§ 4.45 p.m.
§ LORD JEFFREYS rose to draw attention to the inadequate amounts of the retired pay of officers who retired before September 3, 1939; and particularly to the inadequacy of the present rates of officers' widows' pensions; and to move to resolve that in the opinion of this House the rates of both of these should be suitably increased. The noble Lord said: My Lords, may I say, in the first place, that in this debate I am intending to use the military ranks of officers and not the equivalent Royal Navy and Royal Air Force ranks; but my remarks will apply to all officers of all three Services who retired between nineteen and some forty-five years ago—that is to say, some 6,780 who are over 60 years old and some 845 who are under 60 years old but who did not serve in the last war; 7,625 officers, many of them 524 now very old indeed; out of a total of 44,097 retired officers.
§ Those over 60 years of age have had very small increases made to them which do not adequately compensate for the increase in the cost of living. These officers come under a system of immutable pensions—which means pensions which cannot be altered. This is a very stupid Treasury rule which makes one wonder whether in these days we are governed by Parliament or governed by the Treasury. This very stupid Treasury rule amounts to saying that because the rates have never been altered, therefore they ought never to be altered. No allowances are made for inflation or for the cost of living, although, goodness knows!we hear enough about both these subjects in these days as applied to the population in general—and very rightly, too. We hear a great deal about the general population, but what we hear about them apparently does not apply to old retired officers.
The Report of the Advisory Committee on Recruitment says in paragraph 262:
The biggest single impediment to the recruitment of officers is the length of career now offered.
§ Officers now normally retire when between 45 and 50. Then it is difficult to start in civil life. At that time children are at their most expensive age. The Committee have also recommended that officers should have the chance of retirement before 40 or employment up to the age of 60 or so. That is not one of the recommendations of the Committee which is endorsed by Her Majesty's Government. By that means they may be employed on sedentary jobs now performed in the War Office, the Admiralty and the Air Ministry by civil servants—and I would suggest to noble Lords that those recommendations are very suitable.
§ I would say, however, that the system is very bad from the point of view of the supply of officers. Some sons see the difficulties of their parents and sympathise with them, and feel that if they enter the Armed Services their own prospects are not very favourable. Retired civil servants are very much better off. They retire at from 60 to 65 and get a pension which is proportionate to their pay. That is a very big difference.525
§ Let us think for a moment about inflation and the increase in the cost of living. What applies very much to the public at large applies most particularly to old, retired officers who have served their country, which most of the population perhaps have not done. The increase in the cost of living since 1913 is over 300 per cent.—it is actually 322 per cent.—and since 1950 it has risen over 45 per cent. So the value of retired pay bas fallen enormously in that time. Since 1909 civil servants have had terminal grams on the conclusion of their service, but not so the older retired officers. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, unless I am misinformed, said in the debate on the Address that the people of Britain are consuming, eating, drinking and housing themselves better than ever before. But, my Lords, what about these old retired officers? They are not consuming or eating or drinking or housing themselves better than ever before; the reverse is, unfortunately, the case.
§ Many retired officers have had to commute up to half their retired pay for needed capital, for children's education and so forth. I would now make one more remark. A captain who retired after January 1, 1956, and all majors who retired before January 1, 1956, will get less retired pay than a warrant officer (I am hound to say, with 37 years' service, which is a long time) will earn after April 1, 1959. That seems to me to be wrong. Altogether many of these poor old men who have served their country are in a bad way, a very bad way indeed, and nobody appears to care what happens to them.
§ My Lords, I would now make a few remarks as to how the present system applies to retired officers. First, owing to the very low age of retirement of officers their retired pay is subject to erosion by inflation for some fifteen to twenty years longer than is civil servants' retired pay or pensions, and no allowance has ever been made for this. Some retired officers are on immutable basic rates which have remained unchanged for forty-five years. No other State pensioner is in this position. Civil servants have received terminal grants, which were introduced no less than forty-nine years ago, while no officer who retired before September, 1950, received a terminal grant at all. Full terminal grants are received only by officers retired after 526 January 1, 1956. Many older retired officers were therefore compelled to commute up to half of their retired pay in order to raise capital to meet immediate needs. That means to say that if they commuted up to half of their retired pay, they have to live on whatever is supposed to be the interest on the amount afterwards. Between August, 1945, and June, 1953, alone there were 7,500 commutations by retired officers, and only five by retired civil servants. Many older retired officers are therefore living on about half of their original retired pay, and no allowance has ever been made for this.
§ Civil servants' pensions and their widows' pensions are a proportion of their final serving pay. That is a very important thing. When the latter is increased both their future pensions and their widows' pensions are automatically increased at the same time. In the Armed Services retired pay and widows' pensions are in no way related to serving pay. Armed Service pay was increased on April 1, 1958, but the last basic rates of retired pay were introduced on January 1, 1956, and widows' pensions on December 1, 1952.
§ We come now to widows' pensions. These remained unchanged for more than a hundred years, until in 1952 new rates, equal to about a quarter—I repeat, a quarter—of officers' 1950 rates of retired pay were introduced. Civil servants' widows' pensions are one-third of their husbands' pensions. That is a very considerable difference: the difference between one-third and a quarter. It is now proposed to bring only future officers' widows' pensions up to one-third of the husbands' retired pay—only future widows, not the present widows of whom there are a great many. This will not affect the 9,502 existing widows of officers, of whom 7,468 get less than £190 a year; and 2,477 captains' widows get £115 10s. a year—that is to say, less than National Insurance payments, which are £130 a year. Sixty per cent. of these cannot get National Insurance pensions because they are over 70 years of age and therefore cannot qualify for them. Many officers' widows, I would say, are in dire need—really dire need—and can apply only for National Assistance. It is suggested that all officers' widows should get one-third of the 1950 rates of officers' retired pay. Now only 2 out of 527 10 get Service widows' pensions of over £189 a year. Three out of every 10 get less than National Assistance rates per year; that is to say, less than £117 per annum.
§ My Lords, I would say that until the conditions of present retired officers and officers' widows are very greatly improved they and their children will have little confidence in their future prospects. There will be little confidence among young men and their parents in their future prospects if they follow their parents into the Services. It is very hard to make them believe that they themselves, if they follow their parents into the Armed Services, will not be in a similar condition in the years to come.
