§ 3.0 p.m.
§ LORD TEYNHAM rose to call attention to the retired pay and pensions of members of the Fighting Services, in particular the pensions of officers who retired before 1st February, 1960, and of other ranks who retired before 4th November, 1958, and the pensions and children's allowances of the widows of all ranks whose husbands died before 4th November, 1958; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Motion to-day I should make it clear from the outset that I am unfortunately not materially interested myself in the question of pensions, because I belong to that perhaps somewhat distinguished band of retired officers who are pensionless and known as castaways. A few weeks ago when I began to study the intricacies of Service pensions I soon became astonished at the chaotic state into which they had got. I think it would surprise many of your Lordships to learn that an able seaman or private soldier or equivalent rank in The Air Force discharged in 1922 gets a considerably higher rate of pension than one discharged in 1938. In the case of officers it is the other way round. What an astonishing display of muddle headedness and inconsistency!
§ The gravest case of all to which I would draw your Lordships' attention is the plight of officers' widows whose husbands died before November 4, 1958. This date line has already created two classes of widows, the first class whose husbands fought in one or both world wars and the second class whose husbands died after November 4, 1958. The second class of widows have quite recently had their pensions raised to one-third of their husband's retired pay, and this was very welcome indeed. But the 809 first class of widows have been left on what the Grigg Committee described as "ludicrously low pensions" except for a small rise of about 15 per cent. Since 1952 The cost of living has risen 24 per cent., so the widows have been worse off for those eight years. I know of a case of an officer of lieutenant-colonel rank who died in 1951 whose widow receives the princely sum of £161 14s. a year and has no National Insurance Pension. This officer fought in the Boer War and the First World War, signed up for clerical assistance in the Second World War, and did extremely well indeed. Is it justice that this poor and aged widow on a miserable pittance of £161 a year should have to Jive like that? It is all very well to talk of date-lines, but justice should and must come before such excuses, and I feel that the national conscience should be aroused so that this matter can be dealt with at the earliest possible moment. Incidentally, this aged widow of 81 years of age lives on a pension of £161 a year which is far less than what is paid, I believe, to a Sandhurst cadet on joining. He receives, of course, lodging' and food, and £291 a year.
§ I would remind your Lordships that National Insurance widows have had an increase of 77 per cent. since 1952, as against 15 per cent, for Service widows. Out of 9,900 widows in receipt of Service pensions, 5,348 are over 71 years of age, and therefore receive no National Insurance pension. As your Lordships will remember, no serving officer could contribute to National Insurance before June 6, 1948, and if they were over sixty years of age at that date they could not join it at all. A widow with one child receives, under National Insurance, £241 10s., but not so the Service widow, who receives only £198 4s. This difference is most unfair, and I think it is inconceivable that this position should be allowed to drift from year to year with an occasional debate upon it in your Lordships' House and another place.
§ Only recently in another place the Minister of Defence indicated that the direct cost of bringing the pensions of existing officers' widows up to the 1960 code would be only £350,000. What a paltry sum to bring justice to these unfortunate widows! I hope that the Minister who is to reply for Her Majesty's 810 Government will give some indication that this matter is under active consideration and that something will be done in the near future.
§ I should like to deal for a few minutes with the retired pay of Regular personnel. Under the 1945 code a private soldier or equivalent rank in the Navy or Air Force receives; 26s. 4d. a week. But if he is retired under the 1956 code he receives 33s., and under the 1959 code 44s. It is all very well to improve the position of Regular personnel retiring now and in the future in order to stimulate recruiting, but what about those under previous codes who have suffered severely from inflation and have been caused grave hardship? Surely pensions of retired personnel should be reviewed biennially, and all ratings and other ranks should receive pensions closely comparable to the pensions paid to-day irrespective of their date of retirement.
§ I should now like to take the opportunity of congratulating Her Majesty's Government on the increases in war widows' pensions which were announced quite recently: they are certainly most welcome. Perhaps I might be allowed to remind your Lordships that these awards are of course made to widows of officers, ratings and other ranks who were killed on service or have died from causes attributable to service. They are paid by the Minister of Pensions, and they must not be confused with widows' ordinary pensions with which we are dealing to-day. Widows ordinary pensions are awarded to those whose husbands have died from natural causes, and the Minister of Defence is responsible for payment out of the Defence Budget.
§ I have already mentioned the ordinary pensions of officers' widows, and I should like now to deal with those of ratings and other ranks. I think I should perhaps point out that no ordinary widows' pensions were available for ratings and other ranks before September, 1950, just ten years ago, except in the case of warrant officers, Class I, who had held that rank for five years. On the other hand, widows of ratings and other ranks discharged between September 1, 1950, and November 4, 1958, receive very small pensions indeed provided the husbands had completed 32 years, in the case of a private, or 27 years, in the case of a sergeant. What are these princely pensions? The 811 widow of a corporal with 32 years' service receives 11s. 7d. a week; the widows of a sergeant, or equivalent rank in the other Forces, with 27 years receives the same amount, 11s. 7d. a week.
§ When we look at the pensions of widows of ratings and other ranks discharged on or after November 4, 1958, however, we see that the position is considerably improved: they can all receive pensions at the rate of one-third of the husband's pension, provided that the husband has served 22 years. Why cannot all widows of ratings and other ranks be treated in the same way, regardless of the date of the husband's discharge? Surely it is the only fair thing to do. If the husband has completed the necessary service to qualify for a pension, I maintain that his widow should receive one-third of her husband's pension in accordance with the new code.
§ What about officers' retired pay. Again the position is very complicated. Officers retired before 1956 have had their pensions raised by 12 per cent., provided that they are over 60 years of age. Officers retired on the 1956 code have received a 4 per cent. rise, and these increases have been very much appreciated. But when we come to the 1960 code we find that the improvement is more marked still. This has, however created a differential of between 20 and 41 per cent. in comparison with the pensions of retired officers under the 1956 code. And, of course, the differential between the 1960 code and that of codes earlier than 1956—the 1919 code, for instance—is still more pronounced. It is this differential which is causing a great deal of dissatisfaction among officers who have had equal lengths of service and many of whom have served in both wars. Another cause of grave dissatisfaction is the age of 60 bar to pensions increases. I think it is true to say that officers' pensions have been geared to the requirements of the Civil Service. In the case of the Civil Service the age of 60 has been adopted as the qualifying age for pensions increases, because this is the normal retirement age for the great bulk of the Civil Service. On the other hand, Service officers have in the past been retired when their services were no longer required, and 812 frequently at a much earlier age man 60. In fact, I believe there has never been an officer of the Royal Air Force on the Active List after the age of 60.
§ Her Majesty's Government have frequently argued that all public service pensioners should be treated the same in all respects, and that those who retire before reaching the age of 60 should take up other employment. The fact is that neither of those arguments will stand close examination. In the first place, the argument is invalidated by the difference between the retirement ages of Civil Service and Service officers; and, secondly, I would say that experience shows that the great majority of retired officers endeavour to find civilian employment, and no inducement is necessary by the somewhat niggardly business of withholding a pension increase until the age of 60. It is true, of course, that the new career structure introduced into the pay code of 1960 may produce a different situation, but that has nothing whatever to do with officers' retired under previous codes.
I would repeat that the conditions of service and retirement are entirely different between the Service officers and the Civil Service. In fact, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, on November 13, 1958, in your Lordships' House used these words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 212, col. 548]:
I would say that of course Service pensions are of an entirely different character from Civil Service Pensions.
I do not think it could have been put more plainly than that. The Pensions Acts designed to cover civil servants, school teachers, police and fire services and so on, are fully debated in Parliament, but not so the pensions of the Armed Forces, which are dealt with by Royal Warrant and are awarded arbitrarily. It is also, I think, just as well to remember that retired officers receive retired pay with a liability to recall in the event of mobilisation. That is not quite the same thing as a normal pension with no strings attached.
§ My Lords, I would sum up by saying that I feel that insufficient consideration is given to the entirely different conditions of former members of the Forces, and that retired officers should have their retired pay brought up to the level of those of the same rank and service 813 on the latest retired pay code. I would again emphasise that retired officers under 60 years of age should not be excluded from receiving pension increases for the reasons I have mentioned to your Lordships. Last, but not least, officers' widows who lost their husbands before November 4, 1958, and their children, should be granted pensions equatable to pensions granted to those bereaved on or after that date. In the case of other ranks and ratings, similar provision should, I think, be made; and all widows should be treated in the same way, regardless of the date of the husband's death or discharge—provided, of course, that those husbands had completed the necessary service. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will take another look at the pensions situation as a whole and especially as regards the plight of existing widows, which is deplorable and should be put center at the earliest possible moment. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.14 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, everyone in your Lordships' House must feel indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, for bringing this matter before your Lordships this afternoon. I find myself, not necessarily on every point of detail, but in general, completely in line with him, especially in the effort to prod Her Majesty's Government into action in this matter along lines which I think will commend themselves to your Lordships' House as a whole.
It is extraordinary how muddled the whole situation with regard to pensions for officers or for other ranks is. I believe that there are no fewer than half a dozen codes now operating in regard to pensions for officers, the latest of them being that announced in the early part of this year. As regards other ranks, there are a vast number of pay warrants, pensions warrants, pensions increase orders and a certain amount of legislation. It would be a great service if Her Majesty's Government were to find it possible—and it is possible—to include in one single, compendious, intelligible document the whole of the provisions relating to officers and those relating to other ranks. Flow little intelligible these documents may be struck me very much as I was listening to the noble Lord just now.
