§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY of LANCASTER (THE EARL OF SELKIRK)
My Lords, I believe the House will generally welcome this Bill. It deals with the persons specified in the First Schedule and they are, broadly, civil servants, teachers, police, firemen, local government officers and one or two other categories. While I believe your Lordships will welcome this Bill, I believe you will also think it rather a pity that it is drafted in so complicated a manner. I frankly must agree, but I should inform your Lordships that we did consider taking a different course—that is to say, instead of amending the Pensions (Increase) Acts of 1920, 1924, 1944, 1947 and 1952, to start afresh and draft a new Bill covering the whole subject by itself. This course, however, presented considerable difficulties. In the first place, a number of the types of employment for 1117 which pensions are payable have completely disappeared, while others have been altered and regraded. Moreover, there are substantial changes, particularly in the professional field. But even if we had been able to overcome these difficulties, it would have taken a very long time to work out, and, quite frankly, we should not have been in a position to present the Bin at the present time.
Accordingly, we decided to proceed by way of amending legislation to the existing Acts, and that, I am afraid, is why the actual draft which we here present is of a somewhat indigestible character. However, I think it is fair to say that what it does is really very simple. It does two things: first, it increases basic pensions by 10 per cent. with a limit of £100, and, secondly, it removes the means tests which have been imposed in previous Pensions (Increase) Acts and which I think caused a degree of annoyance, not least because they were not easy to understand. The effect of the two points which I have mentioned varies in different cases, depending on whether or not the pensions have previously been restricted by the means test. Where they have been restricted by the means test, the pensioner can receive, under the 1947 Act, an increase of up to £60, under the 1952 Act of up to £26, and under this Act of up to £100, making a possible total increase of £186. It is true that there are a few extreme cases which might be freed from limiting tests under the 1920 Act—a long time ago—which brings the total benefit under this Act to a higher figure. But leaving this aside—and there can be very few cases which would take full advantage of them all—the figure I have mentioned is the limit of the increase in benefit which can be obtained.
Those are the two broad principles on which we are proceeding and I should like now to deal with three points which I think will be of interest to the House. First of all, the increase in pension will apply only to pensioners who have reached the age of sixty, except in cases of ill-health or incapacity, and certain widows and others under sixty. I think this is right, because we are here using public money for what is, in fact, a non-contractual payment; and, just though that may be, it is desirable that it should be used where it is most needed. Of course, in the majority of cases, civil 1118 servants do not retire until they are sixty or over, but there are a number of categories under this Bill, such as policemen, firemen and nurses, who have retirement ages well below sixty.
The second point I should like to make is that these pension increases do not apply to persons who are retiring right up to the present time. There is what is called the "cut-off" date—that is to say, there is a date of retirement after which pension increases do not apply. The reason for this is that the persons who retired sonic years ago have had their pensions eroded by inflation. This is less true of those who have retired more recently and, at least theoretically, not at all true of those who are retiring at the present time. The "cut-off" date for smaller pensions is March 31, 1952, and for pensions based on salaries exceeding £1,500, December 31, 1947. This is, however, subject to a taper, the terms of which are laid down in the Second Schedule, paragraph 3. I do not think I need go into the matter, but this taper is necessary because some pensions are based on a salary averaged over a number of years. The third point I should like to mention is this. Pensions increases are taken on the basis of a married person, whether in fact he is married or not. This is, of course, to the general advantage of pensioners, though it means that no special rate exists if a pensioner has dependants.
To turn to the Bill itself, Clause 1 applies the 10 per cent. increase through paragraph 1 of the First Schedule. It also defines "the relevant date", by which is meant the cut-off date after which pensions increases cannot apply, subject only to the taper which I have mentioned. Subsection (2) of Clause 1 gives a new definition of a dependant, which is now necessary in view of Lie abolition of the differential between married and single pensioners. Subsection (3) does no more than preserve existing rights. Clause 2 removes tae means tests in the Acts of 1920 and 1924 and also lays down that it will be the married rate which will be of general application. The provisions of this clause are substantially repeated in Clause 3, in respect of the Acts of 1944 and 1947. Subsection (3) here deals with the very complicated subject of war bonuses. Clause 4 is also substantially the same 1119 as Clause 2, but deals with the more recent Act of 1952.
If I may take a liberty with the House, I think it is fair to say that Clauses 5 to 13 are not much more than machinery for tidying up or clarifying certain points and bringing them up to date. For instance, Clause 6 is designed to ensure that, in the event of pensions being calculated after further service, the pensioner gets the best pension, whether it be an increased pension on his first assessment or on his re-assessment. Clause 7 deals with, respectively, firemen's and policemen's pensions and certain technicalities. There is application to Scotland in Clause 12, and subsequently to Ireland in Clause 13. I do not think there is anything more in principle that I need mention at this stage.
The First Schedule deals with the different categories of persons affected by these increases. The Second Schedule deals with the rate of increase, and here I would refer only to paragraph 3, which deals with the manner in which the taper is effected. The Third Schedule is, I understand, formal consolidation. The Fourth Schedule brings certain categories of pensioners within the benefits of the 1944, 1947 and 1952 Acts, from which there were previously excluded such people as county court judges, sheriffs in Scotland, and one or two others. The Fifth Schedule is purely formal.
I am not going to pretend that there are not a large number of people who would like to see these pensions on a more liberal basis, but it is fair to recognise that at the present time, when the Government are under very considerable pressure to reduce expenditure, it is no small achievement that they should be able to bring forward this scheme at all. It is, in fact, fuller and more extensive than any of the other three Acts which have been passed since the beginning of the war. We are fairly confident that it gives assistance where it will be of value, and that the relative measure of assistance is broadly just as between one category of pensioner and another.
I should perhaps add that the annual cost of this Bill will be about £8½ million and it will affect about 330,000 pensioners. There is an Amendment down, I understand, in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery. Perhaps 1120 I may draw your Lordships' attention to the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill itself, which says thatsimilar increases by Prerogative Instrument outside the Billwill be granted to the Forces. These will cost something of the order of £3 million a year and will affect about 100.000 people. I will defer my remarks on this subject until we have heard what the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, has to say. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)
§ LORD PETHICK-LAWRENCE
My Lords, when I was speaking in the economic debate, I think it was, in November last, I said that I objected most strongly to inflation because it was a form of robbery. This Bill illustrates that point almost better than anything else. Where prices change very considerably over a period of time, all contracts made at the beginning of that time and lasting through that period are vitiated, in effect, by that inflation. Over the last few years, since the beginning of the war, we have seen inflationary forces working to the detriment of the true working out of contracts made in money covering the period of time. So far as people who are still at work are concerned, it is a perfectly simple matter to meet the issue. The employees continually ask for, and continually receive, increases of pay, with the result that if they run very fast they manage to stay where they are. But, when it comes to the people who are retired from work, whose emolument is fixed at a sum probably determined many years before, they are not in a position, in the ordinary way, to demand an increase in their superannuation benefit, with the result that in all such cases there is great hardship if the strict legality of their contract is continued unaltered.
