§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD PRESIDENT or THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, in rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill, I may remind the House that it is the outcome of a Special Committee which was appointed in another place to deal with questions of pensions and grants. That Committee was appointed as long ago as November 19 of last year, and it was both personally and in its representative capacity as strong a Committee as the House of Commons could produce. It included the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Lloyd George, and his successor in that office, Mr. McKenna; it also included a former Chancellor of the Exchequer in the person of Mr. Austen Chamberlain, and the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bonar Law; the other members were Mr. Barnes, representing to the fullest extent the Labour Party in the House of Commons; and Mr. T. O'Connor, representing the Irish Party. The Committee issued its first Report on January 30 of this year, and that Report was mainly devoted to suggestions for the scale of grants which should be paid in the various instances to wives, widows, and dependants, but it also gave an indication that in the opinion of the Committee a special body ought to be formed to deal with the subject. It did not attempt to prescribe a possible constitution for that body, but it stated that the National Relief Fund—the Prince of Wales's Fund, as we are in the habit of describing it—ought to be connected with such a body, and also that the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, which was obviously pointed out as the voluntary organisation most likely to take an interest in the distribution and allocation of these allowances, should be connected with it.
The Committee's second Report, which was issued on April 14 of this year, suggested a scheme for the purpose of carrying out these objects in addition to making suggestions regarding the scale of grants. That Report proposed that the new body to be formed should be the Royal Patriotic Fund in a reconstituted form. I need not take up the time of the House by saying anything about the Royal Patriotic Fund, because its constitution and its functions 603 are familiar to most of your Lordships. The Committee then went on to recommend that local committees should be formed for the purpose of framing schemes for the allocation of benefits in their respective districts; and to cut the story short, the Committee's recommendations were practically followed in the Bill as it was introduced into the House of Commons. The Bill was ordered to be printed on June 29.
The provisions of the Bill, generally speaking, were these. The statutory body to be formed from the nucleus of the Royal Patriotic Fund was to consist of twenty-six persons, of whom two should be representative of the National Relief Fund, and two of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. Among the various persons to be nominated there were some who were to be named by the Crown, and of those, it was indicated that not less than two should be women, and of those who were to represent the Council of the Patriotic Corporation it was also put forward that two at least should be women. It was proposed that both the chairman and the vice-chairman of the body, or either, should be paid; that there should be a quorum of five for the deliberations of the body; and one of the duties which were to be imposed upon it was to frame the scale of supplementary grants to be given in exceptional cases. On that I might mention what it really is hardly necessary, I feel sure, to explain to the House, that the ordinary grants payable from public funds are paid to the recipients through the Post Office, and with those we need for this purpose have no further concern. But in the special circumstances of this war it has been found that there are a number of cases where the scale both of allowances and pensions, which it was found necessary to impose on a flat-rate with no exceptions whatever, is not reasonably fair to the wives or the dependants of those who are now engaged in fighting for the country. It was therefore necessary to devise some means for the payment of supplementary grants in a number of cases, which could not be very few; and it is, as the House will readily appreciate, from the necessity both of fixing the amount of such grants and determining their distribution that the main difficulties arise in dealing the subject.
This Bill in another place underwent an amount of discussion which for these times 604 when discussions are scarce was long and conducted with considerable vivacity. There are, of course, in dealing with a matter of this kind, two views, which in their extreme form found expression in another place, though probably only one of them, in its extreme form, would be likely to find expression here. Those views are the diametrically opposed views, on the one hand, of persons who regard with distrust all official action—I am speaking, of course, in quite general terms—who object to any increase in the number of officials for any purpose, even though they may approve of the purpose, and who feel that such objects as the distribution of grants, or inspection, or a number of kindred duties, are better carried out by voluntary means than through an official system. At the other end of the scale there are a certain number of persons—and these are the people who, I think, are in no way represented in this House—who have a deeply-ingrained distrust of voluntary effort as compared with work executed by the representatives of public Departments. They entertain a sincere dread of charity in the almsgiving sense. They suspect the exercise of patronage or of a patronising attitude in roost forms of voluntary assistance, and they therefore desire to see public or semi-public duties of all kinds performed by members of the official class. In our opinion the holders of both those extreme views are altogether wrong, and it is necessary to strike a balance in any given ease as to the extent to which it is wise to rely upon voluntary effort and the extent to which it is necessary to call in the aid of officials or of public Departments.
The discussions proceeding from these two points of view in the House of Commons led to the making of a series of-Amendments ill the Bill as it was introduced. Some of those Amendments were generally agreed to be improvements; others, on the ether hand, were warmly disputed, and I have no doubt that in the course of this debate we shall hear some of the objections that were taken to the insertion of some of them. As the Bill left the House of Commons the membership of the Statutory Committee to be established was reduced from twenty-six to twenty-five, and I will say a word presently as to the circumstances in which that change took place. One set of Amendments which I imagine will meet with general approval was the change that was made with reference to the appointment of 605 women on the central body. Instead of the two who were mentioned for two representative bodies as representing the minimum, it is now provided that of the twenty-five members "some shall be women." This change was made by reason of the which I believe to be a well-founded one, that where a minimum number of that kind is mentioned, in practice tile minimum is likely to be treated as the maximum, and that if the number two were mentioned in this particular connection two might be appointed but it was very unlikely that more would be. We should all agree that in many sides of this particular work the co-operation of women, their powers of sympathy and their superior knowledge of the lives of many of those who have to be helped, is simply invaluable, and therefore I should hope that when the body comes to be formed it will be found that a considerable number of women have seats on it.
Then it was provided that either the chairman or the vice-chairman night be a paid officer, but not both. That will also probably be considered by most to be an improvement. There is a strong feeling—we have had evidence of it in this House, and it exists undoubtedly in the country—against the creation of more paid posts where their creation can possibly be avoided. I think, however, that this is a hobby which may be ridden to excess, because it is not possible altogether, with the various directions it which national work develops, avoid the creation of paid posts, and it is possible to be almost pedantic, I think, in laying stress on the undesirability of their creation. But the fact that only one of these officers should be payable will probably be welcomed. Some, I believe, expressed the opinion that nobody on such a body need be paid at all, but it will probably be found that the volume of work far one or two persons is so gigantic, and the attendance required so absolutely continuous, that it is not reasonable to expect that any gentleman, however public-spirited or benevolently inclined, can give gratuitously the absolutely close attention to the work which would be required. I might, in dealing with this branch of the subject, remind the House, that even if the work were not clone by this Statutory Committee it would have to be done by other people, and in a great number of cases by paid people. Whatever voluntary work will do—and 606 it will do much—you will not find that the humbler forms of clerical work, typewriting, shorthand, and so on, will be undertaken b voluntary body may conduct its regular expenses for stationery, clerical work, and so on, it will be found that some such outlay cannot altogether be avoided.
Then instead of its being provided that a scale of supplementary grants should be framed by this body, it was decided—I think wisely—that regulations should be framed for this purpose. The scale of supplementary assistance to grants and pensions must vary so greatly, not merely among different classes but in different localities, that I do not believe it would be even possible for a central authority to frame a regular scale; but that it should draw up general regulations within which a scale may be framed is a different matter, and I have no doubt that some such regulations would be required. The only further addition which I need name which was made in the course of the progress of the Bill through the House of Commons consisted in What I venture to think was an excellent prevision—that this body should consider and provide for methods of training the dependent of officers and men; not merely for the training of such disabled soldiers, for instance, as could learn some branch of work which would enable them to employ themselves in civil life, but that the widows and dependants of officers and men might receive in necessary cases an adequate training.
Now I return to the composition of the Statutory Committee itself. A small addition was made to the number of those to be appointed by the Crown. In the original Bill it was ten; this was increased to twelve by providing that two representatives of labour should find places upon it. On the other hand, the two members who were to represent the Prince of Wales's Fund and the two who were to represent the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association were omitted, thus bringing the total number down to twenty-five. It is quite evident that the omission of these two bodies from any representation on the Statutory Committee was sure to awaken comment and to produce strong objection from persons interested in those bodies; and by sonic it was taken as a gratuitous ignoring of the work which had been done by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families 607 Association in administering the large sums handed over to them by the National Relief Fund for distribution in supplementary grants. My right hon. friend in another place and the representatives of the Government generally did their best to show that it was no want of appreciation of the work which had been done by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association which had led to their omission from the central body. On the contrary, the highest value was set upon their labours, which were not only whole-hearted but in the main at any rate conducted with great efficiency and with the utmost care, and also at a time when, had they not stepped into the breach, it would have been exceedingly difficult to organise any machinery by which the work could have been done. That is most fully recognised.
The question, therefore, has been freely asked—and I have no doubt will be asked again here—Why in that case is it necessary to make any change in the arrangements as they exist? Why does the Bill provide for the creation of a central body at all; and, if it does, why does it omit from that body the representatives of those who have supplied a large part of the funds and of those who have distributed them to the needy recipients? As regards the first question, it is, I think, not disputed by anybody that such matters as pensions and the care of disabled soldiers must be a subject of national concern, and that neither in the provision of funds nor in their distribution is it possible to rely for these particular purposes upon voluntary effort, however generous and however patriotic. I need not labour that point, because that is, I observe, fully admitted in the statement which the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association have issued. They do not in any way propose or suggest that there should not be a central body or that there should not be local committees working for the purpose of looking after this branch of the subject. What they contest is that it is necessary for the smaller local committees under the auspices of the central body to have anything to do with the distribution of the supplementary grants, which clearly will only become payable for the period of the war itself, whereas the other payments will be of a continuous character and many of them will go on being paid long after all of us who are now in the House have disappeared from this mortal scene. It is argued that 608 the personal touch and the individual sympathy of which I have already spoken can only be shown by those who have had this considerable experience in the distribution of these funds, and that therefore it is not merely unfair to them to make any change in this particular respect.
It is necessary to consider what the practical difficulties are in complying with this suggestion that the work should be cut into two parts. In the first instance—and this is in itself a minor objection though it is a real one—it has to be remembered that the work of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association is not universally extended all over the country. I do not think that its direct operations cover much more than two-thirds of the whole, although it works in close cooperation with and on similar lines to various other local bodies which have undertaken in the absence of an actual branch of the association to carry on similar work. The Prevention of Distress Committees which have been formed to carry out the distribution of the National Relief Fund have, as I am informed, undertaken this work in many cases. In some cases I fancy the scales of assistance have varied to a considerable extent, but the distribution has in the main, no doubt, been carefully made. At the same time it is necessary to point out that these bodies could hardly be held to be responsible in precisely the same way that the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association would be responsible had the Bill been left in its original shape, if only for the reason that nobody has suggested that any other body except the one should be represented upon the central Statutory Committee.
