§ Debate on the Motion for the Second Reading resumed (according to Order).
THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, since the debate on Friday last His Majesty's Government have been giving close attention to this subject and to the objections which were then put forward from different quarters of the House and from somewhat different standpoints against the measure as I had the honour of introducing it, our object being, of course, so far as possible to see whether we could meet those objections, provided they were of a kind which we considered reasonably arguable. Those objections, as I have said, were taken from somewhat different points of view. My noble friend behind me, Lord Devonport, took exception to the Bill not from the point of view which other noble Lords afterwards did, but in fact holding that the measure did not go far enough in the direction which he desired. My noble friend would have swept away all the work of the voluntary societies in connection with these grants to the relations and dependants of those who are fighting in the war. He holds, as no doubt some others hold, that this is purely and simply 661 a matter of national concern, and that all the funds necessary ought to be found and voted forthwith from public sources; therefore, of course, all the arguments which were afterwards adduced in different quarters of the House as to the claims of the different benevolent societies who have been working in this direction, from his point of view, fall to the ground. He would have fortified the official direction and management of the distribution of these funds by admitting a number of business men as an advisory body, but my noble friend's objection was not of the kind which was afterwards freely taken by other noble Lords.
The subsequent objections were rather from the standpoint of those who thought that the work done by the voluntary societies had not been sufficiently recognised, and was, indeed, altogether ignored, in the form which the Bill assumed when it left the House of Commons. I will not attempt to repeat the general eulogium to which I, in common with other members of the House, gave utterance of the work done by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association and by other kindred societies. That is common ground. We all admit that a vast amount of most admirable work has been done by those societies, although in some districts their work has been criticised in a manner with which the House is familiar. I do not know whether it is necessary to remind the House once more of the circumstances in which the representation of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association and of the National Relief Fund was omitted from the Statutory Committee. That was due to the fact, perhaps I might once more remind the House, that the National Relief Fund did not think itself entitled to promise to continue indefinitely, or indeed at all, to pay the supplementary separation allowances, and it was held that its claim to appear on the Statutory Committee thereby lapsed. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association had acted as the almoner for the Prince of Wales's Fund in the distribution of these grants, and it was therefore held that the reason for placing members of that association on the Statutory Committee lapsed also.
But I quite agree that it may be argued—it has been argued with force—that the fact that the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association distributed these funds for the Prince of Wales's Relief Fund was not the 662 only reason for associating them with the central Statutory Committee. It is also contended that the general work which that association has done in looking after the wives and families of soldiers and sailors of itself entitles them to representation on that Committee. The Government are quite willing to give due weight to that argument, and if it is desired that the original representation of two members on the Statutory Committee should be restored to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, we shall certainly take no exception to that course; but with this reservation, that this is not the only body which is honourably concerned in this matter. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association does the work which is implied by its name, but there are also a great many services which are rendered not to the wives and children of soldiers and sailors but to soldiers and sailors themselves. Those are represented in a kindred manner by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Help Society. In our view that society has precisely the same claim to be represented on the central body that the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association has, and therefore we shall be prepared and glad to place two representatives of that society also upon the central committee. The effect of that would be that the numbers of the Statutory Committee would be raised from twenty-five to twenty-nine. I do not think that is in itself an excessive number, and a reduction in the number could, in fact, only be brought about by reducing the membership of six representing the Royal Patriotic Fund. Those representatives, it may be taken as quite certain, will be of precisely the same character, the same class of person, as those who sit in the representation of the two societies I have named—that is to say, those who take a large and benevolent interest in this work. I should myself be sorry, therefore, to see the number of six representing the Royal Patriotic Fund reduced merely in order to reduce the total number of the Committee.
It was also forcibly argued on the former occasion that representation on the central Statutory Committee is all very well, but that what is also required is representation upon the local committees to be formed under the Bill. We have endeavoured to point out that this representation ought to be, and, as we believe, would be, secured when those committees were respectively appointed, but apparently that considera- 663 tion does not appear to have entirely impressed noble Lords who are specially interested in the societies. It would not, I think, be possible to provide that the societies as such should have a claim to be placed on particular local committees, if only for the reason that, as we have already explained and as is freely admitted by the representatives of the societies themselves, their operations are by no means universal. There are large parts of the country in which they have no direct representation. In those areas their particular work has to be performed—in friendly co-operation with them as a rule, I think—by the members of the Relief of Distress Committees formed directly under the Prince of Wales's Fund. It clearly would be very difficult to provide by name that this or that society should have a particular claim to have a certain membership on the various local committees, and as long as they are represented in fact I am bound to assume that that would meet the objections that have been raised to the Bill as it stands.
In order to meet this difficulty, we should be prepared, bearing in mind that the formation of the local committees depends upon the approval and agreement of the Statutory Committee—and that is a point which has been rather unfairly ignored, it being sometimes assumed that every small town council would form a local committee from among its own members of people uninterested in the work they would have to do, which seems to me hardly a reasonable proposition in view of the fact that the formation of the committees and the schemes which they have to prepare have to be approved by the Statutory Committee—we should be prepared to insert an Amendment in the Bill in some such words as these (I say nothing about the wording, but the sense, I think, will be clear and not difficult to understand), "In constituting the local committees regard should be had to the representation of societies or associations which have hitherto undertaken the duties prescribed by this Act." What I take it is important is not the representation of this or that society, however much one desires to recognise its merits and services. What is important is the presence on these bodies of the individuals who have done the work and are willing and competent to go on doing it. That surely must be the main consideration, and anything that can be done to secure that obviously ought to be done.
664 As we have said a hundred times, we have every desire to recognise the merits of the societies. The merits of the societies are the merits of the individuals, and if the individuals are continued that, I think, ought to meet every reasonable objection which can be taken to the Bill as it stands. And I should like to say that when I had the honour of receiving a deputation from the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association they most explicitly safeguarded themselves from its being supposed that there was any question of the amour proper of the society. What they felt concerned about was lest the actual individuals who really understood the work and had sympathy with those to be aided might be for one reason or another ousted from the possibility of continuing to employ those labours.
Then we come to a question which demands very close consideration, because the argument which was used on this point possesses a certain plausibility, as this particular argument almost always does—it is an argument which we have all used in our turn. It is this, "Why not stay and consider a little? What is the extraordinary hurry about this matter? Let us have a little time for deliberation." That is an argument which, as I say, in nine cases out of ten wears an appearance of plausibility. There is a kind of appeal to common sense about it which attracts everybody at first sight. I am bound to repeat that there are certain very definite objections to a postponement of this measure. The importance is great of setting in motion as soon as possible some part of the machinery which is included in the Bill. For example, until these pension committees are set up no supplementary pensions for disabled men can be paid at all. As we all know, there are a number of cases in which the ordinary pension rate has to be supplemented, and machinery for looking into those cases will not exist until these committees are formed.