This Bill, which is one of a series of Bills that have been passed over a number of years, is designed to go some way, at any rate, to meeting that problem. It is for that reason, as the noble Earl indicated in his opening speech, to a very large extent a non-controversial Bill, and we on this side of the House, just as much as noble Lords on the other side, welcome its introduction and the probability of its being carried into law. But, of course, this Bill leaves out a large number of people. In particular, it leaves out 1121 entirely all those persons who have worked in their life not for the Government or for local authorities but for private institutions. Therefore, even if this Bill met completely the case so far as public servants are concerned, it does not and could not attempt to meet the case of persons who are in receipt of pensions arising out of private employment; and Ito that extent the robbery involved in inflation still remains. But with the sympathy and support, and even at the instigation, of Back-Benchers of both political Parties in both Houses, the Government have for years past worked on this problem and we now have this Bill.
So far as another place is concerned, those of your Lordships who like myself have read the debates there will realise that there was considerable unanimity among Members there in support of this measure. I understand that the feeling of unanimity was even greater on the Third Reading than it had been on Second Reading, because during its passage through the various stages in another place the Bill was amended in a number of minor ways which made it much more acceptable to all concerned. As a result, the Third Reading was almost a love-feast not only between Members of the Government and Opposition Front Benches but also between Back-Bench Members on both sides.
When the other place parted with the Bill, it was, in the opinion of Members there, as nearly perfect as it could be in the circumstances, though of course there were a number of people who wished it could have gone considerably further and who would have liked even better improvements in pensions carried into effect. I think we must appreciate, however, with the noble Earl who opened the debate, that these are difficult times in which to spend the money of the country, and that, in general, the Government have probably gone as far as they can be expected to go. That does not prevent us from regretting that the times are difficult and perhaps even from feeling that full justice has not been done. Moreover, there are still one or two matters upon which differences of opinion have arisen, and I do not know that any of us would put his hand on his heart and say that the Bill was absolutely perfect and devoid of all blemishes.
1122 I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, has some proposals with regard to further improvement, I think in regard to date, relating to some of the servants who worked in India. Naturally, from my position, if he can make out a case in that direction, as I think very likely he can, his proposals will have my support. My noble friend Lord Burden also has some suggestions to make, and I am quite sure that the noble Earl who is conducting this debate will give those suggestions full consideration. Subject to those possible further Amendments, I think I may say quite definitely that we on these Benches fully support this Bill. We think it is a thoroughly good Bill. We think that, so far as the public service is concerned, it goes a considerable way to rectifying the wrong imposed by inflation, and we shall facilitate the progress of the Bill through all its stages in this House.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ LORD HAILEY
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to have the opportunity of expressing to the Government the gratitude of my old colleagues in the Indian Service for the fact that they have been admitted to the privileges and benefits of this Bill. It will bring relief to many of them, as it will do a large number of other pensioners who have suffered from the great fall lately in the value of money. It is perfectly true that I, with some of my old friends, have been hoping for some time that we might secure from the Government a special measure applying in particular to the pensionary difficulties of former members of the Indian Service, for we felt that we had a rather exceptional position and had claims that were not shared by other pensioners, particularly those in this country. We put our claim, first, on the long duration of the period during which the Indian pensions have been fixed and have not been changed. There can be few parallels in this country to the position of the senior Indian Service, the Indian Civil Service. Its scale of pensions was fixed as long ago as 1862, so that those pensions have been in force without change for nearly ninety-four years.
There is a second point, which I think is of equal importance—namely, that 1123 unlike the services in this country, pensions are not based on an average of the emoluments of the years previous to retirement, but are subject to a fixed maximum. So the members of the Indian establishment have never been able to say that their pensions received the benefits of the increases of pay which from time to time have been given to them. To take only one illustration of the effect of that fixed maximum, an officer of the Indian Civil Service who filled the post of Governor, or indeed filled the post of Governor twice, would, owing to the maximum imposed, draw exactly the same pension as a district officer who retired after twenty-five years' qualifying service. But although we are not to have the benefit of any special and exceptional legislation in our own favour, we nevertheless welcome most heartily the measure that has now been extended to us.
There are only two points which I venture to bring to the attention of the House, because they affect the Indian Services in particular. The noble Earl has referred to the fact that the Bill retains the provision that pensions are not available to those who have not attained the age of sixty. Sixty years is a normal age for retirement in Great Britain; but it was not the normal age of retirement in India. Indeed, there are some Indian Services in which a man could not have served up to sixty years of age if he had desired to do so, for he would have been compulsorily retired before that. It is true that in this country a pensioner is supposed to be able to add to his income by getting fresh employment up to the age of sixty years; but even if that were the case and applied equally to officers on the Indian establishment—and it certainly has not proved to be the case—yet, of course, there is a serious fault in the logic. If it is equitable that pensioners should receive some consideration, owing to the fall in the value of money, then there is no reason why an increment to a man's pension should be affected by the fact that he is eligible for reemployment any more than by the fact that he has made a fortunate investment or, perhaps, inherited a small annuity. It is a reversion to the old means test of which we thought we had seen the last in this Bill. However, I do not wish to 1124 press that point. I realise that the 60-year formula is so firmly fixed in previous legislation that probably some entirely fresh legislation will be required to do away with it, in the same way that special legislation was required to do away with the means test; and we shall have to wait until that happens.
My second point is a more urgent one. On our reading of the Bill, Indian pensioners will be eligible for the increments if they retired before 1947 or owing to the results of the transfer of power in 1947. I think that flows from the construction that has been placed on the India, Burma and Pakistan Act of 1955. That would cover the case of most of the Indian pensioners, the majority of whom retired either before 1947 or in that year. But in that year the Viceroy, with, we understand, the support of His late Majesty's Government, issued an appeal to officers to stay on in service with India or Pakistan in order that those countries might have for some time the benefit of the service of officers with previous experience. Some officers accepted that invitation, and a small number of those officers stayed on in circumstances which make it difficult to say that they fall into the category of officers who have retired owing to the results of the transfer of power. The consequence is that, under the terms of the Bill, they will be excluded from any of the benefits provided by it. They gain nothing in any other way. They have not gained in their pension by staying on in India because, as I have said, there is the fixed maximum which prevents their doing so. I think your Lordships will agree that that is very undesirable. The appeal to them to stay on was made by the Government and was answered, and I am sure Her Majesty's Government will agree that it is undesirable that on that account those men should suffer exclusion from the benefits of the present Bill.