But a more serious objection, going more deeply to the root of the matter, arises on the question of funds. So far, funds have been forthcoming through the agency of the National Relief Fund for the payment of large amounts by way of supplementary assistance. The National Relief Fund is, however, as we know, by no means entirely devoted—some of its subscribers would say it ought not mainly to be devoted—to purposes connected with either of the Services, but rather to the relief of civil distress. We are none of us able to express any opinion as to the probable duration of the war, except that most people are beginning to accept the view which some of us held from the first that it was sure to 609 be very long. What I take it the Treasury feel about this question of funds is this. What guarantee is there that the fountain of subscriptions to be devoted to this particular form of supplementary aid may not suddenly or gradually dry up altogether? In that, ease it would probably be revolting to the public conscience that payments should cease or even be diminished, and there would then be a loud demand, to which it would probably be impossible not to accede even if anybody desired not to accede to it, for a replenish-meat from public sources. Those who are responsible for the National Relief Fund and for any other fund do not feel it possible to give any kind of guarantee that they will continue these payments. Their view, as I understand it, is that they are custodians for these large sums that have been subscribed by the public and that they have no right, even if they have the power, to earmark any of them for an indefinite time for a particular purpose. That is a view which they are, of course, entitled to hold.
Consequently the position is this, that the time may come when it may be necessary to produce very large sums of public money for this purpose and no machinery will exist whatever for the control or distribution of those public funds. No one, I imagine, here or elsewhere supposes that the House of Commons is going to vote large sums of gamey—hundreds of thousands or millions of pounds—and hand them over to a private association, however public-spirited and however capable, for distribution at will. That is altogether outside the region of conjecture. The result might be—of course all this may not happen, but on the other hand it may—that the public money would have to be forthcoming at short notice, and machinery would then have to be devised at very short notice for the purpose of controlling its issue and distribution; and it must be remembered that in that case the materials for creating such machinery would not exist at all to the extent that they do at present. The proposition as put forward in the Bill is that local committees should be formed, which in a great number of cases ought to include—and it is incredible that they should not include—those who have been most active and efficient in doing the work of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. But when the crisis which I have indicated as possible arrives those 610 people would in it be available, because the committees would already have been formed otherwise for other duties. These people would have been doing their particular work, and it would then be infinitely more difficult to combine the two branches in one committee than it would be if the Bill is permitted to proceed in the form in which I am going to ask your Lordships to read it a second time. There would, in fact, be no machinery of the kind which it is desired now to create. Therefore when noble Lords participate in the debate who take a special interest in the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association—and I know there are many such in the House—we should be anxious to hear what, in their opinion, is the difficulty in the most representative and energetic members of that association in the various localities joining the local committees; whether they have any doubt that such people would be welcomed on those committees; and, if they entertain any such doubt, on what it is founded. Because it seems very hard to believe that where people are known to have been doing a particular kind of work exceedingly well their services would be dispensed with or not asked for.
There is only one other point on which I need trouble the House. It has been asked—and I dare say it will be asked again—why is it that it is necessary to proceed with this matter at all at this moment; why not postpone it and carry on as you are until you see that the machinery is actually is actually breaking down? I have tried to show that to wait till then, if there were any question of the machinery breaking down, might be disastrous to those who are affected by the whole system. But, apart from that, there are other considerations to be borne in mind. There are a large number of disabled soldiers for whom it is necessary that provision should be made which can only be made under this Bill. On their account postponement or delay would be, as we think, a serious matter. There are also a number of pension cases held in suspense, with which it is most difficult to deal unless this Bill becomes law. One of the arguments that has been used—and its force cannot be denied—is that some delay must necessarily take place before these local committees can be set up, furnished with the best possible members. That is an argument which demands respect, and there is 611 a provision in the Bill to meet that difficulty by providing that, where possible, existing societies and associations may be asked to continue their activities. But if the consideration of the whole subject is postponed for some months, that difficulty will be obviously increased rather than in any way diminished. So far as the payment of separation allowances is concerned, I have no doubt that the work which has been done so far would continue to be performed on the same lines if no Bill is passed. But, on that particular point, as I have stated, one has to think of a possible future in which, owing to want of funds or for some other reason, the work may not continue to be done as well as it is being done at present, whereas under the terms of the Bill in every district a body would be appointed which automatically would deal with every case as it arose.
I need not detain you longer. I have endeavoured to explain the provisions of the Bill, in particular those which I think are likely to be held to be contestable. I have not gone through the measure in detail, but I do not think I have left out any point upon which comment is likely to be made in the course of the debate. I hope, at any rate, that your Lordships will agree to give the Bill a Second Reading. It will, of course, be open to noble Lords to move Amendments in any direction they please, and those Amendments we must endeavour to meet, if they are made, as best we can by argument. But by declining to give the Bill a Second Reading your Lordships would, I feel very strongly, be doing a great disservice to the cause of those, now a large and perpetually increasing number, whose interests this measure is designed to serve.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a(The Marquess of Crewe.)
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, the careful review which the noble Marquess has given in recommending the Second Reading of this Bill has, I think, made it quite clear that in the opinion of the Government we cannot proceed further with regard to the large sums which are being disbursed by way of separation allowances and by way of injury pensions without the intervention or the establishment of some public body. The noble Marquess based himself to a large extent at the commencement of his speech on the consideration which had been given to this 612 question by the Committee appointed by the House of Commons, which reported about three months ago. I think something might be said about the composition of that Committee, which has had a considerable bearing on the position which the Bill now occupies. Unfortunately the Committee was appointed without including any representative with War Office experience, and in consequence we are now face to face with a state of facts which I think would never have occurred had any one cognisant of the difficulties connected with pensions in the past been a member of the Committee. I see that one or two representatives of the War Department were called. I do not think I am betraying any secret in saying that the evidence which was tendered to the Committee as regards the amounts payable, so far as that evidence came from the War Office, was entirely disregarded; and if the evidence which was given by the War Office representatives as regards the machinery was equally disregarded I am not very much surprised at the position in which the Government now find themselves.
But the real point which I would press upon your Lordships, apart froth what is contained in the Bill at this moment, is that within the last few days the financial substratum of the Bill has been cut away. The House of Commons went into Committee on the Bill on July 14, and on that occasion the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—We do not, in the first instance, propose any amount from public funds towards the expenditure under this Bill, for the simple reason that the scale of expenditure must depend on the amount of voluntary subscriptions.That is pursued throughout the whole length of the Bill. The proposals were that the Committee should make appointments, and so forth, out of their funds, and that all other expenses—it is in subsection (5) of Clause 1—should be paid out of the funds at the disposal of the Committee. But on July 20 circumstances had occurred which made it necessary for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to recast the whole position of the Bill with regard to funds. He came down to the House and moved to recommit the Bill on the ground that, as he had explained on the second Report of the House of Commons Committee, it was intended to invite the National Relief Fund to contribute to the new Statutory Committee the sums which they intended to spend upon separation allowances and 613 other purposes in regard to soldiers and sailors. But, after the Bill had reached its then stage, Mr. McKenna stated that he had attended a meeting of the Committee of the National Relief Fund and found that they did not think they would be justified in handing over, to be administered by any other body, funds which had been entrusted to them by the public. Subsequently he was asked by an hon. Member "whether it is the intention of the Executive Committee of the Prince of Wales's Fund to continue to supplement the grants?" Mr. McKenna replied—I have no authority to speak on behalf of the executive of the National Relief Fund, who are in no way responsible to this House, and I could not pretend to make any statement as to what they intend doing.The fact is that the whole basis on which this Bill was framed has been cut away. The Bill was framed as an auxiliary to funds which were to be provided by subscription, both in the case of the National Relief Fund and private subscriptions administered by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, but that basis has gone, leaving the Bill a shell without a kernel. That is a very difficult position for us to deal with. We must recollect the condition in which the House of Commons is now meeting, with a large number of its members away. These changes were made on a Tuesday in a Bill which had been passed in a totally different form through Committee on the previous Wednesday or Thursday, so that it was impossible—the intervening days not being days on which the House was sitting—for the members of the House of Commons as a whole to be aware of what a great change was to be made. And now, after a Few days, the Bill conies to your Lordships in this much changed condition.
I hardly feel that the Motion which I must submit to the House requires to be justified by the individual, as we think, faults to be found in the various clauses of the Bill; but perhaps I may be allowed to allude to each of them without attempting to make the case which can be made, and which will be made, I have no doubt, by other members on this side of the House, as regards the different points which seem to us to be strikingly improper. In the first place, there is the selection of the Royal Patriotic Fund as the corporation on which the whole system is to be based. I do not pretend to the knowledge which is 614 possessed by my noble friend opposite, Lord Devonport, on this subject, but I had the honour of sitting with him on a Committee of the House of Commons twenty-two years ago; and although I know little of the recent history of the Fund I do know this, that it is a body made up of men who may be admirably calculated to give an opinion on many points which are now dealt with, but not the proper body to be made the nucleus of a great distribution of this kind under a completely new start. And then as to funds. What is the condition of the Royal Patriotic Fund? I had in my hand a few moments ago the Report of the Fund for 1914, and that Report includes an elaborate account of a deputation which was answered by Mr. Hayes Fisher, the vice-chairman of the Patriotic Fund. In his answer Mr. Hayes Fisher said, "There are still two years to run before this Fund will be exhausted." That was said in November, 1913. Therefore we are within three months, according to the statement of the chief official, of the bankruptcy of the Fund. Really it is hardly desirable to pass a public charge which runs into millions to a body which is neither qualified for the purpose nor has the funds to supplement the public funds which are looked for according to the scheme of the Bill.
Then we come to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. I fully recognise the tribute paid by the noble Marquess to the work done by that association. Their case, I have no doubt, will be put before the House in the course of this discussion. The only thing I would say is that, whatever fault may be found with the composition of that association, it would be absolutely impossible to substitute for it any body which could prove itself to be in the next twelve months as sympathetic, as careful, and as acceptable to those with whom that association has had to deal. I am not one of those who have stood up in this House for what are called Women's Rights, but I do think that the business qualities, the sympathy, and the philanthropy which thousands of ladies have shown in this connection has gone a long way to prove their fitness for public work. To substitute for such a body borough councils and to hand over to them public funds which they will not themselves levy is not an economical method of administration; and you are going to make that the main method of 615 administration under the Bill. The third point is that of the injured, and the provision to be made for them. You have very valuable associations which have done that work for a large number of years. I cannot help regretting that they also receive no recognition under the Bill.
