HL Deb 24 May 1944 vol 131 cc909-31

THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government, when the statement promised to this House on March 14 last, upon the subject of the allowances granted for the children of officers who have lost their lives on Service, may be expected; and move for Papers.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, it will be in the recollection of the House that the subject with which this Motion deals, allowances for the children of officers who have been killed on Service, was discussed by your Lordships for the third time on March 14 last. The Motion was subsequently withdrawn at the request of the Minister of Reconstruction who, in the absence of the Leader of the House, was answering for the Government. He asked that it should be deferred for a short time on the ground that conversations were still in progress on the subject, and the noble Lord went on to say: I think your Lordships will understand that the statement of Government policy on an issue of this nature should be made in both Houses at the same time. He continued: I will undertake, on behalf of my noble friend, that this shall be done, so far as your Lordships' House is concerned. He concluded his remarks by saying: I trust the House will be good enough to defer any further consideration of the subject until these conversations have ended. The delay for which I am asking is not a long one. Surely this remark, if it meant anything at all, meant that there would be opportunities of further discussion in your Lordships' House.

I am perfectly well aware that a White Paper was issued on the result of these conversations. In fact I have that melancholy document in my hand, and I appreciate that it may be said that the White Paper was issued instead of a verbal statement being made in both Houses, but surely something more than that is due to your Lordships. You were asked to suspend further consideration until you had heard the result of conversations in progress. Then, instead of being given a chance of further discussion on the subject, you are presented with a fait accompli. You will remember that on December 8 last your Lordships adopted this Resolution: That, in the opinion of this House, the rate of allowances for children of officers killed on service is too low, and should be raised. So far as I am aware, no official notice of that Resolution has been taken at all inside or outside this House. When I withdrew my Motion on March 14 at the request of the Government, I used these words: I have, all along, fully recognized that if the wives and the children of the officers were to have pension allowances increased, it would follow that the wives and children of other ranks and ratings would have theirs increased, and that was what I hoped would be the result. I felt quite sure that if the officers obtained this the men would do so too, but I was not so sure that if the men obtained it the officers would do so. I was not so sure that if the dependents of the men obtained an increase those of the officers would do so also.

That doubt has proved to be well founded, for what has happened? The White Paper announces certain increases in the allowances for the wives and children of ranks and ratings in all three Services, and I am perfectly sure your Lordships will be glad to hear of them, small though they are. As regards the widows of the three lowest ranks, Subaltern, Captain and Major and their equivalents in the other Services apart from minute increases if they have children or are over 40, children get nothing because as the White Paper explains the rate of children's allowances is already £36 a year. How many of those who concocted that precious reason for refusing any increase intend to limit their expenditure on their children to 2s. a day, which is the equivalent of £36 a year? Of course if the rise in the pensions of officers was on a generous scale it might be argued that by giving the mother more the child would benefit, but what are the increases? The widow of a Major gets 6½d. a day, of a Captain 9d. and of a Subaltern 1s. 1d. The widow of a Lieutenant-Colonel, a Wing-Commander or a Commander will get no increase. The widow of an officer in any one of these important ranks—for they are important ranks, they are the leaders of the men on land, at sea and in the air—will continue to get a pension of £210 which is liable to tax and an allowance of £36 for each child, no education allowance being obtainable until a child is eight years old. So that a widow with two children will get about £5 a week. But officers of these ranks may be drawing £18 a week until they die, so that on the day of their death the family income falls by 70 per cent.

If it was impossible to increase allowances for the families of officers living and of those who are dead, surely it would have been better to expend money in giving allowances to children of fallen officers who have little prospect of betterment in the future. This method of increase, levelling up from the bottom, is reminiscent of the Porter award, but in that case there was a strong body of men well organized and able to force the Government to reconsider the position. In this case to which I am referring there are only a relatively few unorganized people scattered up and down the country with no political value, just the sort of people who left to themselves are helpless and who must look to your Lordships' House for support and help. Is it merely a coincidence that the one point on which your Lordships have expressed a decided opinion is the one point upon which nothing has been conceded and is turned down out of hand? I must leave the answer to those more experienced in this matter than myself.

