoyed their service, whether in the Armed Forces or the Civil Service. They enjoyed it because they had a sense of duty properly fulfilled. The tragedy is that they are now reduced to penury compared with others and that they and their children feel that the State has defaulted on them.
The Motion, which has great support in the House, should be pressed to a Division. We must make it clear that we believe that, no matter the economic problems of the nation, we have certain obligations which must be fulfilled. Unless a clear statement is made that these obligations will be correctly fulfilled—the statement of the Financial Secretary so far is not sufficient—there must be a Division.
The Minister's statement was charming and full of good will. The hon. Gentleman positively exudes charm. I 664 say that in the friendliest manner and I prefer to call him my hon. Friend, because I have a great personal regard for him and know that his heart is very much in the right place. The answer we have had from the Financial Secretary so far is not the answer which he would wish to have given. I see a more sinister figure, Svengali beside Trilby, on the Front Bench now. We know that behind them is the iron resolution of the Treasury not to yield an inch. The Financial Secretary has told us that his fountain pen is ready to sign the Bill, but that gives no comfort to those who are waiting to benefit from the Bill. I hope, whatever has been said by hon Members opposite, that the House will divide on this Motion.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Horner (Oldbury and Halesowen)
I think that the House will agree that an advance has been demonstrated by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary this afternoon. There seems to have been some progress made in the Treasury.
We were told in January that when the time was appropriate the machinery would be put into operation. Now we are told that the machinery is in operation. Therefore, there is some advance. I must confess, however, that I was puzzled by what my hon. Friend said. I sought to hear from him the factors which would have to be taken into account before the machinery produced the end result.
I want to know whether the Government feel that the disproportionate increase in living costs which these pensioners have suffered since the last Pensions (Increase) Act warrants an increase in pensions at this moment, or is it, as has been suggested by hon. Members opposite, that when the money is there it will be shelled out?
I want to hear from the Government, when winding up the debate, what the factors are which will be taken into account when the machinery is finally put into top gear. I do not complain that he took the opportunity of telling the House once again of the Government's general policy in regard to regular review arrangements, but I was not wholly convinced that the arrangements which exist in the Treasury are appropriate and adequate.
My hon. Friend said that we ought not to worry, that hon. Members write to him from time to time expressing anxiety 665 but that everything is looked after and that in due course something will come out of the pipeline. I am very pleased indeed that, after the last few months and the support given on both sides of the House to the early day Motion, we have had this declaration from the Financial Secretary. As Shakespeare said:If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere wellIt were done quickly.Hon. Members who have spoken in this debate have not sought to belabour this point. We have not been given many statistics, but there is general agreement that this is an urgent matter and that we wait with impatience the outcome of the machinery which the Financial Secretary says has been set up and which is working at the Treasury at the moment.
We have heard in moving terms from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) of the position of the Armed Forces pensioners. I speak particularly on behalf of a group of public service pensioners. I make a special plea on behalf of those who have served in the police forces and fire services, who are now old and were obliged to retire because the regulations applying to the police forces and fire services require them to retire at what may be regarded as the comparatively early age of 55 after 30 or 35 years' service.
When a fireman reaches the age of 55 and has done that service he has had about enough. One cannot expect such men to undergo the rigours of fighting fires or active service on the beat in the police after that age, and the regulations say that these men must retire at 55. These men, who retired many years ago, are denied the benefit of the National Insurance retirement pension. There can be no automatic increase for these pensioners when National Insurance retirement benefits increase. I make a special plea on behalf of police officers and policemen and fire officers and firemen who retired in those circumstances in the past.
I know that the Treasury would not wish to deal with this matter piecemeal. It has been suggested that perhaps there are special groups who could be treated separately as a matter of immediate urgency. However desirable that may be, I understand the difficulties which face the Treasury at the moment. We are 666 glad to know about the regular review. I hope that this will be the last time we shall discuss a Pensions (Increase) Bill. I earnestly hope that we shall not have to wait too long for that Bill. I beg my hon. Friend and his colleagues in the Treasury to see that when the Bill comes before the House—and I hope that it will come very soon—we shall be told a great deal more about the general review arrangements and that never again will the House be obliged to go through the situation we have experienced during the last few months.
I hope that hon. Members opposite will not press this Motion to a Division. What the Financial Secretary said this after-noon is an adequate assurance of anxiety to get ahead in this matter. I hope that this will be the last time we shall have to press the Government to introduce a Pensions (Increase) Bill.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)
The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner) is rather more trusting in the Financial Secretary than I and a number of my hon. Friends would be. The Financial Secretary said two things which filled me with suspicion. I am sure that a number of my constituents will not fail to notice them. First, he said that he was ready poised to sign the Bill with his fountain pen, or something like that. I noted the words "ready poised".
§ Mr. Harold Lever
The hon. Member must not attribute the fantasies or fancies of other hon. Members about my fountain pen being in my hand to my speech. At no point did I refer to this useful article in my speech.
§ Mr. Godman Irvine
I withdraw any reference to the fountain pen. There is no fountain pen in the hon. Gentleman's hand, but he is "ready poised" to do something, I wrote that down.
I regret that I no longer recall what he was poised and ready to do, but what I do recall, and what my constituents recall, is that when hon. and right hon. Members opposite originally managed to move from this side of the House to the Government side, they did it on election addresses stating that they were poised and ready to deal with the nation's economic situation. We have waited a good long time to see any fulfilment of that 667 promise. So if the Financial Secretary uses words like that he must not be surprised if they are not found to be very persuasive at least in my part of Sussex.
Second, the Financial Secretary said that he would deal with this matter in months, not weeks. That reminded me of what the Prime Minister said about sanctions against Rhodesia working in weeks, not months.
§ Mr. Godman Irvine
The hon. Gentleman may say that, but these are matters which will not be overlooked in my part of the country nor a great deal of the rest of it. In a little while, he will have opportunity to say what he wants to say. At this moment, I am pointing out that I am not satisfied with the general air of bonhomie with which he has tried to enlist our support. We want something more specific than he has been able to put to us so far.
It is all very well to say that at some time a Bill will be introduced. Week by week my constituents who live on small fixed incomes read about increases in telephone charges, postal charges and a host of other things. They constantly write to me expressing their anxiety. I had a letter only today complaining about the rise in the price of coke. This sort of thing goes on day after day and week after week. My constituents will not be satisfied by a suggestion that at some stage the Financial Secretary will move from his position of being poised and actually go into action.
The last Pensions (Increase) Act introduced increases of between 2 per cent. and 16 per cent. for various classes of pensioner, and those increases came into force in January, 1966. Since then there has been an increase of 7.3 per cent. in the cost of living. The Financial Secretary may say that that is not a matter requiring immediate attention. In that case, I come to my second point and ask him to look at the class of people who received inadequate awards at that time.