It may be said—and this is an argument which it is important to deal with, because it may be used in connection with every one of these cases—Why not go on as you have been doing? The answer to that is, and it applies not only to this subject but to all the others, that you cannot go on as you have been doing. The War Office and the Admiralty respectively are not capable of promptly looking into and dealing with the particular cases with 665 which this Bill is framed to deal. That is the meaning of setting up these local committees. The War Office and the Admiralty both quite frankly admit that they are not able to undertake the work of managing entirely by themselves even that part of the subject covered by the Bill which is admittedly a public matter and for which the money has to come from public funds. Then, again, there is the case of widows and children. The pension rate there varies and will continue to vary according to the needs and the previous earnings or status of the soldier in respect of whom the pension has to be paid. A great many soldiers, as we know, are to be found in the ranks who have been earning considerable salaries as clerks or in some smell capacity. In those cases it is felt that the flat pension rate is not sufficient to keep the widow and children going in at all the circumstances of life in which they have been living. Those cases have to be looked into and specially judged. Again there is no machinery for undertaking that until these local committees have been setup.
Then there are cases of people who are ruled out altogether by the regulations as they stand, and for whom special provision has to be made. Take the case of a man who has been proved, although it had not been discovered, to have a weak heart, and who dies of heart disease after having enlisted and possibly gone on service. It cannot be proved that his death is in any way due to his having joined the Army; consequently no provision whatever exists for meeting his particular case. That is the class of case into which the pensions committee will have to look. Then again there is the case of disabled men and their training and finding means of employment for them. We have heard of the merits of the Chelsea Hospital Board, but even that body cannot deal with the case of disabled men unless local committees are established for the purpose. There are a number of local circumstances connected with the family, for instance, of the disabled man which there are no means of ascertaining without the appointment of such a body as this. We know, so far as pensions are concerned, that the National Relief Fund look upon that as being a national duty and not a matter for private benevolence, and they therefore do not provide money for that purpose.
We next come to the side of the subject with which the Soldiers' and Sailors' 666 Families Association is particularly concerned—namely, the question of separation allowances. Why is it, noble Lords ask, even admitting all that I have just said about these matters of pension and dis ablement, that separation allowances cannot be treated altogether separately, handed over to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, and managed entirely by them. In relation to that, although I have no doubt, if the Bill were hung up or thrown out, that for a certain time a considerable part of the activities of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association would continue, although not all, as I shall explain in a moment, yet there are these difficulties. The Prince of Wales's Fund, as I understand, quite independently of this Bill or of any question of its representation on the Statutory Committee or of promising to see the general separation allowances fund through, decided that after July 31 it would make no advances whatever on account of separation allowances. That, of course, is bound to place a number of individuals in a disadvantageous position—those cases which cannot be decided offhand, and where, therefore, it is impossible to advance any public money. There are bound to be a number of hard cases that the War Office cannot deal with for immediate and prompt payment, where hitherto the Soldiers' and Sailors Families Association have had the money advanced to them by the National Relief Fund for the purpose. There are always a number of new cases where the claim of the applicant, although probable, is not absolutely clear in the sense that would justify an advance of public money. In those cases the societies have taken the chance and have advanced the money. There are some cases—I fancy quite a substantial number of cases—in which there is more than one claim for a separation allowance. Those cases will have to be decided by the Statutory Committee after they have been locally examined. It is quite clear that the War Office as such, if it has to undertake these cases, cannot without the requisite local machinery make the necessary inquiries, and, of course, it cannot take the chance, which a charitable society is able to do, of advancing public money without the knowledge that it has really been earned or is being paid to the right person.
There is the further argument, which I need not labour again, that there is no guarantee that a time may not come when even for the payment of the general supple- 667 mentary allowances the funds of the National Relief Fund may run dry, and unless you have this machinery, and, what is more, if you keep the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association running on pari passu with your local committees, you will find yourselves, if that time comes, in a position of the gravest possible danger. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association will be there in certain places working actively but will have no money to work with. Those individuals cannot then be added to the local committees because the local committees will be complete, and you will have to have another Act of Parliament and another set of discussions as to the merits of the different societies and their claims to be represented on the local committees, with loss of time and an interregnum of a kind which one really does not altogether like to contemplate.
I cannot help asking, would it not be infinitely better if an arrangement could be come to now which would make it practically certain that the active and energetic representatives of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association and of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Help Association, and of any other bodies who have been engaged in this work should have a chance of continuing their work permanently, combining with it the pension work and the disablement work, and forming part of a body which would be set up now, and which would last not only till the end of the war, but for so long—and it will be a very long time—as this relief has to be given and these payments have to be made? I do beg your Lordships to consider very seriously whether it is worth while to imperil the passage of this Bill and the setting up of these statutory committees in order to secure a more nominal representation of these particular bodies either on the central or on the local committees, although, as I say, we are glad to put two of them explicitly on the central body. I have endeavoured to show why it is exceedingly difficult to put them all on as nominated members of the local committees, although I believe their presence there can be secured. I therefore appeal strongly to your Lordships to consider whether on those lines it is not possible to arrive at an arrangement which will ensure the practical working of this new and gigantic national work, and at the same time ensure that those who are best qualified to aid in it are not left out of the chance of taking the part which they are so well qualified to fill.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I have listened with great attention to the courteous speech which the noble Marquess has made on this important subject, and I agree with one thing which he said towards the conclusion of his remarks—that it would be of enormous importance if it were possible to make an arrangement now and let this Bill go through in some satisfactory form. But I am bound to say that so far as those interests for which I respectfully speak are concerned I thought the offers which were made, if I understood them rightly, in the course of the noble Marquess's speech were singularly inadequate to meet the difficulties with which we are faced. It is perfectly true that the objections to this Bill from various quarters of the House which were stated on Friday last ranged over a very wide field, and I do not suppose that any one of the speakers who took exception to the Bill itself would perhaps agree with the whole of the arguments that w ere used by the other speakers. Certainly in some respects some of the arguments that were used went further than I should be prepared to agree with. But on one main point I think the objections to this Bill are very strong, and that is that it does not make a sufficient distinction between those provisions which have to be made in a permanent way and those which are temporary in their character, and that is the point on which I feel personally most strongly that the treatment accorded to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association and to the other voluntary bodies is not reasonable or fair and is not in the public interest. I say that not for the sake of the associations themselves, but because I believe that by largely cutting out these voluntary associations from their active participation in this work you will be doing the greatest injury to those individuals over the country for whose benefit this Bill is professed to be introduced.