This alteration in pensions does little to decrease the discrepancy between the widow with children and the childless widow. In the case of the widow of a man, say, of Captain's rank, with two children she will get £165. per annum subject to tax and will get another £72 per annum for the children. Owing to the existence of these children her chances of another marriage are reduced, she cannot go out to work to obtain any employment that will help to eke out her income of £4 odd a week. The widow without children will get £150 to herself. She has no encumbrance and can go out and double that income with little trouble and have reasonable relaxation. Which of the two is the more valuable to the country? I have in my pocket a letter from the widow of a pilot officer who has been left with two young children. It is a typical case. The husband was killed over Dusseldorf two years ago. He was a Territorial officer before the war, served in the Army and then transferred to the Royal Air Force. Before the war he was an engineer making a comfortable income from his profession and finding time to train for the defence of his country at a period when the Territorials were derided and received scant encouragement. His widow now has to face the future on £4 a week because no allowance for education is paid until the child is eight years of age. That man was one of the sort who neither expected reward nor asked for it, but that does not absolve the nation from doing what it can to pay the debt it owes to the fallen, and I suggest that the best way of paying that debt is to be generous to the children.

I am not asking for help for the children of any one class, as the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, seemed to suggest the other day when he said that men serving in other ranks often came from precisely the same class as officers in the past and were equally anxious to send their children to public schools. I am not appealing on behalf of people who want to send their children to public schools but for those who are now officering our Fighting Services, the best of our men of all classes, those who had the spirit to come forward and accept the additional risk, work and, above all, responsibility which are the lot of junior officers under active service conditions. It is these men who, in the great majority of cases have no money but have qualities of ambition, initiative and enterprise which, had their lot been cast in happier times, might well have brought them to the front in every branch of the public service, in politics, industry, trade, science, art and every activity of life. Should not their widows and children be provided for, on a scale that bears some resemblance to the might-have-been? As it is, the long future before the widows shows little light. The position as regards the children of these officers should they be killed remains exactly as it was when you expressed the opinion that the allowances for their children were too low and should be raised. I therefore beg you to record your vole this afternoon so as to show that your opinion remains unshaken and unchanged. I beg to move.


My Lords, I would first of all like to make my most sincere apologies to the noble Earl if he feels that there has been undue delay in bringing up this subject for discussion. I must say that I had imagined that the noble Earl, who has, he says, read the White Paper, would have raised the question again if he felt that there was more which he desired to say. I do not wish to make any criticism of him whatever. Very likely it was the Government who were wrong in this matter. I only desire to offer him my most sincere apologies and to say I am very glad he has raised the matter now.

The question of allowances for the children of officers killed in the war, which the noble Earl has raised on numerous occasions in your Lordships' House in the past, and to which he has returned to-day in the very moving speech to which we have just listened, is, I confess frankly, one of the most difficult and most painful with which any Government may have to deal. I do not suppose there is anyone in any part of this House who does not feel the deepest sympathy for the cause which the noble Earl has pleaded so eloquently. The fathers of these children have died in the service of their country, and there is, clearly, a moral responsibility on us to do what we can to relieve the difficulties of their widows and families. I am quite certain that the House will believe me when I say that I should feel very happy if I was, myself, able to deliver the speech which the noble Earl has made this afternoon. I do not think there is anything we can do for these unhappy people which any of us would regard as too much.

But I still do not think that the noble Earl appreciates (certainly lie has not entirely exposed it in the speeches he has made) the full complexity and width of this problem. The question of allowances for the children of officers who have been killed is not one which can be dealt with by itself in isolation. The noble Earl has dealt with only one aspect of what is, in effect, a very wide, almost a vast, problem. The problem presented by pensions schemes, military and civil, in this country, after all, is one single problem. It is a problem that arises from the death of the breadwinner and it affects all sections of the population. It is a closely knit problem and it involves vast expenditure of public funds. Each aspect of it is more or less closely related to the other. The noble Earl pointed out with great truth and force that the death of an officer with children brings about a terrible crisis in the finances of his family. That is profoundly true. We car all of us recall from our own experience cruel examples of that fact. But, unhappily, that is a misfortune which is not confined only to the Armed Forces. It does not merely apply to soldiers, sailors and air-men. It is one of those calamities inseparably connected with the very uncertain life we all live. Hardly a day passes—even in time of peace—but we come across a case of the death of a breadwinner. It leads to a complete alteration in the circumstances of his family. It is not to be hoped, I say frankly, that any action of the State will entirely protect individual members of the community from such a catastrophe. This is a hard fact, which, I am afraid, we must all recognize, even in the case of those who may be killed in the war. All we can aim at and strive to accomplish is to some extent to ease the blow that falls on these unhappy people.