814 As we know, and as his speech gave evidence, he has spent much time and thought upon this problem. I cannot profess to have either the same detailed knowledge or to have given to it the same study; but I have taken some care in the matter, and I am bound to tell him that some of my figures differ from the figures that he has given. I do not say that in any way in criticism of the noble Lord; I mention it to show how difficult it is, even for people who have various sources of information open to them, to arrive at a solid conclusion as to what this vast medley of muddled, subordinate legislation actually means. How difficult, therefore, is it for officers or other ranks to find out exactly what it is to which they are entitled!
If this whole complex scheme of pensions were comprised in a single-document, I think it would become clear, first to the draftsman who attempted the task, and then to those in the Services who bad to study, read or administer the Scheme, how many inconsistencies there are and how difficult it is really to justify, in the year 1960, codes of pension going back to 1919. For that is what the position is today—half a dozen codes going back to 1919, all of them in operation to-day according to the date at which an officer was retired from the Forces. To me that seems an extraordinarily unsatisfactory situation. If there were a single comprehensive code, that should of course be designed so as to deal with the circumstances as they are at the time of the creation of such a new code—in other words, to deal with the facts and people as they are to-day. I must say frankly— and it is center that I should do so—that the 1960 code involves a great improvement. It is a code applicable to officers after April of this present year, 1960; and it certainly mitigates the position a great deal so far as those who retired after that date are concerned. But that code affects not at all those who retired before that date: they stand where they stood before. They stand where they stood before in a way that I think is perhaps little comprehended by certain of your Lordships who have not studied this matter.
The Government have stated that they accept the recommendation of What I 815 may call the Grigg Report as regards a biennial review of pensions, but that undertaking given by Her Majesty's Government is now, as I understand it, interpreted administratively so as to apply only to post-1960 rates and not to the earlier rates. If that be so—and, as I say, I understand it to be—it seems to me clear that officers who retired earlier still have to stand upon the earlier codes, depending on the date of their retirement and without any prospect of remedial action as a result of biennial or periodic reviews. If I should be mistaken in my information on that point, no doubt the noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, when he replies, will put me right. But I understand Chat what I have said is the interpretation which those responsible to the Government for the administration of these codes actually put upon the agreement which they published with a recommendation in this behalf of the Grigg Report.
I believe that it is very necessary we should ask ourselves what is the right question to put with regard to these matters. I believe that the question should be not whether an adjustment should be made, but what adjustment and how it should be made, whether we make it by asserting and maintaining that pension rates are immutable, or whether we accept the view that periodic reviews should be made to bring pensions into line with current economic conditions. Which of those two courses is preferred matters but little, I think, because when the calculation is done the pension should be very much the same whichever course is adopted. But that the Government should commit themselves to taking one or other of those courses, either abandoning their contention that pensions are immutable or giving an undertaking for a biennial review throughout the whole range of the codes, seems to me am inescapable obligation falling upon the Government.
It is not merely a matter, under this or that code, of justice to those who suffer harsh economies because of the changed economic circumstance since they retired. It is also a matter much to the public interest that this should be done; for we are all well aware of the great difficulties in finding recruits, 816 whether for the commissioned ranks or otherwise, for the Armed Forces. Every day one may find in the Press advertisements urging young men to seek commissions in Her Majesty's Forces and stating the good conditions that are offered to them. As many of your Lordships know, I would support any effort of that kind that I felt I honestly could support, and I am most anxious to see the ranks, both of commissioned officers and of other ranks, fully filled in each of the three Services comprising the Armed Forces of the Crown.
I am bound to say, however, that I think we make it as difficult as possible for ourselves and for the nation if prospective recruits or young men, soon after they have joined the Armed Forces, come across—as they must inevitably do, for they cannot help it—so many instances of former officers and other members of the Armed Forces who are living in greatly restricted conditions, perhaps on the poverty line, because of the smallness of the pensions which they now receive after a lifetime of service—many years, comprising the whole of their working life. That has a very deleterious and detrimental effect on the whole prospects of recruiting and on the morale of those actually in the Armed Forces of the Crown. As many of your Lordships know, I have taken over a period of years (at one time more than now, perhaps, but age tells) an active part in trying to obtain recruits for the Armed Forces and I must say gravely to your Lordships that I feel we are placing obstacles in our own way by not taking a wider, longer view of the repercussions of niggardly pensions upon those who will have served the State; because all these recruits and young men are, we may hope, people who will in time have served the State; and they look to what is going to happen in the future.
I associate myself warmly with what the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, has said with regard to pensions for widows. I believe I am center in saying that widows' pensions are not part of what I will call, not very accurately, the contractual obligation between the Service and the officer or other rank, but I know what a good employer should do—at least, I hope I do. A good employer not only must have regard to the contractual 817 obligations which are restrictive upon his employees (and that is why he enters into those obligations) but must be prepared to disregard or modify other restrictions he has imposed in favour of himself if he wishes to have, in circumstances such as these, the reputation of a really good employer. I see that every day and I try, in my own small way in my own firm, to practise it. Where the pension contracted for is manifestly inadequate for the changed circumstances of the time, then a private person or a single firm must survey the situation and put their hands in their pockets and make good, so far as they feel they can, the deficiency between what has been contracted for and what they feel their employee should have. That is how I believe the good employer should function. I feel, and I am sure your Lordships do too, that Her Majesty's Government, especially in relation to the Armed Forces of the Crown, should not do less than the good employer might be expected to do by his own good sense and the judgment of his fellows without the same obligations resting upon him as upon the Government.
I know that the widows' pensions have been granted to widows only latterly. The widows of other ranks discharged before September 1 this year (1950), except the widows of certain warrant officers whom I believe the noble Lord has mentioned, receive no widow's pension. The only State pension received by many of these widows is the old 10s. a week pension which has never been increased, the pension which the older ones among us remember being introduced in the early days of the century.
Then there are the widows of other ranks discharged between September 1, 1950, and November 4, 1958. I really do not know why such dates as these are selected, for they are difficult to remember and difficult in calculation. Those widows receive very small pensions, and then only provided their husband has completed long service. I want to tell your Lordships what these pensions are. Long service is 32 years for a private or corporal and 27 years for a sergeant. The widow of a corporal with 32 years' service (which may be assumed to be the whole of his active working life) receives 13s. 11d. a week; the widow of a sergeant with 27 years' service 818 receives 10s. 6d. a week; and for a child the pension is 3s. 6d.
Now I come to my last figure for widows of other ranks discharged on or after November 4, 1958. They can all receive pensions at the improved rate of one-third of the husband's pension, provided that the husband had completed 22 years' service. Thus, the widow of a corporal with 22 years' service receives 18s. 4d. a week, or with 32 years' service 35s. a week; and that of a sergeant with 27 years' service receives 34s. 8d. a week, with a children's pension of 11s. 8d. When you consider that the pension these widows thus receive may be their sole source of support, I cannot help but feel that your Lordships will share my view that the pensions are inadequate, are painfully low for the widow of a man who has spent 22, 27 or 32 years in the service of the State and has been open to all the risks of being a member of the Armed Forces of the Crown, to be sent hither and thither as circumstances may require.
My Lords, I end as I began. I should like to see one single code applicable to officers and a single code applicable to other ranks. They should take into account the circumstances of the time in which we live; they should take into [account future circumstances as they may change. Everyone should know, on entering the Forces, or when within the Forces, or when retired, beyond a per-adventure what they may expect to receive from the State for the service which they or their husband or their father will have given to the State. I support the Motion.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
My Lords, I must begin by joining the last speaker in expressing my warm gratitude and the gratitude of many others to the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, for putting down this Motion. I am not in a position to discuss in detail the nature and terms of Service pensions generally. May I be allowed for a moment—I shall be very brief—to look at the pensions question generally, as illustrated by what has been said by the noble Lords who have preceded me? A pension is a sum of money on which people depend for livelihood when they are past work, or which their dependants depend on when they are dead and gone. We all know that the value of a pension in terms of a sum 819 of money has been altering continually and, on the whole, becoming less and less as prices have gone up and up. That does not apply only to Service pensions. When the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, was notified I received a number of communications from people interested in pensions of all kinds, urging me to take what opportunity I could of mentioning that people other than serving officers were also finding themselves in growing want through inflation. I am not going to talk in any detail about those others. I need give, perhaps, only a couple of instances of other forms of retired people.
It is interesting to notice that, to some extent, the pensions of those in the Fighting Services are said to be related to, or fixed with some reference to, what has been done for the home Civil Service, or, it may be the Indian Civil Service—I do not know which. I know this about the Indian Civil Service: that the £1,000 a year my father ended by enjoying as an Indian Civil servant, after it had been fixed at that sum was unaltered until 1954, and since then it has been raised to £1,370. That means, broadly, that the pension went up 37 per cent. while the prices between, shall we say, 1938 and 1958 went up 180 per cent. There is the destruction of the value of a pension in that particular Service—and it applies to all sorts of other pensions—through inflation.