In conclusion, I would once again appeal for the old men who have served their country; and I do suggest that it makes a bit of a difference when they have served their country, and have served it in many cases in circumstances of danger and with evil results to themselves. The Government have agreed that Service pay and pensions should be reviewed regularly at intervals of not more than three years. But what about immutable pensions? If they follow the same rules as they have followed in the past, those immutable pensions will remain immutable and there will be no advance made in them. The Government may review the circumstances of officers, their conditions and their pay every three years; but if officers are on these immutable pensions they will get no increase. That is a very serious thing to think of, and it is a great handicap on all serving officers. My Lords, I appeal for these old men who have served their country and who, in many cases, not only are subject to an increase in the cost of living of 300 per cent. and more, but who have some sort of position to try to keep up, and who are very, very unhappy and very hard-up indeed.
§ Moved to resolve, That in the opinion of this House the rates of retired pay of officers who retired before 3rd September, 1939, and of officers' widows' pensions should be suitably increased.—(Lord Jeffreys.)
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, with all the background of 528 his military service experience, has never given up the task he has set himself in the defence of the position of officers and their dependants, which is the basis upon which he has been speaking this afternoon; and although we may not always agree with him in every detail we always admire the persistence with which he pursues the objective he desires to attain.
In considering questions of this sort, and the spread of pensions, we have, of course, in these modern days, to take account of what is being thought and what is beginning to be operated in these circles over all sections of the population. I think that perhaps it does not help our case—the case of those who want to do better for the Service people—if we stick to the old line of making a very special appeal for those who have been in the Services, as if all those who have not been in the Services have not been in fact serving their country; and, indeed, I am quite sure that the noble Lord would not wish to suggest that. Certainly he has put certain aspects of pensions and matters arising out of those pensions to civil servants, but I have known people in the Civil Service—very great friends of mine; and great names, some of them—who at times almost sacrificed their lives in service to their country. Of course, I have also known cases where officers in the three Services, even when they have not been at the front, facing the enemy, have been working just as hard and have been just as self-sacrificing. They are giving service to their country in equal measure. We have to be very careful, therefore, exactly how we approach this particular problem.
I feel that the kind of scheme which the Labour Party have introduced, which would affect the population generally, is one that will inevitably have to be met by Governments; and it makes me wonder when I think of my own personal experience on a pension—and that from private enterprise which is not in any way reactionary—and when I look round industry to-day. Although in the directorial sphere, and in the highest managerial sphere, there are now some high pensions being arranged, it is a rare thing in industry to find any adjustment made upwards because of inflationary evils.
Nearly all these private pension schemes are, in fact, a matter of contract. They are nearly always based upon a policy 529 covered by an insurance company, and I have never yet known an insurance company which has been willing to go back on it and make special allowances to people who receive pensions or to people who receive annual allowances under a policy covering a superannuation scheme. I am not saying that there are not also some very good employers who have made some adjustments in the amounts received by their old pensioners; but it does seem to me that where, as at the moment, we have the question of whether people should be allowed to contract out of certain aspects of pensionable receipts, pensionable cover, and the like, then we must bear one or two things in mind in respect of the Service rates of pay and pensions.
I am happy to know that the country feels that it can now afford to offer such high rates of pay and prospects for pensions, agreed upon, I think, by all Parties in the State, for future recruits to all ranks of the Services. I am certain that that will not only have a good effect upon recruitment but may produce a better adjustment of the national mind as to what kind of pensionable provisions ought to be made for the general citizen who also serves his country. But when one comes to the question of the particular classes of officers which has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, then I am bound to say that I have a great deal of sympathy with them. We have arrived at 1958, and case after case has been cited this afternoon where the State has already taken into consideration (I think full consideration, although all my friends may not agree) the evils that arise from inflation in respect of those who for some years past have had to rely upon State-provided pensions which have no possibility of being adjusted.
If we take the other ranks in the Services to-day, I think that the alternative arrangements which have been made in certain circumstances have eased the burden upon them to a considerable extent—although even here, in my view, the position has not been completely met. However that may be, certainly in regard to the officer ranks I agree with the noble Lord that the same kind of provision or alternatives have not been provided. In the past, there have been adjustments from time to time, both with regard to civil servants and with regard to some officer 530 ranks, but if we take the question of the widows, and so on, the Government must have some regard to what is the general practice in industry and in professions, and the like. I am the happy recipient of a pension. My own contribution for it, for nearly thirty years, was a premium of £65 per annum, with another premium of an equal amount paid by the employer. But the pension to which I looked forward with so much expectation has been almost nullified in its real value by the inflation, which, I agree with the noble Lord, is about 300 per cent. And there is no provision in it anywhere for a widow—none at all.
In the case of serving officers, it must be remembered that although perhaps the pension rates have had some influence upon the rates of pay whale they are in actual service, nevertheless, whether we speak of the Fighting Services or of the Civil Service, there is no heavy premium in cash to be paid for those pensions such as the ordinary member in an industrial concern has to pay under any superannuation scheme covered by an insurance policy. I think that in respect of the general level of pre-war 1939 retirement pensions there is a case for re-examination and for adjustment upwards, having regard to the inflationary increase in the cost of living which in other branches of national life has been met. I hope that the noble and gallant Lord will forgive me for having tried to give a well-balanced picture of the case which a Government has to face when it has to adjust its economic policy. I would say to him that, if he is going to divide the House—though I hope he will not need to do so—I am sure that we should be able to support him.
§ 5.11 p.m.
My Lords, I rise from these Benches to detain your Lordships for only a few moments to support the Motion of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Jeffreys. There was a time, many years ago, when I had to conform to his views whether I liked them or not; but those years have now gone by and I am under no obligation to agree with him if I do not want to. However, I do, and I have the support of noble Lords on these Benches in my view. A great deal has been said on this matter over the years by people much better qualified than I am to say it—and 531 no one more so than the noble and gallant Lord himself. Therefore, I shall confine my brief remarks to one aspect of this matter.