And what is the proposed body which you substitute? The noble Marquess spoke of the necessity of establishing a new paid organisation. Although this subject of increases to our paid organisations is one on which this House pronounced a unanimous opinion a little more than a fortnight ago, I wish at once to say that I neither suggest that there is any breach of faith on the part of the Government in proposing a new appointment of this kind, nor do I suggest that it shows a faintheartedness on their part in the pursuance of the course on which I hope we are all bent; but I am not sure that this view will be taken outside. I am not sure at all that it will not be felt that at this moment, when it is well known that there are a large number of positions in the Public Service in which men have less work to do than they had before, we should not pass the appointment of a new paid chief at, say, £1,500 a year without a pledge from the Government that there will be a reduction of a similar appointment, or that the appointment will be filled by the transfer to it of some official who can be spared from his present Department. I think this will be felt by the public to be a very bad start on the new crusade of economy. I feel it the more because this is carrying out exactly the practice, to which exception was taken by various speakers in the debate the other day, of introducing legislation without telling Parliament what the complete cost is going to be. Subsection (8) of Clause 1 of this Bill runs—The Statutory Committee may employ a secretary, assistant secretaries, and such other clerks and servants as they may require, and may establish a scheme of pensions for persons in their permanent employment.That is a perfectly unlimited cachet.
I do not like to make the Motion I have to make without suggesting a method by which the Government may find a way out of their difficulty. At the beginning of my remarks I ventured to say that I thought it unfortunate that nobody conversant with the pensions practice of the War Office, which has been on a very extended 616 scale, running into millions, for many years past, had sat upon the House of Commons Committee. If they had, I think they would have made a fight for the consideration of the very influential and efficient Board which sits at Chelsea Hospital to deal with the very subject with which this Bill is concerned. That Board contains more military officers of high rank than could be asked at this moment to attend. But it also has on it officials who are not fully worked, who would be as competent a body, I think, as could be obtained for this particular purpose. I see my noble friend the Paymaster-General in his place. He is, by the inheritance of years, the official chairman of that body, and in my experience Paymasters-General have given good attendance and have exercised great weight upon the committee. My noble friend has not got a very high opinion of either Front Bench, but I venture to say that if it should be decided, as I wish it might, that the Chelsea Board should be made the central body, both Front Benches will have complete confidence in the impartiality and commonsense of my noble friend as chairman of the Board. The Lords of the Treasury are "happy unemployed" at this moment. Their usual work is to attend the House of Commons at advanced hours in the morning. The House of Commons is, fortunately for them, very short in session nowadays. There is no reason whatever why one of the able gentlemen who are now Lords of the Treasury should not be designated to represent the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this Board. There is on the Board a gallant gentleman, Sir Neville Lyttelton, the Governor-General of Chelsea Hospital, who is paid a sum not in excess of his deserts, and who has absolute leisure for the performance of his duties. There are also the Lieutenant-Governor, the financial representative, and the Under-Secretary of the War Office. I cannot help thinking that a Board constituted in that way, with, say, seven members, of whom three or four would be Government officials who are paid salaries between £1,000 and £2,000 a year at the present time—unlike my noble friend (Lord Newton) who, I fear, is not remunerated—would give complete satisfaction, for you could not find better or more representative men to do this work. I make the suggestion to the Government that before establishing a completely new body, which would very likely run to £25,000 a year, they should reconsider the 617 reasons which must have caused them—though the reasons were not explained to us this afternoon—to get rid of the existing body. I believe the whole thing could be done by the mere transfer of some of the superfluous permanent officials of the Land Valuation Office, of whom there are over six hundred, although we were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer three months ago that 97 per cent, of the work of valuation had already been completed.
I would urge that before we are asked to take the Second Reading of this Bill all these points should be reconsidered. I am perfectly ready to join my noble friend in saying that it is desirable that these large interests should be placed under some public body. But, as I say, the formation of that public body should be reconsidered, and its relations with existing associations should also be reconsidered. Moreover, the question of time sources from which the funds are to come requires to be carefully reviewed in the light of the change which has been made, and I am perfectly certain that that cannot be done in the existing session of Parliament. We are asked here on a Friday, hastily called together, with not a great number of noble Lords present, to assent to a Bill which was completely changed in the House of Commons in its last stage there. If it is held—though I do not think the noble Marquess made that case—that the establishment of the new body is so urgent that we cannot wait until the middle of September to establish it, then I suggest that the appeal which was made by my noble friend Lord Cromer yesterday should be considered and that we should reassemble somewhat earlier. But to pass this legislation in a hurry, to set up an incomplete body, to commit ourselves to very large expenditure at this moment seems to me altogether unwise. I therefore venture to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Moved, That the Debate be adjourned.—(Viscount Midlelon.)
§ LORD DEVONPORT
My Lords, I have great satisfaction in associating myself with the speech of my noble friend Lord Midleton, and I congratulate him on making this Motion. In saying that I am not unmindful of the appeal, if I may so phrase it, made by the noble Marquess in his concluding sentence, that if we were to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill we should be occasioning considerable 618 inconvenience to the Government and doing disservice to those interests which I am sure we all desire to serve. But by postponing the Second Reading debate I must say, speaking for myself and I think for others as well, I feel that we are doing no such disservice. On the contrary, we are protecting those concerned from having imposed upon them, with all the future consequences that must ensue, a Bill which we regard as a bad Bill.
In the first place, I endorse what has been said by my noble friend Lord Midleton that there is no particular necessity for this proposed new body. In fact I go further, and say there is no good reason for depriving the country of the machinery which already exists and which can be readily attuned to the requirements of the new and vast situation that will have to be dealt with during the progress of the war and after the war is finished. I fail utterly to see either the justification or the necessity for the State to hand over to some new body responsibilities that most fittingly belong to the State itself. It is State money that is going to be diffused, and State money in large amounts anti in great and continuing streams. To my mind it is a neglect of public responsibility on the part of the State to improvise in this unsatisfactory way a new organisation to carry out duties that are pertinent to, and should be performed by, the State.
In the last year or two our views have very much altered as to what constitutes a pension. As regards the amount of benevolent allowances or grants, there has been a great growth of opinion amongst public men in that particular. It seems to me there is a demand associated with that growth that there should be sympathetic administration. In the past Government Departments have been looked upon as rather hard and niggardly in reference to the benevolences that they have granted, and for that reason it would be well, in my judgment, that a Pension Board should be established by the Government. itself, occupying a separate building and with an administration detailed to the Services, and the Board should have associated with it outside interests which would be in touch with the wants and needs and expectations of those for whom it is essentially carried on. That, in my judgment, would be a far more satisfactory body than the one proposed in this Bill. At the moment we have Greenwich at work; the funds of 619 Greenwich Hospital are detailed for Navy purposes. We have the Chelsea Board at work; and if you create this body, the Government departments as they now exist will still be carrying on. Consequently there will be an amount of overlapping, and you will not get that absolute concentration that is necessary if these pensions and allowances are to be properly administered through all their stages. As an old House of Commons man I object to public money passing out of the purview of Parliament, to public money being remitted for administration to a body which is not absolutely under Parliamentary control.
My right hon. friend Mr. Hayes Fisher suggested that there would be full Parliamentary control over this new body, and I was surprised to find the methods which he suggested would give the House of Commons full Parliamentary control. The Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation, of which in days gone by I was a member—I was the Chairman of its Finance Committee when the new body was first brought into existence—publishes once a year a report of its proceedings; it sets out various funds that it controls, and the details incidental to them that have occurred during the year; and once in every five years there is a general appraisement and revaluation of the funds. That report is presented to the King, which in fact means it is presented to Parliament. It generally comes out in the summer, and I notice it is usually circulated in the autumn when we are in recess. That is the only connecting link between this Corporation and Parliament, and that is the proposal which it is suggested will be the connecting link in the future. To this Statutory Committee, which is in reality the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation expanded, is to be committed millions and millions of money. It is estimated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and assented to by Mr. Hayes Fisher that the sum required to carry out the conditions of this Bill will be not less than £5,000,000. I object to this body on those grounds if on no other.
If I were to examine the proposed body in detail I should object to it on its constitution, but I do not propose to delay your Lordships on that at this moment. I think the body unwieldy; the number is too large; and in my opinion the representatives in the main would not be controlled in harmony with the interests 620 to be protected. I see no hope of any representatives being upon it of the great trade interests of the country. I imagine that the appointment of two Labour Members has been made entirely under pressure, because the Bill made no recommendation of that kind when it was introduced. I can conceive that a body representing great trade interests such as Lloyds, the Chamber of Shipping, the Associated Chamber of Commerce, and organisations of that kind, would be far more likely to administer this successfully than an official or quasi-official body of the character proposed. One cannot fail to remark on the extraordinary character of some of the representation. Government Offices here, there, and everywhere are to send representatives. It is not confined to England, because the Local Government Board of Ireland is to send a representative. I wonder what interest he is expected to serve. And if the work is to be fairly continuous, as we are told it is to be, I imagine that he will spend the best part of his time travelling to and fro, as no sooner will he have returned from one meeting than he will be called upon to come back for another. In my opinion it is making a farce of a body of this kind to crowd it with representation of that character. Far better make it more representative of the interests of this country, which are really trade and labour in the main. The country would not be a very great country were it not for its merchants and its traders and its workpeople. I would far sooner see the membership mainly confined to representation of that kind. The Bill absolutely gives to these official representatives—I think they are seven in number—a statutory right. I refer to the Treasury, the Army Council, the Local Government Board of England, the Local Government Board of Ireland, and some others which I do not remember at the moment. But with regard to all the other interests, it entirely depends on the will of the Government of the day as to the character of the representation to be established.
This Bill, as I said just now, brings into existence an organisation which is nothing more or less than an enlarged Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation. That is the conception of this new body. I am not saying that without warrant. It was stated so by Mr. McKenna. He told the. House of Commons that the Bill was 621 founded on the evidence given by the vice-chairman of the Fund, Mr. Hayes Fisher, before the Select Committee; and Mr. McKenna supplemented that statement by saying that the Bill was modelled upon his proposal, so that I am not overstating the case when I Say that this is a Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation Bill. Mr. Hayes Fisher, in giving his evidence, which was extremely interesting and, like everything he does, very able, eulogised the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation. The said that it was from the Corporation that the Statutory Committee would draw its life blood, and he added that the Corporation was popular and democratic. This is not the occasion to discuss whether that is true or not. If and when this Bill gets into Committee I shall take the liberty of moving to omit the words that constitute this Corporation as the nucleus of the Statutory Committee, and then perhaps I may have something to say as to the democratic character and popularity of the Corporation.
