§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £4,750,000 be granted to His Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1910, for the payment of old age pensions in the United Kingdom, and for certain administrative expenses in connection therewith."
§ Mr. T. M. KETTLE
This is a matter which is as closely related to the Budget as is one side of a sixpence to the other side. A great many old age pensions had to be granted in Ireland, and, therefore, the Treasury came to the conclusion that a heavier burden should be laid upon Ireland by this Budget than was laid any year since the South African War. The guiding idea seems to be to impose new taxation on Ireland, and I think I can show that the Treasury has acted from some motive of vindictiveness. It will be in the recollection of the Committee that when the Old Age Pensions Bill was passing through this House the Treasury estimated that the cost in Ireland would be about £700,000. That estimate was challenged, and it was pointed out that the official figures supplied year by year by the Registrar-General of Ireland were not trustworthy. What has been the result? Instead of costing £700,000 a year in Ireland the old age pensions will cost more than three times that amount. It has been discovered you are, in dealing in Ireland with the relief of poverty, dealing with the remnants—not of a population of 4,000,000, but of one of 8,000,000, which Ireland possessed in 1841. I think I will carry the assent of every Member of this House—at any rate, of every Member who sits for an Irish constituency, whether above or below the Gangway—when I say that the operation of the Old. Age Pensions Act in Ireland has been a sort of ghastly apocalypse of misery, the existence of which even those who knew Ireland best did not suspect.
2027 I pass on to certain details of the administration of the Pensions Act in Ireland, to which I desire to draw attention. I have no wish to pitch my indictment in too strident tones. It is only weak cases stand in need of strong language. For my part I shall be content to allow the facts which I present to the Committee to speak for themselves. I would say this at the outset, in undertaking to prove every word I say with regard to the policy of Government Departments in Ireland in respect of the administration of this Act, that whatever the intention behind that policy, it has had its effect in defeating justice in many deserving cases, of delaying it in many others, and of giving the meaner journalism of this country, and the meaner Members of this House, an opportunity for casting aspersions on the character of the nation. Charges have been recklessly cast against Ireland—charges of fraud in connection with the administration of this Act. I say there has been fraud in the administration of the Act, and I hope to prove, before I sit down, that there has been, and is at the present moment, a systematic and well-considered policy to defraud many of the aged poor of Ireland of the benefits of this Act, and all attempts of that character have been made, not in the daylight but in the dark. The reason of that is that the action of the Local Government Board, in deciding appeals under this Act, has been wrapped from beginning to end in a sort of Star Chamber secrecy.
I make a direct and definite challenge to the Government on this point. When this matter was briefly debated some little time ago, when the first enthusiastic clamour against the honesty of Ireland was raised in the newspapers, we on these benches asked if the Government, in case they were making an inquiry into the matter, would make it a public inquiry. They declined to do that; they would give us no public inquiry. I repeat that invitation to the Government now. Will they give a public inquiry into the administration of this Act in Ireland? I will put an even easier question. Will they lay the reports of the pension officers from Somerset House—gentlemen who are charitably called experts—on the Table of the House? For my part, I propose next week to move for a Return of the decisions given by the Local Government Board in appeals under the Old Age Pensions Act, and for the reasons and principles on 2028 which those decisions are founded. I should like to know from the Government whether that Return will be granted.
There are two questions upon which everything turns naturally in the administration of the Old Age Pensions Act. The first is that of proof of age, and the second is the calculation of the means of claimants. These are the two points upon which I propose to bring certain facts under the notice of the Committee, but before I proceed to do that perhaps I may be allowed to say one other preliminary word. I said that I had an indictment—a severe indictment—to bring forward. I do not direct that against the Chancellor of the Exchequer personally or against the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I do not say that these right hon. Gentlemen are responsible for it. The trouble about Irish government is that you cannot find who is responsible for anything. As for Irish administration, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will appreciate the epigram left upon record by a former Member of this House in dealing with changes of Government and of Irish Chief Secretaries. He said that the only effect of the coming of a new Chief Secretary was to change the face of the clock; the works still remain the same. Well, the works still remain the same with regard to the administration of this Act. But my chief attack must be directed against the Irish Local Government Board. When the Bill was passed rather hastily through this House, Parliament did not follow the analogy of the Workmen's Compensation Act and of similar Acts, and it did not give an opportunity to claimants under the Act to go into the Law Courts in cases in which an appeal is necessary. Instead of that the Government made the Irish Local Government Board the Court of Appeal, and, as I said a few moments ago, it has proved to be a Star Chamber Court. The Irish Local Government Board in this, as in many other matters, has shown itself to be the tame and muzzled watch dog of the Treasury.
Now the first point with regard to the administration of this Act naturally had reference to proof of age on the part of claimants. In that respect everybody who knew Ireland at all knew that the circumstances of the country were somewhat peculiar. There was no compulsory registration of births in Ireland until the year 1864, and consequently in individual cases there could not be 2029 documentary proof of the same character as I believe it is possible to obtain in England. When that fact was brought forward early in these discussions, the Government, in reply to a question regarding it, gave an answer which really had such an accent of almost immortal insolence that I will venture to read it to the Committee. It was suggested that the absence of compulsory registration would create certain difficulties, and the answer was that the system of registration of births in Ireland was much more recent than the corresponding system in Great Britain, but this fact had no relation to the question of estimating the number of persons 70 years of age and upwards at the present time. That is the attitude of the Government Department which has been charged with the administration of this Act. They were confronted when the Act came into force with the absence of documentary evidence, including amongst other things several records which should be produced by the claimants, and the first policy adopted in Ireland was really a humane and a reasonable policy. Failing a compulsory register of births kept by the State, they fall back upon the parish books kept by the various clergy of the parishes. A circular letter was then issued to the pension officers, dated 4th November last, of which I have a copy here, marked "Confidential." The pension officers were instructed that where certificates issued by the clergy of any church can be obtained, certifying a claimant was over 70, those certificates were to be acted upon as satisfactory evidence of age. As to whether the clergy of the various churches discharged their duty in that respect honestly or not, I shall be content to quote the testimony of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Speaking in this House on 1st March last, the right hon. Gentleman then said:—I have made very careful inquiry into this and I have been informed by the heads of department of the Local Government Board that the clergy have maintained a very strong and very truthful attitude, and that it would be a most unjust accusation to make against them that they lent themselves to any misrepresentation in discharging this very difficult duty that was imposed upon them.That was the Chief Secretary's testimony, and that was the experience of everybody who had any experience of this Act in Ireland, and the Act itself and the regulations under it were perfectly clear upon this point. If I may for a moment refer to the second schedule of the regulations issued under the Act by the Treasury, it was provided that the following documentary evidence would be good evidence that 2030 the parties did come under the Act—a certificate of birth, a certificate of baptism, a certificate of service in any of the forces of the Crown, a certificate of membership of a friendly society, a certificate of marriage or any other evidence which appears sufficient for the purpose. The claims came in the first instance before the pensions committee or sub-committee, formed of the most capable and the most respected people in the neighbourhood from which the claims came. They had naturally a great many sorts of secondary evidence with regard to the claimant's age, and they were able to form a much better estimate of his age, I venture to think, than the Local Government Board.
We had some very interesting statements with regard to the sort of evidence of age that was accepted in Great Britain, where you had a compulsory registration of births. I remember one afternoon, on which the President of the Local Government Board of England came down and told us a very pathetic story, which was received with the enthusiastic approval of the House, of how he had tramped over the snow, down somewhere near Clapham Common, to visit an old lady, and how he had directed that she should be paid an old age pension, although the chief evidence, and the only evidence, on her behalf, was a year which was worked on a sampler. I am not sure that I know what a sampler is, but my hon. Friend near me tells me it is something which was worked in wool. At any rate in this case the date was worked upon it, which the President of the Local Government Board thought was sufficient evidence on which to grant a pension at Clapham. I suppose it was, but I do not think it would be held sufficient evidence by the Local Government Board in Ireland; so far as I know there is no human being of the type of the President of the Local Government Board connected with that office who would tramp two miles across the snow to award a pension to anybody, except perhaps himself. That was the first policy. Certificates issued by clergymen, upon evidence mostly of parochial books, were to be accepted by pension officers and pension committees. But the operation of the Act began to show results in Ireland that were not anticipated. The Treasury became alarmed at the growing number of pensions, and with that alarm there came a change of policy, and further instructions were issued with regard to the evidence of age. 2031 The new policy is contained in another circular, which is also marked "Confidential," of which I shall read the last paragraph to the Committee. It was dated on the 3rd February of this year, and this was the new policy:—When investigating claims, pension officers will in such cases obtain, if possible, the necessary particulars to enable a search to be made in both the 1841 and the 1851 Census Returns. When the claimant cannot, or will not, give the particulars for the search, or where the search office reports that the claimant's name cannot be traced, the pension officers should report that no evidence of age has been produced, and the claim cannot properly be allowed. If the pension committee should allow the claim, notwithstanding the officer's report, the pension officer should, if he is not satisfied that the claimant is of the statutory age, lodge an appeal in every case against the decision of the committee.That was the new policy, with regard to the pension officer being satisfied, and he was instructed, unless the name was found in the census, or unless his attention was called by the claimant to a part of the census where it could be found, he was to appeal to the Local Government Board. Moreover, the Local Government Board, the Court of Appeal, standing impartially between the parties, was to decide under precisely the same instructions from the Treasury, upon which the pension officer had acted. Let me say a word about these Census Returns of 1841 and 1851. I do not think any Member of this Committee will contradict me when I say that these Returns in Ireland were notoriously inaccurate. They were made by certain illiterate policemen. As to that, we have had some interesting testimony given in the papers, and I have preserved as fragments of the not yet written social history of Ireland a quotation with regard to the Census Return of 1841, from the proceedings of a pension committee of 3rd April of this year:—One member of the committee said he would be prepared also to call attention to the slipshod way in which the census was taken in those years. The police never visited half the houses in the town, they visited one house in the town land and got the ages of all the people from that one person.Other witnesses have said that the house they visited was, of course, the public-house. Another member said:—They sat down on a ditch and had a chat therewith an old man and got all the ages from him.And still another member of the Committee remarked, very properly:—It is a case of heads I win and tails you lose.That was a very proper commentary indeed upon the character of the evidence, and the remark I make is that the Census Returns of 1841 and 1851, which are now an essential part of the evidence of age, are 2032 inaccurate, and not always inaccurate in the same direction. They are not only out of agreement with the facts, but the two Census Returns do not agree with one another. The policy of the Local Government Board, therefore, has been this: that whenever on the census of 1841 the claimant was entitled to a pension, but on the census of 1851 was disentitled, they have disallowed the pension in every case; also in case of discrepancies between the two Census Returns they are always construed to the disadvantage of the claimant. The inaccuracy of these Census Returns is a matter of such fundamental importance that, even at the risk of wearying the Committee, I think I ought to give further evidence on the point. I will, with their permission, therefore read an extract from a letter from a member of a pension committee, a thoroughly intelligent and capable man, who knows his facts and was concerned in the administration of the Act. He writes:—In the replies that I have got there is ample evidence that the census records of 1841 and 1851 are full of inaccuracies. In those days the policemen who took the census were practically illiterate. At that time also the people as a rule spoke Irish only, and some of the inaccuracies in the records at once suggest that those who took the census understood no Irish. The parents' Christian names were taken down wrongly in many instances. I have a number of cases where the mother's name is given as Mary instead of Margaret and vice versa. Also cases where the father's name is given as Denis instead of Daniel and vice versa. If mistakes of this kind occurred in regard to the parents' names, why not also in regard to the children? Now in some cases the pensioner's (the child of 1841) name cannot be found at all, though the other members of the family have been traced. In those cases the official assumption now is, that the child was not born at the time the census was taken, but it is just as likely that the policeman, through his ignorance of Irish, mistook the child's real name. Then again a person ignorant of Irish is much more likely to make a mistake regarding numbers than in regard to names. For instance, there is a pensioner here who remembers the names of the policemen who took the census in 1851. He says he himself was then 14 years of age, that himself and his mother were in the house when the police called, that the police knew no Irish and his mother knew no English, and himself very little English. In the census of that year his age is set down as nine instead of 14. I have no doubt that the man's statement is perfectly true. The matter is at present before the Local Government Board and the poor man will probably lose his pension. There is a poor woman given as being three years in 1851 and it is much more probable that she was 13. Three old men (two of them over 70) born in the same locality, who knew her since childhood, have made an affidavit that she is 71. Nevertheless, if her name cannot be found in the census records of 1841, she will probably lose her pension, and so on. Then there are cases where the same person is found to be 10 years of age in 1851 and four years in 1841 records. Other cases where the same person is given as three years in 1841 and 10 in 1851, and much more frequently they are shown to be two years in 1841 and 10 in 1851.That is the character of the documentary evidence which is held to be indispensable, and, when it tells against the applicant, is conclusive in applica- 2033 tions for old age pensions in Ireland. These census records are not evidence of age in courts of law. They have never been held, as far as I know they could not be held, to be legal evidence of age, and that is the Treasury view, because in the very few prosecutions which they have instituted in Ireland upon the ground of inadequate age they have never themselves presented their case relying upon these Census Returns. They have always themselves produced secondary evidence—as a rule the oral evidence of persons who had lived in the neighbourhood and knew the claimant.
But more serious questions have arisen if possible. Not only have the Census Returns been proved to be inaccurate, but it has also been established that the search of these Census Returns made by the search officers in connection with the administration of the Act have also been inaccurate. Pension officers have reported, on the information received in the search offices in Dublin, that names were not to be found in the Census Returns when subsequent inquiry showed that the names were to be found. Let me give a few typical cases selected from a great mass of evidence which is accumulated in the newspapers and elsewhere upon this point. I quote again from the very interesting Report presented by the secretary to the pension committee at Fox-ford, in the county of Mayo, and this is how the search was made in the census:—In the case of Mary —, the Pension Officer's report, based, of course, on the so-called extract which I received from the census is this, 'No trace of family in either 1841 or 851 census,' while as a matter of fact the census of 1811 shows her to be two years old in that year, which means that she is entitled to a pension provisionally, and which means also that she will never get a pension, seeing that in the absence of documentary evidence of age, nothing will now be taken but the census.If it had not been that the secretary of that local pension had, as far as I know, at his own expense and on his own initiative made a search in the Census Returns in Dublin, that old women would, upon the certificate of the search officer that her name was not in the census, be still deprived of her pension. I quote another case from the same report, and arising in the same district. This was another old lady. According to the census of 1841 she was 72 years of age, and the report that came back from Dublin was this:—No trace of family in 1841. Family found in 1851, but contained no Sarah,There again, if personal research of census returns had not been undertaken by 2034 the secretary of the committee, that old lady would also have been kept out of the pension. There are five other cases of this character arising in that district, and I say upon my responsibility they are not isolated cases. I do not say they are typical, and I do not say the same thing has gone on everywhere, but it has gone on in a very considerable number of cases in very many parts of the country. There is another case of an old lady who was disallowed a pension on the question of age being raised by the pension officer, because, according to the Census of 1841, she was 70, while in the Census of 1851 she was returned as 12 years old. I quote that as illustrating my further point that where there is a discrepancy between two Census returns, the name of the claimant being found in both, that which is least favourable to the claimant is invariably relied upon. Then, after that report of the clerk, the committee proceeded, not, I should think, in a very cheerful mood—to consider further claims which had been made. I quote another part of their proceedings as also typical. The clerk said in the case of Michael Mc— he could not trace him in the Census Return at all:—The Chairman: He positively assures me he is over 70 years of age.Another Member said: He is a truthful man.The Clerk: No scheme will be passed where there is no documentary evidence.Another Member: Then he has no prospect of getting a pension, even if he may be 90 years of age.Both in the case of fresh claims and in the case of claims under revision the pension officer is instructed to appeal to the Local Government Board, as I understand, but, of course, owing to the secrecy in which the administration of the Act is enshrouded, I can only speak from information not always resting on the evidence and testimony of trustworthy people concerned in the administration of the Act. But the pension officer is instructed in every case where these Census Returns cannot be produced to appeal to the Local Government Board. But there is another point. Not only must the census of 1841 and 1851 be referred to, but the claimant must do it himself, and he must pay a fee of 1s. or 2s. in order to have a search made in Dublin. I have particular reason to know that. We have formed a committee on that very wicked body the United Irish League in connection with the Old Age Pensions Act. We confined ourselves to what, I hope, was a distinctly legal task. We undertook at our expense, not at the expense of these poor people, 2035 to have a search made in the Census returns of 1841, and where the entry was found giving the name of the claimant, had a copy of the entry made and sent back, thereby saving the fee. Instructions are now issued that, except in cases where the claimant has either made a personal search or has had, at his own cost and on his own motion, a search made, an extract from the Census Returns is not to be accepted as even primâ facie evidence. When these appeals go to the Local Government Board how are they decided? We do not know what the reasons are that move the Local Government Board to record their decisions.
