HL Deb 11 October 1944 vol 133 cc437-57

2.12 p.m.

THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY rose to ask His Majesty's Government, whether it is their intention at the termination of hostilities to set up a Select Committee, as was done in 1919, to consider all questions relating to pensions and allowances with the object of ensuring fair and generous treatment the dependant; of those who have 'been incapacitated or who have lost their lives on active service during the present war; and to move for Papers.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I rather fear that you may consider that by the Motion which I am about to submit I am returning to a subject with which I have already occupied much of your Lordships' time and which you probably thought was closed for the present. That is not quite the case. I said on tae last occasion when this subject of pensions was being debated in this House that I did not propose to press the matter a: the present time because, presumably, there would be an inquiry after the war, as in 1919, into the whole matter of pensions and allowances. On second thoughts I decided it was not quite the thing to retire from an action because you presumed it was going as you had hoped, and that the best thing to do was to find out and get some assurance that you could retire with honour. The terms of reference to the Select Committee which examined rules and regulations governing the Pensions Act, 1919, were that the Committee should inquire and report upon the past method of administering the Pension Acts and Warrants and what steps, if any, were necessary for the removal and prevention of legitimate grievances. To-day I am asking for an assurance that some such Committee will be set up after the present war, with similar terms of reference.

As a result of having brought up the question of pensions and allowances for widows and children of officers, I have received a considerable number of letters dealing with all aspects of the pension problem, not only from ranks and ratings but also from their relations and friends who think and believe that there are many cases in which people have been hardly used. This appears to me to be most undesirable and I feel that an assurance from the Government that it is intended to set up some such Committee would have a heartening effect upon a great number of people who are at present, feeling rather down and out. That there will always be some who consider themselves hardly used is quite certain, but their number would be much reduced if they knew that their case would be judged by a sympathetic and impartial tribunal instead of being, as in some cases they are, dismissed by the -arbitrary rule of the Minister against whose decision there does not happen to be an appeal. By the Pensions Appeal Tribunal Bill, which was passed in August, 1943, the Government set up independent tribunals to consider appeals against adverse decisions of the Ministry of Pensions in certain cases; for instance, cases where the cause of death or incapacity was due or attributable to service.

I hasten to say that I am not going to criticize these tribunals in any way. I believe the noble and learned Viscount who graces the Woolsack is to reply to this Motion. I know they are his children and I am not going to attack them. I do not want him to be loading his heavy guns, which have to be unloaded once they are loaded, and I do not want him to fire in my direction. In several instances these tribunals have reversed decisions that have been made. In all cases the applicants have had the satisfaction of having their hardships carefully examined and any disappointment has, in consequence, been reduced. I am now asking for a review of the working of the various Acts and Warrants of this war and of the steps necessary to remedy legitimate grievances. It can only be harmful that there should be a volume of discontent amongst those who have suffered grievously and towards whom the nation as a whole certainly would not wish to be either unfair or ungenerous.

It is not my intention to occupy much of your Lordships' time and I am going to mention one case only which has come to my notice. It is a case which I think will be quite enough to convince your Lordships that an overhaul of these doubtful cases by an impartial authority is desirable. This case is in connexion with a subject which I happen to know most about and which your Lordships have discussed in connexion with the education allowances of children of officers who die on active service. It would be well to refresh your memory as to the regulations which govern these awards. The appropriate Royal Warrant says that an education allowance may, at the discretion of the Minister, be granted for each child five years old and over, provided that (1) the pecuniary circumstances of the family are such as to require it; (2) that the Minister is satisfied with the type of education in view or received, and that the child would have been likely, having regard to the ability of the child and the circumstances of the family, to receive an education of the same type had the father survived; and (3) that the amount of the education allowance shall be determined by the Minister and in no case shall it exceed £80 per annum.

