Question again proposed,
That the Draft Supplementary Pensions (Determination of Need and Assessment of Needs) (Amendment) Regulations, 1942, made by the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, acting in conjunction under Part II of the Old Age and Widows' Pensions Act, 1940, a copy of which was presented to this House on 21st July, be approved.
§ Mr. Willink
In conclusion, I believe there is one way in which this day may be most profitably used. The Assistance Board have intimated that they have a big task in hand if they are to get these allowances into thorough circulation by the date they want to, which is 17th August. This day will be usefully given to this Debate, as, I believe, all of us can do something to procure for the old people in our constituencies the maximum benefit that these Regulations can give. In this Debate so far, the depreciative adjectives which we have heard have not been so violent as at other times. They have been such words as "niggling and miserly." In the last Debate we had the whole catalogue—" iniquitous," "infamous," "monstrous," "oppressive," "degrading" and '.' humiliating," words usually employed by those attacking any form of means or needs test. It horrifies me to think of the number of simple people who have lost allowances which would have been of value to them through being led to believe that the Regulations and their administration merited that description. I appeal to those who describe the administration in those terms to cease to do so from now onwards, in the interests of the old people. On the subject of the needs test, I would like to read to the House a passage from a publication which I have found exceedingly interesting, namely, the recommendations made to Sir William Beveridge's Committee by 575 the Assistance Board Departmental Whitley Council (Staff side). It includes this sentence:We do not believe that the public rejects the fundamental principle that the citizen should get what he needs, indeed, rather do we believe that the public rejects the idea that any citizen should receive maintenance from the public purse when he is in a position to maintain himself. Interviewing officers of the Assistance Board have frequently received complaints in this key.The rest of that document is of a most forward-looking and progressive character, and I would appeal to the House and to all hon. Members to cease from describing this most beneficent administration by these exceedingly derogatory terms. I believe that the very best thing we can each and all do is to do everything we can to make these Regulations and the practice which is intended to accompany them a success.
§ Mr. Pearson (Pontypridd)
I have no doubt myself that the appeal of the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) will not be acceded to by most hon. Members of this House. I am certain that they will still use suitable adjectives in order to impress upon the House the meanness of certain features of Assistance Board administration. The House has shown anxiety regarding the old age pensioners and the widows of the country. Soberly considered, it becomes evident that something essential is overlooked in our social services as far as the Assistance Board administration is concerned. The State has left the old age pensioners and the widows insufficiently provided for. Even what aid there is cannot be obtained with full dignity. There is too low a maintenance income, and when you consider the unnecessary finesse in the administration of some of the Sections of the Act itself, I think it is high time that they were amended.
Take, for example, the winter allowances. If there is what is considered to be a free resource going into the pockets of an applicant, the Board does not award a winter allowance. Then again, in cases where the custom is prevalent of paying 6s. or 7s. a week for rooms, and tea and potatoes are given by the landlord in addition to the rooms, even in cases of that sort winter allowances are not granted. Why all this unnecessary finesse in regard to the applicants for supplementary pensions? Anyhow, a lively consciousness 576 has been aroused throughout the country which I think will corrode much of the tranquillity of hon. and right hon. Members in this House who think that the old age pensioners and widows can be satisfied with their present life. Hence, the old age pensioner and the widow are dependent upon justice being done by this House of Commons. I hope we shall not fail them.
These Draft Regulations do not conform to the fitness of things. These people have had a bad bargain in their lives, with long terms of unemployment and very little in the way of social services. Now that they have reached a pensionable age we are trying to squeeze little advantages which I maintain should be theirs. The income scales in the draft document are too low. They allow an income insufficient for adequate living. When living conditions are as difficult as they are now, the standard of maintenance income proposed still means a mean life and a scanty one. That is the urgency of realising increased incomes for those who are least able to help themselves. I hold that the will of the people is very strong and very clear as to the desirability of giving much greater incomes to the pensionable class, and I urge the raising of supplementary pensions to 25s. a week for a single person as a step in the fulfilment of the earnestness that so many feel in regard to pensions and, as another step, 42s. for a man and wife.
Let me again mention one of the small-minded things in the administration. Why should a man and wife be given 1s. a week less because the wife is under pensionable age? There is no generosity at all in that sort of treatment, and I ask that it should be abolished. I also appeal for the non-householder's scale to be abolished, and for the discrimination between the sexes to be abolished. I hope that hon. Members who belong to the fair sex will support me in that plea. These categories suffer a treatment which is parsimonious and vexatious, and I sincerely appeal for the abolition of the non-householder scale. We have an indirect method of arriving at the assessment for the non-householders, and invariably they get less than what is given to the householder applicants.
What is the barrier which stands in the way of giving these concessions? Is it finance? The Chancellor of Exchequer, I 577 am certain, will say that that is a very material factor. I hope to have a little to say on that at a later stage. Here we have supplementary pensions under unemployment assistance, and we have, I think, an opportunity to radiate a beacon light of realism in putting a fairly large section of the community beyond a meagre life of want. It has been well said that "Where there's a will, there's a way," and it is to the degree that we are prepared to express that will with determination that we can overcome the obstacles we see in our way. The cost of the increases to these classes of needful people need not overwhelm us. Yet the question will be asked, "Can the nation afford it?" Admittedly it is a large bill, but allow me to put these considerations. The national resources have grown in a striking fashion. Science and its application to industry and agriculture have enormously increased the capacity to produce commodities. Figures have been extracted by the Royal Statistical Society showing that the average national income for the years 1897 to 1903 was £1,666,000,000. A year before the last war Professor Bowley said that the figure had risen to £2,000,000,000 per annum. A White Paper published by the Treasury in April last gives the figure in 1938 as £4,595,000,000 and in 1941 as £6,338,000,000. From such a large annual national income surely can be wrested sound standards of supplementary pensions for the aged, the widowed and those who are on unemployment assistance.
I submit when such wealth abounds a nation's foundations are bound to deteriorate morally and spiritually if we allow to persist at the same time an insufficiency for sustenance to stalk the homes of perhaps nearly 2,000,000 of old age pensioners, widows and unemployed. We have no business to tolerate that. The national income is big enough to extinguish the worry and sorrow of want. Hon. and right hon. Members are worried from time to time about this old age pensions business, and I believe that when they are asked like that they invariably answer, "Yes, we think you should get enough in order to sustain the house," and so on. Happiness and welfare have an opportunity to spring from sound standards of livelihood. A good standard of maintenance is a good national investment. This generation must achieve and pass on to the next some fuller satisfying 578 content for those reaching pensionable age, and for widows and the unemployed. Without achieving this the Four Freedoms of the Atlantic Charter will be mocked as sheer insincerity. We dare not allow that to happen. It would not be worthy of our great traditions. The days we live through are admittedly difficult. Yet to go forward improving the lot of those receiving the lower and inadequate incomes in the country such as the pensioners will return a really good dividend of greater happiness and contentment among the aged in the country.
§ Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said that the days in which we were living were admittedly difficult. I think that is indeed a masterpiece of understatement. Admittedly difficult they are, but as I have been sitting here to-day it has occurred to me that one of the most remarkable things about this Debate is that it is taking place on one of the most critical days in the war. When our gallant Allies are sustaining an attack probably never equalled before, and we ourselves, though we perhaps do not realise it sufficiently, are a beleaguered island, it is a remarkable thing, and to the credit of democracy, that we should be considering the welfare and the care of the aged people in our land. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink), speaking from his contact with some of these problems, made many observations with which I am in agreement. On the other hand, when he said that he congratulated the Government, I did not agree with him. I do not propose to congratulate the Government or anybody in this matter until we reach in this House of Commons a final settlement of this problem which removes any remaining reproach there may be to this House and to the nation at large in their treatment of the aged, and which will put an end to these discussions which we have periodically in this House on this subject. I intend to say very little now, because I have already unburdened my soul on behalf of the old age pensioners on many occasions, and I feel I have exhausted the right to be heard, and must give way to others. But I will say here again that it is an unseemly thing that the care of the aged people should be the subject of political controversy and dispute. The state of a civilisation may be well 579 judged by the attention and care it gives to its aged folk and also to the young. These are probably as good a test of civilisation as may be found. I think it an unseemly thing that we should be engaged in political disputes on that matter.