I know about the home Civil Service in the same way. May I say that I am not making a breach of privilege in talking about the home Civil Service on the grounds that I was for a time a civil servant in the home Service I am, indeed, a retired civil servant. There is no breach of privilege in my talking about the pensions of the home Civil Service because, as it happens, I have no pension from that Service. I worked for ten years as a civil servant, but the Treasury decided that if one left after ten years one could get a pension only if one proved one was either physically or mentally incapable. I never discovered why they thought I had not proved I was mentally incapable by leaving the Civil Service before I had to, but that was their view and I was unable to alter it. I compare 1938 with 1958 because it so happens that in 1958 a number of us made a careful study of 820 how prices had moved in those twenty years. They had gone up by about 180 per cent, in those twenty years while Indian Civil Service pensions went up 37 per cent, and the pensions of those in the home Civil Service went up about 50 per cent. There, again, we have inflation destroying the value of pensions and the thing upon which people and their dependants live.
I suggest that that makes it necessary for the State to be continually reviewing its pensions of all kinds, for the Services, as proposed in this Motion, and for all the other pensioners. The State must not say, "We cannot afford to give more pensions because prices have gone up. We are too poor." The answer to that is that, after all, the State is getting taxation on the basis of present prices and the present value of money. Therefore, it is in its own interests and in the interests of justice to humanity to see that pensions of all kinds are adequate in relation to the value of money at the time.
The trouble is that these continual renewals and revisions of pensions do not lead anywhere. If we revise pensions most thoroughly to-day and then allow inflation to go on destroying the value of money, we have to do the same thing all over again in three or four or five years' time to do justice to those receiving pensions. I suggest that in dealing with pensions and in making a tolerable and intelligible system of any kind we should take some power to put an end to inflation in order to avoid this perpetual review and muddle about pensions.
There is another, and for me much more important, reason: that is, that reasonably stable money is a condition of the freedom of the individual in planning his own life and in deciding how he will spend his money—whether he will spend it now, keep it for his old age or keep it for his dependants. If he does not know whether it is going to be worth the same amount, or only a half or a quarter of the amount, twenty years hence, he cannot plan his life. So I regard stable money as an essential condition to the liberty of the individual to manage his own life. It has been the natural desire of Britons ever since they had any money at all. For 300 years there was a fairly stable level of prices, until Henry VIII started on his inflation. 821 After that, they had another long period of stable prices until there was the inflation that followed full employment.
I suggest that, with pensions, the important thing is not strictly to deal with pensions, but somehow to deal with inflation, on the ground that reasonable stability of money is a citizen center next in importance to the five other, possibly more important, citizen centers. Next to freedom from war, freedom from disorder, freedom from want, freedom from needless disease and freedom from needless ignorance, there must be freedom from inflation. There must be stable money if there is to be freedom. As I said in another place once, and as I said again recently, I hope that employers and employees will find the means to get that freedom from inflation. But if they do not, then I suggest that the most important thing the Government can do about pensions is themselves to bring in the necessary controls that put an end to making nonsense within the next few years of any pensions scheme they fix to-day. I want to suggest that that is the ultimate moral not only of this debate but of all other debates about the spending of money and about the allocation of the resources of the State to prevent poverty, want and misery of all kinds to people after they have finished work.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ LORD FREYBERG
My Lords, I am sure that we all are most grateful to my noble friend Lord Teynham for bringing before us this afternoon this important matter. Lord Teynham's Motion calls the attention of your Lordships to the anomalies that exist in…the retired pay and pensions of members of the Fighting Services, in particular the pensions of officers who retired before February 1, 1960, and of other ranks who retired before November 4, 1958, and the pensions and children's allowances of the widows of all ranks whose husbands died before November 4, 1958.As your Lordships all know, the conditions of retired members of the Armed Services, and especially those of their widows, are far from satisfactory; so I hope that your Lordships will once more lend your valuable support on their behalf.
As to pay and pensions, the Advisory Committee on Recruiting recommended in 1958, and the Government agreed, that 822 there should be an automatic biennial review of pay and pensions that will take into account the movements in civilian earnings. The first review has been completed, and the results have been announced. The White Paper, Service Pay and Pensions (Cmnd. 945) introduced considerable increases in serving pay and in the future retired pay for officers of the Armed Services, in order to overcome the serious shortage in officer recruitment. But no provisions are included for officers already retired, or for existing widows. On December 11 last, we, the Officers' Pensions Society, wrote to the Minister of Defence and proposed improvements in pay and pensions for the retired officers and their widows. We were, however, informed that at present the Minister of Defence felt there was no possibility of our request being met. Then on February 18—two months after that reply—the Minister received a deputation at which he said he would give consideration to the views they expressed.
Unfortunately for us, our President, the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, who has worked so hard for the Officers' Pensions Society, and who fully supports us, is not well enough to be able to attend here in your Lordships' House and take part in this debate. I will therefore give you a summary of the representations that have been made to the Minister, and I should be most grateful if your Lordships could see your way to supporting these requests during the forthcoming debate on Defence.
There are three requests made by the Officers' Pensions Society on behalf of retired officers and officers' widows. The first is that the retired pay and pensions of existing retired officers and widows should be reviewed at the same time as serving officers' pay and future pensions, thereby ensuring appropriate and automatic compensation for falls in the value of money to retired officers and widows, as in the case of officers on the Active List. The second request is that officers' widows who lost their husbands before November 4, 1958, should be granted pensions equivalent to the pensions of widows bereaved on or after that date. The third request is that retired officers under 60 years of age should not be excluded from receiving increases to compensate them for the fall in the value 823 of their retired pay. As yet, improved rates have been refused, to officers already retired and to widows, because the Government have contended that pensions are immutable and that, once awarded, they are not normally subject to change, even though there has been devaluation and inflation.
Now, a word, my Lords, on the Report on Defence. We are now in the third year of the five-year plan on which our defences are being organised, and no major change has taken place except one—a very important one: that the Women's Services are now an integral part of the Armed Forces of the Crown. Women are now employed on many tasks in the Services which are traditionally done by men; for example, as skilled vehicle mechanics, airframe mechanics, engineer draughtsmen and instrument makers, just to mention one or two. By releasing men for more active duties, they are making an essential contribution to the efficiency of the Services.
On the future of the Services, I agree that, whatever change may come about in defence policy as a result either of technical development or of disarmament, no Government can foresee a time when this country will not need highly trained, professional forces to help us play our part in world affairs. For a more peaceful world, these forces might eventually take on a wider, international role, but the need for them will remain. I ask your Lordships to support Lord Teynham's Motion.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, in taking part in this debate on retired pay and pensions of members of the Fighting Services, I think I should first declare an interest, in that I am myself a retired officer on the 1945 scale. I am also one of those who are excluded from eligibility for the most recent code, the 1960 code, because I retired before 1st February, 1960.
I think the first question we all want to know is: how do Her Majesty's Government justify the setting of an arbitrary date in the grant of increases of pensions? The principle of an increase has been recognised by the various Pensions Increase Acts; in fact, I have 824 benefited by something to the extent of a 12 per cent. increase in my retired pay since I retired. Whether that has kept pace with the rise in the general cost of living, or the fall in the value of money, I should not like to say; I think that is a matter for the economists. But it has been calculated by competent people that in the case of persons such as myself who, with the increases, are now drawing a matter of £800 a year, if this were to compensate for the fall in the value of money it should be £1,000 a year, 25 per cent. more than it actually is. My Lords, it is not necessary to labour this point. The Government, on the advice of the Grigg Committee, considered that officers' retired pay should be at a certain level; and that level is now known as the 1960 rate. Can we be told how the Government justify leaving officers on earlier rates at a lower level?
Turning now to the case of the widows' pensions, which I think we shall all agree deserves priority, we have this same extraordinary situation: that widows whose husbands died before a certain date are excluded from the benefits of the more recent codes. The figures, I am told, are that the existing widows—that is, those whose husbands died before 1958—number 8,741. Those widows, even widows of officers of the higher ranks, colonel and brigadier, have a pension of some £250–£280 a year, including all increases. The pension of many widows of majors and captains goes down to £3 a week, or less. But if they were widowed after 1958 they would have got a minimum of £225 a year and a maximum of nearly £500. Wondering how Her Majesty's Government could justify this difference in treatment, I looked, first of all, at the Government's comments on the Grigg Committee Report, and then at the Grigg Committee Report itself. The curious thing I noticed was that in the Grigg Committee recommendations, in paragraph 256, which concerns family pensions, they say:Existing scales of family pensions result in widows receiving ludicrously low payments. This is bad for recruiting, and we recommend (Recommendation (vi)), that future family pensions should be increased"—and so on. The word "future" has been inserted there in the recommendation by the Grigg Committee, though I 825 must confess that suspicion crept into my mind that it was perhaps the Government who had inserted that word. Then I noticed that it was in the recommendation of the Grigg Committee themselves.
My Lords, I find it very difficult to understand, if They say that widows' pensions are "ludicrously low", and if they say elsewhere that the lowness or meanness of some of these pensions is a direct disincentive to persons to join the Army, why they put in that word. Can the Government give us any indication why that recommendation was drafted in that way? For, reading the Report as a whole, I see every justification for saying that the recommendations should be retrospective or should be applied equally to all categories of retired persons and their widows.