A letter that came back from the Local Government Board is a rather insolent document, of which I will quote one example. The Drogheda Pension Committee, another committee which is a very efficient body, as I know personally, had occasion to deal with that state of affairs, and I will read, because it puts my point better than I could myself, the proceedings of the Drogheda Pensions Committee at a meeting on 28th April. The clerk had been in communication with the Local Government Board in connection with appeals by the pension officer allowing a pension in two cases and disallowing it in four cases. In reference to the disqualified claims the clerk communicated with the Local Government Board requesting to know their reasons for disqualifying them, as their decision was very indefinite, and also to state when they would be qualified, as the committee had brought the parties before them and put them through a very stiff examination, not being able to get any documentary evidence of their age, and no trace of them being found in the Census of 1841 or 1851. The answer he received from the Local Government Board was that the claimants mentioned were disqualified from receiving pensions on account of sufficient evidence not being forthcoming to show that they had reached the statutory age. The committee said: "What age have they reached? If they are not qualified now for pensions, when will they be qualified?" The Local Government Board simply confined themselves to the terms of that curt and somewhat insolent document, whereupon the Drogheda committee passed the following resolution, which was to have been forwarded to the Chief Secretary, and which I hope he has read:—That in our opinion a great hardship is inflicted upon cases in which the committee, not having received 2036 definite evidence of age, has allowed applications for pensions because convinced by the recollections of the parties of local circumstances or by other minor local evidence that the applicant is over 70, has passed the application of a pension and is further of opinion that when such cases are rejected by the Local Government Board the latter should state specifically the reasons of their rejection and what age they admit the persons to have reached.Is that an unreasonable request? This pension is not a matter of grace; it is not an alms given by the rich to the poor, and if the Local Government Board, whatever traditions of bureaucracy it may have behind it, adopts that attitude towards the humblest person in Ireland, it is defeating the generous intentions—and even violating the letter—of the Old Age Pensions Act. This sort of case comes before one in a somewhat more personal and pathetic form. The multitude of letters of this character which I have received will perhaps explain to the Committee the somewhat vehement manner in which I criticise the Local Government Board upon this point. This is a letter, again not an isolated but a typical letter, which I have received:—Sir,—I respectfully beg to state that having made an application for an old age pension early in January I was unable to get any documentary proof from the parochial register or the census of 1841 or 1851, and the committee passed my claim knowing me to be over the age. Then the pension officer appealed against their decision. I got a very respectable gentleman to send a statement to the Local Government Board on my behalf, in which he said he had known me for 50 years and I was then over 20 years of age. This will give you an idea of how we have been treated. I received word that I was not entitled to a pension. Hoping you will forgive me for approaching you with this humble statement. They gave no reason for my disqualification.Then follows the name, and I shall be happy to hand the letter to the Chief Secretary if he wants to see it. Is that fair or humane treatment for these aged and stricken people? They are disqualified on grounds of age by a camarilla who have never seen the applicant, who know nothing of the local circumstances, and have no evidence to go upon except the discredited evidence of the Census Return. I think I may pass from that branch of the subject. I can multiply evidence upon every single one of these points. I have a great mass of letters upon every one of them. I can give concrete cases, with the names of the claimants, if the Government wants them, but I think I may summarise what I have to say upon the first point, the question of age, by saying there are a great many more people in Ireland over 70 who are being deprived of pensions by policy of that kind, and there are people under 70 who have improperly received pensions. I come to the interlude in the> drama.
2037 I suppose we might call it the coming of the experts. Six gentlemen from Somerset House were sent over to Ireland to set everything right. Gentlemen have been sent over from England on other occasions before. I am informed that these gentlemen were not experts in any sense. They carried no badge of superiority with them except an English accent. They were ordinary Inland Revenue officials. They knew nothing about the Old Age Pensions Act any more than anybody else. The Act had been in operation only three months when these gentlemen were sent over to Ireland. Some of them knew where Ireland was on the map, but I do not think that some of them knew anything more. They went from one end of the country to the other, they conveyed directions to the pension officers and the supervisors from the Inland Revenue and the Treasury. The Local Government Board did not exactly like to put the directions in print, because, as I think, they would not look well. The object, I take it, at any rate of their despatch to Ireland was delayed. The object was to hold up pension claims and to cast an atmosphere of uncertainty around claims that had been granted. In that they had very tolerable success. There was an answer given in this House the other day, from which we learned that at present in Ireland there are no less than 20,206 claims pending and not yet dealt with. That was the achievement of the experts. But, of course, there are great advantages from the Treasury point of view in delaying the grant of these pensions. It will give the old people a greater opportunity of economising public funds by dying in the meantime. I am not merely making phrases on this subject. I knew two old people who were amply qualified in point of age and means who were kept out of their pensions and who died without receiving them.
The second point with which I wish to deal has reference to the calculation of the means of claimants for old age pensions. Here again we are confronted with two policies. The first policy was one of humanity and common-sense, which we practised at the beginning of the Act. The second policy was founded on a formula, if possible, more arbitrary and fantastic than that to which I have already drawn attention in the matter of age. At first the pension officers and Committees were left largely to their common - sense in calculating the means of applicants for old age pensions, but the people who exercised their common- 2038 sense were not thought to be advancing the interests of the system of government carried on in Ireland at the present time. There was a change of policy. At first the pension officers and committees, who knew the circumstances, calculated the means themselves as practical men. What was the result of their calculations, and what was the purport of the reports of the pension officers for the first two or three months of the operation of the Act? I will let the Chancellor of the Exchequer tell the story. Speaking in this House upon March 1st this year, the right hon. Gentleman said:—Especially in Ireland the pension officers have been appalled at the amount of poverty, and that is why I am really not disposed to criticise too harshly the administration of the Act, even if it has resulted in the addition of a considerable sum to the Estimates of the Government. The facts as to poverty in Ireland are perfectly horrifying. It is a disgrace to any civilised country that human beings should be allowed to live under such conditions.I am quoting original evidence, and not relying on my own experience wholly, or upon what I gather from newspapers. I have here a letter from another gentleman who has had experience in the operation of the Act as a member of a pension committee. He had the singular felicity of meeting one of the experts, and he records his impression of his visits to the pensioners here and there throughout the country. He was astonished at the poverty he saw. He says:—I must admit that I was amazed myself. I thought I knew Ireland well. Now I know that I knew only the shell.After the period of common-sense there came the period of the secret instructions. They had to deal with the committees and the officers, and naturally in rural Ireland, with a great number of tenants, sometimes owners, sometimes leasehold tenants of small holdings. At the beginning, knowing the local circumstances, the value of crops, and the cost of labour, they made their own calculations, and they made them, as I think, pretty accurately. Then there came the second policy, and now the method of calculating the income and means of the tenant of one of these small holdings is quite different. It has been reduced to a formula. You take three times the rent of the holding, or four times, the purchase annuity.
§ Mr. KETTLE
The Chief Secretary shakes his head. What I have stated was contained in an answer which he gave in this House, and if it is challenged I shall 2039 produce the reference. Now I am told that not only were there two policies in this matter, but three periods of the second policy. At first the pension officer was instructed and allowed in arriving at a conclusion as to the beneficial income enjoyed by a claimant to take three times the rent or four times the purchase annuity, and to make certain deductions. He was allowed to deduct, if there were two sons over 21 years of age, in respect of cost of maintenance 5s. a week; in the second period he was allowed to deduct an allowance for maintenance for one son over 21 years of age, and in the third period, after the secret instructions had been given, he was allowed to make no deductions at all.
§ Mr. KETTLE
The Chief Secretary shakes his head. I have initiated this discussion this afternoon for the purpose of finding out what is the rule in calculating the value of small holdings. The right hon. Gentleman has all the official information at his command—that is if the experts take him into their confidence. We have had to rely on evidence laboriously accumulated from newspapers and private letters, and we shall all be happy to know what are the principles on which the Local Government Board and the pension officers are acting in calculating income. I have given my information, which is to the effect that whereas at the beginning of the period of the secret instructions a land purchase annuity of £11 10s. would carry a pension of 5s. a week, now you cannot get 5s. a week if your purchase annuity is more than £5 5s. In other words, the profits of Irish land have doubled since last Christmas. I do not know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer forgot that fact when he was framing his Budget. I would contrast the method of calculating income on a small holding for the purpose of an old age pension with the method adopted by the Inland Revenue in calculating income on a large holding for the purpose of income tax. In calculating for income tax you take either one-third of the rent or the difference between the rent and the valuation. A friend of mine who has acted on one of the pension committees, and who has a turn for sarcasm, says that the reasonableness of the new method of calculating means is very obvious. If a man is over 70 years of age, the Local Government Board comes at once to the 2040 conclusion that unless he was extremely well off he would not, as an intelligent man, go on living so long in such a country. So much for the calculation of means. For my part, I have made a somewhat careful attempt to arrive at a reasonable working formula for what I admit frankly to be a difficult matter. I am not minimising the difficulty of arriving at a definite formula. The principle first employed, of the common-sense of the committee corrected by the common-sense of the pension officers, I must say seemed to be the most satisfactory method of solving these problems.
Let me give another case of extreme hardship occurring in Ireland. As everybody who has been in Ireland knows, it has been an immemorial social custom for a farmer in his declining years to assign or hand over his farm to his son on getting married, the son contracting to maintain the father in the house, with sometimes a cash annuity, during his lifetime. That case has arisen on a very large scale in Ireland. What is the rule adopted in calculating the value of the maintenance in that case? This is my information. I am told that the standard originally laid down for labourers and small farmers was that in the rural districts maintenance of that kind was to be valued as worth 2s. 6d. per week. Now instructions have been issued that in the case of middle-class farmers, whatever they may be, the value of maintenance is to be calculated at 12s. 6d. per week. In other words, in every case where that social custom has been acted upon and an arrangement has been made at any time for the last couple of hundred years, without any reference whatever to the Old Age Pensions Act, the claim is to be totally disallowed on the ground that the farmer has divested himself of his property with the view of obtaining a pension, or else that maintenance is to be calculated at such an extravagant figure that he cannot in any event obtain a pension. I do not wish to weary the Committee by going too much into detail on this point, but I may say that I have got a great mass of evidence giving a minute account of the claims disallowed. I am only going to give two cases where the information I have received is typical. In the first case, in which a pension has been disallowed, the applicant for the pension is a cripple who is supported in his brother's house, and who has no claim of any kind on his brother's farm, which his brother bought with money earned in America. That applicant is held to be entitled to main- 2041 tenance in his brother's house, although the brother is under no legal obligation to support him.
Let me take another case. Take another case in the same union in the same district of the county Cork. In this case the old man who made the claim lived with his son. This is a case—the note goes on—in which the value put upon the maintenance and clothes to which the father was entitled in case of a dispute, is, in the deed, £7 10s. a year. The deed provides that the father is to have a room in the house to live in. He is to be maintained by his son. If there is a dispute he is to be free to leave the house, and he is to get a cash annuity of £7 10s. a year. These facts go to the Local Government Board. The Local Government Board value of the maintenance of that man as being more than £31 10s. a year, and disallow the pension—a proceding which can be justified only on the ground that one room in a three-roomed cottage in the poorest part of Cork is fairly rented at £24 a year. This is like many other cases. Then we have case after case in which the pension officer first recommended the pension, in which the pension committee granted the pension, and in which the pension officer was then instructed to appeal against his own decision, and his own view, and then the Local Government Board disallowed the pension. In another case the pension officer allowed 3s. and the pension committee allowed 5s. and afterwards it went to the Local Government Board on the motion of the pension officer, who had recommended 3s., and the Local Government Board allowed nothing. In another case, in which the first decision of the pension officer was 2s., the committee gave 5s., the pension officer was instructed to appeal against himself, and the Local Government Board agreed that the claimant was to have nothing.
I come now to my last point. It is this. I have already drawn attention to the fact that appeals under this Act, unlike appeals under similar humane Acts, such as the Workmen's Compensation Act, are not heard in open court. The case is not argued on both sides before the public. We may not get justice in courts of law in Ireland, but we get some reasons given for the decision; but in this case the decisions are given on principles which have not been disclosed. I take, first of all, the question of appeals in cases in which the Pension Committee think that the man has reached a certain age, and the pension officer thinks it is all right; but he is instructed 2042 by the Local Government Board to think that the man has not reached that age. How is that appeal heard? What evidence is it on which the Local Government Board decides the case? It has not the claimant before it. If you regard the thing from the ordinary human point of view you would think that in making up its mind as to whether a man was or was not 70 they would at any rate have a casual look at the claimant; but the Local Government Board does not see the claimant. The Local Government Board has given the claimant no opportunity of personally appearing before it. So far as we know, the only evidence upon which they decide is the report of the pension officer and the statements of fact contained in the original claim. If there has been a single case in which the claimant has had an opportunity of bringing fresh evidence—above all, if there has been a single case in which the claimant has been given an opportunity of making a personal appearance before the court of appeal which is to decide whether he is to get some relief from his poverty or not, I shall be very glad indeed to have particulars of this from the Chief Secretary or the Secretary to the Treasury. The same observations, if possible in a stronger form, apply to the appeals to the Local Government Board with regard to means and the calculation of income. I have seen many ludicrous documents in connection with administration in Ireland as a person who farms in a small way myself. But I do not think I have ever seen anything that reaches such a high level of comedy as the form which, as far as I know, is all the Local Government Board has before it in determining whether the means and income of the claimant are in excess of the statutory limit or not. I have a specimen here before me. It gives geographical particulars of where the holding is, the acreage, the rent, and the valuation, and then it goes on to give an account of the acreage under various crops, the cattle (if there are any), and some information—though on this point I cannot be sure as to whether it is universal or not—as to whether the man hires labour or has his children working on the land or not. Upon that document and upon these particulars some official in the Local Government Board, who probably knows nothing whatever about farming, except that it is a good thing to get away from, decides, and naturally decides, against the claimant.