The existing provisions for allowances for officers' children form part of the War Pensions Code. As noble Lords have been told before now that Code in its present form is based on the Report of the Select Committee of 1919. This Committee fixed a basic pension of 40s. a week for a totally disabled private soldier, or his equivalent in the other Services, and it was to this basic pension that the disablement scales, and other scales, for officers, N.C.O.'s and men have been linked. I should add that this key figure of 40s. a week for a totally disabled private soldier was related to the cost-of-living figure at the time. That was the structure around which the present Code was built. These figures, I believe, were given by my noble friend Viscount Clifden in an earlier debate, but I feel sure that the House will forgive me for giving them again, for they are the essence of the matter.

Some years after the war, the cost of living fell, and, by the terms of the original scheme, pensions and allowances in respect of members of the Forces who lost their lives should have fallen with it. But in 1928 the Government decided, for reasons with which I am sure we shall all be in the fullest sympathy, that the rates of pensions should not fall with the cost of living, and that they should not drop below the rate in operation at that date. Since then, the cost of living has risen and pensions have risen with it. To-day, the children's allowance of £36, to which my noble friend has referred, is in fact slightly higher in relation to the cost of living than was the rate in 1919 when it was originally fixed. To alter this rate does not merely mean making a small adjustment, as we should all wish to make, in the allowance to officers' children—that, I think, might have been gathered from the noble Earl's speech. It has repercussions on a very much wider field. The House should be under no illusion as to this. The issue the noble Earl raises is a very big one. I do not complain of his raising it, but it must be examined by the House on the basis I have indicated.

I would now turn for a moment to the other additional allowances to which my noble friend referred in earlier debates, and in particular to the education allowance. As I understand, from what he said, he is in agreement in principle with that regulation. He described it as an excellent regulation in principle.


My Lords, I am not quite clear to which regulation the noble Viscount is referring.


I am referring to the Order in Council which gave the education allowance to the children of officers killed in the war. What I am going to say will, I think, make clear to the noble Lord what I have in mind. He felt, I understood, that the purpose of this regulation was vitiated by the proviso that the allowance should not exceed £50 in any one year. (I think it will now be clear to him which regulation I had in mind.) He has pointed out this afternoon, and in earlier debates, that that sum would not enable children to have a first-rate public school education, the sort of education that their fathers had had—I think that was the way he put it. I am afraid that that is undeniably true. The Order in Council does not and cannot guarantee that the children of these officers will have exactly the same education as their fathers had, and I am afraid that it is idle to suppose that Parliament would in fact guarantee that the children of officers killed in the war should have exactly the same education as their fathers had, an education which in any event must vary from case to case, because their fathers will have had different standards of education.

What the regulation does do is to go some considerable way to help the widow towards the provision for her child of such education as his father had, or as the child might have had if the father had lived. In some cases—I do not say in nearly all—this allowance will be enough for that purpose; in others I agree with the noble Earl that the gap will be too great, and in those cases it must be bridged by other means, such as the schemes which are already being initiated by many public schools to meet the case of the poor widow of an old boy of the school in question. At any rate, however, the State education allowance will afford material assistance to the widow in her difficulties, and I think that it would be wrong for the House altogether to deride it.

I have tried briefly to put the difficulties of the position frankly before your Lordships. I know just as well as any of your Lordships the hardships which will be created for the widows and children of officers killed in the war; all of us are aware of tragic cases. I would emphasize to your Lordships, however, that what the noble Earl is asking for could not be done without a very great disturbance to the whole basis of pensions in this country. Only last year, the Government reviewed the wt ole system of war pensions, and improvements were announced in a White Paper which represented a settlement which was intended to stand, failing a material change of circumstances. As such, the White Paper was approved by the He use of Commons. I quite agree that there has since been a vote in your Lordships' House; I do not think that I was here at the time, but I read about it. The noble Earl has suggested that no notice was taken of that Motion. I beg him to take it from me that that is not the fact. Indeed, as a result of the Motion I myself took the matter up again before my colleagues in the Cabinet for further consideration, and the Government, as I think the House already knows, decided to include this aspect of war pensions in the recent review of Service allowances. As a result of this review it has been found possible to make some further adjustment of pension rates, on the same basis as had been adopted for that review—namely, that of giving help where it was most needed.