Lord Midleton kindly referred to an association he and I had together, a long time ago now, in overhauling the Patriotic Commission as it existed at that day. Of course, I do not wish to suggest that the present Corporation is the same body. It is not. As the result of ten years of agitation in Parliament the body as it then existed was broken up and swept away; new legislation was introduced, and the present Corporation came into existence. Therefore I do not wish to impute to them any of the shortcomings of their predecessors. But I must say, in a word, that so far as I car see the scale of pensions that they have made is niggardly, that they are committing the same old fault of their predecessors, and that they are not distributing the money which has been subscribed by the benevolence of the public for a particular set of beneficiaries entirely on their behalf. That was my contention during the ten years of agitation which I carried on against the old body, and which succeeded finally in destroying it. I hope I shall not be deemed offensive if I say that they are still indulging in what used to be often termed "hoarding their resources." I do not want to say any more on that at the moment, but if I get an opportunity later I shall enter into details.
I want now to direct attention to the finance of this Bill. The most important 622 clause is Clause 3, because it comprises the powers and functions of the Statutory Committee. Save as regards subsection (1) paragraph (a) where public funds are to be available, there is no money provided by the Bill to carry out any of the other suggestions or instructions dealt with under the heading of Clause 3. Take paragraph (b) of this subsection for example. That contemplates the augmentation of pensions or grants Or separation allowances from outside sources. There is no money from outside sources. Where is the money coming trot to give effect to this augmentation? Then take paragraph (c). That paragraph commences "Out of funds at their disposal …."; that is out of funds at the disposal of the Corporation. Lord Midleton has referred to a statement made by the Corporation to the effect that they were practically approaching bankruptcy, or deficiency of funds. Mr. Hayes Fisher, when asked by the Select Committee whether the Royal Patriotic Corporation had not funds at their disposal, said they had not, that they were all allocated. Assuming that statement to be accurate, there will therefore be no funds out of which to make these supplementary payments other than those provided by the Government. And so it goes on all the way through.
Under paragraph (i) the Statutory Committee are to make provision for the care of disabled officers and men after they have left the Service, including provision for their health, training, and employment. There is not provided one single coin of any size, sort, or description in the Bill with which to do that; vet it is one of the most important responsibilities that can be cast in a Bill of this kind. Then take paragraph (j). It says that the functions of the Statutory Committee shall be to make grants in special cases for the purpose of enabling widows, children, and other dependants of deceased officers and men to obtain training and employment. Could a more important responsibility be cast upon any body? There is not one single penny provided in the Bill to enable them to do it, and I say that it is cruel to mislead people in this way, to pretend that this Bill is going to do things when the Government must know perfectly well that there is not one single copper to enable those things to be carried out. For that reason I consider that we are fully entitled to postpone the Second 623 Reading of this Bill. The postponement will give the Government the opportunity of realising where they are and of telling Parliament that they are prepared absolutely to put up the £5,000,000 that Mr. McKenna estimates will be necessary in order to enable this Bill to be turned into a reality, whereas at the present moment the bulk of it is nothing more than waste paper.
What really happened is this. The Government have been unduly sanguine all the way through as to the sources from which this money was to flow, and they founded themselves upon expectations. They have been counting their chickens before they were hatched. It is a very awkward thing but it frequently happens, and this is about as bad an illustration of it as could possibly be afforded. I should like to refer to what was said in the other House by Mr. Hayes Fisher, who was principally responsible for the conduct of this Bill in another place. He said on June 30—I have already said that I considered, and I have made some calculations on the matter, that at least £5,000,000—not £5,000,000 yearly, but a capital sum of £5,000,000—will be needed by this body if it is to carry out its functions throughout the country. I believe my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer entertains great hopes that he will be able to get the necessary money for this body without having any recourse to public funds or State contributions. He is Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he is responsible for very heavy payments and very heavy taxation. He naturally does not wish to add to those, and he will naturally desire to draw this money from the pockets of the benevolent, and he is very hopeful that he is going to do it.This Bill was founded upon those hopes and expectations, which have been so ruthlessly shipwrecked in the last few days for reasons which I will explain in a moment. Mr. Hayes Fisher went on to say—The Chancellor of the Exchequer is very hopeful indeed of getting the money required for this body.The right hon. gentleman, I think, had at the back of his mind a real haunting doubt though he did not express it, but it seems to be indicated in this sentence which I shall read—But I am one of those who believe that if the money is not forthcoming from private benevolence or from any society that at present exists, and which has control of large funds, then that either this House" [the House of Commons] "or some ether House will insist that adequate funds are placed at the disposal of this body ….Reliance was placed on three main sources from which these funds would be secured. 624 They made absolutely certain that they were going to "milk" the National Relief Fund; the next source from which they hoped to get money was voluntary funds in the hands of various organisations; and, thirdly, they hoped to receive a supplementation from the pockets of the benevolent. All these golden hopes held by the Government have turned grey in the last few days, and there has been an utter collapse of their hopes and expectations.
That is the position in which we find ourselves this afternoon. The responsibility has passed from the of her House, because they have passed the Bill; and it is our duty to insist, before we have any more dealings with the Bill, that we shall know where the money is coming from to give effect to it. What has happened to destroy these expectations? Much to the surprise of the Government the Committee of the Prince of Wales's Fund have absolutely refused to hand over their funds or to guarantee contributions, and as a reward for their public spirit and their recognition of what is expected of them by those who subscribed to this Fund—and all of us here, I expect, contributed—they have been struck off the roll of membership of this Bill. At first they had representation, but that representation has been taken away. Well, they will have the satisfaction of feeling that public opinion is with them and will endorse their action. The money was not subscribed to do the work that the Government should do; but to meet civilian distress. We are glad that there has not been much distress up to the present time, but we have no guarantee that there will not be plenty of it when the war is over. Therefore the trustees of the National Relief Fund are perfectly right in keeping the money for the purpose for which it was subscribed. So much for the Prince of Wales's Fund. There are other funds—the funds controlled by the Royal Patriotic Corporation, and numerous funds on which there are surpluses; the total of them all amounts to considerably over £1,000,000.
One would have thought that the real inwardness of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation being singled out as the body to form the foundation of this Statutory Committee would have been that they were prepared to assist financially in a large way; but Mr. Hayes Fisher assured the Select Committee that they had no funds available. So that the Corporation 625 are to be given these extraordinary powers but are not going to contribute any money. And there is not the ghost of a possibility of any other voluntary fund offering to step into the breach and deliver over their resources if they were ever foolish enough—foolish in this particular, that it is the Government's responsibility to find this money—or soft-hearted enough to entertain that idea, which would not, of course, be possible in the main because these funds are governed by trusts, and if the trustees were to attempt to deviate from their trust deeds the Court of Chancery would have a great deal to say in the matter before very long. This Bill is defective inasmuch as it does not face this fact at all. It is presented to us as if it were a living and vivid document able to carry out what on its face it assumes its functions to be. The Bill is not able to carry out anything at all, because it has not the financial resources behind it. It is altogether illusory to say that you must supplement pensions and allowances, and that you may educate people and instruct them in trades, and do this, that, and the other, with money that does not exist. So far as I can see, the only money assured in the Bill—because that is the guarantee of the State, and has to come out of public funds—is the salary to be paid to the chairman or the vice-chairman of the Statutory Committee. It was originally proposed that both the chairman and the vice-chairman should be paid. However, the State does guarantee one salary; the rest is pure hypothesis. It may come from somewhere, goodness knows where, but; it is not in the Bill at the moment.
I second the noble Viscount's Motion because I hold that we are not justified in continuing to regard this Bill seriously unless the Government, here and now, stand up and say, "We recognise and endorse what was said by our spokesman in the other House, that £5,000,000 of solid capital is required to be put into this Bill to enable it to work. We give our undertaking and pledge ourselves to this House that we will find that money." I doubt whether that will be said. The House of Commons has tried for weeks to get the Government to make that definite statement, but they have never made it. They have always avoided a deliberate declaration, and for that reason, if for no other, I cordially support the Motion not to read the Bill a second time at present.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I desire to associate myself with the appeal for some further delay before we are asked finally to commit ourselves to this Bill, and I would ask the Government, if they are not inclined to grant this request, to explain to us in what way a slight further delay will be a greater disadvantage than the setting up of a permanent body of this kind which is open to the criticisms that have been passed upon it by the noble Viscount on this Bench and by the noble Lord opposite. The noble Lord who has just sat down understated his case, I thought, in one particular, because he said that the only money that was guaranteed by the Government was the salary of the chairman or vice-chairman as the case might be; but there will be, in addition to that salary, the salaries of all the staff which the Statutory Committee will have power to appoint, and it will, of course, create a number of vested interests which must be carried out.
I do not for a moment deny the necessity for some change in the management of the Royal Patriotic Fund or of the method of paying these pensions and allowances which would be under the control of the statutory body. But my appeal for delay is rested upon the undoubted fact that the whole financial basis of this Bill has been changed during its passage through another place, and that therefore the Bill as it comes before us to-day cannot be taken as the reasoned and deliberate opinion of the Government. They made rapid changes as it passed through another place, and on that ground. I think it is most reasonable that those of us who are interested in the matter should have further time for consideration before we irrevocably commit ourselves to this Bill.
Objections have been taken to the Bill which I shall not repeat. But there is one other on which I want to say a word or two, and that is the treatment accorded by this Bill to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. Let us keep clear in our minds what is the exact position. There are two great classes of the payments with which we are dealing. There is, first, the pensions to widows and orphans and the disablement allowances, all of which, as the noble Marquess in introducing the Bill said quite feelingly and rightly, will be of a permanent nature. Even the youngest; of us will not see the end of them, and it is obvious that they must be regulated 627 by a statutory body, as, indeed, they are now settled by the Admiralty and the War Office respectively, but it will have to be put upon a permanent basis.
In addition to those matters there are what are known as separation allowances. These are provided in the main out of public funds—although it was, perhaps, not intended that they should be wholly so provided—and therefore they are fixed by the public authority responsible to Parliament and by no other body. But the service which has been rendered in the distribution of these payments by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association has been very great indeed. The Government prescribe the scale for the allowances which are payable to wives and other dependants, and the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association neither regulate the amount nor act as intermediaries except in assisting the recipients to make the necessary representations. But I think the noble Marquess was a little inclined to under-rate the services which this association has given to the Government and to the country during the last ten or eleven months. He indicated, I think, that they had branches only over some two-thirds of the country. According to the information supplied to me, they have covered at least four-fifths of the area and a great deal more than four-fifths of the population. Where they come in is in giving assistance in cases, necessarily very numerous, where either the separation allowances are delayed in payment or where they are inadequate, or where for technical reasons no claim can be at once established, or where owing to any circumstances there is distress in the family which requires immediate remedy. I know from my own experience in my own district that the services rendered by this association have been simply invaluable. They have helped in granting temporary advances to women who are left dependent; they have helped in the matter of rent; they have given help to meet cases of illness and other eases of distress which it was necessary to meet at once and where people could not wait for representations to be made to the public authority.