One of the first cases I came across when I became a Member of Parliament was that of a man who had been invalided out of the Royal Navy in 1899, 668 during the Boxer Rebellion. He was then aged 16 and serving in the Royal Navy as a boy. He received a 100 per cent. disability pension in 1899, and he received all the increases which were awarded in Pensions (Increase) Acts from 1899 until about 1955. The total result was that in 1959 his pension was £155 a year. I have urged that case on successive Financial Secretaries as an example of the class of people who need immediate assistance. I think that the hon. Gentleman need not worry about that man any more because I have not heard from him for some time and I believe that he is no longer with us. My efforts on his behalf were unsuccessful.
I have two further examples with me today which I want the Financial Secretary to consider. They are not examples of people who were serving in the last century; but both were serving at the beginning of the last war. One joined the Royal Navy in 1914 and was invalided out as a lieutenant, after 27 years' service, in 1941. He is now receiving £434 a year, including the last pensions increase of 16 per cent.
The other joined the Army in 1915, was demobilised in 1919, enlisted in the Territorial Army, and finally went to the Royal Air Force as a Regular in 1923. He was commissioned in 1941 and retired in 1948 as a squadron leader, a rank in which he served for six years. His pension is £494 a year. He received a gratuity of £300 after 30 years' service. Those who have been serving in the Royal Air Force and who retire today, after the same length of service, receive a pension of £1,000 and a gratuity of £3,000.
The folk I am referring to are becoming very senior citizens. It is not good enough to say to them that the Financial Secretary is poised and that he will act at some stage. He must act now. They cannot wait.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Ted Fletcher (Darlington)
Like other hon. Members, I have received many letters from retired public service pensioners. Many of them are apprehensive about the increased prices which they have to meet on fixed incomes. There can be no doubt that people on fixed incomes, who, in the main, are pensioners, are the first to suffer from a 669 situation of inflation, when prices are rising rapidly.
It has been said, with some justice, I think, that although the cost of living has increased in recent years, wage and salary increases have more than kept pace with the rise in prices. Whether they will continue to do so is doubtful. In the light of devaluation and the Budget, we understand that there is every possibility that prices will continue to rise, perhaps, 5 or 6 per cent. more before the end of the year.
Nevertheless, it is true that most wage and salary earners have received increases over the past two years—certainly since 1st January, 1966, the date of the last increase to public service pensioners—whereas public service pensioners have been waiting two and a half years or more. The recommendation at that time did not affect people who retired after 1st April, 1964, so many pensioners have been waiting four years or more since the last increase.
The improvement made on 1st January, 1966, gave increases ranging from 2 per cent. for those who retired immediately before April, 1964, rising to a maximum of 16 per cent. if retirement took place before April, 1957. The Financial Secretary, perhaps unintentionally, misled the House by suggesting that, although at that period the cost of living had risen by only 11 per cent., pensioners were given increases totalling 16 per cent. In fact, the increase of 16 per cent. applied only to people who retired before 1957.
I am particularly concerned about the pre-1957 public service pensioner. Many of the scales on which the pensions were paid—the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rye (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine) made this point—were based upon unrealistic wage scales. As a consequence, although there is an escalating scale giving bigger percentage increases for those who have retired longest, account is not taken of the erosion in the value of money over their 10, 15 or 20 years of retirement. These are the public service pensioners who are, therefore, beginning really to feel the pinch. They are suffering more than any other section of the community from the effect of rapidly rising prices.
It has been claimed from the Government Front Bench that this is a most in- 670 appropriate occasion, beset as we are with economic difficulties, to discuss the question of public service pension increases. Perhaps right hon. and hon. Members opposite have no political motives in moving the Motion, but they may have difficulty in reconciling the suggestion that we should pay out more money at the same time as they are promising to reduce taxation. However, I accept the sincerity of hon. Members opposite who have spoken. I hope that we can all persuade my hon. Friend and the Government that a case can be made for an immediate increase, at least to those who have retired from employment in the lower reaches of public service.
If the financial hurdle is so formidable—and we recognise that in present circumstances there is an argument that the Government could not afford the full cost of pension increases—why not consider, in particular, those in receipt of modest pensions and the pre-1957 pensioners? They are the people who are feeling the real impact of rising prices. It might be claimed with some justification that retired town clerks, generals, chief constables, higher civil servants and so on receive fairly substantial pensions and, therefore, perhaps suffer the minimum of inconvenience when prices increase.
But if the Government are particularly concerned in their prices and incomes policy about the impact of poverty on the lower-paid worker—and they have clearly said that it is their intention to do something about it, although I can see little evidence of this happening—they should also be concerned with the lower-paid pensioner. I hope that they will give some consideration at least to those at the lower end of the scale.
Some might claim that there is political motivation behind the Motion. But I think that the case has been stated on its merits. I am very disappointed to learn that although preparations are now being made to draft regulations that could be put into effect at the earliest possible moment, there is no possibility of introducing legislation. I think that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary was quite definite about this. Even if it were introduced in the next Session it might well well take three or four months to get through Parliament, and as a result it might be 1st April, 1969, before any increase could be operated.
671 My hon. Friend has already told us that since the last general pension increase the cost of living has risen by 6 per cent. We are now told that there is a forecast that it will increase by 5 per cent, by the end of the year. It was all very well for my hon. Friend to say that the Government are watching developments very closely and will intervene when they consider the pensioners merit attention. Is that time to be when the cost of living has increased by 8 per cent., 9 per cent., or 10 per cent? Pensioners are entitled to ask how much of the impact in the increased cost of living they are expected to absorb before their pensions are reviewed.
Early Day Motion No. 149 had the support of Members on both sides of the House. There is genuine concern, particularly judging from some of the pathetic letters we receive from our constituents, that a great deal of hardship is being undergone by people on small fixed pensions. If the Government are to organise a drive against poverty they must look at this section of our population.
I appeal to the Government to consider if not a blanket approach to the problem with a general increase in pensions for all retired public service and Armed Forces personnel, looking at the people on the lower rungs of the ladder as an interim measure. Is not it possible as an interim measure, to do something to save them from the full economic consequences of devaluation and the Budget? I believe that such an interim step would be acceptable to hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
It is scarcely three months since the subject was last debated in the House, but there is certainly more injustice tied up in it than can be dispensed with in two debates, so I will not make any inference about the right hon. Gentlemen choosing it for their Supply day. A matter like this passes like a baton from party to party, but remains resolutely on this side of the House. Unfortunately, it will apparently remain here for some few months, because it will no doubt do so even if a Conservative Government should come to power.
I marvel at the effrontery of the Conservative leaders in putting down the 672 Motion. I accept that some Tory back-benchers have always been very interested in the problem, and very concerned about the hardship involved. But their party when, in power, did precious little to ease the burden of hardship. Under the Tories, it was really a case of public service and penury going together. The only principle they recognised in the matter, as far as I could ever see, was that under a Tory Government the older one got the poorer one would become.