I hope that when we do reach the kind of settlement I have mentioned we shall find it is a settlement by the House of Commons as a whole. These suggestions which come to us to-day are at all events the product of the minds and attention and consideration of a united Government. That is something, but I hope when the day comes that we can congratulate ourselves on disposing of the problem it will be the product of the House of Commons and a united Assembly. That seems to me to be of great importance. These proposals may be mean, they may be miserly, they may be meagre. Those words have been used about the proposals to-day, but at all events the addition of from £11,000,000 to £12,000,000 to the resources of the aged people of this country can do them no harm. To anybody living on an income of that scale an increment such as is proposed to-day is an important matter. We are often in our discussions disposed to overlook the point of view of the aged people. I said that it was a great tribute to democracy that in these terrible days we should be giving our minds, and, at least, a little of our money, for these people. The aged people would regard it, I think, as an insult if their needs were to become a sort of auction between the political parties: nobody is more proud than they. I do not know whether we sufficiently recognise the silent heroism of the aged people, which goes on year after year.
I have said that these proposals represent a contribution which will be acceptable, and which will do nobody any harm. But I. will tell the House one thing that they will not do. We are apt to speak of the old age pensioners as though they were all on the same level economically. There are many in whose homes any hon. Member of this House would be prepared to stay. On the other hand, there are the old, single people with no other resources. To them, the additional contribution will not make the difference between having a place in which to live and a place that they can call their home. Those who are familiar with the dwellings 580 of old age pensioners know that in some of them you will find chairs, a table, fire irons, the bare necessities of life, but none of those little accessories which make all the difference between a place in which you live and a place which you call a home. A sum of £11,000,000 may seem considerable, but it is not considerable in relation to the great increases of spending power which are being almost weekly added to the more fortunate sections of the community. In the conditions in which we live to-day, the real problem ought to be how to allocate priorities of claims upon the diminishing stock of commodities-available for. civilian resources. There is no question that the share allocated to the aged is still too small. Their feelings are not improved by the knowledge that week by week other sections of the community are adding to their spending power and their claims on existing supplies.
We are also up against the difficulty, which has been referred to to-day, that we have in this country a system of allowances in general which, as I have said before—and as I shall go on saying as long as I am in this House, unless things are altered—is absolutely indefensible. It is well known that our system of social security—or social insecurity—is based upon a collection of unequal allowances for equal needs. So long as that continues, a final settlement is impossible. I will refer to only one example. After these new Regulations come into force, with the increased benefits they give, the amounts available for food and clothing for a single couple, living on their pensions without other resources, will still be less than the 10s. 6d. a week which is given to a child evacuee under the age of five. One could go on for an almost unlimited time enumerating the anomalies of our social security system. But I take note of the assurance of my right hon. Friend that these proposals are not a final settlement. They could not be. We look forward to having, at a comparatively early date, if the march of events will allow it, a discussion—which I hope will be on a non-political basis—of the future of our social security system. We must work for the establishment of a national minimum to which every citizen who has not forfeited the right to citizenship by some act of his own shall be entitled, and which shall be related to a properly determined and agreed standard 581 of existence. That will enable all these anomalies to be swept away. It will lead to an immense simplification in administration. It may require a vast reorganisation of our machinery of government over a large area. I look forward to a discussion on those lines in the not distant future, because only when that is done shall we reach a state of organisation in which any reproach that there may still be that this nation is not providing for the aged will be removed. Then our system of social security will be a system of social security in fact as well as in name.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
I agree with the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White) that it is a remarkable, if not a staggering, fact that at this grave hour we should be discussing a subject of this kind. It is equally surprising that we should have had, first, a speech such as that which was delivered by the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar), and, secondly, a group of Amendments on behalf of the Labour party such as appear on the Order Paper to-day. I am not going to deal at length with the speech of the hon. Member for Abertillery, but I was somewhat amazed by his attack upon the Government and upon these Regulations because of the provision that is made for supplying old people with food, pots and pans, blankets, and so on. The hon. Member pours scorn on the Government for dealing with these matters, yet I remember that it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) who, speaking on behalf of the Labour party some months ago, asked the Government for these very things. It is extraordinary that when a response—and, as I think, a generous response—is made to such a precise demand, a spokesman for the same party should turn on the Government and trounce them. If that is not playing party politics, I do not understand the term.
So much for the speech. I turn now to the Amendments upon the Order Paper and notice that the Amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) asks that this Order be not approved in the absence of any specific assurance of further measures for old age pensioners to be introduced this Session.
Yes, I should have said "next Session." The point here obviously is that the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of his friends ask that the problem of old age pensions should be picked out of all the other social problems of the day, workmen's compensation, sickness, accident, widows, children and all the other range of problems, many of them equally pressing and many of which have been urged by hon. Members opposite—that this question should be taken out from all the others and dealt with separately. It was the right hon. Gentleman himself who appointed the Beveridge Committee to deal with the very comprehensiveness of this problem and invited Sir William Beveridge to take the whole thing in his sweep, and surely it is an insult to the right hon. Gentleman to invite the Government to make a special provision to deal with pensions alone and to ignore altogether what has been done by that Committee,
May I call attention to another staggering fact in regard to the Amendment? The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman and the Amendments of the other two groups of his friends apparently ask the House to vote against this Regulation to-day. Their object is that the Regulation be not approved. If I understood the discussion at the beginning of the Debate, the House is to be divided, and we are to be asked to vote upon this question. I do not know whether to take that as a serious move, but if we were to follow that advice and to withhold from the old people £9,250,000 now offered to them I have no doubt there would be an enraged outcry from the old people in every part of the country.
The hon. Member has not a very great risk to take. Personally, I am not prepared to face my people and say to them that I voted against a Measure which was to bring thousands of pounds to the constituency I represent. I am not prepared to turn down an increase of 20 per cent. It is only an instalment. [Interruption.] Of course it is not enough. The new provision is some 20 per cent. better than it is now, and on behalf of those whom I represent and to whom I have given consistent 583 pledges, I am not prepared to reject this offer of the Government to-day.
§ Mr. Granville (Eye)
If an Amendment should be called in favour of giving an increase, will the hon. Member support it?
I will answer that question. Half a loaf or even in this case a sixth or a fifth of a loaf is better than no bread, and I would be a knave and a fool and false to every pledge I have given if I were to turn it down to-day. The hon. Member for East Birkenhead referred to the pensions enjoyed by old people as compared with the wages paid to workers in munition factories. In the first speech I delivered in this House, 13 months ago, after leaving the Army, I drew attention to the remarkable differences between the wages earned by munition workers and the allowances made to the dependants of soldiers and old people, and I pleaded then for an increase in these allowances and pensions. I stand by that plea to-day, and in so far as this Order meets that plea, I accept it and I am grateful for it, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having brought it in.
It is, of course, always possible to argue that half-a-crown is too little and that it ought to be 5s. or 5s. 6d., or something else. I could argue that case too. It is possible to argue that it should be something more than it is.
§ Mr. W. Brown
Is it impossible to vote for it? [Interruption.] Why cannot we vote for an increase in the Government proposal, and why are we limited in this Debate? It is a racket.
I do not know who is the best judge of a racket, you Mr. Speaker, or the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown).