In accordance with this principle, improved rates have been introduced for the benefit of certain widows with children in the lower grades both of officers and of other ranks, the idea being that the families of officers in the lower grades need the money more than the families of those in the higher. In the case of a Subaltern's widow, the increase, as I think the noble Earl has already said, is £20 a year, from £130 to £150. The additional allowances for officers' children have not been thought, by those who examined the question, to justify an increase above the Great War rates, because they must be considered in conjunction with the widow's pension, and the whole family necessarily shares to some extent in the benefit of the increase under this head. It must be remembered that, as has been previously explained, the children's allowances may be suplemented by education grants; and, though the combined maximum of children's allowance and education grants—namely, £86 a year—has been criticized, and although I fully understand the force of the noble Earl's criticism, there is no doubt that it is sufficient to ensure reasonable maintenance and to make provision for a good education, although not of the most expensive kind.

In total, the widow of an officer of the lowest commissioned rank with two children can receive £322 a year—namely, a pension of £150, children's allowances of £72, and education grants up to £100. Particular account has therefore been taken of the point made by the noble Earl in the last debate, as to the difference in the measure of sacrifice between the widow with children and the childless widow. This has been met among the junior ranks, where it is most necessary, by the increase given to the widow with children. I quite realize that the noble Earl feels that not enough has been given, but an attempt has been made to meet him in that respect. After very full consideration, and with every desire to help in what they recognize to be a real problem, the Government have not felt justified in going further than they have.

I quite recognize that the noble Earl would have desired larger increases in these allowances. So should we all. I do not think that there will be any difference of opinion about that in any quarter of the House. Your Lordships' House, however, is a responsible body, and it is not enough to make a gesture of sympathy and to show in that way the real sympathy which we all feel. We have to look not only at what is desirable but at what is practically possible. That is the crux of the whole matter, and that is the reason why I believe that your Lordships, if you think the matter over objectively, will come to the conclusion to which the Government have been brought in considering this difficult and, I fully agree, most painful question.

In conclusion, I would assure the noble Earl of one thing. If this question of a further increase in allowances for the children of other ranks is raised again, I will personally see that the allowances for the children of officers killed in the war also come under consideration in that review. I cannot say anything further to-day. The noble Earl says that he will press this matter to a Division. I hope that he will not do so. I do not think that he will gain any advantage by it. He has made his position absolutely clear. He has established the deep sympathy which I am sure we all feel, on the Government Bench just as much as anywhere else. If he takes that action, it is only going to produce more difficulties than it cures. I can assure him, as I have said, that if this matter should come up for review I will see that the aspect which he has brought forward—and f have a great deal of sympathy with him—is taken into full examination.


My Lords, I do not want to detain your Lordships for more than a moment. With a great deal that my noble friend Lord Cranborne said everybody must agree. He referred, however, to the Committee of 1919. I was a member of that Committee, and I remember very well the conclusions at which we arrived, and which we thought at that time were fair, equitable and just. When Lord Cranborne and the Government come to consider this question, as he says they will, I would ask him to bear in mind however that that was twenty-five years ago, and that the whole conception of the obligation of the State to the unfortunate and the needy has entirely altered during the interval. Think of what has happened since then—family allowances, unemployment allowances, increases in every direction. What the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, says is that insufficient consideration has been given to the children of officers and others who are affected by the death of their father. I beg my noble friend Lord Cranborne not to rest himself upon conclusions reached in 1919, because I am certain, having been a member of that Committee, that if that Committee sat again and had to bear in mind the situation as it is now, their conclusion on this matter might be very different from those contained in this Report.


My Lords, as one who spoke and supported the noble Earl on the first occasion on which he raised this question, I should like to say that, while greatly appreciating the kindly and sympathetic tone of the answer which the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, has given, and which one would have expected from him, I do not think that his answer is one which can be accepted as satisfactory. He has, of course, gracefully apologized for any feeling of ill-treatment that the House might have for having been ignored in consultations over the increases that have been made in other respects, which have not included those for which we particularly stand at this moment. I gather from what the noble Viscount said that we cannot afford it, that what we have been asking for—an increase of pensions and allowances for these widows and orphans—is more than the country can afford, and he used the argument that the sword of fate hangs over all our heads, that it is not only soldiers and sailors and airmen who die and leave widows and children partly unprovided for, but it applies to everybody in these islands.