So, my Lords, I think we can say that the burden of this debate is all too simple and all too familiar. It is that, by the working of the machinery, some categories of persons in the Armed Forces, and their families, come off badly. Apart from the question of equity—whether it is center in equity that servants of the State should be treated in this way—we have the fact that the Grigg Committee found that nowadays parents are probably a paramount influence in young men's deciding on their future career, and your Lordships will appreciate that the parent, more than a young man, would know the effects of pension conditions in later life. It is, indeed, as if, as my noble friend Lord Nathan said, we are putting obstacles in the way of getting an ample supply of The best material for the Armed Forces. Finally, I should like to quote another sentence from the Report of the Grigg Committee. It is:The Government must not only be a good employer, but must be seen to be so.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, like other noble Lords who have already spoken this afternoon, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, for raising this subject yet once more in your Lordships' House. He has, I think, performed a very considerable public service by so doing. I do not want to keep the House long, and therefore in what I say I should like to devote myself to that portion of the Motion 826 which refers to pensions for retired officers and retired officers' widows. I do this not because the somewhat wider issues raised by the Motion are not equally important, but because it fell to my lot on a number of occasions in the past, when I was still leading your Lordships' House, to have to answer debate on the particular subject of retired officers' pensions.
In those days I gave the Government's view, as indeed I was bound to do; but I confess—and I believe that I said so at the time—that I never felt great enthusiasm for doing so. I always had to give endless explanations about the machinery under which the original rates of pension had been drawn up at the end of the First War, how those pensions were fixed at what at that time (1935) was a generous level, and how all this past history governed and limited any action the Government could take now. But I always had an uneasy feeling, as no doubt other noble Lords had, that we were approaching this problem from the wrong angle.
After all, surely all that past history, though no doubt extremely interesting historically, is largely irrelevant to the present situation. That is what I felt. I felt that Parliament ought not now to be concerned in its care for these old servants of our country with that historical course of events, which has led to the present situation, but rather with how those schemes, which were drawn up with such care and sympathy with those who were to receive the pensions, have worked out in practice. In short, I feel that Parliament ought to be concerned more with the results of the policy than with the origins of the policy.
And on the results, what is the hard, simple bare truth which we all have to face? It is surely this: as they have worked out in practice, the older a retired officer happens to be—and the less likely he is to be able to supplement his pension by his own earnings—the smaller the pension he receives. That is the position with which we are faced today. To take only one example, if an officer under 60 retired with the rank of major under the 1919 code—that is to say, if he belongs to what might be called the oldest category of retired officers, those who retired between 1914 and 1945—he would get to-day £448 a 827 year. If he retired as major under the 1945 code—that is to say, if he retired between 1945 and 1950, if he was in fact a younger and more vigorous man, he would get £475 a year. If retired as a major under the 1956 code—that is to say between 1956 and 1960, when he was much younger and presumably still able to earn, he gets £625 a year. Finally, if he retires now under the 1960 code—that is to say, from 1960 onwards—he will get £875, or nearly £300 more than a man of the same rank who was pensioned under the 1919 code and who must be at the present time 60 years of age or over.
That cannot be center. I do not care what the principle was on which the original pensions schemes were based, that cannot be center. One would have expected, in all reason, that it ought to be exactly the other way round. I know that I shall probably be told that, although all these things are extremely unfortunate and things were not intended to work out as they have, it is inevitable that these pension schemes should have worked out in this way because they were brought into operation under Royal Warrants and, as we have often been told in your Lordships' House, a Royal Warrant is immutable. Like the laws of the Medes and Persians, it cannot be changed. I do not think that that is in the strictest sense of the word correct, because I believe that I am center in saying that the rates of pension under these codes have been readjusted from time to time. But what is true is that differentiations between the various codes and the various rates of pension which exist under those codes have always remained. Those differentiations have never been swept away and it is still true that the older and the more infirm retired officers get less than the younger and more active ones. That is the main anomaly and it is still with us.
That being so, one cannot help wondering sometimes whether a Royal Warrant, if it is as rigid as that, is really the best basis for schemes of this kind. Conceive of Parliament adopting a scheme, say for old age pensions, based on a machinery under which a man of 85 always receives less Chan a man of 70, just because he first received his pension under earlier legislation. How 828 very strange people would think that was, and how the older pensioner would protest, and centerly, that "My pension may have been granted under earlier legislation than the other man, but my costs of living are just the same as his now." Actually I should have thought that, in all equity, many of us might well feel that the pensions of these older officers who can no longer fend for themselves, as they once were able to do, should be higher, not lower, than those of men younger than themselves and still of working age.
We realise, of course, that that is impossible. That would be asking much too much. But certainly they ought not to be lower. If it be suggested, as I believe it has been suggested in the past, that to make a concession of this kind and bring up the pensions of older officers to the level of the pensions of officers retired under the latest code would start another pensions race, I really do not think that that is a reasonable or defensible argument. I do not for one moment believe—I do not think that any of us believe—that we shall start a pensions race merely by raising the pensions of older men to the level—and no higher—of that which will be received by the younger men under the 1960 code. I am sure that to do that would be regarded by the general public as merely plain justice.
And that raises another point which I think your Lordships ought to consider. It does not seem that there is at present adequate machinery for continuous review of these pensions in the light of changing conditions. I should have thought that it ought to be possible to devise some machinery to enable the pensions of retired officers to be reviewed automatically at stated periods, in the light of changes in the standard of living in this country. I should have thought that some machinery of that kind was essential if we are to have an equitable pension system. But it is clear, at any rate so far as retired officers are concerned, that such machinery does not exist to-day or pensions would certainly have been reviewed in February of this year when current serving pay, as has been mentioned, and future pensions were considerably increased but when, as we know, nothing was done to improve the pensions of existing retired officers.
829 This brings me finally to the other main subject mentioned in the Motion, which has already been referred to by my noble friend Lord Teynham and others—that is, the pensions of the widows of retired officers. I would beg the Government, as did the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, to consider in particular the pensions of widows of officers who lost their husbands before November 4, 1958. For some reason, which the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, very naturally described as "extraordinary", a differentiation, as we all know, was made last year between those ladies who lost their husbands before November 4, 1958, and those who lost them after that date. Those who were bereaved after that date receive an increased pension, but those who were bereaved before that date receive no such increase. I do not know what is the reason for that differentiation Is it supposed, for instance, that the expenses of a lady bereaved after that magic date are greater than those of a lady bereaved before that date? If so, we ought to be told so; and if that is not the reason, we ought to be told what is the basis for the calculation that was made. For, if there is not an equitable reason for the differentiation, it seems to me extremely hard that these earlier widows should be gratuitously penalised.
My Lords, retired officers and the widows of retired officers are very defenceless people. For one thing, there are comparatively few of them; and, moreover, they are as a class extremely public spirited and proud. They are not the kind of people who make a fuss; they would much rather suffer in silence. But that, to my mind, makes the responsibility of us who have to protect their interests in Parliament all the greater to see that they get justice. I am not for a moment saying that they deserve more justice than other members of the community; but they deserve quite as much. These retired officers have given their lives to the service of their country, and the provision which the country has made for them in their declining years has not, I think, kept pace with the increased provision which is made, and rightly made, for other pensioned sections of the population. Were that differentiation to continue, I am sure we should all agree that it would be a slur on us all; and therefore, like other noble 830 Lords to-day, I appeal most earnestly to the Government to take urgent and adequate steps to remove it.
§ 4.13 p.m.
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, for bringing forward this Motion. Most of us who have spoken already on this subject, and those who will speak later on, have done so many times before. We see in the Motion the objects of this debate. I think that what all of us who have spoken or are going to speak are trying 'to do is to get the Government to do away with hardship and to arrange that ex-Service personnel should have the means to live up to the general standard of life, which they cannot do under present conditions. As I have said before, I am convinced that dissatisfaction with pay and pensions has a very bad effect on recruiting, especially as the people about whom we are talking, the Service families, are one of our biggest recruiting areas (if one can call a conglomeration of Service families an area) from which we get our officer recruits. We must remember that point.
I feel that we should congratulate the Government on the 1960 code. As has been said already, the chief cause of dissatisfaction has been, and is being, caused by all these different codes. In cricket there are six balls in an over; and a slow bowler, I understand (I am not a cricketer), makes a different type of delivery with each ball in order to muddle the batsman. Here we have, both in regard to the officers' retired pay and the long service pensions of other ranks, six codes. Whether they are meant not only to muddle all of us but to muddle the poor pensioners as well, I am not certain; but, anyway, it causes these differentials about which other noble Lords have spoken. The differential between the 1956 and the 1960 code is, as the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, has already said, between 21 per cent. and 40 per cent.; and if one compares the earlier codes, the differential is even more pronounced. Officers in these codes—that is to say, those of 1956 and earlier—find it impossible to understand why they, who have given exactly the same service, and possibly most of them in two world wars, should be treated differently from those of this later code. Certainly it seems extraordinary that they should be so treated.
831 The other dissatisfaction is on the question of the age of 60. It seems strange that an officer under 60 who has to retire when his services are no longer required and there is no job for him (he has no option but to retire; and, in fact, some 62 per cent. of the present officer pensioners are under 60) should get no increase such as he would get were he over 60. In many oases, as I say, it is not the officer's fault that he has to retire; there simply is no job for him. The old argument about the Civil Service cannot be said to be applicable, because the civil servant can, if he so desires—and "if he so desires" is, I think, the operative phrase—go on working until he is 65. During the time he is in the Civil Service he has learned what might be called a trade, whereas in many cases an officer who retires has not learned a trade. Some do learn trades, in the technical branches, but many do not. These officers who are under 60 are probably going through a period when their expenses are just as great as at any other period of their lives, yet they cannot get any increase.
