§ LORD DANESFORT had the following Notices on the Paper:—
§ To ask His Majesty's Government whether their attention has been called to paragraph 102 of the Report dated 8th November, 1928, of the Committee set up by the Irish Free State Government on the claims of British ex-Service men, from which it appears that endeavours have been made to secure reciprocal arrangements between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State in regard to unemployment insurance benefits; whether negotiations are still pending between His Majesty's Government and the Free State Government to secure reciprocal arrangements on this subject between Great Britain and the Irish Free State; whether any decision has been reached, and, if not, when a decision may be expected; and to move for Papers.
§ To ask His Majesty's Government whether their attention has been called to the Report, dated 8th November, 1928, of the Committee set up by the 163 Irish Free State Government on the claims of British ex-Service men, and in particular to paragraphs 96, 97, and 98 of that Report, from which it appears that a dependant of a British ex-Service man, if such dependant is resident in Great Britain, and is in receipt of a need pension, suffers no reduction of income on being entitled to an old age pension, whereas the same dependant if resident in the Free State suffers a reduction of income of 4s. a week owing to the Free State legislation as to old age pensions; whether His Majesty's Government have received a communication from the Free State Government suggesting that this reduction in the income of a dependant resident in the Free State shall be made good by the British Government, and what reply has been given to this communication; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to ask the Questions standing in my name on the Paper. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of your Lordships and the noble Lord who is going to reply if I asked them both at the same time. Most of your Lordships are aware of the grave hardships under which ex-Service men in Ireland live at the present time. There are 150,000 of these men, and it is no exaggeration to say that they and their families are living under conditions of great poverty and in many cases of destitution, that they live in unsanitary tenements and are wholly unable to get any relief. So far the British Government, I regret to say, has not made itself responsible for relieving the sufferings of these men. That has been left to various voluntary organisations, who have done all they can to help these men, but it has to be done out of private money, and their resources are insufficient. I do hope the time has come when the British Government will be responsible for the grave hardship under which these men labour, and will do something to relieve their sufferings, having regard to the fact that their sufferings are, in a very large measure, though not entirely, due to the action of the British Government at the lime of the Treaty.
§ Meantime, to-night, I desire to call attention to two points only which are raised by my Questions, in which negotiations have for some time past been 164 taking place, and I believe are taking place now—negotiations between the Free State Government and His Majesty's Government here with regard to these proved, or at any rate admitted, hardships. The facts are shortly these. In November, 1927, the Free State Government appointed a Committee of three persons to report to them, first as to the claims of British ex-Service men in respect of rights arising out of their past service, and, secondly as to the claims of those men against the Free State Government in respect of alleged discrimination against them as regards employment. In November, 1928, just a year later, the Report was signed, and it was published in the following January. I do not propose to-day to comment upon that Report beyond saying this, that it is exceedingly unfortunate, I think, that all the sittings were held in private and all the evidence taken in private. All the more so because Captain W. A. Redmond, who was the recognised leader of the ex-Service men in Southern Ireland, had requested in the Dail that the proceedings of this Committee should be in public, and when that request was refused he declined to give evidence before the Committee.
§ The first Question is with reference to unemployed insurance benefits, and the matter arises in this way. It appears that men in the armed forces of the Crown had, while serving with the Forces, to contribute compulsorily to unemployment insurance schemes. When those men were discharged from the Army, and came to reside in Great Britain, no difficulty whatever arose. They received the benefits of the employment insurance schemes to which they had contributed, but—and here is where the trouble arose—when British ex-Service men, on their discharge, became resident in the Irish Free State, it appears they were not eligible to any benefit at all in respect of the contributions which they had paid to the unemployment insurance scheme during their service in the Army. That is a very serious hardship upon these unfortunate men who had homes in the Free State, and who, when discharged from the Army, returned to those homes.
§ The matter was taken up by the British Legion in Ireland, and they gave evidence before this Committee, urging the neces- 165 sity of what they described as reciprocal arrangements between. Great Britain and the Free State in regard to the exchange of benefits under the unemployment scheme. Efforts have been made to secure those reciprocal arrangements, and to remove the grievance, but there has been a lamentable delay. More than a year has passed since the Report of the Committee was published. I do not know what has been done, and so I ask what has been done. Has this grievance been rectified? Has a decision been arrived at? I hope so, but if not, when may we expect a decision? In my Notice on this matter, I move for Papers and the Papers I should ask for would be the correspondence between the British Government and the Free State Government on the subject.
