HL Deb 29 March 1916 vol 21 cc535-59


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill, to which I ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading this afternoon, is a short and comparatively simple measure consisting of two clauses. The first clause provides that towards meeting the expenses of the Statutory Committee constituted under the Naval and Military War Pensions, &c., Act, 1915, there shall be charged on and issued out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom or the growing produce thereof in the year ending March 31, 1916, the sum of £1,000,000, and that the said sum shall form part of the funds at the disposal of the Statutory Committee, and, so far as not immediately required, may be invested by the Committee in such manner as the Treasury direct. Under the second clause the council of any county or borough or urban district for whose area a local committee has been established under the principal Act—that is, the Naval and Military War Pensions Act of last year—may make such payments as they think fit towards the administrative expenses of any such local committee and of any district committee appointed under that Act in their area.

Although the Bill is short and, as I think I am justified in adding, simple in character, it would not be respectful to your Lordships, after the large share which you took in framing the principal Act of last year, if I did not venture to offer a few observations as regards the scope of the present measure. As your Lordships well know, in the first instance Parliament decided that the basis of the system for pensions for widows of non-commissioned officers and men should be what is called a flat rate. Whatever the pre-war circumstances of the deceased soldier or sailor, as the ease might be, it was decided that a pension of 10s. a week should be allotted to the widow until she was thirty-five when an extra 2s. 6d. a week was added, making 12s. 6d. a week, and at forty-five a further 2s. 6d., making in all 15s. But once the basis of the flat rate had been adopted it became evident to all interested in this matter that there must be many cases of great hardship unless some supplementary grant or supplementary pension could be provided for the relief of widows who previous to the war had been in better circumstances, and it was the view of Parliament and of the country that cases of exceptional hardship should be met beyond the flat rate. I do not think that your Lordships will expect me to labour this point, for it was discussed at great. length in both Houses of Parliament during the debates on the principal Act last year.

After the Bill of last year had been placed on the Statute Book it was obvious that the Statutory Committee of the Patriotic Fund, which had been set up as the main authority for the grant of supplementary pensions, should be financed. Your Lordships remember that there was no provision in the Act of last year for financing the Statutory Committee. Assurances were given both in this House and in another place by members of His Majesty's Government that a Bill would be introduced at the earliest possible opportunity to arrange for the financing of that Committee. The Bill now before your Lordships has been brought in to fulfil the pledges then given; and, as I have said, under Clause 1 Parliament is invited to make a grant of £1,000,000 as part of the fund at the disposal of the Statutory Committee.

Your Lordships may naturally ask—the question has been put in another place—by what method of calculation the estimate of £1,000,000 has been arrived at; and I can only repeat what was said in another place that an extraordinary, nay an insuperable, difficulty exists at this moment in making even a rough estimate of what sum will eventually be required to finance the Statutory Committee. I need not take up time by repeating such observations as that this tremendous war is still raging and that it would be futile for anybody to attempt to predict when peace is likely to be signed. But it does make it extremely difficult, to form even an approximate estimate of the sums that will be eventually required to finance the operations of the Statutory Committee. There are certain figures at the disposal of the Government which I can give to your Lordships' House—they were given a few days since in another place—with a view of in some measure indicating on what basis this sum of £1,000,000 has been suggested as a grant under this Bill. The total number of widows of non-commissoned officers and men reported by the Army Council up to March 1 last, is 41,500. Of those 23,106 are actually in receipt of pensions, and 18,394 are receiving the separation allowances which, as your Lordships know, are continued to widows for a period of twenty-six weeks after the notification of the death of their husbands so as to give time to look into all the circumstances. There are in addition 4,180 naval widows who have received pensions, and 420 are receiving separation allowances.

The Statutory Committee, I am given to understand, have arrived at the conclusion, after much debate but I believe unanimously, to endeavour to make up the income of widows who have children dependent on them to two-thirds of their pre-war income, drawing the line at £2 a week—that to say, they feel that it would be impossible for the State to give a higher income to a widow than £2 a week. All pre-war incomes of widows, therefore, will have to be written down to £3 a week. Even then these pensions will be treading very closely on the heels of the pensions given to the widows of officers of the lower grades. It is hoped by the Statutory Committee that they will be able, in addition, to give in the case of continued ill-health certain additional help, and they are also sanguine that they will be able to offer certain advantages with regard to the education of children in addition to these pensions. I ought to say that, besides widows and orphans, there are at this moment about 50,000 dependants of soldiers and sailors who are receiving separation allowances. Further, there are 30,255 men who are receiving Chelsea Hospital pensions and grants for partial or total disablement. Of these, final pensions have been granted to 5,470; provisional pensions have been given to 1,356; and 23,429 conditional pensions have been granted which will have to come up at a future date for review.