If the hon. Member will show me the courtesy of listening, he will see that I have a case to make. I say that an increase could be argued, but any dose examination of the Amendments on the Order Paper makes it abundantly clear that that is not the issue at all.
That is not the issue. It is abundantly plain that something much wider is asked for by the party or groups of the party opposite.
I want to ask the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) whether along with the hon. Member for West Fife and the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson), he did not attend a conference of the Old Age Pensioners Association and promised to support their demand. Why is he not doing it now?
If I am permitted to continue my speech, I will show my hon. Friend that I am standing up to every pledge I have given, but I am saying that at this stage I am grateful for this instalment. That is all that I am saying. It would seem that there is no gratitude at all on the other side of the House. The Amendments on the Order Paper make it plain that those who support these Amendments ask for something much more than a mere addition to the supplementary pension. Obviously what they desire is a substantial permanent increase in the basic pension. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to have that assurance. Now we know where we are. The party opposite want a substantial permanent addition to the basic pension payable to all old age pensioners irrespective of means or contributions to the pension fund; and their intention is clearly that the whole of the cost of this increase now and in the future should be borne by the State. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad we are now all clear about it.
The hon. Member for West Fife and the hon. Member for Dunfermline and my constituents know very well, for I have often expressed my views, that I dislike the process by which all people's affairs are pried into by officials of any Government Department. I do not like the means test. It applies most harshly to decent old people who have scraped and saved all their lives. I think it does harm. That is my view. I know the arguments which are put up in support of the means test and they are, of course, substantial arguments—so substantial that they are 585 accepted by Members of the Government from all parties. It is foolish to pretend they are not there, because they are. But I have come to the conclusion, after 10 years' very close association with this problem, that in the case of old people it is a bad system, with effects which are harmful to the national interest. I have often heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George; say that the State has many ledgers. One ledger may show a debit but that may be more than counterbalanced by a credit in another ledger. So it is in the case of old age pensioners. The means test may save millions of pounds, but I honestly believe that in the very process of saving on that ledger we may be losing millions on another side through the squandering of savings on the part of thousands of people throughout their lives. I, with hon. Members opposite would like to see the end of this test as applied to old age pensioners and I shall not feel satisfied that the pension is adequate until it has reached 30s. per week per person. These are my objectives, and I have little doubt that sooner or later they will be reached by this House.
The problem, however, is what are the means towards that end? The cost will be immense. Who is to meet it? That problem must be faced squarely and honestly by this House. It is one of the most important problems of this generation. I will say nothing at all about the acute financial position which will face us at the end of this war, nor about the grave economic problems which will confront us, though surely they already appear big and grave enough to cause us to pause and think before committing the Government to immense and undefined obligations in the future. I will confine myself to the single question of the population—a matter which, unfortunately, this House has almost entirely ignored but which I regard as one of the most serious problems of this age. I offer one reflection upon it, and I quote from a leading article in "The Times" of 20th April, to which I beg my hon. Friends opposite to listen, because I think it gets right at the root of this problem. This is the quotation:The first stage in any population policy must be to discover the facts and make them known. There can be no long range planning of any value without them. Most people will 586 count upon the attainment of a considerable measure of reorganisation and stability within the next 20 years. But is it realised that the maximum size of the working population in 1960 is already fixed and, further, that unless the prevailing habits and tendencies in family life change radically, that population is itself doomed to decline? …. Children under 14 now constitute about 22 per cent. of the population of Britain. Unless recent trends change they will form in 30 years' time only 10.2 per cent. of the population and in 60 years only 4 per cent. The effect of such movement on the balance of youth and age in the population can be estimated with fair accuracy. If fertility and mortality remain what they have been during the last 10 years "—and I beg the House to note the following words—the proportion of aged persons in the community will be doubled by 1981 and the proportion of young persons will have been reduced by one-third.[Interruption.] We are dealing in this House, I hope, with the generation ahead and if our policy is to be "To hell with the future" then I regard that as a most irresponsible attitude. Just think, that the proportion of aged persons in the community will be doubled in 40 years' time and the number of young people will be reduced by one-third. These are terrible facts and if there is any doubt about them here is the report of the Registrars-General for Scotland, England and Wales who say the same thing in other words, as follows:In the group of persons over 65 years very large additions must be contemplated in the near future.What is the effect of those trends of population on the problem of old age pensioners? I think it is abundantly plain. With every year that passes—and the tendency will accelerate as the years go on—the cost of old age pensions will rapidly increase and the numbers of those who have to bear it will steadily diminish. Members of the House who are now young will, before they have retired from public life, find the burden of old age pensions more than doubled while those who have to bear it, the youth of the generation, will have been reduced by a substantial amount. What that means in terms of individual responsibility I leave to mathematicians to work out. How is it possible—and this is where I begin to differ from hon. Members opposite—in those circumstances, for the National Exchequer to bear the whole cost of that massive, increasing amount of old age pensions? I say it is not possible and I declare that no Govern- 587 ment after the war will be likely to undertake the burden of that immense obligation. I believe that this increasing cost of old age pensions through taxation—because taxation is now levied upon all classes—will be regarded as an intolerable burden by the younger generation and by those who will be non-pensionable.
There is only one possible way to meet the objective which I have presented to the House—that is, 30s. a week pension, free from any means test. The only way is by a comprehensive insurance policy covering the whole nation. [Interruption.] What is the difference? The difference is that in an insurance scheme every man will be able to contribute to what he knows he himself will receive, and that is altogether different from State subventions. In urging this view I am merely repeating what I understand to be the actual proposals now before the Beveridge Committee, namely, one comprehensive insurance policy covering all needs, old age, sickness, accidents and so on. And may I add, if such a scheme is presented by the Beveridge Committee, as I hope in the autumn it will be, I trust the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not say that nothing can be done about it until after the war. If such a scheme is put up it ought to be put into operation at once. On the lowest grounds of financial expediency, such a course would appear to be wise. When an exceptional number of people are working and drawing exceptionally high wages, now, surely, is the time to secure their contributions and build up the fund out of which old people will benefit in years to come.
That is my policy for old age pensioners. It will achieve as much as and more than the critics have asked for to-day, and it will be fair to the taxpayer, just to the younger generation and generous to old people. Moreover, it will preserve and encourage enterprise, self-help and thrift in all classes and will, above all, sanctify in the hearts of our people of all ages that spirit of independence which has been the pride of our nation in the past and without which no real future lies ahead of us.
§ Mrs. Adamson (Dartford)
The great interest which is taken in this question of old age and widows' pensions in this House is an intimation of the importance of the subject and is also indicative of 588 the importance of public opinion on the question. When I listened to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) I wondered whether everything in the garden was as lovely as he seemed to suppose. The contacts I have had with aged people and widows are of a different kind from his. I do not get the same refreshment from those contacts as evidently he did. In a recent Debate, the Government undertook to bring forward proposals before the report of the Beveridge Committee was ready, and they have done so. I know that these draft Regulations will mean an advance to many of our aged people. I would like to support the hon. Member who drew attention to the scales for the pensioner who is a householder but has no wife or husband and the pensioner who is living as a member of someone else's household; in these scales there is a differentiation of 1s. a week between the men and the women. I can find no justification for this differentiation. I think it must be part of the old assumption that it takes less to keep a woman than it does to keep a man, but there is no married man in this House who believes that. I feel that the Chancellor might have wiped out this differential payment and given the same amount.