We agree that it is difficult to draft any Amendment to the Bill to provide for the special case of these officers which would not at the same time open the door to another larger class of officers who do not really fall within this special category. We therefore suggest to Her Majesty's Government that they should consider either an amendment of the Act of 1955, to which I have referred, or 1125 some other means at their disposal which will meet the case of these officers. If Her Majesty's Government would undertake to do so, I am sure that the Services concerned would be amply satisfied. In other words, I would ask Her Majesty's Government to treat this case very much as the late Lord Addison treated an appeal made by the late Lord Wavell on behalf of a certain class of officers who had suffered by the transfer of power in 1947 but who did not fall strictly within the category of those entitled to compensation. As a result of the measures taken by the late Lord Addison, the cases of many of these officers were met and the undertaking which was then given by the Government was, I am happy to recall, implemented in a most generous fashion. I hope that a similar course can be taken to meet the present situation.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, we are all indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, for his clear explanation of the Bill; he was up to his usual form. I warmly welcome the reference by my noble friend Lord Pethick-Lawrence to those who are not covered by this Bill. To one like myself, who has spent forty years of his active life in the railway service, bearing in mind the fruitless efforts which have been made to deal with the problem of superannuitants from the railway service, those words were very refreshing; but one realises of course that they are outside the scope of this Bill.
I am sure your Lordships will agree with the noble Earl that this Bill is one which, by and large, will be warmly endorsed by all Members of your Lordships' House. There are, however, one or two points to which I venture to draw the attention of your Lordships and the Minister. I readily agree that these are Committee points and for that reason I do not propose to develop them at any length this afternoon; but I earnestly hope that it may be possible for some discussion to take place between now and the Committee stage so that an effort may be made to reach a measure of agreement. My first point was referred to by the noble Earl in regard to Clause 1 (2) and Clause 5, which vary the definition of "dependant". I feel it is fair to say that that definition worsens the position of dependants as compared 1126 with the definition in the previous Acts of 1944, 1947 and 1952. There may be some good reason for this variation, but I should not have thought that this was the time for a worsening of dependants' conditions.
The second point to which I wish to draw the attention of your Lordships and the Minister is in connection with the First Schedule, Part II. This Schedule lists those pensions payable by local authorities to their former employees which are not brought within the scope of this Bill. These are pensions payable to employees formerly in the tramway undertakings of metropolitan authorities, who were transferred to the London Passenger Transport Board, under the London Passenger Transport Act of 1933, and who chose, as they had a perfect right to do, to continue after transfer as members of the local authority funds. Superannuation contributions were therefore paid into the local authority fund during employment with the London Passenger Transport Board, or London Transport, and the pension, of course, is payable from that fund—the fund in the hands of the local authority. Neither this Bill nor the previous Acts apply to such pensions. The Increase of Pensions (Extension) Regulations, 1953, allow the local authorities affected to pay the increases of the Pensions (Increase) Acts, 1944 to 1952, but those Acts laid down that the payment of any increase is not mandatory upon the authority. I am very happy to say that all the authorities affected are paying the increases but—and this is my point—only in respect of that portion of service rendered to the local authority and excluding the period of service under London Transport.
The payment of increases to its other pensioners is, of course, mandatory upon the pensions authority, and, as I think applies in other cases, employees who were compulsorily transferred by action of the State—transferred from one employing authority to another, in order to meet this reorganisation of London Transport—find themselves, so far as these increases are concerned, in a worse position, and I do not think it is a fair answer to say that the period of service under London Transport is the responsibility of that employing authority. Surely the Government who made the transfer have some measure of responsibility to that authority and to those men. The London 1127 Transport Executive has no power, as I understand the Bill, to reimburse particular pension authorities in these cases. When this point was raised in another place I understand that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury indicated that the Government were prepared to make the requisite Regulation if requested to do so by the London Transport Executive. With due respect, I would submit that it is not quite fair to leave the initiative to the London Transport Executive. The responsibility, I think, falls fairly and squarely upon the Government, in view of the transfer which took place twenty years ago to meet the reorganisation, and I do urge the Minister to consider that point.
The third point arises in regard to paragraph 7 of the Second Schedule. This provides that where the appropriate pension authority is satisfied that it is proper so to do, Regulations may be made with the consent of, or by, the Treasury to provide that the additional increases payable under Clause 1 (1) of the Bill shall apply:subject to such modifications, adaptations and exceptions as may he specified in the regulations.This seems to imply that Regulations might be made, if the Treasury thought fit, to restrict the additional benefits of the Bill. I have the greatest respect for officers of Government Departments and the Treasury, but the power given under the Schedule is indeed very wide. Broadly speaking, it is surely the intention of the Bill to alleviate so far as possible the unfortunate position of many pensioners, and the power to vary these increases does not seem to be in keeping with the letter, not to mention the spirit, of this Bill. However, as I said earlier, and as my noble friend Lord Pethick-Lawrence has also said, we welcome this Bill and we will do all that we can to help its passage into law. The points which I have mentioned are undoubtedly Committee points, and I do not expect a detailed reply from the noble Earl this afternoon. I should be most grateful, however, for an opportunity between now and the Committee stage, in a spirit of complete good will and understanding, to try to find some acceptable solution in the interests of all concerned. Having said that I will conclude 1128 by assuring the noble Earl how much we appreciate the broad objects of this Bill.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY had given notice of his intention to move, as an Amendment to the Motion, "That the Bill be now read 2a," to leave out all the words after "That" and to insert instead: "this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill concerned with civil pensions only, until further information is available about the detailed application of the proposed pensions increases to Service pensions". The noble and gallant Earl said: My Lords, I rise to move the Amendment which stands in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so I find myself in rather a curious position, because it might appear that I oppose this Bill. I do nothing of the sort; I welcome it. But it was explained to me that as Service pensions would be dealt with by Royal Warrant I had to oppose the whole of this Bill in order to mention the Service point of view, for the Royal Warrant will be published shortly without there being any opportunity to debate the matter.
§ I venture to put before your Lordships the points which I am going to raise now on this Bill. Of course, the recent rises of pay and the benefits promised by this Pensions Bill will make a great contribution to the happiness of the three Services. I am not going to talk any more about the "three Services"; I will talk now about what I consider to be the Military Service of the Crown, and that includes the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force and everyone in them, from Field Marshals down to able seamen. These terminal grants will help the pensionable position, but the pay increases and the terminal grants are not retrospective. There are, I believe, some twenty thousand officers who will not benefit by this rise in pensions because they are under 60 years of age. They will have to drag on for some time to come on the miserable pensions they are now receiving.
§ My noble and gallant friend Lord Jeffreys mentioned various points in a debate on defence before the Easter Recess and I should like to associate myself with the remarks he then made in every particular, and especially with the remarks he made on what he called the "miserable pinching" of 1935. This has been brought to your Lordships' 1129 attention many times, but it cannot be mentioned too often. Your Lordships will remember that in 1919 pensions were fixed at a certain rate and were linked with the cost of living, inasmuch as they were to rise with the cost of living up to a limit of 20 per cent. That was accepted by all the Services and taken as a guarantee by the Government, and that went on for some years. However, in 1935 the rates were arbitrarily stabilised, though the cost of living was rising and went on rising. They were stabilised, not at the 1919 rate but at 9½ per cent. below it. Therefore, we cannot be astonished if this change caused bitter discontent and a great deal of recrimination. And it certainly had an adverse effect on the recruitment of officer cadets. Now the forecast is that the rate for officers over 60 years of ago is again to be increased by 10 per cent., but this is to be based, not upon the 1919 rate but upon the 1935 rate; so that, when it comes, the rise in pensions for these officers will really amount to something under 10 per cent since 1919.