We must remember that the sons of these officers are those to whom we look for recruits. These sons may say to themselves: "Well, these pensions look all center at the moment, but look what they did to our fathers in their day. When they had to retire they were not given any increases, although the standard of living had gone up and things were much more expensive. What will happen to us?" They may even say: "This 1960 code is all center, but will it be reviewed; and if things go up, what will happen to us?" That surely must be a deterrent to recruiting.
The next point I want to make has been touched on before, and it is the question of the widows. As has been said already, here the situation is very bad indeed. The difficulty occurs over this date-line which has been talked about. I think that reference to these date-lines is rather like having a committee of a club trying to fix the distance beyond which a member can live and pay a country subscription. These datelines always cause trouble; they cause a lot of ill-feeling, and in most cases I think they should be put on one side as being unfair. In the case of pensions, for widows and for everybody, the 832 Government cannot afford to be unfair. Nor is it center that they should be. I should like to see the 1958 date-line abolished.
Turning to the long-service pensions for other ranks, here again the position is extremely complicated and, I think, unfair. Again, there are six different codes. As we know, all men who receive a pension have completed 21 or 22 years service. Almost all of them have done active service overseas, and I consider— and I think it is generally considered—that within their own ranks they should be treated alike. But that, as your Lordships have already heard to-day, is not so. With a few exceptions, those drawing pensions under the pre-1945 rate are eligible for a higher rate than a man provided for at any age by the codes of 1945 to 1950, or 1956. Privates retired under the 1959 code are worse off than those under the pre-1945 code, though sergeants and warrant officers are better dealt with under both the 1956 and 1959 codes.
Apart from the figures I have given your Lordships—and you have already been given others—it looks as if the six codes produce a muddle on this point, with some being paid more than others—for no apparent reason. I believe that we all consider that there is definite hardship in the Service pension schemes. There is hardship for the more elderly retired officers, as the noble Marquess has told your Lordships. There are hardships because of differentials. One man may say of another: "I cannot understand why he should be paid more than I am. We did the same amount of service, but we are one year different in age." There is bitter feeling, and I feel that even if pensions cannot be raised to the present 1960 code, they should at least be brought as close to it as possible
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I will endeavour to make my remarks as brief as possible, for two reasons: first, so as not to be repetitive to any great extent owing to the fact that in the early stages of this debate I was sitting on a Commitee upstairs; and secondly, as I propose to touch only on the question of Service widows' pensions. Before going any further, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Teynham for initiating such an appropriate 833 Motion. To the word "appropriate" I might add "timely", for on November 2 last the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance indicated increases with regard to war pensions. I congratulate Her Majesty's Government and say that I warmly welcome the proposals for increasing war widows' pensions, whether it be for the widows of privates, non-commissioned officers or officers, and I should also like to congratulate the Government for increasing the rent allowance for widows with children.
The Government have also accepted proposals put forward by the National Assistance Board for increasing the scale rates of National Assistance. With all that, I am in complete agreement. But no proposals have been put forward for increasing Service widows' pensions. More than 50 per cent. of existing widows bereaved before November 4, 1958—a date which has been mentioned a number of times—are over 72 years of age and are, therefore, too old to qualify for National Insurance pensions. It is mainly to the case of the existing widows bereaved before that datum line that I especially wish to draw your Lordships' attention this afternoon.
I believe I am center in saying that they number 9,243, a not inconsiderable figure. Of that number. 8,741 receive pensions ranging from £127 2s. 0d. to £288 6s. 0d.: that is, from a lieutenant's widow's pension to the pension that a brigadier's widow would draw. The low figures I have mentioned take in the 15½ per cent. increase which has taken place since 1952. But during the same period the cost of living has gone up by 24 per cent. Why this discrimination when, since 1952, National Insurance widows' pensions will, by next April—that is, taking the present proposals of Her Majesty's Government into consideration—have increased by 77 per cent. and National Assistance widows' pensions will have been increased by 53 per cent.?
I have included the latest Government proposals referred to by the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance on November 2, for he also said on that day [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 529 (No. 2), col. 172]:This implements the policy of the Government that they should share in the rising standards of the nation.834 Why is it that these widows should not also be entitled to share in the rising standards of the nation? It is surely unjust not to allow these 9,000 elderly ladies to share in these rising standards. Some 2,800 officers' widows receive less pension on account of their husband's service in the Armed Forces than a widow drawing a National Insurance pension, and 8,741 of these widows are drawing a pension which is less than the pay of an 18-year old cadet at Sandhurst who receives, I believe, £291, and who is fed and housed free. Surely, it is not just or center that the widow of a man who has devoted a great part of his life to the service of his country should receive less in the latter part of her life than the widow of a man who has been mainly concerned during his lifetime in serving only his pocket. After next April a National Insurance widows' pension will be £149 10s. 0d. (I believe I am center in saying it is now £130) and a captain's widow's pension is only £127 2s. 0d. if the widow was bereaved before November 4, 1958.
To stress this question of hardship, I should like to quote two examples. The first one concerns an elderly lady of 90, living with her widowed daughter, who has great difficulty in making ends meet and who is a widow of a promoted ranker officer, a major with over 35 years' service. This lady of 90 receives a Forces family pension of £127 2s. per annum, plus £98 8s. National Assistance, a meagre total of £225 10s. But apart from the question of low income—and that is an important one—is it center that the widow of a member of Her Majesty's Forces who has served his country for so long, in this case over 35 years, should have to ask for National Assistance? Surely a system or a method of supplementary allowance could be devised so that the recipient did not have the impression that she was asking for or living on charity.
I should like to quote an extract from a letter which was written from Cornwall on November 4 last by a lieutenant-colonel's widow, aged 72, drawing a pension of £207 18s. per annum, who is not entitled to National Insurance pension. She writes:I have one grandson (19) in this country who I hoped would continue a family tradition which began 150 years ago. He has not done so and his father simply replies—'Look how they have treated you. It is the old 835 Service families who are hit by the injustice to widows whose husbands died before November 4, 1958. It now applies to myself, my sister and my sister-in-law. The increase in war pensions means that the private's war widow will get £3 16s. a week and 10s. extra if over 70, and the widow of a lieutenant-colonel (Regular) gets £4 a week and no extra 10s. if over 70. It seems incredible that the only economy this alleged Conservative Government can think of is at the expense of a few thousand aged women of all ranks. No answer expected. One gets too old and tired now to care what happens in the 'affluent society'.It is a sad case when a widow, part of a family which has served this country 150 years, has to write a letter along those lines.
That brings me now to the question which has been mentioned by other noble Lords of this dual code; in other words, the difference between the pensions of those widows who were bereaved before November 4, 1958, and those who were bereaved after that date. It is surely unjust and illogical that the widow of a lieutenant or captain bereaved before that date should receive £127 2s. when a similar widow bereaved after that date and who is on the 1960 code should receive a pension of £225. Why this differentiation I cannot understand. What logic or fairness can there be in granting two rates of pensions for similar rank and similar service by the husband? I would stress that it was for service to this country. Why should those 9,000 elderly ladies be forgotten? Why should they not also be entitled to believe in the Government's motto, "You never had it so good"? It seems quite wrong that those ladies, over 50 per cent. of whom are over 72 years of age, many of them probably living alone and therefore lonely, and having great difficulty in making ends meet, should be overlooked. It surely cannot involve a great expenditure of funds to provide that those 9,000 widows should be granted the provisions of the 1960 code—that is, that they should receive one-third of their husband's pension.
It seems to me also quite wrong that there should be this differentiation with regard to widows of other ranks. If the husband of another rank's widow happened to be discharged before September 1, 1950, she receives only 10s. per week. If the husband was discharged between September 1, 1950, and November 4, 1958, the widow receives 11s. 7d. 836 per week. Widows of other ranks whose husbands were discharged after November 4, 1958, in the case of a sergeant's widow with 27 years' service, draw 34s. 8d. per week. Why this fantastic differentiation I certainly cannot understand. The husbands have served the same period; they have served their country the same way. Why they should not be entitled to draw the same amount is quite beyond understanding. It is therefore with those remarks that I very sincerely support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Teynham.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am sorry that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, is not here to lend his powerful voice to the case that has been so very strongly put by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, and other noble Lords. I shall not myself attempt to repeat the very complicated arguments. This is an extremely complicated subject, and it is difficult for us all to keep in our minds the different categories. I should, however, like to make a few remarks, conscious of the fact that the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government is no doubt at the moment busily preparing his reply and will have the last word—apart, of course, from the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, who will have the final say; and I am sure that he will make good use of it. It is one of the difficulties about these debates that the Government spokesman has the last word, and I only wish that we could have reversed it and given the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, the opportunity to have the last word.
I hope that the arguments which I suspect will come from the Government spokesman will not include those which have been already referred to, like the argument of immutability. We know perfectly well that there is no such thing as immutability. One of the problems of this whole subject of pensions is the fact that successive Governments are continually inventing, I might say, principles to justify ad hoc decisions. These are administrative conveniences which help to explain away what they are compelled to do because of the political policy of the Government and the Treasury. I am not necessarily singling out this Government for condemnation in this matter, although in 837 view of some of the things they have said about the prosperity of the country it is worth while recalling the rather bitter words the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, has uttered, and particularly those he quoted from a correspondent.