The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) mentioned the Government's refusal of a two-year review. My noble Friend Lord Wade, when a Member of this House, introduced a Bill in 1962 to provide for a two-year review, and consistently badgered the then Tory Government to bring in such a review. It was consistently refused, and the Conservative Government said clearly that they had no intention of bringing in such a regular procedure.
The right hon. Member for Barnet said that by turning down an increase because of the question of priorities, because they did not have enough to spend on it, the Government were in some way saying that everything in their programme was of a higher priority than this. The argument must have been precisely true during the 13 years of Conservative rule, and presumably applied to Blue Streak and the other £1,000 million wasted on defence during that period. The argument can work both ways. The Conservative party may well speak now with honeyed words, but precious little action was taken at the time. The hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) said towards the end of the Conservative period that this blot on the Tory record was inexcusable.
§ Lord Balniel
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to be misleading, and that he would accept that reform is always a continuous process. In the earlier Acts we abolished the means test. At the time of Lord Wade's suggestion we introduced what is called the escalator, whereby the more elderly people get additional help, and at the same time we introduced a special flat-rate increase for people over 70. We accept that not everything was done in our turn of office, but surely the hon. Gentleman can appreciate with a certain 673 degree of generosity that reform in this matter is a continuing process?
§ Mr. Pardoe
I accept that reform is a continuing process, but I wish that it would hurry up a little. One could say that the present Government, though I do not wish to defend them, made steps in this direction by increasing these pensions. The statement of the hon. Member for Tynemouth stands. This was an inexcusable blot on the Tory Government, despite all the advances which the noble Lord mentioned.
When the Conservative Government left office, they had failed to restore any officers' pension to the purchasing value of 1938. It would have required a rise of 200 per cent. in 1964 to restore the 1938 purchasing power. At that time, a general's pension would have had to be raised by 46 per cent., a colonel's by 52 per cent., a major's by 58 per cent. and a captain's by 70 per cent., so they were lagging a long way behind.
The cost of living has risen over 7 per cent. since the last pension increase in January, 1966, and as we have heard from the Officers' Pensions Society, in its brief for the debate, there is likely to have been a 12 or 13 per cent. increase since January 1966, when we come to the end of this year. As a result of the increase in the cost of living, there is obvious hardship, as all hon. Members accept, and some sections are suffering more than others.
More than 3,000 officers' widows are on minimum rates of pension and for many of them the pension is less than that of the single rate of National Insurance pension, while 35 per cent of officers' widows are too old for the National Insurance pension. It seems extraordinary that we still accept a standard of one-third of the husband's retirement pension as being the correct pension for his widow. We should have accepted half at least as the proper standard throughout the whole of the pension provisions in this sector.
The terms of the Amendment in my name show the difference between the Liberals and the other two parties, although I think that the Labour Party, in opposition, accepted the principle of parity. Both the major parties today apparently reject the two essential principles of parity and of dynamic pensions. 674 But unless we accept them we shall never get over the problem of coming cap in hand to the Parliamentary Order Paper, so to speak, for increases now and then.
Why is parity ruled out? Is it right that a major who retired in 1919 should have a standard of living at least one-third less than that enjoyed by a major who retired in 1965 or 1966? The principle of public service and Armed Forces pensioners receiving the same pension for the same service regardless of date of retirement is right, and if it is right we should find a way to implement it. I do not say that we should do so immediately. We have suggested that it should be done over a seven-year phased period. What I want the Government to accept is the principle and to say that they will implement it over a period.
The right hon. Member for Barnet was familiar with the arguments which he said the Government would use in countering his own. I was not surprised at that because they are precisely the same arguments which the Conservative Government used. For instance, the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) said that it was wrong completely to insulate any section of society from changes in the value of currency. But it is equally wrong to leave one section of society completely free from the changes in the value of the currency.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
The hon. Gentleman is very safe on the Liberal Bench in pledging himself to parity, because he has not the slightest danger of having to implement it. Can he give an example of any private employer who has instituted parity?
§ Mr. Pardoe
I do not accept the argument that the public sector should always take its standards from the private sector. There is an argument for saying that if the public sector accepted this principle it would attract private provision to do likewise. I want to see the Government taking the lead.
§ Mr. Pardoe
That comment stands by itself. There is no need for me to elaborate on it and I accept it.
675 The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames went on to say that it was unfair to tax payers possibly earning less than public service pensioners to ask them to pay more in order to increase public service pensions. That was a ridiculous argument, because it would mean in logic that the Government could not even increase the salaries of public servants above the average level of taxpayers' earnings. The Government must pay not only proper salaries, but proper rates of pensions in the public service, and collect the money from the taxpayers as equitably as possible.
The idea of parity was also opposed by Mr. Profumo, on 20th December, 1962, when he had some responsibility for this matter. He said:Current pensions are part of a contract or bargain to which the man who retired a long time ago was never a party. Many features of the terms of service in his profession may have changed in the meantime, some for better, some for worse. The contract of service under which he served cannot be reopened."—[OFFICIAL RFPORT, 20th December, 1962; Vol. 669, c. 1590.]This, again, is a ridiculous argument. Of course, the conditions in which the contract was signed have changed substantially. But surely the contract or bargain was committed to a certain standard of living and degree of purchasing power.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
Having turned what for the most part has been an all-party approach into an anti-Tory tirade, will the hon. Gentleman vote in support of the Opposition Motion?
§ Mr. Pardoe
I do not think that my speech can be interpreted as an anti-Tory tirade. I am reminding the House, and my constituents, I hope, of the not-all that handsome record of both the Conservative and Labour Parties in this matter. That is the only point I am trying to make. But putting down the Motion, the Conservative Party has turned this matter into a political issue and in my Amendment I have tried to show that the terms of the Motion are not strictly true.
The principle of dynamism, whereby pensions should increase automatically with increases in pay, seems to relate to the Prime Minister's promise in 1964 in a letter, when he spoke of linking these 676 pensions to some economic indicator. I ask the Government to accept that current active salaries are the proper economic indicator to link these pensions to. I do not say that it can be done immediately, but in the long term that is the principle we shall accept.
Both these principles of parity and dynamism are right and should be implemented. That is why I ask for them to be implemented in the social security review which the Government have promised us. I hope that the Government will take action now to help alleviate the hardships which exists. I hope, also, that they will write these principles into their long-term policy. It is only by accepting them that we can stop this business of fiddling continually with pensions, trying to get them square but never catching up. That is the only way to overcome hardship in the long run.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. A. H. Macdonald (Chislehurst)
The speech of the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) lowered the level of the debate very considerably. I make it clear that, unlike him, what I have to say will be my own thoughts. It has not been necessary for me to be briefed by anybody. Among the admirable speeches we have heard, I want to refer in particular to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner) and pick up a point he referred to in his concluding remarks.