§ I want to put before your Lordships the case of widows' pensions. These are wretchedly small. The noble Lord, Lord Hailey, referred to Indian officers who have not had their pensions altered for ninety years. Officers' widows can beat them, because it is a hundred years since their pensions were altered—not, I think, since 1850. There are many women new receiving widows' pensions. I had several letters this morning asking me to plead their case and telling me how they were put to it hard to live on the pensions they are given. The Government do not seem to realise the position. An officer who serves full-time and dies and leaves a widow may also leave a family who have still to be brought up; and though there are children's allowances the cost of sending children to school is increasing year by year. We must realise that the difficulties of mothers who are bringing up children are very great.
§ It is not my intention to argue about the 1916–18 rate of pensions or about the rate of pensions now, but neither is fair. They may be just, but they do not appear to be just, and I believe it to be the touchstone of any legislation that it should appear just to those who have to abide by it. We have now a chance of making a fresh start, and I ask the 1130 Government to wipe the slate clean and start again by seeing that officers get a full 10 per cent. on the old rate. So long as the Government preserve the rate as it is at present they keep the irritant, and that is a great mistake. They want to have a good purge and get rid of it. Officers' widows were given a 5 per cent. rise in 1952, and now we are told that they are not to get a 10 per cent. increase on the rate—or so rumour goes; the increase will be limited to 5 per cent. because they had 5 per cent. three years ago. If they get this 5 per cent., that will mean a 10 per cent increase in 100 years. The Government may be in difficulties for money, but I cannot understand why they should cavil about 5 per cent. on about £200 a year.
§ Years ago a law was passed under which an officer's window could not get a widow's pension unless they were married while still on active service. That was all very well in 1907 when the law was made, but now things are different. An officer gets family allowance, children's allowance and marriage allowance, and we had none of those in 1907, certainly not in the Navy—I do not know whether the Army was better off. If an officer has served twenty or twenty-five years and then married, when he, died his widow would get nothing. But if an officer served during this period and was not married, the Government owe him money. That should be taken into account, and something should be done for his widow.
§ In the debate in another place I noticed that doubts were expressed about the position of certain classes of men—policemen and firemen were mentioned—who had not a chance of getting to the top scale because they had to retire at sixty and had not time to serve the forty years required to win full pensions. I should like to ask the noble Earl whether we can take it for granted that the Services will not come under that rule, and that a man can get a full pension when he has served the full time his Service requires of him. If we are to induce men to remain in the Service, they must get a good pension. One of the greatest incentives to re-engagement for a long period is for a man to obtain some security for his widow on his death. Furthermore, we ought not to underrate the influence women have, not only as regards the recruitment of boys and 1131 young men, but also in the retaining of their husbands in the Services. I have known many officers and petty officers who have left when they could, because they were so nagged by their wives about what they could get if they went into the City or industry and tried to make some money.
§ On the other hand, we know how many wives encourage their husbands to keep in the profession they know their husbands want, by not dilating on their hardships and what they have to put up with but by putting up with hardship, with no grumbling about it. The wife of a Service officer has a hard time—and when I say "officer", I mean any officer or rating—and that hardship has been well defined in three words: pay, pack and follow. But only too often the wife cannot follow, because she cannot afford it, or her husband has been whisked away to some place on the other side of the world.
§ I have made these observations with the object of begging the Government now, before it is too late, to agree to give pensioned officers a full 10 per cent., and to wipe away all the recrimination that is going on, which is not good for any Service. The other thing I ask is that the wives should be given the 10 per cent., so that they may be made happy and not left out in the cold again. If this is done the whole Service will benefit. I beg to move.
Leave out all the words after ("That") and add ("this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill concerned with civil pensions only, until further information is available about the detailed application of the proposed pensions increases to Service pensions").—(The Earl of Cork and Orrery.)
§ 4.2 p.m.
My Lords, I am well aware that this is not my subject, and it is naturally alarming to rise among a pride of Admirals and Generals to talk about the poor and scattered remnant of battles long ago. But even civilians have friends and relations who are the widows of dead fighting men, and common humanity arouses our indignation at the unfair discrimination with which these helpless creatures are treated. This Bill is a difficult one to understand, but the obvious favouritism in it remains unaltered by a percentage increase. The 1132 widow whose husband was killed is still favoured above the widow whose husband served his time in many wars and died. The widows' pensions for people who are serving now are higher than those of widows of soldiers who may have fought in two world wars. No doubt these awards are made to catch recruits, but at these low income levels there is no justice in such discrimination.
The widow of a lieutenant-colonel gets £180 per annum, the widow of a major £140 per annum and the widow of a captain £110 per annum. These are pittances on which no one can lead a decent life, and in a time of full inflation this Bill proposes an increase of 5 per cent. on these starvation rates. Everybody else is having a gay time inside the inflationary spiral. On all sides wages and salaries go up and up. They "could not care less" if prices rise, so long as the power to get more money is retained. But these neglected old ladies, whose husbands devoted long service to their country, have no such power. Nobody cares what happens to them.
A display of careful differentiation is made not only between those whose husbands were killed and those who husbands died, but between the various ranks, as if these old widows were subalterns making their way up in the world. What is it that the widow of a lieutenant-colonel needs that gives her £40 a year more than a major's widow? What is it that the widow of a major needs that gives her £30 a year more than the widow of a captain? An illusory impression of fairness is given, when the truth is that at such a level the needs of all these widows are the same. Everybody knows that you cannot live on £110 a year and that such income must be supplemented. Widows over sixty cannot earn anything. The large majority cannot benefit from National Insurance pensions. The majority of them are living in wretched circumstances.
I know that such a widow is considered a woman of no importance. I should like to read a passage from a letter from a widow of an officer in the 5th Fusiliers. She says:We cannot fight for ourselves. We have dropped out, being unable to renew our clothes when they wear out and being too poor to offer hospitality. Surely, you will agree that it is impossible for an elderly, and probably delicate, woman to pay for her lodging, food, 1133 fuel and light and personal expenses, including clothes, out of £110 or £140 a year. It is quite impossible to live on these pensions. In the Indian Civil Service the widow of a High Court judge and the widow of a junior district magistrate get £300 a year. To offer us a 5 per cent. rise on £110 or £140 is an insult. To increase the lower pensions to a level on which it is possible to live would not cost the country much—there are not many of the old contingent left.Of course, I know that I shall receive from the Government a lament for the sad fate of these old ladies—a lament easy to make if you have never tried to live on £2 a week in a period of inflation. And then the Government will have the relief of an easy "get-out" and say that your Lordships cannot amend a Bill by an Amendment which imposes a charge on the Exchequer. But if the conscience of the Government, or even perhaps their shame, has been moved by the case that we are putting before them, surely there is some noble Lord here who will be able to move an innocuous, acceptable and unfinancial Amendment which will send the Bill back to another place. There the Government can themselves draft an Amendment that all officers' widows over sixty shall receive not less than £300 a year. Is that an unfair or extravagant proposal? Surely, it is a disgrace to us all that we, who spend £1,500 million every year on the Services, should grudge this vital help to the diminishing and neglected widows of men who have faithfully served their country.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ LORD JEFFREYS
My Lords, I rise to support the Amendment moved by my noble and gallant friend Lord Cork. I have never been able to understand why the present procedure as regards officers' retired pay is adopted. Under this procedure, Forces retired pay is not dealt with in the Bill otherwise than by a notice that members of the Forces will be granted similar increases by Prerogative Instrument outside the Bill. If that is the case, why is the matter not dealt with by a separate Parliamentary Resolution, under which it would be possible to know what is proposed and to comment upon it in due course? Is it, I wonder, because the Government cannot resist the temptation of comparing the conditions of officers with those of civil servants? They have been compared before in a great many of these Bills, and I think that argument has been dealt with effectively 1134 by many of us. But I will venture to put the principal points again.