The noble Viscount who leads the Labour Party in your Lordships' House has mentioned the comparable treatment of civil servants. This is an argument which has been raised again and again, and I would ask the noble Viscount whether he really thinks that there is any comparison whatever between the terms of service and treatment of a Service officer of any of the three Services and a civil servant. A civil servant lives at home, has his week-ends at home, has his children educated as and where he wants to, knows what his future is and lives a life of comparative security, for himself, his wife and his children. Compare that with the life of an officer, who may—and often does—find himself anywhere at a few hours' notice. The education of his children is upset. More often than not his health is impaired by being sent at short notice, especially in these days of quick air travel, to goodness knows where—to places, for instance, where he may be bitten by mosquitoes, or where anything else may happen to him. All this is not a great help to him as he grows older; and all these things he has to endure in peace and in war. The two positions may be comparable in terms of devotion to service and patriotism—I do not argue that; but where an officer's health is concerned, and where the conditions of his family life and the education of his children, which is of paramount importance, are concerned, there is no comparison at all. Therefore, I should like to ask your Lordships to discount that argument in this connection.
We are asking the Government to treat this matter not legalistically but in a kindly way, as a moral and ethical obligation to people who have little voice of their own. I believe that I should not be out of order in referring to the proceedings of yesterday evening, when a problem of an almost similar nature was debated at great length, and when the lawyers in your Lordships' House—the noble and learned Viscount the Lord President of the Council, the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, and, to a lesser extent, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin—during the whole afternoon drew a series of legal red herrings across 532 the main issue until it was almost lost sight of. The Government got home by a "photo-finish", by a very short head, at eight o'clock last night. If such a close finish is to be experienced again to-day, I hope that the Government will be on the losing end and that the noble and gallant Lord's Motion will be accepted by a majority of your Lordships.
§ 5.16 p.m.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, I rise to support the Motion proposed by my noble and gallant friend, Lord Jeffreys, whose flag I have followed on previous occasions on the same subject. Most of what I wanted to say has been better said by previous speakers, so your Lordships will escape a long speech. I support everything that was said by noble Lords who yesterday were standing up for those refugees from Cairo of our own nationality, and putting forward the reasons why they should be helped especially. I supported the Motion, and to-day I would appeal to those noble Lords to remember those arguments in considering the "immutable" cases of these former officers. Immutable!—what rot!There is no immutability about it, because Parliament can decide what it likes when it likes. But all these years, whenever they have applied to have their pensions increased, they have been told this. Is it not possible now, as my noble and gallant friend points out, to decide to have these pensions examined every two years? They must depend on the rates of pay, and they should. I regard it as utter unfairness to say that a lieutenant-colonel in the South African War or the First World War is not the same as a lieutenant-colonel now. In my opinion that is perfect nonsense.
I am speaking with some heat, my Lords, because it is my own generation that has suffered under all this "immutability" and I know of the great hardship that many of my friends are undergoing. If they had applied the same talents in other directions in civilian life, no doubt they would have got on much better. I have a friend who has three boys. He always used to say that the first was going to join the Army; the second, the Navy, and the third, the Air Force. The other day I wrote and asked him how they were getting on; and he replied that none of them was going into the Armed Services if he could prevent 533 them. This officer had not enough money to bring up those boys.
Of course, as happened in the debate last night, little legal quips are introduced in order to defend the niggardly attitude of the Government towards those refugees. Have they not been niggardly in their treatment of all these men? A soldier, sailor or airman is sent out to meet death. He goes, without any option, whereas the refugees from Egypt, with whom noble Lords were so sympathetic, were going from this country of their own volition to a foreign country to make their living. I do not think the two can be compared. I deprecate all these allusions to the Civil Service. I am a great respecter of the Civil Service, and I appreciate the work they do and how essential they are. But that is no reason why the Fighting Services should not be properly treated. I would ask your Lordships to excuse any heat that I may have displayed. I would also ask those who stood up for fairness and justice, as against a small legal point, last night, to do the same to-night for the Services, in which most of your Lordships have served.
§ 5.20 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I am naturally, as I think the whole House is, in sympathy with the Motion of my noble and gallant friend, but with one fairly strong personal proviso. I am averse—and in all honesty I should express the fact—to placing before Parliament an appeal on behalf of officers, separated or isolated from an appeal on behalf of the other ranks who served with them. I am not going to offend the House by seeking to debate a matter which is outside the stated terms of the Motion, but I hope that I may be forgiven if I make one or two observations on the wider aspect of this problem. Because although my noble and gallant friend spoke feelingly and factually on the plight of officers' widows, I think it should not be forgotten that until 1952 the widows of other ranks, except certain senior W.O.Is, were not entitled to draw any pension whatever, and even then the pension introduced was available only for the widows of W.0.IIs and staff sergeants. This was extended in 1956 to include the widows of sergeants and corporals and privates with thirty-two years' service. The pension for such privates' widows was at the 534 rate of 10s. a week, and that is a good deal less than one-quarter of the pension which her husband would have been receiving had he been alive. Since then an extra 5 per cent. has been added, which for a private's widow means 6d. a week.
The Officers' Pension Society are claiming, as we have heard to-day, a widow's pension at the rate of one-third of the officer's scale. I sincerely hope that when this claim is met the equally strong claim of other ranks' widows for the same treatment will also be recognised. In 1956, when the pension of a private with thirty-two years' service was raised to 78s., his widow's pension remained at 10s.—that is to say, now, 10s. 6d.—and there is still no pension for the widow of a private with less than thirty-two years' service. As I have said, I am doubtful about the wisdom or fairness of claiming for officers what is not yet even spoken of for other ranks and their wives. I am sure it is right to claim that officers' pensions have been left behind in recent years, but there is still widespread resentment among other ranks who will not be affected by the improvements until they are 60 or until they are permanently incapacitated by a physical or mental infirmity from entering into full-time employment.
At the beginning of this week a case was brought to my notice of a former sergeant-major, living at Rochwell in Yorkshire, near my home, who retired in 1946 with a pension of 345. 3d., which is now worth £1 in comparative purchasing power. His is a typical case. I appreciate that this question must be regarded against the general problem of fixed incomes, but I would suggest, as my noble and gallant friend has already suggested, that the question of recruiting is closely bound up with the matter of pensions; and recruiting to the Armed Forces presents different problems from recruiting, let us say, to the Civil Service. I have said this before, but I think it bears repetition until there is no longer any need for it to be said. There is an impression that this country tends to forget its old soldiers once they are finished with, and I am sure that this has militated against and will continue to militate against successful recruiting. In a street where there is living an old soldier in needy circumstances, he may be taken 535 as a lesson by the young men in the street not to go into the Army or into the other Services for which we are trying to recruit men.