I would remind your Lordships that it was owing to your interest in this matter that the maximum was raised from £50 to £80 last August; and incidentally I may say that in 1939 it was fixed at £35 ! Of course, there must be regulations governing these awards and I am not going to suggest that any exception should be taken to the Royal Warrant as it now stands, but everything depends on how the regulations are interpreted and in what spirit they are administered. Here I think some exception may be taken. Any ordinary person would interpret the regulations as meaning that where in necessitous cases the education proposed was of a sort, and carried out at a school, approved by the education authority, an education allowance would be granted, although perhaps not up to the maximum amount allowed. I am quite sure the majority of young officers are under the impression that widows would receive some allowance, and I am equally sure that many have died comforted to some extent by the belief that by their sacrifice the education of their children is to some extent provided for.

This, however, does not seem exactly what is meant though it would appear to be the meaning read into the regulation by at least two Government spokesmen, the noble Viscount, Lord Clifden, who replied in December last, and the noble Viscount the Leader of the House who replied on March 14, for both of them mentioned education allowances when replying to suggestions that the provisions for widows and orphans of officers was not enough and should be increased. It is very natural that they should think so, for I am quite certainneither of those noble Lords would advocate an allowance of i36 per annum as sufficient for the child of an officer killed on service, which would be the amount unless some education allowance was added to it. I do not believe it would have occurred to any of your Lordships that the child of an officer killed on service would be entirely refused an education allowance because of the officer's poverty in 1939. This case was dealt with by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House—I am sorry he is not here at this moment—on August 2, and as far as I understood the purport of his remarks it was to the effect that the regulation had been properly carried out.

The case that I am going to bring before you as proof that some overhaul of the regulations is required is one which I have previously mentioned in your Lordships' House. The man who was killed in action was an Acting Captain. He had been promoted from the ranks, but he was not one of the young men who joined the Army and got a Commission. He was a soldier who had served his time and had been put into the Reserve. He rejoined the Colours when the war started. In a year he got his Commission and within two years he was serving as Acting Captain. He took his chance with both hands. I submit that his children should receive an education allowance and the same advantages as the children of any other officers of the same rank and that their position should not depend upon what their father's circumstances happened to be in 1939, three years before he died and four years before his eldest child became eligible for an education allowance.

It is in the word "circumstances" that the regulation appears to have gone wrong, but if the word "circumstances" does not refer to the financial circumstances of the father to what does it refer? Does it mean social circumstances? Are those to be such as to satisfy the official of the Ministry of Pensions? Is not the fact that the man was killed on active service sufficient to justify the representatives of what the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, described yesterday as a great democratic Power in awarding L40 to the widow to bring up the child? After all, the education allowance is only for a limited number of years. Why should not the boy—in this case there are two boys—have the advantage of the father's service? I mention £40 specifically because £40 a year in the case I am now mentioning would have satisfied the claim. I had a letter only this morning from the widow telling me that a charitable organization had given her £25 to enable her to carry on until the Ministry of Pensions answers her question as to whether she can appeal against the decision. She has taken the £25 and provided the rest of money herself, and is keeping toe boy at school where he has made a good start.

On the other hand, I had a case in which the widow of a Wing Commander, a Regular officer, has been refused an educations allowance because, after deduction of taxes from her gross income, she has about £300 a year. It really does not seem that these education allowances are so easy to obtain as would appear at first sight. If there are anomalies in these cases surely there must be others under the heading which allows dependants to make an appeal for higher pensions or allowances. I could cite other examples, but I have received a hint that there is to be a full-dress debate later and so 3 must hurry. However, I do not think it necessary to offer other examples because I feel sure that many of your Lordships must know cases of hardship which you would like to see investigated. At any rate, where people are suffering under a sense of injustice I think we should desire to show kindness and give help and greater support in principle, and when there is need for further consideration there should be a chance of appeal against an adverse decision.