After what I have said I think your Lordships will be inclined to agree that this sum of £1,000,000 must be looked upon as what it is the fashion nowadays to call merely a token vote. Mr. Haves Fisher, who was in charge of this Bill in another place, used these words— We all think this is not the last million that the State will give or asked to give for such a purpose. He added that it must be looked upon in the nature of an experimental Bill, and that it was even possible that the organisation of the Statutory Committee as settled under the Act of last year might. ultimately prove to have been experimental only. But what I am surely our Lordships will agree to is the fact that some grant to finance the Act of last year is urgently required. This is really a truism, for the Prince of Wales's Fund has fixed June 30 next, only three months from now, as the date beyond which it will not be responsible for helping to finance separation allowances and grants to widows and families of soldiers and sailors. The Prince of Wales's Fund has already advanced for these objects no less than £3,000,000, and in that connection I may perhaps he allowed to say that your Lordships' House will feel unanimously with the country that a deep debt of gratitude is due to the illustrious Prince, not only for gallantly serving his country at the Front, but for having previously given the weight of his name to this Fund which has been the means of relieving hundreds of thousands of deserving and necessitous cases which at the outset it was impossible for the State successfully to undertake. I ought to call your Lordships' attention to the fact that under the Bill the £1,000,000 grant may be invested by the Government in short-dated Treasury Bills, but I understand that probably the whole of the money will require to be spent very shortly.

I come now to Clause 2, which gives power to local authorities to rate themselves for the administrative expenses of the local committees within their area. It is hoped that this plan will conduce to the economical working of the Act by enabling the local public offices and local public officials to he placed at the disposal of the administration of the Act. It is felt certain that very large sums of money will flow into these local districts out of the Exchequer in the shape of supplementary pensions and grants, and so on, to soldiers' and sailors' widows resident in the area, to disabled men whose homes are in the area, and in other ways, and it is therefore not unfair to ask in return that the ratepayers of the locality should bear some share of the administrative expenses of the Act within their area. Moreover, these grants from the Exchequer will, or may, relieve ratepayers in many instances from contributing towards the maintenance of persons who would otherwise he obliged to fail upon the rates.

I believe that all your Lordships are not agreed that it is expedient that recourse should be had to the rates under this Bill, but there are, I think I am right in saying, only two possible alternatives. One is that the Exchequer should bear the expenses which it is suggested under this Bill might come out of the rates; and the other, that the benevolence of the public should be invoked, that voluntary subscriptions and donations should be invited for these purposes. I am instructed to say, as regards the first of these alternatives—namely, that the Treasury should bear these expenses—that, in the opinion of those responsible for this Bill, this is more than the State can be fairly asked to do. It is unnecessary for me to point out the enormous and increasing burdens that almost every day are being piled on the taxpayers of this country. With regard to the second alternative—namely, that of asking for voluntary subscriptions to carry out this object—I am afraid it is certain that such appeals would be unsuccessful. The benevolent public, so far as I am aware, is not very fond of subscribing to objects or committees that consist of elected members, and I am afraid the fact, however disagreeable, must be faced that any invitation to the benevolent voluntarily to contribute towards these administrative expenses would be a failure; and in view also of the indisposition of the Treasury to finance the administrative expenses of the local committees, the only alternative is that they should be financed out of the rates. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Hylton.)


My Lords, after listening to the Bill as expounded by the noble Lord the first thing that strikes one is this, Why is this Bill introduced? Why was not this clause—which gives, as the noble Lord has said, £1,000.000, not because it is going to be sufficient but simply as an experiment—inserted in the original Bill? Your Lordships will remember that the moment any reference was made to finance in the case of the original Bill the Government were absolutely silent and refused to give us any information whatever. It was pointed out to them, I might almost say dozens of times, that there was no finance in that Bill. I must say of all the Bills that I have heard discussed in Parliament never was there a Bill with so little foundation for it. Now this Bill is introduced, and £1,000,000 is given. It is to be given experimentally. It is to be given "as part of the funds at the disposal of the Statutory Committee." Therefore, of course, no part of that fund will go to the local committees; that is quite clear. The Statutory Committee having this £1,000,000 and it being clear that if more money is to be found some at all events will be found by the Exchequer, I want to ask. Does the noble Lord expect that if the local committees go round to collect money there will be any great response? He is extremely sanguine if he expects that any large amount will be received.

The noble Lord tells us that this Bill proposes to enable the local committees to rate their area. Will he point out to me the words that do that, because I do not see in the Bill any single word which enables a local committee to rate its area. It is quite true that subsection(3) of Clause 2 says that any payments authorised by this clause may be made out of any fund or rate out of which the expenses of the council making the payments are payable. But that does not confer any power of rating. Further than that, I would remind the noble Lord that the essential foundation of the original Bill was that there was to be no compulsory power. The Statutory Committee had no compulsory power, and the local committees had no compulsory power. All that is said in the Act of last year with regard to the powers of the local committees with regard to money is in Section 4, paragraph (g), under which they may "solicit and receive from the public contributions towards any such purposes as aforesaid." I ask, What Clause is there in this Bill that gives the local committees power to raise a rate?


Clause 2, subsection (3).


What part of it? Read the words.


Clause 2, subsection (3), runs— Any payments authorised by this section may be made out of any fund or rate out of which the expenses of the council making the payments are payable, and may be made subject to such conditions (if any) as in time application of those payments as the council making the payments think fit to impose.


