§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. CROOKS
I think the House is entitled to some explanation from the Secretary to the Treasury in connection with the general Debate that took place on the Money Clauses of this Bill. It was pointed out then that it would be quite easy to deal with the particular problem. No one, so far as I could gather, had the slightest intention of opposing the desires of the Government with regard to the Bill as set forth. What we complained of was that some arrangement had not been made to cover cases of people who are not on the staff. The difference between non-established and established men is a technicality which many hon. Members do not understand. We referred to the case of the man who perhaps between evening and morning took ill and died, while if he had lived till the morning and got a medical certificate, his friends would be entitled to a sum varying from seven and eight pounds to between forty and fifty pounds, whereas when he died suddenly, a few hours before he is entitled, his friends get absolutely nothing. The statement was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that to deal with that class of case a sum of at least £50,000 would be wanted. Our answer is that no such sum would be needed, but that the cases of hardship could be dealt with within the £10,000 to which this Bill is limited. Sometimes grants are made out of a Compassionate Fund, which is some mysterious fund, and I have known cases of grants of from £7 or £8 and as much as £15, and for which we have been deeply grateful. We say that the Treasury or any 76 particular Department, the Army or the Navy, when they are indebted to a man in a gratuity, which would be payable if the man had lived twelve hours longer, that in such cases the widow ought to have some consideration. I put it to the Secretary to the Treasury whether it is not possible to include those poor women within the scope of the Bill. I should, of course, be quite out of order in moving any Amendment which would add to the cost. I still think that this £10,000 for this Bill would cover all the cases I have in my mind. Sometimes those people, when they ask in their poverty for a sum of money, receive a reply, "The Lords of the Treasury are unable to meet the demand," winding up, "We may assure you that you have our sincere sympathy." And the people always reply: "We do not want your sympathy; we want your money." And I think they are right. I ask, Do the Government propose to deal with those cases in the Bill, or how?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I have certain objections which are Committee points. I understand from the Patronage Secretary that this Bill will be taken in Committee of the Whole House, and, if that is so, I shall raise my points there.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Would the right hon. Gentleman give us an explanation as to what extra charge is likely to be thrown on the Treasury by Clause I? I apologise if I trouble the House on a matter that may require some information, but I confess I do not understand the matter so far as this Section goes. It appears by it that a public servant who is lent to some other service, even outside the United Kingdom, is given the right under this Clause to obtain pension and superannuation allowances as if he had continued to serve in the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) has referred to the readiness of the Lords of the Treasury to give sympathy, but no money. I submit that it is quite easy to come forward and make claims on the sympathy of the Lords of the Treasury. I wish that they were less ready to agree to pay the taxpayers' money. I submit they have no business to be sympathetic with the money of the taxpayers, but that they ought to interpret the Statutes strictly in this behalf. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some example, as it is not quite easy to see what extra charges are to fall on the overburdened and utterly disregarded taxpayer, on whose behalf nobody ever raises 77 a voice. I hope he will give us some indication of what is likely to be the amount of extra expense to be thrown on that patient ass, the taxpayer, by this Bill.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Masterman)
In reply to the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, it is proposed, and I think accepted as for the general convenience, that this Bill should be taken in Committee of the Whole House, and, after Second Reading, I propose to make a Motion to that effect. With regard to the question asked by the hon. Member for Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) I did go fully into the finances of the Bill in proposing the Committee stage of the Financial Resolution. The total amount that the Bill is estimated to cost, to meet various hardships most pressing on the humbler ranks of the Civil Service, is something like £20,000. We estimate that Clause 1 will cost something like £500 per year, and not more than a total of £500 a year. It is to make provision that if a Civil servant be wanted either in the Colonies or Egypt, or in some foreign country, for the public interest to work in that country, that he shall not lose the pension rights or disablement rights that he has earned up to the time of his transfer, but not after his transfer. There have been cases in which it has been impossible to invite Civil servants to occupy such positions because they would forfeit their pension rights or disablement allowances which they had earned. We do not propose to give pension rights for the time in which the service is in any foreign or Colonial Government, but we do propose, if he does break down, that the Civil servant shall have the rights which he had earned up to the time he left, and it is estimated that that is equivalent to something like £500 per year. As to the point of the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks), I think he agrees with me that I should be entirely out of order in dealing with it on this Bill, because the Resolution which was passed in Committee limited this Bill to certain changes in the Superannuation Acts. We cannot go behind that Resolution; it was discussed very fully in the Committee stage, and the House approved of the Resolution. Under those circumstances I could not ask the House to make any changes in the Superannuation Acts or outside the Superannuation Acts, which would not be covered by the Resolution, and therefore I should be out of order if I dealt with the matter. I may tell the hon. Member that the attention which he 78 and others have given to the subject has led us to look with more attention into the matter. We have every sympathy with the special cases referred to. I hope he will not think that that is a perfunctory statement. We do manage to meet some of those cases by a small compassionate fund, but, on the other hand, to abolish completely the differentiation between established and non-established people, and give all the non-established persons working under the Government the same rights of pension or disability allowances as the established persons would cost something like a million per year, which is something quite outside the scope of any non-controversial Bill like this. I can asure the hon. Member I am trying to see whether my officers in conjunction with the War Office and Admiralty can devise some kind of limited scheme dealing with the special cases brought before the House, and if I find I can do so, either in an Estimate, or, if necessary, with another small Bill similar to this next year, I will certainly try.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that this matter was brought to the attention of the House by the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks). We were met in this way by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said, "None of you being private Members can move to increase the charge proposed to be put on by this Resolution, and therefore unless we, the Government, choose to do it, you cannot do what you want." Then he turned round to the Labour Benches and said, "If you venture to vote against us, we will drop this Bill." The Labour Benches, as usual, decided not to vote against the Government or to do anything effective. Whenever the Government propose anything, they always run away headed by the hon. Member for Stoke. That happened again in this case. Some of us suggested a way by which they could have done something effective on that evening. I think it is right that the country should know that they deliberately did not choose to do the effective thing, t think the hon. Member for Bradford did vote with those who wanted to do something effective, but the hon. Member for Woolwich did not. The effective thing was to move the adjournment of the Debate. I think that exact Motion was made in order to give the Government time to bring up an enlarged Resolution which would have dealt with the point with which the hon. Member wanted to 79 deal. That was the only practical way in which it could be dealt with. The hon. Member for Woolwich decided he would not do that, because it would embarrass the Government. If the hon. Member for Woolwich likes to be a Member of the Liberal party, well and good, but he professes to be a Labour Member, a Member of the Independent Labour party, but he always votes exactly as the Government tell him to vote. Now come the Government again and say. "We can do nothing on the Second Reading. We are tied and bound by the Financial Resolution."