Let me clear away one argument which was used on Friday against the position which I occupy. It seemed to be suggested by one or more of the speakers on behalf of the Government that a continuance of the existing state of matters in any respect would give voluntary bodies control over funds provided by Parliament. That is not the case. If it were the case, it is not an argument which I should put forward because I should be against any such proposal. But when I say that this Bill does 669 not make a sufficient distinction between the provisions which are permanent and those which are temporary, I refer on the one side to such things as were mentioned by the noble Marquess—pensions to widows and orphans, and pensions to disabled soldiers. Those are all permanent, and, as the noble Marquess said most rightly on Friday, will go on in all probability longer than any of us care to contemplate. There is a great distinction between those things and temporary separation allowances, and I cannot see any real reason why the more or less present arrangement of managing these separation allowances should not be allowed to continue. I venture to press very strongly the importance of that distinction. The chief reason, in my opinion, for not doing away with this voluntary work is that I believe it to be more efficient in the interests of the individuals concerned than any statutory body which could be set up.
I venture to ask what real harm would take place if a short delay occurs before a permanent system is set up. The noble Marquess used some argument to show that great harm would take place, but I do not think there was anything material in it, because as I understand everything might go on exactly as it is. A communication has been sent to me by a member of the committee of the National Relief Fund to the effect that the noble Marquess is misinformed in saying that that Fund has refused to finance the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association after July 31. I am told that on the contrary—
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
What I said was that they had refused after July 31 to make particular advances in respect of certain payments. I did not say they had refused to finance the association.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I Should be the last person to wish to misrepresent the noble Marquess, but I understood that that was his argument, that these allowances which were being paid at the present time would not be drawn after July 31 from the National Relief Fund. The communication made to me is to the effect that there is to be a conference on the point on Wednesday, and it is confidently believed by my informant that if separation allowances were struck out of this Bill the National Relief Fund would have to go on with the policy which it has 670 pursued in the past until a settlement was come to. The offers, as I understand, made by the noble Marquess to pass this Bill at the present time were that representation of these voluntary associations should be put on the central Statutory Committee, and that some sort of moral claim will be inserted in the Bill for their continuance upon the local committees. I venture to say that that is entirely inadequate, and that it is contrary to the best interests of those chiefly concerned that the work of the voluntary associations should be interrupted in this way at this particular time. It does not even depend entirely en the question of money. It is a question of the help and advice and assistance which these voluntary associations and their members have been giving for eleven months to the people who are placed in the unfortunate position which we all know.
I cannot say offhand how universal the operations of these voluntary associations are, but their activities cover enormous tracts of the country. In the part of Scotland which I know best their operations are practically universal, and there they have been giving through all these months the most tactful consideration and help in cases of difficulty. I take the case of widows as an example. Many of those concerned are unable to cope with the difficulties with which they are met in official correspondence; there are strange and unexpected difficulties, which they cannot meet by argument. The agents of the voluntary associations, through their unpaid helpers, have given true sympathy and help in many difficulties. You may say what you like but a public body, whether it is appointed at the instance of the Government or of a local authority, will not be so tactful, and I know that in many cases strong feelings have been aroused by the neglect and delay both of those who represent the central Government and in some cases the old-age pension authorities. I have a letter in my hand which I received this morning from a lady who has given a great deal of attention to this work over a large district of Scotland. She uses these words—The Army pay officers, even after twelve months' experience, still cause endless delays in paying allowances. Their clerical work is still bad. They are continually losing important documents belonging to wives and dependants, such as birth, marriage, and other certificates, and had the poor victims of this carelessness no friends such as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association workers and helpers their case would 671 be a hard one. But thanks to the energy and voluntary labour of members of the association these claims are righted in time.My informant goes on to say that in some cases the difficulties which have occurred have injured recruiting. That, of course, is a matter of opinion, and I do not rely too much upon it. But what I do say is this, that a great deal of what we have heard about these poor women going to public-houses and drinking has arisen from this delay in payment, and from large sums being paid to them at one time, which makes them feel that they are very rich. It is not so much that they go and drink, but when their friends see that they have large sums of money they say, "Oh, now you are well off, you can afford to treat us." It is that class of thing which has brought a great deal of these payments into disrepute. I know that it is a small minority of these people who do these things, but it is by the voluntary associations advancing payments and taking the chance of recovering them that these evils, amongst others, are avoided. I am satisfied that if the Government persist in throwing out the work of these voluntary associations altogether they will make a grievous mistake. I venture to say that the least we could have at this time would be a complete separation in the Bill between what I have described as the permanent things and separation allowances. I repeat that no penny of public money will be at the disposal of any voluntary association, but it will be possible by keeping on the present state of things for a time to avoid many difficulties, much friction, and a great deal of discontent.
I am the last person to wish to put the Government in a difficulty, but I propose to move that this debate be further adjourned until after the recess. If the Government can give us any pledge that they will go a little further in the direction which some of us desire than the noble Marquess suggested in his opening remarks, I shall be the last to desire to press the Motion to a Division; but unless we get something more than has been promised to us in the noble Marquess's opening remarks I venture to say that. the dangers and risks of a week or two's delay at this time of the year will be infinitely less in the interests of those concerned than the total cutting adrift of the work of the voluntary associations. Supposing this Bill were to pass and to receive the Royal 672 Assent in the course of the present week. Do you think that you would get the local bodies over the country to meet at this time of the year and set up the local committees? I believe that you would be courting delay. The suggestion which I am making for a short adjournment would, I submit, do far less evil than the attempt to press the Bill in the form in which it is at present drafted upon the attention of Parliament. This cannot be put forward as a thoroughly considered scheme on the part of the Government. It is not what they introduced into another place. It was materially changed during the last stages of the Bill there; and to say in all the circumstances that the delay of a week or two would do real damage seems to me to put the case far too high.
§ Moved, That the debate be further adjourned until after the recess.—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, there is one correction I desire to make. I interrupted the noble Lord when he stated that I had said that the National Relief Fund had refused further to finance the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. As I endeavoured to point out, that was not the case. So far as I know they have never expressed any unwillingness to go on paying supplementary allowances so long as they have the funds for that purpose, but what they have quite definitely done is this—they have decided and announced that from July 31 next they will refuse to make any further advances in respect of payments presumed to be due by the Government but in respect of which delay for one reason or another has taken place. I confined my statement to that. I certainly never said that they had refused to finance the association.