I think the House will be quite justified in continuing to discuss this problem until such time as we get a long-term policy and social security not only for the aged people and the widows, but for all needy sections of the community. I do not think any apology is necessary for this discussion at this time, even though this is one of the most critical periods of the war. I am sorry the Government did not bring forward proposals concerning interest charges and the scales for deductions when people have small amounts. There are also other problems that might have been discussed and recommendations made in regard to them. Of course, the present report may only be an interim one; in view of the statements that were made by the Government in a previous Debate, that may well be the case. But it is piecemeal tinkering with a very difficult problem. The majority of people want a clear-cut scheme for the aged. We can always look to other countries and benefit from their experience. I have been very interested in the treatment meted out to the 589 aged folk particularly in one country, where the pensions are not called old age pensions, but age benefits, and where there is a flat rate scale of £1 10s. a week both for a man and his wife. The aged people there can own their own houses, because that country evidently desires to encourage its people to be thrifty, they can have £500 in the bank, and they can earn up to £1 a week. A scheme of that sort would simplify things in this country and cut away the necessity for such a large staff as we have administering the old age pensions in this country.
In a recent Debate, I pleaded for the widows, and I am disappointed that no concrete proposals have been brought forward to deal with the position of widows, unless, of course, they happen to be over 60, when they would benefit to some extent from the present Regulations. I said then that, until we get the long-term policy and the recommendations of the Beveridge Committee, the standing joint committee of working women's organisations, which represents over 2,000,000 working-class women, would welcome the extension of supplementary pensions for widows under 60, although they would prefer to have a fiat rate increase in the basic rates. I have received hundreds of letters from widows, many of whom receive no pensions, as their husbands did not come under the National Health Insurance or for one reason or another they fell out of that scheme. The plight of these women is very pathetic; they are left to struggle along to bring up their children, and by the time they get to middle age, they are worn out with the struggle, suffer from ill health, and have very little hope for enjoyment left in their lives. They have to wait until they qualify for the non-contributory pension at the age of 70, and as one widow said to me, "If my ill health continues, I shall not have to apply for one, because I feel I have not much longer to live."
We have to do something for the widows. We cannot go on neglecting and ignoring this problem. The first essential is to see that all widows receive pensions, and to see that there is an equalisation of the widows' pensions. I do not think anyone can justify the fact that a widow whose husband has paid into the National Health and Contributory Pensions Scheme receives 10s. a week, while another section of widows receive 25s. a week. As a 590 first instalment towards more adequate pensions for the widows of this country, there has to be equalisation. I believe the country holds the opinion that we ought to make the provision of widows' pensions a priority problem, and Members of Parliament will hear a good deal about this question in their constituencies. Then there is the position of spinsters. I have had many letters from spinsters who, for one reason or another, have not had an opportunity to qualify as workers—perhaps they have been engaged in domestic work at home helping their parents. Their plight is as pathetic as that of widows.
It may be that we shall require special legislation to deal with these problems. It may be that the Government cannot bring forward any proposals at the present time for supplementary pensions to widows under 60 because it would require legislation. One marvels to hear Members talking about the delay which is bound to arise over the introduction of special legislation, because, as one who was here in the early stages of the war, I viewed With great interest and amazement the rapidity with which legislation, which, of course, was absolutely necessary, "was rushed through the House of Commons. If we could do it for war purposes, I do not understand why it cannot be done to meet the needs of a deserving section of the community. I do not intend to speak at length to-day, because I spoke quite recently on this subject and on public platforms I have urged frequently the necessity for introducing more adequate pensions for our aged people, particularly for widows and fatherless children. There is no true wealth but life, and we shall not have a happy and contented community and rid the mind and lives of our people of the fear of want and poverty until we adopt a long-term policy and introduce social security schemes, instead of bringing forward, from time to time, Draft Regulations which make concessions to some but entirely omit to deal with others.
§ Mr. Rowlands (Flint)
I had the good fortune to capture the eye of Mr. Speaker during the last Debate on this subject on 17th June. On that occasion a Motion was moved calling on the Government to inquire into certain cases where pensioners were finding it difficult to make both ends meet owing to war conditions. There was unanimity in the House at 591 that time that certain inquiries should be made. Obviously the Government have come to the conclusion that people in receipt of supplementary pensions are the very people who are in the greatest need. It was to them the Resolution referred. Even that Resolution did not ask for the remodelling of the whole scheme of pensions. We knew at that time that a committee had been appointed to consider the question. That committee is still sitting, and I cannot see why this discussion should have ranged over such a wide sphere, and why hon. Members should have spoken of a permanent scheme, as the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) did, instead of confining themselves to the Regulations before the House.
There has been a great deal of criticism of the means test principle in connection with supplementary pensions. The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) mentioned it to-day and in the previous Debate, but the Resolution asked that something should be done for the needy, and I should like to know how it is possible to ascertain who are the needy without having some sort of means test. I do not understand hon. Members when they consistently object to the means test in such cases. After all, one after another hon. Member walked into the Lobby to support the principle of a means test in connection with the Members of Parliament Pensions scheme. I think we have brought the means test down to a very fine art. There is a means test for everyone who earns any money to see whether Income Tax deductions should be made. There is no objection to a means test for the man who has to pay, and if there is no objection in that case, how can there be any objection to a means test for the man who is to receive the money? Such an objection is simply not logical.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
The difference is this. We are appealing here for those who have not, but the hon. Member is referring to individuals who have. We want to take from those who have, and give to those who have not.
§ Mr. Rowlands
I thank the hon. Member for being so frank. He wants to take from those who have and give to those who have not. That has been going on for a very long time, and it will no doubt go on to the end of time. I join issue 592 with him however when he looks forward to the time when there will be no means test. That will come only when we are able to fix the pension of every individual higher than the highest supplementary pension given to-day. To-day supplementary pensions amount to 28s. for a single person, and £2 5s. for a married couple: I am not saying that I would not like to. see everyone receiving £2 5s., but until that economic problem is solved, we can only put up with this so-called irritating means test and do the best we can for the supplementary pensioner. I congratulate the Government on the speed they have, shown in bringing forward these Regulations. I am not saying that I should not like to see the rates a little higher. The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. G. White) said that the increase would do no harm and the Minister of Health said that that was a masterpiece of understatement. I am surprised that the hon. Member for East Birkenhead should say that the increase will do no harm, for I am convinced the increase of 5s. per week will be a great assistance to any aged couple who find it difficult to make both ends meet; and I am certain the aged supplementary pensioners will be very pleased with the increase. I go further and say that five shillings to a couple who need it will do a great deal of good. For that reason I thank the Government for what they have done and the speed with which they have done it.
§ Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)
I do not want the statement of the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) to go forth, with the idea that everyone in the House agrees with his theory that a one-roomed house will do for an old couple. [Interruption.] Then I must be deaf. The hon. and learned Member definitely mentioned a one-roomed house. If they attempted to put up a one-roomed house in the Hemsworth Division the old people themselves would pull it down. People want a small living room and a room to sleep in as well. If the Government, or any local authority, ever attempted to put up a one-roomed house the outcry in the country would be very loud. I wish the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) would read the Order Paper. He said there were three Amendments by the Labour party. There is only one official 593 Amendment. I wonder how often the National Liberal party—it sometimes takes us all our time to find them on that Bench—have put down two or three Amendments when they are not agreed.' The hon. Member talked for a long time, and during his speech I said to one of my colleagues, "He is meeting himself coming back now." He spoke in full sympathy with our Amendment and said something must be done for the old-age pensioners. But he wants it done "in the sweet by-and-by."
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
No, I said this year. I feel that, if the Beveridge Committee recommends a particular policy, it ought to be accepted and put into operation at once so that a 30s. pension, free of means test, can begin at the beginning of next year.