If it is desired to make a comparison between the conditions of civil servants and those of the officers then it must be said that the conditions of service of the two classes are entirely different. Officers may certainly be entitled to retired pay in certain cases when they are in the early forties, whereas a civil servant normally serves until he is sixty. But how different are the conditions! An officer must be prepared to be moved frequently; and he is, in fact, moved very frequently. He can never be certain of a settled home for long; and when serving abroad he has difficulty in arranging for his children's education—and it is made extremely expensive for him, too. He must be prepared, moreover, to undergo not only discomfort, but actual danger. Last, but not least, an officer on retired pay is liable to recall, which makes a considerable difference. If he has succeeded in finding civil employment or occupation, his recall to duty may often mean, at the very least, heavy losses to him, and possibly heavy losses to the business in which he is engaged. On the other hand, a civil servant has normally a settled life, settled conditions and a settled home. He has no financial difficulty in arranging for his children's education. Probably he cart also continue to live in his house after his retirement.
An improvement in the conditions of officers' retired pay appears at present to be contemplated—that is to say, generally speaking, a 10 per cent. increase to officers who are over sixty years of age. A principle of long standing (to quote an expression previously used), that retired pay, once awarded, cannot be altered except in cases of hardship, has at long last, and not before it is time, been abandoned by the Treasury. For those improvements officers, I would say, are not ungrateful. Most of the officers affected are over sixty, but I wonder whether it was really necessary to confine increases to those over sixty, and why, when the principle of the immutability of retired pay had been abandoned, all officers should not come under the new rates of pension. The old ones need the increases much more than the new, and there are not many of them left.
Then there are the officers who retired under the 1919 Code who were alluded 1135 to by my noble and gallant friend, the mover of this Amendment. That Code foresaw variations in the cost of living and provided for an increase or decrease not exceeding 20 per cent.—not an enormous amount—as the cost of living rose or fell, So long as the cost of living fell, the decreases were duly made, but when it began to rise the rate was stabilised in 1935 at 9½ per cent. below the basic rate of 1919; and some two years ago the greater part of that 9½ per cent., after much pressure in both this House and another place, was restored. But there is no provision for any increase up to 20 per cent. as provided for in the Code in the basic rates of 1919, and it appears to be doubtful whether the 10 per cent. increase will not be calculated on the stabilised rates—that is to say, the reduced rates—of 1935. I am not absolutely certain about that, but it certainly has been mentioned and it may be the case. If this should be done, it will be, I do not hesitate to say, a crying scandal and a disgrace to any Government which allows it to be put in force, and will show that the Treasury can never resist the temptation to pinch, even when pretending to be generous.
Lastly, there is the case of the widows of officers, which has been mentioned both by the mover of the Amendment and by the noble Viscount, Lord Esher. They are to receive an increase of 5 per cent. on their meagre pensions. The reason for this small rate of increase is that within the last few years—in fact, in 1952—they received a 5 per cent, increase. But prior to that they had received no increase for a hundred years. Surely, they might be, and indeed should be, more generously treated. Civil servants' widows' pensions are calculated at the rate of one-third of their husbands' pensions. If officers' widows were to receive one-third of their husbands' pensions it would not be a very great increase, but it would undoubtedly greatly improve their position.
When regard is had to the immense increase in the cost of living in recent years, and still more to the immense increase as compared with, for instance, a hundred years ago—the last occasion before 1952 when officers' widows' pensions were increased—I feel that something more should be done; some regard 1136 should be had to the value of money. Now that the ridiculous (as I think) old argument of the immutability of rates of pension has been abandoned, it seems to me that now might be the time to give, to all officers, and at no great expense, the benefit of the latest rates of pension which have been laid down. I hope the Government will at least consider doing this. I have no further remarks to make, except to express again my general agreement with the noble and gallant Earl, the mover of this Amendment, and with the noble Viscount, Lord Esher. I hope that when we see the Prerogative Instruments in full they may be less ungenerous than has been forecast.
§ 4.20 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
My Lords, I rise to support the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery. I agree whole-heartedly with the remarks of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Jeffreys, who has just spoken, and the noble Viscount, Lord Esher. I will not weary your Lordships with any more arguments, as those that I would have put forward have already been used. I should, however, like to say this. Officers' wives are more likely than their civilian counterparts to lose their breadwinners through the nature of their husbands' calling. This applies even more so in the case of airmen's wives. Officers' widows' pensions should surely be up to a level that would allow them to live a reasonable existence and standard of living without having to go out to do menial work in order to get the ordinary everyday necessities of life. I know of a General's widow who has now almost to do what I consider to be a charlady's work in order that she may live at the age of seventy. Is that what the country really wants to happen to the widows of officers and men who served them?
My second point concerns officers' pensions. Here I must declare an interest, but I am speaking on behalf of hundreds, if not thousands, of fellows like myself. It seems to me entirely illogical. Why is it that an officer who retired last year or the year before, or the year before that, should—taking the wing-commander, lieutenant-colonel and commander level—retire on £675 a year for the rest of his days whereas if he had retired a month later, this year onwards, he would receive £800 a year? He would have 1137 received £675 last year and £800 if he retired this year for the rest of his life. Surely pensions are meant to enable an officer to retire, as it should be, in the case of widows, on a reasonable standard of living and one commensurate with the rank which he attained through his own work in the Service in which he served. Why this difference? It seems to be a great mistake psychologically.