My Lords, the question is not, I venture to think, whether we should consider so much the importance of one society or another, although it was a matter of congratulation to me and no doubt to other members of the House to hear the tributes that were paid to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. There is a wider point of view from which we have to look at this matter—namely, what is going to happen in the future. We have all been bombarded with requests for contributions to this and that new society as well as to existing institutions, 673 and it must be quite evident that the time is drawing close when there will be a great falling off in voluntary contributions and when, as the noble Marquess the Leader of the House said, no funds or inadequate funds will be available for the purposes we have in mind in connection with this Bill. It is recegnised by all that the Soldiers' and Sallors' Families Association has done a great and glorious work on behalf of our soldiers and sailors. At the same time one must not lose sight of the fact that it did this work chiefly during a time of peace. To its credit and to the credit of those noble ladies and gentlemen who have contributed towards its funds, the association has continued and extended its work during the present war. Great honour is due to them for what they have done. But, as I have said, the time will come when there generous subscriptions will not be forthcoming, and then what is to become of these pensions? How are we then to carry out the sacred pledge which has been given that these pensions and allowances shall be received by our wouaded soldiers and sailors or by their widows and orphans and other dependants? How are we going to carry out that pledge uniess some such Bill at this becomes law and the whole thing placed under State control and financed wit State money? I do not believe a successful continuance of these pensions possible unless they can be provided out of public money. If it is said that that is against the present ideas of economy, very well let it be so; but I am not aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has yet said that he is unable to find the means to provide these pensions and other allowances. If it should come to new taxes for the purpose I should personally welcome them, for to no better purpose could money obtained from the taxpayers of the country be put than to the provision of these pensions and allowance to our soldiers and sailors who have fought for their country.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, my remarks shall be brief for two reasons. One is that I have already spoken in this debate, and the other is that my noble friend Lord Balfour has so entirely represented my views that all I need say is that I agree with him. The noble Marquess answered some but not all the arguments that were brought against this Bill on Friday last when it was hammered to such 674 an extent that my noble friend Lard Lansdowne was constrained to say that he rather wished he was sitting here than On the other side of the House. There was one particular point brought out to which the noble Marquess has not alluded. Several speakers expressed a strong opinion that this new Statutory Committee should be made up of officials who were already in the Service, and that no new appointments should be made. That was in consequence of the very great desire expressed on all sides to effect every economy possible. I think we ought to have some sort of pledge given us on that point. I do not say that that would remove the objections to the passing of the Bill in its present form, but it is an important point to which attention should be drawn. At this time perhaps more than at any previous period this House has become a sort of haven of refuge for politicians who wish to examine each case on its merits as it comes up, and I think therefore a very strong moral obligation rests on the Government to do all in their power to meet the criticisms winch have been made. If the House agrees to the Motion to postpone the debate until after the recess I hope that the Government will seriously consider the matter, and be able to make greater concessions than those which have been already announced.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
My Lords, I think the noble Marquess the Leader of the House was a little misleading in confusing the question of pensions with that of separation allowances. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association have nothing to do with separation allowances. That is settled by the War Office. What the association does in each case is this. Where the wife of the soldier lives in an expensive neighbourhood and the ordinary separation allowance is not considered adequate, they make it good out of their funds. I cannot for the life of me see why any objection should be taken to the reasonable and sensible suggestion brought forward by Lord Balfour, that in any Bill of this kind you should make a definite distinction between those matters which are permanent and those which may be said to be temporary. At this particular period, on the eve as it were of a Parliamentary recess—for how long a period we do not know—and at a time when people in the various parts of the country are going 675 away on holiday and when it would be very difficult to get these matters settled, what objection is there against the existing arrangement continuing for the present? We have not heard a single reason why the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association should not be allowed to carry on this work. On the contrary, everybody has admitted that the work has been clone with discretion and tact, and with a great deal of sympathy towards the men concerned and their relatives and dependants.
We have heard a great deal in speeches from public men about economy. Are we likely to get economy from the principle which is proposed in this Bill? Under this Bill there are to be set up local committees which are practically to make recommendations for the expenditure of public money, not one penny of which will they pay in any form or kind of rates. I look upon that as a most dangerous condition of things. Under the system of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association claims are considered carefully without undue pressure, without any member of the committee wishing to do a popular thing, and each case is decided on its merits. But if you substitute for that voluntary system a body such as a borough council you will find that these local authorities will all be anxious to spend money. Nothing is so easy or pleasant as to be generous at the expense of public money, and at the present moment there is nothing which we ought to put our face more strongly against than that. That to my mind is one of the most serious objections to this Bill.
I must also confess that I listened with some concern to the remarks that were made about raids on the Prince of Wales's Fund. I happen to be chairman of the relief committee for my county, and it is quite true to say that at the present moment, owing to the artificial employment which the war produces, we have very little distress in the county of Hampshire. Yet I wish it to be clearly understood that I am as certain as I am standing here that after the war we shall have to confront very serious and very grave distress of all kinds, and I do not think that the money that the public have given for the relief of civil distress ought to be used for purposes which I am afraid I agree with my noble friend Lord Devonport ought to be met by the Government themselves. If they are afraid that these voluntary associations 676 will not be able to maintain their duties, then they should put into the Bill some recognition that the Government are going to vote public money. That to my mind strikes at the root of the objections to this Bill. We are completely at sea about this Bill, because while no one in this House would support the view that public money should be spent without public control there is not a single penny of public money in this Bill. All we are asked to do at the present moment is to consider how we can take funds raised by voluntary subscriptions out of the hands of the voluntary associations who have done extremely well and place them under Government control. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association have administered their large funds at an expense that has not amounted to more than 1½per cent. I am perfectly certain that if the Statutory Committee with which we are threatened is set up, with another public official with a large salary and a large staff of Government employees, you will find that this will be another very heavy charge on the country, and another proof that although the Government are always talking about economy they never practise it.