§ So much for my first Question. The second Question has reference to need pensions. A need pension is a pension granted to a dependant or dependants of a British ex-Service man, the amount of it being based upon the necessity of the case. When a dependant becomes eligible for the old age pension if his or her need pension is over 10s. a week, it is automatically, as I understand, reduced by 10s. a week. If the dependant is resident in Great Britain no difficulty whatever arises, because the dependant gets 10s. a week as an old age pension, which makes up the 10s. which was cut off from the need pension when he became eligible for the old age pension, and, therefore., in that ease there is no reduction of income. But—and here is the grievance—if the dependant is resident in the Free State the old age pension is only 6s. a week, and consequently when the 108. a week is cut off from the need pension, the dependant only gets 6s. in lieu of that 10s. which was cut off, and he or she suffers a reduction of 4s. a week in income.
I do not think that is disputed, and it is a real hardship upon the resident in the Free State, though I believe it is true that the number of such persons in Southern Ireland is somewhat limited. But the grievance of those who suffer is none the less real. The Free State Government issued a Memorandum upon this Report of the Committee in December last, and in that Memorandum they suggest that—
the British Government might be approached with a view of seeing whether in the case of Free State recipients of need pensions exceeding 16s. a week they (the British Government) would be prepared to continue the payment of those pensions in full after the beneficiaries had become qualified for old age pensions instead of reducing them to 10s. a week as at present.
I have quoted the exact language used in the Free State Memorandum, but it is a little difficult to gather what they want, except that, according to the usual fashion of communications from the Free State, it appears to me that they want to throw an additional burden upon the British Government. That is how it strikes me, but perhaps the noble Lord will be able to tell me I am wrong. If so, they have departed from their usual custom.
§ Again, there has been most disastrous delay. A year and a half have passed away. I do not know what negotiations have taken place, and I would ask the noble Lord if he would tell us what is the result of the negotiations which have passed on this subject between the Free State Government and His Majesty's Government, and what is the position that has been arrived at. In this case, again, I move for Papers. The Papers I should like, if the noble Lord would kindly concede them, are the correspondence that has passed between the British Government and the Free State Government on the subject. I beg to move.
§ LORD PASSFIELD
My Lords, it is extremely difficult at this late hour to reply sufficiently to those two very technical Questions. The noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, raised the Questions as though these were grievances of the ex-Service men. They may have arisen from some complaint of ex-Service men, but as a matter of fact, one of them, the first of them, is no grievance of ex-Service men as such. The noble Lord said that the Government has refused to do anything for the ex-Service men in Ireland.
§ LORD DANESFORT
The Free State Government. I do not want to be misunderstood. I say the Free State Government has done nothing, but what I did say was that the British Government has done nothing to relieve these persons from the special sufferings under which they labour.
§ LORD PASSFIELD
I accept the noble Lord's statement, but His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom has done what it can to treat the ex-Service man in the Irish Free State equally with the ex-Service man in this country. At any rate with regard to the unemployment question it is a matter of a technical nature regarding unemployment insurance and in order to give an adequate reply I must go into certain technicalities. I must remind the noble Lord that this does not, according to my information, have any relation at all to the contributions which were paid during the time that the men were serving in the Forces. These, I would like to point out, are now at least twelve years old and no claim for unemployment benefit could rest upon contributions more than twelve years old. Consequently any grievance which an unemployed person may have in the Irish Free State cannot be in respect of contributions which must have ceased in 1918. As a matter of fact I think I can convince the noble Lord that the grievance is a different one.
What the Irish Free State complained of is a matter arising out of the fact that a certain number of workmen who were insured and have paid their contributions in England go over to Ireland and expect to get benefit when they are unemployed, while there are also a number living in the Irish Free State, where they have paid insurance contributions, who come to England and then expect to get benefit when unemployed. As a matter of fact for some time—until 1924—reciprocal arrangements were made so that no matter where the contribution had been paid the benefit should be drawn wherever a man happened to be when he was unemployed. These reciprocal arrangements were made by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom through its insurance department with the Irish Free State Government and they continued until 1924. They were terminated at the instance of the Government of the Irish Free State because the Government of the Irish Free State thought that the number of Irish people coming over to England temporarily and paying their contributions in England and then going back to Ireland and becoming unemployed was far larger than the corre- 168 sponding class going from England to Ireland, and that therefore they were at a disadvantage.