That, of course, is quite true, but there is this factor which comes in, which I indicated at some length when I spoke on the matter last December. The civilian is a man who expects to be more highly paid for his work on shore than does the fighting man in the Services, because the fighting man in the Services is a servant of the State, and he knows that he will not be thrown out of employment unless he misconducts himself, and when his time of service comes to an end he will be paid a pension which is guaranteed by his country. Therefore he accepts a much lower rate of pay for the responsibility that he holds than does his brother who is employed on shore. Nobody would accept on shore the responsibility of a Captain of a ship for the salary that is paid to the Captain of a ship. The salaries that are paid to men in the Services are altogether out of proportion to those paid for equally great and responsible positions on shore. But the man on shore, getting a greater rate of pay, is able to save. He does not necessarily get a pension, but he is able to save money, and therefore if he dies there is something in the family bag. The serving man has not got that, and if he dies the bag is empty, because he is only just living and keeping his family and his children educated within his means. So it is not an accurate analogy that the Leader of the House drew.

If you accept this principle which the noble Viscount puts forward, that if an officer is killed in action there should be a special award to the family for the sacrifice that he has made which will satisfy the nation that his family have not been left in want, you are not doing something which affects the whole country in its national life. I cannot believe that the amount that would be added to the national bill if a generous increase to the allowances were made, in the circumstances for which they are now asked, would be an amount that the State would not be able to afford. I believe the State could well afford it. As the noble Lord, Lord Rushcliffe, has just said, our full standard of what is done now in the way of increasing monetary provision, in many ways under pressure, providing that Parliamentary pressure has been sufficient, has changed. Pressure is always given, and therefore we shall only get this improvement of the lot of the fighting man's widow and children if we provide pressure and continue to apply pressure. Your Lordships applied pressure on the last occasion when this Motion was brought forward. The answer, though not so sympathetic, was in effect the same as has been given to-day. I hope your Lordships will support the noble Earl in the pressure that he applies, and show the Government, as you showed them a few months ago, that you are of the same mind as you were then.


My Lords, I hope I may be forgiven for putting in the shortest way before your Lordships a point which I do not think has hitherto been mentioned. We have now a Commission sitting to examine the causes of the decline of our birth-rate. We want, I believe, to maintain the population of this country. Surely if we want that we must want to maintain it from those who, many of us feel, are among the finest of our race. How can we expect these men to take on this responsibility of parentage when they know perfectly well that their children cannot receive the education which their fathers had?


My Lords, I do not want to enter into a debate on this question, because I think it is a very unsuitable subject for the cut-and-thrust of debate. We all feel the utmost sympathy with the widows of officers, and therefore in answering the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, I do not want him or your Lordships to think that I am going to enter into the kind of ordinary discussion that we might have on a less painful subject. But you cannot think that all civilians are colossally rich people.


No, but many of them are.


Some of them, but by no means many. What would be the position of a clergyman, for example? Very few clergymen are as well paid as Captains. I will give another case—what is the position of a country doctor? I do not think this is a matter on which you can debate and prove the other side wrong. My analogy was not so false as the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, suggested to your Lordships. The other thing I wanted to say was this. Lord Chatfield said that supposing it was merely a question of giving a little bit more, or even a considerable amount more, on all these pensions for widows and orphans, that would not break the State. That is quite true; I do not want in the least to dispute that. But I do warn your Lordships that if what the noble Earl, Lord Cork, has put forward were accepted by your Lordships and accepted by the House of Commons—though I am quite certain it would not be accepted by the House of Commons—there would be immediate repercussions with regard to other pensions. It is no good your Lordships ignoring that. It is no good your rushing into the Lobby and saying, "Well, I think that on principle this is the right thing, and we ignore the repercussions." Your Lordships may ignore those repercussions; the Government cannot ignore them, and I feel bound to utter this warning to your Lordships if you are going to press this to a Division.


My Lords, the noble Viscount says he rather objects to a cut-and-thrust debate on a matter of this kind. Well, I think there is a great deal to be said for that, but the cut which he has just delivered at the head of my noble friend Lord Chatfield is really very badly aimed in my opinion, and I hope I am justified in saying in a very few sentences why it has entirely missed its mark. The proposition that what we are discussing to-day is absolutely the same sort of proposition as that of a Motion for the increase of pensions or for the granting of pensions or allowances to children of civilians, is without foundation and in my belief is wholly false.


