HL Deb 06 June 1956 vol 197 cc749-68

3.3 p.m.

LORD SALTOUN rose to draw the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the undertaking given in December, 1953, and repeated in November, 1955, to investigate the cases of officers who retired before 1914, and in the light of a particular case to ask what form the investigation has taken, what criteria are applied, what is the appropriate procedure for officers in difficulties, what help they can expect; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in addressing myself to the Motion that I am now moving I wish to apologise to the noble Earl who is going to reply, because I allude in my Motion to a promise to inquire into pre-1914 pensions as given in 1953. At that time there was a considerable exchange between Ministers and private Members in the House of Commons on that subject, and I had it in mind that consideration to the pre-1914 pensioners had been promised in 1953. I was wrong in that. The promise was given in April, 1955, in your Lordships' House by the noble Earl, Lord Munster, and I wish to recall to your Lordships what the noble Earl said. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 192, col. 351]: The officers who are surviving to-day on the pre-1914 rates must be those officers who did not earn any re-assessment of their retired pay through service in the First World War. It is thought … that they number 26.… It is, moreover, believed that all those 26 officers have sufficient means.… However, the noble Earl promised that the matter would be inquired into. On November 8 a further Question was asked about these officers and the investigation. On that occasion the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, replied, and said that most of these men had ample private means, but that sonic had been helped, and he asked for information about any hardship suffered by these officers. That is the cause of my Motion to-day.

I imagine that the Government investigation concerned itself only with those officers who left before 1914 and who never returned to serve in the 1914–18 war. I think we all felt that the investigation should cover all those officers, since most of them did come back; and they are just as much in need of investigation as those who did not come back, because any re-assessment that took place generally had very meagre results. Had attention been drawn to the case I am going to submit to your Lordships to-day as an example of what may happen, I cannot feel but that something would have been done about it. Therefore, I cannot imagine that the investigation disclosed such a case.

The case I have in mind concerns a Royal Naval officer who retired in 1912, under an Admiralty scheme, as a lieutenant with eight years' service. Your Lordships will remember that the rank of lieutenant-commander had not then been introduced. At that time the Admiralty were encouraging people to retire from the Service, because the official view then was that we were in for a prolonged era of peace. The man's pension on retirement was 177 golden sovereigns per annum, which in those days was quite good. He went out to California and made a great success of his life. In 1914 he was earning an income of 5,000 dollars a year, and had acquired land which subsequently proved to be rich oil-bearing land. At the same time, he had lost his left arm—I think it was from the elbow—in an acident, and an action for compensation was pending against the people who were responsible for the accident.

Four days before the commencement of war on August 1, 1914, he cabled to the Admiralty: "Recovered recent accident. Request instructions." This telegram is most important. Your Lordships are probably aware that in all cases of this kind the first question asked particularly is: "Did he volunteer, or was he called up?" If the unfortunate man had volunteered, then he would have had much less chance of consideration than if he had been called up. In this case, however, although the spirit is perfectly clear, the officer did not volunteer: he was liable to be recalled, and, as was his duty, he announced to the Admiralty his address and his state of health. In reply he received a letter saying that his services would not be required; but, none the less, in January, 1915, he received a cable asking him to report for duty and telling him to apply to the British Consul for his travelling expenses; and in February he was appointed to a command. I think I should say now that this officer served in both world wars. In the First World War he was granted a D.S.O. and bar, and in the Second World War he received for his active service an O.B.E. So I think we can acknowledge that his service was quite distinguished.

In consequence of being called up in 1915, he lost his position and income: he was compelled to abandon his land; and when his case for compensation came up he lost it by default, because it was necessary for him to appear in person. At the end of the war, therefore, he had to start again with only his pension of £177. That is what I originally thought to be the case, but I find, on inquiry, that he did receive a re-assessment and came under the 1919 Rules, when his pension was increased to £180. He retired from the Service then with the acting rank of commander.

In order to make a fresh start, his American business having "gone west", he commuted some £30 of his pension, and lie worked on his business so well that he shortly became able to offer to repay the commutation money of some £600 and regain his full pension. But that offer was not accepted. In 1938, he was in possession of a business which was a one-man business, but which was clearly on the upgrade—I think his income in 1938 was in the neighbourhood of £1,800, and his average for the previous five years was £1,650, or something of that nature. At the end of 1938 or the beginning of 1939, he was asked if he was fit and willing for service. When he replied in the affirmative, he was sent on a refresher course in March, 1939, and was employed throughout the subsequent war. In consequence of this his business collapsed. At the end of the war he received the war rank of captain and, as I have already said, was granted the O.B.E.