It is not my object to make an attack on anyone who in connexion with this question of awards must be carrying out a thankless task. I know that task is being carried out under many difficulties of a war-time character. There must be a certain feeling of restraint in making awards when the money required for pensions is steadily mounting and the prospect of many casualties has to be faced, but that makes it all the more important that there should be a review of these things when we have reached the end of the road. Then we shall know how the country stands and in a calmer atmosphere, without haste, examination can be carried out which may result in readjustments which may remove legitimate hardships. There is all the difference in the world, for a young woman, between taking her case to an appeal tribunal which is bound by regulations and which has all the appearance of a court, with counsel and so forth, and having her grievance looked into by a Committee which is working with the one idea of removing legitimate grievances of people who deserve very well of their country. This may stem a matter of secondary interest among the many great and stirring questions which we are discussing at the present time; but it is a matter of great concern to a rather pathetic group of people who are looking forward to a bleak future. They are for the most part inarticulate, and they are unorganized. They have had no opportunity to state what it is they want. I beg your Lordships to bear this in mind when the Division comes and to support this Motion. I beg to move for Papers.

2.31 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to support the Motion which has been moved by the noble and gallant Admiral the Earl of Cork. He, I think, need make no apology at all for raising this matter in your Lordships' House, nor indeed need he be under the impression that it is regarded by anyone of us as a matter of secondary interest. He referred to the Select Committee of 1919. As it happened, I was a member of that Committee. I remember very well how after the last war the whole question of pensions was in a state of almost inextricable confusion. The then Minister of Pensions, Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, set up a Committee and asked us to report urgently. The Committee was set up in the spring of 1919, and our first Report, to the best of my recollection, was issued in December of that year. As an indication of the complexity of the task with which we had to deal, may I recall that, in that comparatively short space of time, we held thirty-six sittings and heard witnesses from amongst all categories of people who were most qualified to help us, including the late Field-Marshal Earl Haig himself? I forget how many witnesses we heard altogether, but it was a great number. Now I am not suggesting for a moment that there is the same sort of confusion at the present time as there was then. Of course there is not, and, if I may say so, it was very largely due to the devoted work and the sympathetic and efficient administration of Major Tryon, who for far too short a time was a member of your Lordships' House, that order was evolved from chaos and chaos very largely disappeared.

But that was twenty-five years ago. What I am asking your Lordships to consider is this. Between that time and this, a great deal has happened and the situation now is very different from what it was then. I will just give one or two examples to illustrate what I mean. I offer them as reasons for consideration being given to the possibility of the whole question being considered by similar procedure after this war. I have before me the Royal Warrant of December, 1919, which followed almost exactly the recommendations we made, and which was issued within a very short time of our first Report. That Report, as I have said, was issued, I believe, at the beginning of December, 1919. One of the recommendations we made, and accepted in the Royal Warrant, was a recommendation referring to what was known as an alternative pension. An alternative pension was intended to help those whose disability seriously affected their earning capacity and whose standard of living was consequently reduced. The Royal Warrant set out that an alternative pension might be granted temporarily or permanently and set out the limit of the amount. My point is that this very important recommendation with regard to an alternative pension was accepted and carried into effect. So far as I know—I may be wrong, and I speak subject to correction —the alternative pension has now disappeared altogether, and there is no such pension at the present time.

Another provision which was made for the return of peace was what was known as the civil liability scheme. This was a scheme with which I, as a member of another place, was brought into very close contact, as, no doubt, were many others of your Lordships. It was a scheme to set up in business and help a man when he returned from the Army. I am conscious that in some cases—I know of a number of them—there was abuse of the scheme. But I also know that in many cases that scheme was of the greatest possible help to a man leaving the Army. So far as I know, that scheme has also disappeared, and there is no civil liability scheme at the present time. There is, on the other hand, what is known as the war service grants scheme. This is designed to supplement Service allowances and it is based on needs and definite commitments. But it ceases as soon as a man leaves the Forces. Therefore, while I do not doubt for a moment that it is an admirable scheme, I would point out that it does not in the least cover the ground which was covered by the two schemes of which I have spoken—the civil liability scheme and the alternative pension scheme —because it ceases directly a man leaves the Forces. So far as I know there is now nothing to take the place of either the alternative pension scheme or the civil liability scheme.