Every time this subject comes forward for debate in the House, I feel some surprise that it is a subject for which it is necessary to legislate. After all, the public service and Armed Forces pensioners whose case we consider are not really in the relationship of citizen to Government but rather in the relationship of ex-employees to their employers.
It is not too much of a paradox to say that the pension scheme operated for their benefit is really a private pension scheme. The fact that, in this sense, their direct employer is the Government is fortuitous in a way. We are really considering a kind of pension scheme. No other private pension scheme requires legislative approval before a change can be made, and I am surprised that we should imagine that legislation is necessary now.
677 Another reason why I regret the necessity for legislation is that, while I entirely agree that the expenditure of public funds needs close scrutiny and control, I have been unable to see why we should infer from that that legislation is necessary. It is only right and proper that we should pass the pension arrangements for ex-Government employees under close and regular scrutiny. Any firm would want to review its own scheme, and if necessary decide what to do about it. We have a double obligation because we are dealing with public funds, but I cannot see why it should necessarily follow that we require legislation to bring about amendments.
Let us consider the existing pension arrangements and let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that all the existing pensioners and new pensioners were to live to the age of 100—unlikely but possible. If that occurred the number of people receiving pensions would be considerably increased, and consequently the amount of money paid out would increase correspondingly. No one would suppose that, of itself, that would require legislation. If a greater number of people continue to receive the same amount, and no legislation is required, I do not see why legislation is required if the same number of people are to receive an increased amount. The amount of public expenditure would be increased in either case.
This is hardly the time, and I am hardly the man, to embark on a definition of what is law, but I would suppose that such a definition would include some phrase to express a generality, that the law is something laying down a particular principle, and the application would be left to the courts, the ministry or an appropriate body. When we pass a Pensions Bill for public servants and Armed Forces we enact legislation, but what we are really doing is a mere administrative act, using the guise of legislation.
It is rather a pity that when we want to do something for these people it is necessary to go to the trouble of enacting legislation. I should like to see an absolutely automatic procedure, either by introducing the concept of parity or linking these pensions to any rises in the cost of living. When a pensioner first receives his pension what counts is the value. That is presumably the amount 678 which the country thinks he deserves, presumably an amount which the country thinks it can afford. The pounds, shillings and pence in which those values are expressed at the time are not of deep significance. If there is a cost of living increase, we should ensure, automatically, that the value of the pension is maintained at its original level. I have never been able to understand why we have arguments saying that we cannot afford that. If we could afford the value of the pension in the first place why can we no longer continue to afford that value?
In the last two years, in previous debates, Members of the Opposition have brought forward proposals for a review body. I quite understand that they have done so because, under a Private Member's Bill, our rules of procedure prevent them from advancing a thorough-going improvement in the position of these pensioners. That did not make their proposals any better. I felt, and still feel, that the review body is very much a second-best. It might say "No", and it can only make recommendations to the Government, which can say "No". We want an automatic decision, without the necessity of coming forward again and again to Parliament for these miserable Bills, taking a form of law, but merely administrative acts. It would be well if, with all-party support, we could take this out of the legislative sphere and make regular, formal arrangements ensuring proper levels of value for these pensioners for ever.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
I have listened to the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald) putting arguments against legislation, about an automatic increase, and about having a review body. What I have not heard him say a word about is how he will vote. From the arguments he has put forward, I should have thought that he was bound to vote for our Motion, otherwise everything that he has said is pure humbug.
I want to make my position quite clear. I have made it perfectly clear previously that we should have a review body. We on this side of the House have tabled a Motion, following an Early Day Motion which many hon. Members opposite signed. We have listened to the charm of the Financial Secretary but we have not 679 "levered" anything out of him at all. All that he has done is to try to produce arguments which would provide hon. Members behind him with arguments to send to their constituents as to why they have gone back on a Motion that they had already signed. One has only to represent a division like mine, with a large percentage of pensioners, to know the kind of letters we receive when we write to the Treasury on these matters.
§ Mr. Macdonald
I am sorry that the hon. Member reproaches me for not declaring how I intend to vote. I hope that there will not be a vote, but I have expressed reasons why I think both Government and Opposition are at fault in this matter. Neither course is satisfactory to me.
§ Mr. Costain
I accept what the hon. Member has said, but I hope that there will be a Division, and I shall vote for the Motion. The wording of this Motion is such that it does not pledge us to keep parity. Anyone who expects parity in pensions is kidding himself. I shall go into the Lobby tonight and vote for the Motion, believing that it is the spirit that matters.
I wish that something could be done immediately. I do not accept the Financial Secretary's statement that he has a Bill ready. What eyewash! If the Government want a Bill, they can produce one overnight. The Financial Secretary is saying that there is a Bill ready to put before the House, and the signal to put the machinery into operation is the shadow of the next General Election. We know what they said they would do on pensions during the period between the two General Elections.
Those of us who are in close touch with pensioners realise that they want assurance for their short future. These elderly people have been brought up to be thrifty. They believe that the right thing to do is to depend not upon charity but upon their own resources. They want assurance that they need not worry.
Although figures have been quoted by the Financial Secretary on the rise in the cost of living, what has not been made clear is the extra expenditure incurred by elderly people on those items produced by nationalised industries. That is why they need better help under a 680 Socialist Government than under a Conservative Government. The biggest rise is in the cost of heating. The next rise will be in the cost of food, as a result of the Transport Bill. Old people can do without a new suit of clothes, but heating and food are the two essentials. If they attempt to make a saving in these two essentials it is at the cost of their health.
It is a matter of priority. Yesterday we gave extra grants to the students. Surely those who most need help should have the highest priority. The Financial Secretary could have made a real contribution by saying that those who are more elderly and on the lowest scales need the greatest help. He could have produced a formula to give special consideration to those who are over 80 years of age. This was the policy of the Conservatives, who saw the need and tailored their programme to suit it. Surely, the Financial Secretary could tell us what would be the cost of providing a proper standard of health for those over 80.
In my constituency there is a Civil Service retirement home which is an extremely well run place and a credit to those who run it. From such places one can get the facts and one can find out what the need is.
Older people need food and warmth and to feel that they are not a burden on the community. They want to be wanted. Whenever the House debates this question I feel that it is debating whether old people are wanted. It is necessary that the call should go out from this House tonight that they are wanted. We have a responsibility to look after them. For that reason, I shall vote for the Motion. I hope that my hon. and right hon. Friends will divide the House.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
I wish to declare an interest as a pensioner. In 1953 I retired from the Army after 21 years' service and I received a pension of £490 a year. My pension has not increased during the past 16 years. It will not increase until I reach the age of 60.
The Treasury at one time adopted the principle of immutability. They said that a pension was granted for the service which had been given, and there was no obligation to increase it. That 681 principle has since been breached and some increases are made, but they are insufficient to compensate in full for the rise in the cost of living.