That was not the argument.


It was very like it, but if the noble Viscount will listen it may be he will not fail to admit—he must admit—that the things are wholly different. Civilians do not die as a rule in youth. They do not die because the Government have sent them into battle. Civilians in their service, whatever it may be, are open to the ordinary things that happen to mankind which end their lives—ordinary civilian diseases and ailments, and in many cases old age. But the case of the young men for whom my noble and gallant friend Lord Cork is arguing is totally different. These are nearly all young men. The vast majority of them go into battle without anything but a paltry amount of money which they have been able to earn or which they have been given by their fathers. Most of them have nothing to leave to their children except what the Government choose to give them, and nearly all die in youth. The lads who are flying over to the Continent now probably die at the average of twenty-two or something like that. That is not the average age at which a civilian happens to die, leaving children.

I cannot understand the argument which the noble Viscount has put forward when he said that we must consider this problem on precisely the same footing as we consider the problem of the dependants of civilians. It seems to me different. The Government have made these men expose their lives for their country and they have, as I have already pointed out, nearly all died in youth. That is not the case with the country doctor of whom the noble Viscount has spoken or the other civilian people we know. When a barrister comes to the Bar he knows he may die, and he may die in youth, but that is not the ordinary thing that happens. These people are exposing themselves to risks which are not those of civilians at all. I would add this. Civilians, if they are in receipt at an early age of some income, and if they are wise, insure their lives; but these poor fellows have not got a chance of insuring their lives. What sort of premium would be charged by an ordinary life assurance company to any young man who was going to fly across France twice or thrice a week? Of course they cannot afford to insure his life. The result is, in my judgment, that the case which my noble and gallant friend Lord Cork has put before your Lordships is not on the same footing as that of ordinary civilians. It stands by itself, and up to the present I have heard absolutely no argument to say that this problem cannot be treated as one in a compartment by itself and which does not in the least affect the position of the ordinary civilian population of this country.

Having regard to what my noble friend Lord Cork has said with regard to the enormous change in the sums allocated to people since 1919, and to the point which has been made by my noble and gallant friend Lord Chatfield, and I hope to some extent by what I have said, I earnestly entreat the Leader of the House to consider whether something cannot be done for these people. I am absolutely convinced that, if nothing can be done, it will reflect great discredit on the Government.


My Lords, I am bound to say that the speech made by the Leader of the House did not seem to me convincing. If it were the case that the adoption of this Motion would have a vast financial effect, and would have to be made effective also over the whole range of civilian pensions, that would be a strong argument. If the two were really on a par, and if that were not done, there would be a great feeling of injustice among all civilian pensioners. But the reasons given by the noble Viscount who has just spoken are conclusive that that does not follow. It is not the case that if this were done for the children of officers who have fallen in battle it would also have to be done for the children of Post Office servants or servants in Government offices. In the case of the civilian I was about to make this point, but the noble Viscount, Lord Maugham, has anticipated me. A person in civilian life who has not any considerable sum of capital, but who has young children, is in the normal course expected to insure his life. If his children are left in poverty while he has spent the whole of his income on his personal needs and the immediate needs of his family, he is regarded as being blameworthy for not having made provision if he were able to afford to do so.

The life of an officer who goes to war is uninsurable. No insurance company could possibly accept the risk; and he is not able to make provision in that way against his falling in war. Consequently his case is entirely different, and I am bound to say, having listened with great attention to this debate, that the case of the noble Earl, Lord Cork, has been made out and that the case of the Government has not been adequate. This House would wish to be assured that if an officer or a soldier in any of the three Services is called upon to go into battle, and if he is a married man with two or three children, at that moment he may at all events feel that, if he falls, his country will look after his wife and chilren adequately. I trust, therefore, in view of the feeling of the House, that the noble Viscount will take this matter back to the Cabinet and make further representations, particularly on the line that it does not necessarily involve a general review of all pensions, both for the Civil Services and the military Services. I feel sure that if he can return to the House in a few weeks or a few days and say that the case made by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork, with so much persistence and force has been established, the announcement will be received with gratitude and approval by the vast majority of your Lordships.