§ LORD STRACHIE
My Lords, may I intervene for a few moments as one who has been chairman for some years of the Chelsea Hospital Commissioners. As far as I understand it, the object of this Bill is to set up an entirely new body. Unfortunately I was unable to be here on Friday, but my noble friend behind me (Lord Midleton) is reported to have said that it seemed to him desirable to consider whether the Board of Chelsea Hospital might not be brought into this case. Having been chairman of that body for three years and having taken part in their deliberations I know something about the important work they have done in regard to pensions. But in reply to the noble Viscount Lord Lansdowne said that the suggestion was a reactionary one. He said that the Chelsea Board was only concerned with the Army and not with women and did not contain a single lay representative. As a matter of fact, it contains a great many laymen as Commissioners. For instance, there is the Paymaster-General. I was Paymaster-General myself. My noble friend Lord Newton at present holds that office. He is no more a soldier than I am. Then the 677 Secretary of State for War as a rule is a layman. It so happens that we have a distinguished and gallant Field-Marshal as Secretary of State for War just now, but that is a precedent hardly likely to be Followed. In the future we shall go back, no doubt, to the old state of things. Then there are the political Under-Secretary and the Permanent Under-Secretary, both ex officio members of the Chelsea Board. Again we have the Financial Under-Secretary, always a member of the House of Commons, who is an ex officio member of that body; and the Treasury have the right if they think fit—sometimes they exercise that right and sometimes they do not—to appoint another layman in the person of a Junior Lord of the Treasury. So that instead of being a body consisting of distinguished soldiers only, the Board of Chelsea Hospital consists largely of civilians; and the chairman for the time being as a rule is a civilian, because it is rare indeed that the. Paymaster-General is a soldier. That disposes of the argument of the noble Marquess that this is a body which by its constitution is not entitled to deal with pensions to be given in the ease of women and children as well as in the case of soldiers.
Another argument was that the Board of Chelsea Hospital would not be able to deal with the present condition of things arising out of this war. But on May 5 this year there was a Royal Warrant issued to the Chelsea Commissioners authorising them to make further provision as to the pensions of disabled soldiers and giving them power to supplement those pensions so as to make the pension of the man what he was able to earn in his district, and also to make provision for granting allowances to the children of soldier. It is quite true that there is no provision regarding pensions to wives and children, but it is possible to issue another Royal Warrant to meet that case.
This Bill deals solely with matters arising out of the war. I understand that the Government have determined to set up an antirely new body, of which the chairman or vice-chairman is to have a salary—no doubt a large salary. In these days, whatever our views in the past were, every one leek that we ought to be on the side of cutting down salaries and officials. It seems to me that there is no need at all for constituting this new body, which must mean a very heavy expenditure. I notice 678 that the twenty-five members of this new body are to be increased to twenty-nine, and probably we shall get three dozen before we are done with the Bill. Not only are their travelling expenses to be paid, but there are to be allowances of one kind and another, and we know that when bodies of this sort are up there is heavy expenditure for offices and clerks and everything of that kind. When there is such an excellent body as the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital I do not see why it should not be used. No doubt it would be necessary to extend its powers and increase the staff there, but that would be far preferable to setting up another body. On that ground if on no other I shall support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, that the Bill should be put oft for a month; and during that time the Government can consider whether the Chelsea Hospital Commissioners might not be used for this purpose instead of setting up a new and expensive body.
§ LORD SOUTHWARK
My Lords, if I am not out of order I should like to supplement the remarks I made on Friday last with regard to the Board of Chelsea Hospital because Lord Lansdowne, in answer to Lord Camperdown and myself, said shat the suggestion with regard to utilising that Board was a reactionary suggestion. I wish to confirm all that has been said by my noble friend Lord Strachie. For nearly five years I had the honour, as I told the House on Friday, of presiding over the Chelsea Board, and I cannot conceive a better foundation for a new pensioning authority than that body. The Chelsea Hospital Commissioners are in possession of every detail with regard to the soldier from the time he enters the Army until he leaves it, so that they have the foundation of doing justice in all these eases. If this matter is to be adjourned, I suggest to His Majesty's Government most earnestly that they should consider the question of using the Chelsea Hospital Commissioners. That body could be developed; you could add to its numbers and give it increased powers, and if you did that I am sure you could not have a better central body than the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital.
§ EARL FERRERS
My Lords, I rise to call attention to one weakness in this Bill which by itself would, in my opinion, be a sufficient ground for reconsideration. The 679 bulk of the work of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association has been concerned with delayed payments. The work of the paymasters' offices has been most congested. Separation allowances have not been coming through, and they still do not come through. On Friday last in one single office in London there were at least a dozen seriously delayed payments, going back to May and even to December, and the families of those men were getting nothing. There is no machinery whatever in this Bill for dealing promptly with these deferred payments. If your Lordships will look at Clause 4 dealing with the functions of the local committee van will see that the local committee can make no grant whatever on their own authority; it can only be done by referring to the Statutory Committee, and then the matter comes back again to the local committee. Thus you get tangled up with a mass of officialism which must mean delay. A body like the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association can deal promptly with this matter, and unless the Bill is so amended as to admit of prompt dealing by some local committee which understands the business and can act at once this very serious difficulty of leaving the families of soldiers and sailors who have recently enlisted without supplies for six or seven or eight weeks is continued. Therefore the Bill ought to be reconsidered on this point if on no other.
§ EARL ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, before my noble friend replies on tins debate, I would venture to add my hope to that already expressed by so many of your Lordships that time will be given for the further consideration of this Bill. I am sure that there is the strongest feeling in your Lordships' House in regard to the work done by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association and the Soldiers' and Sailors' Help Society in the past, and there is every desire to continue that work in the future. The noble Marquess who leads the House has made some concessions on that matter, and for that I think we may be grateful to him. But there is a further point which has been pressed on your Lordships by my noble friend Lord Portsmouth and my noble friend Lord Strachie which surely is of great importance. That is that this Bill provides for the formation of an entirely new department entailing considerable expenditure over which in the Bill there is absolutely no check at all. The chairman or vice-chairman, who will be 680 some one, I presume, not already in the Civil Service, is to have a salary, and there is a clause providing that this Statutory Committee of twenty-five gentlemen, perfectly independent, are to be allowed to appoint as many clerks and secretaries, and the rest of it, as they choose and to establish a scheme of pensions for them. There is net even the usual check of Treasury sanction as to the amount to be expended in this matter. Surely that is a testimony that at any rate from the point of view of public expenditure this Bill has not received the consideration which it deserves. If postponement should result in the delay of a few weeks before the new scheme can come into operation I think that time might be well spent by His Majesty's Government in considering whether they cannot act on the suggestion made to them to-night and utilise the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital as the foundation of a body to deal with this matter. That, I think, would be an infinitely more economic system than the proposal in this Bill. At any rate delay will enable them to consider further that matter, I hope to the public advantage.
My Lords. I am afraid I cannot follow my noble friend in his Motion for the further adjournment of this debate. It seems to me [...]ab clutely essential that a public body should be set up as early as possible to deal with the matters which are to be deals with by the local committees. I thought I heard the noble Earl who has just sat down say something about pensions.
§ EARL ST. ALDWYN
At the top of page 3—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.