There are one or two further points which I have extracted from among a great many and I offer them as reasons why the Motion put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Cork, should be accepted, and that another Select Committee should be set up to inquire into the whole of this question after the war is over. The next illustration I offer is this. At the present time there is no provision, as I understand it, for allowances while a man is undergoing institutional treatment, when he comes out of the Army, except for his wife and children. After the last war that allowance was also obtainable for a dependent mother. It is probably true to say that on the whole those serving in the present war are younger than those who served in the last war, because men are called up at eighteen years of age, while in the last war compulsion was not intro- duced for some time. It is fair to assume, therefore, that a very great number of young single men serving in the present war—probably far more than in the case of the last war—have dependent mothers. I do nut understand why the dependent mother should not get an allowance while the man is receiving institutional treatment, when such an allowance is given to wives and children.

I do not offer these examples as the most important instances which could be given, because I know that there are many others which could be quoted; I offer them merely as illustrations of the point which I am trying to make. The pensions of Subalterns and Captains were raised recently—I think last May—but for some reason which I do not in the least understand this provision dues not apply to comparable ranks who served in the last: wa7. I do not in the least understand why the widows of Subalterns and Captain: who died in the last war should not be treated in the same way as the widows of those who served in this war.

Some one or other at some time or other has to decide whether the war pensioner shall receive, in addition to his pension, the benefits proposed under the social insurance scheme. Under that scheme a man will receive what he is entitled to by reason of his contributions, but it is not unfair to suggest that a man who has suffered disability in this war is also entitled to his pension by reason of his disability and of the service which he has rendered. Whether the two pensions are to be cumulative, whether one is to be substituted for the other, or how to allocate the amount to be obtained under one scheme and the amount to be Obtained under the other, are questions which require soon to be decided.

There was recently passed the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, for which Mr. & Tin was responsible. Personally, I think that that is an admirable Act, and the Minister of Labour may well be congratulated on having secured its passage through Parliament. The only comment which I desire to make on that Act is that I hope that the centres for the training of men set up under that Act—centres for training them riot: merely for munition work during the war but for work after the vvar—will be put into operation at the earliest possible moment, because I believe that they will be a very great contribution to the solution of the difficulties which will arise after the war with respect to these men.

I do not myself believe—and here I agree with my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery—that any appeal tribunal or any Departmental inquiry will be sufficient. These are real grievances or, if not grievances, real questions of controversy which ought to be settled; and it is not possible to settle them merely by appeals to an appeal tribunal or by Departmental inquiry. From some experience, extending now over many years, I believe that a Select Committee of Parliament—perhaps a Select Committee of both Houses—is the very best judge and the very best tribunal for going into and settling matters of this kind and making recommendations which are most likely to appeal to those concerned, and which will most readily do justice in a very complicated and difficult set of circumstances. For those reasons—I could speak at much greater length, but I do not want to take up more time—I most warmly support this Motion, and I hope that the Government will see their way to accept it.

2.45 p.m.


My Lords, I have nothing like the knowledge of my noble friends Lord Rushcliffe and Lord Cork and Orrery on this matter, and I shall take up your time only for a very few minutes; but I desire, for reasons which I am going to mention, very warmly to support this Motion and to express the earnest hope that the Government will see fit to comply with it. It merely asks for an inquiry, for a tribunal who will be able to deal with the matter in an unprejudiced way. All of us in this House look upon this subject as one with a background—the background of men who have been disabled in the service of their country, many of whom are quite unable to go on with the ordinary avocations of life, and of women who have lost their husbands and who are very often left with a child—sometimes only a baby—or two, and who are unable to support their children or to educate them in the way which would have been possible if their husband had not died in action or otherwise on active service.

I cannot help thinking, from a perusal of the Royal Warrant which has already been referred to, and also from a superficial knowledge of how the Warrant is applied, that Whitehall too often deals with this matter as if it were a question of statistics, and as if the mere question of whether there is something in the Warrant which prevents acceding to a claim can be regarded as a matter of logic rather than of humanity. For my part, when I investigated a case which my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery put before me some time ago, I must admit that as an old and (some people would say) soured and cynical lawyer, I was shocked at the way in which the case was dealt with. It seemed to me absolutely devoid of common sense, and the Warrant seemed to me to be equally devoid of the sort of reason which should be applied in such a case. I quite agree that there have to be rules and regulations and there must be maximum amounts which can be paid. It is necessary, moreover, to be very careful that the sums involved are not such that the country cannot afford to pay them. That, however, is not the sort of thing with which we are dealing here at all. We are asking for an inquiry which will remove injustices and, in my view, if the inquiry is not granted there will be a number of lads—the children of those who have lost their lives in defence of their country—who will not be given the education which they would have received had their fathers survived.