But that does not give power to rate.


This point was raised in the House of Commons, and the Minister in charge of the Bill said that this question had been very carefully considered by some of the legal authorities on rating, and that they had agreed that this section did carry out what the general body of county councils would desire.


That may be correct, but I must say it is the first time that I have ever heard of a power of rating being conferred by words such as those which have just been read. With regard to the larger question of pensions, the noble Lord says that if more money is required it can only be provided by the Exchequer or otherwise. There is no doubt about that. But he says that it certainly cannot be provided out of the Exchequer. Why not? The subject of pensions is not a local one at all. If the, established rates of pensions are insufficient, let the Exchequer raise them; let the Exchequer give larger pensions. These pensions are to be given, not by the localities, but by the Patriotic Fund. If you suppose that you will get any money collected in the localities in that way I must say I think you are very sanguine. Everybody will say, "If I subscribe this money, who is going to get it?" Why, the persons who are selected by Mr. Hayes Fisher, or whoever the chairman of the Patriotic Fund is. It was one of the great objections that were raised to the Actwhen it was before this House last year, that the local committee of the Patriotic Fund was not a public body and had no authority. We said at that time chat making the Royal Patriotic Fund the administrators of these additional pensions would certainly increase the difficulties of collecting money, and I must say that I cannot see that this Bill mends the matter in any way. If this Bill was going to be introduced, the Government ought to have known what they intended to do. If they had made up their minds as to what they intended to do, then they ought to have put this in the original Bill, and it could have been discussed at that time. But they were then ignorant and if they now say that they introduce a proposal to give £1,000,000 to the Royal Patriotic Fund and that this is not to be regarded as their final offer, I think they are inviting defeat for themselves.

To attempt to rate localities to increase pensions seems to me to be an utter absurdity, even if it is a possibility, which I respectfully doubt. Let me point out again that this is the first time that anything has been said about compulsory rating for the purpose of increasing pensions. It seems to me a very great mistake. Moreover, I question whether, in this Bill which is ostensibly to administer the Act or to explain the administration of the Act, it is legally competent to introduce a provision to make a rate. I object entirely to that, and I hope that the noble Lord will assent, when we come to Committee to leaving out all reference to rates.


My Lords, I think the time is not far distant when the criticisms of many of us on this principle which the Government have adopted in relation to these pensions will be found to have been true in substance, and in my opinion and I believe in that of many others, it will work out that the Government will have to admit themselves that this is an obligation belonging to them and to them alone. They must shoulder it and give over the pretence—it is a pretence—that funds will be forthcoming from somewhere on a voluntary basis to save them from carrying out the full share of their obligations towards these men who have fought for us. Just look at the Preamble of the Bill before us. I maintain that it is an incorrect description of the Bill. It describes this sum of money as "a grant in aid of the funds at the disposal of the Statutory Committee." We know perfectly well that the Statutory Committee has no fund of its own. It is not a "grant in aid"; it is the only wherewithal that this Committee has to carry on its business. I think the Preamble is misleading. If I heard the noble Lord correctly, he said that appeals to voluntary sources would, in his opinion, be unsuccessful. Is that correct?


That was only with regard to Clause 2. The Government, I believe, anticipate that the public will still be willing to support the Patriotic Fund in the same way as they have in the past.


So that hazy anticipation still holds good. I was going to congratulate the noble Lord on the growth of mind which had taken place during the last few weeks on the part of the Government, but I misunderstood his meaning. Therefore we now stand where we were six months ago. The Government hold the view that they are going to glean from voluntary channels substantial sums of money towards this work. I am sorry they cling to that belief, for I am sure They will be disappointed. The noble Lord, in describing this £1,000,000, used the expression "token vote." From that expression I should conclude that the government at the back of their minds are reconciling themselves to the situation that they will have to find every copper. That is the real situation; they will have to find every shilling of grants to make the supplementary pensions a reality.

This £1,000,000 is the only sum of money we have in front of us to deal with. I want to say a word or two as to its adequacy, or rather inadequacy. The noble Lord told us, and the information was given in another place the other day, that there are 50,000 widows of non-commissioned officers and men of the Army and Navy reported to the authorities up to March 1. We also know that there are 50,000 dependants other than widows and orphans; some, of course, are in receipt of separation allowances or small pensions, and others in receipt of neither. We also know—it is singular that these round figures are all practically on an equality—that the number of men discharged as unfit through wounds and disease amounts in round figures to 50,000. Of these, 35,000 have been granted pensions or allowances; the remaining 15,000 have so far either been refused or their cases have not been dealt with. These figures in themselves indicate that this £1,000,000 will very soon disappear. It will disappear in the next few months. The noble Lord gave one reason himself that will bring about a disappearance of this money. He referred to the fact that the Prince of Wales's Fund has been financing separation allowances for some time, and that the advances made by that Fund amount at the moment to the huge sum of £3,000,000. I do not know whether recoupment is to be made to that body, or whether the amount is to be regarded in the shape of a gift. I scarcely think it can he the latter, because that would be altogether contrary to the appeal that was made by the Prince of Wales at the time his Fund was collected. It was to be on behalf of civilian distress. There has, I am glad to say, not been much, if any, civilian distress, but there may be later on. The only point I want to make, in passing, is this. It is unthinkable that this £3,000,000 can be treated as a definite gift; it will have to be refunded from some source or another. But quite apart from the question of refunding, the Prince of Wales's Fund Committee have given notice that after June 30 next they cannot continue making these advances. The advances amount to £80,000 a week for these extra separation allowances, mainly, I believe, in connection with additional concessions made by the Government to meet rental conditions of the soldiers' and sailors' wives. That £80,000 a week will become a liability of the Statutory Committee. Now if £80,000 a week is going out on behalf of one liability alone after June 30, what chance is there of this £1,000,000 going very far towards providing pensions and supplementary allowances on behalf of those for whom it is supposed to be operative?