His resources being very slender and he being, at sixty-four, rather old to start again, he considered how best to eke out what money he had. He bought a cottage on a mortgage in a lonely part of the country and settled down there with his wife. He calculated that a cheap car and a house deep in the country would probably cost less than a house in a more populous area, and I think that idea has been justified. But, unfortunately for him, owing to ill-health due to her own war service, his wife was an invalid. She has had to have two major operations, one in 1951 and one in 1954, and she is now a semi-invalid. This, and the fact that he has only one arm himself, makes it imperative for them to have help in the house.

I should like for a moment to consider his means. At the end of the war, his pension was increased to a basic £257 per annum, and the increments under the Pensions (Increase) Acts of 1947 and 1952 amount to £36. He has been granted an Admiralty Travers pension, which is a compassionate trust which the Admiralty administer, of £75, making in all £368. In addition to that—but it ought not to count for the matter before us—his wife has a small quantity of money invested which brings in a small income, and which he is desperately trying to conserve because she does not get a pension on his death. He is seventy-five and she is ten years younger and, therefore, it is essential that that should be conserved.

If I may digress for a moment. I may say that I have learned from a different source that, since obtaining these figures, there has been a 10 per cent. increase of the basic pensions granted by Admiralty Order, but also that in computing this increase any pension that has been commuted is omitted from the basic calculations. Now that was not done in 1944. When the increase was then granted the basic pension was increased by any amount—the full pension was reckoned disregarding any commutation. It seems to me that the present technical value of an annuity on a life is an actuarial fact which has absolutely nothing to do with any reason that can possibly have led to the grant of the 10 per cent. increase. I hope that the noble Earl who is going to reply will be able to give me some assurance on this point. I think it must be clear that the capitalised value of an annuity on a life at any time is less than the capitalised value of that same annuity which, after a period, is going to receive an increase. It must be so, and I cannot see any justification for disregarding any portion of the pension which is commuted in giving the basic increase.

However, that is beside the case I am arguing to-day, except that it affects my friend as well as other people. In any case, with regard to that, I hope the noble Earl will note !that the captain in question offered to repay the commutation money for his pension, but when that offer was refused the money that he received for the commutation went "down the drain" along with the rest of his business when he was called up at the commencement of the last war.

Now I should like to take the expenditure side. His rent, mortgage, property tax and overdraft interest amount to just about 28s. a week. The running expenses of his car amount to about the same figure, so that his expenses caused by his situation in the country and the expenses of his house conic to 56s. a week. Daily help is 40s. a week; meat, milk and fish about 30s.; other food, laundry, cleaning et cetera has risen from about 33s. a week in 1950 to 90s. a week. Coal, fuel and electric light come to 22s., and the total is 238s. a week, which is about £620 a year. I want to pause for a moment on the 90s. a week. As many of us know, if one is very poor a great deal of economy can be achieved by careful preparation and a good deal of cooking in advance. That is an economy of fuel and other things, and one can run the house much more cheaply like that. When the household is dependent upon home help this is quite impossible, and the home help has to be fed in a manner to which it is accustomed. The rise from 33s. a week to 90s., as far as I can see, is directly due to the wife's incapacity and inability to help in the household.

Now hitherto I have not said anything about rates, and it is the recent rise in rates which has been the final blow. The rates have risen from Ell 5s.to £27 2s. 6d., and together these various items come to some £650. I think I may pause for a moment to remind your Lordships that 177 golden sovereigns of the original pension would to-day be, worth rather more than £700. To meet this steady drain he has been forced to sell his savings, amounting to some £1,500, his gun and his wife's jewellery, and is now absolutely at the end of his resources. He can buy no clothes; they have no social life; they they cannot afford to give anybody tea. They can have guests, but only with the greatest difficulty. They cannot even afford newspapers.