Many of your Lordships, like myself, have attended very lengthy debates on the Education Bill, which has now become an Act. Those who have done so know very well that at the present moment and for some years to come the Government cannot give proper education to many people in this country. There are many local education authorities who are in charge of schools which have classes of fifty and over, and everybody who has spoken on this question of education knows perfectly well that with classes of that size a number of lads cannot obtain a proper education.

If your Lordships will bear with me for not more than three minutes, I should like to tell you of a case which astounded me. It is the case of a widow who was left with a child at school, where he was doing exceedingly well. One of the regulations in the Warrant to which I have referred put a limit on the amount of expenditure involved at school by a boy whose mother was asking for an allowance under the scheme for allowances to widows for the purpose of the education of their children. It turned out that the amount being paid at this school was, if my memory serves me, £4 a year—it may have been £6, but that does not seem to me to matter very much—more than the figure laid down in the Royal Warrant, and her application was refused. The Warrant fixed the limit. It was said that she might take the boy away from that school, where, as I say, he was doing well, and send him to another school, where the amount to be paid was not greater than the amount mentioned in the Warrant. Can you imagine anything more ridiculous than to say that a poor widow in these circumstances should take her boy away from school, where he had been doing well for some time, to go to a school where the fees were such that they were within what I presume Whitehall thinks the maximum cost which the mother in the circumstances should spend to educate her poor child? I should have thought that any person with reasonable good sense would have said that in such a case the mother should be allowed a sum not exceeding the total mentioned in the Warrant; and if she was able by great hardship or by starving herself, as she would very often be willing to do, to find the extra money out of her own pocket, so that the maximum should not be exceeded so far as the Exchequer of this country was concerned, you would have thought that that was what the Warrant would say. Well, it does not. And that is only one example of the strange things you will find in this Warrant with regard to the allowances for children.

For my part, I cannot see that it can be right to leave the matter of these allowances to the discretion of the Minister without appeal. Why should you? Why should not a poor woman who is left with a child who will ultimately go to school, have some rights in respect to her child? Or at any rate, if it is left to the discretion of the Minister, who may have odd ideas of his own as to how a child should be educated, there should be an appeal. Those are the points which very strongly move me in this matter. I do not want to touch on any of the matters which Lord Rushclifte has so clearly described, but, speaking only from the sort of knowledge I have acquired in this matter, it seems to me that it is impossible to say that the present position is altogether satisfactory, and if that is so, it is obvious that there should be some inquiry. I strongly urge upon the Government the necessity .for such an inquiry, and I hope they will concede the wish that has been put before them.

2.52 p.m.


My Lords, the Leader of the House has asked me to reply to the Motion of the noble and gallant Earl, for as the Order Paper shows, there is other business to-day, very important business, which has already filled Lord Cranborne's plate. I cannot, I am afraid, hope to speak with the same persuasiveness which he exercises over us all, and I confess I had thought that one of his most ad Hirable performances had been the way in which, after infinite trouble and patience, he had helped so much as he did in the matters relating to pensions raised by the noble and gallant Earl a month or two ago. Of course it is quite right to raise any further question at the proper time, but I cannot help reminding myself that the noble and gallant Earl, when he ,poke in August, after the effort which the Leader of the House had made, said this: I will express myself a3 feeling satisfaction at what has been said, and I do not propose to press this matter at the present time. Presumably there will be an inquiry after the war, as there was in 1919, into this whole question, and I think I may have to return to this mater and ask your Lordships' support again. He, of course, is wholly entitled to do so, though I did not think in our debate in August that he would have chosen to bring this question before the House again so soon.