As a matter of fact, I doubt whether they were at any disadvantage because, although there is a considerable movement of Irish workers to England for temporary purposes, these are usually engaged either in domestic service or in agriculture, neither of which is an insurable occupation or employment. Consequently, I do not think there was any such disproportion as the Irish Free State Government thought. However, the reciprocal arrangements which did exist right down to 1924 were terminated at the instance of the Irish Free State Government and they asked that instead of that there should be a sort of agency arrangement. His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom were unable to agree to any such arrangement but were prepared to continue the reciprocal arrangements. In the meantime the two unemployment insurance systems had drifted further and further apart with the new Acts which had been passed, in this country in particular but also in the Irish Free State, so that it has become almost impossible now to get any such reciprocal arrangements as were in existence down to 1924. Consequently no negotiations have gone on for a considerable time and there is really no correspondence which I am in a position to publish.
With regard to the need pension—the second Question of the noble Lord—that is, for what it is worth, a grievance of ex-Service men and so differs from the first Question. The first is a matter of unemployment insurance common to all men in insurable occupations. The need pension, it has to be explained, is a pension which is given as it were ex gratia by the Minister of Pensions in respect of dependence on a deceased Service son. The need pension is so called because the amount is fixed according to the need and the assumed contribution which the deceased son would have given to his aged father or mother. The amount varies according to the need up to 20s. a week. I have said they are assessed according to the contribution which the son would have made. That is to say if the deceased soldier was one of four sons the whole support of the father or mother is assumed to fall on the three 169 survivors and the fourth son. The Minister of Pensions only takes the place of the deceased man. Consequently need pensions are very far indeed from being the full subsistence of the aged relative. That is only so in the case of a person with an only son and that son being killed.
There is no difference made in the treatment of the ex-Service man who is in the Irish Free State—that. is no difference in the treatment by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom—and the ex-Service man who happens to live in Great Britain; no difference at all. In each case the need pension is assessed according to the same rules. The whole of the means of the recipient—the beneficiary—are ascertained, and the number of children liable to the support of the beneficiary is ascertained. Then the amount is assessed according to the need, as it is called. When a beneficiary who is receiving a need pension which may be a few shillings a week or as much as 20s. a week, obtains an additional income from any source the need is reduced and therefore the Minister of Pensions reassesses the need pension, because it is only given in order to supplement the actual income of the beneficiary. If the beneficiary comes into an additional income the need pension is automatically reduced accordingly.
One of these accessions of income is the old age pension; that is the usual one. When the beneficiary reaches the age of seventy—or now sixty-five sometimes—he or she receives an accession to income of something, usually 10s. a week. It may be 10s. a week or it may be less. Assuming it is 10s. a week the need pension is automatically reduced by an amount corresponding to that, so that it is not true, as the noble Lord suggested in his Question, that the beneficiary always suffers a reduction in the need pension when he or she obtains an old age pension. That is not the case. In the vast majority of cases it so works out that the beneficiary receives an increased income and not a reduced income. It is only in the cases in which the need pension is 16s. or more per week, that there is in the Irish Free State an automatic reduction in the need pension. There may be thousands of cases of people with need pensions, but the number of persons 170 with need pensions in the Irish Free State exceeding 168. must be, I am told, relatively very small. It is a theoretical case that has been discovered.
Difficulty arises because of the difference in the Old Age Pension Acts between the Irish Free State and Great Britain. In Great Britain the full pension of 10s. a week is paid if the beneficiary has not more than £26 a year with an allowance of £39 a year in respect of income not derived from earnings. In Ireland the full pension is not paid if the beneficiary has more than £16 a year or 6s. a week. Consequently the need pension plus the old age pension in the Irish Free State cannot exceed 16s. a week, and this means a loss of income where the need pension was more than 16s. a week. The ex-Service man in the Irish Free State puts forward a case and suggests that this diminution of income by from 1s. to 4s. a, week should be somehow made up to him, but the difficulty is that the needs pension can only be given as an addition to the other income which the beneficiaries have. The Irish Free State regulations for old age pensions compel a reduction of the old age pension from 10s. if the beneficiary has more than 6s., and the suggestion that has been made is that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom should make up the amount that has been lost through the Irish Free State old age pensions system being less generous than the English system.