It may be said that part of the difficulty is caused by the captain's loss of his hand, and that his hand was not lost on war service. Not many of us to-day get to the age of seventy-five without some disability which is not due to war service, but in this ease the true answer is that, the Admiralty were perfectly aware of the loss of his hand when they called him up. They took him, and he was a useful naval officer, even though he had only one hand, like Admiral Nelson. I suggest that it is not just for any Government to approbate and reprobate the same fact. We have here, then, a man who has twice sacrificed his competence—and in one case we may well believe that he has sacrificed a fortune—at the call of duty, and who has been compelled to write: I am afraid that our situation has now got past all question of pride. I am bound to say that I myself feel some shame that the treatment accorded in my name to such a man has extorted such words. If the noble Earl who is going to reply can show me where my friend has gone wrong or how anybody can live in his circumstances, on his income, it will be a great gain and we shall all be the wiser.

I am not blaming anybody. I am perfectly certain that he is receiving all the money to which he is entitled under the rules, but that does not entitle any Government to wash its hands of a matter like this. My feeling is that the Government should go to Parliament and ask for funds to enable them to deal with cases like this. After all, when the Government undertook to look into these cases, we understood that they were really prepared to deal with need, not merely to make sure that the fixed amounts had not been lost in the post. It would not have been at all difficult for this gentleman, whom I have only just met but whose case has been vouched for to me, to have pleaded the loss of his hand and to have retained his fortune and his freedom; but he complied, without ostentation, without hesitation, with every call of duty. I feel that in this case and other similar cases which touch the honour of the country we should see that he has no further cause to rue what he has done. I beg to move for Papers.

3.23 p.m.


My Lords, I rise briefly to support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Saltoun. I am speaking not of any individual case but simply of the cases of these officers in general. It is sometimes forgotten that, so far as the Army officers, at any rate, are concerned, all of them are now over eighty years of age; and the Naval officers must be, at the lowest, very nearly eighty years of age. There has been a great fall in the value of money since 1914, with the increased cost of everything that is either a necessity or even anything in the way of the smallest luxury. Promise or no promise, surely these miserable pittances—for they are miserable pittances now—of the officers who retired before 1914 ought to be increased.

It is sometimes forgotten that officers on retired pay are liable to recall. That is undoubtedly a disadvantage in civil life. If they are recalled it may mean the loss of a job, or it may mean, as in the case mentioned by my noble friend Lord Saltoun, the collapse of a business through the withdrawal of the man who has built it up. This liability to recall is a very great disadvantage. It is sometimes forgotten when people say, "Oh, but it is possible in certain cases" (though they are a minority) "for officers to retire at, say, the age of forty-five or thereabouts." It is possible, but that liability to recall makes a great deal of difference. If any sort of retired pay or pension is justifiable at all, surely the tremendous drop in the value in money, and the consequent enormous increase in the cost of living and of everything, should be taken into consideration. I beg to support my noble friend's Motion.

3.26 p.m.


My Lords, I feel sure that my noble friend the Parliamentary Secretary who is to reply to this Motion must have been very much impressed by the simple statement of the facts of this case, so clearly and so sincerely presented by my noble friend Lord Saltoun. In this country one of the beliefs most firmly held by all sections of the community is the belief in fair play. At the same time, we realise that it is not possible for any Government, even in the most perfectly regulated Welfare State, to anticipate and to be waiting to relieve all the cases of hardship which may be due to bad luck.

The case which has been described to your Lordships this afternoon is more than a simple case of bad luck. It is the case of a gallant officer who, despite a physical disability which would probably have exempted him, had he so wished, from military service, gave up without hesitation two successful careers in civilian life and who now, though rich in honours earned fighting for his country, is finding his financial position quite impossible. It is understood that this officer has received and is receiving all the benefits to which he is legally entitled, and yet he cannot make ends meet. I submit that either the benefits received by officers in this category are inadequate or this case is a special one, and therefore outside the competence of normal State relief. If this case is a special one, can it not receive special consideration? For there is sometimes a tragically wide gap between the legal entitlement and the exceptional needs due to some special misfortune in the budgets of retired officers. I sincerely hope that my noble friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give an assurance that the cases of officers who retired before 1914 have been carefully investigated and that these officers are being fairly treated. With the hope that such an assurance will be forthcoming. I wish to support the Motion of my noble friend.


My Lords, may I say a few words from this side of the House? I have had a great deal of experience of interviewing men who have been applying for increases or extensions of pensions. All I wish to say is that know from long experience what a great many tragic cases there are among them. The matter ought to be looked at in a human and an individual way. Here is a man who, quite obviously, from what the noble Lord has said in his opening speech, has given very distinguished assistance, if I may put it in that way, by giving up his money and his own career when, I should imagine, he could quite easily, as a man without a hand, have got out of it on some pretext or another. This man ought to be treated in a special way even if it is a difficult thing to do, aid even if it creates precedents. I think that in this case it would be a good thing to create the precedent of treating with exceptional indulgence men who have served in that way.