My point is this. At the time of the great national emergency last August this association stepped into the breach. They were the only organisation that could possibly have met the requirements all over the United Kingdom, and the one organisa- 628 tion that had experience in the affairs of soldiers' and sailors' families. I am told that at the outbreak of the war there were Over 800 branches, which were reorganised and their number extended; and up to December last they had been mainly instrumental in giving relief to over 1,000,000 individuals. This work is carried on on a purely voluntary basis. Yet in spite of all those services this Bill has been placed before Parliament without any communication to the association at all. It is designed to supersede the association in all its branches, leaving it only by the exercise of influence or opportunity to obtain representation upon the local committees. It is quite true there was at first representation upon the central body, inadequate in my opinion, but even that, for reasons, has been taken away.
It is no argument for the noble Marquess to say that the work of the local branches of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association is so valuable that the local statutory committees must go to them for assistance and are sure to ask them to join. That is not a fair position in which to put this body. They ought to have a definite right, and there ought to be a definite local obligation to have them put upon the local statutory committees. That is one Amendment, if this Bill goes into Committee, that I shall undertake to move if no one else does it. What I want to point out in my plea for delay is this. The way in which the House is always treated in these matters is that it is said, "Oh, Parliament has to adjourn the day after to-morrow, and if von press Amendments we shall either lose the Bill or run the risk of losing it." I say that it is far wiser for this House to retain power in its hands to give further time for consideration. The criticism has shown that the Bill is not a perfect Bill and does not give general satisfaction, and it seems to me that the dangers will be much less if we take time to consider it more fully, whether by informal negotiation or in other ways.
I agree with the noble Marquess that any funds provided from the public purse must be regulated by a public statutory body. I make no comment upon that, except to agree with it. But I do say that there is no tremendous hurry for this Bill, and that it might wait for a week or two. I understand, though it was perhaps not made quite distinct by the noble Marquess, that there is a difficulty in 629 that some of these payments, these disablement allowances, are only supposed to go on for twenty-six weeks without statutory authority, but it is perfectly clear that there must be some way of extending that, because the war has gone on for more than twenty-six weeks—it has gone on for nearly a year, unfortunately—and some of the men were disabled early in the war; therefore there must be some way in which that difficulty is got over. I think there is every reason for caution and delay in the circumstances in which we are placed.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, I think the position in which the House is placed in regard to this measure is a very apt illustration of the difficulties that occur when there is a Coalition Government, and as one of those who are not very strongly convinced of the necessity of a Coalition I will venture in a few remarks to draw your Lordships' attention to this aspect of the case. No doubt there are a good many arguments in favour of a Coalition, but there are also some disadvantages, and one of the disadvantages is that the regular Opposition entirely disappears. There has been during the debates of the last few days a good deal of very useful but very spasmodic criticism of various measures introduced by the Government, but when it comes to the question of taking action, we have been, I will not say paralysed, but certainly very much embarrassed.
Let me call your Lordships' attention to what happened the other day with regard to the Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Selborne dealing with the preservation of live-stock. Lord Strachie made several criticisms on that Bill, and although I do nor speak with any authority on matters of that sort I certainly gathered from the speeches that were made by other noble Lords who possessed special knowledge of agricultural affairs that Lord Strachie's views met with a great deal of sympathy. Lord Harris said in effect, "Yes, I agree with Lord Strachie; but under present circumstances we cannot afford to be disunited, and therefore we must support the Government." Later, when a Division was taken, there was an enormous majority in favour of the measure. The question therefore to my mind in this matter, agreeing as I do with what has fallen from my noble friend Lord Balfour and other speakers, is whether or not Lord Harris's argument holds good. It is not at all an 630 easy question to decide—certainly I find it not so—but we have to think of what would be the consequences. If we are always to adopt the very cogent argument which Lord Harris used the other day the consequences would be somewhat serious. If the consequences merely were that we were to hand over our individual discretion to noble Lords on the Front Ministerial Bench I would certainly not be very alarmed, because I should know, whether they belonged to the Liberal Party or to the Unionist Party, that they would not make any abusive use of their power and would fully recognise that they were under a very strong moral obligation in the present circumstances to meet the desires of independent members of the House.
But that is not altogether the case. We have to look at the influences that lie behind the noble Lords, if I may say so. In some cases we may be asked, as we were the other day to some extent, to yield to the pressure of some officials in whom we do not place every confidence. In some cases we may have to yield to the pressure of borough councils, who want to get more power into their hands. Bear in mind also that in regard to this Bill a good many complaints have been made by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association that their services have not been properly recognised, and indeed that they have been treated with some discourtesy. That was the kind of question raised by Lord Parmoor in reference to insurance the other day. Nobody would suppose for a moment that any noble Lord opposite would not recognise the help that had been given by his countrymen outside. We have had too much experience in private and public life for anything such as that to enter into our minds. But, as I say, we have to think of the other classes outside this House, and after giving the fullest consideration to the subject which I can give, I have come to the conclusion that Lord Midleton's plea for an adjournment of the debate for further consideration is perfectly right, and I shall not hesitate, if the House divides, to go into the Lobby with him.
On the merits of the case I do not think I can add very much to what has been already said by numerous other speakers. There was a very distinguished Englishman a little while ago named Mr. Dawson, who wrote a book called "What is Wrong with Germany." I devoutly wish that some eminent politician would write a book on 631 "What is Wrong with England." There are a good many things wrong with England, and one of them is that for a considerable time before the war there was a steadily progressive effort to strangle all voluntary effort. I am one of those who think—perhaps the noble Marquess opposite will regard me as an extremist—that one of our greatest assets is voluntary effort, and I should not like to see State control substituted in its place. As we are going through a momentous crisis I can understand that Government control should increase more than we should desire in normal times. But the other day, in dealing with the subject of naval and military expenditure, I ventured to point out that it was a mistake that because we were at war therefore we should abandon all our principles of economy; and in this case I cannot see that because we are at war we should go to extremes and abandon some of the most cherished principles which have entered into the whole of English life for generations past.
The noble Marquess, in introducing this measure, said there were extremists on either side, and that the object of the Government was to hold the balance between the two. I entirely agree in principle with that. But I confess I feel some doubt as to whether the people who framed this Bill held the balance. It appears to me that they weighted the balance very heavily on one side, and the voluntary effort part of the Bill has almost disappeared, while the State control part has enormously increased. When we talk of holding balances and of making compromises I am reminded of the man who quarrelled with his wife about the colour of the front door. The wife wanted it to be red and the husband wanted it to be green, and when a friend asked the husband what he had done he replied, "Oh, we came to a compromise; as a matter of fact, the door is going to be red." That is what is happening here. One side loses almost entirely. For all these reasons I certainly think we should adjourn the Second Reading debate and have further consideration of this Bill. Let me add one thing which I forgot to mention earlier. It is very curious that the same individuals who are constantly urging compulsion and State control turn round when it comes to the one point where you would think compulsion was justified—that is to say, when it is a question of a man defending his own country.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, I wish to associate myself with what fell from my noble friend Lord Midleton. I can assure the Government that I have no wish—I do not believe anybody in this House has—to embarrass them in any way. During the last week or two, as Lord Cromer said just now, Lord Harris and other members of the House have abstained from opposing the Government on the ground solely that they thought it undesirable to do so, and not because they considered the proposals of the Government to be right. But in this particular case it seems to me, after paying careful attention to what has been said here and elsewhere, that this is by no means a good Bill. In short, it is a really bad Bill. The question arises, Is it necessary in the interests of the Government to pass the Bill at the present moment? I cannot see that the interests of the Government are in any way vitally connected with this matter. Take the Bill itself. It is a misnomer. It says that it constitutes "a Statutory Committee of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation." It does nothing of the kind. It constitutes a Statutory Committee on which the Patriotic Fund Corporation has six representatives; that is all it does, and it does not propose to allot any money whatsoever for the purposes which follow in the Bill.
If this Bill is passed in its present form you will have, to adopt the language of the Bill, two Royal Patriotic Fund Corporations. You will have the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation, which has to deal with certain moneys to be disbursed with reference to pensions and other matters of that sort which have reference to past wars. The Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation proper has nothing to do with future wars. That is not the purpose for which it was constituted. It has been shown already that its funds are nearly all dissipated. The Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation proper is moribund. I have its last report here, and it is stated that in that year the Corporation lost £30,000; the funds were diminished by that amount. And as your Lordships heard just now, Mr. Hayes Fisher stated that it would only take two years or thereabouts from 1913 to make the Fund bankrupt. And yet, my Lords, that is the body which is picked out—Heaven knows why!—upon which to base a new Committee, not a 633 Committee of the Royal Patriotic Fund but an official Committee pure and simple.
The framers of this Bill have struck oil everything which had any reference to a voluntary system. They struck off the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. Why? That association is the only body which has any practical experience of the working of the things you are proposing to institute under this Bill. In the same way you have struck off the trustees of the Prince of Wales's Fund. I do not desire to say anything at all disrespectful, but it naturally occurs to one that they were struck off in connection with the fact that they had recently declined to contribute their funds for these purposes. Your Committee has therefore become, as I say, a purely official Committee. Then what are its powers? Take Clause 3. There is not a word therein enabling it to carry out any of its powers—not one word. Just look at paragraph (b) of subsection (1) which states that the functions of the Statutory Committee shall be—to frame regulations for supplementary grants in eases where, owing to the exceptional circumstances of the case, the pension or grant or separation allowance payable out of public funds seems to the Committee to be inadequate.Suppose they make these regulations, what is the use of them? They cannot carry out a single regulation. Who is going to put the regulations in force? It is not said.
Then under paragraphs (c) and (d) the Statutory Committee have the power to supplement pensions and so on "out of funds at their disposal." They have no funds at their disposal, and it is not proposed to give them any. Next take paragraph (i), which refers to provision for the care of disabled officers and men. How in the world can the Statutory Committee make provision when they have no money? Then as to these local committees. The noble Marquess, in introducing the Bill, said that the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association may be represented on the local committees. It may or it may not. The only body with real and practical experience of the working of the matters under our consideration surely ought to have representation on the central body, for they are far more likely to be of use there than a person appointed by the Local Government Board or members appointed by the General Connell of the Royal Patriotic Corporation. These 634 people, by the good and valuable work which they have done, have already proved their fitness. I know that where I live the work of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association has simply been beyond praise, and we cannot be too much obliged for the time and trouble that has been given to these matters by these ladies and gentlemen.