§ Mr. Griffiths
When we get the Report, it will not be dealt with in a day or a week. It will be of such immensity that it will take months. It is going to be the biggest security scheme since Adam came out of the garden. That is how we feel about it. A lot of these people will be on the other side of the coffin lid before anything is done if the hon. Member's speech is to be accepted. There are one or two respects in which this recommendation falls short, and the matter is causing tremendous concern in the country. The old age pensioners who have not had any supplementary pension feel very bitter that there is not something in the proposal for them. The hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Rowlands) spoke about the means test. The first means test introduced almost drove some of us mad. It was a family means test and, whether a man lived at home or not, if he was the son of an applicant for an old age pension, or unemployment benefit, he had to help to pay. We then got to the household means test. That hit the single young man as well as the old people and those who were out of work. We fought that proposal. Now it is reduced to a personal means test.
The personal means test is too mean. There are thousands of old age pensioners who have saved a bit. Before I came to the House I tried to save a bit, but I could not save much. I was rearing a family. To provide for the day when I could not work any longer, I tried to put a bit on one side practically every week. Thousands of workers are doing the same 594 to-day. Now that they have a certain amount the Government says to them, "You cannot have anything more than the bare 10s. although you have been the salt of the earth." Those people are feeling very bitter about these Regulations. I met one of them in my division the other day. I did not like to have to talk to him in the way I did, but I am in the third team belonging to the Government and I have to stand by the Government in a sense. I say to the Government however, that the people who are not getting the supplementary pension are very bitter because there is not a flat rate pension for them. I would like to say a word following what the hon. Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) said about widows who are not 60. How many widows below 60 are there with children? The Government have not given them a brass farthing. They receive only 10s. with 5s. for the first child and 3s. for the second. The wife of a Service man gets 8s. 6d. for the first child and 6s. 6d. for the next. Therefore, the widow who has to fight for herself gets only as much for two children as the soldier's wife gets for one. The Government should have done something in these Regulations for such widows, who are feeling very bitter about it.
I am not going to damn the supplementary pension. I say candidly that it has brought happiness to thousands of old age pensioners. I met one of my men on Thursday morning, and said, "How are you going on Tom? How about it? "He said, referring to the pension," I am glad of it George; it puts me all right." He and his wife now get 45s. a week. A few years ago he was in a signal-box on the main railway and was getting 30s. He is an old man now, 80 years of age. He will not live much longer, and with the sun of his life going down on the western side of the hill, this supplementary pension brings to him and his wife some happiness. I have damned the investigators in the past and I have had my reasons for doing so. I have gone to the office and told them some names, with knobs on, but the investigators now, as far as my folk are concerned, are behaving like ladies and gentlemen. I want to give praise where it is due. The old age pensioner I have been talking about said to me, "The lady came into my house, and she sat down and said, 'Now then, what about your clothes?' I said, 'I have got a top coat.' 595 She asked, What is it like? I said, 'I have had it 12 years.' She said, 'You ought to have a new one; go and get one.' "That is the right spirit. There may be some of the investigators who go in with a superior air. They do not understand humanity, and when they ask questions in an Oxford or Cambridge accent of a collier or a railway man, it sets up the backs of the people. It is spread about that investigators are making these inquiries and that creates a bad feeling. I am sorry that these Regulations do not give some increase to the people who have been thrifty in the past and have a pound or two in the bank. If they had done so, the old age pensioners all over the country would have risen up and called the Government blessed.
§ Mr. Francis Watt (Edinburgh, Central)
We have listened to a very sincere speech from the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths). I do not propose to say much, but it is right that a word or two from Edinburgh should be uttered. I have many old age pensioners in my constituency, and for some time I have felt—and I am glad that the Government have realised it—that enough was not being given to them. I welcome what the Government have done, not that it is the end. I prefer to regard it only as the beginning, but it is a good sign that in the course of a war the Government have found it possible to remember the needs of the old people. The means test has been a serious matter for many of the old folk. There is a good deal to be said for its abolition, because, as it stands, it means that people who have dissipated their money for years will get a comparatively large pension, whereas people who saved will be penalised. I look forward to a time when this sort of inequality will be straightened out, but I appreciate the difficulties which the Government have to face during a war. During the by-Election in Central Edinburgh two old age pensioners pointed out to me that whereas if an old person cares to put money in war savings under the limitations and regulations which the statute provides, that money is not counted against him. On the other hand, if he put a similar sum into a savings bank it is counted against him. That is not fair because, in the end, the money will go to the same purpose. The savings bank will lend the money for war purposes. I welcome this 596 move on the part of the Government. It is a sign of something to come. I hope that when the proper time arrives all parties will unite on this matter without regard to politics and that the Government will settle, once and for all, the problem of the old age pensioner.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
I want to say a word about the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink). He spoke in the last Debate on 17th June and he spoke again to-day, saying that he could not see any use for the discussion. If he thought so why did he take up time? Many of us are deeply interested in this matter and want the attention of Parliament to be given to it. That is why on 17th June we asked the Government to give attention to it. I give the Government credit for taking the matter up, but I expected after that Debate that something more would have been given. Of the 25 speeches in the Debate, nine were by Conservatives, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of those nine, only one was against any increase, and that was made by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams). Four were in favour of an increase of supplementary pensions and three of the Conservatives were in favour of an increase of the basic rate for all old age pensions. That was the view of the Conservative party, the biggest party in the House. Nearly one-half were in favour of an increase in the basic rate. Two Independents took part and they were in favour of an increase in the basic rate. One Independent Labour Party member was in favour of an increase in the basic rate, and 13 Labour Members were all for the basic increase.
That was the expression of the House of Commons and after that Debate I expected that something would be done on those lines. At a time like this, when we cannot have General Elections, if there is a concensus of opinion in one direction in the House of Commons the Government should, we feel, bow to the will of the Commons. Outside the House of Commons, wherever there are meetings of old age pensioners—I do not care where a Member may come from, even the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Robertson) who cannot' see his way to support the basic increase—there is a desire for an increase in the basic rate. That being the feeling throughout the 597 country and in Parliament why could not the Government have done something better? They come forward with an offer of 2s. 6d. per week increase in the supplementary old age pension. As far as it goes that is good, and no one wants to say differently, but why could not the Government have gone further? Why not an increase of at least 5s., and why should not the 5s. have been given to every old age pensioner? Wage earners all over the country have had increases in pay of much more than we are asking for old age pensioners. If it was thought right to give this money to supplementary pensioners why could not the Government have been a little more generous? I expect the excuse will be" Later there will be a more comprehensive scheme. The Beveridge Report will come up and we shall implement that and do something of a more permanent character." Does not, everybody expect that the Beveridge scheme will be better than this offer, and if that is so, what is there wrong in anticipating the Beveridge scheme by making a better gesture now? Is it too much to ask for 5s. addition to every old age pension? The Beveridge scheme will go beyond that.
Now I want to turn to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When he made his report to the House about the Government decision he was asked whether it was a Cabinet decision, and he gladly took the opportunity to say "Yes, and a unanimous decision." I wonder whether the Cabinet had examined the position thoroughly. I have realised that if any Minister of the Crown puts a proposal before the Cabinet invariably the members of the Cabinet, all of whom have a tremendous amount of work to do in their own Departments, are quite ready to accept what the Minister proposes. Here we have a Chancellor with the Conservative outlook, one who believes in the needs test and who has consulted the Assistance Board. Why should the Assistance Board have been brought in? The very fact of going to the Assistance Board would bring up the needs test. The Chancellor makes up his mind on what he thinks is a fair offer and goes to the rest of the Cabinet, already burdened with work, to put his proposal before them. The members of the Cabinet say, "Has this question been examined?" The Chancellor replies, "Oh yes, I have examined it and the Assistance Board 598 has helped me, and I have come to the opinion that 2s. 6d. in quite sufficient." Then the rest of the Cabinet say, "If that is your opinion we are prepared to accept it." At once the Cabinet is behind the proposal and the Chancellor can tell us that it is a unanimous decision. Yes, and we shall have the other members of the Cabinet backing the Chancellor in what he has said. I must compliment the right hon. Gentleman upon his adroitness. To-day he stepped down and the Minister of Health was put up, and we are to have the Minister of Labour to reply—a Labour representative. What a difficult position we shall be in when one of our trusted men comes forward and tells us, "This is what you ought to accept." We shall be torn over the question of what we ought to do.