I should like to say a word or two on behalf of some other ex-Servicemen, who might otherwise have no voice whatever in Parliament, but who are often in desperate need. At the end of the war some hundreds of thousands of foreign soldiers were serving under British command, and many of these were unable to return to their own countries, largely because of the service they had given to us. In 1945 there were, for instance, 200,000 Polish officers and soldiers in British formations. To-day I am happy to say that Polish ex-Servicemen are entitled to a disability pension at the same rate as British ex-Servicemen, and under the same conditions as those of the Royal Warrant. But one thing they do not share is the right of appeal. This, I think, is an indignity and an injustice that could and should be removed.
There is another injustice that I think your Lordships, including my noble and gallant friend who put down the Motion, may find more startling and disturbing. At the end of the war, among those Polish soldiers who could not return to their own country were a number of elderly and distinguished officers. Pensions were given by the Government to five or six of them; repayable loans of £3,000 were given to another eight—I believe that is the figure though I am not certain—and fifty-two were left to depend on National Assistance. But they could not qualify, and still cannot qualify, for old-age pension, since by the time they reached the age of 65 they had not resided for the necessary ten years in this country with contributions being made. As a result, they are obliged to-day to perform tasks which at their advanced age and against their distinguished background can only be looked upon as degrading. They think themselves fairly fortunate if they can be employed as night watchmen. Two former colonels are working in the sculleries of London hotels. There are others who have not even been able to obtain such work and must depend solely on National Assistance.
They are not only Poles. I do not know how many of your Lordships 536 remember the day that Yugoslavia was taken out of the German alliance by a pro-Allied coup d'etat—I think the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition will remember it well. The alliance had been signed by Zwetkovic and Markovic, the Yugoslav Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the day, and the coup was launched by some pro-British, pro-Allied Yugoslav officers whose leader was General Bora Mirkovic. Those were the days when Sir Winston Churchill (Mr. Churchill, as he then was) said that "Yugoslavia had found her soul." Much of that soul has since been crushed, as it has in other friendly and courageous countries. But in those days it was inspiring to see what could be risked and what could be done by those who believed in this country and in its people. They were ready to throw their whole nation in the path of the advancing German enemy. Very terribly did they suffer, in consequence; but our position in Greece was given a respite, and many who are alive to-day in this country might have perished but for their action under a forgotten General who trusted Britain. But, my Lords, General Bora Mirkovic is in fact more than a mere name on a forgotten page in history: he is an old man, crippled with war wounds, living in North-West London with his wife, supported solely from a fund provided by his countrymen in exile who are more fortunate, but some of them only just more fortunate, than he.
Such people have a claim on us, and I would have said an irresistible claim. When politicians speak with pride, as they still do, of the time that we stood alone against Germany, it has always seemed to me a somewhat unjustified and ungrateful phrase. During that time—that is to say, after the collapse of France and before the entry of Russia into the war—it is true that we fought the Battle of Britain and attacked the Italians in the desert, but during that time also the Polish Home Army was in almost daily action with the enemy at close quarters, suffering losses at least equal to ours and inflicting if anything greater damage on the enemy than we were able to do at that time. This was the Home Army under General Bor-Komorowski which grew to 380,000 sworn and highly-organised soldiers, and which fought in the Warsaw rising when losses were 240,000 dead in sixty-three 537 days. To-day General Bor-Komorowski lives in this country, whose freedom he fought for more successfully than for that of his own country. He lives here, honoured by those who remember the part that he played and who therefore give him their personal homage. But heroes cannot live on praises of their deeds alone, however well merited those praises may be.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, I rise on a point of order. I would point out that the remarks now being made by the noble Lord are entirely away from the subject.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (THE EARL OF HOME)
My Lords, I do not think a point of order arises, but in this House we do try to keep as near a Motion as we can.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I was hoping that the House and my noble and gallant friend would forgive me for pursuing a line of persuasion which he could hardly have foreseen. I am perfectly sure that he was right in bringing forward this Motion, but I submit also that it is right for all of us to remember what would be the position of those whom he is championing to-day, and, indeed, what would be his own position were he a Polish General who served with distinction in our cause. If he were fortunate, he might be peeling potatoes in an hotel in Park Lane. My noble friend who will reply was given little notice by me that I should be speaking on these cases and I cannot expect that he will give any specific hope for their relief. But a word of recognition and sympathy from the Government, and a promise to investigate such cases, might baring a gleam of light into the lives of some of the most gallant men and some of the most deserving friends that this country has ever had.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
My Lords, the very limited class of people for whom my noble and gallant friends Lord Jeffreys and Lord Cork and Orrery have spoken to-day will be grateful, as I am sure your Lordships are, to my noble friends for having brought this matter to our notice. It is not an unfamiliar matter, 538 because they have stood for it before—and not unsuccessfully. I should like, if I may, to offer my particular congratulations to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Jeffreys, for having made his appeal in such a limited and sound manner. Appeals for consideration are all the stronger if they are based upon the realities of the case, rather than upon claims to some sense of justice or some sense of obligation which do not in fact exist.
I was pleased to notice that the noble and gallant Lord did not make the error which is made by some outside this House: of basing claims upon false premises. May I beg leave to examine the validity of this claim to see where it is weak and where it is strong, in the hope that by an appeal to reality one may be able to get the better consideration of it and make it more difficult for those who do not feel that they want to meet it but who want to knock it down? It is generally claimed, and generally believed, that retired pay and pensions, and other payments made to retired officers, N.C.Os. and men or their widows, is deferred pay. Indeed, that is one of the arguments used in a certain sense for relating what is to be given by way of deferred pay to the amount of the pay itself, so that where the pay is high the deferred pay will be high, and so on. But the fact that it is deferred pay links it to the service in the past. It seems to me that pensions can be had only in two ways. One is by earning them, and the other is by being given them ex gratia by the tax payers for some good reason—for example, a war disability. I will not enter into that field, because the considerations there are quite different from those which we now have in our minds, and to which we are addressing, ourselves.