The increase of 16 per cent. quoted by the Financial Secretary is an increase on the basic pension. If there is a rise of 100 per cent. in the cost of living since the basic pension has been awarded, and a further increase of 11 per cent. in the cost of living, the increase is equivalent only to 8 per cent. In no case do the pensions increases meet the full rise in the cost of living. The first step we ought to take is to try to make pensions increases at least meet the rise in the cost of living.
The suggestion of parity is ludicrous. The Labour Party promised it when they were in opposition and abandoned it very quickly on coming to office. It is now being offered by the Liberal Party, who are in absolutely no danger of being faced with having to introduce the principle of parity. It is a great disservice to pensioners to suggest that parity is a feasible proposition. The suggestion is completely out of touch with reality. No private pension scheme provides for parity. We ought to try to bring pensions to a level which would cover the rise in the cost of living. We have not achieved that.
The Financial Secretary has told us today that there will be a straight improvement in the pension at some time. He says that it is not necessary yet because the increase in the cost of living is not sufficient. But, remember, it is 2½ years since the last increase. He says nothing of improving pensions generally, as opposed to the Tory pledge to bring pensions at least up to the 1966 level, rather than moving just a step in the direction of parity while not achieving it. The proposals of the Financial Secretary are extremely disappointing. There is no improvement in the situation.
In a time of economic ruin great care must be taken in promising future benefits. The Government have a duty to their public servants who are now suffering hardship. As an employer, the Government should be setting a good example. The duty of hon. Members is to see that the Government behave well towards their employees. Individually we have the duty to force this on the Government, and I therefore believe that 682 we should support this Motion. We know that the Government's proposals are inadequate, and I hope therefore that everyone who has signed the Motion will come into the Loby with us tonight.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
I should like to make it clear that I have no axe to grind in taking part in this debate. I have been briefed by nobody. What I say is entirely my own opinion.
If I were tempted to follow the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain), I should be led into a very polemical discussion about which party had done most for the pensioners—the Labour Party or the Tory Party. I should stand on our record during the three and a half years that we have been in office in contrast to that standing to the credit, or discredit, of previous Administrations. Therefore, we shall not argue about that point.
We have heard a lot in previous debates in the House on the treatment of old-age pensioners—and I refer specifically to retirement pensioners who come under the National Insurance Act—about selectivity. We on this side of the House often speak at cross-purposes about the desirability of making advances right across the board irrespective of the recipients' need. I have been in a minority of those on this side who have pleaded with my right hon. Friends in the Government to be more selective about the way in which they dispense public money. This does not mean that I am mean, niggardly or parsimonious. I agree that those in real need should get a lot more. But if this country goes on dispensing public money in the way it has been dispensed right across the board, regardless of whether those who have a title to it require it, we shall be in deeper trouble than we are already.
I wish to refer to what the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) said about Service pensioners. I should like a clear distinction drawn between Service pensioners—time-expired officers and Service men—and war service disability pensioners, who are often in a different category. Many Service pensioners are members of this honourable House. Many high-ranking officers have found their way on to the green benches 683 in this Chamber and have played a distinguished part in our proceedings. One would never suppose that the mere fact that at some period in their career they occupied an important post in the Army or Navy and at 50 years of age were time-expired meant that they were not entitled to seek admission to the House and become very useful servants of it.
As an ordinary democrat representing, as I do, a Socialist constituency where we are always talking about social justice, am I to support a system which automatically writes into our pension legislation an automatic escalator to shelter people against the effects of inflation regardless of whether they need it or not? These are moral questions, but also very important administrative questions.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton) rose——
§ Mr. Price
I promised to sit down at 25 minutes past six. I do not wish to be unfair to anybody. I should have preferred to have had a good deal of time to develop this argument more rationally and coherently than I am doing under the pressure of time.
While I would give my support to any Government who did their utmost so far as the national Exchequer would permit with prudence for those in greatest need, I should strongly resist any system which built in an automatic escalator.
The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead spoke as an ex-serving officer in Her Majesty's Forces with particular knowledge of this question. He pointed out, quite rightly, that time-expired officers who may take their Service pension at 50 years of age or in their early 50s could not automatically expect an advance until they were 60. This is the administrative procedure under our existing Royal Warrants. But the hon. Gentleman did not say that under the Pensions (Increase) Acts which have been introduced regularly at periods of about two years—the last one was in 1966—an escalator is built in under which those who have been longest retired get the highest increase and those who have been retired for shorter periods get the lowest increase. The escalator—and I am speak- 684 ing entirely without documents—runs from 18 per cent. for those who have been longest retired to 2 per cent. for those who retired more recently. If an officer retired at 50 and is now in his 60s or 70s, he will automatically get an 18 per cent. increase under the Pensions (Increase) Act.
I shall finish shortly because I wish to keep faith with my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, who is looking worried. I do not want him to get into more trouble because he has enough trouble in the Finance Bill Committee upstairs. However, he must be wary about propagandists who always talk about building in an escalator to protect a privileged section of the community against the continuous effects of inflation. If we do that, we must apply it to the rest of the community. We must apply it to prices and incomes. If I had time, I should be very awkward about that. I am no propagandist on this matter; I merely give a warning shot across the bows.
For goodness sake, do not let us fall for the old argument that we must build in an automatic escalator. No private pension fund does this. I have a great deal of knowledge and practical experience of private pension funds. I am not boasting about it; it happens to be one of my hobbies. No private trustees would ever write an automatic escalator into their trust deed. It cannot be done. The State should be equally prudent in resisting temptations which are delicately peddled forward by hon. Members who have been briefed on this matter. I shall listen with interest to what my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary says.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Lord Balniel (Hertford)
The purpose of this Motion is to try to bring help to a group of people for whom the Government and every hon. Member feel a special sense of responsibility. The House owes a debt of gratitude, in particular, to my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings), my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) and the many Members who have signed the Motion calling attention to the problems facing Armed Forces and public service pensioners.
Broadly, we are discussing two groups of people. There are those who, in their 685 working lives, served the Crown in the Armed Forces—some of them have been through two world wars—and their widows. The other group consists of those who, in their working lives, were civil servants, teachers, firemen, policemen, National Health Service employees, or overseas civil servants.
It is impossible for me to say exactly how many people are involved in the subject matter of this debate, but when we last debated it on a Government Bill in 1965 there were over 700,000 such pensioners. There were 236,000 ex-civil servants; 98,000 ex-teachers; 125,000 ex-local government officers; and 574,000 ex-policemen, firemen, National Health Service employees and civil servants from Pakistan, India and Burma. In the other group, there are 125,000 ex-Service men, for whom my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), having declared his personal interest in their problems, spoke so eloquently. In addition, there are 10,000 overseas pensioners.