I notice one recurring feature in these returns. I do not know the principle upon which the Local Government Board has 2043 acted. It may be that the Local Government Board has conducted an elaborate inquiry which would be of extraordinary value to economists into the resources of these claimants. It may possibly be that, as we had one Royal Commission, perhaps there would be another; but the only information that we have on this point are the inquiries of the Congested Districts Board into the resources and budgets of the tenants of these small holdings. But I notice this, that in every case in which the rent of a small holding exceeds £10 a year, whatever the family burdens upon the farm may be, the claim for pension is disallowed. The demand I wish to conclude by making—and I hope I shall carry upon principle the sympathy of some Englishmen, at any rate, who may not be as interested in the facts as we on these benches are—the demand is this: We demand publicity. I shall move next week for a Return of the decisions of the Local Government Board in appeals brought before them, with an account of the reason and principles upon which these decisions were based. There may be a dispute as to facts, there may be a very real dispute as to what the value of the income of the household of an applicant for a pension may be, but at least let us have the principles by which the facts are to be judged clearly established. Let us have some system and some certainty in the matter. I have quoted the moving passage from the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the acute and terrible poverty in Ireland; I have dwelt upon the use which has been made of the discovery which overthrew all the official figures with regard to the number of aged and poor people in Ireland. I say now this in conclusion: You have this Old Age Pension Act being administered in secret; you have pension officers who have been fined for disclosing to pension committees even a small part of the instructions upon which they act. The only people who oppose publicity are those who have something to lose by it. We are not making any plea for the lax administration of the Old Age Pensions Act. For my part, I would rather see an old man or an old woman—harsh though the poor law disqualification may be, harsh and full of temptation to poor people though it may be—I would rather see a poor man or a poor woman in Ireland, and I believe that the sense of the country would rather see them, perish of hunger on the wayside than obtain one of your State pensions by a deliberate misre- 2044 presentation of facts or a deliberate lie. We have had enough of secrecy and enough of Star Chamber methods. We have had a sufficiently long period during which the national character has been aspersed, and an atmosphere of uncertainty, and a lack of finality has been cast all over the Pensions Act in Ireland. The intentions of Parliament, when it passed this Act, were humane and generous. The policy of the Local Government Board in administering it in Ireland has been mean, niggardly, and secret, and I have to give a definite challenge, with a full sense of responsibility, to the Government, whatever means they adopt in reference to the facts to which attention has been drawn, to make them known. I ask, at any rate, for a full and complete statement upon every point.
§ Mr. KETTLE
No; my desire is to obtain information. I do not think it can be obtained by moving a reduction.
§ Mr. S. L. GWYNN
I do not wish to go at length or in detail into this matter, which has been handled so admirably both in detail and principle by my hon. and learned Friend. I want to discuss the matter more as a question of generalities, and to investigate, as far as I can, the attitude of the Government, who at the present time seem to me to be in a singularly foolish and not very admirable position. They appear to be in the position of men who have done good by accident, and now blush to find how very expensive it is, and are trying to diminish the cost of the good that they have done. I regard it as a short-sightedness of the British Treasury, and I do not know if any hon. Gentlemen opposite think that if the Treasury had foreseen the full consequences of this Act, and if the Treasury had been aware that the passing of the Old Age Pensions Act meant that they were going to grant over two million pounds to relieve poverty in Ireland, the Old Age Pensions Act would have become law. For my own part, I do not believe it, but, whether by accident or design, the thing has been done, and because the result was not foreseen consequences have followed exceedingly disagreeable to our national pride. Lies have been let loose on the world. When we were discussing this matter last time there was a statement sent broadcast through the British Press that fifty thousand pensions had been 2045 granted in Ireland to persons who were not entitled to them. That statement has been repeated ever since, and though we may challenge and confute it now, that lie has got too far to be stopped. The fact is, the number of pensions granted will be reduced by some two or three thousands. But by what means has that number been reduced? I know in the case of my own Constituency I have heard of a couple of pensions withdrawn, and in my opinion quite rightly and justifiably withdrawn. In one particular case the pensioners were an old couple. The man had been in the Army, and had served his full time, and late in life had gone, while drawing an Army pension, to live in Canada for a matter of 18 or 20 years. Out of those 18 or 20 years 11 had come within the last 20 years, and he was therefore excluded upon a purely technical point from the benefit of the Act. But I do not think that anyone will say that that is the case of which we could complain. I confess myself I did not know precisely at the time what was the law on that matter, and I am quite sure that of the two or three thousand by which the number has been reduced a great many would come under that category—that is to say, of pensions granted in mistake definitely against the letter of the law. But that is not the real question with which we are dealing. The question is whether the Treasury and the Government in their desire to diminish the amount they are granting to Ireland are proceeding fairly, or are proceeding unfairly. I was asked last night a not unnatural question, namely, what we should have done ourselves in this matter if we had been administering in Ireland the Old Age Pensions Act, and how it would have worked out under our rule. I have not the least hesitation in saying that we should have done more good with less expenditure of money.
§ Mr. GWYNN
We would have done good to the people. It stands to common-sense that if we had framed this scheme of old age pension for Ireland we should have taken account of the Irish position. We should have realised the elementary fact which was brought out in Debate the other day that whereas the average income of persons in this country is £42, the average income in Ireland is £15. I am prepared 2046 to say that we should probably not have put the scale of qualification as high as 10s. a week, and I think that very possibly, instead of 5s. a week, we should have granted 3s. 6d., which, in Connemara, or in any part of Ireland, is worth as much as 5s. is in Battersea. But that does not matter. The thing is done now. Under Home Rule we should have to pay the 5s. old age pension. I have no doubt we could do it, and the aged poor in Ireland would be better provided for than the aged poor in England. But it is not we who are administrating this Act, though we are determined that if it comes to us as part of the administration of Ireland, to get whatever good we can out of it. We stand here to fight for the last penny that is legally and honourably due to Ireland under this Act. But I suppose that on this question of qualification the Treasury came to the conclusion that the administration of the Act in Ireland was unduly lax in the matter of inquiry. It is quite clear, however, that there must be some scope for administration in the matter. There must be some use of discretion, because I think the Chief Secretary, who, I must say, in these matters is regarded as actuated by humane feelings, would recognise the fact that in Ireland the age of a person is largely a matter of conjecture. The fact that there is no documentary evidence of age in many cases is not our fault, and inquiries are conducted on certain principles which, I think, cannot be very definitely defined. It is perfectly absurd to refuse an old age pension to a person because he cannot find the entry of his birth in the register, and therefore cannot prove his age in that way. A case came under my own observation. It was that of a servant employed by people of my acquaintance. Her employer certified in a letter that 40 years ago she had come into his employment, giving her age as 40 years. It was fair to assume, under those conditions, that she did not overstate her age on applying for employment. I think I am justified in also saying that she had at that time a daughter who was old enough to be a maidservant about the house. Although her employer gave this testimony—and he was a responsible person, a professor of theology—the pension officers under the new régime absolutely declined to accept that evidence. I say it was evidence, and conclusive evidence, that would have been accepted in any court in the world. Still the pension was refused on that ground. The difficulty in 2047 this case was in finding the certificate of birth or to find a trace of it in the register. However, it so happened that there were people who were willing to take a little trouble in the case of this woman, and they succeeded in establishing the age of her elder sister and also that of her younger sister, which put the age of the applicant conjecturally at about 87 or 89 years of age. I may say that on this evidence she was eventually granted the pension. It appears to me that this conclusively shows there was an unduly severe standard of proof set up, and if this old woman, who was poor and absolutely necessitous, had been without friends she would not have been able to obtain the pension. I simply stand on that simple case.
Another matter which I wish to discuss is that with reference to the age of men in Ireland who have been tenants of farm land. Here, again, the Chief Secretary, I think, will take a humane view of the matter. The man who lives as a migratory labourer in Ireland, and who has a small holding in the north or in the west of Ireland, comes over and works for five or six months in England, using his home in Ireland merely as a place where he winters and where he brings up his children. I think it will be admitted that such a man would be a fit recipient of the old age pension when he came to be of proper age. I discussed the case of such a man with whom I was staying a couple of years ago. We discussed the relative prosperity of a man of his own class and of a man of the small farmer class in Ireland. He was of opinion that the migratory labourers went to England and came back with a good deal of money in their pockets—£15 or £20, perhaps, which is wealth, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, in Connemara and Donegal, and that even these people were better off than the small farmers. I will take a concrete case very well known to me, and in which, unfortunately, the old age pension never came into actuality. It was precisely a typical case, that of a man farming 28 acres of land, of which eight acres were arable. He worked that land through the whole of his life, and his sons worked it with him. I do not exactly know what his rent was; he was one of the people who bought under the old Church Act, I think. But, supposing it was a freehold, I ask whether this old man, when he comes to be over 70 years of age, would be a fit recipient of the old age pension or not. I 2048 maintain that he would be. Everybody in Ireland knows that in farming land a man cannot speculate, and that if you have a farm of this kind it will perhaps pay the wages that a man could earn by living out of it. When that man has got past the age at which he could labour he handed over the management of his farm to his sons, and lived there in his sons' house, still nominally holding the property in his own name, though practically it was that of his sons. Legally, no doubt, he could have sold the farm and turned his sons out of doors. I daresay that was the position in law, but practically such a proceeding is one that could not be contemplated, as far as Ireland goes. Now, there are hundreds of thousands of men in that position in Ireland. Hon. Members may have seen a book—"The Green Republic"—dealing with this question, in which the author specially deplores the tendency of agriculture to concentrate itself into management by very old people. The administration of the Old Age Pensions Act therefore becomes of vital and economic interest. If it is to be considered that the farmer can legally make over his farm to his son while living in the same house, and receive his pension from the State as a man who has done his work and is past work, why then, I think, the tendency will be to increase the transfer from the management of old men to the management of young men, and that is a thing eminently to be desired in the interests of the country. On the other hand, if you decide that this, man who has lived all his life on his farm, leading a frugal existence among his sons, who is not the class of man who can afford to pay for flesh meat from year's end to year's end, whose day's work is from dawn to dusk, and who increases in thousands of cases the national wealth, must remain on his farm, then the results will be very different. I take the case of a farmer whose farm consisted of five fields and now it consists of six fields, because he and his sons brought into cultivation a piece of barren, stony moorland in front of their door. They took the stone away from it with great labour, and eventually succeeded in making it cultivable. They did this work in the winter, when there was nothing else to do about the farm, and in this way they added to the extent of the holding. The question is whether a man who did that is entitled to qualify for old age pensions, or whether he is to be made to sell that farm for so much, and to turn his son out of doors. For my part, I think those farmers are not 2049 owners at all, but life tenants. They use the farm as a means of winning wages for themselves, and in the evening of their days, when their work is done, they are as well entitled to have the benefit of the superannuation clause, and the superannuation clause is as necessary for them, as it is that in the British Army you should superannuate your officers when they get past their work. I hold that those men are as well worthy of pensions as either captain or colonel or Cabinet Minister.
§ Mr. W. MOORE
I want to say just a few words on this subject. I think we have had a considerable amount of matter brought before us for consideration by hon. Members below the Gangway. Although we represent constituencies which in point of numbers and size, generally speaking, are equal to many of the constituencies in the rest of Ireland, it is a very remarkable thing that practically all of us have received very few complaints from any of our constituents in the North about the working of the Old Age Pensions Act. It is only right I should make that statement. I know a good deal about the condition of the people in the rural parts of county Antrim, and I am bound to say there is a universal impression that there is very little to complain of as far as the people of that county are concerned with the working of the Act. It is not my business to defend the Treasury as at present constituted. I have no desire to do so, but as a matter of fair play it should be noticed that all the discontent appears to come exclusively from one part of the country. It appears to me to be rather anomalous for hon. Members below the Gangway, who never miss an opportunity of expressing their hatred of everything British, of every benefit, as well as of every evil which comes from the Union, but they should never miss an opportunity of getting up to claim the last penny from the British Treasury. That is a matter for their own consistency which they never claim exclusive credit for, and it is entirely a matter for themselves. I would like to say, however, that the whole question of old age pensions, which was a measure which was brought in by both parties in the House, although an effort is now being made to make it be paid for by one, I would like to say it was a measure which was welcomed with profound gratitude by the people, and certainly in the North. I think it has worked exceedingly well in the urban districts and manufacturing districts and amongst the artizans. 2050 The artizan has nothing but his labour to depend upon. He may have a few savings, though if he has a family to support his savings cannot be much. To the decayed artizan the old age pension is a boon, and the same thing applies to the labourer in the rural districts.
There is a great deal of feeling in the North of Ireland over one part of it. I understand the Government have held out promises of amendment to that very deserving class of people who were obliged to go on the poor law for relief. That is, the people who receive outdoor relief, and who, by the operation of the Act at present, are debarred from pensions. There have been very deserving cases. A case was brought to my knowledge by the Dean of Dromore. He sent the details, and as they came from a real dean, I thought I might see into them. It was the case of a poor woman working all her life in one of the factories in Lurgan, a town in my Constituency. Some years ago, in order to eke out a living, she had taken for payment an orphan from an orphan society. At a certain time, when the orphan attained the age of 16 years, under the rules of the society she could no longer be boarded out. She would then have to leave the old woman and take her place in the world. The old woman had become so attached to the orphan that she refused to let her leave her house, and kept her on. After a few years the orphan was threatened with consumption, and the local doctor certified that the only way of preserving the child's life was to get her outdoor relief, so that she might have milk and nourishing food. The old woman was, in a sense, the guardian of the orphan, and although she never asked for a penny for herself, it was her name was put in the rates accounts as the recipient of this outdoor relief. I think it was 2s. per week, and all of it went in medical nourishment for the orphan.
I am not saying anything about the technicalities of the case, although I do think there are circumstances in which discretion ought to be allowed, and in which one could go behind technicalities of that sort. In the case which I have mentioned the pension was disallowed. I sent the correspondence to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board of England—perhaps an oversight on my part. I had heard him speak of old age pensions in the House, and I thought, hastily, he was the proper Minister to bring it before. The right hon. Gentleman, whom I am glad to see in his place, has always treated us on these 2051 benches with the utmost courtesy, and has looked into any matter we have brought before him. He wrote me to say that this was not a case in which he had any direct control, but that he was sending the context and my letter to the Chief Secretary, who was the Gentleman who had control, and with a recommendation from himself. For that courtesy I have to thank the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. That is two months ago, but inasmuch as the complaint related to a Unionist constituent, and from a Unionist Member, I have not had the faintest acknowledgment from the Chief Secretary, and it is quite on a par with his treatment of all Irish Unionist Members with regard to Irish Unionist constituencies. I do not suppose anything further will be done, because if the correspondence in that quarter is not acknowledged it means that the Chief Secretary has no interest in the matter, and will not have any. The case of this old lady is a very hard case, and she will be obliged to forego her pension. I thought it right to bring the matter before the House, and to give the Chief Secretary an opportunity of explaining why a communication sent by a brother Minister was ignored, and is being ignored.