May I suggest to the Government that, if they wish to do anything effective, they can easily introduce another Financial Resolution which will enable them to enlarge this Bill. There is nothing to prevent them doing that. I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I say there is nothing to prevent them bringing in a second Financial Resolution which will enable them when we get into Committee to deal with the cases referred to by the hon. Member for Woolwich. They will not do that unless the hon. Member is prepared to back his Bill with something more effective than he has shown up to the present. We can do nothing on this side; we are prepared to vote against the Government, but the Government having a hundred or two of a majority, which on this particular occasion they have got under their command, are not in the least afraid of what the Opposition can do. The only people who can do anything effective in this case are the Labour party, and therefore nothing will be done. It seems to me a real serious grievance, the correction of which I personally should be ready to support. I do not believe for a moment that the cases which the hon. Member for Woolwich has alluded to would cost a million per year to deal with. As I understand, they are cases of a very rare character, and could be dealt with at a cost of a few thousand pounds a year at the outside. The real point is whether or not the hon. Member is prepared to do anything effective in this matter. If he is not, I think he would consult his own dignity and the dignity of the House by not continuing to talk about the subject. If he wishes to do something effective it is open for him to do so either on this or on some subsequent stage of the Bill.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I congratulate the Noble Lord on taking up the position of gentle- 80 man usher to the naughty boys of the Labour party. If he had shown a little more sincere appreciation of the point and less desire to make party capital he would have had more sympathy in this part of the House. The point raised by the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) is a perfectly good one, and met with general sympathy in the House. The Noble Lord has no monopoly of sympathy with the subject. It was clearly shown on behalf of the Government that it was a distinct point, needing a distinct Money Resolution and a distinct Bill.
§ Mr. BOOTH
Yes. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Masterman) has given the hon. Member for Woolwich a pledge that in consequence of his representation the Government are going into the matter in a manner they did not, before, and that they will do something in the most convenient method, which will be next Session.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
Room could easily be made for a really useful measure of social reform by dropping purely political measures.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I am quite sure that the Noble Lord thinks that a measure could be introduced and would be prepared to attend for an Autumn Session specially for that purpose. The hon. Member for Woolwich has a pledge from the Government that they are going into the matter, and that if need be they will introduce a small Bill to further his object. That I am sure meets with the scorn and disapproval of the Noble Lord. He would far sooner make a party point than see this wrong remedied. I therefore congratulate him on the new role he has assumed.
§ Mr. KELLAWAY
We have had one of those superior lectures on independence to which hon. Members opposite occasionally treat us. I am not sure what the Noble Lord's idea of an independent Member is. It appears to be somebody who always obeys the party Whip provided it happens to be the Tory party Whip. Knowing something of the Noble 81 Lord's voting record, I have come to the conclusion that there is hardly anybody on that side of the House who possesses less of the quality of independence than he. One could put on a very small piece of paper the occasions on which the Noble Lord has ever shown independence enough to vote against his own party Whips. I have no objection to the Noble Lord's polishing his own independent halo in public, but he might at least give those on this side of the House who do not always agree with him some of the credit for independence which he claims for himself. If he wants us to believe in his independence he must show his independence by occasionally voting against his own party Whip.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
I wish again to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the case of a doctor employed on the Gold Coast who, after eleven or twelve years' service, was invalided home. If he had then retired he would have been entitled to £l,200; but the doctor gave him a clean bill of health, and he resumed work on the Gold Coast. After a few months he was again taken ill and died. The result was that his widow was not entitled to any pension whatever, nor could she claim any part of the £1,200. I maintain that inasmuch as for every year's service the doctor was entitled to £100, whatever stood to his credit should have been paid to his widow on his death. His death actually saved the Government £1,200, and certain deductions had been made from his salary to entitle him to the money. I shall be very glad if the Secretary to the Treasury will take a case of that kind into consideration.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time.
§ Question, "That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House"—[Mr. Masterman]—put, and agreed to.