These are not people who have a union to protect their interests. Of course, they have their staff associations, which do their utmost to assist. But the prior claims on staff associations are made by their existing members. There are the voluntary societies and councils which try to protect the interests of these pensioners. In passing, I pay a very warm and sincere tribute to the work done by the voluntary societies and councils. But, of course, they are not negotiating bodies. They do not have the resources to enable them to act as negotiating bodies. Indeed, the Government have never regarded these societies and councils as being negotiating bodies.
These are not people who demonstrate. They do not go marching down Whitehall. They cannot wield any real economic sanctions to frighten the Government and so force their hand. I speak from personal knowledge when I say that they are people who are very unhappy and reluctant to write to their Members of Parliament asking them to organise pressure or a campaign to bring them the help which they reasonably regard as being theirs of right.
As I say, they are not people who are prepared to demonstrate, but they are people for whom the Government—I 686 mean any Government of whatever political complexion—have a special responsibility if they value their name as a good employer. The Government were their employer in earlier years and, therefore, they have a responsibility to ensure that they receive a fair pension with appropriate purchasing power related to the length of service which these men and women have rendered to the community during their working lives. There is a strong moral obligation on the Government to protect them as far as they are able.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
The hon. Gentleman has made an eloquent appeal for those who have been in the Army and Navy. I accept that they have no trade union to negotiate for them, but surely civil servants belong to an organised body, and so have someone to speak for them.—[An HON. MEMBER: "And the teachers"] Yes, and the teachers.
§ Lord Balniel
I have said that the staff associations try to help; but it is fair to say—and the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) has considerable knowledge about this—that the main emphasis on staff association negotiation tends to be to protect the interests of existing members. I fully appreciate the point—I thought I had made it clear—that the staff associations help.
I was talking about moral obligation. Apart from that, if the Government neglect their responsibilities to the Armed Forces and public service pensioners, the long-term effect for this country could be very grave indeed. Morale in the Armed Forces is not very high at the moment. For instance, in 1966, 70 per cent. of the officers who retired did so on their own volition before the official retirement date. Recruiting into the Armed Forces and the public service, where we expect a very high standard of service, duty and responsibility which we invariably receive, will be adversely affected if people feel that they will not be fairly treated in old age.
For this reason, and because of the rapid drop in the value of pensions today, we were profoundly disappointed by the Financial Secretary's statement:But, on the facts which I have given, the Government must hold the view that, in our present circumstances, we cannot promise any further increase in pensions; and it is not 687 likely, I am afraid—it would be misleading for me to suggest it—that a case will be established for further increases in public service pensions this year Beyond that I cannot go."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th January, 1968; Vol. 757, c. 796.]We were very disappointed in that statement. We also regret the fact that during the past two years the Government have voted down two Bills—one introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), the other introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Frank Taylor)—which would have set up an independent commission to review the pensions of these people. The purpose of the commission would be regularly to review public service pensions, but the Government turned this proposal down. Therefore, we, as Members of this House, and the pensioners, once again, have to embark on the process of importuning, begging and persuading the Government to give them help.
I feel—and, from what I have heard today, I suspect that the whole House feels—that this irregular ad hoc system is incompatible with our obligations to these men and women. It is incompatible with their dignity. Like the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald), I think it is unnecessary for this House to go through this process every two or three years. The time is overdue when we should establish a regular system of review for public service pensioners. Indeed, the pensioners had every right to expect, from the promises which were made, that a new reformed structure would be introduced. The Financial Secretary said today that he was poised to introduce a Bill.
§ Lord Balniel
I remember that the then Opposition, before the election, were poised for instant action. They remain poised for instant action, except that now they are covered with cobwebs. After three and a half years in power there is no indication how they intend to set this review on a regular basis.
Our policy includes the establishment of an independent commission which would review public service pensions and make recommendations to the Government, but of course the final decision would rest with the Government. It also 688 includes a proposal to lower the age at which pensions could be received to 55. That is of special value to those who are forced to retire early from the Armed Forces, the fire service and the police. We are also pledged to bring up the pensions of all those who retired a long time ago to the level of the pensions of those who retired in 1956.
I accept that these are steps in a continuing process of reform, and they follow other changes which we made when in power—for instance, the introduction of the so-called escalator whereby additional percentage increases are given to those who retired a long time ago.
Why do not the Government accept this proposal? It would do away completely with the necessity of regular campaigning and pressuring. It would also bring—and this is far more important—a degree of certainty and security into the lives of former public servants. The Government cannot hide behind the general review of social recurity, which is their usual excuse for inaction.
It is quite true that the review should cover, for instance, the possibility of establishing some kind of dynamic relationship between the National Insurance and public service pensions. That is something which should be included in the general review of social security, but the question of the level of public service pensions has been specifically excluded from the general review of social security.
Why cannot the Government accept this regular review? They accept a regular review for the pay of Service men and their future pensions. This regular review was introduced after the Grigg Report which stated, quite rightly I think, that it wasessential that inflation should not be allowed to eat away the real value of service emoluments.If that is a correct and proper attitude to take for the future pensions of the Armed Forces today, why is it not the correct and proper attitude to take for the pensions of those who served in the Armed Forces and public service in the past?
I know what the Minister will say. He will say that there is in the Treasury a body which is continuously reviewing the public service pensions. He said that 689 again today. I am bound to reply that it appears to be active only when pressure is brought to bear on it. I accept his word that this continuous review goes on. But the important thing is that the recommendations of this review are secret: the House does not know what they are. And, with all respect to the Treasury, they are not the people I would automatically select to be my trustees to protect my interests in old age.
The Government have rejected our proposal for an independent commission. They have rejected our proposal to alter the age of payment to 55, which is particularly important to the Armed Forces, the police and firemen. They have rejected the proposal to give the help which we would give to the older pensioners, bringing up the long outdated codes of the earlier retired pensioners to the level of those who retired in 1956. We have chosen that base date because, since 1956, the Pension (Increase) Acts have in broad measure compensated for the increased cost of living. They have rejected our proposals, but I would ask them what has happened to their promises.
They promised to link the public service pensions not to the cost of living but to earnings. They promised to introduce the principle of parity. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) very bravely and honourably takes on his own broad shoulders responsibility for that promise, but it is not his shoulders only which ought to bear the responsibility. The Chairman of the Labour Party, in a letter to the Chairman of the Officers' Pensions Society just before the election on 14th September, 1964, said:What I think you will find I said is that pensions will be linked to earnings. This link will mean that pensioners are not only compensated for rising prices, but also receive their full share in rising national prosperity.Are they linked to rising prices?
The Chairman of the Labour Party went on:As to your further point, you will know that we are favourably disposed towards the principle of 'parity' and that we would open negotiation with interested bodies to see how reforms along these lines can be introduced.Have these negotiations been opened? With whom have they negotiated? When may we expect to hear the outcome of 690 those negotiations? Or am I right in believing that no negotiations have been initiated? Are those two promises just part of that vast catalogue of betrayal which is the Labour Government's record?