The question in the rural districts about the class the Member for Galway has referred to, the farming class, that I think is a very different one. I cannot say I share his views. The Member for East Tyrone referred to the case of a farmer, and spoke of it as a hardship that he got no old age pension where his instalment was calculated at £11 per year. What does a farmer with £11 per year instalment mean? It means that if that man were to go into the market and sell his farm anywhere in the North he would get 500 sovereigns in the market for it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] I know perfectly well what I am talking about. I know what the acreage would be, and what the valuation would be, and I say a man situated like that is not half so deserving a case as the broken-down labourer, even if the labourer is only 60 or 65 years. The labourer has to live in a house in a village, he has got to get potato ground from some neighbouring farmer, and he has to bring up his family in decency and comfort. I say that man is a more deserving case than a farmer with land, bought out, who could get £400 or £500 for it in the market. If this Act was to be properly administered and on business lines it is not 2052 for men with assets of that sort, the man who has a farm and has money. The money may be locked up in land—we hear a lot about that nowadays. It should be for the labourer who has no money, and who could not raise 50 sovereigns, not to speak of 500, that is the man who is more deserving of an old age pension. I should like to see, in the administration of the Act, that case more widely provided for and the age limit lowered. No reduction has been moved to this Vote. As I say, we are fairly satisfied with the working of the Act, so far as absence of complaint is concerned. I merely venture to bring this before the Committee that they may understand how the Act is regarded in the North of Ireland.
§ Mr. JOSEPH DEVLIN
I really cannot understand why the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down has intervened in this Debate. He has no complaint to make. He says everything is being conducted in the most admirable way, and, unless for the illuminating circumstances that when dealing with Irish complaints he wrote to the English Local Government Board instead of to the Irish Local Government Board, I fail to see a cause for his intervention here to-day. He has, no doubt, such a hatred of Ireland, his own country, that he cannot even swallow that English institution established in Ireland, the Irish Local Government Board. He complains in his speech that we have raised this question.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
He stated he made no complaint against the English Treasury. He would make a complaint against the English Treasury if the English Treasury was not sufficiently generous to the landlords of Ireland, but he has no complaint to make of the English Treasury if hundreds, and even thousands, of the wretched poor of Ireland are by mere officialdom and red tape deprived of rights which this great and beneficent measure proposed to confer upon them. In fact, he rather rose to praise the British Treasury for having withheld those pensions justly due to those poor people, but in some future Debates on the Land Bill he will then be endeavouring to extract all he can, and rightly if he can secure it, for his landlord friends whom he represents in this House. He was also somewhat cynical in his denunciation of the small farmer to whom my hon. Friend the Member for East Tyrone referred, 2053 the small farmer whom he stated could get £500 for his farm if he sold out. But even if he did sell out his farm and secure the £500 he would still be entitled to the old age pension, because the £500 invested would not give him an amount which would be above that which would debar him from an old age pension. I am afraid he seems to have somewhat questionable views on the land question. He despises the small farmer, and he tells us the generous price that a small farmer would secure for his farm; but I suppose he was calculating the price on the 31 years' purchase which he himself secured for Irish land in a recent sale.
He also says that he has no complaints from his constituency, and that none of his constituents have complained as to the administration of this Act. I do not think his constituents ever trouble him at all. If there was a party question, if there was a question of the maintenance of the privileged classes, if there was a question of defending landlord interests, if there was a question of raising party passion, if there was a question of creating dissension and division between the people of one section of Ireland and the other, no doubt he would not only have plenty of complaints, but he would come to the House and be an eloquent apostle of those somewhat varied interests which he represents. But old age pensions, the interests of tenant farmers, the welfare of the working classes, and the proper administration of the Old Age Pensions Act—these are too contemptuous and too democratic matters for humble constituents to approach the majesty of the hon. and learned Gentleman upon; and I can very well understand that old age pensioners or potential pensioners, unless they are potential placemen—which is a very different thing—do not interest the hon. and learned Gentleman. Therefore, the fact that he has received no complaints from his constituents does not prove in the least that there are not many grievances existing among them with which we will deal here to-day.
I desire also to support the complaints which have been made by the hon. Member for East Tyrone. He has stated that in connection with the United Irish League, which has constituted itself a bureau, not for the defence of the rich and privileged, but for the defence of every interest that touches the lives of the working classes and the poor people of Ireland, we have given great attention to the adminis- 2054 tration of this measure, and have been responsible without cost to the claimants for nearly 50,000 searches in the census offices in Dublin. Therefore, I feel that we are entitled, with all the knowledge we have at our disposal, and because of the experience we have gained as to the limitations in the administration of the Act, to bring our complaints before the House. In the first place, the later instructions issued by the Department in London has caused grievous wrong to a large seceiton of deserving people. It was actually ordered that, where the claimant could not or would not give the necessary particulars for the search, or if the census office reported that a claimant's name could not be traced, the officer should report that no evidence of age had been produced and that the claim could not be allowed. On the question of age, I have here the report of a speech delivered by the English Attorney-General—and, after all, what we have to deal with are the promises made in the House of Commons, and not the secret instructions issued by a Government Department. On an Amendment proposed by the Noble Lord, the Member for East Marylebone, that each claimant should prove his age, the English Attorney-General made the following statement:—The Noble Lord would surely not wish to make it a statutory enactment that no man, however old he might be, was to be able to receive a pension unless he could produce a certificate of birth…. In truth, when the Bill came into operation, there would be many cases in which no sort of proof would be required, because the pensions committee in the neighbourhood would know that the applicant was very old It was left entirely to them…. It would be undesirable to indicate now what the future regulations would be.If it was left entirely to them, I should like to ask why these Instructions have been issued. The very old people in Ireland look much younger than they really are; therefore, I would say that when a claimant is personally known to the pensions committee, and when it is proven in their judgment that he is 70 years of age, that ought to be taken as sufficient evidence. With regard to the Census Returns, I have here a case from Newry, in which), in 1841, a claimant was given as three years of age, and in 1851 his age was given as nine years. Another claimant, in 1841, according to the Census Returns, was one year old, and in 1851 he was 13 years of age. In regard to another claimant, in the 1841 census there was no trace of him at all, but in the 1851 returns his age was given as 15. I have also an extract from the "Irish Times" of April, 1909—a report of the inquiry at Clair Morris by the Somerset House inspectors into the 2055 general administration of the Old Age Pensions Act in that district. The report states:—As the district is now the seat of operations, it may he interesting to cite some cases which go to show the unreliability of the Census Returns. Martin Regan, Cultybo, lost his pension on a return made from the census of 1851, which showed him to be only 58 years old, but his book was soon afterwards restored on a certificate from the 1841 census, according to which he was 74 years old. Patrick Flaherty, of Corskeogh, was refused a pension on the ground that, according to the 1851 census, he was only 68 years old, but, later his application was passed on a return from the 1841 census, which showed him to be 71 years old. The same applies to a Mrs. Anne Kerrone, of Newtown, who was 68 according to the 1851 census, but 70 according to the 1841 returns. The inquiry is being conducted privately, but the examination of the Census Returns has not yet concluded.There is also another case from Unionist Ulster, were they have no grievances, or, at all events, where they have grievances but never tell their Members of Parliament about them. These are really philanthropic constituencies. I wish we on these Benches were as completely relieved of the troubles, worries, and ordinary complaints as the hon. and learned Member has boasted himself to be. In one division of Antrim I know the case of an old crippled woman, 84 years of age, who was refused a pension because she was unable to bring forward documentary evidence as to her age. Everybody connected with the locality was well aware of her age, and the pensions committee was satisfied. Even the pensions officer was satisfied, and when she complained that she had not received her pension he wrote her a letter saying that she should send 2s. to the Record Office in Dublin and have a search made. I want to ask the representative of the Treasury what precisely is the fee to be paid for these researches? I understood that it was to be 1s., but this poor old crippled woman is forced to send 2s., and is also told in the letter that she need not expect any reply for three weeks. Why should she be forced to pay 2s. for a search? Why should she have to wait three weeks before she gets even a reply? I put a question on the Paper with regard to this case and although it was in February that her claim was admitted, two days before the question was answered I received a telegram saying that the pension had been granted not from the time that she made the application, but from 1st May. This only shows the great advantage of having Members who take an interest in their constituencies. It also shows the advantage of a Nationalist Member taking an interest in the constituency of a loyal Unionist. This happened in the 2056 heart and centre of loyal and prosperous Ulster, where, I have no doubt, there are hundreds of other claimants who have equally just and adequate rights in this matter, but they know that hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway are too busy considering what they will do to secure for the class which they represent such financial interests as they have always conserved for them, and so they think it better to write to a common Nationalist Member, who believes that the interest of the poorest and most wretched creature in the community is as vital as the interest of the richest of the privileged classes in England, Scotland, or Ireland.
The Old Age Pensions Act was one of the greatest proofs of humanitarian statesmanship that has been conceived in the last half century. It was a recognition by the State of its responsibilities not towards the professional or richest classes, who can defend their own interests, especially if they come from the North of Ireland; it was a recognition that the soldiers of labour, the workers and the toilers, have also some right to look to the State to safeguard their interests after they have served the State for 70 years; and I think it is a foolish and a mean thing, after this great and beneficent measure has been passed, to take advantage of technicalities, which I do not believe will be justified in this House, in order to rob a large number of claimants who have advanced just claims, in order to prevent a few claimants whose claims are not just from having pensions conceded to them. This money is not English, but Irish, money. It is the first great act of restitution for which England has been responsible in her fiscal relations with our country. I am glad that the restitution has taken this form. I would rather see an old age pensioner receiving 5s. a week than an Ulster Unionist Member receiving 31½ years purchase for his land. It is not only an act of justice, but it is a great act of social reform. It is because I believe you spoil the effect of this great reform and rob the measure of its grace that I trust that whoever replies for the Government will recognise the moderation and justice of the claim advanced by the hon. Member for East Tyrone, and that every facility will be given in order that rightful persons may secure the object which Parliament had in view when the Old Age Pensions Act was passed.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
I regret very much that the hon. Member who has just spoken has not condescended to give more 2057 information, not only with reference to old age pensions, but also with reference to the future of some of us who sit on these benches. In the comparatively numerous speeches which he has delivered in this House during the last five years he has usually spent from one-third to one-half of his time in communicating to the House and the country at large the various emoluments and positions of trust which my colleagues and myself are eventually to hold. To-night, for some reason or other, the hon. Member has got no further than describing my colleagues and myself as potential placemen. That is a disappointment to us. I, at any rate, expected that the hon. Member would inform me that I was to fill the office perhaps of Governor of the Leeward Islands, or Warden of the Cinque Ports, or some other office of that sort; but, as I say, he has got no further than describing us as potential placemen. The hon. Member found fault with us because we were unable to bring before the Committee any cases of hardship under this Act from Ulster. I might point out that the hon. Member himself represents an Ulster constituency, and that his constituency, being a working-class constituency, probably contains as many old age pensioners as any constituency in Ireland, certainly in Ulster. Yet the hon. Member, in his zeal for the aged in Ireland, is unable to fish out even one single case of harsh treatment among the old age pensioners in his own constituency. Not only is that so, but out of the whole of Ulster, comprising from 15 to 25 constituencies, he is only able to bring one concrete case before this Committee. Well, there are some 14 or 15 Ulster Unionist Members. A considerable number of the constituencies are represented by Nationalist Members. I do not know the exact number. But I would submit to the Committee, and say in parenthesis—although it is a curious position for me to be championing the Treasury as to the administration of the Old Age Pensions Act—but facts are facts—and I am not going to stand here and hear my colleagues and myself maligned and found fault with for not bringing hard cases before the Committee in connection with this matter, when as a matter of fact the hon. Member for Glasgow knows perfectly well that these hard cases in our part of the world, whatever may be the case in other parts, are non-existent, or practically non-existent. He may rest perfectly assured that in spite of our supposed championship of the rights of what he 2058 calls the superior classes, that if these cases of hardship, which he says exists, really existed, we should have heard about them, and if they had proved to be correct neither he nor the Treasury need have any fear that we should have brought them before the Committee on this occasion. As a matter of fact the Old Age Pensions Act has proved an immense boon, an immense blessing, not only to Ulster but to the rest of Ireland. That there are hard cases I do not for a moment pretend to deny. No doubt in time they will be looked into. But, as a whole, the Old Age Pensions Act has done more to alleviate the position of the poor in Ireland than any Act of legislation which has ever been passed by this country. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that. The hon. Member for Galway, when he delivered his speech, made use of some expressions which I really thought, coming from him, were inexcusable. He said he did not believe that the House of Commons, if they had understood or had foreseen what was going to happen after the passing of this Act, ever would have passed it. I do not believe that. I believe the House of Commons—even the Members on these benches—were determined to pass the Old Age Pensions Act last year. In the remarks I make now I do not mean to say that I consider the Old Age Pensions Act a perfect Act. I should have considered it more perfect if it had contained something of a contributory nature. But the Act was passed, and although as a matter of fact the number of pensioners which have been found to exist under the Act in Ireland is much greater than was anticipated, I am perfectly convinced that even had the House known the number of pensioners in Ireland that would not have made the slightest difference. The Act would have been passed just the same. The hon. Member for Galway also said that they were determined to get—in spite of the very numerous hard cases which he mentioned—to get what little good they could out of the Act.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I am sorry to say that I took the hon. Member's words down immediately he spoke them. He said: "What little good we can out of this Act." These were the very words made use of. I would ask the Committee to remember that that little good which the hon. Member spoke of amounts to 2½ millions per annum. I think it came very ill from hon. Members 2059 below the Gangway, when they are getting so much benefit out of this Act, to raise any superficial objection to the way in which it is worked. Personally, I think the way the Act is working now—I do not know when it came into operation in my part, the North of Ireland, but for several weeks after the first pensions were paid it was most extraordinary to see and hear about these poor people. One poor person who got a pension said (it was reported afterwards), when asked by a friend as to what he thought of the new Old Age Pensions Act, replied: "Indade, sor, it is better for us than the worrst famine ever we had"—meaning by that that the charity of the English, which usually followed on famine or distress in Ireland, never brought so much money to these poor people's pockets as had this Old Age Pensions Act. Well, it was only really the criticism of hon. Members below the Gangway that induced me to make the remarks I have made as to the Act.
What I principally wanted to bring before the Committee was the action of the Treasury in refusing all information with reference to the number of old age pensions, and the amount of money paid out. I have asked several questions on this subject. The first of them was addressed to the Chief Secretary. That was if he would grant a Return—I will admit the details of the Return were comparatively complicated, for there was the number of cases and the amount in certain poor law unions. The Chief Secretary after, I suppose, consultation with the Treasury, informed me that he could not give me that information. I next put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I think it was. It was to the effect: What was approximately the weekly amount distributed in old age pensions in nine counties in Ireland? The Secretary of the Treasury replied that as the available statistics did not show the amount distributed for old age pensions in individual counties, he was unable to give the information asked for. I asked another question the other day of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He gave me practically the same reply. But at the same time, after being pressed, he said he would look further into the matter, and admitted in the first instance the desirability of our having this information. He said: "I will endeavour to let the hon. Member have it." I put a further question, to which I got an answer this morning from the Secretary of the Treasury. 2060 In this he stated that the number of pensions actually paid in each county could only be ascertained by obtaining the particulars from the Post Office, and the obtaining of which, at the present moment, would involve considerable labour, and would consequently impede the more pressing work of dealing with outstanding claims.
