§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It is a Bill about which I am confident there will be no controversy. Its effect is to enable the Minister of Pensions to administer, for the benefit of certain United States ex-Service men and their dependants in the United Kingdom, pensions and other sums which are payable by the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs in the United States. It deals, therefore, with the administration in this country of monies provided by the United States, under their laws, for the benefit of their ex-Service men who happen to be resident here. Under the law of the United States, the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs is obliged, where the dependant is a minor, or a person of unsound mind, or under any other legal disability, to pay the pension, or whatever it may be, to the dependant's legally constituted guardian or other person legally empowered so to act. In many cases, has been found that the dependants in this country who are in the categories referred to, have no legally appointed guardian to whom the sums could be paid, and it is undesirable that it should be necessary for them to have guardians appointed specially for this purpose. The Minister of Pensions has the machinery for paying pensions, and he is the obvious person to undertake this task. But, in order to enable the Americans to pay him the sums due, he must first be legally empowered to act and be enabled to accept and administer the sums as a trustee.
§ Subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 1 of the Bill provide that where in the case 1387 of any person it is agreed between the Minister and the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs that the Minister shall administer any funds received by him, he shall hold them upon trust to pay them or apply them in the interests of the person concerned for which purpose he is given a discretion to invest the funds. The period for which such an agreement operates is known as "the period of administration by the Minister," and it will normally be during the minority of the beneficiary, if he is a minor, or during the period that the beneficiary remains of unsound mind in other cases.
§ Subsection (3) of Clause 1 lays down what the Minister must do with the trust funds at the end of the period of administration. He may do one of three things. First, he may ask the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs to specify a person to whom he is to transfer the funds still held in trust. He would probably do this, for instance, in the case of an infant who had left the country, because he has no power to administer pensions abroad. Secondly, the Minister may hold the funds upon trust for the person concerned. This will probably be the normal case, and would occur when an infant beneficiary came of age or the person of unsound mind recovered his sanity. Thirdly, if the beneficiary has died, the Minister may, instead of asking the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs to specify a person to whom to transfer the funds, pay them to the personal representatives of the beneficiary, or where the sum does not exceed £100, pay them direct to the persons who are beneficially entitled to the deceased's estate. This subsection includes an express provision preventing any monies escheating to the Crown because it obviously would not be right for monies emanating from the United States Government to go to the Crown in this way.
§ Subsection (4) of Clause 1 provides that the provisions of the Bill shall not apply in any case where there is a legal guardian, receiver or committee appointed by a court in the United Kingdom, provided that such a person is competent to receive and administer funds under the terms of his appointment. The Bill is only designed to provide a machinery for paying the American pensions in cases where, but 1388 for the Bill, they could not be paid at all. Clause 2 of the Bill deals with the short title and interpretation. I think your Lordships will agree that the Bill is in the best interests of those concerned, and I commend it to the House.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
My Lords, we on these Benches welcome this Bill. We think it is right that we should put the experience and machinery of our Ministry of Pensions at the disposal of the United States War Veterans' Administration for the purposes just outlined by the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack. It is one small return that this country can make for the many friendly acts which the United States have done on our behalf in the last few years.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, may I add one sentence? This is a remarkable and gratifying Bill: first, for the reason that, as the noble Lord has just said, it enables us to render to the United States a service which may be of value to them, and secondly, because it recognises in a visible form the immensely close relations that exist between this country and the United States, and the opinion which those in authority in that country have of the wisdom and integrity of our administration.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.
§ Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of May 25), Bill read 3a, and passed, and sent to the Commons.