The noble Marquess said that pensions cannot be dealt with without this Bill. How have they been dealt with hitherto? Cannot they go on for three months longer being dealt with in the same way? I do not wish to offer any lengthy remarks, but I must say that I can conceive no good reason for the Government wanting to shove this Bill down our throats without giving any time for its consideration. Within the last week the Bill has been fundamentally altered in the other House, and no reason whatever has been given to induce us to be willing to allow the Bill to go into Committee at the present moment and, I suppose, to be passed into law. Unless we have some reason very much better than any that has been given hitherto, I certainly think that in the interests of the Government themselves it is desirable to postpone the Second Reading. Let me say that not only on this side of the House and on the other side is it known that this Bill is not a good Bill, but in the other House of Parliament and in the country generally I believe it is looked upon with great disfavour—and for very good reasons. I do not know whether it is proposed to go on with the Bill in the next few days, whether the Government propose to force it through. But if they do, I can only say that in my opinion they will be taking a course which is neither in their interest nor in that of the country.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I am probably in the position of a great many of your Lordships in being distressed at the course of action which it seems to be our duty to take to-night. We none of us want to delay, far less to obstruct, legislation which the Government feel at this time in our nation's history to be really necessary. We do not want to take a single step which would hamper them in what they feel to be required for the country's good, and if it can be shown—as it certainly, as far as I have heard tonight, has not been shown yet—that it is 635 absolutely necessary that this Bill should become law within the next few weeks, I should give great attention to such an argument. I go further and say that I am a convinced supporter of the general principles of this Bill. I should be quite prepared to meet, if the occasion came for it, some of the arguments which have been adduced to-night against some of its principles, but I am not prepared to do that now because I honestly think the time has not come when we are in a proper position to do it adequately. I believe in a statutory body being created; I believe in the local committees; and I think some of the objections that have been raised in detail are capable of being answered.
I think I am the only member of your Lordships' House who had the opportunity or the privilege of giving evidence before the Committee which sat upon this subject. I am afraid, I exhausted the attention of that Committee for nearly a day in doing so. A good deal was made, and rightly so, by the noble Marquess in introducing the Bill of the constitution of that Committee and its consequent importance. While I should agree with every word he said as to the importance attaching to the deliberate opinion of those who constituted that Committee, I have something more than a doubt whether the men called upon to sit upon it—the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his colleagues on the one side, and the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues on the other—were in a position at that tremendous time of our nation's history to give to the evidence that came before them the kind of attention that another Committee less heavily burdened with other work could have given. They were certainly the weightiest men to be found, but whether they were in a position to weigh in detail the arguments and evidence put before them I do not know.
I want some such scheme as this to become law, but I want to see it in a proper shape, properly considered, and properly thrashed out. During the last few months we have been handling what has been called emergency legislation, and I suppose everybody will admit that a good deal of that legislation has been perforce carried through without the consideration and perhaps without the perfection of ultimate form which would have been given to it had more time been at our disposal. It has been the case that we had to get it, and it 636 was quocunque mode rem. This Bill is not emergency legislation in the strict sense. This is legislation for years to come. Of course, it may be said that it can hereafter be amended. But if it is possible to get it started in a form that, will not require very drastic amendment afterwards and that can be attained by a few weeks' delay, are we not entitled to ask for that delay so that we can pass it in a form of which we approve and not in a form which many of us feel to be unsatisfactory? The House of Commons, because this is not emergency legislation in the ordinary sense but legislation that will affect the country for many years to come, gave to this Bill, as I think was pointed out by the noble Marquess, a great deal more time and detailed consideration than has been given to most of the Bills that have filled the volume of emergency legislation of this last year; but they did so, as has been repeatedly pointed out to-night, on a basis a large part of which was cut away before the Bill finally left the House of Commons. It had to be re-committed; and the alterations that were made cut at the very root of the Bill. It does seem to me that the alterations made at the last moment call for somewhat longer consideration of the details of the measure than is now practicable before Wednesday next.
One change that was made was the cutting out of the reference to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. I should like to associate myself with what has been said as to the value of the work of that association. The noble Marquess said that although the association was no longer in the position originally given to it in the Bill its members, having done their work so well, are quite sure to be placed on the local committees, if not on the Statutory Committee. Had we perfect confidence in the manner of the appointment of these local committees, I am sure we should find representatives of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association on them. When we look to those who are to nominate the local committees in some parts of England, at all events, I may say the right people will be upon them. But in other cases, for instance when the borough councils are nominating those they want to sit on a body like this, I have doubts whether those who have done so well will have places allotted to them. But all these are details, and we need time to consider them. Is it better to have—I do not want, to say 637 a bad Bill, but a Bill which we feel to be unsatisfactory, or with a great many of the details of which we feel dissatisfied—is it better to have that Bill on the Statute Book next week, standing there for a long time, than to wait for a few weeks mid let the matter be considered during the very short recess we are going to have? The shorter that recess is the better personally I shall be pleased in the interests of the country at large. But we do want a little time to think this matter over, and in a few weeks we should be able to approach the consideration of it better than we can approach it now.
What is there that causes the necessity for pushing the Bill through now rather than a few weeks hence? Lord Balfour of Burleigh spoke about one difficulty that night arise owing to the provision that the separation allowance is continued to the family of a soldier for twenty-six weeks and no more after his death. But I would point out that that is under an administrative Order. If it is required, the time can be made longer without any difficulty, and I thought that had been already done. At any rate it could be done, and there is no reason to hasten legislation if that is the difficulty which it is necessary to meet. I noticed that Lord Midleton used a phrase which I do not think he intended. He said it was not possible to pass this Bill in the present session of Parliament. I do not think he quite meant that, because the session will be continued after the recess which we shall shortly have. At all events I fully hope that in a few weeks hence, after the recess, there will be no difficulty in reconsidering this matter further. I trust that the Bill will become law in a satisfactory sense afterwards, and that in the meantime the Government will accede to our request for a little delay.
§ LORD HYLTON
My Lords, I cannot help expressing surprise at hearing noble Lords, urge delay in a matter of this kind, involving the interests of vast numbers of wounded soldiers and their dependants. I should have thought that we had heard enough about want of organisation. Yet when His Majesty's Government bring forward this measure they are told by various speakers that it would be much better to put it off—the most rev. Primate suggested for a short time, the noble Viscount (Lord Midleton), I think, for rather a longer time. At all events speaker after 638 speaker has urged that this is not an emergency Bill, that it cannot be called a war measure, and that for one reason or other it would be better to defer dealing with the matter for the present.
I do not think some of the noble Lords who have spoken on this matter this evening have been quite fair with regard to the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. I venture to say that because I was present yesterday afternoon when the noble Marquess who leads the House received a large and influential deputation from the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association; and were Lord Ferrets in the house I am certain he would acknowledge that I am stating no more than the absolute fact when I say that the deputation recognised that the language with which they were greeted and the expressions which were used by the noble Marquess on behalf of the Government in receiving that deputation showed that the Government were not in the least unaware of the vast and valuable labours that have been performed during the last eleven months or more by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. I suppose there is hardly any noble Lord in this House, sitting on either side, who has not been personally associated with some of the work of this association. Their work is known to have been admirable, and the noble Marquess when he received the deputation used the strongest language of thanks and appreciation. The reason why the representatives of this association and of the Prince of Wales's Fund do not appear at present in the Bill is notorious, and I do not think it necessary to dwell on it. It was supposed that a grant would be given by the Prince of Wales's Fund, to be distributed by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, but for certain reasons it was not possible for these societies to find funds towards the purposes of the Bill; and I venture to think that in these days it is not very curious that the House of Commons should not be ready to hand over public funds to private associations that were not helping financially in the matter.
There is no one in this House, I am certain, who is a warmer supporter and a greater admirer of voluntary effort, as opposed to State control, than I am myself; and I cordially agree with what Lord Cromer said as regards the great 639 superiority in most cases, if we could have it, of voluntary over Government control. I am not sure whether the old courts of quarter sessions did not manage the affairs of the country better than the county councils, and whether the voluntary schools before 1870, when there were no others, did not educate the children better than they are educated at present. But if I were called upon to give any one particular reason for saying why this Bill should pass, I should say it was required to meet the necessities of the present situation. State money will have to be used in connection with this Bill, and it is necessary, therefore, that there should be State control. I do not think the criticisms that have been directed against the Bill, as to its being a totally useless measure because there is no provision for financing it, are quite justified. I rather think that when the Bill appointing the Development Commissioners was passed it did not contain any clause directly voting the money. I imagine that if this Bill becomes law a block sum will be in the first instance voted in another place towards this fund. It has been said that outside this House the objects of this Bill will not be understood or much appreciated, but I think that if His Majesty's Government allowed Parliament to be adjourned without having taken any measures towards carrying out the objects of this Bill they would be liable outside, and they would be justly liable, to he condemned for inaction and for not having taken proper precautions. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will give a Second Reading to this measure.
§ LORD SOUTHWARK
My Lords, as an old Commissioner of Chelsea Hospital I feel that I cannot allow this debate to end without saying a few words in reference to that body. I had the honour of sitting on the Board as Lord of the Treasury for three years, and for five years before I entered this House I presided over it in my capacity as Paymaster-General. I cannot think of any body more capable of canting out this work. It is a splendidly-constituted body. The members have a knowledge of everything connected with the soldier, from the time of his recruiting to the time of his departure. They know all about him—his service, his health, his injuries, and his character. If you want a central executive body, you could not have a better. But except that the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, referred to the 640 Board of Chelsea Hospital in his speech, no reference has been made to it. There has been some mention that this money was coming from the pockets of the benevolent. I think it should come from the pocket of the State. If after the State has done this work any voluntary organisations want to supplement it, by all means let them do so. That has been done in my eight years' experience at Chelsea. The voluntary organisations referred to this afternoon have been doing excellent work, and no doubt there will be larger scope after this war. I am glad that it has been suggested that the discussion of this Bill should be deferred. It has come upon many of us as a surprise. I was not aware that this matter was even being discussed in the House of Commons. That is one of the disadvantages of not being there, especially as the newspapers nowadays hardly ever report the speeches. This is a matter of grave importance, I consider, and I should be sorry to see the measure hastily passed. The constitution of the new body should be reconsidered. In my opinion the body that it is proposed to set up is nothing like so good a body as you would get if you took the Chelsea Commissioners supplemented with further assistance.
§ LORD ST. AUDRIES
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hylton told us just now that a great hardship would be done to vast numbers of wounded soldiers and sailors and their dependants if this Bill were not to pass now. How would that harm be done?