My Lords, I wish to add one sentence, on behalf of my noble friends, to what has been already said in support of the Motion placed before your Lordships by the noble and gallant Earl. The only sentence I would add is this. Subscribing to the arguments put forward by then, and in particular to the arguments put forward just now by the noble Viscount, Lord Maugham, and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, I would say that when State calls upon young men to perform at its behest, for its purposes, under compulsion, exceptional services, then the State must expect to make itself responsible for exceptional safeguards and rewards.


My Lords, perhaps it will be useful if I said one word. I should like first of all to put my noble friend Lord Samuel right on one point. He seemed to be under the impression from what I said—perhaps I gave a wrong impression—that if your Lordships insist on these increases there would be immediately a rise in all our pension rates throughout the country. I did not intend to say that it would be inevitable, but what I did say was that it was extremely probable—and I think your Lordships will recognize that to be so—if you increase pensions in respect of everybody who has been killed in the war. It is not merely the officers. If you make a special exception, then you get an appeal on behalf of the other ranks of the Army, Navy and Air Force. The noble Earl recognizes that and would like that to come about. That will also, in turn, give rise to an agitation by the other parts of the population, and you will then be confronted with a very considerable problem which will have to be faced. I do not say that that is convincing against the noble Earl's case, but I think it is a fact that should be recognized.

At the end of his speech the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, made an appeal to me in which he said he hoped I would take the matter back to the Cabinet. I am quite ready to take the matter back to the Cabinet in view of the very strong feelings which have been expressed here to-day, but I do not want the House to be under any illusion in this matter. I have always tried to be frank with the House. I have taken this to the Cabinet before and the whole matter was very carefully considered. It was not thought possible to go further than the proposals I announced to-day and I have no reason to suppose my colleagues will alter their view. I will, however, take it back and I will put to my colleagues the strong views which have been expressed in this House so that at any rate your Lordships will be able to feel that the case which has been argued so powerfully and movingly here to-day has had the fullest consideration from the Cabinet.


My Lords, unfortunately I have had some experience in matters of this kind and while I very warmly support everything said by the noble Earl, Lord Cork, and I believe every member of your Lordships' House would like to see the allowances increased, I do suggest that there is a practical side of the matter which we should consider. This House has no jurisdiction to introduce legislation increasing pensions. That rests with the Government of the day. No private member can do it as is the case in the Congress of the United States. It must originate with the Government, and I do say to your Lordships that I can conceive of nothing that is worse for the case than that there should be a political agitation with respect to a matter of this kind. I lived through one and I know exactly what it means.

Your Lordships have power to do no more than record a vote merely indicating that the sympathies of this House are in favour of increased pensions, but that is not going to accomplish what is desired, because it must be from the Government that the legislation arises. The Government must consider it and take the responsibility. It was a great political philosopher who said that under democracy every one of these questions is settled at the ballot box. I am one who has had an unfortunate experience with respect to it, for I saw an agitation carried on asking for increased pensions and saw it come to the ballot box. I saw the results and I did not see any great increase in pensions in the end. The fact is that the Government, in arriving at conclusions, have to consider factors that are very often unknown to the average member of either House of Parliament. Before a decision is come to many considerations have to be taken into account and the ramifications of any action taken have to be measured. Regard must also be had to the implications of any decision upon these matters. All these things are in the minds of Governments who have to have regard to revenue and expenditure.

I doubt not that every member of the Government, without exception, would like to increase the pensions payable to all the widows and children whose husbands and fathers have been killed in the war. I do not think there is a member of the Government who would not like to do that, but the Government have a responsibility which the individual has not. I must say I was greatly impressed by the very luminous exposition which the Leader of the House gave of the situation. If ever there was a Leader of this House who was anxious to say he was in entire sympathy with a speech by the mover of a Motion, it was the Leader of this House this afternoon in regard to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Cork. I think he feels this matter as strongly as the noble Earl, Lord Cork, feels it. The Government, however, feel that they cannot take the necessary action and I do press your Lordships not to drive this matter into the constituencies and the ballot box. That is what has happened in other countries with very dire results.