I hope I make myself entirely plain to everybody here. I am not taking up a position to-day of opposition to any of the complaints that have been made; and they have been put, of course, with conviction and force. Certainly my noble friend Lord Rushcliffe speaks with infinite knowledge of this subject, going back to the last war. But the question for the House, and it is the only question upon which any vote could be taken, is this: Is it reasonable, or is it unreasonable, for the Government to say it cannot now, at this time, in what as far as I know may turn out to be far from the very end of the war, make a binding promise—binding it may be itself, it may be its successor—that after the termination of hostilities a Select Committee shall be set tip as was done in 1919? I am not saying there should be no Committee; I do not pronounce on that; I concede that the argument used to-day will, when the proper time comes, be a very powerful argument; but is it reasonable to ask the Government at this time to give that pledge, to repeat what happened in connexion with the previous war? If precedent is the point—and the question on the Paper suggests that it is—well, what is now demanded is not following precedent at all, as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Rushcliffe, observed incidentally. The previous Committee was set up not during the war at all, but after the end of the war, after the Armistice, after the whole of the fighting had ceased, after the financial situation of the country was beginning to be surveyed as an after-war problem. I would beg my noble friend Lord Rushcliffe, who is a most fair-minded man, to observe the difference. What he is supporting is a totally different proposal, a proposal that the Government now, in October 1944, should make this promise in advance, without any knowledge at all, of course, of what the ultimate circumstances may be.

The previous inquiry was, I may observe, a purely House of Commons action; the Select Committee was appointed by the House of Commons, and every member of it was a member of the House of Commons. There was no member of the House of Lords on it at all; and if you wish to repeat the Select Committee method, the Committee will be appointed by the House of Commons. That was how the Select Committee was appointed, and it was appointed after the war was over and as a portion of the post-war review.


I hope the noble and learned Viscount will forgive me. I do not like the notion that I have been supporting a Resolution which I was not supporting. I was not supporting a Motion asking for any kind of pledge, but asking the Government for a statement of intention. It would not bind a future Government. If they had the intention well and good, though it may be that hereafter the circumstances may be such that it may not be advisable to carry it out.


I am much obliged to my noble friend. Let us leave out the question of a future Government. I really think that no experienced Parliamentarian would imagine that if we say "Yes, that is the Government's intention" it would not be regarded as a pledge. I think there is no one who has been a Minister who would for a moment question that that is in fact the result of such an answer. I stand to be corrected by anyone with that experience. Of course I could not say that it is the Government's intention unless I mean that the Government are going to do it.


Rebus sic stantibus. I only interpose—things being as they are.


Things will not be as they are. A very great deal is going to happen before we come to the end of the war. There is a great deal that may happen in the realm of finance. There is a great deal that may happen in the realm of social reform. Therefore it really will not do for me, however much I want to please everybody here, to say, "Oh, yes, that is the Government's intention," and then go and report to the Prime Minister that I have not said anything which in the least committed the Government. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Cork desires the Government to be committed.

THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY indicated assent.


He says so. Therefore, do not let anybody support him under the impression that that is not so. I am bound to say, with very great regret, that I do not think it is reasonable to ask the Government to give this pledge or, if you prefer it, this declaration of intention at this time. I do not to-day wish to challenge anything said, but at the same time it is asking more than is reasonable to ask from the Government such a declaration, in the very pinch of the war, which has still to be decided, that this post-war inquiry will be set up.

I must point out further that in the House of Commons, which is especially concerned with these matters, the Prime Minister was asked the same question on April 15, 1943. His answer was this, and the House should know what it was. The Prime Minister said he should not be justified in placing upon that House and on his right honourable friend the Minister of Pensions the very heavy burden which would inevitably result from the appointment of a Select Committee unless the main principles of the war pensions system were the subject of serious controversy. That is the answer which has been given in the House of Commons on this subject, and I really cannot depart from that answer here.