§ LORD ST. AUDRIES
There is no money in this Bill. The noble Lord did give us a hint that at some future time there might be something like a block grant. I will put this question to the noble Lord. If he were a wounded soldier or sailor, which would he rather have—an empty Bill in July with no money in it, or a well-thought-out Bill in September with public money in it? I think his answer would be that he would prefer the Bill in September with public money inside it, and I cannot imagine a better argument for the Motion of my noble friend Lord Midleton that the debate should be adjourned. As regards the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, 641 wish which I have been connected for a great number of years, I make no complaint on the score of whether or not they have been treated with courtesy. Their work speaks for itself, and has been well recognised by the public. The only reason why I support the retention of their existing powers is purely for the sake of efficiency. They have workers all over the country. Nearly all their workers are women, and they have three great qualities—common sense, sympathy, and a great knowledge of their sex. The result is that they are welcomed in every home, and they are freely approached for advice, help, and comfort. You have that organisation now to your hands, and the proposal is to scrap it and to set up entirely new bodies all over the country. Anybody who has been associated with the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association knows what very hard work it has been to find out the facts about husbands, sons, dependants, and so on. That mass of information is now at the disposal of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. These new local committees will have to start afresh, and work it all up again. The present committees of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association are composed of people who have leisure. They have plenty of time to get about, and have given up their time to this work. From what elements are you going to form your new local committees? They are to be formed, as I read the Bill, by a committee of the county or borough council. What sort of people will they be? In the rural districts they will be very much the same class as you get now for boards of guardians—that is to say, small business men, farmers, and tradesmen. I can assure you that those people have not the time to give to this work. They have not even the time to do all the district council and board of guardians work in which they are interested, and, if you put this extra work upon them you will find that the work will not he carried out efficiently.
My great complaint about this Bill so far as it relates to separation allowances and grants is the delay and waste of time that will be incurred. This is the procedure. The Statutory Committee receives the claim, the Statutory Committee refers the claim to the local committee, the local committee inquires into it, then the local committee reports to the Statutory Committee, and the Statutory Committee gives 642 its decision on the matter. A delay necessarily very often of weeks is thus involved, whereas the whole essence of relief and assistance in these cases amongst poor people is that it should be prompt. The Soldiers and Sailors' Families Association, if they think the case a bona fide one, can advance money the very next day until the case is considered by the higher authority, and they can in most cases recover the money they have advanced. The advantage of that system is prompt assistance and avoidance of debt; the disadvantage of the proposed new system is long delay and greater temptation for poor people to get into debt.
There is further the case of the invalided or disabled soldier or sailor. At the present moment our association, in conjunction with the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, are allowed to help those men temporarily until they get their pensions. Often weeks elapse from the time that the man is told he is going to get his discharge and the time that he gets his pension. The moment a man is invalided he should be given leave of discharge so that he can get work, which at present he cannot. Many men are invalided who are not discharged, and cannot get work until they are discharged. But in the cases where the men are invalided and discharged prompt help is the important matter. The same with men enlisting at the present moment who are married and have dependants. The wives can come to the local office of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association and get an advance at once. Under this new scheme it is bound to take much longer. You have this efficient organisation, as I say, at your hands. I quite admit that it is not one to deal with public funds, but there are no public funds in this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Marquess is going to make a statement as to postponing the Bill, but the Bill has been so battered by criticism that I suppose some course of that kind will be taken by the Government. I have heard a good many Bills discussed in the House of Commons and elsewhere, but I have never come across a Bill that has met with so little defence. My noble friend Lord Hylton defended it and told us, amongst other statements, that in the Development Bill there was no mention of any finance. Well, I was a member of the 643 House of Commons at the time, and my noble friend's statement is not exactly correct. I remember the circumstances well, because I was on the Committee which considered the Bill, and what we did was to put the usual italic sentence to the Bill with regard to a Money Resolution, and before the Bill passed the House that money was voted. But in the case of this Bill nothing of the kind has been done.
There is one point on which I commend the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association to your Lordships which has not been mentioned to-day. Their administration has not only been efficient, but also very economical. During this last year on the sums disbursed the administration charges were only 1½ per cent.; and if the Government can assure us that the new bodies which they are going to set up will administer the funds they receive at so small a cost, that will go a long way towards reducing my objection to the change. But I advocate the retention of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association for two reasons. There does seem to be a perfectly logical and businesslike distinction to be drawn between these two separate functions—the function of dealing with separation allowances and other funds which come to an end with the end of the war, and the function of dealing with other allowances that will continue for some time after the war. I am bound to say that it is extraordinary, when you have a body that is useful and has the requisite knowledge, that you should in the middle of the war, not at the beginning, sweep that organisation entirely aside. You wait a year until this body has acquired close and thorough familiarity with the whole of this question, and then all this is suddenly swept away. You are giving the new bodies extremely heavy duties in respect of pensions which will be quite enough without their having this extra work. Even if there were no body at Present performing the work of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association one would very much hesitate to heap all these duties together on the heads of the proposed new authorities, but when you have an association which is row discharging all these duties very well it does seem superfluous to take away these duties and put them on another body. May I add to what my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh said about the Soldiers' and 644 Sailors' Families Association, that not only do they advance money in regard to these additional payments but they actually advance in some cases the separation allowances to which these people are entitled from the State. They have, as a matter of fact, advanced money to help the State. If you are going to put aside the association in this way, you are going to put aside all this voluntary assistance, and then, after having shown voluntary assistance how little you think of it, you are going to ask volunteers to give you money to assist you. That is an extraordinary way of conducting business.
May I add this one further point? There is always great difficulty in getting money subscribed if the public has an idea that the same money can be obtained out of the taxes. I had a little experience of that with regard to the Feeding of School Children Bill. Six years ago there were a great many funds for the feeding of school children in London, and then a permissive Bill was passed allowing the matter to be put on the rates. I think I worked as bard as any one in London to try and get money in this connection. I stood on many a doorstep and asked for money, but I was always met with the same answer, "You can get the money out of the rates." I do not say that we shall not get some money in this case, but you are hesitating between getting the money from the State and from voluntary contributions. Clause 3, subsection (1), paragraph (b). states that the functions of the Statutory Committee shall be—to frame regulations for supplementary grants in cases where, owing to the exceptional circumstances of the case, the pension or grant or separation allowance payable out of public funds seems to the Committee to be inadequate.The Committee may ask, "How can we begin by framing regulations for grants if we do not know how touch we are going to have?" Naturally the scale must depend on the funds at the disposal of the Statutory Committee. I would urge that the Government should give further consideration to the case of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, and see whether it would not be better to go on with the exiting machinery and not put into operation new and heavy machinery which must take come time before it can discharge these difficult duties efficiently.
My Lords, I am of opinion that anything that has to do with war pensions should be managed by the State. It is to me an extraordinary thing that it has been left all the years without being put under State control, and I think a Bill to do this now is a most desirable measure and one which should pass this House. I was glad to hear from Lord St. Audries the part which women have taken in lending their valuable assistance in this work, and I do not see myself what objection there can be to having women representatives under this Bill. It seems that objection is raised that whilst good voluntary work is being done at the present moment there is no need to legislate on this matter. It appears to be thought that if legislation is brought about for dealing with these pensions and other matters, the good work undoubtedly done by the voluntary associations will become non est. I do not see why it should, or that that is any excuse for opposing this Bill. If the members of these associations are so patriotic as to want to help, they can show their patriotism to the extent of serving on the local bodies. I repeat that I cannot see why a matter dealing with war pensions should be under any but State control.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, I want to say a word as to the true history of the cutting out of the Soldier' and Sailors' Families Association from the Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer expected to get money from the National Relief Fund. When he found he could not get money from that Fund he struck out the provision that the Fund were to have two members on the Statutory Committee; and the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, because they got money to help them from the Prince of Wales's Fund, were cut out too. I rather find fault with the noble Marquess for not having explained that exactly. We are asked to pass a Bill with absolutely no financial basis whatsoever except, as the noble Lord said, that the chairman or the vice-chairman of the new body is to have a salary; that is all the money that is in the Bill. As to the rest, the whole thing is in the air, and the local committees are actually asked to collect subscriptions from the public. We all know that subscriptions have been asked for in regard to all there funds. In Ireland are the local committees to ask us to subscribe there to further funds? I object to the Bill being passed in its present form, 646 and I support the noble Viscount's Motion for the adjournment of the debate because this is an incomplete Bill, and one which has caused a tremendous lot of irritation amongst bodies who have done really good work for our soldiers and sailors.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, once or twice during the course of this discussion I have rather wished that I was safe back in my place on the Front Bench opposite, although I am bound to say I do not think I could have associated myself with the whole of the criticisms or suggestions which have been made by noble Lords on the other side of the House. But I readily concede that this Bill contains a great deal of controversial matter. Indeed, when one considers that it was discussed—and discussed, I think my noble friend behind me said, with considerable vivacity—for five or six nights in the House of Commons, it seems quite reasonable that your Lordships should have the fullest opportunity of discussing it here, and that we could not claim for ourselves the right to push on one side the comments or the suggestions which have been made with regard to it.
Upon one point I cannot help thinking that there must be a pretty general agreement between the two sides of the House. We must have a Bill of some kind. I think my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh admitted that, and my noble friend Lord Midleton did not dispute it. All proposals of this kind involving the creation of new appointments carrying with them salaries are naturally looked upon with suspicion at the present moment, and in particular by my noble friend Lord Midleton. But the question is whether you can deal with the great problems which now lie before the Government of this country without some such machinery as that which this Bill provides. I venture to say that you cannot. The enterprise before us is really a colossal one. We have to deal with pensions granted to widows and orphans, with pensions for disabled men, and with the question of separation allowances; and when we call to mind the terrible casualty figures which have lately been made public, and recall what was stated in this House by my noble friend Lord Newton the other evening as to the number of married men now serving in the Army, and the amount of public money already disbursed in providing them with 647 separation allowances—when we consider that this is, after all, only the beginning and that the full effect of all these things will not be realised until we are a good deal older, it does seem to me perfectly obvious that we must address ourselves without too much delay seriously to the task of setting up machinery which will be adequate to deal with all these important matters.
The particular machinery which we desire to set up under this Bill has the support of two important Committees—the House of Commons Committee presided over by Mr. Lloyd George, and another Committee presided over by Sir George Murray. My noble friend Lord Midleton, and I think one or two other speakers, did not very much like the composition of the House of Commons Committee. Well, when we do not agree with a Report of a Committee or Commission we very often take exception to the composition of the body. But I am bound to say that this Committee included men of very great ability and very high position in both Parties, and they certainly gave to the consideration of their task a great amount of close and careful attention. At any rate I should be sorry to think that their recommendations should be ignored or set aside. What, after all, is the alternative? If we are not to have some such legislation as this, are we prepared to leave matters where they are—with on the one hand the War Office and the Admiralty, and on the other the local committees which have been set up by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association and all other organisations of the same kind? I say without hesitation that it would be to my mind out of the question to impose upon these great public Departments, already much overworked and undermanned, the additional task of dealing with the question which we are discussing this evening; and when you come to the local committees of the various voluntary organisations we have to remember that they do not cover the whole ground, and that, invaluable as their services have been, they vary a good deal in efficiency as between one part of the country and another.