But the noble Lord will notice how far this would lead. If His Majesty's Government in the. United Kingdom gave an additional 4s., that would involve a corresponding further deduction front the Irish old age pension, and if His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom made this up it would involve a still further reduction of the Irish old age pension, so that under that. system His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom would be paying the need pension and the whole of the old age pension that the Irish Free State would otherwise have to pay. That is the arithmetical result. Accordingly the Minister of Pensions feels quite unable to take any steps in the matter. He can only go on administering the need pensions in the Irish Free State on exactly the same lines as in Great Britain. If the Free State Government 171 regards 16s. a week in Ireland as the equivalent pension, according to the standard of living there, to £1 a week in England, there is no reason why the British Minister of Pensions should pa) a larger need pension to a beneficiary in Ireland than would be paid in this country. Speaking, as I must, on behalf of the Minister of Pensions, I am bound to tell the noble Lord that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom do not see that there is any possibility of their being able to make up, by adding to the need pension, the deficiency in the old age pension which follows, in comparison with Great Britain, from the separate Old Age Pensions Acts of the Irish Free State.
As regards Papers, there has been some correspondence lately, for the question was raised last December by the Irish Free State in the manner which I hive described, but I cannot find that, except for the Irish Free State Memorandum, there is any correspondence that I could undertake to publish. I will make inquiries, however, and see whether there is any further information that could be given. I hope the noble Lord will be satisfied if I undertake to look into the matter and see if there is any correspondence that I can publish. I have no reluctance whatever to publish information, but I am not actually aware whether there are any Papers that could be laid.
§ LORD DANESFORT
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for promising, so far as he can, to publish any correspondence between the two Governments on the subject of the need pension. I think there must be correspondence, because we find on page 8 of the Memorandum of the Free State, dated December 3, 1929, a statement that they were going to approach the British Government on the subject. Presumably they approached it by correspondence.
§ LORD PASSFIELD
I will look into that.
§ LORD DANESFORT
I am much obliged, and of course I accept the noble Lord's promise in regard to that. I hope he will be able to do something more important—namely, to rectify the position. The position, as I understand it, is that, if a dependant is in receipt of £1 a week need pension, when he becomes eligible for old age pension the 172 British Government. cuts off 10s. The result is that., if the dependant is resident in Great Britain, he or she gets 10s. from the need pension and 10s. from the old age pension, and loses no income. But those who are resident in the Free State lose 10s. out of the £1 need pension and get only 10s. from the old age pension of the Free State. What I would suggest is that, when the dependant is resident in the Free State, the British Government should cut off from the need pension' only the amount of the Free State pension. In other words, if the Free State pension is 6s., then, instead of cutting off 10s. from the need pension, the British Government should cut off 6s.,,and then the dependant would get 14s. need pension and 6s. old age pension from the Free State. I do not know whether I have made myself clear to the noble Lord, but will he, perhaps, kindly undertake to put that view before the Minister of Pensions, if it has not already been put before him?
§ LORD PASSFIELD
I will certainly do so.
§ LORD DANESFORT
There is just one other point. As regards unemployment insurance, I confess that I did not understand the noble Lord's answer. I do not want to go over the ground again at this hour, but if the noble Lord will look at paragraphs 100, 102 and 103 of the Report of the Committee, he will find that the grievance that I have put forward is exactly stated there. The Report states that it was represented that the ex-Service men who, by reason of their service in the British Army, were compulsory contributors, were stated, on discharge and on their becoming permanently resident in the Free State, not to be eligible for benefits in respect of the contributions paid to the British schemes during service in the British Army. It is on that ground that it is suggested that a reciprocal arrangement should be made. This was suggested by the British Legion, who were looking after the matter. Then the noble Lord will find, in paragraph 103, that the Report says:—Though not solely an ex-Service man's grievance, this provision would appear to affect adversely numbers of British ex-Service men in the Irish Free State.I gather also from this Report that the Irish Labour Party and Trade Union 173 Congress at its meeting in Belfast in August, 1927, said that a reciprocal arrangement ought to be entered into. I do not know whether the noble Lord would be good enough to look a little further into the matter and to see whether, having regard to these paragraphs of the Report, anything can be done.
§ LORD PASSFIELD
I will certainly look into it and let the noble Lord know 174 if I can see anything that can possibly be done along the lines that he suggested. I am afraid there is nothing in it, but I will look into it further and let him know.
§ LORD DANESFORT
I am very much obliged to the noble Lord. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes past seven o'clock.