My noble friend Lord Rushcliffe gave us a very interesting account of the work of the Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1919. I have indeed, though very briefly, informed myself of the work of that Committee, which issued three Reports—very valuable Reports—but, as he recognized, it is fallacious to argue, because that Committee found the pensions question at that time in a great state of muddle and confusion, that therefore that must be regarded as the situation now. That of course is not so at all. As a matter of fact, some most important changes have been made since 1919. I could give quite a number, but I content myself with mentioning two. First of all, the statutory right to pension. When the Committee of 1919 sat they pointed out that there was no statutory grant of pension at all, that the matter lay in the realm of administrative discretion. The whole of that has been altered, and the consequence is that the improvement in pensions, at any rate to a large extent, depends upon statutory provisions. Of course my noble friend Lord Maugham is quite right when he says that the Royal Warrant also plays a very important part.

Take the second question, which was not properly dealt with before 1919, and that is the provision for an appeal tribunal on entitlement. My noble friend Lord Cork said he did not wish to bring that particular matter into controversy to-day. It is true that I had something to do with attempting that reform, and it is a very considerable reform. The proportion of cases in which, on appeal, it has been found possible and right to alter the original decision is very considerable, and my own information is that, speaking generally, these appeal tribunals are working well. It is a very difficult matter, because it is riot easy to get a large number of medical members and legal members at a time when 'there is such a demand for competent persons of that kind for other purposes; but that has been put pretty well right. I am not in the least claiming that there may not be other things to put right. I am not challenging in the very least anything which has been, said in the House about a particular case that has been brought to the notice Lord Maugham and on which he feels the decision was very wrong and even stocking. I am not to-day disputing any of that at all. It may very well be for all I know, that many changes have to be considered, recommended, contemplated and, it may be, enacted.

I am not challenging that in the very least, but I am bound to come back to the Resolution itself and to invite the House and every member of the House to consider really seriously if they are going to support the Resolution—not to sympathize with and support the speeches which have been made, but the Resolution—requiring the Government now, at this stage of the war, to make a declaration of intention. Every Parliamentarian knows that that is the same thing as making a promise, giving an assurance that they will take a particular course when the war ends, that they will take a particular method, the method of Select Committee I am not at all sure that it ought rot to be a Joint Committee. I do not see why it should be a Committee of the House of Commons.


I was careful to say a Committee of Parliament. I was myself thinking of a Joint Committee.


That is not what happened in 1919, neither is it the language of the Resolution. The proposal of the Resolution is to set up a Select Committee as was done in 1919. There is no doubt what that means. It means a Select Committee of the House of Commons. Personally I should have thought it doubtful whether that was quite the procedure to follow. It might be the proper course was to have a Commission. I repeat that it is riot reasonable, however strongly one may feel on this subject, to ask the Government, in the intensity of the war, to give a pledge or an assurance as to the particular method which will be adopted when the war is over, if it becomes necessary to return to this question. With great respect to your Lordships, and sincere respect to those who have spoken and whose opinions always impress me and are valuable, I most seriously and respectfully submit to your Lordships' House and to everyone here that it is not reasonable to ask the Government to make such a declaration in respect of action after the war.

3.9 P.m.


My Lords, I am exceedingly sorry to intervene, and I am also sorry that I do not feel satisfied with the speech which the Lord Chancellor has made. If, as the Lord Chancellor said, it may be necessary, and will in fact be necessary, for various matters to be inquired into and for various adjustments to be made, I cannot see, myself, any harm in the Government expressing their intention—it would be a pledge certainly —to inquire into them. I cannot see that there is anything in that. Personally, seeing the case that has been put before us, and indeed in view of the admissions of the Lord Chancellor, I think this is really a very reasonable request, and I do not think it would matter a bit if the Government said, "We propose to inquire into these things." I cannot see there is any harm done by that. Therefore, although I am very averse from saying so, I feel convinced it is quite a reasonable request.

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to draw the attention of my noble friend Lord Cork before he replies, and also of the leader of the Opposition, to a point which is really a constitutional one. Without entering in any degree into the case that has been made so powerfully by those who have taken part in this discussion, may I point out that the Resolution which this House is invited to adopt is to ask His Majesty's Government whether it is their intention at the termination of hostilities to set up a Select Committee as was done in 1919 to consider certain Acts? It is not a Government that sets up a Select Committee, it is a House of Parliament which sets up such a Committee, though it is true that usually, but not necessarily so, it is done on the Motion of the Government of the day.