I have made up my mind what I shall do, and I realise that when I have decided to act in a certain way I must accept all the implications of my action. It might be that the House would vote with me in the way in which I am intending to vote, and if that should happen, then the increase of 2s. 6d. would be lost for the time being. I am prepared to take that risk. I am going to vote against this Regulation because I believe that it is nothing like fair, and if that means losing the extra 2s. 6d. for the time being, I shall accept that position, because I know that no Government can hold out very long against the pressure from the country. If the Government's offer were turned down to-day it would mean a little longer waiting for these 1,200,000 people. I feel sorry for them, but it is a matter on which I feel so keenly that I shall go into the Division Lobby against the Regulation with the object of impressing upon the Government, the House of Commons and the country that the time has come for an increase in the basic rate for every old age pensioner and widow. That is the standpoint I shall take to-day. It is with a very sad heart that I am going to do it. I should have liked to embrace the offer from the Government, and had it been an offer of 5s. increase all round, I should gladly have gone into the Lobby in support of it. As the offer goes only part way and applies only to supplementary pensions I have no hesitation in saying that I shall vote against it.
Mr. Robertson (Streatham)
We all appreciate the knowledge which the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) has of this 599 subject and realise the genuine desire he has to make things better for the old people, but I do genuinely feel that hon. Members on all sides of the House ought to try to balance this problem of need against the ability of the taxpayers to find more money at this time. Speaking for my own constituents, and I have an intimate knowledge of the position of many of them, they are not able to pay a penny more in taxation. It. is an effort to meet their commitments in respect of Income Tax and to live. The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) attacked me in regard to a proposal which I made in a supplementary Question a few weeks ago respecting Darby and Joan clubs for relieving the loneliness of old people. I will deal with that in a few minutes' time. He knows nothing at all about Darby and Joan clubs, because in the few words one can utter in putting a supplementary Question I was not able to explain exactly what that proposal meant. He went on to say that he hoped my circumstances would never bring me to have to share the lot of a supplementary old age pensioner. I should like to tell the hon. Member that I was married on £120 a year and that I brought up children on a little more; that I served in the last war as a private soldier with a wage of 3s. 6d. and a guinea allowance to my wife and two children, at a time when eggs were 9d. each and the cost of living was at least twice as much as it is to-day. If the wheel of fortune goes round again and I have to get back to that state of living, I shall be well experienced in it, and I shall be in very good company.
In the recent pensions Debate I had the privilege of catching your eye, Mr. speaker, and I suggested to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the supplementary pension should be increased by 2s. 6d. a week to old age pensioners living alone, and that the winter allowance should be increased, and extended to the end of April. I am gratified to note that the proposals now before us run along lines similar to my suggestion. What is much more important, my elderly constituents are also well satisfied. I had the pleasure of taking tea with 650 on Sunday, all of them supplementary pensioners, 650 Victorian and Edwardian ladies and gentlemen with charming manners, spotlessly clean, well turned out, and smiling, in spite of their aches and pains and lack of 600 surplus cash. Every one of them must have suffered the ups and downs of life and the grief and pain, and the compensating love and laughter that must have come to everybody who has reached three score years and ten. The mellowing effect was obvious in their serenity and contentment. The wild language that I have heard to-day from the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) was not used by them. I am under the impression that the hon. Member was uttering what was in his own thoughts and not what was in the thoughts of the old age pensioners for whom he was speaking. [An HON. MEMBER: "How do you know? "] I know the thoughts of 650 of them last Sunday afternoon, and my old age pensioners are not so different from the pensioners of the hon. Member. I spoke to them of the examination now being made by Sir William Beveridge and the hopes of Members of this House on all sides that that great economist would solve this problem permanently in a manner acceptable to pensioners and taxpayers. Those old age pensioners of mine loudly cheered when I told them of that, and of the allowances which we are debating to-day.
Now I will turn to the Darby and Joan Club, which the hon. Member for Abertillery, with no knowledge and little wisdom, has seen fit to decry. Streatham, one of London's fine towns, is now negotiating for a house—a roomy Victorian house—with large public rooms and fine gardens, in order to equip it as a good, and almost a first-class, club. This club will have comfortable chairs, bright fires, I hope, cheery rooms, reading facilities, hot mid-day meals at from 6d. to 8d. and hot baths for men and women, as well as other amenities. It will not be tied down and restricted' to my constituents only, but it will be open to the constituents of any other Member in the neighbourhood for as long as we have room for them. I hope and believe that it will be overcrowded.
I think I shall be able to convince the hon. Member that the proposed club will not be a burden on the ratepayers and that we shall be able to do something for the pensioners. I am positive that many old people have nothing to attract them out of their homes. Many of them have lived active business lives or lives with their families, and are now living in a bed-sitting room and are very lonely. They cater only for one, or for two. If they go out and visit a place where they were once employed they find another generation installed there who probably never knew them, and moreover are too busy to stop and talk. The result is that most old people feel that they do not play any part in our national life and that they are of no use any longer. The membership of the proposed club will be entirely free to them. It will aim at providing them with an object and an interest in life. They will be able to go out of their homes and go to the club, and the walk will do them good. Maybe they will have a ride in a tram or a bus. The club will be centrally situated, and we might be able to carry there the hard core of cripples, where they will be able to get the services I have mentioned, including human kindliness, not only from people of their own age, but from a younger generation who are working for their livelihood but are willing to give their spare time free to help the old people by cooking for them, waiting on them and talking to them.
That is a praiseworthy object, I think. It is the responsibility of the community to look after its old people and we are going to it in Streatham. It is early yet to talk about it, as we have not begun, but we have some knowledge of similar clubs for younger people, and we are hopeful of success. In regard to the finance, Streatham has a population of 68,500 people, and if each of them contributed 3d. per year the yield would be £850, which would be more than enough to meet the outgoings of the club, having regard to the fact that the labour will be voluntary and unpaid. Hot midday meals from 6d. to 8d. will be a tremendous boon to the old people, providing nourishing food at a cost within their purchasing power and solving the awful problem of trying to cope with rationing when there are only one or two in the household. It will also help to solve their shopping problems.
602 I would refer again to the party on Sunday, because it was the most wonderful party I have ever attended. The people were most encouraging. I wish I could utter words that would describe them to hon. Members. It may be that when we get our club going I shall be able to invite hon. Members to it, even those who are scoffing now, so that they can see it in reality. The Streatham Forces Club is for young people in the Forces and for officers, and we held the party there, so that the old age pensioners could see the kind of thing which our committee have in view for them. On leaving, I spoke to every one of those pensioners; many spoke with emotion of their loneliness, and all were enthusiastic about our club. I am too, and so is Streatham. I think Britain will be also. If I am right, we may have many similar clubs in other parts of the country, so that Darby and Joan may go on up the hill together, and not downhill, smiling and happy to the end of the road.
Mr. Ktrkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
I will not follow the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Robertson), although I am very tempted to do so. I rise because I feel that we of the Labour movement are faced with a very serious situation. It will be impossible for me to justify the part that the members of my party who are in the Cabinet have played. Time and again I have been in a tight comer because of the part played by members of the party of which I have been a member for practically 50 years. We were let down badly by members of our party when they went into the Cabinet in the last war, and I must honestly say that I expected, as a result of the bitter experience our people had on that occasion, that our representatives in the Cabinet this time would have been as courageous as we have always thought them to be when it came to a crisis.