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, it is fitting that from all parts of the House expression should be given to the sympathy with which your Lordships have listened to the speech of my noble friend Lord Saltoun, and to the moving speech of the noble Marquess behind him. Lord Saltoun made it quite clear, as did my noble friend on this side, that in his opinion the Government had done everything they could, according to the existing regulations, to meet the needs of this very gallant officer. He also made it clear that in his opinion (and other speakers have made it clear that it is equally their opinion) not enough has been done. We all feel that it is a reproach to us that this gallant officer should be left in so much hardship and distress in the last days of his life. I hope that Her Majestys' Government will be able to assure us that, if they do lack adequate powers to deal generously with a case of this kind, they will come to Parliament and ask for such additional powers as may be necessary, for it is a terrible thing to hear of cases of this kind.

All of us who remember the days after the first war—and I think this is equally true of the days after the second war—will remember the promises that were given that we should never forget the sacrifices of these men. Here is a case of special sacrifice, followed by quite undeserved and special hardship. I hope very much that the noble Earl who is to reply to this debate, and who will be speaking for the first time from the Front Bench, will be able to signify, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, a new departure. We have these debates one after another; we have had several during the short time that I have had the honour of being a Member of your Lordships' House. In the end, we come up against a blank wall. I hope that this time some hope may be given us that Her Majesty's Government will consider the possibility of obtaining Parliamentary powers, which I feel sure, so far as we are concerned, would be most gladly given, to treat these cases with what I should regard as merely decent generosity.

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, I must admit that it seemed to me rather a "fast ball" that on the first occasion on which I speak to your Lordships from the Front Bench, the subject should be pensions. Many of your Lordships will have heard me in the past speaking on this subject from the Back Benches. For that reason, I am all the more grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, whose Motion this is, that, wittingly or unwittingly, I have no cause to-day to swallow any of the words that I used in the past as an ordinary Member of your Lordships' House.

I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, has said, and I think he will realise, from my attitude in the past on the subject, that this is no mere platitude. The noble Lord has asked three specific questions: what form the investigation into the cases of officers who retired before 1914 has taken; what criteria have been applied; and whit is the appropriate procedure for officers in difficulties, and what help can they expect?

In the course of the debate in your Lordships' House on April 6, 1955, on officers' retired pay, the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, asked for consideration, not as a right but as an act of grace, of the cases of the few surviving officers of the Navy, Army and Indian Army, who retired finally prior to 1914. And on November 8, 1955, it was stated in this House that the Government had reviewed such cases. As a matter of fact, the Admiralty, the War Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office reviewed the cases of all officers who retired before 1914 and whose retired pay had not been increased since that date.

The Departments wrote to these officers asking for details of their financial circumstances to see whether they were eligible for the pensions increases authorised for the relief of hardship in 1920, 1924, 1944, 1947 and 1952. The increases authorised under these schemes were restricted to those officers with small pensions and incomes. There were very few officers who came under this review, as many of those who had retired before 1914 came back to serve in the First World War and had their pensions re-assessed accordingly; and some had received awards under the pensions increase schemes introduced since 1920. Of the cases reviewed, it seems that most of the officers who retired finally before 1914 either had private means or were still in other employment, and their incomes debarred them from increases under the various pensions increase measures between 1920 and 1952.

The Admiralty reviewed 12 cases, and awarded increases to 2 Naval officers who were found to be eligible for them. The War Office wrote to 26 retired officers but received only 8 replies, 7 of which showed that the officers concerned had incomes that debarred them from benefits under the pensions increase schemes. The eighth officer received an award to which he had recently become eligible. The Commonwealth Relations Office were unable to trace any pre-1914 officers who had not received some increase.

Now, under the 1956 pensions increase scheme, the limitation of pensions and income which were part of previous pensions increase schemes has been removed and, in addition, an increase of 10 per cent. on the basic pension has been awarded. The Admiralty, the War Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office are therefore automatically reviewing all pre-1914 cases again, and it seems likely that many of the officers who have so far received no increases will benefit from the latest pensions increase scheme.