I turn now to the last argument which I wish to develop in the very short time at my disposal. It is basic to the Motion we have put forward. It is the argument of the cost of living. The last Act came into effect on 1st January, 1966. The effective date of the previous Act was 1st January, 1963. That was a gap of three years. Between those dates the cost of living rose by 11 per cent., and the 1965 Act gave increases which ranged from 2 per cent. for the most recently retired pensioners to 16 per cent. for pensioners who had retired many years before.
I want to make one comment about this because these percentage figures tend to be misleading. The 16 per cent. for the very oldest pensioners was a substantial increase, and I accept that. It was, however, an increase on a very small pension indeed. But it is the future that matters. Since 1st January, 1966, when the present level of pensions was fixed the official index of prices has risen by 7½ per cent., and price rises are now flooding in. The pensions of the 1965 Act are being steadily eroded away.
In the months which lie ahead—and this is important—there will be an absolute deluge of price increases as regards food, clothing, electricity bills, gas bills, coal bills, domestic coke bills, rents, rates, postal bills, telephone bills and bus fares. Almost all these prices increases flow from Government action: from devaluation, or as a consequence of Budgets which have increased taxation by £2,250 million, or from Selective Employment Tax, which will bring a further spiral of increased costs this autumn, or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) has pointed out, from the nationalised industries, which have the greatest impact on elderly people because they control the costs of fuel and lighting and the other elements which go to increase costs for housebound elderly people.
§ Lord Balniel
Because the Government have rejected our suggestion to set 691 up an independent commission to review these pensions, the responsibility falls firmly and squarely on this House to protect the interests of those pensioners. In our Motion we call for provision for an improvement to be made during the current Parliamentary Session, three years after the level of public service pensions was last fixed.
We have to look at what is likely to happen during the remainder of the year. Between 1st January, 1966, and December, 1967, the cost of living rose by 6.5 per cent. and it now appears that prices will rise by about 7½ per cent. during the course of 1968. These are not my figures, they are the figures of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. Before the Budget N.I.E.S.R. estimated that prices would rise by 5½ per cent. in the couse of 1968 and the Secretary of State for Employment and Production has stated that they will rise by a further 2 per cent. as a result of the Budget. So it seems likely that the total increase in prices from January, 1966, when these pensions were fixed until the end of the Session will be about 14 per cent.
If the Government do not accept the Motion, and do not introduce provisions, as we call on them to do in this Motion, they will be allowing a larger erosion of pensions than has been allowed at any time since the war. The 1959 Act compensated for a 6.4 per cent. increase in prices. The 1962 Act compensated for a 10.4 per cent. increase in prices. The 1965 Act compensated for an 11.3 per cent. increase in prices. If the Government wait until after the present Session they will in all probability have to compensate for an increase in prices of over 14 per cent.
My final words are these. The Minister has asked us not to divide the House on this issue because we all feel so anxious to secure the interests of these pensioners. I would point out that it is he who will be dividing the House. The Motion is before the House and, if he objects to it, it is the Government who are dividing the House on this issue.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
May I have the leave of the House to reply briefly to the debate?
692 In so far as the Motion of the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) has been an occasion for what I believe to be a genuine display of concern by people on both sides of the House on behalf of these pensioners, I welcome it. In so far as it has made possible the superimposition upon this compassion of unseemly party political arguments, I regret it very deeply.
The hon. Member for Burton has got one or two things wrong, and I hope that he will listen to what I have to say before he decides whether to follow his hon. Friends into the Lobby. The 1965 Act was the only Act to be passed within three years of the passing of a previous similar one. That is the opposite of what the hon. Gentleman, in good faith, believes to be the case. That was the only time when there was not a greater interval than three years. That Act provided the most costly and generous increase in pensions of any Act of its kind, and within the briefest interval. My hon. Friends should bear that in mind when they hear the beating of cracked party soap boxes on occasions such as this.
The hon. Member for Burton genuinely believes that unless we act in this Session, in accordance with the Motion, if we think we ought to act in January, 1969, to increase pensions we will not be able to do so. I assure him that that is not the case. The reason for my being able to assure the House that we have put work in hand on the Bill is to enable us, should we decide in the later part of this year that action by January, 1969, is necessary, to enact that Bill immediately and to provide the increases in January, 1969. If we do we will again enact an Act within a period of less than three years. It is dishonest for the Opposition on the basis of the January, 1969, forecast of the standard of living, to ask for action before then. If the January standard of living justifies action in all the circumstances, we will be in a position to do it. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear that in mind.
Now that the Official Opposition have taken charge of the hon. Gentleman's Motion, which has been signed in good faith by many of my hon. Friends, and I am sure in good faith by the hon. Member for Burton and the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh 693 Fraser), the hon. Gentleman might ask himself why the Opposition have been seeking to score the kind of cheap points that we have heard today about what the Prime Minister said on Rhodesia, and what was promised and predicted in a general way in relation to the specific assurance that I have given the House.
§ Mr. Jennings rose——
§ Mr. Lever
I am not questioning the hon. Gentleman's honour; he knows that. He knows that I have the highest respect for him. He made no party political points. I concede that he has the highest political and personal honour in this matter.
The hon. Gentleman might ask himself why the Opposition demand action now, and a commitment now, after a 7 per cent. increase in the cost of living, at a time of extreme economic difficulty, when they had never acted on a 7 per cent. increase in the cost of living. That was not mentioned by the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel). They waited until there had been a 14.4 per cent. increase in the cost of living before they acted. In 1962 they waited until there had been a 10½ per cent. increase in the cost of living. The hon. Gentleman is bound to ask why the Opposition have seized his Motion, signed by back benchers in good faith and with the same good intentions as the hon. Gentleman has, at a time when there has been only a 7 per cent. increase in the cost of living, to press for a commitment from a Government who, whatever the reason, are faced with a difficult economic situation. Why are we being asked to take on an improper formal commitment to future action at a time and in such circumstances that it becomes even more in-appropriate when they have never taken on any such commitment in advance of action? Why do the Opposition wish us to act in under three years since the last pension increase, the most generous ever, when they never acted except after a period longer than three years?
694 I now address myself to one or two other points. Ought we to do something piecemeal for the harder cases? I take the point made by the hon. Member for Burton, but he has his favourite hard case, just as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner) has his favourite hard case. It is very difficult to know which are the hardest cases, and it is particularly objectionable to take piecemeal action when I have said that we can regard as proximate general action, which is the only kind of action that is proper and appropriate in cases of this kind, and is not liable to make invidious distinctions between one class and another. If I were asking the House to wait indefinitely before we took general action there would be a strong case for piecemeal action, but it would be ridiculous to take piecemeal action in this Session when, within a short time, we will take the general action that will obviously become necessary.