It is said: "But who has earned the pension more than the soldier, the officer, N.C.O. or man who has gone out to the dangerous areas and lived away from home?" All those arguments were put very well by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, and are familiar to us all. But the fact is, my Lords, that the earning took place in an earlier generation, in entirely different circumstances; and it does not seem to me possible to say to the Government, or to any Government. "You must admit that 539 there is a claim as of right, or an obligation that must be met, and which, if not met, would cause you to be dishonourable." Nothing of that sort is valid. These officers ceased their service ten, twenty or thirty years ago. Their service may have been different from the service of others, but it is certainly not different from that of the N.C.O.s and soldiers, and I do not think there is the same distinction that some people feel can be drawn between service in the Armed Forces and service in other spheres of life, or even in the Civil Service. All my life my special friends have been in the Armed Forces of the Crown, but that is not, in my judgment, a hand that should be overplayed. I do not believe that it gets them anywhere. The tragedy is that the service of a soldier is short because he has to be so active; he has to run so fast, and he has to do such disagreeable things so often that he cannot go on doing them after he is 50 or 55; or sometimes only 45.
What is to be done about this problem? Raise the rates of pay? I think they ought to be raised to quite high standards by comparison with service in the Civil Service and other services. It would follow then that the deferred element which was carried by that pay would be higher for the man in his retirement or, if his widow is to be included, for his widow. It is quite a new idea that widows should be included: as the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition has said, his widow would not be included in his pension. Five or ten years ago, no ordinary scheme in industry would have included widows, though it is now beginning to be the case that the occupational insurance schemes common amongst good modern companies provide that the widows shall get something if the husband should die soon after his retirement.
The way it generally works, as I am sure will be familiar to many of your Lordships, is this. After twenty, thirty, forty years you have paid in, and your employer has paid in, for so much, and you then have the option, at 60 or 65, of taking your pension, which (shall we say) is £600 a year, or £800 a year, for the rest of your life. That is a single annuity. Or you can take a double or joint annuity on the life of yourself and your wife, so that some money is paid to either of you. The amount of money 540 paid is a question of division. If you want more while you are still alive, instead of £600 a year for life you might get £500, and your widow £100 when you die. If you are both prepared to take less you might take £350. It is a matter of bargaining and arrangement.
Your Lordships will see that what is paid to the widow is a deduction from what would otherwise have been paid to the man. If it is thought right that the widows of soldiers and officers should be provided for, not on the ground that the soldier has been killed in war or wounded in war, but simply on the ground that he dies of old age, then, if the widow is to be included, obviously the soldier must get less. It may not appear to be less if at the same time you raise the soldier's pay and his deferred pay, but it will in fact be less than he will otherwise get. Very likely that is a good thing to do.
But I think we must recognise quite clearly that this claim cannot rest upon any right to abolish the law of immutability. That is an inevitable rule. I do not know how you can re-write all the implied contracts back to the Boer War, and beyond—not for soldiers only, without applying the same to the Civil Service and Police and many others. It does not require that we should make an invidious comparison between one citizen and another to say that justice cannot be done for one small group, however deserving.
My Lords, may I turn now to the argument about recruiting? I think of the extraordinary response made to the appeal for people to go to Cyprus to work in N.A.A.F.I. They are not to be soldiers, but they are to be in a sphere where military action is all around them. They are to be operating under soldierly conditions and similarly to soldiers, and thousands of them applied to go. They would prefer to go there rather than in the Civil Service. They would prefer to go there than go on working as typists or telephone operators in Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited, or elsewhere. Why? Not because they are going to get good retirement pensions or good disability pensions if they are blown up—not at all; but because it is exciting and adventurous. I do not believe that recruiting is adversely affected by the prospect of the pension you are going to get twenty or thirty years later, or the 541 pension that may be given if you are blown to pieces.
My Lords, if you read carefully the Report of the Grigg Committee, you will find that it uses words that can be applicable to past widows. I believe that what the Grigg Committee Report is saying, in effect, is this: that since it is now becoming common practice for widows to be included in pension schemes, it would be wise for the Army to do it, but for the future. I cannot believe that is in itself a claim for doing it in the past. Where then is this claim? What validity has it? It simply has the sentimental validity that not enough is being done for these people, who noble Lords in all parts of this House, and also, I am sure, Parliament generally, would feel should have something done for them. These people have fallen between two stools: their history and circumstances are such that their previous status, though it has nearly all gone, is still left with them and is a burden round their necks. A grateful country should look after them better, and I very much hope that Her Majesty's Government will be able to make a statement to-day, even to the extent of saying that some of these cases will be given some consideration, which will make it unnecessary for us to divide on the Motion. I think it is most undesirable that we should vote on a matter of this sort, but that is only my view; and I am only a "new boy" here, and I apologise for offering a view.
May I say that I think the way this case should be presented is by deputation to the appropriate Service and other Ministers. If I—and I am sure there will be other noble Lords who will feel the same—can give any help to such a deputation, to the British Legion, the Officers' Association or those other societies, I shall, I am sure, together with other noble Lords, singly, severally or collectively, be only too willing to help. I greatly hope, therefore, that the Minister who replies will give some encouragement that during the next year or so this matter will receive the consideration of Her Majesty's Government.
§ 5.47 p.m.
My Lords, I have a very pleasant task to perform this afternoon. It falls to me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, on his maiden speech.
In that case I will take the liberty of congratulating your Lordships on the acquisition of another Fraser. I do not know whether we have as many Frasers in your Lordships' House as there are Cecils, but I am very proud of the Frasers we have, and I beg your Lordships, if sometimes you find yourselves disappointed in the oldest Fraser of the lot, to ascribe some of the virtues of the others to that unfortunate individual and forgive him.
I turn to the subject of debate before us, and the proposition I wish to put before your Lordships is that the official view of this matter is really mistaken. A great deal has been said about comparisons between the Civil Service and a member of the Fighting Forces. I have here a large list of differences, but there are only a few I wish to bring to your Lordships' attention. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, pointed out that there were many civil servants, to his knowledge, who broke their health and sacrificed their lives really in the service of their country. I agree. I had a friend in Glasgow who was not in the Civil Service or the Fighting Services who by sheer overwork in the war lost his life just as much as anybody who was shot. None the less, it was a matter of agreement between the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, when he was First Lord of the Admiralty, and myself in a debate in this House that the question of danger does enter into consideration when one considers the life of a soldier or sailor. One is always supposed to wave aside all questions of danger; courage is supposed to be superior to it all. But that is a factor that has to be considered.
There is another factor which has been touched on already this afternoon, and that is security of tenure. The civil servant has great security of tenure. I do not know whether the early retirement of a civil servant is a Cabinet matter or not, but I do know in the past—the long past, perhaps—of civil servants who were great failures in their positions and who were not retired but were sent to other places, and their salaries were made up to that which they had been enjoying before they were removed. I do not know whether 543 that happens to-day, but the soldier or the sailor has no such security of tenure.