Because the Statutory Committee have nothing whatever to do with the pensions of soldiers and sailors except under paragraph (a) of Clause 3, where they may be called in upon a question of fact by, we will say, the Chelsea Hospital Board, and I should say it would be a great advantage to the Commissioners at Chelsea if they had some local bodies to whom to refer on a question of fact, upon which the amount of a pension or grant out of the fund might depend. The Board at Chelsea, as at present constituted, has very little opportunity or means of ascertaining for itself what are the contingent circumstances of any pensioner or his wife and child, and I should think it would be rat rather an advantage to them to have some local body to whom to refer. Or the central authority may have to deal with cases arising under paragraph (e), where it becomes a question whether any supplementary grant is to become forfeited. There, again, I think advice from a local body would be of great use. Otherwise, under paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) they are purely supplementary moneys and nothing whatever to do with public moneys.
I understand that my noble friend Lord Balfour is anxious for an adjournment for the length of the recess in order that the part of the Bill which deals with moneys other than public moneys may be eliminated. If you eliminate from the Bill the expenditure of moneys other than public moneys I do not see what remains for the public body to do, because it is with the moneys other than public moneys that this body has to deal. Unquestionably in the cases of wives and children, and possibly of dependants, which are mainly the cases with which this body would deal, it is very important that there should be a public authority, and having regard to the way in which local authorities of late years have carried out the extra public duties that have been thrown upon them I think they may be regarded as trustworthy bodies in a matter of this kind. I do not think it was reasonable to suggest that they would not be sympathetic. I am rather inclined to agree with my noble friend behind me (Lord Portsmouth) that they will, perhaps, be too sympathetic. But whether they are going to be sympathetic or unsympathetic I think that local inquiry and local advice sent up to the Statutory Committee will be of very great advantage to that body.
682 My noble friend Lord Balfour seemed to think that somebody or other was about to take a holiday. I have not come across that individual myself yet. I am perfectly certain that the local bodies in the country are not going to get any holiday. They have the registration work to carry out and they will all be there, and I am confident that they will be willing to do the extra work thrown upon them in forming the local committees. My noble friend behind me and several other noble Lords have argued as if the admirable eleemosynary work of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association is going to be terminated by the formation of this Statutory Committee. I do not see why that should follow. After the South African War the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association went on to some extent assisting families of soldiers and sailors who were still in want out of moneys which had come into their hands during the war, and which they were quite entitled to spend in this way although the war had ended. I do not think that charity will cease when this war is over, and I believe that the Soldiers and Sailors' Families Association will be still able to collect funds for charitable work, and will be able to do and will do a lot of good work outside of anything that may be asked of them by the Statutory Committee. My noble friend behind me objected to the local committees because they would be actuated rather by charitable feelings than by considerations for the taxpayer and would have the power of disbursing public funds. They will have no such power. The funds will be sent down to them by the Statutory Committee for distribution. Their functions are to advise merely, and the practice will be set up by the central Statutory Committee.
But that is voluntary, It is not public money. It is voluntary money which they themselves collect in the neighbourhood, just the same as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association do now. I have the greatest admiration for the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, and at the beginning of the war I felt a good deal of indignation that more trust was not put in that association by those who started the Prince of Wales's Fund. I think the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association might have been used 683 to a much greater extent at the commencement of the war. The great value of that association was shown in the confidence that has been expressed in it in the debates that have taken place, and by the assurance of the noble Marquess opposite that he is quite willing to put two representatives of that body on to the Statutory Committee.
The Motion before us is for the adjournment of the debate, but I confess I do not see that it is impossible for us now to deal with this Bill in Committee. Amendments could be moved to carry out the suggestions that have been made, and I should have thought that it was quite possible o provide for the necessary safeguards—sueh a Treasury sanction, for instance, which was so forcibly put by the noble Earl on the Front Opposition Bench—by Amendments. To defer this Bill for an indefinite time is not advisable on more than one ground. I think it is desirable that the whole of this matter should be dealt with as quickly as possible. In my opinion it is absolutely essential that there should be a public body to deal with these cases. On those grounds I would prefer that the debate should not be adjourned, but that we should go into Committee forthwith on the Bill.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the question before your Lordships is whether you will allow the Bill to be read a second time this evening, and I venture very earnestly to entreat you to think twice before you decide that this debate shall be once more adjourned. No one during the course of these long discussions has been found to say that legislation on this subject and on these broad lines is not called for. The evidence that this is so seems to me overwhelming. You have the evidence that was taken before the two Committees which have dealt with these matters—the House of Commons Committee, and the Committee presided over by Sir George Murray. There was a long debate in the House of Commons, during the course of which the Bill was no doubt severely criticised in detail, but during which, so far as I am aware, not a word was urged against the broad outlines of the measure. And what seems to me a little remarkable is that the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, a body which has been so often mentioned in this debate, has itself in a lately published 684 leaflet proclaimed its view that a Bill of this sort is desirable. Here are the words—It is recognised that legislation was inevitable. There can be on doubt that in order to widen the basis of operations occasioned by naval and military developments it was necessary to instal a central authority under Government control empowered to assist, regulate, and disburse the ever-increasing volume of money payments. The Committee therefore desire to make it quite clear that they offer no objection to the Bill itself.That testimony from the body which is supposed to have been so ill-used by this measure is, I think, worthy of your consideration; and I noticed with satisfaction that in the course of a critical speech my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, unless I misunderstood him, recorded his own opinion that it would be desirable, if these points of detail could be settled, that this measure should not be delayed at any rate at this stage.
What I want to ask the House is this. Admitting that the Bill may be open to criticism, is it so bad that you are going to lay it on one side for an indefinite period, a period as to the length of which I shall say a word in a moment? Do your Lordships realise the extent to which, if you adopt this course, you are likely to bring to a standstill the whole of the machinery which is so urgently required in order to give effect to what I believe to be the policy universally approved by the people of this country? My noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh spoke of a delay of a week or two, but the adjournment of this debate until after the vacation means a great deal more than laying aside the Bill for a week or two. I am told—I do not know that any announcement has yet been made—that the other House of Parliament is to adjourn for a period of about six weeks. Now whatever your Lordships' House does, even if you were to adjourn for a shorter time, it is quite clear that should you insert Amendments in the Bill its further progress will not be possible until the House of Commons has had an opportunity of dealing with your Amendments. Therefore the adjournment of this debate really means that this Bill is to be laid aside for a period of six or seven weeks, or perhaps longer. During that time, as my noble friend behind me (Lord Crewe) has told the House, there will be no provision available for supplementing the pensions of widows, orphans, and disabled men. We all know that the flat rate which these un- 685 fortunate people will be entitled to receive, although a liberally conceived rate, is wholly inadequate in many cases to supply the real necessities of the recipients. There will be no machinery for giving effect to the policy laid clown in the Report of Sir George Murray's Committee. Nothing can be done for training and otherwise assisting disabled soldiers and sailors to earn their livelihood. As any noble friend pointed out, owing to the decision of the authorities of the National Relief Fund no advances will be made on account of separation allowances after the end of the present month, and it is surely obvious that in the absence of these advances very great difficulty will be experienced by the War Office in dealing with these cases. There are other points at which the pressure will be felt, but I hope I have said enough to show what serious inconvenience the indefinite postponement of this legislation is likely to occasion.