If there is anything that has been definitely laid down by our party at conference after conference, it is that there was to be an increase in old age pensions. Of course, there are Labour Members in the Cabinet; they are there because we put them there, and because they represent Labour. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) drew the attention of the House to the fact that not only the Labour party but the Conservative party and every party in every quarter of the House were asking the Government to 603 increase old age pensions. The Government are taking upon themselves a power they have not got. The unwritten constitution of this House and of the Government of the country is that the House of Commons makes the laws, and not the Government. This House has instructed the Government as to the lines they ought to take, and the Government have refused to accept the instructions of the House. Therefore the Members of the House of Commons need have no hesitation whatever in going into the Lobby and voting against the Government. They have ignored the House, and they are ignoring the voice of the country.
For whom are we appealing? Are we appealing for the strong and virile, the mentally and physically well-equipped, the young and the vigorous who are able to take care of themselves? No, Sir. Nobody knows better than the Minister of Labour that we are appealing for the veterans of industry. There is not a member of our party who dares face his constituency and support the Government in what they are doing to-day. In my opinion they have betrayed their trust, a high and honourable trust placed upon them in a position of power, in not having had the courage to tell the Cabinet that they could take no part in any proposal such as this. The Minister of Labour, before he took office, knew that he could bring the workers along with him and that he would have a backing. That is the part he has played, and quite scientifically, I know, in many ways. But this is an open action against the working class and against all that we Socialists have ever stood for.
The hon. Member for Streatham—I am sorry he is not in his place—said that the taxpayer could not afford it. I say, recognising all that it implies, that the country which cannot afford to give a decent standard of life to its aged folk is not worth fighting for. But I do not believe a word of it, because this country can afford to give double what we, the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) and myself, are asking for here. We are putting forward a simple proposition involving only 30s. a week. There is not a man in this House who could live on 30s. a week, and a good many of them would make a hole in the Thames rather than come 604 down to that standard of life. That being the case, they have no right to ask it of others. I wish I could awaken their conscience and make it into a canker that would roast and toast them, these people who are condemning our aged people to such a life. They are condemning our old folk to penury. For whom are we appealing? For our aged and poverty-stricken, yet we have men, and among them a Scotsman too, I am sorry to say, justifying it and saying that they are happy and contented. It is a tragedy that we should need to stand here and appeal for them. If I cannot persuade the Government and the Labour Members in the Government, I will do the opposite: I will denounce them for the part they are playing to-day.
Over 10 years ago, and you were then in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, I appealed to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, and because of the way he replied to me then that the country could not afford it, the fight I put up on that day finished in my being suspended from the House of Commons. That was over 10 years ago. Here we are to-day, with thousands of the sons of these old folk fighting for this great country, fighting for democracy. What a mockery. Where is the democracy? We have begged. Does the House think that before doing this I have not appealed to the powers-that-be, and asked them for God's sake—maybe in somewhat stronger terms—to do something, urged that we had pledged ourselves, and that if they would even grant what the deputation to the Cabinet asked, we would not divide the House? They would not grant it. They sent all the power they have to appeal to our party to accept nothing—no concessions. Our party is a generous party and has been very generous with our representatives in the Government to-day. There was a request, no demand, and yet—no concessions. All the old folk in this country expected action when we got Labour Ministers, some of them in particular of the calibre they are, some who rank so very high in the estimate of our folk. It is all the more crushing that nothing has happened.
My last word is this. It was just the same with the coal question. I have said it outside, and I will say it here, that if those who are our representatives in the 605 Cabinet had laid it down, "Unless you nationalise the mines we will resign," the Prime Minister, powerful as he is—and I do not think he is just so very powerful—would have had to concede that to our representatives. It is the same in this question of these old age pensioners, and unless the Government are to give us some concession—it is in their power yet to do something—I will do all I can to divide the House and vote against the Government.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
Not all hon. Members will agree with the views which have been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), but I think I shall have them all with me in saying that we welcome him back to the House after his recent illness, and the vigour with which he has addressed us has shown that his strength is fully restored. He, speaking as a member of the Labour party, expressed some disappointment with the fact that the proposals which are before the House to-day have had the support of the Labour representatives in the Cabinet. I can very well understand his disappointment at this fact, his very bitter disappointment, because though I myself am not a member of the Labour party, I too share that disappointment. Though I recognise that the proposals now before us, which will provide an additional £11,000,000 a year or so for the benefit of the old age pensioners, are not to be despised, and indeed, I am glad to thank my right hon. Friend for having proposed them, yet I should be doing wrong if I gave an impression that I am satisfied with them. What disturbs me is that these proposals come from a Government representative of all parties, and yet the actual proposals themselves are too reminiscent of the approach to this question again and again in the past. These proposals were introduced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, but, of course, the author of these proposals is really the Chancellor of the Exchequer. These two Ministers are fighting a rearguard action against the inevitable.
Does the House really think that in that new order which we have been promised as a result of the war we shall consider that 10s. a week as a basic amount is adequate for old age pensioners? But we are told that these proposals to-day have nothing to do with a long-term policy, and as my hon. and learned Friend the 606 Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) said quite frankly, these proposals do not involve a change of policy. That is exactly my quarrel with them. I think that if we are sincere in our determination to bring a new order about as the result of the war, a more just order, and certainly a better treatment of old age, then we ought to give practical effect to that policy here and now. It is because I see in these proposals disturbing signs that that is not so that I am very concerned about them, because it seems to me that the attitude of mind and the frame of mind of the Government are not attuned to the things for which we are fighting this war. Like many other hon. Members I have talked to my constituents about the new order. I have spoken to them about the Four Freedoms, including the freedom from want. I cannot reconcile what I have said to them with the particular proposals before the House to-day. As I see it, the method of approach to this problem was that these Ministers said, "What is the least we can give to the old age pensioners to satisfy them for the time being, and enable them to continue to exist? "And when they decided it was to be 2s. 6d, they said," Do not let us make it too easy for them to get even that. Therefore let us put it in the form of an addition to the supplementary pension with all the inquisitions that means."
I know the old age pensioners in my constituency, and I say that they hate the inquisitions involved in the means test. I would remind the House that the old age pensioners have a special claim upon us in war-time. Everybody who has seen them after enemy action has admired their courage and their heroism, but conditions of war impose a special strain upon them. It is the duty of this House to relieve them of the financial difficulties which have been so considerably increased for them by the war. You cannot hope to change your policy on a fixed date after the war. If you really believe in a new order, it has to show itself in the policy you pursue now. Although one has to accept these proposals for the time being, this is by no means the end of the matter. I would appeal to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to give this matter further consideration. The case for an increase in the basic pension has been more than made out. The national well-being will benefit by a policy of that kind. I ask him not to delay too long in making 607 that increase. We have had one Latin quotation to-day; may I end with another?Bis dot qui cito dat.He gives twice who gives quickly.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Raikes (Essex, South East)
I cannot follow the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) in his hopes of the new order, because I, alas, am one of those who feel that if this war goes on long, it will mean, not that everybody will be better off, but that most of us will be a good deal worse off. At the same time, I have a good deal of sympathy with the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). I can well understand his feeling in regard to the 5s. all round: that he would have been prepared to have welcomed it at this time. Many hon. Members would have liked a bit more than a nibble, something more substantial, if the old age pension question was to be tackled in this way. I would have welcomed an extra 5s. all round, for two reasons. For one thing, unlike many hon. Members, I think we shall be getting poorer, and not richer, as the war goes on; and if you are. going to make a jump in favour of the aged, it might have been easier to do it now than later on. Also, in the general stress of war, the half-crown per head increase will pretty soon be eaten up. I think we could have waited some little time for the Beveridge Report—in which I have not the same confidence as, perhaps, some other Members have. I hope that when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour speaks he will give some indication of the line that the Beveridge Report is going to take; because if it is going to consider, as I rather think it may, the question of how far the Unemployment Insurance Fund will enable the basic pension to be raised, the basic pension might be raised quite a bit without doing anything further in regard to the position of many supplementary pensioners, who, unless the basic pension went very high, would still be outside its scope. Unlike the hon. Member for Leigh, I take the view that half a loaf is better than no bread, and I am going to support these Regulations.