I was going to ask a question as to the basis of this grant, whether it was intended to be an instalment, or whether it was a final amount in quittance of the State's responsibility. But I already conclude from what the noble Lord said that the State will from time to time be making supplementations. I thought of asking that question because of what fell from the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, last year. He said in definite language that the re sponsibility of the State was in connection with the flat-rate pensions, and that the supplementations Were to be looked for from funds collected and at the disposal of the Statutory Committee; and he went on to say that if the State should have to make a grant they would make it in one large final sum. He used the words "lump sum," and scouted the idea that the Government year by year would be making contributions. And he gave his reason, which was this, that once the public got to understand that the public purse was behind this Fund they would, of course, cease subscribing. That was the justification for the attitude which the noble Marquess then assumed. It has now become quite apparent that the public are not going to subscribe, and that it is to the public purse that we shall have to look for the finding of the money that is necessary.

In moving the Second Reading of this Bill Lord Hylton referred to the fact that the Statutory Committee had come to a decision as to the basis of the supplementary pensions, and that they had decided to make up the income of the widow with children to two-thirds of the pre-war income that her husband was earning. But, as the noble Lord said, they fixed a limitation. I do not disagree with it. They were bound to fix a limitation. They regard the income susceptible to the two-thirds treatment as being limited by £3 a week. Thousands of men have gone to the war who were in receipt of incomes of £3 to £6 a week and many of much higher incomes, and however desirable, it would be a financial impossibility for the State. to shoulder to the fullest extent the burden of guaranteeing to the widow two-thirds of the income which the man was enjoying before joining. It is therefore based on two-thirds of £156 a year, which brings it down to £2 a week. That will throw an enormous charge on the Statutory Committee. Therefore instead of £1,000,000 being granted by this Bill, instead of our adopting this course and granting by instalments money in this way, it would be far better for the State to do now what it will be compelled to do six or eight months hence—namely, make this a charge on the Non-effective Votes in the Estimates, and then whatever sum is required will be provided for. That is a system which I am perfectly certain the Government will have to adopt sooner or later.

There is, of course, bound to be an inequality in this basis of pension. At the present moment there are widows who, on the flat-rate basis, are or will be in receipt of a larger weekly income than they and their families were enjoying when their husbands were alive and at work. That is one of the anomalies. I am not criticising it; it is one of those anomalies that were bound to happen. But the point I lay stress upon is that inasmuch as the Statutory Committee have come to this decision—I think a very generous decision—the amount of finance that will be required to make this work will be very much larger than is contemplated in this Bill.

The noble Marquess will remember that in our discussions last year the Government finally made an announcement—I think first of all in another place, and secondly here—that the Bill we were dealing with then was only a temporary measure, that they were converted to the idea that a much bigger Bill was necessary in the direction of establishing one Pensions Board to deal with all pensions granted by the Admiralty, the War Office, Chelsea, and so on. An indication was given to the House of Commons to the effect that the Bill would be introduced in the spring of this year; in fact, I think the Government's spokesman went so far as to say "within six months" from the date when he was speaking, which was about last October. In reply to a question which I addressed to him during the Report Stage of the Pensions Bill of last year the noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne) rather discounted any definite period. He pointed out that the contemplated Bill would be a colossal one and would probably excite a good deal of controversy, and that it would be impossible for the Government to fix any near date as to when it would be introduced. I was perfectly satisfied then with that view. But I venture to ask him now what steps, if any, are being taken to give effect to the pledge that a comprehensive Bill should be introduced at an early date so that we may be rid of the temporary measure and have in substitution something far better. It will be useful if we can have some information on that point, because it is evident and will become more evident as time goes on that the temporary basis, the hand-to-mouth basis, on which we are working is one that is bound to fail, and that sooner or later, sooner rather than later, the Government will have to treat these pensions by precisely the same method that they treat all other pensions—namely, by making them a charge on the Estimates. Then every one who can prove a right to a pension can get it without any question as to whether the money is there to provide it.