The noble Lord opposite (Lord Strachie) and the noble Lord behind me (Lord Southwark) expressed their strong preference for the Chelsea Board as compared with the Statutory Committee which would be set up under this Bill. I remain of opinion that, as compared with the Committee which will be set up under the Bill, the Chelsea Board would be a very inadequate agency for dealing with these matters; and I call the attention of the House to this, that neither of the two Committees to which I have just referred thought of suggesting that the Chelsea Board should be made use of for the purposes of this Bill. My noble friend Lord Midleton, who in all things has very properly an eye to economy, dwelt the other evening upon the extravagance of the arrangements proposed under the Bill. But does any one suppose that if we were to adopt the Chelsea Board we should escape from the necessity of creating a considerable staff? I see that the Royal Hospital at this moment has only three staff clerks, one minor staff clerk, and five clerks of the second division—
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
But does any one suppose that that staff or a anything like it would be sufficient for the work that will have to be done under this Bill. It is idle to suppose anything of the kind. My noble friend Lord 686 Midleton was anxious that we should secure that this new Department—for it will be a new Department—should be to a great extent staffed from officials not fully employed at the present time. I do not know what information he has upon that subject, but I am certainly not under the impression that at this moment there are a great many idle or unemployed Government officials or ex-officials. Every one that one meets or hears of seems to be at this moment fully employed in one fashion or another in helping the Government. But if my noble friend has that view, let him draft an Amendment. I do not think it would be a very easy one to draft. Let him draft an Amendment and bring it up in Committee and let us see whether we can make anything of his proposal. Then we are told that this new Department will be entirely beyond the control of the Treasury. I was under the impression, when we inserted in the Bill a clause under which the salary of the chairman or vice-chairman is to be paid out of public funds, that that in itself gave the House of Commons an opportunity of discussing the vote for this Statutory Committee and of criticising any details that it might feel called upon to criticise. At any rate, by all means let us so far as we can make it perfectly clear that the new Department and everything that concerns it is to be subject to the closest possible financial criticism.
After all, the gravamen of the complaint against this Bill is that we have put an undeserved slight upon the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. That slight apparently consisted in two things. In the first place, that having provided that the association should have representatives on the Statutory Committee the clause was amended and the two representatives struck out. The history of that decision has been given, and my noble friend has told the House that we are prepared to restore the two representatives of the association to their place on the Statutory Committee. That, I think, is a very important concession to the friends of the association. It at once gives them a locus standi upon the Statutory Committee, and it will enable them to see to it that the claims of the association are not ignored; because, my Lords, it cannot be too much borne in mind that the Statutory Committee is responsible for the manner in which these local committees are to be composed. As I 687 ventured to say the other evening it seems to me inconceivable, still more inconceivable if the association has representatives on the central body, that the claims of the ladies and gentlemen who have been working so hard and so successfully for the association should be ignored when it comes to setting up these local bodies. But we are prepared to go further than that. We are prepared to put words into the Bill which shall make it perfectly clear that, in the view of Parliament, the association's local committees where they are active and efficient should have representation in the ranks of the new local committees. My noble friend gave words to the House just now, but whether his words are taken or others substituted we are prepared to amend the Bill in that respect, and the actual form of the Amendment will, of course, be a fair subject for discussion.
The other suggestion which has been made to us—it is one which I confess attracted me at first—was that we should take separation allowances out of the Bill altogether. It is perfectly true, as my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh told the House just now, that there is this difference between separation allowances and these grants and pensions that separation allowances are temporary allowances which will after a time cease to be granted, whereas the others will last into a future the duration of which we are quite unable to foresee. That is quite true; but you have to look at the other side of the case, and I am deeply convinced that there would be a real and practical difficulty in arranging that the pensions and grants and so forth should be dealt with as we propose to deal with them under this Bill by new local committees, and that the separation allowances should continue to be dealt with by the present committees of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. What would that mean? Would it not mean that you would have working side by side in the same areas two bodies dealing with the same people, at any rate the same sort of people, and perhaps containing the same individuals, because if our hopes are realised the most efficient members of these Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association committees will find their way on the new local committees, so that you will have the old committees shorn of their best and most active members working side by side in the same place with the new committees which are set up under this Bill, and competing with them for public support. I 688 cannot conceive an arrangement more likely to lead to confusion and overlapping. Quite apart from that, what we have to remember is that the organisation of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association by no means covers the whole country. There are many places where these committees do not exist at all, so that here again you would have a body of one kind working in one part of the country and a body of another kind working alongside of it in another.
Then there is the further objection, which has been urged more than once in these debates, that there is a reluctance—and it seems to me a not unnatural reluctance—to entrust these self-constituted committees of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association with the disbursements of money which must in the end, to a great extent at any rate, come from public sources. I will tell the House why I say this. It is possible that the National Relief Fund may, after all, and in spite of what it has said, come to the rescue of these committees. It is possible. We have no guarantee for it, and I do not see how we can expect one. But apart from that, what resources has the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association to dispose of? The association has no assured means of its own. Let me state to the House the account which was given by the secretary of the association when he was examined before the House of Commons Committee. He was asked this question, "You said you had only now funds from the Prince of Wales's Fund?" and he answered "Yes." "But you are an organisation in receipt of considerable voluntary subscriptions in ordinary times, are von not?" he was asked. "Yes," he replied, "I have brought my last report here; roughly our tincome—that is the last figure I have got—was about £11,000 or £12,000." The member of the Committee who was examining the witness said, "That would not go very far?" The witness replied, "No, it would be no good for war purposes. It enables us to carry on in times of peace." I think that shows conclusively that the normal private income, so to speak, of the association is not sufficiently large or sufficiently assured to give any certainty that it will be financially self-supporting.