I desire to examine these answers very shortly. I am not, I must admit, very closely acquainted with the work of the Old Age Pensions Act, but I suppose that each of the county councils appoints a pensions officer—
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY of the TREASURY (Mr. Hobhouse)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I will answer that. The county council has nothing to do with the appointment of the pensions officer.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
At any rate, they appoint pensions sub-committees, and I understand that all these cases under the Old Age Pensions Act, the number which is granted as well as the amount, is in the hands of this sub-committee. There must be some officer in connection with that sub-committee who can tell, by reference to books, the number of old age pensions which were paid, for instance, last week. Furthermore, in some cases in a county I understand that there is only one committee for a whole county. In other cases there are a considerable number of subcommittees. At any rate, perhaps 18 subcommittees for a county is possibly a fair average.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
Well, and yet we are informed that the Treasury cannot send a printed letter to each of these sub-committees or their pensions officers—the names of whom are perfectly well known at the Treasury and by the authorities in Ireland—and ask them the number of pensions which have been granted in each of these districts. As my hon. and learned Friend beside me reminds me, this information is in the possession of the Post Office. To tell us that the obtaining of this information really involves any serious amount of labour I venture to say is absurd. The thing can be perfectly easily got. I submit from two points of view we ought to have this information. First, there is some 10 millions of money expended in old age pensions which comes out of our pockets. Therefore, I maintain 2061 we are entitled to know where that money is going to; how much has been paid to this and that part of the country. I cannot conceive that the excuse of the labour which the hon. Gentleman has given to all these questions of mine in reality exists at all. It is simply a matter of writing letters to the pensions' officers, asking them for the number of claims admitted, and those under consideration. I am perfectly convinced that the information could be perfectly easily obtained.
Against the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary I have a good many complaints to make. I must admit in this case, had it lain with him, he would never have brought forward the plea that has been put forward for not giving me the information I sought. He has given us information which must have taken ten times the amount of labour than the particular information which I ask for. I can only conclude that the Treasury is keeping this information back for some reason of their own. That brings me to the question of secrecy, to which one hon. Member below the Gangway very properly alluded. What can be the object of preserving secrecy in the case of these pensions? If it is supposed to be on the part of the people themselves, so far as I have been able to observe, there is not one single person desirous of keeping the fact secret that he or she is receiving a pension. On the contrary, they are very glad to let it be known. They are not ashamed of the fact. There is no reason that they should be. There should be the utmost publicity in the granting of these pensions, and in giving to the public and the House of Commons the information they require with regard to them. That on general grounds. I go further, because I say that in the case of Ireland, in view of the fact that when the Land Bill which the right hon. Gentleman has already introduced comes to be discussed in Committee, one of the arguments which will be used against Part 3 of that Bill—namely, the Congested District proposal—one of the arguments which we shall bring forward against that is the amount of money which is flowing into these districts in the way of pensions.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
Yes, we make no secret about it. The amount of money which is flowing into these districts, into the portions of Ireland which are known as the congested counties, and which the right 2062 hon. Gentleman proposes to group together as congested districts, is so great that it has entirely revolutionised this whole question of congestion. We maintain—we will maintain in due course—that the poverty which undoubtedly existed, and undoubtedly does exist in some places even now in the congested districts in the West of Ireland, has largely disappeared owing to the beneficent action of the Old Age Pensions Act. That being so, if the income taxpayer is to be asked under the right hon. Gentleman's Land Bill to find large sums of money for the relief of congestion in the West, we are entitled to know how much money has been paid in these districts in old age pensions. Now, Sir, the hon. Member the Secretary of the Treasury told us this afternoon that it was impossible to get these figures without a great deal of labour. I asked him, by way of a supplementary question, whether he was aware that in the county of Mayo—
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
The hon. Member asked me why it was that the figures of the county councils — not one county council.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I do not remember that I put the matter that way. My recollection of the form of my question was whether the figures had already been published with reference to at least one county. However, I will do that now, and I would ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that with reference to the county of Mayo the figures as to old age pensions have been published in the public Press as long ago as last January, and if it is possible for that to be done in the case of the county of Mayo three months ago how can he possibly sustain his contention of this morning that to get the figures for the other counties would involve so much labour as seriously to interfere with the administration of the Act in regard to outstanding claims? I said these figures must be easily got, and we are entitled to the fullest information about these things. We are entitled to know how much one county has got as compared with another county; we are entitled to have that information, especially in view of the forthcoming Land Bill; it is of the utmost importance that we should have these figures. I may remind the hon. Member that the Post Office must have the information I am asking for, and it would be perfectly easy, if the pensions committee's officers are so busy with other matters, for the hon. Gentleman to obtain this information from the Post Office. I 2063 shall certainly, if the answer which the hon. Member gives this afternoon is not satisfactory, continue to press for this information. It is a perfectly legitimate request, and we have a perfect right to ask for the details of the distribution of this money.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Before dealing with the more general questions raised by hon. Members opposite below the Gangway I shall ask the attention of the Committee for a few moments to the particular issues raised by the hon. Member for South Antrim. The hon. Member is, I think, not fully acquainted with the system under which the Old Age Pensions Act is worked.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
And if he had been more fully acquainted with it he would not make the accusations which he has made perfectly plainly this afternoon, that the Treasury for some mysterious reason which he has been unable to explain are desirous of withholding from the country and the Committee the amount granted in old age pensions in the different counties in Ireland. The system under which the Old Age Pensions Act is worked is this: In every county a pension committee is set up—I am not going into the details. In the vast majority of counties, both in England and Ireland, the Old Age Pensions Committee is broken up into a number of small committees scattered all over the counties. In one or two counties in England, I do not really think in more than one or two, and I think the same thing applies to Ireland, the county council is itself the pension committee. The only county I know of in England in which that is the case is my own county of Wiltshire, and the hon. Member for South Antrim has mentioned the county of Mayo in Ireland. In those two counties, and perhaps one or two others, the county council is the pension committee, and in these counties as the pension committee, not as county council, they have the figures available, and no doubt they can be given, and given easily; but in the other counties where the system of breaking up the work of old age pensions is adopted, and where it is distributed among a large number of sub-committees, no county council has the figures which are available in the case which the hon. Member has quoted. The pensions officer is not the officer of any one sub-committee; his area extends sometimes over one, sometimes over two, some- 2064 times over more, pension committees, and, therefore, no pension committee necessarily has a knowledge of the work, and the labour of collecting statistics from a large number of pension officers, whose area overlaps the area controlled by the pension committee, is far greater and far more difficult than the hon. Member is willing to admit. I hope the explanation I have given shows that there is no real unwillingness on the part of the Treasury to communicate this information if we could get it, but there is the difficulty, and the difficulty especially of postponing of new claims. I assure the hon. Member that whatever other fears he may entertain as to the action of the Treasury with regard to this particular question he need not be under any misapprehension or misunderstanding as to their perfect willingness to give the figures where they are available.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
Do I understand the hon. Member to say that the pension committee is not in possession of the number of old age pensions granted in the area over which they are appointed, and, if so, would it not be perfectly easy to get from the old age pensions committee the number of pensions paid in their district?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Perhaps it would from the old age pensions committee. I am not sure that they could give the figures; they could give the charges involved in connection with the granting of the pensions, but I do not think they could give the figures; these should be obtained from the pensions officer. I do not know on what suspicions the hon. Member has founded this charge. We would give the figures if we could get them.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I have given the information, which I hope will be satisfactory to the Committee, as to our action in regard to this matter. I now come to the real subject under discussion this afternoon, which is the administration, so far as the Treasury is concerned, of the Old Age Pensions Act in Ireland. It is well known to hon. Members opposite that the administration is divided partly between the Treasury, as controlling the old age pensions officers, and the Irish Local Government Board, as controlled by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and it is only with the former part of the administration of the Act that I, personally, as repre- 2065 senting the Treasury, am concerned. The hon. Member for East Tyrone, who initiated this discussion, spoke in one part of his speech of what he was pleased to call the vindictiveness of the Treasury. I can assure him I think it is very undesirable from every point of view that there should be any substantial or irremovable belief in the minds of Members of this House representing Irish constituencies, or in the minds of the public of this country, that there is any intention to make a substantial distinction, or, indeed, any sort of distinction, between the administration of the Old Age Pensions Act in Ireland and in Great Britain. It would be a very unfortunate thing from the point of view of the Department which was responsible for making that distinction, and it would be still more unfortunate from the point of view of hon. Members opposite. I confess I should be the first person if I were aware of any such distinction to endeavour to get that distinction removed. The hon. Member for Galway very properly referred to a report which, I think, at the end of last year or the beginning of this year, got afloat, and which suggested that there were a great number, an overwhelming number, of old age pensions granted in Ireland which were undeservedly obtained. Well, we were not responsible in any way for that rumour. The Government, of which I am the spokesman, were in no way responsible for the circulation of that rumour. My recollection is—I have not looked the matter up—but my recollection is that that matter was repudiated from this Bench at the earliest possible opportunity. But unquestionably the lie—and I think I may so describe it—got a start, and it is exceedingly difficult to catch up with any rumour or any statement of that sort.
§ Mr. KETTLE
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me whether it is not a fact that all these reports circulated in the newspapers were founded on the despatch of this secret committee to Ireland?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I quite understand the anxiety of the hon. Member, and I am going to deal, I hope, fairly fully with all the questions raised by him in the course of his speech. There were, no doubt, circumstances connected with the granting of old age pensions to people in Ireland which had excited public opinion both in England and in Ireland to anticipate, or, at all events, to imagine that a state of things had arisen and was in existence in Ireland which was very different from the state of 2066 things that obtained in this country. The hon. Member for East Tyrone and the hon. Member for the City of Galway in one form or another suggested that the British Government had been niggardly and mean in their administration, and other hon. Members suggested that had it been known how great would have been the cost involved in the administration of pensions given in Ireland the undertaking of the Old Age Pensions Act would never have been faced. As the Member in the House responsible for the Treasury, I venture to repudiate that suggestion with all the force which I can possibly command. Undoubtedly miscalculation was made as to the cost of the Old Age Pensions Act, and it was made not only with respect to Ireland but with respect to Great Britain also.
The number of persons dependent upon the old age pensions grant is no doubt, in proportion to the population in Ireland, greater than in this country, but the underestimate of course has been far greater in Great Britain than it has been in Ireland, but whatever that cost may in the future the policy which is embarked upon of the Old Age Pensions Act has never been regretted for one moment, either by the Government who proposed it or by the people of this country who have to pay for it. I said there was certain circumstances connected with Ireland which had aroused public curiosity in both countries. What were these circumstances? Up to 31st December, 1908, applications for pensions in Great Britain were in round figures 510,000, what were called the septuagenarians in the census of 1901 in Great Britain were 1,020,000, and the estimated number of septuagenarians up to the end of 1908 was 1,080,000, so that the number of applicants in Great Britain was almost half of the number of people who were 70 or over 70 years of age. In Ireland the position was exactly the reverse. The number of applicants for pensions up to December 31st, 1908, was 231,000, the septuagenarian census of 1901 was 185,000, and those who might expect to be septuagenarians in 1908 was 200,000. So that whereas the proportion of persons over 70 to the persons who actually applied for pensions was two to one in Ireland, it was about three to two in this country, and I think that was a striking difference. It may have been caused by the great poverty in the West of Ireland to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded in very moving and feeling terms. It is a poverty to which no hon. Member of this House 2067 can allude in speech or in thought without appreciating and understanding how great are the difficulties of the Irish people. But whatever the cause of this discrepancy was, I think it justifies both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in causing an inquiry into the circumstances which led to the discrepancy, not for the purpose of finding fault or reducing the number of pensions, but for obtaining an explanation of circumstances which were undoubtedly abnormal. The Prime Minister referred to this question in a speech made on 13th February in this House, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer also referred to it in a speech which has been quoted already by the hon. Member for East Tyrone.
I should just like to mention, in passing, the fact that before either of those right hon. Gentlemen had expressed any opinion on the matter, the Inland Revenue themselves had been struck with the figures which I have quoted, and they had on their own account made some inquiries as to the causes which were operating to bring about the results which I have just put before the House. In consequence of the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the House was informed in answer to the question put by an hon. Member below the Gangway, six inspectors were sent to Ireland to inquire into this Question. I think some exaggerated, and I might say almost extravagant, language has been used by the hon. Member for East Tyrone in reference to the inquiry made by these inspectors. The hon. Member alluded to this inquiry as being a secret tribunal, as if it was some dark and deadly inquisition. But it was nothing of the sort. It was not held, as I have already said, in any way to prevent the granting of pensions or to cast any reflection upon the honesty of the Irish people. The hon. Member for Galway City said that the people of Ireland—and I absolutely agree with him—had a legal right to get the last penny out of the Old Age Pensions Act to which they were entitled; but they were not entitled any more than the people of this country to get anything more than a legal pension. They are not entitled to get an illegal grant of any pension, whether it happens to be granted in Great Britain or in Ireland.
What would have been the cost of any such inquiry as that started under the 2068 auspices of my right hon. Friend? These inspectors went to Ireland, and they were not, as has been asserted by the hon. Member for East Tyrone, all of them entirely ignorant of Irish affairs. They inquired from the respective pension officers as to the proportion of what I may call doubtful cases within the area of each pension officer. There was undoubtedly a certain proportion of doubtful grants of pensions just as there is in this country, and these cases were referred by the direction of the inspectors to Dublin for search in the census returns of 1841 and 1851. As I stated in reply to a question this afternoon, anybody who knows the circumstances under which any census is collected must be aware of the fact that a great many statements made in answer to questions put by the collectors of information are of doubtful accuracy, and cannot be depended upon. What happened? When the name in any doubtful case was found in the census as being within the limits of the proper age the case was at once agreed to as requiring no further evidence at all, and I think that was not an unreasonable course to take. On the other hand, however, when the name of the person whose pension was brought under notice was not discoverable in the census a not unreasonable doubt was raised as to the accuracy of the statement made by the claimant in question. In that case the hon. Member for East Tyrone suggested in his speech that every effort had been made to get hold of evidence which threw doubt upon the claimant's statement, and that evidence of that character was treated as preferential evidence for the purposes of the inquiry. I cannot speak from personal knowledge, but I have made inquiry upon this particular point, and I am assured by the Department which I am now representing that that statement is not one which, if made in perfectly good faith, can really be substantiated, nor was it in any way acted upon by the officials of the inquiry.
§ Mr. KETTLE
I quoted to the Committee three concrete cases on the point, and I gave particulars. I say that in those cases the report of the 1841 census was in favour of the claimant and the 1851 was against the claimant, and the latter was relied upon.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
It must not be assumed that you are always to take the evidence which is favourable to the claimant.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
This is a most important point. The suggestion is that the pension officer has been able to overawe in some inexplicable or subtle way the opinions of the pension committee. The decision does not rest with the pension officer. The function of his office is to bring to the notice of the pension committee the evidence connected with the case which is under examination, and it is for the pension committee to accept or to reject the evidence laid before them, and their decision, so far as that examination goes, is final and conclusive. [Cries of "No."] It is final so far as that examination is concerned. What happens? If the pension officer is dissatisfied with the result of examination before the pension committee, he can lodge an appeal within the statutory period to the Local Government Board. The pension officer has not only the right, but it is his duty when he is dissatisfied with the decision given by the pension committee, to carry the question to a higher tribunal. It has been suggested constantly by nearly every speaker from the benches opposite that the pension officer has been acting under orders in every case where he possibly could to carry the decision from the committee to the Local Government Board in Ireland. I can assure this Committee that no such orders have been issued. I have made a personal inquiry upon this point, and I am assured most distinctly and categorically that no instructions of that kind have been issued to the pension officers, who have been left a perfectly free hand.