I have been asked why the community cannot, in real terms, meet the obligations that it took in the past in relation to these and other claimants. I have listened, somewhat startled, to the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), who knows the answer, asking why it is that if wages can go up faster than the cost of living these people have to be held back? He says that we must put them up. That is an astonishing argument from somebody who has held the offices that he has, and who knows what he does. He knows that the excessive rise of wages and other incomes beyond the cost of living is not an argument for putting up these pensions, but is the reason why we are not able to put them up as promptly as many of us would like. It is precisely because, in spite of growing prosperity, some people, the strongest, are able to edge out the weaker and make a claim on the resources of the country, and because this is not within the Government's power to control, that we are not able to grant as rapidly as we should the fulfilment of some of these obligations.
It is odd that that should be used as an argument by the right hon. Gentleman whose Friends are opposed to the attempt to impose some sort of discipline on our society to make sure that it is not the weakest and the most deserving who are always driven to the wall, and that the fair treatment of these people is preserved 695 by organising some kind of discipline among the strongest. Those who have doubts about the incomes policy might reflect on the relationship of that policy to what we are discussing today. If we are to relate the genuine compassion of hon. Members on both sides of the House more closely to the action of Governments, we must do more to attend to the distribution of wealth in our community, and not leave it to "the devil take the hindmost" principle.
For those reasons, I say that the sad thing about the debate is that in the midst
§ of the sweetest sound of genuine compassion we have heard the somewhat jarring and grinding noises of political axes. Unhappily, apparently we are now faced with a Division on this matter where there is no real significant division of opinion in the House. I deeply regret and deplore it. I hope that the House will reject the Motion if it is asked to decide, and that the public outside will draw the correct conclusions from it.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 223, Noes 258.699
|Division No. 138.]||AYES||[7.0 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Fisher, Nigel||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Longden, Gilbert|
|Astor, John||Fortescue, Tim||Loveys, W. H.|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Foster, Sir John||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Awdry, Daniel||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||MacArthur, Ian|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Galbraith, Hon. T. G.||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)|
|Balniel, Lord||Gibson-Watt, David||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||McMaster, Stanley|
|Batsford, Brian||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Glyn, Sir Richard||Maddan, Martin|
|Bell, Ronald||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Maginnis, John E.|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Goodhart, Philip||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Goodhew, Victor||Marten, Neil|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Grant, Anthony||Maude, Angus|
|Bessell, Peter||Grant-Ferris, R.||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Biffen, John||Gresham Cooke, R.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Grieve, Percy||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Gurden, Harold||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Blaker, Peter||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Boardman, Tom||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Body, Richard||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||More, Jasper|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Braine, Bernard||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Murton, Oscar|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Hawkins, Paul||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Neave, Airey|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Heseltine, Michael||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Bryan, Paul||Hiley, Joseph||Nott, John|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Hill, J. E. B.||Onslow, Cranley|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Burden, F. A.||Holland, Philip||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Campbell, Gordon||Hooson, Emlyn||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Hordern, Peter||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hornby, Richard||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Howell, David (Guildford)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Clark, Henry||Hunt, John||Percival, Ian|
|Clegg, Walter||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Peyton, John|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Iremonger, T. L.||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Cordle, John||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Costain, A. P.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Pounder, Rafton|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Crouch, David||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Jopling, Michael||Pym, Francis|
|Dance, James||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Quenneil, Miss J. M.|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Kershaw, Anthony||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Kimball, Marcus||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Doughty, Charles||Kitson, Timothy||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lambton, Viscount||Ridsdale, Julian|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Eden, Sir John||Lane, David||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Royle, Anthony|
|Emery, Peter||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Farr, John||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Scott, Nicholas||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)||Webster, David|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Teeling, Sir William||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Sharples, Richard||Temple, John M.||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Silvester, Frederick||Tilney, John||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Sinclair, Sir George||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Smith, John (London & W'minster)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Speed, Keith||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)||Wright, Esmond|
|Stainton, Keith||Walker, Peter (Worcester)||Wylie, N. R.|
|Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek||Younger, Hn. George|
|Stodart, Anthony||Wall, Patrick|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)||Walters, Dennis||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Tapsell, Peter||Ward, Dame Irene||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Weatherill, Bernard||Mr. Hector Monro.|
|Abse, Leo||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Ledger, Ron|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Fernyhough, E.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lee, John (Reading)|
|Anderson, Donald||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Archer, Peter||Foley, Maurice||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Barnes, Michael||Ford, Ben||Loughlin, Charles|
|Barnett, Joel||Forrester, John||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Freeson, Reginald||McBride, Neil|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Gardner, Tony||MacColl, James|
|Binns, John||Garrett, W. E.||MacDermot, Niall|
|Bishop, E. S.||Ginsburg, David||Macdonald, A. H.|
|Blackburn, F.||Gourlay, Harry||McGuire, Michael|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret|
|Booth, Albert||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Gregory, Arnold||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Boyden, James||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Maclennan, Robert|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Bradley, Tom||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Brooks, Edwin||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hamling, William||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Hannan, William||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mapp, Charles|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Marks, Kenneth|
|Buchan, Norman||Haseldine, Norman||Marquand, David|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Hattersley, Roy||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Henig, Stanley||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Hilton, W. S.||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Cant, R. B.||Hooley, Frank||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Horner, John||Mikardo, Ian|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Millan, Bruce|
|Coe, Denis||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Molloy, William|
|Conlan, Bernard||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Moonman, Eric|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Howie, W.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Cronin, John||Hoy, James||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Huckfield, Leslie||Moyle, Roland|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Murray, Albert|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Neal, Harold|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Newens, Stan|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Hunter, Adam||Oakes, Gordon|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Hynd, John||Ogden, Eric|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Irvine, Sir Arthur||O'Malley, Brian|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Oram, Albert E.|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Orbach, Maurice|
|Dell, Edmund||Jeger, George (Goole)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Dempsey, James||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Dewar, Donald||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Dickens, James||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Dobson, Ray||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Doig, Peter||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Park, Trevor|
|Driberg, Tom||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Dunn, James A.||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Judd, Frank||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Kelley, Richard||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Eadie, Alex||Kenyon, Clifford||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Ellis, John||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|English, Michael||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Ennals, David||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Ensor, David||Lawson, George|
|Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Slater, Joseph||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Small, William||Whitlock, William|
|Probert, Arthur||Snow, Julian||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Spriggs, Leslie||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Rees, Merlyn||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Reynolds, G. W.||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Richard, Ivor||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Swingler, Stephen||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Taverne, Dick||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George||Winnick, David|
|Roebuck, Roy||Thornton, Ernest||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Tinn, James||Woof, Robert|
|Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Varley, Eric C.||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Ryan, John||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Sheldon, Robert||Watkins, David (Consett)||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Weitzman, David||Mr. J. D. Concannon.|
|Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Wellbeloved, James|