The age of retirement has been mentioned. This is a serious disadvantage, because a man retires when all the cares of his family are still on his back. But the worst difference of all is this. A civil servant serves his life out until his retirement age or until death and then he gets his pension; the soldier or the sailor serves until he retires and then, if he goes into any other occupation, he is liable to be called upon to abandon that occupation at a moment's notice and return to the Colours. Some time ago I gave your Lordships details of such a case, and I will hurry through them now to show you the full import of what happened. At the time when the Liberal Government were declaring that universal and perpetual peace was practically established—that was in 1912—
The noble Viscount may recollect the speech of Mr. Lloyd George in 1914, in the Spring, when he said that there was no more propitious time for disarmament than at that moment. But I am going back to 1912.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
In the year to which the noble Lord is referring there was a desperate arms race going on with the Germans on the question of naval strength.
It was a time when we were singing out. "We want eight, and we won't wait". I do not want to go into that point except to say that a certain lieutenant with eight years' service—the equivalent of a lieutenant-commander to-day—had suggested to him that he should retire, and he was given a pension of £177. He went out to America where he did very well, and in 1914 he was earning an income of £1,000 a year, and also had made some very profitable investments in land. He had the misfortune then to lose the use of an arm. In 1915 he was called up, and he had to come. He abandoned his occupation and his property there, which others took over because he could not pay the taxes while he was away. I am told that those other people became millionaires. He served through the war and was awarded the 544 D.S.O. At the end of the war he said, "I have been out of the Navy only two years. Can't you keep me?" They said that that was not possible but that his pension would be revised. His pension was revised, to the extent that he received £180—a rise of £3. He commuted, as he was forced to do. He commuted £30 of that pension and obtained some £600 worth of capital which he put into a business. In 1935 that business was earning for him £1,500; in 1938 it earned him £1,800. It was a one-man business and it was most successful.
Then he received a telegram asking him if he was willing to serve again. He served again and his business went to the winds. At the end of the war he realised that he was going to be extremely poor, and he went to a distant part of the country and bought a cottage where he could live most simply. Misfortune overtook him. His wife, on whom this one-armed man depended, had to have two major operations. It became quite impossible for them to live on the pension and on her small income. I took the matter up in your Lordships' House and I went to see the Departments concerned. The answer I got was, "This man is in receipt of everything that is due to him. We owe him nothing. This claim is monstrous." We fought it and, thank heaven!there was a First Lord of the Admiralty to whom I shall always be grateful, who screwed another £127 out of the Treasury. Of course that was not nearly enough, but I think it was an extraordinary and remarkable feat, and one which your Lordships will recognise.
This officer is being looked after in other ways now. The country called upon him to sacrifice first of all a fortune, then a competence, and at the end, without any compunction, has left him really to starve. That is the difference. When you can produce to me the case of a civil servant who is so treated, then it is fair to equate the two. Until that is done, I claim that the official attitude to retired soldiers and officers—I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, said—is utterly wrong and ought to be changed. I do not know who else was ashamed while I was fighting that case, but I can tell your Lordships that I was terribly ashamed at the official attitude—that anybody could say about a man who had so served what I 545 heard said. Therefore I have great pleasure in supporting my noble friend Lord Jeffreys in this matter.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, it fell to me yesterday to speak to your Lordships of one section of our people and the hardships which they are to-day suffering. To-day we are concerned with the tragedy of another section of our population. I think we have had a most valuable debate, illumined especially by a remarkable and characteristically courageous speech from the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, who speaks with almost unrivalled authority on this question. Of course, all he says is absolutely true. But that does not, as I am sure he will be the first to agree, lessen the tragic problems with which these particular people with whom Lord Jeffreys' Motion deals, are faced. I do not say, any more than he does, that they have an absolute right to receive a higher pension than they do, but I feel that we have a moral obligation to do rather more for them. I could not accept the argument that immutable pensions must always remain immutable. So I should like to appeal to the Government, briefly but most sincerely, to do what they can for these retired officers and their widows who are the subject of the Motion.
I know the difficulties which are facing the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, for I have had before now, more than once, myself to answer for the Government in debates on this particular subject—and most unpleasant I found it. I do not know anything that I hated more during the whole time that I was a member of the Administration. But if the situation of those officers was already unhappy in those days (and I think it was) it is of course worse still now, for, as has been pointed out, I think by Lord Jeffreys himself, the value of money has fallen since then, and the value of money is not immutable, even if pensions are immutable. We all know that the pensions, which were already cruelly small even then, will buy even less now. Moreover, these officers are older and, I expect, a great deal wearier than they were then and less able to find work to eke out their pensions—if, indeed, their doctors would allow them to take up work at all.
I quite realise that it is not only the Government's desire—perhaps it is not 546 their desire but it is their obligation—to limit expenditure as much as they can. But at a time when, to use the Prime Minister's own words, the "British people have never had it so good", and when other pensions are, I believe, being further considered, surely the situation of these officers who have given such devoted service to their country, and their widows, deserves to be at least sympathetically reviewed. They are becoming older and feebler. As I believe the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Jeffreys, said, many of them are over 60 years of age. They are, unhappily, becoming fewer, for year after year death takes greater arid greater toll of them. The cost to the Exchequer, even if the Exchequer felt able to make some adequate concession, would not be large and is likely to become very much less with every year that passes.
I do not want to enter into the controversy of who have served their country better—members of the Armed Forces or civil servants. On the whole, my experience has been that they have both been pretty good. But looking merely at the Armed Forces, with whom we are concerned to-day, I feel that it is hardly possible logically to defend a position in which older people receive less in the way of pension than younger and stronger men who served in the last war. This is a very special case, as was said, I believe, by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, as it applies to these pre-1939 officers; and I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, who was himself a serving officer, will sympathise; with the moving pleas that have been addressed to him to-day. I beg Her Majesty's Government to say this evening that they will do what they can to help these old servants of the Crown to whom we owe so much.
§ 6.2 p.m.
My Lords, I rise for a moment to make a brief point which I believe has not been made and which I should like to make now in favour of the Motion. With the greatest respect, I found myself in profound disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, for he accepted what I cannot accept—the theory of immutability in connection with pensions. For what, in fact, is a pension? Surely it is a part of the emoluments which induce a man to take up a particular employment. Surely it is not a set sum of money.