Looking at the Motion, we are concerned with three main categories. There are officers' pensions; other ranks' pensions, and the pensions of widows' and dependants of both officers and other ranks. The Grigg Committee view (I rather Think that this was also the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Eraser of Lonsdale, in an earlier debate on that subject: I hope that I have not misinterpreted him) is that, by and large, officers' pensions have been all center, and would be about center, were it not for the fact that the Government and Governments reckon that they are not necessarily center for the future. What we object to is the fact that so many different scales should be applied. It is perfectly possible to argue that the terms and conditions under which particular officers served cannot be related to modern times: that is a perfectly fair, first-stage argument. But it does not really meet the case, and it is demonstrated to us all that it is unjust that there should be this sort of differential.
If it should be argued that the Government have accepted the main recommendation of the Grigg Report—namely, that there should be this biennial review of pay and pensions—surely most of us (and we have perhaps deceived ourselves) had a sort of feeling that it would be related to the past because we are not at the moment worried about the future. We are content for the time being with what appears to be being done; but what we are not content with, and what all the argument and controversy has been about, is the past and those who have retired under earlier rates and for whom so little has been done. The fact that it may not be possible to apply these scales retrospectively is not valid in other fields. The old age pensioner's retirement pension, which, goodness knows is not high enough, has gone up, and certainly has not been related directly to his contributions in terms of cash: it has been related to the old age pensioner's contribution in his working life. What we are saying is that the contribution of these officers and 838 men in their service to their country, even though their rate of pay at that time was different, was of the same order as those who will make a contribution in the future. I think, therefore, that the argument for looking again at these different codes in relation to officers is valid, although it is far less pressing than the argument with regard to other ranks.
Here Sir James Grigg was much more specific. He made quite clear, I think, that he and his Committee thought that the retired pay of other ranks was not good enough, and this view has been reflected in improvements which were put forward by Government Departments. One of the interesting and rather depressing things is that a good deal of what Sir James Grigg recommended was in fact already on the stocks in the Service Departments. The Service Departments knew quite well what ought to be done. It was merely that this Committee had to be created as a device for getting round the Treasury. I do not doubt that the Service Departments know what they would like to do, even for those who are not benefiting under the new arrangements.
The Grigg Committee, as we know, recommended an improvement in pensions for other ranks. To that extent, the need for doing something about the pensions of those who do not come under the new rate is even greater. And when we come to the widows and dependants, both of officers and of other ranks, the situation is really quite deplorable—it is indeed, I think, contemptible that we should allow it to continue. Many widows who are receiving—and some are not receiving them at all—some of the pre-1950 pensions, or even the post-1950 pensions, are receiving negligible amounts when compared with what they can get under National Assistance. I am sure we are all glad that National Assistance has improved, and that generally National Insurance schemes are improving, even though they may still be inadequate. But in comparison with what we give to the widow of another rank, pre-1958 National Assistance is princely. That is a situation which I think we ought not to tolerate much longer.
We come here to the difficulty that is argued: that one cannot provide for the past; one cannot provide for the 839 consequences of inflation. On this aspect the Grigg Report was rather ambiguous. The Committee pointed to the erosion and the derisory rates, but when they came on solemnly to facing their responsibility a little later they came to the conclusion that the only ultimate answer was the ending of a continuous period of inflation. Yet they themselves suggested the biennial review; and they further said that it would be wrong to attempt to bring Service pensions up to the current code without doing it for all State and local government pensions. I do not know where their terms of reference allowed them to make this particular suggestion. They were considering recruiting. I hope that the Government will not use this argument—because this is a matter for Government decision and policy.
I think it is one of the tragedies that, as one noble Lord said, in the affluent society we still have these pockets of misery and of ill-treatment. It is an astounding thing, and it is an evil that could fairly easily be removed if we were really to face up to our responsibilities—this applies to all political Parties. It is no good the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, coming to us and saying that he is a reformed character now that he no longer sits on the Government Front Bench. The noble Lord who is going to reply may himself subsequently become a reformed character no longer sitting on the Government Benches. What we want is a Minister who has no need to reform. We appreciate the difficulties in which Ministers may be in this matter. We understand that the noble Lord who is to reply will be as uncomfortable as the noble Marquess said he was when he was replying. But what we want to convey to the Government is the strength of feeling that exists in this House, and I believe in the country at large, in regard to this matter. It is something that we do not feel we ought to put up with much longer.
We do not expect an immediate improvement—when I say "an immediate improvement", I mean a complete solution. What we expect is that some steps will be taken towards bringing into line with those who will be so much more comfortably off in the future those 840 who have borne the burden in the past. I hope, therefore, that when the Government come to consider this matter—I suspect that it will be the subject of many debates in the future until we get some justice—they will realise that, somehow or other, they have got to persuade the Treasury and their colleagues that this matter ought to be dealt with center away.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, like the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, I have to declare at least a technical interest, in that I receive retired pay under the 1919 code. I do not propose to put forward my own case any further this afternoon, if only for the reason that it is necessary for the Government to reconcile my substantive rank of captain with my honorary rank of major-general, a position which arises in few other cases. But I am quite sure that my noble friend Lord Teynham, who has done such a service to the House in moving this Motion, is pleased, as indeed I am, at the uniformity of views expressed in all parts of the House on the Motion this afternoon. If my noble friend Lord Jeffreys had been here—we are all sorry that illness has kept him away from the House—he, too, would have felt that this debate was worthy of the occasion and of the cause that is so dear to his heart. We are also sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Carew, who speaks for the British Legion and had intended to come this afternoon for that purpose, was obliged at the last moment, owing to illness, to be absent.
My noble friend who moved this Motion planned it in such a way that it covered the whole field of pensions and retirement pay—officers and other ranks, serving people themselves and their widows—and I am quite sure that that is the way in which this subject ought to be handled in this House. That is much better than having a sectional debate about officers, widows, other ranks, or anything of the kind, because all questions of pensions and retirement pay are interconnected and, so it appears, are all dealt with by Her Majesty's Government or the Treasury or whoever is responsible, in much the same way. The figures are quite well known. They are known to those of your Lordships who are taking part in this debate and to the Government 841 Departments concerned, because those who are concerned with societies like the British Legion, the Officers' Association and the Officers' Pension Society never weary in working for the cause of those whom they represent, and produce these figures with great regularity and skill.
The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, in his speech earlier this afternoon, defined a pension as a sum of money on which people depend for their living when they are past work (I hope I have quoted the noble Lord rightly). I am sure that that is a sound definition and forms a background against which this afternoon's debate can be considered. As everybody knows, there are various ways of dealing with this question of pensions. We could go to one extreme and say the pension ought to be tied to the cost of living, or take another view and say it should be related to the standard of living. I see that in another place the Minister for Pensions and National Insurance, my center honourable friend Mr. Boyd-Carpenter, said on November 3, 1960 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 629 (No. 2), col. 171]:Thanks to the high degree of stability of prices in recent years. these levels have in large measure been held. These further changes"—and here the Minister was talking about National Assistance grants and National Insurance pensions—constitute, therefore, a marked improvement in the standard of those receiving these benefits. This implements the policy of the Government that they should share in the rising standards of the nation.I believe that those words are quite important and very center. If anybody should share in the rising standards of the nation, surely the ex-Service men and their widows and the ex-Service women should be as much entitled to share as anybody. I am certainly not suggesting anything so extreme or, I think, so foolish as that retirement rates of any kind should be tied to the cost of living. Anybody who knows what happened in Australia a few years ago when wages were linked with the cost of living will know what damage that decision, while it lasted, did to the economy, and will also know how hard it was to reverse. But I think we are not now living in a time when prices are stable. They have been stable or relatively stable for a year 842 or two, but there are signs now that they are going to rise. Therefore, if we take the longer view, whatever the ups and downs of life may have been since the war, we find a steady rise in the cost of living and, therefore, a steady deterioration in the value of money. That, I believe, is one of the governing factors of the consideration of problems of this kind.
Another governing factor, I am sure, is that because Service pay (certainly for officers) and therefore retirement allowances depend on the Royal Prerogative and thus are bound to be ex gratia they do not fit into arrangements for regular review. That was a point made very clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who has just spoken. It is a point that various ex-Service societies are always making. My noble friend, Lord Salisbury, made it too, and therefore it is an even stronger argument than ever for this House to keep these matters constantly under review. If we do not have debates here it is perfectly possible for Government Departments to bury their heads in the sand and say that because we have not had a debate, therefore everything must be all center, That is why my noble friend took the view that a debate like this was necessary and why we have supported him this afternoon.
A great many important points have come out of this debate. Many noble Lords, among them the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, all referred to the complicated structure of the various pay codes. The 1958 code is an extremely complicated one. There are six different codes for people of the same kind. No doubt the various dates on which different people are entitled to various pensions all have their origins in extremely good reasons, but, as noble Lords have said this afternoon, the wood is now becoming completely obscured by looking at the trees; and whatever may have been the reasons in the past, as the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury said, they have little meaning nowadays for anybody outside the back rooms in Government Departments where they are worked out. I believe it was the noble Marquess who said that in the public 843 mind, at any rate, whatever they may be in the mind of the Government, they are completely irrelevant to the present situation.