§ Mr. KETTLE
Will the hon. Gentleman undertake to publish all the documents, circulars, letters, and other instructions which have been issued to pension officers?
§ Mr. KETTLE
Does the hon. Gentleman dispute the accuracy of the information contained in the circular issued 3rd February, 1909, which I have read to the Committee?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I have not the circular at hand to which the hon. Member refers, and I cannot carry the words in my mind. But I assure this Committee that I have made personal and strict inquiry, and I insisted upon no elusive answer being given, and I am assured that no instruc- 2070 tions of that sort, either written or oral, were given by the Board. After all, the decision rests with the pension committee, and if they are dissatisfied with the evidence it is for them to accept or reject the application or require the production of other evidence. So far as what is called documentary evidence is concerned, the decision of the committee can be given, and properly given, not merely upon documentary evidence but upon other sound and credible evidence. The hon. Member for Galway City brought to our notice this afternoon what I thought was a particularly hard case. He instanced an aged servant, who produced documentary as well as oral evidence, whose claim was rejected by the local pension committee.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
The pensions officer can object, but he cannot reject it. If the circumstances were as put by the hon. Member I should unquestionably think that the pensions officer went beyond the attitude which I think he might reasonably have taken up. There is another point which I should like to bring before the notice of the Committee. On the one hand it is believed by a large number of people in Great Britain that there has been an enormous number of pensions wrongfully obtained in Ireland, and, on the other hand, it is believed by hon. Gentlemen opposite that an enormous number of persons in Ireland have been deprived of their pension in consequence of this inquiry. I am informed the total number of pensions which since the 1st January had been taken away in Great Britain and Ireland from persons who were successful claimants is 2,500—that is, 1,300 in Great Britain and 1,200 in Ireland. So that while on the one hand the Irish people are exculpated from the charge that has been suggested against them, on the other hand they have exaggerated the number of persons from whom pensions have been taken away; but undoubtedly a sense of injustice has been created. I do not think any large question has been raised by hon. Gentlemen except the one raised by the hon. Member for West Belfast. He made a statement with reference to the case of an old woman, I think, in county Antrim. I understood that she produced evidence which was satisfactory to the census 2071 officers and to the pension committee, but it has been stated that the pension was either taken away or was in danger of being taken away. I forget exactly which. It is said that she was asked to pay 2s. to enable the census to be searched in order to establish her evidence. If the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to show me the letter or document in his possession I shall be very glad.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Yes. [The hon. Gentleman then perused the letter.] I will take care that the request which is conveyed in this letter to this lady to pay 2s. shall be dealt with. It is perfectly clear that there is no obligation on anybody to pay a sum of 2s. for the searching of the census. This is an operation which is performed free of charge to the claimant by the Customs and Excise Department. This demand strikes me as an improper one, and therefore one which ought not to have been made. From letters which reach me outside this House and from questions which are put to me inside this House it appears that the power of searching the records depends upon the number of persons who are searching them. The time involved in that search is, of course, dependent on the number of persons engaged in the operation, and no doubt a considerable time must elapse before the necessary evidence is discovered. I should like to mention the point which is raised by the Member for East Tyrone, who referred to cases in which names had not been discovered by the officials, but had afterwards been discovered by independent searches. In every case, I am informed, in which the name has been discovered the pension has been without delay granted to the claimant, and while it is exceedingly unfortunate that there has been an interval of time between striking the claimant off the list and the re-establishment of the person upon the list, yet the time has been very short. While that interval of time is to be regretted, it must be admitted that when the discovery has been made the claimant has been restored to the pension list. I am afraid that I have dwelt at too great a length on this matter, 2072 but the points are of great importance, not only to Members below the Gangway on the other side, but to the entire House. I think that I have shown the bona fides of the Treasury in this matter, and I undoubtedly admit that any suggestion of fraud on the part of the people is without foundation.
§ Mr. J. DILLON
There is one aspect of the case which has been presented on behalf of the Treasury which is exceedingly satisfactory. It was undoubtedly believed in Great Britain that an enormous number of pensions had been fraudulently obtained in Ireland, and we now hear from the Treasury that there is not a shade of a shadow of foundation for that charge. It is not the first time that charges have been made against the Irish people and eagerly swallowed by the people of this country without any proof whatever. That is the only point in his speech which is entirely satisfactory. The hon. Gentleman showed that something like 2,500 persons in Great Britain have had their pensions taken away and 1,200 in Ireland.
§ Mr. DILLON
Yes 1,300 in Great Britain and 1,200 in Ireland. What has been the result of the inquiry? The hon. Gentleman did not inform us what the result of the inquiry into the administration of the Act in Ireland has been? Are we justified in assuming that the result of that inquiry is the cancelling of 1,200 pensions, and that such cancelling ends the charge of fraud?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I am very sorry, but I did not intend intentionally to omit a reference to the point. The inquiry has not been finished. As to the number of cases given, whether in Ireland or in Great Britain, the rejection of pensions is not complete in either country. I simply gave the result up to date in both countries.
§ Mr. DILLON
I should like to ask the hon. Member another question. Are the methods of the inquiry exactly similar? Are the instructions similar for Ireland as they are for Great Britain? We have been led to believe that the inquiry launched against Ireland was launched with a preconceived idea, and that it partook somewhat of the nature of a penal inquiry. One striking point is that there was no ground to justify any difference in the method of procedure in Ireland from the method of procedure in Great Britain. 2073 There seems to have been a preconceived idea that the Act had been fraudulntly administered in Ireland and properly administered in Great Britain. I think, therefore, that I am entitled to ask whether the inquiry in the two countries has been conducted on the same lines, and whether the instructions given to the officials were exactly similar. The hon. Gentleman, in answer to the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Tyrone, flatly contradicted one of his statements. He said there was no instructions issued to the pension officers not to act on their own discretion in dealing with the cases. He said that they were left with a perfectly clear discretion to deal with the evidence that was brought before them, but the instructions given to the officials was to get particulars to enable them to search the Census Return, and that when the claimants would not give particulars the pension officers were to report that no evidence of age had been produced, and that the claim could not properly be allowed. Those are the actual words of the printed instructions. How, therefore, can the hon. Gentleman state that no impediment has been placed on the free discretion of the pension officers. The pension officer is directed to report that there is no evidence if the name of the claimant cannot be found in the census? The case mentioned by the hon. Member for East Tyrone has attracted a great deal of attention in Ireland. What happened in the case of the Foxford committee? The secretary had a number of cases struck off because the names of the claimants were not discoverable in the census. He went to Dublin himself and then found the names. The hon. Member said: "That as the names were found, the pensioners were restored to their pensions." But how many hundreds of persons who have been struck off may not have been struck off because search has not been made? Yet the hon. Gentleman says that the discretion of the pension officers is in no way unfettered. Cases have been given which show inaccuracy in the census. Anybody who knows anything about the condition of the country or who has spoken with those old people in Ireland, who remember how the census was taken in 1841 or 1851, will tell you that according to a common description the police who took the census sat by the side of the ditch and sent someone into the village to get the names from 15 to 20 houses. [A laugh.] It was no laughing matter for those who were unfortunate enough to be missed or to be inac- 2074 curately returned, seeing that they are now to suffer by being deprived of their pensions. I say that the hon. Gentleman cannot maintain the position he has just stated to the House that there is no fetter on the discretion of the pension officers. This circular provides clearly that the system first adopted in Ireland was thrust aside, and that a fetter is placed on the action of the pension officers. The whole system has been altered, and pension officers are directed to have recourse to a test which is absolutely unreliable and under which, as has been proved, men have been struck off who are properly entitled, and have been subsequently placed on the list.
Another point I want to ask about is this: What is the method of procedure? I have already asked that question, but the hon. Gentleman has not thrown any light at all upon it. We want to know what is the method of procedure in this great inquiry. When will it be ended, and will the Report of these six inspectors who have gone over to Ireland be laid on the Table of the House? Also will any public statement be made of the instructions they have received and of the methods they have adopted? What I really want to get at is the procedure of investigating cases which are supposed to be fraudulent. As I take it, when a person gets a pension you cannot deprive him of it without the process of law. It does not lie in the power of any inspector sent over by Somerset House of his own motion to cancel the pension. But the poor people in Ireland have been extremely alarmed, and are under the impression that these inspectors are going to cancel their pensions. I told them then it was impossible. But what occurs? The inspector attends a post office in Ireland and pursues a system of intimidation, threatening people, under pains and penalties, to give information for the purpose of tracing their claim, and thousands of people are under the impression that if they do not give the information they will have their pensions cancelled. There is a widespread feeling of alarm and indignation at this scandalous injustice by means of which unfortunate people get their pensions taken away most unfairly. Moreover, there is great reluctance to give the information asked for. The country is disturbed and annoyed, the impression is that the inspectors have come over from England with instructions to knock thousands off the list; they have come with the preconceived idea that the whole Act has been 2075 fraudulently administered in Ireland. I know, of course, that the inspectors have no power to cancel the pensions, but unfortunately the impression has got abroad that they have, and that has created a very bitter feeling. What I understand of the procedure is this: if you have ground for suspicion that there is fraud the proper and only course is to appeal to the Local Government Board. I believe that the Local Government Board is the only power in Ireland that can strike a man off the pension list when he is once on.
The last time I was in Dublin a number of poor people came to me and showed me notices they had received from the pension officer announcing that he had appealed to the Local Government Board to take away their pensions. I am bound to say a more cruel and unjust system I never heard of. A poor old ignorant country woman came in last Friday and said, "What am I to do?" She had been drawing a pension for two months, and she handed me a document bearing these words, "Take notice that I have appealed to the Local Government Board to withdraw your pension." There is not a single sentence to show when the case is to be tried, nothing to show where it is to be tried, and no hint at all why the pension is objected to. I suppose the next step will be that this poor old woman will get a notice to the effect that her pension is withdrawn. She has no opportunity of defending herself. She has no opportunity of producing evidence to justify her case. She does not even know what the ground of objection is. Is that justice? Is it fair play? I say that in these cases of appeal there should be some means secured to the people of defending their claims, and it would be perfectly easy to send a proper notice to them stating the grounds for the objection. Then these poor persons would have an opportunity of adducing evidence in support to their claims before a decision was come to by the Local Government Board. I say there could be nothing more monstrous or more indefensible than the action which I have described. I have heard, I do not know if it be true, that the pension officers are now under orders to object to every case in which they cannot trace the name in the census. They require information to enable them to trace the name in the census of 1841 or 1851. They are not giving the people the benefit of the doubt. They are giving that to the Treasury, and they are appealing to the Local Govern- 2076 ment Board without giving the unfortunate pensioners any information of the ground of appeal, and then striking them off. I repeat it appears to me that this is a most indefensible and monstrous method of procedure, and I trust that the Government will put a stop to it at once.
I also hope that the Debate to-night will see the end of the charges of fraud which have been made against Ireland in this matter. I further press the Chief Secretary for a full statement on the question of procedure, and for some assurance that in every case in which a pension is going to be challenged the pensioner shall have a fair trial and full notice of the objections against him. I assure hon. Members that we have not the smallest desire to defend any fraudulent case in Ireland. On the contrary, we are prepared to give the amplest opportunity for the detection of any case of fraud. It was realised when the Act was passed that there might be frauds not only in Ireland, but in Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom. We are ready, at any rate, to give every possible facility for detecting and punishing fraud, but I do appeal to the Government to take care that in their attempts to detect and punish fraud they do not commit gross injustice upon people who, by their nature and their circumstances, are unable to defend themselves.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I speak to-night on this Question in my character as President of the Irish Local Government Board, which is the Court of Appeal in all these exceedingly difficult cases. I am very glad indeed that this discussion has taken place, if for no other reason than that just referred to by the hon. Member for East Mayo, that it has, I hope, nailed a lie to the mast for ever. I trust we shall no longer be told that old age pensions in Ireland have been taken advantage of for purposes of fraud. The whole history of old age pensions in Ireland is a very curious one. It was essentially a British question from the very beginning, and it has not been altogether a very honourable history, so far as the English politician is concerned, for Members on both Bides of this House made wholesale promises of old age pensions in Great Britain, and those promises appeared upon their election cards for a great number of years. Perhaps I may incidentally remark hon. Gentlemen from Ireland may be inclined to believe that this is the first good thing that has come out of their connection with the Union. I say again I am here in my character as 2077 President of the Local Government Board for the purpose of describing what we have done, and what course has been adopted by us in this matter. Up to the end of last week the Local Government Board decided 12,766 appeals. In 10,891 the claims for pensions were rejected, and in 1,885 they were allowed. I will give in a moment, under different headings, the various reasons for which the rejections were made. It is only natural, and everybody will recognise the force of this, that the large number of pensions granted in Ireland excited a certain amount of surprise, although I do not say that there was any particular occasion for it. I do not think there is any evidence whatever to show that the pension committees have done otherwise than endeavour to discharge their duty honourably and straightforwardly under difficult circumstances. They certainly have not been animated by any desire to keep people off the pension list unreasonably. On the contrary, so many people have been placed, happily for themselves, on the pension list that it shows the pension committees set about their task in no mean spirit and with no desire to keep people off who had a right to be put on. Therefore, the cases which came before the Local Government Board were obviously cases of difficulty—cases in which it had been hard for the pension committees to make up their minds, or for the pension officers to agree with their decision. Of course, the two grounds upon which most of these appeal cases have been decided against the claim have been age and means. Out of 10,891 cases in which the claims were rejected, 4,418 were in respect of age.
Of course everybody knew we did in Ireland, the Local Government Board knew perfectly well the moment this idea of old age pensions was initiated that in Ireland there would be a very great difficulty for the reason given by the hon. Member in the speech in which he introduced this question, viz., that there is not in Ireland a register of births in existence until the year 1864, which is no good at present, at any rate, for the purpose of ascertaining whether anybody is 70 years of age. There was nothing else to go upon, and there was no Somerset House as in England. In England, if anybody wants a certificate of birth, he pays a shilling, and he gets it from Somerset House in 24 hours, without any difficulty. That has been the case for a great many years past. But that state of things does not exist in Ireland, nor 2078 could we fall back in Ireland, with any confidence, upon the baptisms, which in England are easily obtained, although of course in particular cases here and there the records have been destroyed by fire, or carelessness, or otherwise. But in Ireland it appears that the mode of proof was a rather harder question, because in Ireland these records do not appear to be kept, and in many cases, where they were kept, they have been irregularly or carelessly preserved, so that they are of no or little use in determining the age of a person.