547 A pension is a standard of life which is offered to the young recruit—and I like the point made by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald—
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
My Lords, would the noble Lord permit me to interrupt him, if it is in order for me to do so? I believe he is wholly misunderstanding what I said. The pension, so far as it is deferred pay, is related to the past. Deferred pay is part of the pay which one does not get then but hopes to get after; and it is immutable because the man has ceased to serve. He cannot alter the pay that he had thirty years ago because that was thirty years ago, but I pleaded for ex gratia payments.
My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point, but I do not think I was mistaken in it to start with because what I am contesting is exactly this point of immutability which he accepts and I do not accept. I do not believe that the pension is, in fact, a sum of money—one-third of what the retired officer's pay may have been or any other such sum. I believe the pension is a standard of living for the rest of his life which is held out to him by his employer—the State—when he enters into its service. I believe, therefore, that far from being immutable all pensions should be fundamentally mutable. At a time like the present, when inflation is so much with us, it seems to me that if the employer—in this case the State—is to do its duty by its ex-employees, pensions must necessarily, in their essence, be mutable.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (THE EARL OF SELKIRK)
My Lords, I am sorry that I have not had the opportunity of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, on his maiden speech—I had hoped that I might have done. But I should like to say how much I enjoyed listening to him, and I know it is your Lordships' wish that he should speak to us often.
As the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has said, this question is a difficult one. I do not believe anyone would question that the way in which we treat older people in this country is very much of the fabric and quality of the civilisation 548 to which we belong. It may safely be said that that is one of the standards by which a country—our own or any other—can be judged. It is one of the standards by which we live, and part of the quality of the civilisation of which we are members.
But I am afraid it is true, as the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has clearly said, that this Motion cannot be viewed in isolation. There are others who have served this country in other spheres, both as Crown servants and, indeed, in private life; and it is quite impossible for me to accept this Motion, because it would mean a Pensions Increase Bill as such—which Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to face at the present time. I ask noble Lords opposite: are they really asking me now for a Pensions Increase Bill which would cover the whole range of retirement pensions? If that is what they want, let them vote for this Motion, but I ask noble Lords to realise what is involved. May I say to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Jeffreys, to whom we all listened with great care, for he speaks with such very real feeling on this subject, that if there is any category to which he would especially like attention given, or any part of the pension structure which he feels is not in line, I will undertake to look thoroughly at it.
If I may go on to deal rather more fully with some of these points, I would say that of course Service pensions are of an entirely different character from Civil Service pensions. We can compare them, as the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has done; but they are for different services. A Service officer serves for a very short time, and I would ask, quite frankly, what does it mean when one hears these very harsh figures about pensions? Before the war a captain could retire after fifteen years' service. No one in his senses would imagine that after fifteen years in the Army a man need not do any more work. That is an absurd proposition. When a man retires after fifteen years, having risen to the rank of captain in the Army, is he to be kept by the Service for the rest of his life? That suggestion does not bear examination for a moment. This is not a retirement pension at all. It is partly a pension for services given and partly compensation for a foreshortened career—and it bears no comparison at all with 549 the kind of pension which a civil servant gets.
One hears stories about commutation, but as a matter of fact a civil servant is not allowed to commute his pension, except in very unusual circumstances. So there is really no comparison at all, and I do ask noble Lords to realise that Service pensions must be put into a category entirely different from the Civil Service pensions. The noble Lord may ask whether the general level of pensions is right or quite wrong—and here I should like to refer to a Report we have recently had on this subject from the Advisory Committee on Recruiting, known as the Grigg Committee. That Report says specifically, at paragraph 204:The existing level of officers' retired pay is about right,The noble Lord may say, "Ah, yes, but that does not apply to some of the older officers." There is a further reference in this Report which perhaps I may read to the House, for this is the Report of a very authoritative Committee: any noble Lord may see that its members were people of great authority, who have been in the Service, in industry, in the trade unions, and so on. This is what the Committee say on this broad subject which has been raised by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Jeffreys—I quote paragraph 205:
We have every sympathy for retired soldiers whose pensions have been eaten away by inflation, but we do not think that their claims can be singled out from those of others in a similar position.The Committee continue, in paragraph 206:The cost of a comparable reassessment of other State and local government pensions would be about £40 million a year, of which £10 million would fall on the ratesThat is an assessment bringing pensions up to date. Added to £15 million for the Services it would be £55 million, raising the total State and local government pensions from £135 million to £190 million a year. The Committee do not think that that is justified, and they were there for the express purpose of examining the recruiting requirements of the Service in the future.
There has been a good deal of discussion on the question of mutability. I was extraordinarily interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, said on 550 the subject. I do not know whether he is speaking with the authority of the high position he holds in the Labour Party or as one of the adventurous sort who sometimes speak from the Back Benches, which we welcome. But he says that all pensions should be on a sliding scale according to the cost of living. Is he speaking on behalf of his colleagues, or is he speaking on behalf of himself?
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
The real point is this. Pensions have always been regarded as final, for this reason: that if they are not regarded as final, then by moving them with the scale of the cost of living we are in fact increasing the likelihood of inflation. We are by that very act increasing the force by which, and the extent to which, inflation would be lifted. I am therefore certain that the Treasury are right, if I may say so, and that their economic theory is correct in saying that it would be wrong to move pensions with the cost of living. If we did that we should make the remedy worse than the disease we are trying to cure.
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Earl would care to say whether he is trying to control inflation at the expense of perhaps the element in the population least able to afford it?
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
In my opinion we can never avoid having hardship with inflation. What is the noble Lord suggesting? Who is to pay these mutable pensions? They would be people with fixed incomes in the community, people who are equally hurt by rises in the cost of living and who then have to pay increased taxes to pay the increased mutable pensions which the noble Lord wants. That is precisely what he is asking for, and that is precisely why I think the proposal he makes is entirely wrong.
The State has taken a different line and recognised that from time to time there are hardship cases which have to be dealt with. That has been done. Here I can say that there has been a very close comparison between the lot of civil servants, on the one hand, and the lot of Service personnel, on the other. If anyone follows closely what has happened 551 he will see that they have been treated very similarly indeed. The Pensions Increase Acts have numbered five since about the end of the war. There were two in the time of the late Government, and three in the time of this Government. They came in 1944, 1947, 1952, 1954 and 1956. The Government have from time to time considered the cases and improved the lot of those who are pensioners.