Then we get the other point made by so many noble Lords—the differentials in codes for war widows. The other day I came across a curious quotation from a speech which was made by the center honourable gentleman the Prime Minister, in 1954 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 530, col. 1480]:Nor did we repeat the contemptuous gesture of September, 1951, of creating a division between the existing pensioners and the future pensioners.Whether that applies in detail to this particular case or not, that, at least, shows that the idea of a differential is not universally accepted in all circles; and therefore I feel our case is that much strengthened by arguing that it should not be accepted in this circle.
But, as has already been said in the debate, there may be a theory that a pension, once fixed, cannot be changed. That may or may not be so. If it is so in theory, it certainly does not follow that it should be so in practice. Taking the analogy of the pensions scheme in a bank, insurance company or commercial firm for its employees, it will probably be found that the scheme is secured by a trust deed and that the only rights of the employees under the trust deed are the rights which were established in the deed When it was signed. This was a point made earlier, I believe by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan. Because that is the letter of the Jaw, tit does not mean that equity, justice and common sense do not demand that it should not be altered from time to time. There is no big concern in the business or professional world operating a pension scheme of any size which does not have to bring its scheme, however immutable it may be in theory, up to date and in line with the needs of the time, so as to follow out the principle enunciated by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, of what a pension is.
Another point has again been brought out—I am conscious that I am saying nothing now—which is that the treatment of the retired personnel of your concern, whoever they are, must be looked at from the public relations aspect to see what 844 effect the treatment of those people will have on those who are serving now in the concern and those Whom you wish to recruit at some later date. Not only my noble friend Lord Merrivale but many other noble Lords have made that point this afternoon, and I should like to reinforce it in a few words myself.
We know that Her Majesty's Government have recently finally embarked on a policy of all-Regular recruitment. That, in itself, I would say, is a course not unattended by danger, but we are not debating that subject this afternoon. I mention it only in order to make the point that this is the very last time, the very last moment, when any risk should be taken with morale and support of the Services from those who have retired or their widows. Whatever the actual steps the Government decide to take, or whatever they decide to do, I do not think they can possibly divorce this aspect of the matter from their considerations. The family element, especially in parts of the Services like the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines, is very strong, and any unhappiness in family quarters there or anywhere else is bound to be felt. Of course, the Grigg Committee, who may be thought (as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, thought) to be there to whitewash the Treasury, did not go back on the old Treasury principle of immutability of settlements once made. That would have been a great deal -to expect from Sir James Grigg. But, equally, they never said in their Report that it would be wrong to take ex gratia action to bring those affected by immutability up to date.
Let me come back for one moment to the inflationary aspect, because if we go back to the older people this is what we find. Take a lieutenant-colonel who retired in 1935. I am not going to give many figures at this late hour. He had a pension of £543. That would correspond, so I am told, at 1959 rates to £1,675. The 1960 code gives the same individual an annual pension of £1,075 plus a terminal grant of £3,225. That terminal grant invested at an interest of 6 per cent. (which is a reasonable figure, I think) will give an extra amount of just under £200. So one has far short of the purchasing power which the £543 would have given in 1935. So, my Lords, as this debate has gone on the complication and, if I can use the word, the 845 messiness of the arrangements have, I think, appeared.
The question of early retirement age has been mentioned. It is a matter well within the Government's power to solve. Many times in this House have I suggested that it would be solved if, when any individuals joined the Forces, they could be assured of a career in Government service up to the age of 60 or 65, whichever is the center age I can see no reason why that should not be done. I can see prejudice, but not reason. Then, one should not leave this debate without just touching on National Assistance. This is a subject always handled very gingerly in these pension debates, because there is sometimes a suggestion that National Assistance is there in order to make up deficiencies of existing pension schemes. I cannot pinpoint any case where that has been actually said rather than suggested; nor do I think it should be. When I was looking up the Report of the Committee which sat under the late Lord Rushcliffe in 1924, I saw that the opening words of the Report were:National Assistance is clearly expressed as a successor of the poor law.Admittedly, I have not followed my researches to see exactly what was said at the time the Bill was introduced in 1948, but I doubt whether it would be very different. One comparison with National Assistance, possibly more valued, is that, so far as I know, there has never been any suggestion of differential scales for anybody affected by National Assistance. If we are to have differential scales as a principle, then surely that principle should extend to other fields besides Service pensions. But I am not at all sure whether it does; and if it does not, then surely ex-Servicemen and their widows are not the center people to apply it to.
My Lords, the hour is getting on. We have covered the field I think fairly adequately; at any rate, I hope so. Everybody knows that one cannot expect to get everything, even if anything, from a debate like this. But I think that if priorities have to be considered—and of course they do—two things have stood out from this afternoon's debate. The first is the case of the widows, and I will say no more on that because it has been so eloquently expressed. The second is 846 the case of the older men, both officers and other ranks, who are now on pension scales which bear little or no relation to the present cost of keeping alive, and no real relation, as some noble Lords have said, to National Assistance. This debate has shown my noble friend Lord Carrington, in front of me, the strength of feeling in these matters, and I think that he will feel, as we all do, how center it is that this House should keep these matters under constant and earnest review.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (LORD CARRINGTON)
My Lords, the question of Service pensions which we have been debating this afternoon is one which has been raised on a number of occasions in your Lordships' House, the last time, I think, some two years ago when it was replied to by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. As a matter of fact, I have checked up: it has been raised eight times in the last seven years. I make absolutely no complaint about that. Indeed, as the noble Lord who has just sat down has said, it only goes to show the importance which your Lordships attach to the subject and the strong feelings which it arouses.
I would say at the outset how sorry I am that my noble friend Lord Jeffreys, who has been more active in this sphere than anyone else, is unable to be here this afternoon. Looking down the list of speakers gives some indication of the wide experience of those who have spoken, starting with my noble friend Lord Teynham, who introduced the Motion; supported by so many of your Lordships who have spent a lifetime in the Services and who now give so much voluntary help in the cause of ex-Service men and women, and aided, too, by such formidable House of Lords figures as the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and the noble Lord, Lord Nathan. I might say, in passing, that if the noble Lord, Lord Shaekleton, wants me to reform, his chiding of the noble Marquess does not lead me to believe that I should he received with the fatted calf when that occasion arises.
But no one can have listened to the debate without a feeling of sympathy at the examples which many of your Lordships have given; and certainly nobody 847 could doubt the sincerity with which this subject has been tackled. And so it is all the more difficult for me to have nothing very new to say to the House this afternoon; and it is impossible for me, as an ex-Service man and now as a Service Minister, to conceal my sympathy from your Lordships. I wish indeed that I were able to give some other answer, because when dealing with a matter of this kind one is very conscious that, however center the principles upon which a decision is based, there are sometimes cases which make all of us sorry that something cannot be done.
The Government's case has been made on a number of occasions, but I wonder Whether the principles are really understood. Certainly listening to some of the speeches this afternoon I felt that they were not. I think, therefore, that for a moment or two I should re-state the Government's case, in the hope that, if I cannot satisfy those who criticise it, I may at least be able to persuade them that it is founded on principle and not on lack of sympathy for those who have given loyal service to the Crown.
The Government's attitude to an increase in pensions, whether they be those of officers, other ranks or their widows, has been upheld for many years by successive Governments of different complexions—not least the Government of which the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, was an ornament, and which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, zealously supported. The fundamental principle (and here I am going to disappoint the noble Lord) on which the Government's policy is based is that of the immutability of public service pensions; that is to say, the principle that a pension, once it has been awarded, should not normally be subject to change either upwards or downwards. This principle applies without distinction to both Armed Forces pensions and to the pensions of the Government's civilian employees. The first point which I should like to make, therefore, is that there is no question of any discrimination against members of the Armed Forces, and that the problem of Service pensions cannot be taken out of the context of the Government's policy for their servants as a whole.
848 Why have so many Governments insisted so firmly on this apparently hard-hearted and ungenerous principle? To begin with, the Government are not alone in their unwillingness to revise existing pensions. It is a common feature of all occupational pensions that they are regarded as being a part of the rewards for which an employee contracts to give his services. I believe—and I think this was borne out by my noble friend Lord Teynham—that some, at any rate, of the discontent over the pensions awarded in previous years has been caused by the successive improvements which have been made in the current pension codes of the Armed Forces. Certainly the most recent increases—in 1959 for other ranks, and in 1960 for officers—which have been warmly applauded by your Lordships this afternoon, have served to highlight the disparity between old and new Service pensioners.
I do not think that the Government—or, indeed, any employer—could accept that improvements in current pension terms must be held, in themselves, to justify comparable improvements in the conditions of service of former employees whose contract of service was completed, perhaps, many years ago. I say "in themselves" because I recognise that these former servants of the Crown, living as they do very largely on incomes fixed at a time when money values were much higher than they are now, have suffered at the hands of inflation, which has seriously eroded the worth of their pension. Here, indeed, they are on much firmer ground, and I fully share the sympathy which noble Lords—and, especially, the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, who I am sorry to see is not in his place—have expressed this afternoon.