What the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association really ask for—and I think we ought to bear this in mind, because every speaker during this debate has spoken of the claims of the association upon our 689 consideration—is this. It is in the same leaflet front which I have already quoted. They say—We are strongly of opinion that this association which occupies, as we have noted, an exceptional position, should secure statutory representation on the local committeesThat is their demand. What I hope we shall give them under this Bill is the statutory representation on the local committees which they are so anxious to have, and in my view it will be much better for them and much better for their clients that they should be represented in that way than that we should allow them to drag on a moribund existence working side by side with these other local committees and dealing only with a fragment of the general work.
I venture to sum up what I have to say by imploring your Lordships to allow this Bill to be read a second time. I honestly believe that there is nothing to be gained by shunting the Bill for an indefinite period of time, and I can assure your Lordships that if you will read the Bill a second time and allow the House to address itself to the task of dealing with it in Committee we shall do our best to meet any reasonable demands and criticisms which may proceed from the other side.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, I am quite sure that the noble Marquess would not consider it a compliment if we allowed the debate to close after his powerful speech without some attempt to make good the position which has been taken up, and I am sure also that every one on this side of the House would in a matter of this kind far rather find himself deferring to the noble Marquess's judgment than differing from him. But I think I have the right to ask my noble friend whether in the course of his long experience of this House he has ever gone through such an ordeal as he did on Friday last or heard a Bill more condemned front every quarter of the House by independent members speaking without the least collusion with each other? He playfully said that he wished he was back on this side of House, and none of us wondered at it. I only regret that my noble friend List Harris, who spoke so forcibly just now, was not present on that occasion, because the debate to-day, which has been only a continuation, has not attempted to cover the whole of the case which is made against the Bill.
690 I feel convinced that if the noble Marquess had had to draw this Bill in the first instance and had not had merely to second the presentment of a Bill already made in another place, those of whom he and Lord Crewe have spoken so feelingly—namely, the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association—would have had something more than an academic recognition of their labours, and would have got something in the Bill which would be a little more than what my noble friend Lord Balfour called a "moral recognition" of their right to continue service. No amount of rhetoric can hide the fact that this association, which has been doing at least half of the work which is contained in the Bill, is at best, under the concession adumbrated by Lord Crewe, to get two representatives out of the twenty-five on this new body. That, I suggest, must involve a great change not only in the prestige of their work but in the personnel who will be employed upon it.
So much has been said that I apologise for adding a single fact which has been brought to my notice since our last debate. A lady who has been working in the East End came to me and said, "Is it supposed that the local body or any public body can deal with the cases of these women?" She said, "Only last night I had a telegram from a man who was going back to the Front to-morrow—Sunday morning—whose wife and children I have been looking after. She was confined the day before; she had died; there were two other children besides the baby." The man telegraphed to this lady, "Will you send at once and take charge of my children?" and she made arrangements for them within two or three hours. How can any one expect that, a local council can establish, unless they rely on the same organisation, this self-denying system on which the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association have worked during the last eleven months?
The noble Marquess did not touch upon all the questions which were brought forward last Friday. He said very little about the unwieldy nature of this Patriotic Fund Committee. I would ask, when we are told that it is necessary to put these matters into public hands, did any one ever hear of an expenditure of several millions annually of public money being put into the hands of a committee of twenty-five persons? It certainly would seem an unreasonably unwieldy body for 691 such a purpose. My noble friend spoke in answer to some very strong observations by Lord Portsmouth and by my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn with regard to the necessity, if it exists, of setting up new civil officials. Lord Lansdowne thought that the present civil workers of the Crown would be found to be fully worked. On that I venture to make two points. The first is that our contention—and I hope that the Committee over which Mr. McKenna is to preside will give effect to it—is that in the Government service at this moment there is much work which need not be undertaken, which is forced on officials, and by reducing the work you might reduce the workers and set them free for other employment. All the annotating and so on, and the sheaves of letters sent to one man about a single point—all this might be cut away. I am afraid I must refer again to the statement made by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer three months ago that 97 per cent. of the work of land valuation was now accomplished. Yet there are still 600 permanent officials in the Land Valuation Office. I ask, Can they be fully employed?
My noble friend spoke of the urgency of this matter. The Committee reported to the House of Commons on April 14. Is there any reason why the Bill should have been delayed for three months, and should then become of such urgency that it has to be discussed and disposed of by Parliament in less than three weeks? It seems to me that unless we have the clearest proof that this is the only Bill which will meet the case we have strong ground for urging that some reasonable delay should be allowed. Surely if my noble friend
§ opposite calls upon us to show cause why we should put off the settlement of the question for as long as four or six weeks, is not the very fact I have stated our justification? After so many faults have been found in the Bill, would it he wise to go into Committee in a few hours, which we must do if we are not to put the Bill off until after the recess? I really think, with the strong feeling which exists outside, that your Lordships have a fair right to due time for discussion.
§ The noble Marquess who leads the House spoke in the same sentence of hanging up the Bill and rejecting the Bill, as if they were one and the same thing. In the Motion of my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh there is no wish to reject the Bill. We earnestly desire to recast the Bill. We desire to divide what is temporary from what is permanent. We desire to maintain the voluntary system of workers, and not to flood it out by the official system; and we desire that the Government should have an opportunity, which it is quite obvious they have not been able to have since the great change made in the House of Commons a week ago, of considering how to fit the Bill, which has lost its whole foundation of finance, into the new position. On those grounds if my noble friend goes to a Division on his Motion for the adjournment of the debate for from four to six weeks I shall support him.
§ On Question, Whether the debate on the Motion for the Second Reading be further adjourned until after the recess?—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 44; Not-Contents, 31.693
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Rutland, D||Knutsford, V.||Latymer, L.|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Peel, V. [Teller].||Leconfield, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Balfour, L. [Teller].||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Cromer, E.||Barrymore, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||St. Audries, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Charnwood, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Cheylesmore, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Lichfield, E.||Clonbrock, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Cozens-Hardy, L.||Strachie, E.|
|Northbrook, E.||De Mauley, E.||Sudeley, L,|
|Portsmouth, E.||Devonport, L.||Sydenham, L.|
|St. Aldwyn, E.||Glenconner, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Kinnaird, L.||Welby, L.|
|Buckmaster, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Lytton, E.||Harris, L.|
|Crewe, M.(L. President.)||Plymouth, E.||Haversham, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, E.(L. Priry Seal.)||Selborne, E.||Hylton, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Muir-Mackenzie, L.|
|Devonshire, D. [Teller.]||Knollys, V.||Newton, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Reading, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Colchester, L.||Rotherham, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M.||Colebrooke, L.||Southwark, L.|
|D'Abernon, L.||Stanmore, L.[Teller.]|
|Amherst, E.||Emmott, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Grimthorpe, L.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and debate adjourned accordingly.