It is a very small thing financially for the Government to do to make all pensions always the same, and yet they are spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar. It is all very well—though I welcome the Bill—to say that the new pensions are good. They are good so long as the present standard of living remains at this level. But those who are contemplating entering the Services will think twice, because they see what happens afterwards to these officers whose pensions are stabilised at that particular level and not at the new one. They say to themselves: "If the cost of living rises, then the pension that we may get will be only at the level at which we retire, and rot at the level which the cost of living may attain in future years." I ask the Government to think again on this matter. They are still spoiling the good effect of the increases of pensions already announced, which I and all officers with whom I have talked welcome. I ask the Government to honour their commitments.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ LORD FREYBERG
My Lords, in common with all other noble Lords in your Lordships' House I feel grateful to the Government for bringing forward this Pensions (Increase) Bill. Although I agree to its having a Second Reading, I want to support the Amendment standing in the name of the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery. The Bill is concerned with civil pensions only. We feel that more information should be available telling your Lordships the proposed pension increases to Service personnel. I do not want to go over all the old ground because it has been mentioned here in your Lordships' House so often by the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Jeffreys, Lord Cork and Orrery, and other noble Lords. But I want to repeat some arguments that have been put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Esher.
1138 Like many of your Lordships, I receive a large mail from people in the Services on this question of Service pensions. Where I am living, in Windsor, there are many people who have served in Her Majesty's Services. I want to repeat a point that was raised so ably by the noble Viscount, Lord Esher: that we are shocked by the report of the lack of consideration that widows of Service officers are to receive under this new Royal Warrant. We all feel that, regardless of what may be done for the future widows of Service officers by the contributory scheme—which I think is excellent—existing widows should not be left with their entirely inadequate pensions on which they have been granted a miserable 5 per cent. increase. It should be remembered that by far the majority of officers' widows are now condemned to live on pensions of between £115 15s. and £189 per annum, and that a 5 per cent. increase will give them a miserable £6 to £9 extra per annum. It is said that this increase is to meet the increased cost of living since 1952. I trust that, even at this late hour, fresh consideration will be given to the case of these most deserving people. I beg to support the Amendment standing in the name of the noble and gallant Earl.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, if the noble Earl who is to reply for the Government will allow me, I should like to confine myself for two or three minutes to supporting the Amendment moved by the noble and gallant Earl. I should like to mention something which has come to my notice only to-day and which illustrates a considerable contrast between the treatment which certain civil firms accord to widows and that accorded to the widows of officers by the Government. I have been interested recently in the case of a lady whose husband served one of our great shipping companies and, when he died, that company awarded her a pension of £200 a year—rather a generous pension compared with that which the wives of certain officers receive. I have noticed the increasing hardship which this lady has been suffering, little things having to be sold, and so on, and I recommended her to write to this shipping company to say that life was getting a little hard for her and to ask whether they 1139 could consider increasing her pension of £200 a year.
This lady called me up at twenty minutes past eight this morning to say that she had had a reply to her letter and that the shipping company was increasing her pension by no less than £150 a year—from £200 to £350 a year. With this debate coming on this afternoon, two things came forcibly to my mind: the first was the relief from anxiety which this generous response to her letter had brought to this lady, who saw so many difficulties, troubles, worries and anxieties lifted from her shoulders; the second was the fairness of the company in recognising the hardship from which this lady was suffering and responding so generously to a perfectly legitimate appeal. Knowing that this debate was coming on, how I wished that the Government would respond in the same way to the appeal of the officers' widows who have been mentioned this afternoon, and would in a similar manner roll away the load of anxiety and hardship from which so many of these officers' widows are suffering! If they would behave with similar generosity to that of the shipping company, what a reward they would get! It would be an encouragement to the officers of the Services and a rich reward would be reaped by the Government if they behaved with similar, I will not say generosity, but fairness to the widows of men who have served them so well—widows who suffer such real hardship and anxiety and, in many cases, grievous affliction because of the miserably inadequate pensions which the Government afford them.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I think the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, will not disagree with me when I say that, whilst I am quite willing to seek to answer the points that he has raised, this particular process goes very near to abuse of procedure in this House, because the subjects which we are discussing are not, in fact, included in the major Motion before this House. I think he will agree with me in that, will he not? What we are doing is using this Bill as a device for discussing a subject which is not, in fact, before the House.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
I object to the word "device." It is 1140 nothing of the sort. I was advised by the authorities of this House that that was the way in which to raise the subject, and I followed entirely the procedure which was carried out in another place.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I am sure the noble Earl will appreciate that if he carried his Motion—if it is in his mind to do so—it would affect a large number of people who are quite unconcerned with most of the points which he is seeking to raise. I think that the majority of noble Lords here who support the noble Earl have in mind the pay code. They are not really concerned with the increases which are proposed here, but with the pay code. Frankly, it is no use discussing the pay code. Most of the arguments have been advanced for a relatively small section of the people concerned—namely, officers in the Armed Services. Comparatively little was said about other ranks, or about many other people of one character or another who come under State Services.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
May I again interrupt the noble Earl? The Royal Warrant deals with officers' pensions. I am perfectly sure that none of the officers who spoke has forgotten the other ranks with whom he served—his old comrades. But the Royal Warrant deals with officers' pensions.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
Actually, I think I am correct in saying that it deals with all pensions. I think it is strange that the procedure should not be understood. The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, speaks with great authority on military matters, but it has always been the practice—and I understand that the Services are glad that it is so—that changes in rates of pay and retired pay are carried out by Royal Warrant in the Army, by Order in Council in the Navy and by Queen's Order in the Air Force. That has always been the procedure; it has never been done by Act of Parliament. I am given to understand that the Services would object if it were carried out by Act of Parliament.
§ LORD JEFFREYS
Might I venture to interrupt the noble Earl for one moment? If he refers to the bottom of page ii of the Pensions (Increase) Bill Explanatory Memorandum, he will see these words:As in the case of existing Pensions (Increase) Acts, former members of the Forces will be granted similar increases by Prerogative Instrument outside the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
If the noble Lord had been here when I moved the Second Reading, he would have heard me refer to that point. That is precisely the procedure which has always been adopted—putting forward Prerogative Instruments parallel to Pensions (Increase) Acts, but outside the Acts; and the terms of the Instrument have been identical in every case.
My Lords, I should like to deal with the points which have been raised, as fully as I can. We are seeking, so far as we can, to get a basis for Service pension increases comparable with that for civil servants or other people concerned. Necessarily, there are great differences between the terms of service and the circumstances in which pensions are granted, but we believe that we have achieved substantial parity of treatment in the main principles to be applied. First, all means tests are removed, and, secondly, there is an increase of 10 per cent. in retired pay, with the maximum of £100. I should mention that there will be reduced rates of increase for senior officers who have retired under the 1950 Code—that is,7½ per cont. for colonel or the equivalent rank, 5 per cent. for brigadier and 2½ per cent. for General officers. I have explained that there are limiting dates and tapering increases for civil pensioners which are more restrictive in the higher grades. The reduced rates of increase for senior Service officers correspond very broadly to the arrangements for the higher grades in the Civil field.
There are general differences between the increases proposed for the Civil pensions and the Service pensions. The Service pensions have no point of time before which retirement is to take effect—it is rather important to appreciate that. Service personnel will, in general, get the benefit of a 10 per cent. increase, subject to a maximum of £100, with the exception of those who retired under the 1956 Code—that is, the new Code. I have explained that the Civil Service, on the other hand, have a cut-off date which does not enable this benefit to be paid right up to date. In this sense, so far as I have been able to compare the two, the Services are better placed.