That being so, it was obvious to everybody that without any fraud at all in the case of poor people, at all events, and even of rich people also, it is difficult for them to-day to prove their age, if they cannot refer either to the State, or to the Parish Register. Therefore, I have not the least doubt that a certain number of persons under 70 years of age have succeeded in obtaining a pension, without any fraud on their part of any kind, or without any disguise whatever. At the same time, the obligation is imposed upon the State to see to it that persons are not put upon the pension list who are not 70 years of age, so far as they can prove it. All proof is naturally a difficulty if you do not agree upon a register or something of that sort. If it is not forthcoming, it is a very difficult thing to prove age. Some people are very clearly over 70 years of age. You do not require a register, parochial, or belonging to the State, to satisfy you that those persons are pensionable. I do not think in many cases it will be found, although, I dare say, such is the infirmity of human justice that some cases will be found of persons over 70 years having been put back for a considerable time, and difficulties may have been thrown in their way. In excuse for that I can only plead the infirmity of human justice, and when you are dealing with hundreds of thousands of cases people will act irrationally sometimes, and it is difficult to obtain proof in regard to persons between 65 and 70 years of age—it is very difficult indeed. We rely upon the census of 1841. The census of 1841, I am told, is a better prepared one, and is more likely to be authoritative than the subsequent one of 1851, but no one will contend for a moment that a census prepared by policemen going about from house to house is of itself a trustworthy document for all purposes. No one who, as the master of a house or the head of a household, has been responsible for drawing up 2079 a census return can say he has not been wrong sometimes, and I should be very sorry to be held responsible for the ages of all the people that I have returned in my exceedingly humble and limited household. But one thing in which the census is likely to be more valuable than another is the age of young children, and you are very likely to get them correctly. If you go into the house they are there toddling about the house at two or three years of age, and you are much more likely to get the children's ages correct than that of grown-up persons, or female servants, or anybody of that sort. I am disposed to believe that the census of 1841 is a very sound one. It is 68 years of age, and therefore anybody upon it is approaching pensionable age, and I think it has proved to be a very great boon to us. Of course, we have had to bear this in mind—that when a person is very old indeed, so clearly pensionable, that there is no possibility of a dispute; that old person can usually tell you where he was born, and put you upon the path of finding whether he is or is not pensionable. But it is the people who are uncertain in their own mind whether they are 70, and who do not give us, or who cannot give us, the place where they were born, which would make it easier to ascertain their precise age—it is those cases which give us a very difficult task. Do what you may, you will sometimes accomplish injustice; you will sometimes be satisfied that a person is of a pensionable age when he is not, and you will sometimes postpone an old person for a year or two and keep them off for a while, although, of course, we hope they will ultimately get the pension. I can only say this, that the Local Government Board, in determining these 4,418 cases in which they declined to sanction the pension on the ground of age, have not in any way confined themselves to hard and fast rules based upon the census of 1841. We have made inquiries, although it is quite true we have not carried on and we have not had a public inquiry, but you really cannot have a court and counsel and solicitors to determine such a question as this. You have to allow, and I think you are safe in allowing, if you have any confidence at all in the good judgment and good sense of your agents, in matters of this sort—you had much better leave it to them to carry out an inquiry of this nature, feeling sure that they have no interest in the matter. That is notably the case in Ireland, because I never yet met an Irishman who wanted to 2080 keep anybody out of anything, and in these appeals to the Local Government Board, from the President and Vice-President down to any of its members, we have no desire to keep the people from receiving the pensions. We are not concerned with the Treasury instructions. We have no truck with the pensions officer, and it is not we who appeal to the pension officer to bring his appeal. I really do appeal to the Committee to dismiss that idea from their mind. We nave no underhand connection with them or with their appeals whatever. We leave them to pick out what cases they choose, and we have no truck or business with them at all. It is not until the pensions officer has appealed that we move in the matter at all. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who issued the Instructions?"] The Treasury issued the Instructions, although we have an Instruction of our own, and I will come to that in a moment, when I deal with the question of means, but so far as the question of age is concerned we always leave it either to our own inspector or to the pensions officer to produce any evidence, and we have taken evidence from him himself, when he has seen a man, as to what the man looked like on a view, and if we were satisfied from him that he had no doubt that the man was over 70 we have accepted that as sufficient evidence to enable us to reject the appeal. That is to say, that we have left our minds open to consider any evidence whatsoever that is forthcoming as to age.
Some hon. Members have spoken of local circumstances as affording information, but they do not tell us whether a man is 70 or not. It may be a most satisfactory way of showing that he is about 65 or 66 or 67, or anything of that sort, but it does not do to talk about local circumstances in an airy way, as if you had only to mention that he was born in a particular house, or was at school with so-and-so, or was there when so-and-so was head, or when so-and-so was parish priest, but that does not assist you. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about sworn affidavits?"] I have sworn affidavits myself, and I have read affidavits in these cases, which have satisfied me that the deponents did not mean anything more than that the man had reason to believe that the applicant was more than 70. You cannot act upon good-natured descriptions of that sort. The total number of appeals was 12,776, and 10,891 of them were rejected and in 1,885 cases the claims were allowed. The number 2081 of rejections on the ground of the receipt of poor law relief is 536 indoor and 1,264 outdoor, making a total of 1,800.
There is another question I should like to refer to, which shows that you must not look a gift horse in the mouth. You have got these pensions because England was getting them, and you have got them on the same terms that England is getting them; but I think anybody acquainted with Ireland would consider it a peculiarly hard thing not to distinguish very nicely between these cases of outdoor relief, because I am sorry to say that my conviction is that the operation of outdoor relief has excluded a very considerable number of the very class of people whom this House meant to benefit when they took upon themselves the enormous burden of finding the funds for these pensions, because there do not exist in Ireland the charitable societies, the friendly societies, the trade unions, and the like, which stand very often between the labourer or the artisan and outdoor relief. There are, I am afraid, a great number of persons who have unhappily been excluded on this ground, but whom, I hope, as time goes on it will be found possible to enable to get this benefit, which as a class more than any other they deserve. As I say, 1,800 people were rejected on the ground of poor law relief, indoor or outdoor, and on the ground of means 4,320 were rejected, while 4,418 were rejected because they could not satisfy us that they were over 70. In the 4,320 cases the applicants could not satisfy us that they had not the statutory amount per week, or £31 10s. a year. Here, again, let the Committee conceive the difficulty that was in the way of the Local Government Board, when you are dealing with the class of peasant proprietors, cotters, small people, farmers you may call them so, for they are farmers and labourers together, as they do a great deal of labour on their own farms. Sometimes they do all. In many cases they have an acreage which, in English eyes, is very considerable—100 acres and sometimes 200 acres. They also have horses, cows, implements of husbandry, and the task of going into their budgets is very difficult. I have examined myself personally scores of budgets of these small farmers which have been presented for the consideration of the Local Government Board in deciding this difficult question.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Here is one with a farm of 252 acres. The difficulty is in estimating, simply on the figures, the real cash value of these people's incomes, and to English eyes, to a person accustomed to English figures, it seems almost ridiculous that people possessed of all these ordinary signs of wealth should really be so poor as to be within the reach, as some of them clearly are, of an old age pension scheme of this sort. They have prepared in scores of these cases their balance sheets, and most difficult and complicated they are. They are by no means the short and simple annals of the poor. On the contrary, they are most complicated documents, and have to be investigated with great care, and if the poor people do not always realise what should be on one side of the balance sheet and what should be on the other, that is an ignorance which they share with many of the highest functionaries in the City of London, some of whom have occasionally found their liberty interfered with by reason of their notions on the subject.
Here is a farm of 29 acres with a rent of £34 16s. The pension officer recommended nothing, but the sub-committee allowed a full pension of 5s. a week, whereupon the pension officer appealed. The pension officer estimated the income at £104 8s. per year. The appellant, who had friendly but not professional assistance, presented his balance sheet. He showed his receipts from sales on one side and the necessary outgoings on the other. Sale of yearling, £6 10s.; two pigs, £l; butter, £4 3s. 6d.; buttermilk, 10s.; chickens, £l 3s. 6d.; eggs, £l 16s.; 22 barrels of barley at 14s. 6d., 10 barrels of oats at 7s. 6d. a barrel, £19 14s.; setting of grass, £23; sale of potatoes (crop partial failure), 7s. 6d.; the value of farm produce consumed by claimant and his family, £6 3s. 8d. He then puts down the value of the labour, father, mother, and two daughters, on the farm. He estimates that he is entitled to charge for labour he would otherwise have to purchase in the market if his family had not been strong enough to do it, and he puts it at £30; that was an income of £99 8s. Then he puts down his necessary outgoings—rent £34 16s., rates £4 3s., seed potatoes, seed oats, hay seed, and various things—and he brings them to £72 7s. 10½d., and this is where he shows a rather curious notion of a balance sheet. He adds to this the cost of maintenance of himself and his whole family. The whole thing is exceedingly small when it is done, but that is how it is done, and he charges 2083 £30 for that maintenance, and that brings the figure on the one side of outgoings to £102 7s. 10d., and income £99 8s. 2d., making a loss on the whole of £2 19s. 8d. The difficulty of going into hundreds of thousands of budgets of that kind is—
§ Mr. KETTLE
Does the right hon. Gentleman tell the Committee that that is a typical case? Does he remember that there are 200,000 uneconomic holdings in Ireland? Is that a type of the uneconomic holding?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I am simply dealing with the 4,320 cases which the Local Government Board dealt with by way of appeal, and that was one of the cases. I do not say it is difficult at all. I do not know if any of these 4,320 cases could be classified as typical. They vary so much. I only mentioned it because we had a budget presented in a perfectly straightforward way. That is the very kind of case we have had to deal with. I have at least a score, perhaps more, of these cases before me. Here is another. This is typical, if you like. A farm of 15 Irish acres: annuity, £7 11s.; stock, two cows, three calves, one mare, one filly, 30 sheep, two pigs, 12 fowls; crops, 1½ acres of potatoes, two acres under oats, three-quarters of an acre under wheat, half-acre under hay, quarter-acre under turnips, ten acres in parsley. In that case both the pension officer and the sub-committee gave 1s. a week, but the pensioner subsequently raised the question, and the sub-committee increased the pension to 2s. a week. On that there was an appeal to the Local Government Board. I only mention this to show the extreme difficulty, quite unlike the difficulties which present themselves in the great majority of cases in England, which arise when you are considering under this British Statute whether you can make out that the owners of these small farms, carrying on business in this way, earn at the end of a year a clear balance of income of £31 10s. If they have they are not entitled to a pension. If they have not they are entitled to a pension varying from 1s. to 5s. a week. These are the difficulties we are confronted with, and all I can say is that I think the Local Government Board has done its very best to determine this question on broad principles, and without any red tape whatsoever.
It has been suggested that it would be a convenient thing to take the income as three times the rent, and simply by rule of thumb of that kind, and without any 2084 personal inquiry into the particulars of each case, rule the applicant in or rule him out of the pension. That is not the course that the Local Government Board has adopted. We have made interesting researches as to the proper mode of ascertaining as best we could whether these small farmers were or were not entitled to the pension. A great number, as every hon. Member opposite knows, have the pension, and I believe all who have pensions thoroughly well deserve them; but surely we were bound to see that Irish money was not unnecessarily squandered or given to persons who, although they led a most struggling life, a most hard life, and who are perhaps at this moment playing the very noblest part for the future of Ireland, and doing the best they can for the cultivation of the soil, do not suffer those hardships and the actual terrible hunger which, I am afraid, still are suffered by many in Ireland and also in other parts of the United Kingdom. We were, therefore, bound, whilst not adopting any rule which would rule these people out, to make particular inquiries in each case and satisfy ourselves as to whether or not a man had an income of £31 10s.
§ Mr. KETTLE
I hope the Committee will appreciate the information on these points which has been furnished to us in answer to questions or by Returns. It was stated not many days ago that that rule of taking three times the rent or three times the purchasing annuity was followed.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
So far as I answered any questions of that sort, I remember perfectly well saying, although there was in many people's mind a rule of thumb of that sort, I did not approve of it, and it was not acted upon, but I am far from deprecating this discussion. I think it is most valuable, and I am only here to defend the administration of this Bill by the Board. I quite agree that notice ought to be given to a person who, being in possession of a pension, finds it changed; but I am not in favour of giving any Return stating the reasons, because in matters of this sort you have to trust to the good sense and honesty of your administrators, and you cannot in dealing with all the details of applications of this sort profitably lay down any general rule, but you can always state to any person whom you are subjecting to the risk of being struck off the pension what is the particular ground of objection. If it is age let it be age; if it is means let it be means. If it is failure of residence for 20 years in the 2085 United Kingdom, imprisonment, or failure to work, we have cases under all these heads, and it is only reasonable in common fairness that you should give a person a statement of the particular head under which the objection has been raised.
§ Mr. HUGH LAW
At the same time that notice of that information was furnished to the pensioner would he also see that when the decision is come to the grounds of the decision are furnished to the committee?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
There might be more difficulties about that than about the other question, but I will look into it. So far as the Local Government Board is concerned I gave the undertaking asked for in that matter, and I can assure hon. Members that the Local Government Board, not only myself, but the Vice-President and all the others, are very glad to have this Debate, and we are quite willing to take guidance from persons intimately acquainted with the subject matter. We are not people who decline to listen to those who are interested in the administration of a great national enterprise like this.