I hope that that statement will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, the noble Lords, Lord Jeffreys and Lord Haden-Guest and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso. I think I have answered the first two specific questions raised by the noble Lord. As to the third question, the appropriate procedure for officers in difficulties is to write to the Service Department to which they belonged. The Service Department will then review the case to see whether the officer is entitled to any increase over and above what he is already receiving. If he is not entitled to any increase, abut can establish a need, the Service Departments each have a small fund from which to pay a limited number of compassionate grants in really needy cases.

Those are the three specific questions in the Motion. Now, my Lords, I will turn to the case mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun. We all know how ready he is to devote his energy and ability to bringing to light any injustices which he feels exist in the Services or elsewhere. I am sure that your Lordships will appreciate the great pains to which the noble Lord has obviously gone in investigating this case. Although, in the main, I agree with the facts that the noble Lord has given, I should like if I may, in order that your Lordships can judge whether the Service Department concerned has dealt fairly with this officer, to re-capitulate briefly the circumstances of the case in the way in which I see them.

The officer (whose name the noble Lord was good enough to give me privately) retired from the Royal Navy in 1912 as a lieutenant with eight years' seniority under a special scheme which, I must admit, was introduced for the purpose of encouraging officers to retire from the Navy at an earlier age than they normally would have done. He was awarded a pension of £170 per year. I should like to repeat that this was after eight years' service and at that time he was 30 years of age, with the whole of his life before him. He then went to America where he started up in business. In 1913 he had the misfortune to lose the lower part of his left arm as a result of an accident, but this did not prevent him from continuing to operate his business in America.

In spite of his injury, he volunteered to rejoin the Navy on the outbreak of war in 1914, and, as the noble Lord has said, he was called up in 1915 and served with gallantry throughout the war, mostly afloat, which I am sure your Lordships will agree with me was a very patriotic gesture. I should like here to stress the point that during the whole period of World War I he not only received the full pay of his rank in the Navy but, on top of this, he received a bonus of 25 per cent. of his pay. In consequence of his service in World War I, on retiring from the Royal Navy for the second lime, he received a revised pension of £180 per year under the 1919 Pensions Code.

After the First World War he decided not to return to his business in America, and he undertook remunerative employment in this country. To my mind, the fact that that remunerative employment does not now provide him with an income is "just one of those things." In 1921 his pension was reduced to £150 a year as he then decided to commute £30 of his pension of £180. We have been told that he offered to pay that back, an offer which was refused. As the result, the pension which he is now getting is at least less by this amount than it otherwise would have been. In 1939 he returned to the Active List, and when he retired again in 1945 his pension was reassessed at £267. Throughout the Second World War he again received the emoluments of his rank plus a bonus of 25 per cent. of his basic pay. As he held the ranks of commander and captain during the Second World War the bonus he received more than compensated him for the temporary suspension of his retired pay. Under the 1952 pensions increase scheme he was granted an increase of £26 a year. The noble Lord complained that this sum was inaccurately assessed. I would point out that whereas the 1944 increase was, as he quite rightly said, on a percentage basis, the later sum of £26 a year in 1952 was not computed on a percentage basis but was, in fact, a flat sum of £26, irrespective of the pension which the officer was receiving.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but, to clear his mind, may I say that I am not complaining of that at all. I am complaining about the recent ha opening. Within the last few days—on June 2—another correspondent of mine received a 10 per cent. increase. Perhaps the noble Earl has not been informed of that. It is this increase which is calculated on a basic pension shaft by any amount commuted.


My Lords, I am sorry that I misunderstood what the noble Lord said. I am coming to that point a little later. Under the latest pensions increase scheme this year the officer will receive another £26 14s. This is a "hardship" scheme and the 10 per cent. which it allows is on the net pension after deducting past commutations. Future commutations, however, will not be taken into account as these will be on present money values. This brings his retirement pay tip to £319 17s. In addition to this he receives a Travers Pension of £75 a year making a total of £394 17s. I agree that this is no great sum in these days for a man and wife, both somewhat incapacitated, to live on but, hard as it is for them both, and much as we sympathise with them in their present circumstances, I do not think that the charge that they have been unfairly treated by Her Majesty's Government can be substantiated.