The second point of difference is that, with the exception of the very senior officers, Service personnel do not normally 1142 serve until the age of sixty, whereas the civil servant generally serves until he is sixty. This difference is necessary because of the nature of the work. The noble Earl has made a good deal of the point that this is not quite fair. But I think it important to remember not only that there are certain categories of civil employees who retire younger than sixty, such as firemen, policemen, prison officers and nurses, but that it has always been the practice, with the exception of the special circumstances under the 1954 Act, to pay pensions increases to pensioners who reach sixty. I think the reason for this is quite clear: that pension increase payments are made in consideration of the fall in the value of money. The taxpayer himself is also concerned adversely in this factor. It is difficult to ask the taxpayer to make a special payment of this character to pensioners who are, in fact, of an age when they are still capable of working.
I believe that a serving officer can retire after twenty years' service. One has to remember that the junior officer, about whom Lord Esher spoke, secures a pension after about twenty years' service. I do not think there is any other sphere in life where one can get a pension of that character after twenty years' service. It is important to remember that that is the basis on which it proceeds. It may be inevitable that officers should retire from active service in the early forties, but it would be wrong to suggest that they necessarily retire from active life then, because that is not so; whereas entirely different considerations may well apply when they reach the age of sixty. I should have thought that it was better to apply this assistance where it was most useful. It is for that reason that the pensions increases are applied to those over the age of sixty.
The noble Earl also raised the question of widows' pensions, on which I should like to say a word, because from what has been said this afternoon I think there is quite considerable misunderstanding about what has happened in regard to widows' pensions. An entirely new Code for Service widows' pensions was introduced in 1952 and the increases which it is proposed to introduce in the Royal Warrant will be based upon that Code. The position in regard to civil servants 1143 is entirely different. In the first place, until 1949 they had no separate pension for widows, whereas there have been Service widows' pensions, of one kind or another, for a century or more. Previously, all civil servants had to allocate part of their own pensions in order that there should be anything at all available for their widow.
A slightly different system was introduced in 1949, and it is important to appreciate that the basis of that system is entirely different from that which operates in regard to Service personnel. The system is a contributory one, paid for either by a contribution of 1- per cent. on salary or, alternatively, by a reduction of one-third of the lump sum, comparable to the terminal grant paid to officers, given when the civil servant retires. That system is on an entirely different basis from that of Service pensions, and, as I have explained, it is cut off at 1952, whereas the provision for Service officers covers retirement at any time after 1950 and, so far as I can see, goes on into the future. The statement that they received a 5 per cent. increase in 1952 is entirely inaccurate. On examining the Retail Index of 1939—that is, before the war—I find that the figure to-day is entirely in line with the basis of widows' pensions. In other words, the increase in costs has been almost the same as the increases in widows' pensions since 1939.
My Lords, does the noble Earl suggest that because widows had an inadequate pension in 1939, that justifies their having an inadequate pension now?
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, here we are dealing with a Pensions (Increase) Bill which has, generally, to take in all Government employees over a very wide range. I am indicating that the statement which has been made, that the increase in 1952 was only 5 per cent., was inaccurate and that, broadly speaking, the value of widows' pensions is to-day in line with what it was in 1939. If the noble Viscount wishes to bring up the whole range of widows' pensions, that is a different subject.
There are one or two other points that I could make in regard to widows' pensions. First, there has been a very considerable increase in the terminal grant 1144 payable to officers on retirement. That fact will not have escaped your Lordships' attention. That grant is now about three times the rate of retired pay, which is on the same basis as that on which terminal grants are made to civil servants. It has been indicated that any future revision of family pensions will be on a contributory basis. I think that is reasonable and proper. It is completely untrue to say that there is any comparison between Service and Civil Service pensions in regard to the amount of 5 per cent. As I have explained, the whole basis is entirely different. Civil servants' pensions are upon a contributory basis, while the basis on which Service pensions are increased by 5 per cent. was entirely re-assessed, for good or bad, in 1952. A further point: all civil servants' pensions depend on length of service, and to get the full pension a man must have served for forty years, whereas Service pensions depend on rank—always provided, of course, that they have done twenty years. On comparison, there are advantages on either side, but the arrangements are substantially different in character.
I feel that noble Lords would really like to deal with the whole question of pensions, but we cannot deal with that to-day. We are trying to make a fair basis as between different categories of persons for the increases. Generally speaking, we have done so by making all-round increases on the basic pension, and there have been quite substantial increases. For example a staff sergeant who retired in 1935 has had, through various changes, an 80 per cent. increase since then. A captain who retired in 1935 has had a 40 per cent. increase. I would also mention stabilisation—I was sorry that that matter was referred to again to-day. There is nothing very new that I can say about it. The question has been fully discussed in a White Paper, and I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, though I know he feels very deeply about it, that it was an arrangement which affected not only retired officers but serving officers and the whole of the Civil Service.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I was about to add that if there was something fundamentally unjust, surely someone would have expostulated at that time; but nobody did so.
My Lords, I beg the noble Earl's pardon for interrupting him but in the last debate I produced letters from various members of the Services speaking very strongly of this matter.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
The noble Lord produced one or two letters, but in view of the vast number of people concerned, had there been any real expostulation it would have been very seriously expressed; yet for eight or nine years we heard nothing at all.
I have tried to answer the points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, and I very much hope the noble Earl will not press his Amendment. The points he has made have been listened to very carefully, but I am afraid that it is not practicable to deal with them by an Act of Parliament. Such matters are dealt with in another way. I feel that the noble Earl should think very carefully as to whether he really wishes to press Her Majesty's Government over a time-honoured arrangement by which these matters are dealt with. I feel that he has been misinformed and has got hold of the wrong end of the stick. What we have done, I believe fairly, is to allocate the increases, so far as we are able to do, between all classes of people who are pensioners of the State in one category or another; and I believe that we have done so on a broad basis of parity. I hope very much that the noble and gallant Earl will feel able to withdraw his Amendment.
§ 4.50 p.m.
My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate this afternoon and I intervene now on one point only: that is, in regard to the point which the noble Earl who has just sat down made against the noble and gallant Earl who moved the Amendment. He suggested that this Amendment was straining the limits of Parliamentary procedure. If you will read the Amendment you will see that it proposes only that we should defer the consideration on Second Reading of this Bill until such time as the Prerogative Instruments have 1146 appeared, in order that we may have the whole subject comprehensively in our minds when we are dealing with the Bill that lies before us. I cannot see anything in that which is contrary to wisdom or to proper Parliamentary procedure.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
With the leave of the House, may I speak again to say that it has always been the normal practice to defer the Prerogative Instrument until the pensions increase has been passed. That has been standard procedure. The recommendations for the Instrument are on an identical basis with this particular Bill. I hope the noble and gallant Earl will realise that the normal procedure has been followed.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl very much for his explanation, but during the twenty years I have had the honour of sitting in your Lordships' House I have often heard promises made that "This will be considered" and that "That will be considered," and nothing has happened. I do not feel at all assured, particularly in regard to officers' widows, and I am going to ask those who share my views to support me in a Division. But even if I have to go into the Division Lobby alone, I will divide the House.