There is only one other point I should like to say a word about, and that is with regard to those old gentlemen in Ireland, according to ancient custom, who transfer their farms to their sons, sometimes legally obtaining a deed or bond securing sustenance, and also securing, in the event of a dispute or having the home broken up, something, although they live apart; but it is often a very informal document indeed. And maintenance is given to this King Lear who has parted with his property amongst his children, which he is able to do usually, I suppose, without suffering anything in consequence. If there is no legal assumption of responsibility to maintain the father, and if the father's name is removed from the rent-book or the purchase-annuity, that is all right enough. If the son has made no covenant, and entered into no legal obligation, to maintain him, of course the father can state that, and he is certainly entitled to his pension if his son thinks fit to allow him to ask for it. I confess I do not altogether approve of the morals of that kind of transaction, for I think if the father has handed over all the property to his son on the understanding that he was to be maintained in his old age, I do not know that he ought to rely on the fact that there is no legal obligation upon him, and 2086 that he should allow his father to come upon the fund for the relief of the poor in that way. At the same time, he can do it if he likes. But in most of the cases which have come before us there has not been that transfer of property at all. The name of the old man very often remains on the rent-book, or he pays the purchase-annuity in his own name, and in these cases, of course, it is impossible to grant an old age pension to the father while in law he still remains the owner of the property. That is one of the difficulties, but even in such cases we deal in the most rational and friendly spirit towards the people concerned. We do not want in anyway to erase them from the list of pensioners, but difficulties of that kind must occasionally arise in the administration of this matter. I can only say that we shall continue the course which we have hither-to pursued, subject to the light which we have received from this Debate. I believe that no very great fault can be found with the administration of the Act.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
We have had some 500 or 600 cases a week since January. At this moment we have about 500 a week. We hope to get them down to 250 a week, but we have very great difficulty in carrying out the work which is Involved in this matter.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I came down to the House this afternoon with my mind quite free from information with regard to the administration of the Pensions Act in Ireland, and, therefore, I am in a position to express an opinion which is quite impartial after hearing the Debate. None of us could make the least complaint either of the statements or the tone of the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. We know very well that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to deal with this in a friendly, fair, and humane spirit. Nor indeed do I find any fault with the speech of the Secretary to the Treasury. The fault I would find with the Secretary to the Treasury, if I were to find fault at all, is that he had to make full confession of the errors which have been committed in connection with the administration of the Old Age Pensions Act in Ireland. I am not surprised that the Government were a little surprised by the magnitude of the claims for Old Age Pensions in Ireland, because after all it is only Irishmen having an intimate acquaintance with the country 2087 who know the profound depths of poverty which are to be found in some parts. What did the Secretary to the Treasury say? He made a strong defence for the agents of the Treasury who were sent over to Ireland. I must say that when we heard that these agents of the Treasury were to be sent over to Ireland we had a certain amount of apprehension. We have had many dealings with the Treasury in respect of Ireland, and it was quite unnecessary for the Chief Secretary to say that he had no responsibility for the action of the Treasury. He did not require to repudiate that. We know that the right hon. Gentleman has plenty of contentions with the Treasury with regard to the treatment of Irish questions. What did the Secretary to the Treasury have to confess? Here is our indictment of the administration of pensions in Ireland. The indictment was summed up in the pregnant interruption of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke. The Secretary to the Treasury was describing how cases of uncertainty and doubt arose, and the Member for Stoke made, I think, a very telling and a very unanswerable interruption. The hon. Member asked: Is it not your duty to give the benefit of the doubt to the applicant? That is a view of the Old Age Pensions Act that is confirmed by the debates which took place when the measure was going through the House of Commons. An hon. Friend has called my attention to the fact that a Noble Lord, one of the few sincere and consistently uncompromising opponents of the Old Age Pensions Bill, proposed an Amendment, which, if it had been accepted, would have thrown the onus of proving age on the person applying for a pension. That Amendment was rejected at the instance of the Attorney-General for England. I need not quote the words in which the Attorney-General justified the rejection of the Amendment. Suffice it to say, that the Attorney-General rejected all proposals to throw the onus of proof on the person applying for a pension. Let us apply that to what took place in Ireland. Some of the cases which have been cited to-day were most astonishing. It was admitted in some of the cases by the Secretary to the Treasury that the name was found in the census of 1841 and omitted in the census of 1851. Well, I ask any man in his senses if he had to choose between these two censuses with regard to a question of age in connection with an application for an old age pension, he would not consider that the whole 2088 tendency would be to place reliance on the census of 1841 rather than on that of 1851. You can understand a man's name appearing in the census of 1851 and not in that of 1841, but how in the name of common sense can you imagine that it is proof against a man having reached a pensionable age when he is in the census of 1841 but omitted from that of 1851? It is a thing which appears to be an entire reversal of all the laws of probability that I have ever heard of. The Chief Secretary said that the census of 1851 was a better census than that of 1841.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
Well, the other way round. I do not care which way you put it. I say that if a name appears in the census of 1841, and does not appear in the census of 1851, the natural and only conclusion is that there has been neglect to enter it in the census of 1851. If the name was in the census of 1841 that showed that the man was entitled to a pension, but if it was not in the census of 1851 you put the onus of proof on the applicant for a pension. That is the first charge to which the hon. Gentleman has pleaded guilty. The second charge to which he has pleaded guilty is this. In some cases the pension claimed was rejected, because a man's name was not in the census according to the statement of the pension officer. Inquiries were made by the applicant, either by himself, or through a friend, and the result went to prove that the pension officer was wrong and that the applicant for a pension was right. I was astounded to think that in a question so vital to the unfortunate people who were applying for pensions, the officials sent over to investigate all these cases should have been proved guilty of gross mis-statement and gross injustice, and of having examined these census records so carelessly as not to see the names set out in black and white of the men applying for pensions. I have great sympathy for any Minister who is trying to defend an indefensible case. He is not bound, as he would be in a class for logic, to carefully scrutinise the logic or good sense of the defence he makes, but in all my experience of extraordinary defences I do not know that I ever heard anything more extraordinary than that of the Secretary to the Treasury. He said: "Mark how magnanimous we were when our officer was not able to find 2089 the name set forth in black and white in the census paper, and when his carelessness and error were proved; we, in the bounteousness of our generosity, gave the pension to the applicant." [An HON. MEMBER: "Restored."] He restored the pension to the applicant; but in the name of Heaven what else could he do when his agents were proved to be guilty of what I call not only gross but very cruel error in regard to these pensions? What is the moral of the whole discussion? The first moral, of course, I am glad to say, is that the charges which were made against the Irish people have been found to be unjustified. It has been said that when a lie against Ireland is set agoing not all the foxhounds in the country would be able to catch it up. I am firmly convinced that a large number of the people of this country will believe that the Irish people were proved to have been guilty of a gigantic attempt at fraud in connection with the Old Age Pension Act. I think I am justified in anticipating that there will be no great means taken to disabuse the minds of the English people in regard to this gross and, I may say, gigantic error at the expense of the character and reputation of the Irish people.
That is the first moral of this Debate, but there is a second. When a man gets up in this House and declares that his subordinates the officials are animated by nothing but the highest and most generous motives I am always reminded of one of Victor Hugo's novels, "Les Misérables," where he is describing the classical and well-established and standard form of the prosecuting counsel, especially under the Imperial Government such as existed when this book was written. The prosecuting counsel always speak of a general as "this illustrious general," of a politician as "this most eminent statesman," and of the poor man in the dock as "this miserable wretch glorying in his crime," and so on. The same kind of language is used with regard to the general whether he be a victor in the field or one of those gentlemen who have brought disaster on their country; while the politician, no matter what he has done, is always the eminent statesman; and so the official is always the generous high-minded official in the mouth of the Minister speaking on his behalf whether he be on the Liberal or Conservative side of the House. I am not inconsiderate enough not to sympathise with that attitude of the Minister. He considers it his duty to take up that attitude; but that 2090 is not the conviction I hold with regard to the attitude of those Treasury emissaries that have been dealing with this matter in Ireland. I maintain that from the lips of the Secretary to the Treasury himself the charge has been proved, that instead of giving the benefit of the doubt to the applicant for the pension they almost strain the evidence against the applicant. I have not wilfully used exaggerated language with regard to that, but I take these different cases put forward by my hon. Friend and admitted by the hon. Gentleman himself as proving the charge which we make.
I see my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board for England present. I take advantage of his presence to point a contrast not certainly in his disfavour. A touching statement of his was quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for East Tyrone how in one of these daily marchings up and down this great capital of wealth, but also of great misery, he found himself on Clapham Common. There he encountered an old lady who was not able to prove her age except by a sampler. I notice that my young Friend with all his erudition did not know what a sampler was, but a sampler to me is like some dim familiar affectionate echo from that past which, in my case, spreads over a much longer period of life than that of my young Friend. A sampler was a familiar article of furniture, if I may so describe it, in every household in Ireland when I was a boy, the same age as my hon. and learned Friend. The right hon. Gentleman said that this lady could not bring testimony with regard to her age. Did he recommend any of these officials to declare, as they were asked in the circular of instructions quoted by my learned Friends, that the onus of proof must be laid upon her because she was not able to prove her age from the census? Did he say if her name appears in the census of 1841, but does not appear in the census of 1851, that you must decide there was a primâ facie case against it? Not at all. He said, "Produce your sampler, and if your sampler shows that you have even a primâ facie case in favour of old age pension I will take very good care that you get an old age pension." That was the true spirit in which this Act was meant to be administered by the Parliament which passed it into law.
In Ireland, whenever we see a Treasury official on the horizon, we know that there is danger ahead. I should have thought 2091 that we might have been agreeably disappointed on this occasion; I should have thought that even a Treasury official, hide-bound as he necessarily is—and I do not blame him for it—hide-bound as he is in the traditions of his office, whose chief duty is to be niggardly to everybody who makes applications for money, I should have thought that even when coming to Ireland, familiar as the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, and therefore as he must have been as one of his officials, with the terrible stories of Irish poverty, familiar as he must have been with the generous intentions of this assembly in passing this great Act for the benefit of the forlorn and broken soldiers of life and poverty, I should have thought that the Treasury official, for once in the course of his life, would act on the principle of giving the benefit of the doubt instead of throwing the onus of proof on the applicant. He did nothing of the kind, and in saying this I do so largely from the admission of the Secretary of the Treasury. So long as that body has any control in Ireland or sends an emissary into Ireland it will maintain its traditional attitude of hostility to the people.
§ Mr. HUGH BARRIE
I listened with interest to the Debate this afternoon and to what was said in reference to the unexpectedly large number of old age pensioners in Ireland and the contention that Ireland has got more than her share. I am bound to say from my own experience of the part of the country which I represent we have found that the number of pensioners has greatly exceeded what it was thought it would be. We understood when this law came into force that we should have something like 2,200 pensioners in our county. We have found now that the total is something over 5,000. I am bound to say in that connection I believe that our pensions committee exercised the closest scrutiny of all claims put before them, and that there was no difference between them and the pensions officers. At the same time there has been, despite the closest scrutiny, quite a number—of course, a small number relatively—in which pensioners have been put upon the roll who were not entitled to be put there, and, on the other hand, I frankly at once admit there are a number who we believe were entitled to pensions who have not succeeded in getting put on in that way. I think I agree with the Member for East Tyrone that, on the whole, it is probable 2092 that as many have been debarred from, getting their pension as have succeeded in getting them improperly. A great deal has been said this evening, and the Chief Secretary dwelt at some little length upon it, as to the relative value of the census of 1841 and that of 1851, and I think if we are to have the natural result of what the Chief Secretary has said and what was said on the benches below, that the census of 1841 is generally more accurate or believed to be more accurate than the census of 1851, then I think the case is thoroughly made out that those pensioners who have been struck off because they appear in the one case as two years of age in 1841 and in the other as nine years of age in 1851 should not have been struck off. I think in these cases the wrong that has been done should be put right as quickly as possible.
I am not going to enter into the large economic question as to how it was that Ireland has received so much larger a share of the pension money than was anticipated; but this I may say, that now that the immediate stress of the beginning is over we believe that every fresh claim for a pension is being very closely scrutinised both by the pensions committee and by the officers themselves, and I have ventured to interpose in this Debate because I want to say a word as regards the work of the pension officers charged with the carrying out of this very onerous duty. I recall that, I believe with perfect innocence, a few of these pension officers were interviewed by enterprising journalists at the time the scheme first came into operation, and gave in perfect good faith, not understanding that they were breaking any Regulations, some information as regards the number of pensions which had been claimed, and the prompt action of the Treasury was to fine these gentlemen a sharp penalty of £10, as to which I am not aware whether it has since been remitted or not. I only mention it now in order that we may have a statement from the Secretary to the Treasury on the point, because I believe that in quite a number of cases in Ireland that penalty was exacted. Where it was imposed there was some undertaking given that where the officer was of unblemished record the matter would be reconsidered once the pressure of his pensions work was over, and I invite the Financial Secretary to state whether that has been done or not.
I do not believe it is generally understood how severe the duties put upon these 2093 officers proved to be. In my own district we have had a painful reminder of it. The supervisor of the district, of which Coleraine is the centre, had charge of something like 100 square miles, looking over the sub-officers over the district. He brought a gang of men into it, a set of 50, with his splendid record in the service, and it is a matter of common local knowledge that for some months his hours of work imposed upon him by this duty were 18 hours a day, Sunday included, and as a result of the duties, which were most satisfactorily performed, his health was undermined, and after a short attack of pneumonia he died some six weeks ago. I only mention that now in order that when overtures are made to the Treasury there may be a recognition of his services by the granting of some small allowance, what I believe they term a compassionate allowance, for his widow and the family left behind. I gladly join in the testimony as to the general excellence with which the work of these officers was performed. I hope that the result of this Debate this afternoon will be to satisfy the British people that while, of course, it does look extraordinary that under this scheme Ireland should have captured some £2,300,000, an amount greatly in excess of the sum secured by Scotland, which has practically the same population, I hope the result of this Debate will be to recognise that whatever may be the explanation—and I carefully refrain from entering into the question—that all these pensions, so far as 95 per cent. of them are concerned, have gone to the people for whom they were intended, and for whom they have proved to be a very great boon indeed.
§ Mr. GEORGE MURNAGHAN (who was indistinctly heard)
We have had a very interesting Debate this afternoon on a very important subject. I wish to add a word or two to the statement made by my hon. Friend. I submit this Pension Act could be administered by the pension officers in the spirit described by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, but, in the circular which he sent to them in February, he fettered their discretion by directing that they must have documentary evidence of a claimant's age. That circular has affected the action of the pension officers very much, and if the Act is to be worked according to the spirit he has described, it will be well for him to withdraw that circular. All these pension officers believe that they must have documentory evidence on every 2094 claim that is laid before them, otherwise they object to the granting of a pension. I myself have had some experience of the working of the pensions committee. I am a member of one, and up to a certain period—I think about the second week in February—all the claims were considered fairly and on their merits, and there was no desire on the part of the committee other than to give the pension to any person thought to be properly entitled to receive it. The committee of which I am a member consists of nine, and not one of those nine members has any desire to see any person get a pension who has not the necessary qualification. The rule is that the applicant should be of full age, and that his income should not be in excess of that allowed by the law. Owing to the circular to which I have referred having been sent out the pension officers feel it to be their duty to insist upon having documentary evidence in every case. I have in mind the instance of an old woman of over 70. I know her brother—a man of 85 years of age—and the evidence he gave went to show that she was over 70 years of age, yet the pension officer would not grant the pension. The Treasury tells the pension officers that it is the desire of the Department and of the Government to give a kindly interpretation to the working of this Act; but I must say that these officers after the receipt of that circular will not feel that they are permitted to do so. I urge the Secretary to the Treasury to withdraw the circular, and so give the pension officers freedom of judgment to satisfy themselves as to age and the means of income. Will the hon. Gentleman allow them that freedom of judgment? I would like to have an answer to that question, because it is a very important one. I was glad to hear him say that he desired the pension committee to have a certain amount of freedom of judgment; but I know instances where the committee have recommended pensions on certificates, affidavits, and other evidence given by competent and responsible persons, but which have been refused by the pension officers. I myself gave evidence in favour of a claimant, and the committee decided in his favour, but it was objected to by the pension officer, and the case eventually came to the Local Government Board. In 72 cases there have been appeals, and in only two of those cases was a pension granted.
I do not know what the arrangements of the Local Government Board are for judging these appeals. I do not think it has any opportunity of doing so. My opinion 2095 is that the appeal goes before some under officials in the Custom House, that it is simply looked at, and on its being seen that the pension officer has decided against the applicant, it is thrown on one side. It simply comes to this, that these appeals are not looked at at all, and the applicants are refused pensions. No information is given as to whether any inquiry has been made; nor do I see how they are to make inquiry. They do not seem to go about it in any way. Sometimes affidavits are sent up, and sometimes the testimony of witnesses is copied and sent up, and I would like to know whether that sort of documentary evidence is dealt with merely superficially, and whether it is taken for granted the objection of the pension officer is right, and that the pension committee is wrong. My point is that 70 of these appeals were decided in favour of the pension officers, and only two in favour of the pension committee. The power of officials to go round making inquisitorial investigations seems to frighten many of the people. Then what about the hundreds of cases in which the claimants have no documentary evidence to prove their case? Are they to remain for ever without pensions? They have no information from the Local Government Board as to the grounds on which these pensions have been refused. Unless a claimant can tell the townland on which he was residing in the year 1841 or the year 1851, all trace of his family is lost. He must be able to tell the townland where he was born if he is to succeed, but some of these people cannot remember that, and do not remember it, and, therefore, they are deprived of the pension. I think that is really a serious matter. It seems to me that if they can get satisfactory evidence, such as certificates from the clergyman, from the magistrate, or from some other responsible persons who know the circumstances, it should be accepted as proof of age. Will the Secretary to the Treasury withdraw the circular of February calling on pension officers to insist on documentary evidence? Will he give the pension officers the right to use their own judgment in the matter, and will he allow the certificate of clergymen, magistrates, and respectable people to be received as evidence of age in the different localities? I think the hon. Gentleman, by taking such action as I suggest, would give the pension officers freedom of judgment and the pension committee the means of satisfying themselves by the evidence as to 2096 the applicants who are entitled to receive the pension.
And it being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.