The noble Lord mentioned the fact that the officer who had filed a case for compensation as a result of his accident in 1913 failed to get any civil compensation through not being able to be present in court in America in 1915 because he was then on active service with the Royal Navy. While we must all have great sympathy with him and the country must be grateful to him for throwing up his business and coming back to help fight the war, I cannot see that Her Majesty's Government can be expected to make up to him what might have been the financial benefit of a favourable outcome of the litigation. We must bear in mind that this officer, although he very gallantly returned to the service of his country in both world wars and served with great distinction, nevertheless did retire of his own free will at the age of thirty in the rank of lieutenant, after only eight years' service as such, and then went into business. Thousands of citizens who had no previous Service experience or obligations gave up everything to play their part in the defence of their country and subsequently went back to find their businesses, too, had gone.

The noble Lord, Lard Saltoun, has laid before your Lordships a particular case to illustrate his contention that the pre-1914 officers have not bad a square deal. If this case is representative of the officers who retired pre-1914, with the best will in the world towards the officers of our Forces to whom we owe so much, I submit with some confidence that those who have been the subject of our debate today have little cause for complaint. Furthermore, the particular case which the noble Lord has so eloquently and sincerely pleaded, sad as it is, does not, I honestly feel, in the light of the circumstances, support a charge that this distinguished officer's present position is due to his unfair treatment by Her Majesty's Government. Nevertheless, I am happy to say that in the special circumstances of this particular case it has been found possible to increase his retired pay from April this year by an amount which I am not at the moment at liberty to state.

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, submits to the House his wish either to withdraw or not to withdraw his Motion, I rise for two reasons: first, to congratulate the noble Earl on his first appearance at the Dispatch Box, and, secondly, to say that I hope that the words which he has spoken as a Junior Minister, words which we know full well must be those of his Departmental Chief and of Her Majesty's Government, are not the last words we shall hear on this case in particular or on the cases of pre-1914 officers in general. I was profoundly disappointed at the expression of views on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. There was a contrast as between the noble Lords, Lord Saltoun and the Minister, in the presentation of this officer's case. There was, in the Minister's statement, emphasis that this officer had no reason for complaint; how after eight years' service he had retired at the age of 30 in 1911. Was the Minister quite right in saying eight years' service? Was it eight years' service as a lieutenant?


Eight years' service as a lieutenant.


I am sure it was not what the noble Earl wished to do, but he gave the impression that at the age of thirty and after only eight years' service, with all his life in front of him, this officer voluntarily retired. In fact the officer may have joined the Navy in the "Britannia" at the age of fourteen, or through the Merchant Service at seventeen or eighteen, and retired at thirty having served perhaps twelve or fifteen years, under a scheme which was aimed at encouraging officers to retire. Then we heard how, having surrendered his livelihood and volunteered for service in the First World War, he came back and had to rebuild his business. As the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, told us, he rebuilt his business until he had an income of some £1,600 a year. The Minister described "obtaining remunerative employment" between the two wars as the reason why this officer had no complaint. It is hardly fair presentation for Her Majesty's Government to say that a man obtains remunerative employment if, on the other hand, as the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, has said, he started his work from scratch and, to his great credit, built up a business which allowed him and his wife to have a reasonable income.

I personally feel I have some grounds for complaint at the emphasis of the Government's presentation to-day, and I believe other noble Lords may feel likewise. In his presentation the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, was careful not to claim that this officer had not got all his rights. We had a most full, instructive and interesting exposition from the Minister as to how an officer's remuneration, in his retired days, is arrived at. I gathered that he has some £319 retired pay plus a pension of some £70 a year from a particular fund. We are not told that it is so, and I hope it is not the case, that the new increase which this officer is to have in April will mean that this pension of £70 will be cut. I hope we shall not hear that, because there is an increase of basic pension, the trustees of this pension fund will feel bound to reduce the pension paid from it, so that this officer will not get the full benefit of the increase.

It seems to me that the important point is that the Government say that these officers have no reason for complaint. We feel that these few officers, diminishing in numbers, increasing in years, have some reason for complaint. I suggest that the Government should think again whether they should not follow the advice of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and come to Parliament and ask if some further sums could not be voted in another place and agreed to by your Lordships, so that these few— these pathetically few—officers should be enabled to have a reasonable standard of life in the evening of their days. All the producers in this country—and I do not dispute the rightness of this—are getting more and more in order to compensate for the new economic picture which we see, the need for rising standards of life, the need to meet rising costs of living. But we have to drag out of successive Administrations a few miserable pounds for these pathetically few people. I suggest to your Lordships that we should ask the Government to think again whether something better than that contained in the reply which we have had this afternoon cannot be given to your Lordships' House.