But public servants, whether civilian or of the Armed Forces, are not the only ones to have suffered in this way. Inflation is a national problem: it affects each and every one of us. No section of the community, however deserving, can contract out of inflation. Yet the effect of increasing the pensions of former Crown servants to keep pace with the cost of living, or with improvements in current pension terms which may be made for this and perhaps other reasons as well, would be to insulate these 849 pensioners, as a class, from any form of inflation. And they would be protected in this way at the expense of taxpayers and ratepayers who may enjoy no such advantage themselves, and who may themselves be living on fixed incomes or savings.
My Lords, that is my second point, and it provides the most convincing reason why the Government cannot concede an automatic or regular adjustment of past pensions. As I have said, the problem of Armed Forces pensions cannot be divorced from that of all other public service pensions. To bring all past pensions up to current rates—and, if the principle of immutability were to be abandoned, there would be no logic in stopping short of this—would cost many millions of pounds each year; and this burden would fall upon other sections of the community who might be as little able to afford it as the public service pensioners themselves.
But, of course, the Government are not blind to real hardship. Like any good employer, they have always been pre-prepared to meet it when it comes. Since 1944, there have been no fewer than six pensions increase measures, designed to ease the consequences of inflation for public service pensioners. I must emphasise that these measures are not designed to restore the purchasing power of the original pension, nor to give yesterday's pensioners pensions at today's level. To do that, as I have said, would be to take public service pensioners out of the national situation. These increases are special measures to relieve hardship, and their frequency shows clearly that the Government are aware of their special responsibility for retired public servants.
Of course, it is entirely consistent with the purpose for which these increases are given that their payment should be limited to those pensioners who are most in need of assistance—that is to say, to incapacitated pensioners, child pensioners, widows over 40 and other widows with dependants, and to pensioners reaching the age of 60. The answer to those who argue that these increases ought to be paid to all Armed Forces pensioners, regardless of age or condition, is that it would mot be center to use public funds to help pensioners who might reasonably be expected to help themselves. Although the Services 850 are now offering longer careers than hitherto, it remains true that the age of retirement from the Services is lower than that in most civilian occupations. Retired Service men below the age of 60 are generally able to find further employment and, by their own work at prevailing rates of pay, to offset any rise in the cost of living; and so they can usually avoid the hardship which pensions increases are designed to alleviate.
I come now to the main topic which has been aired this afternoon—that is, to the pensions of widows whose husbands died before November 4, 1958. It is true, I think, that widows' pensions schemes generally, whether in private or Government employment, are a comparatively recent innovation. Ten years or so ago very few private firms would have included widows in their superannuation schemes; and it is only in recent times that some of the better employers have begun to do so. I do not think that the Government have lagged behind in this development, and certainly not where Armed Forces widows are concerned. In 1952, when the whole of the Armed Forces family pensions structure was reviewed, all officers' widows received the new rates which were then introduced. Admittedly this new scheme did not include the widows of other ranks whose husbands died before 1950; but, as I have said, it was—and still is—quite common throughout the country for widows whose husbands died before 1950 to have no pension, beyond what might have been arranged privately for them, to supplement the various State systems of insurance and assistance.
For example, the Civil Service scheme was not introduced until 1949, and those for the National Health Service and in local government are even more recent. I know that the rates introduced for Service widows in 1952 were a smaller proportion of their husbands' pensions than those paid under the Civil Service scheme, although that is no longer true under the latest code. But there was, and there is, a most significant difference between the two schemes, in that the Armed Forces scheme—alone among all public service and, I believe, the majority of private schemes—is non-contributory. The Service man pays nothing whatever towards it.
851 When the family pensions of the Armed Forces were improved in 1959, the Government considered very carefully whether these improvements could be extended to those who were already widows. They concluded, however, that it was quite impossible to distinguish between these widows and any other category of existing pensioners, and that to re-assess their pensions, except on the basis of hardship, would not be justified unless all other public service pensions were to be re-assessed as well. Indeed, the principles which apply to other public service pensioners clearly apply equally to widows.
I explained a moment ago that occupational pensions are a part of an employee's contract, which cannot be altered retrospectively. So, too, is that part of his pension arrangements which covers his widow. I said that no section of the community had the center to be protected against inflation at the expense of other sections who had no such safeguards themselves. That is true whether they are pensioners or the widows of pensioners. By the same token, of course, widows are entitled to receive the benefit of pensions increase measures, and in fact the rates paid to them have been improved: by 5 per cent. in 1956, and by a further 10 per cent. in 1959.
I have often heard it said—and I am not quite sure that my noble friend, Lord Bridgeman, was not saying it this evening—as though there were some disgrace attaching to the receipt of National Assistance, that the pensions of many Armed Forces widows are below National Assistance level. My Lords, even if that were true some time ago, it certainly is not true now that there is some disgrace attached to receiving National Assistance. Many widows in this country take advantage—
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? It was I who made the remark, but I did not say that there was any disgrace at all. I did not mean anything to do with disgrace. I said that it was a question that they felt they were drawing charity, and I asked: could not the Government devise some means whereby they would not have that feeling?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I was trying to say that I did not think it was charity. 852 Many widows in this country take advantage of the Government's policy that no person should he living below subsistence level, and I know that the National Assistance Board deals very sympathetically with all deserving cases.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, if I may pursue this point a little further, may I say that of course there is no disgrace; but a large number of people strongly object to-day to submitting themselves to a means test. We accept that the means test is necessary but it means that many who may have some savings from which they are deriving income have to submit themselves to a process which is inevitable with National Assistance. And for that reason a very large number of people in civilian life who would he entitled to National Assistance in fact refuse to take it.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I absolutely accept that, and I hope the debate which we are having this afternoon will convince those people that there is no disgrace, and that there is no question of taking charity when they accept National Assistance.
There is one special class of Service widows whom I should like to mention—my noble friend Lord Merrivale mentioned them in his speech. I refer to those whose husbands did not contribute under the National Insurance Scheme which was in operation before 1948, and who did not live long enough under the present scheme to qualify their widows for National Insurance benefits. They are a class for whom we all have special sympathy. But their problem is shared by countless other widows. Indeed, there are, I believe, something like one million people now who are over the minimum pension age, and who do not draw National Insurance pensions.
It is one thing to suggest that some form of compensation should be paid to all people in this class. I do not know if that is what noble Lords are asking me to do. If so, I would ask them to consider what would be involved. It would mean breaking the contributory principle of National Insurance, which is the only defence that the taxpayer has against the imposition of an extremely heavy financial burden. It has been estimated that to pay retirement pensions to all those people who do not satisfy 853 the conditions of entitlement under the National Insurance Scheme would cost the National Insurance Fund over £100 million a year. That is a bill which the Government cannot possibly face at the present time.
But, if once the contributory principle of National Insurance were abandoned, how could the Government justifiably stop short of this? My Lords, this is not a question of increasing a Service pension, or of increasing an occupational pension where differences of employment can be taken into account; it is a question of augmenting a scheme of National Insurance retirement pensions which has hitherto applied without distinction to every citizen of this country. Much as I sympathise with this particular class of person, I really do not see how it is possible to make out a special case for them merely because they are Armed Forces widows. As I said earlier, there is no question of their being left with an income below subsistence level, and to the extent that the occupational pension by itself is insufficient, National Assistance is available.
My noble friend Lord Teynham quoted an example of an officer's widow receiving a pension less than the pay of a Service cadet. Unfortunately, this can be said equally of large numbers of civilian widows up and down the country in relation to the pay of an 18-year old youth or girl, and in this respect Service widows are no worse off, I think, than anybody else.
My Lords, as I said at the beginning, I am afraid I have had nothing new to tell you, any more than your Lordships had anything new to tell me. All I have tried to do is to set out as clearly as I can what the position of the Government is, and to deal as fairly and as objectively as possible with a subject which affects the lives of a great many people whose service to the Crown is remembered with gratitude. I have tried to show that the Government have not lagged behind in this matter of Service pensions, and I think that in many respects they have shown a lead to private employers. I have tried to show that, although it would cost £20 million annually to raise Armed Forces pensions in the way which has been suggested, it cannot be done in isolation, and 854 over the whole range of Government retired pensions the cost would be at least £60 million a year. All these, I think, are weighty arguments of which your Lordships should take account; and, disappointed though I know my noble friend will be, I hope he will find it possible to withdraw his Motion this afternoon.
§ 5.27 p.m.
My Lords, I certainly appreciate the sympathy which I have received from your Lordships and from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, but I do not see any sympathy coming from Her Majesty's Government as a whole, and I must say I am very disappointed at the reply we have received to-day, especially in view of the support we have received from all quarters of the House. I really do not feel that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has refuted my arguments in favour of improved pensions for widows, and I consider it is a very bad state of affairs. He mentioned the word "hardship". Does he really mean to say that he is willing to consider hardship in the case of widows' pensions?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, in that case I am afraid there is nothing one can do; one cannot grant a widow a pension bigger than she is entitled to expect. What I will do is to see in any case the noble Lord brings to my attention that the widow is getting as much pension as she is entitled to receive.
I cannot help feeling that the fact is that Service pensions granted before the 1960 code are not meeting the rising cost of living, as promised by Her Majesty's Government. That is the main point and one of the most important points which has come out of this debate to-day, and that is what I really charge the Government with. Although I do not propose to press this Motion to a Division to-day, we cannot allow these pension matters to stay as they are, and we will certainly return to the charge at no distant date. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.