I should like again to emphasise that the real answer to this is to stop inflation. Here I should like to quote (and I am doing so only because I think I ought) what has been said only this afternoon by the Prime Minister. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 595 (No. 13), col. 566]:The best way to help all who live on small fixed incomes and the way we have tried to follow is to keep inflation under control. If everyone is to contract out of inflation, I fear this will not make the task of controlling inflation any easier.It is for that reason that the Government regard inflation as the dominating problem of our economy, and I think it would be quite wrong at this time to contemplate a general Pensions Increase Act. My Lords, obviously, if in any special case the noble Lord wants me to look at the position I shall be only too glad to do so.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am not getting up to quarrel in general with the argument of the noble Earl—I do not want to do that at this stage. I tried to be fair in the presentation of the general case, but I feel that there are outstanding cases (I do not want to trouble your Lordships with them) of these fixed payments which should have been the subject of review in the last few years, because of the effect of the evils of inflation. I tried to make myself clear. If the Motion did no more than ask for this position to be re-examined in the case of all these officers—and I hope other ranks, too—who retired before 1939, then I should be glad to support it. I cannot understand why the Government cannot promise to-night to make that investigation, on the basis of comparability with the cases which have had some improvement in their situation.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I do not want to paraphrase the noble Viscount's 552 words, but I have already said to my noble friend Lord Jeffreys something very close to that. I said that I would look at any cases or categories he cared to advance which are out of line with the general pensions policy. If he would care to advance those for consideration I will see that they are examined very carefully indeed.
I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, really wants me to answer now the points which he raised. Frankly, if there are any points he wishes answered, I think it would be very much better if he wrote to me. Certain action has been taken in this country with regard to the Poles who assisted us in the war, and I do not in any way differ in the general regard for the part they played in the Second World War. If the noble Lord writes to me I shall be glad to deal with his points.
There has been extraordinarily little said on the subject of widows of retired officers. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, said: that the inclusion of widows in pension schemes is a recent innovation. In fact, in Government service it has very largely come in in the last ten years, though I must admit that officers' widows' pensions go back much further than that. So far as the Civil Service is concerned, and local government, the police, firemen, the National Coal Board and other nationalised industries, widows' pensions have come in only during the last ten years. Previous to that a civil servant had no pension at all for his widow.
What has been done? If we consider the 1952 Act, we have stopped the means test on widows' pensions which was in being up to that time, and doubled the rate of pension at about that time. All pensions of widows are now on the same basis of rank of the officer who is deceased; and there was an increase of that pension in 1956. What I think it is important to remember is that, alone among widows' pensions, Service officers' widows' pensions are and continue to be non-contributory. That is a privilege they have by themselves and no others have it. I think—and I say it frankly to this House, and your Lordships may put what interpretation upon it you wish—when I look at widows' pensions, whether in private schemes or public schemes, that they never seem to be very large. 553 That is true of all forms of widows' pensions which I have seen.
My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a provision in this year's Budget which I think is not without significance to those in this particular category. That is in regard to the special exemption limit for old people which was further raised for single persons and married persons. That is the sort of provision which I suggest is not without importance. I think that it is fair to say that not only have we done something about this problem—and I have said that we will look further—but also we have taken action in regard to the future. As the noble Lord is aware, the Grigg Committee has recommended that a one-third pension be payable to officers' widows in the future. We have accepted that, and I think it was right that we should. I will just add this, if I may: I emphasise that we have still the dominating objective in our economic policy of trying to stop inflation. After all, a Pensions Increase Act would cover not only many deserving cases such as those emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, and those brought out by the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, but also inevitably others. Is it wise, at the present juncture, that the House should press for this particular form of development to take place?
I will very gladly take up the points, as I have said. What I have tried to say to the noble Lord is that as the Motion is framed I cannot view it in isolation. On the whole the nature of officers' pensions is such that it is not possible to give a long-term pension such as the noble Lord suggests, but he will see that the recommendation of the Grigg Report to give long employment is being considered. But the noble Lord must be fully aware that the soldier's job is essentially a young man's job.
Finally, I would say that we have done something to help those who are least well off, and the record will, I think,
§ show that the various pensions increase actions which have been taken have been of some effect. I shall be glad to examine any case where there is a disparity in an existing pension or where there is any category out of line, but I would ask the noble Lord, frankly, having regard to the general strength of our country to-day, not to press this Motion to a Division.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, before my noble friend ends his speech, I apologise for being thick-headed but I do not quite understand what he is offering my noble friend Lord Jeffreys. Is he offering to see whether the whole category of these officers' pensions is out of line with modern pensions, or is he saying that he will examine them case by case?
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
—I would explain it at great length; but what he is trying to do is to get me to expand what I have said, and that is what I am exceedingly reluctant to do.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ LORD JEFFREYS
My Lords, I confess that I am not impressed by what the noble Earl has been telling us. We have to bear in mind the fact that if the Government increase the pensions of this very limited body of men there will be practically no expense worth talking about caused to the country. You might increase quite appreciably the pensions of these old men and yet the expense would be very small indeed. It is a small class, and it is also a class that will be reduced annually by an appreciable amount. I beg to press my Motion.
§ On Question, That the said Resolution be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 38; Not-Contents, 26.555
|Salisbury, M.||Selborne, E. [Teller.]||Birdwood, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Derwent, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Crookshank, V.||Faringdon, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Stansgate, V.||Geddes of Epsom, L.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Gifford, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Ailwyn, L.||Grenfell, L.|
|Morley, E.||Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Hastings, L.|
|Hewke, L.||Pethick-Lawrence, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Jeffreys, L. [Teller.]||Russell of Liverpool, L.||Swanborough, Baroness.|
|Leconfield, L.||Saltoun, L.||Williams, L.|
|Milner of Leeds, L.||Sandys, L.||Wilmot of Selmeston, L.|
|Newall, L.||Sherwood, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Pakenham, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]||Ellenborough, L.|
|Selkirk, E.||Elliot of Harwood, Baroness.|
|Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Waldegrave, E.||Forbes, L.|
|Fraser of Lonsdale, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Colville of Culross, V.||Mills, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Margesson, V.||Pender, L.|
|Gosford, E.||Poole, L.|
|Home, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Robins, L.|
|Onslow, E. [Teller.]||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Perth, E.||Chesham, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Resolution agreed to accordingly.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before seven o'clock.