§ 4.52 p.m.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (THE EARL OF HOME)
My Lords, I beg the noble and gallant Earl's pardon ant your Lordships' pardon for intervening in this way, as I ant afraid I have not been able to be present to hear the whole of this afternoon's debate. The noble and gallant Earl was, of course, perfectly justified in adopting this procedure, which was adopted in another place, in order to raise the question of Service pensions and have them discussed, so that we should be fully conversant with his views on that subject. But, as I see it, the effect of the noble and gallant Earl's Amendment, should he carry it to a Division and win that Division, would be to deprive the people concerned of the benefits of this Bill. It would deprive of benefit, for example, those of whom Lord Hailey was talking—ex-Indian civil servants—and many other people. All of us in your Lordships' House should be aware that this will be the effect of the noble Earl's Amendment if it is carried. I should have 1147 thought that there were appropriate Parliamentary devices—if I may use a term which I know the noble and gallant Earl rather objects to—or other Parliamentary ways in which the question of military pensions could be raised and by which pressure, if it were thought necessary, could be put upon the Government. I hope that the noble and gallant Earl, on reflection, will decide not to follow this course, but will use one of the other methods which are available to him.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, it occurs to me that this is a debate on the Second Reading of the Bill, and we shall be having a Committee stage later when the matter with which the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork, is concerned can be raised. There are various other subjects which I myself want to raise in the Committee stage as well.
THE EARL OF HOME
My Lords, I think in fairness to the noble and gallant Earl I should point out that it would be difficult to raise these matters on the Committee stage. No doubt Lord Cork is aware of that. Nevertheless I do appeal to the noble and gallant Earl again to use one of the other ways which are available to him in the interests of those for whom he is concerned.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, may I ask whether it would be possible to let the noble and gallant Earl see the Royal Warrant or to publish an advance copy of the Royal Warrant so that noble Lords may be made aware of what Her Majesty's Government propose to do in respect of the Services? I should like entirely to support my noble friend in his attitude that this is a quite legitimate form of Parliamentary protest. We are asked to accept a Bill to which no one objects, but we now have the opportunity of making a protest against the disgraceful way in which officers and their widows have been treated by all Governments during the last few years. I think the Government would go a great way towards reassuring those who are not certain that the officers and their widows are going to get a fair deal if they would give some advance information before the House loses control of this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I have only recently been apprised of the situation 1148 which has arisen in the House, because I was previously engaged on other business. I think the issue is clear so far as the Opposition is concerned. It is clear, I feel, that it would be quite wrong at the present time for us to hold up for an unknown period of time (for we do not know what the period would be) the benefits formulated in the Bill, which apply to a wide range of public servants. As has been said, there are other ways of dealing with the matters raised by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, and his supporters, who, I understand, have stated their case this afternoon with clarity and sympathy. I hope, therefore, that if Lord Cork does not withdraw his Amendment he will not object to the fact that the Opposition will vote with the Government.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. The difficulty here is a real one. Recommendations which the Government submit to Her Majesty will be submitted only after this Bill has been passed. It is not proper, until these recommendations are made, to submit them to Parliament. They are, in fact, not subject in any way to Parliamentary procedure. It is, of course, open to Parliament to change all that, should it see fit to do so, but that is the time-honoured way in which it has been done in the past. I have endeavoured to make the matter clear, and I think the noble and gallant Earl knows what is proposed; I do not think that there is much dubiety about it. That form of Paper has not been submitted. There are one or two points on which I think the noble and gallant Earl has got slightly out of place. I do not think that there is any wide division of opinion about what is being done, though it is not possible to put out a Paper.
My Lords, may I ask whether this is not the time-honoured method, which has been pursued ever since the Petition of Right, and even before, of exercising Parliamentary pressure on a Government in circumstances such as those which now exist?
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?1149
§ Their Lordships divided:—
§ Contents, 15; Not-Contents, 45.
|Cork and Orrery, E. [Teller.]
|Fraser of North Cape, L. [Teller.]
|Onslow, E. [Teller.]
|St. Aldwyn, E.
|Milner of Leeds, L.
|Fairfax of Cameron, L. [Teller.]
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.
|Colville of Culross, V.
|Hamilton of Dalzell, L.
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, may I now reply to the debate on the Motion for Second Reading? I should like to thank most warmly the noble Lords, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Lord Burden and Lord Hailey, for what they have said in welcoming this Bill. I am certain that, within its limits, it will do extremely useful service over a wide sphere. I always welcome the opportunity of listening to what the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, has to say, and when the Government have an unpopular thing to do, as at times they may have, I am sure we can rely on his unqualified support.
The noble Lord, Lord Burden, raised a number of points which, as he has indicated, are really Committee points, and I hope he will excuse me if I refer to them only shortly. His first question dealt with the definition of the word "dependant". I agree with him that the definition here is rather narrower than in previous Acts, but the reason is that we now have abolished separate provision for dependants except in certain spheres. We have amalgamated the dependant's allowance with the single person's allowance, so that the distinction which existed before is no longer neces- 1150 sary. Now the word "dependant" applies only to a widow under forty and to a woman pensioner in her own right under sixty.
The second point made by the noble Lord, Lord Burden concerned tramwaymen of London boroughs. As I think he is aware, they are already being paid pensions in respect of the work they did with the local authorities. It is, of course, normally the practice of the Government not to insist on outside bodies paying pensions, and we must regard the London Transport Executive as one of these bodies. However, if the noble Lord wishes to develop that point on the Committee stage, I shall be glad to hear what he has to say. The normal practice is not to insist on other bodies paying pension increases. The noble Lord then went on to the third point, about the, powers to modify and adapt, contained in paragraph 7 of the Second Schedule. I should like to emphasise that there is absolutely nothing sinister in these powers. All that is intended here is, as it were, to tailor the Bill to meet certain requirements. I have already described what is called the cut-off in the three or five-years average. There may be something of that sort, so as to prevent the pension of a man who retires after a certain date from rising or falling sharply. That is the general purpose. However, I shall be glad to discuss this matter 1151 further in Committee, if the noble Lord desires. I hope he will accept what I say: that there is absolutely nothing sinister in what is proposed.
The noble Lord, Lord Hailey, raised two points in regard to the Indian Civil Service. The first was on the question of payment of pension under the age of sixty. I am afraid that it would be extremely difficult to make an exception to meet the case of Indian Civil Servants. On the other hand, on the second point which the noble Lord made, I hope that I shall be able to put down an Amendment on the Committee stage which will meet the point he has in mind. In those circumstances, perhaps I may be excused from discussing the matter further now as it can be examined more fully when that stage is reached. I believe that that answers the major points raised on the main issue, and I should again like to thank noble Lords for the welcome that they have generally given to this Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.