Now this House could properly pass a Resolution, though I doubt its suitability at this moment, to the effect that this House should at some future date set up a Committee for a certain purpose. But that is not what the noble Earl invites us to resolve. He invites us to declare now the Government's intention to set up a Select Committee as in 1919—that is, a Committee of the House of Commons. That, surely, is a matter which should be debated rather in the House of Commons than here and, as this subject is mainly financial, it is not likely that the House of Commons would agree to the matter being dealt with simply by a Select Committee of the House of Lords. Nor would your Lordships, I imagine, propose that. No one has proposed it to-day. It should either be a Select Committee of the House of Commons as in 1919 (being a financial matter) or possibly, with the assent of that House, a Committee of the two Houses jointly. That being the case I question whether your Lordships would consider that this House was acting with propriety if it adopted a Resolution couched in the language now before it.

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, I do not know whether I might be allowed to ask what exactly the position is? I am rather puzzled. This is a Notice asking for certain information as to the Government's intentions. There is no Resolution that that intention ought to be given. There is no Resolution that a Committee should be appointed. The only Resolution moved is one for Papers. I have not heard any argument yet which satisfies me there is any case for Papers. I venture to think that if my noble friend Lord Cork wants to raise this question specifically he ought to put down a Motion saying it is desirable that such and such a course be taken and then the House should decide. Otherwise I do not see that we should decide anything.

3.13 p.m.


My Lords, I confess I feel rather in the air after all these words. I am not quite sure where I stand. The Lord Chancellor said that he hoped, after the great help Lord Cranborne had given, I had dropped the subject. But I am not now referring to the same subject. I have not asked for an increase of money. I have not asked for any alteration of regulations. Those were the respects in which Lord Cranborne gave his valuable help. This is quite a different thing. I am not asking for an assurance. As for the words "Select Committee" I am not a Parliamentarian. I was not brought up to this kind of thing and I admit that I ought to have taken more advice. I ask for a Committee of Inquiry. It may, of course, be a clever debating point to emphasize that I mention a "Select Committee" but it is easy to get out of that, by saying that the House of Lords has no intention of dealing with that subject. A slight mistake has been made. As Lord Cecil has pointed out, I am moving for Papers. How do you know I am going to move for a Select Committee in the end?

As for the difficulty about the Government saying what they are going to do after the war, they spend a great deal of their time saying what they are going to to do after the war. We had a debate yesterday on what was going to be done after the war and we are going to have another to-day on what is to be done by the Government after the war. The Government have expressed their intentions in a White Paper and in other ways as to what they are going to do after the war. Why should they stop short in regard to these pensions? I should have thought that the Government had debated up to the hilt what they are to do after the war. The Government are promising to spend a large amount of money after the war and they do not know where they are going to get it. I do not feel satisfied with the answer that has been given. I think I am simply being fobbed off. I am moving for Papers, which I believe is quite right. What I am going to ask the House to do is to decide in principle that they want these things looked into, so that after all the stress and strain of war we shall ensure justice and generosity to people who deserve well of us. Noble Lords who desire to vote the other way will show that they do not desire justice and generosity for these people. I am going to ask the House to vote for a Committee to be set up after the war to ensure that these pensioners do get justice and generosity.

3.16 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think the noble Earl, with all due deference to him, is treating the House quite fairly. He said he was no Parliamentarian. That may be the reason for the drafting of this Resolution, but it is not an excuse for the drafting of it. What in fact he asks the House in his Motion to do is to agree to press the Government to set up a Select Committee. He puts it down in black and white. But now he gets up, at the end of the debate, and says: "It is not what I want at all, I have expressed myself badly, I will be satisfied with something different." I want to suggest that that is not the way to treat your Lordships' House. I think if the noble Earl now has a different and more general proposition to put to the Government and the House his right course is to put it on the Paper and have it properly debated. But to put down a Motion asking the Government to agree to one specific course of action and then ask the House to vote on a quite different proposition, is not really a practical way of conducting our business.


May I ask if it is not possible to omit the word "Select" and move for a Committee?

On Question, Motion for Papers negatived.