My Lords, in the observations that I shall make to your Lordships I shall not say one word to discourage any inclination which the public may have to subscribe voluntarily to these purposes. Whatever we may think as to the policy of the principal Act passed last year, that Act is now part of the law of the land; and if I may venture to say so to the noble Lord who has just sat down I think it is not the part of a patriotic citizen to discourage subscriptions to this highly benevolent, object if the public are willing to give them. Nothing that I shall say will be in the nature of a discouragement in that direction. But I still think that the Government would be wise to form an estimate now of how much money is likely to be required for the purposes of pensions and supplementary pensions in consequence of the war. It does not follow that all that money must be provided by the State, but at any rate the public ought to know what proposition is really before them, what they have got to deal with. Merely to propose that £1,000,000 should be voted, which everybody seems to agree is insufficient, simply means that the Government have not had the time or the inclination to make up their minds as to what sum of money is really involved. I do not want to press my noble friend opposite to give figures to-day as to that sum, as very likely he is not in a position to do so. But before we part with this Bill that figure ought if possible to be mentioned, the approximate figure of what sum of money is required. It may then be possible under existing legislation or by means of future legislation to make some distinction between that which will be thrown upon the Exchequer and that which will be thrown upon private endeavour. It is far better to take the public into your confidence in such a matter. I will ask one question because of an observation made by my noble friend Lord Camper-down. I gather that this £1,000,000 will not only be expended by the Statutory Committee itself.


Oh, yes.


My noble friend thinks it may be so; but I gathered from the debate which took place in your Lordships' House a short time ago that the Statutory Committee would give grants to the local committees. If that is so, part of the money will go to the local committees. I may be wrong, but in any event I think before the Bill leaves your Lordships' House that point ought to be cleared up; because there does appear on the face of Clause 2 a rather ominous provision, to which attention has been already called, that the local authorities may make such payments as they think fit towards the administrative expenses to which the local committees may be put. I think that is a very wide power. What is the definition of an "administrative expense" under this Bill? I presume that what the Government intend is that the rates should defray the expense of offices, secretaries, and so forth. I shall have a word or two to say upon that in a moment. But the word "administrative" is far wider than that. I speak in the presence of those far better qualified to interpret an Act of Parliament than I am, but I should express considerable doubt whether "administrative expenses" would not cover everything that is required in order to pay for the administration of the Act. If that is so, it would seem to confer a power on the rating authority to use the rates for supplementing pensions. Now is that so? Many localities are very carefully administered, but others are not, and we may be conferring upon them unlimited powers of rating for the purpose of pensions and like things under this Bill. That is a very serious matter, which will require the careful attention of the Government before the Bill leaves your Lordships' House But even in the matter of what I may call administrative expenses in the narrow sense—those which have to do with offices, secretaries, and so on—I think there ought to be some limiting words. Any one who has been engaged in local administration knows how apt local authorities are to run into wholly unnecessary expense in matters of this kind. There is a sort of idea that one county ought not to do its work upon a less magnificent scale than its neighbour, and consequently princely offices are prescribed and numbers of clerks appointed, all of which is a very serious matter when we consider the financial and fiscal condition of the country at the present moment. So that, even if the narrower interpretation can be properly put upon the word "administrative" in Clause 2, I still think there should be some limiting words introduced to protect the ratepayer.

I have one or two more questions to ask the Government, and I hope my noble friend will not think that I am taking undue advantage of this opportunity. But it is a rule consecrated by long tradition of Parliamentary procedure that when the Government come to Parliament for a grant of money they shall be asked all the questions which arise as to the administration of that money before it is granted. The one or two questions that I shall ask refer largely to the debates which took place in your Lordships' House a short time ago. I should like to ask first about the fees which are given—I will show the relevance of it in a moment—to medical officers for passing recruits. It is quite clear that the reckless way in which certain men have been passed into the Army will throw a heavy charge upon the pension authorities, and if it goes on that charge will become heavier. That is the relevance of the question. I speak under correction, but I believe that up to a short time ago, at any rate, the medical officers were paid not according to the number of men they examined but according to the number they passed. I believe it was originally 2s. 6d. per man passed, but I have been informed that the tariff has been reduced to 1s. But whatever the amount, it was to the financial interest of the medical officer to pass as many men as he possibly could. I need not point out what abuses that naturally produced. Your Lordships know as well as I do that the kind of men who have been passed into the Army in many cases has been a gross scandal, men who are of no advantage to the Army whatever, except that they help to multiply the recruiting figures of the Adjutant-General. They are no good when they get there, and they throw a great deal of expense on the country.

The next question is one with regard to which I am sure my noble friend will be able to help me much more readily. I should like to know what actual provisions the Government have agreed to in order to meet the case of men who have become unfit by the aggravation of a complaint which they already had when they went on service. The case of men who have become unfit though perfectly sound when they went abroad is, of course, already met. But as to aggravation, as was pointed out in the recent debate on this subject, the man might have had the seeds of disease when he went to the Front but the circumstances and conditions of his service very much aggravated his complaint and made him unfit to earn his livelihood when discharged as medically unfit. At one time the pension authorities would not give anything in such circumstances, but I know that the Government have seen that this is not a defensible position and have made a concession in that respect. But I should like to know what that concession is, what is the precise rule in respect of aggravation.