The people here have shown a very fine disregard of personal interests in dealing with many problems and I have this suggestion to make. It is one to which I have given some consideration on more than one occasion, and it might be carried out in this country readily. My suggestion is that something might be done to ease the burden of taxation. Why should we not say that a pension up to say £300 a year should bear no tax or only a nominal tax? That would ease the burden and make available to the pensioners a larger sum of money and get over the difficulty to which the noble Earl, Lord Cork, referred in the phrase "subject to tax." Might not the question be considered from that angle by the Government to see if something could not be done to make a certain portion of the pension, or the whole of it in some cases, free from tax? I believe such a proposal would receive the approval of the great masses of the people of the country. The sorrow that comes into homes by reason of the loss of men of twenty-two and twenty-three years of age is so very great that it seems to me we might ease the burden by providing that tax should be remitted, or no tax imposed up to a certain rate of pension. Thereby we should make what is now inadequate wholly adequate without taking any further steps that would involve the repercussions to which the Leader of the House referred.

I think he has some doubt about the word "inevitable" but my experience in politics has taught me that it would be inevitable (and not probable merely) that the repercussions to which reference has been made would follow. I believe that, having regard to the ultimate appeal to the ballot box, we should be well advised to allow the Government to reconsider the matter and see if anything might arise from an adjustment in the taxation basis. That would ensure to the officers a more adequate sum which they so rightly deserve and which every member of your Lordships' House, including members on the Government Bench, are fully convinced they do deserve, but which the Government have been unable to give hitherto owing to the ramifications involved it granting the request.


My Lords, I must congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Cork, or having so completely won his victory. He and I have hunted in couples so often that I must be allowed to congratulate him. In putting the matter to the Government, may I suggest that the Leader of the House should say: "I do this, not only because it was apparent that the overwhelming majority of members of the House of Lords thought that Lord Cork and other speakers had made a good case, but also because a new fact was brought out which does not seem to have been appreciated before." This fact is that people other than those in the Services can insure against risks but those in the Services cannot do so. This completely differentiates their case from that of other people. Therefore, this new fact being emphasized, I should venture to hope the Government would agree.

I am assuming in what I am saying that my noble friend Lord Cork does not propose to ask us to go to a Division now, because if he did so I should not in the least know what I was voting about. He shakes his fist and says "Take this to the Cabinet." The Leader of the House replies "Yes." Well, that being the situation, there is nothing for us to vote about. What I should like to say is that when it does come back, and if the Leader of the House says—I hope he will not, and I do not think he will—that the Cabinet have not changed their mind, then I will not only vote with my noble friend but I believe every friend I have got will come to the House on purpose to establish a principle which seems to me to have been so admirably phrased and appropriately put to this House, that persons who take these non-insurable risks and die for their country ought to know that their families will be properly compensated.


My Lords, I have to thank the Leader of the House very much for the terms in which he replied to my statement. I can assure him I do not want his personal apologies because I am quite sure he never does anything he need apologize for. I think rather too much Las been made of what I ask. I cannot believe that what I have asked for could cause repercussions elsewhere. As I pointed out, an improvement in the allowances and pensions has been granted to other ranks and ratings but they have stopped short of the officers. When the matter was considered, if it had been stated by the Cabinet, "We will raise all these allowances and pensions by 20 per cent." then the relation of one pension to another would have been exactly the same. I am perfectly sure that in the Services they fully understand that an officer who bears a great responsibility does get a larger pension than others who have not quite so much responsibility to bear, and it has been pointed out by the noble Viscount, Lord Maugham, that there is all the difference in the world between dying in your own bed or going to put out a fire that is endangering your own house or town and being ordered to go to Italy or elsewhere and having no option as to whether you go there or not.

I ask that these allowances should be improved. It is the most economical way in which we can give more money. You will only have to give the money to children between eight and eighteen years of age and in nineteen years after the end of the war the whole thing will be finished. What can you do better for a boy or girl than provide a good education? I want to defend myself against the suggestion that I am appealing to send boys to public schools. I did not go to a public school myself and I have no particular interest in public schools. As I have tried to point out, the cut is vertical not horizontal. I am far keener about the man who has worked his way up—particularly if he is a Regular—and has got a Commission. He should not have to put his children back to where he started. He has raised up his family; let the country keep them there. If your Lordships really believe in the hereditary principle then you will agree that the children of those who have become officers are worth cultivating. I have been urged not to divide the House which I propose to do unless the noble Viscount says he will take the matter to the Cabinet and let us know their answer.


I have already said that I will take the matter to the Cabinet, and I suggest the best thing would be to adjourn this debate. I will take the matter to the Cabinet and see what is the view of my colleagues. Then I will tell the noble Earl so that he can put down the question again.


Then the debate is adjourned. I do not withdraw my Motion.

Debate adjourned sine die.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.