I submit to your Lordships, then, that we have to deal with this question to the best of our ability. Now, is the machinery of the Bill the best, or can we improve upon it? Again I say that in principle the machinery of the Bill seems to me to be soundly contrived. We propose 648 to set up, in the first place, a large Statutory Committee containing representative elements. Such a Committee is necessary, I venture to think, for two reasons—in the first place, because without it you cannot expect to get any approach to uniformity of system in your administration; and, in the next place, because these bodies will have, whatever happens, to receive and to spend public money. Then as to the local committees. Those will, under the provisions of this Bill, be formed under the direction of the main Statutory Committee. The Statutory Committee which we propose may be perfect or imperfect, but I suggest to the House that it is at any rate a better fitted body for the purpose than the body which my noble friend Lord Midleton proposes. Lord Midleton suggests that the Board of Chelsea Hospital would be a valuable body for this purpose. The Board of Chelsea Hospital, to begin with, is only concerned with the Army; it does not touch the question of widows. It is, unless I am mistaken, purely official in character. It does not report to Parliament. It has no concern with women, and it does not contain a single representative of Labour. To take a body of that description in preference to the kind of body we propose would, I must say, seem to be a very reactionary proceeding. We took the Corporation of the Patriotic Fund. We did so because that body had traditions which seemed to us worthy of respect, and because amongst its members were many who were obviously well fitted for a task of this kind. But the Patriotic Fund after all only supplies the nucleus of this new body, which is reinforced by a large number of members taken from quite different sources.
Let me remind the House how the Statutory Committee will be composed. Twelve members are to be appointed by the Government, some of them to be women; there are to be representatives of the great Public Departments; and six members are to be appointed by the General Council of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation. We believe that in that way we shall get a body which will be very efficient and very representative; but if anyone is prepared to suggest to us a better composition for that body, that is eminently a matter which might be discussed in Committee. Some exception has been taken to the proposal that the chairman or vice-chairman of the Statutory 649 Committee should be a salaried official. These gentlemen will have very hard and very continuous work to do; it will be work which will take up the whole of their time, and I venture to maintain that it is not work which we can ask any man to undertake without a suitable pecuniary recognition. If we were to insist upon gratuitous services, I believe that we should debar ourselves from having recourse to many of the persons who would be eminently qualified to do work of this kind in the most efficient manner. And here again we are fortified by the recommendation of the House of Commons Committee.
Something was said, I think by almost every speaker who has addressed the House, on the question of the supersession of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association by these new local committees. At the risk reiteration I venture to repeat what has already been said as to the immense services which have been rendered by that association, and the great debt of gratitude which we owe to it for the good work it has done. It is not too much to say that, at the time when owing to the admission of women married off the strength to the right to pension the number of claims was suddenly enormously increased, the War Office would have been swamped by the additional work thrown upon its shoulders had these admirable bodies not come to the rescue, and I am quite prepared to confirm what my noble friend Lord Peel said just now as to the economical way in which their work has been done. I have seen the reports of the Institute of Chartered Accountants as to the manner in which the funds handled by them have been dealt with, and it is no exaggeration to say that nothing could be more creditable to them than the manner in which they have administered those funds. But when we come to the question of the appointment of the new local committees, it is surely fair to bear its mind that you do not find the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association committees everywhere. There are a good many large towns where they do not exist at all, and in those cases you must have some other body.
But the point which we have really to face with regard to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association committees is this. Are they so constituted as to make it possible to entrust them with the duty of dispensing large sums out of public 650 funds? I That is really the question. They are self-constituted, and in no sense representative or elected, and they will have—I shall come to that in a moment—to handle a good deal of public money. But we certainly hope that the new local committees will include a great number of those persons who have hitherto worked in connection with the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association's committees. The new local committees are to be voluntary committees, just as the present committees are voluntary, and I should like the House to remember that under the Bill they have to be appointed under the supervision of the Statutory Committee. I must say I cannot conceive that either the Statutory Committee or those locally concerned should commit the incredible folly of neglecting to avail themselves of the services of the ladies and gentlemen who have done good work in this way and who are able to continue that work without interruption.
Then we come to the question of the excision from the Bill of the two members whom it was proposed to draw from the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. My noble friend Lord Mayo gave us just now what he called the true history of this occurrence. There is no mystery about it at all. The Chancellor of the Exchequer explained the matter quite frankly in the House of Commons. We know what happened. It was anticipated at first that a considerable amount would be guaranteed by the National Relief Fund. Well, the members of the Fund were apparently coy or cautious, and found themselves unable to give that guarantee, and it seemed to follow naturally that the two members representing the National Relief Fund should drop out of the statutory body, and by parity of reasoning that the two members representing the association who, as my noble friends know quite well, were the almoners and distributors of the funds found by the National Relief Fund, should drop out also. That is the whole history of the occurrence.
It is only true in a sense that the fundamental basis of the Bill has been changed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech delivered on the 6th of this month, made it perfectly clear that although he hoped to get as much for the purposes of this Bill out of private sources as possible, he realised quite fully that if he were disappointed in that respect it would be necessary for him to fall back on public 651 funds. And that is the case. It is impossible for anybody at this stage of the proceedings to take upon himself to say in what proportion this movement will be financed from public funds on the one hand and from private sources on another. We know that private sources will be depended upon as far as possible, and that if they fail us we shall have to come to public funds. I think ours is a better and a more reasonable proposal than that which I understand finds favour with my noble friend Lord Camperdown and with the noble Lord who sits behind me, who, I understand, both desire that the Treasury should assume the whole liability for these grants, pensions, and allowances. I think my noble friend Lord Cromer, when he spoke just now, did not suggest that the whole liability should be thrown by a stroke of the pen on the Exchequer.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I am sorry if I misunderstood the noble Lord. As to the course to be pursued in dealing with this Bill, nothing is further from our desire than to hurry it with undue haste through your Lordships' House. We have received this evening a good many suggestions, some of which seemed to us quite worthy of consideration, as to matters which might perfectly be discussed in Committee with an open mind. Others, on the contrary, seemed to us to strike at the very root of the Bill. In the circumstances, what we suggest is that this discussion should not proceed further this evening, that no Division should be taken, and that when the House meets again next week we should come to an arrangement as to the further course to be pursued with regard to the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Does my noble friend propose to accept our Motion for the adjournment so as to give time for the reconsideration of the whole question—that is to say, until after the recess, which may be a brief one—or does he propose that we should continue the debate on Monday?
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
That would not be in accordance with the Motion I have ventured to make, which has the assent of a large number of members on this side of the House. I am afraid I must press that the adjournment shall be until after the recess.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
Is it not better to adhere to the usual practice, which is that when a Motion for adjournment is carried the date remains for subsequent fixing when the debate will be resumed. According to custom, the noble Lord who moves the adjournment puts down the day on which the debate is to be resumed. As I understand, if the House agrees to the adjournment it does not prevent negotiation taking place next week as to when the adjourned debate should be taken.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I am afraid that for once the view held by my noble friend Lord Balfour as to the usual practice of the House is incorrect. So far as my recollection goes, when a noble Lord moves the adjournment of a debate the debate is put down, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, for the next sitting day, and the usual custom is, as I understand, for the Government to indicate when it is their desire that the particular business should be proceeded with. The suggestion that the debate should be forthwith adjourned until some unknown date in the autumn is one which we cannot accept, and I must appeal to my noble friend not to press it. I am speaking quite seriously. I feel that such a course would greatly endanger the progress of the Bill. I endeavoured to point out what the objections to so long a delay would be, not as to supplementary separation allowances and their distribution by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, but as to the other work that would fall on the committees of the more military character dealing with pensions, as to which I am informed by the Department that the delay would be exceedingly inconvenient and prejudicial. Therefore the Government cannot agree off-hand to an adjournment of that kind. I hope noble Lords will consent to resume the debate on Monday next. If it is then the desire of 653 the House that the further discussion should be postponed, we can argue that point on Monday, when my noble friend and I will be more fully informed of the views of our colleagues and of the Department on that point.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
As I understand, what the noble Marquess proposes is this, that the Government should state on what day the debate is to be resumed. When the Government make that proposal the House will, of course, have an opportunity of dividing against it.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
What the noble Marquess proposes is rather a negation of the noble Viscount's proposal, which is simply to adjourn this debate with the understanding that it is not going to be resumed in a day or two.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Surely there can be no objection to adjourning the debate until Monday without prejudice. The House would then be seized of the whole question; and by Monday we shall have had an opportunity of considering the whole situation and be able to tell your Lordships how we propose to deal with it.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
We must have an understanding that the Second Reading will not be taken on Monday. I assume, according to all Parliamentary form, that if the Lord Chancellor puts the Question "That the Debate be adjourned" and we assent, the Government will then be asked on what day they propose to put down the resumed debate, and if they say Monday next we must ask to be allowed to move an Amendment to that.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
On what day does the noble Marquess propose to take the further debate on this Bill?
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I propose to put the Bill on the Paper for Monday in order to get an Opportunity for discussion. It is quite impossible for the Government to say at this moment what course we shall suggest to the House as to proceeding 654 with the Second Reading, or as to the proper period for dealing with the different stages of the Bill. It will he open to the noble Viscount on Monday to take any course he pleases as to a further adjournment.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
I do not see that we shall be in a better position on Monday than we are now to deal with this matter. What we want is a long adjournment to consider the Bill fully. I am not sufficiently well informed about the procedure of the House to discuss the matter. But the point at issue is, Are we to proceed with the Bill on Monday, or are we to have a long adjournment? We want a long adjournment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My noble friend says that we shall not be in a better position on Monday. Surely by Monday we shall have had time to consider what has happened this evening, and we may conceivably have some proposal to make across the Table to noble Lords.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I venture to plead with noble Lords opposite that they should listen to the appeal that has come from the noble Marquess. It will, of course, be open to the noble Viscount on Monday, if necessary, to move that the debate be further adjourned.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
The position seems to me to be perfectly clear. If the Government will undertake not to take the Bill on Monday, we will agree; but if they want to press it on Monday, we must ask for a longer adjournment.
§ Loan SOUTHWARK
I think the noble Viscount is taking a very unreasonable attitude. The most rev. Primate has made a reasonable appeal, which I think should be listened to. We have had an ample discussion this evening, and His Majesty's Government say they are going to consider the matter and give us their decision on Monday. That is very reasonable, and we ought to accept that proposal.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I think it will be for the convenience of the House that the resumed debate should have precedence of other Motions on Monday. I beg to move.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to, and the said debate adjourned to Monday next, and to be taken first.