The third question has to do with the case of men who are pensioned as being medically unfit. What payment is made to them pending the decision of the amount of pension? There again the Government have been willing to make a concession, but we should like to know what it is. My noble friend will remember that on the last occasion when we discussed this matter it was pointed out that men discharged from hospital as medically unfit were left, before their pensions were fixed, without any money, and some of them went to the workhouse. That was not, of course, the intention of the Government. But there was a concession to be mane about that, and all I want to know is what is the concession. My noble friend Lord Beresford considered that. the ordinary pay should be continued until the man's pension had been settled. I do not know whether that has been agreed to, but. I think your Lordships are entitled to know before this Bill is passed.

I also think we should be told the general scale upon which the pensions by the Chelsea Commissioners are fixed. There appear to be considerable anomalies about them. I do not want to weary your Lordships by going into figures, but I will mention one particular instance. The House is aware that the normal figure which it is supposed a man ought to have if he is totally disabled is 25s. a week. At any rate that is the figure fixed when he is first discharged horn hospital and entitled to a pension, and if he can earn something then he gets so much less. I mention this as a mere example. Supposing be loses a leg in action, he gets the full pension of 25s. a week at first. Sup posing he loses an arm, he does not then get the full pension; he only gets 20s. a week. I should like to know the defence of that sort of distinction. Personally I think I could earn my living far better without one leg than without one arm, especially if it were the right arm. This distinction appears to be purely arbitrary, and it is the kind of figure that astonishes one when one meets it. I think some member of the Government should be prepared, on the next stage of the Bill, to tell us the principles on which these pensions are awarded.

I apologise for having put so many questions, but they lead up to a point which I would venture to press on my noble friend, who always approaches this subject in a most sympathetic spirit. It is a subject which touches the hearts of all our countrymen. What I would like to press on my noble friend is that no undue hurry should be shown in pushing this Bill through Parliament. I think he will find that the questions which have been put by me and by other noble Lords will require some time to be inquired into in the Office before they can be answered; and if that is so, I think the next stage of the Bill should be put down for a time not too soon so as to give them a proper opportunity of dealing with these questions. If the Government take the Committee stage and the Third Reading to-morrow, it is evident that we shall get very insufficient answers to all these questions. I venture, therefore, to suggest to my noble friend that considering that there is nothing very urgent about the Bill itself, and considering, as I say, that the subject with which it deals does appeal to our feelings of pity and compassion in a very special manner, it would be only right that the Government should not ask us to pass the Bill without due consideration.


My Lords, I am the last person in the world to complain of my noble friend for putting any number of questions to His Majesty's Government upon subjects which are of great interest to all of us, both in and outside of this House; but I confess that the catechism with which his speech concluded rather took me by surprise. The series of questions which he put to me were questions which even a member of the War Office staff, I fancy, would have some difficulty in answering off-hand.

My noble friend first asked me a question in regard to the system under which medical officers were remunerated for the examination of recruits. I hesitate very much to attempt to answer that question, but this I think I may say with confidence—that my noble friend is misinformed if he believes that at the present moment, at any rate, the plan of paying these medical officers per capita merely on the number of recruits they pass is in operation. This also I am able to say, because I had a conversation on the subject not long ago with the Secretary of State for War. I know that the staff of medical officers whose business it is to examine recruits has been greatly reinforced of late by the addition of a number of extremely competent medical men for that purpose.

Then my noble friend asked me a question as to the manner in which we intended to treat the particular class of case which has attracted a good deal of attention—the case, namely, of a man who has broken down owing to disease not wholly due to but aggravated by his service. My noble friend asked me to state the precise rule by which we were going to be guided. Obviously it is impossible for me to quote the precise rule off-hand, and I am sure my noble friend did not intend to press me for it. But I shall be quite ready on any day, if the noble Marquess will put a Question down, to give an answer upon that point.

The third question asked by the noble Marquess had reference to the payment made to men discharged as unfit who it was suggested sometimes left the Army without a shilling in their pockets, and might, therefore, find their way to the workhouse. An answer was given on that point not many days ago by my noble friend who sits beside me (Lord Sandhurst). This is what my noble friend said— Pension dates from the time of discharge. There should be no period of time during which a man is not in receipt of pay or pension. In fixing the date of discharge a short interval of ten days is allowed, during which the man receives pay, to enable the arrangements to be made for the payment of the pension. The £2 gratuity on discharge is credited to the man's account by his paymaster and issued as part of his balance. It is provided that a man going on pension shall have at least 20s. in his pocket on discharge, even though the account is in debt. so that the noble Marquess will see that there is no such case as that of a man being turned out of the Army without a shilling in his pocket.