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, before Lord Saltoun replies, I would most earnestly urge Her Majesty's Government to pay some attention to the suggestion winch he put forward but did not elaborate, and which. I think, the noble Earl did not allude to in the reply. I refer to the suggestion that a special fund should be set up by the Government, not just by Service associations (it need not be a large one), out of which cases like the one of which we have been hearing today could receive as of right rather than as charity what, obviously, the nation owes them.

At the same time I commiserate with the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, on having to express wit) his lips sentiments which I am sure find no place in his heart—that is to say, that the officer whose case has been discussed had been fairly treated. I do not think there is anyone in your Lordships' House—including members of the Front Bench in their off-duty moments—but would think that this particular case was a very special one, and that a man who, after being crippled, voluntarily returned from retirement to fight for his country, was, in these conditions, deserving of some treatment very much better than that which has been granted to him.

This is a narrowly drawn Motion dealing only with a handful of the survivors from the period before the 1914 days. It is therefore difficult to elaborate my suggestion without going beyond the admittedly rather lax limits of proceedings in your Lordships' House. But would ask the Government to consider the setting up of a fund dealing not only with officers who served before 1914 but with all cases since that period. Everyone who served in another place before coming to your Lordships' House has had to deal with cases like this, and we have seen too much and too often the grim attitude of the Treasury in sticking to the letter of the law, thereby inflicting great misery upon many ex-officers and other ranks also. If ever there was a case of "the letter killeth", then in this case the letter is killing those to whom the country has most need to be grateful.

3.56 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to express my deep gratitude to all noble Lords who have supported me to-day. I should like especially to express my gratitude to Lord Haden-Guest, whose experience teaches him so well the true meaning of the figures which I have laid before your Lordships' House, and to my noble friend and fellow countryman, Lord Thurso, who came to this House to help me this afternoon. The next thing I want to say is that it is very unfortunate that the investigation into the cases of those officers who retired before 1914 should be confined to those who retired and never came back, because most of them came back and did get small increments in 1919. The reason that the increments were so small is plain: their years of service were so small, and they received only recognition of war service. That is really at the back of the figures which I laid before your Lordships. My friend of whom I hive spoken had, in addition to his original service in the Navy, the years of service in two wars of which I have spoken.

I should like to say to the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, who replied on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that I am very sorry that his first duty as a Government spokesman should have been to bat on such a sticky wicket. I thank him very much indeed for the real sympathy which I know that he shows in these cases and foe the promise with which he concluded his remarks. At the same time, I would point out that in the case I have brought forward the gap between the officer's pension and the expenditure on the very niggardly standard of life at which he lives is something like £160. Whatever increase is granted, I should like to ask the noble Earl (whether the words were put into his mouth or not, he did say that this officer was very fairly treated, so that it is fair that I should ask) that, when the increase is granted, he will send along a competent officer to show my friend how to live on the income which he will then be receiving. If the noble Earl can produce someone who can show a man how to live on the income which he receives, then perhaps he will not have the same cause for complaint.

But it is not a matter of this man or that; it is not one case or another. I am really fighting, like my noble and gallant friend Lord Jeffreys, for all these people. And it is a matter of considerable importance to Her Majesty's Government —for this reason. I happen to know that my friend for whom I have been speaking has taken every possible means of concealing his difficulties from his neighbours. They know nothing about his finances. None the less, I have been told that two very fine lads, first-class officer material, on seeing how he was compelled to live, abandoned the thought of the Navy as a career, took another direction, and are now embarked on another career. That is the result simply of seeing to what this one man had been reduced.

We are all anxiously waiting, for the new Royal Warrant; but however enticing its terms, are not those who study it liable to reflect that the value of money is continually falling and that the promises they receive for the future are thereby shrinking? And will they not feel that cases like that which I have presented to your Lordships to-day show how they, in their turn, at the end of the day, may be treated? Is it not worth while, for the sake of the future, to consider with a great deal more indulgence cases like the one that I have presented to your Lordships this afternoon? At the same time, I must say that I have been very much gratified by my noble friend's reply, on behalf of the Government, to the effect that some consideration will be given to this particular case and some improvement made. I now beg your Lordships' permission to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.