Then the noble Marquess asked me to give him some account of the principles upon which the pension given to a man who had lost an arm was different from the pension given to a man who had lost a leg. There, again, I must throw myself on my noble friend's indulgence. That is a perfectly fair question, and I suggest; that my noble friend or somebody who sits near him should put it down on the Paper and ask it whenever he pleases. But what I demur to is that the fact that my noble friend desires information upon all these points should be urged by him as a reason for not parting with this Bill until his questions have been answered. I will not say the questions are irrelevant, because no question is irrelevant which concerns the welfare of our soldiers and sailors; but let me remind the House what the Bill which we are discussing is. It is a Bill which depends upon and is supplementary to the Act which we passed last year—the Naval and Military Pensions Act, 1915—and I venture to suggest that we should confine ourselves, when we consider whether the Bill should be allowed to proceed or not, to a strict consideration of what is in the Bill itself. The noble Lord behind me (Lord Devonport) returned to the charge and reminded us of the opinion which he has very often expressed in this House to the effect that, instead of proceeding as we do under this Bill, we ought to have cast all these proposals on one side and boldly thrown upon the public purse the whole of the liability for these discharged and disabled men. That is a perfectly fair question to raise, but I venture to suggest that it does not arise on this Bill. This is merely a Bill to supplement in certain necessary particulars an Act which Parliament has already approved.

I will not remind your Lordships of the heavy duties which the Act of 1915 threw upon the Statutory Committee. They were desired to meet all these cases of supplementary allowances, of pensions in exceptional cases of hardship and of the training and care of disabled soldiers and sailors out of the funds at their disposal. We were constantly told that in the Bill of last year there were no funds placed at the disposal of the Statutory Committee. That was not quite true, because under that measure they were empowered to deal with certain moneys which came into their hands as the result of private effort. But at any rate the Bill now before your Lordships is intended to provide additional funds out of which the Statutory Committee are to meet these numerous calls. We always contemplated that the resources of the Statutory Committee should be of two kinds—the resources that came to them from private benevolence, and other resources which the State was to provide. The noble Lord is correct in saying that in the debates of last year we declined to mention a particular sum as that which the State was to provide, but nothing could have been more distinct than the pledges given by my noble friend Lord Crewe and by myself to the effect that a sum would be provided from the Public Exchequer. The noble Lord said, Why did you not mention the £1,000,000 in the Bill of last year? We had exactly the same difficulty then that we have now, the difficulty of forming a reasonable estimate of the amount which might properly be provided. It was my noble friend Lord Camper-down who remarked upon this that from the moment we began to bring public money into the calculation it was idle to expect that any funds would be forthcoming from private sources. I think that was the point of his argument.


Hear, hear.


My noble friend may be right, but I do not agree with him. I am under the impression that private benevolence, which has stood us in such stead hitherto, will not fail us in the future. At any rate, we have to wait and see whether my noble friend is right or whether we are right. For the moment we intend to proceed upon the old lines, and to make the finance of the Act dependent partly on private contributions and partly on subventions from the State.

Then we are asked—I think very pertinently—whether there is any reason for supposing that this £1,000,000 which we are now providing is likely to suffice for the heavy calls which will be made. This £1,000,000 if looked at from one point of view is a large sum, but looked at in comparison with what we are spending every day upon the war it is a very small sum indeed; and I say frankly that I do not for a moment believe that this £1,000,000 represents the end of the claim which will be made upon the Public Exchequer for this purpose. I think it was my noble friend opposite who said, "Why cannot you go into the matter and provide us with an estimate of the probable total of the demands upon the State for purposes of this kind?" I wonder whether my noble friend has quite sufficiently considered the number of absolutely unknown factors that enter into this calculation. The total which we shall require surely will have some reference to the duration of the war, and to the number of claims which, whether the war lasts a long or a short time, are in fact made upon us. It will depend to some degree at any rate upon the extent to which private generosity still stands by us; it will depend upon the scope of the programme which may be adopted for the relief of disabled soldiers and sailors; it will depend upon the administrative expenses of the Statutory Committee—another unknown quantity; and, as I think Lord Devonport told the House just now, we are committed to dealing on a more liberal scale than was at first contemplated with the allowances paid to widows. All these are elements entering into the calculation which are to a great extent unknown, and which, I must say, seem to me to render it absolutely impossible that anybody should come down to your Lordships' House and enter into a sort of engagement with the public that we are going to see this thing through for a certain number of millions of pounds sterling. I certainly do not recall any passage in any speech by Lord Crewe to which I ever listened in this House in which he announced that whenever we did ask for a sum of money from the Exchequer it would he a lump sum and one which was to be regarded as a final sum


I assure the noble Marquess that the statement was made. I am sorry I have not the quotation with me, but. I was looking at it only six hours ago. It was made on the Report stage and also on another stage of the Bill of last year. I will get it and send it to the noble Marquess.


Thank you. I must now say two or three words on the point made by my noble friend Lord Camperdown in regard to the second clause of this He is greatly exercised in his mind because under that clause we propose that the administrative expenses of the local committees shall be made a charge upon the rates. My noble friend Lord Salisbury suggested that there might be some difficulty in deciding what came within the definition of "administrative expenses" and what did not. The difficulty certainly did not occur to me. I should have thought there was a hard and sharp line between expenses incurred in the relief of distress and in grants to people entitled to grants on the one hand and office expenses and expenditure of that kind which comes under the head of administration properly so called on the other.


If my noble friend assures me now or on a future stage that that is so, I should, of course, accept it from him; but I should hesitate to let that term pass into an Act of Parliament without being quite clear what it does mean.


I shall be glad to look into that point, and I will have something to say about it at a future stage of the Bill. But what I wish to say a word about is the question of principle involved in throwing these charges, limited in my view strictly to administration, upon the rates. These charges must be paid by somebody if the ratepayers are not liable, who is going to pay them? Are they to come out of the funds at the disposal of the Statutory Committee? I say unhesitatingly that I think it would be unfortunate if it were to go forth that any considerable portion of the money placed at the disposal of the Statutory Committee for the purpose of providing for grants and supplementary allowances should be, as it would probably be said, frittered away in the expenses of local administration. Therefore I rule out the Statutory Committee. Then my noble friend Lord Camperdown says the Treasury ought to undertake the liability. The Treasury is reluctant to do so, I think rightly reluctant; and I will tell my noble friend why. If the Treasury accepted this liability it would mean one continual controversy between the Treasury and the local authorities as to the propriety of this, that, or the other item of expenditure; and quite apart from that, if we desire to have this business conducted upon strictly frugal and economical lines it is much more likely to be so conducted if the people who spend the money realise that they have no chance of getting it back afterwards from the Treasury. Independent of that, there seems to me to be every reason why this charge should fall upon the local authorities. The local authorities are very closely connected with these local committees. It is the local councils who have to make the original applications for the appointment of the local committees. It is the local council which is primarily responsible for the scheme which the local committee will have to administer; and it is the local authority which appoints a majority of the members of the local committee. Therefore the two bodies—the local committee and the local council—are in very close relations, and it seems to me entirely reasonable that expenditure of this kind due to administration and to nothing but administration should fall upon the local authorities and not upon the Treasury or upon the Statutory Committee. There is the further point which was made by my noble friend Lord Hylton, that the grant of these pensions and allowances is in some degree a relief to the ratepayers, who are to that extent interested in the matter.

I have endeavoured to notice most of the points which have been raised by noble Lords on both sides of the House, and I will only add this. We are, of course, in the hands of your Lordships' House; but I venture to think that there is really no reason why the passage of this Bill should be delayed in order that we should first answer the number of questions of detail which have been raised during the course of this discussion. We quite realise that these are questions which ought to be put and which we may be called upon to answer, but why it should be necessary to hold up this Bill until such time as every one of them has been examined I fail altogether to see. I put it to my noble friend that it is important that this Bill should go on, that this money should be provided, and that we ought not to delay the Bill a day longer than we can help, particularly if we can show that any information which is desired by noble Lords on the other side of the House could be given to them irrespective of debates upon the Bill itself.


My Lords, the noble Marquess has dealt very fully with the points raised, and I do not think my noble friends behind me desire to stand in the way of the Second Reading of the Bill to-night; but I cannot honestly say that I think the explanation given on some points is a complete one. Take the last point with which the noble Marquess dealt, the question of the power given to local authorities to pay all the administrative expenses. He may be perfectly correct in saying that the local authority is the only body who can properly bear them, but I do not know whether he can produce a precedent—I do not remember one—for giving a local authority power to spend an unlimited sum in salaries without any control by the Local Government Board. It is not a usual provision; in fact, I very much doubt whether there ever was such a provision before. In the discussion which we had last night we were able to show that questions of staff assume sometimes inordinate proportions. In this Bill the Government are really asking Parliament, in a great hurry, to create a novel and very inconvenient precedent.

Let me remind my noble friend of what occurs under the Territorial Forces Act. There you have all the dignitaries of the county called in, with the Lord Lieutenant, to administer the Act, but they are unable without reference to the War Office even to fix the salary of their own secretary, and, as is well known, the War Office has exercised complete control in this connection. Why on earth should a local authority under this Bill be allowed, without any Departmental control, to appoint a secretary at, say, £500 a year, a number of clerks and the whole paraphernalia. It is no answer to say that this provision has been reviewed in the House of Commons for the pace at which Bills are put through that House entirely prohibits that consideration which has been given to Bills in the past. If we take the Second Reading of this Bill to-night, I hope that the noble Marquess will give us until next week for the remaining stages. I do not know whether we have the power to insert an Amendment, but most certainly if we have I shall move the insertion of a limiting clause providing that the local authorities shall be subject to the control of the Local Government Board, as they are under all other Acts. I would ask my noble friend opposite not to press us to go on with the Bill to-morrow. It only reached this House yesterday, and to ask us to hurry it through is really a negation of all that we pressed for at the beginning of the session. Your Lordships' House should not be subjected to being a mere registry of Bills which have been hastily passed in another place.

On Question Bill read 2a.


Would the noble Marquess say when it is proposed to take the Committee Stage?


I must consult with my friends about that. I shall put it down for to-morrow.


But will it be competent to take the Committee stage to-morrow? If the Bill is put down for to-morrow and no result follows from the noble Marquess's consultation with his colleagues, will it be gone on with tomorrow?


Surely it is possible to put the Committee Stage down for to-morrow, and before we commence the discussion, if my noble friend will ask the question, we will give him an answer.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow, and Standing Order No. XXXIX to be considered in order to its being dispensed with.