The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths), in rather an interesting speech, emphasised how the conditions had improved in respect of the way in which people who go around to assess the 608 needs of the aged consider sympathetically what their diet is. I think that is so, but I hope that the Minister will impress on all his inspectors the need to be sympathetic and gentle when they deal with the question of clothing. The other day I had a case before me of someone who had his needs assessed. The old age pensioner said to me that he did not object to some form of needs assessment for his old age pension, but he objected to having someone looking around and saying, "Why have you a piano? If you sold that, you would be better off." That is the sort of thing which does harm. I believe it happens far less now. A tremendous lot depends on the Ministry and the Assistance Board making it easier for the genuine cases to feel that they can apply without having mud chucked at them. I favour the supplementary pension, and I believe it has worked far more fairly than the old Poor Law method, before the 1940 scheme came into operation.
I would say to the Government, considering the future as well as the present, that we may at times have these struggles in regard to a few shillings here and there, but I, speaking as one who in many ways would be regarded by this House as rather a right-wing Tory, believe that when we are dealing with the necessities of the very poor we should stretch the line a great deal further than in any other case. Many of these old people have no future to look forward to. Many of us look forward to the days after the war, when, in spite of the unpleasantness which will come, we hope to see a better world, a better Europe, and a better Britain. But to many of these people of 70 and 80, the war means the break-up of most of the little things they enjoyed. Their friends and relatives who used to come to see them come so seldom now, because of transport difficulties and so on. It is a bleak out-look for them. I ask the Government, in assessing need, to bear in mind the extra difficulties of those to whom the future, apart from what we in the House can do, can bring no hope.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
It is some measure of the disquiet and uneasiness that are general on these Benches, and among the people whom we on these Benches represent, that such an appeal as we have just heard should have been addressed by the Member who addressed it to a Government in which the Labour 609 party is a free and equal partner, and to which we have pleaded, in all probability, in vain. I could wish that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, who is to reply for the Government, could have listened throughout the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex (Flight-Lieutenant Raikes), and could have considered what he had to say against the background of what my right hon. Friend has been saying all his life, contrasted with what he proposes to do to-day. Something has been said in this Debate about making party politics of this matter at this moment. I gladly confess that the last two speeches from the other side of the House go some way towards removing any such reproach, if reproach there be. I have never been one of those who have thought that until poverty is abolished there is no possibility or no desirability that questions of poverty should be kept out of politics. We were told that we have done it. We were told, in the case of unemployment benefit and of unemployment relief, and old age pensions, that the whole purpose of setting up the Assistance Board, whose regulations could be presented to this House but not amended by it, was so that there should not be and could not be in future any capital made by political parties out of the miseries of people whom the community ought to relieve.
The Motion that is before the House is one to approve Regulations of the Assistance Board, but everybody seems to have forgotten the Assistance Board. Nobody in the whole course of the Debate has sought for a moment to lay the responsibility for these proposals upon the Assistance Board. The business of the Assistance Board is to find out what it is necessary to do in order that destitution shall be relieved, to make proposals to that end and to leave this House with the responsibility of accepting or rejecting those proposals. There ought not to be any room on such an occasion for what the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) called temporising and compromise. There ought to be no question of bargaining between the political parties, of deputations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of discussions by the Cabinet and unanimous decisions, not to do what is necessary to relieve the old age pensioner but to temporise and compromise what is necessary. There ought to be no need for that. This House set 610 up machinery, which, we were told, was to bring all that to an end. We have not done it.
My right hon. Friends have put down an Amendment to the Motion. For what do they ask Do they ask that the difficulties of old age pensioners and widows to whom they refer in their Amendment shall be relieved? No, they say that the proposals now before the House are not an adequate step towards relieving those difficulties. How few steps ought there to be before each step in succession shall be regarded as an adequate step towards relieving them, and, having decided that these proposals are not even an adequate step towards relieving them, do they then make it clear that they are going to oppose them? Oh no, only if they do not get assurances. Assurances about what? Assurances that in the next Session not that the difficulties shall be relieved but that there shall be an adequate step towards relieving them. We are not dealing to-day, just as we were not dealing on 17th June last, with any grandiose scheme of social security in the future. I agree that when you are planning measures of social reconstruction on a permanent basis you cannot deal with the question of old age pensions by itself, and I do not suppose for one moment that the Bevericge Committee will seek to do that. I do not know when it will report, but I do know that when it does report there will be more bargaining, temporising and compromising with all kinds of interests and all kinds of bodies and institutions, and then, finally, some day, nobody knows when, some legislation will be introduced into this House and at some unforseeable date thereafter some legislation may be passed.
But we are dealing with the existing generation of old age pensioners. We are talking about relieving their needs. They cannot wait for your grandiose scheme of social reconstruction. They read your Atlantic Charters and hear your eloquent speeches about freedom from want, and they say, "If you mean all this, when are we to be free from want? Are we to be free from want only when the time comes when we shall want nothing, a time which is rapidly coming?" The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Robertson) apparently went to tea with 650 old age pensioners, and he thought they were satisfied, but I am bound to say that his speech was a poor recompense for the 611 hospitality they showed him, and I am not sure that they will give him any tea the next time. [Interruption.] I am sure that they will not be anything like as nice to him the next time. I do not trust the hon. Member's interpretation of what they need. No one in this country has shown himself better able to express their needs than the people themselves. I am going to ask the House to indulge me while I read one of the many letters I have had, as I am sure other hon. Members have had, but I think it is worthy of being enshrined in the permanent records of the Debates in this House. I am not going to give the name and address. I am particularly asked not to do so, but if anyone would like to see it, I will gladly show them the letter:Dear Sir, I trust this will not weary you, but I am trying to make myself very plain. My husband is a house-painter, but as that was mostly a seasonal occupation he worked mostly in a pit until the slump of 1921, since when he has mostly been on the dole "—21 years—As you know, the dole was 2s. for each child. For years I could not go out as I never had anything fit to wear, my husband doing our bit of, shopping on his way home on dole day. Our lives were mostly trying to keep the kiddies clothed and gathering cokes and sticks for the fire. We had a two-roomed house; even if there were houses available we could not have afforded the rent. Time passed, and my eldest son joined the Army as he could not get work. I now had a family of nine—three boys and six girls. The eldest girls went away to service. My son did his six years in the Army, came home, and his reservist pay was taken into account with the means test. He also had to go on the dole. Eventually had a job and then he got married. My second son was lucky enough to have work as a lorry driver's mate. His wages also were taken into consideration with the means test. My younger son was sent to a Government training centre and started work at an aerodrome when he was called up as a pre-war conscript. We have never had a holiday, have thought ourselves lucky if we managed to have any food in the house when dole day came round. It came March, 1940. My husband reached 65 and qualified for an old age pension. But after so many years privation is it any wonder that now when there is work available even for aged people he is unable to work? For myself I suffer from vertigo and from very bad eyesight. I should have had spectacles years before I did but I could not afford them, and I am unable to get work. We have a daughter, the youngest, who won a scholarship for Monmouth school. The elder one said she was to go and that she would help her with clothes, etc. We draw a supplementary pension of 38s. 6d. a week for husband, wife and daughter.612Our family, like most, are in the Services. My second son recently got married. I had until then drawn 13 s. Army allowance out of which they kept 8s. 9d. weekly from his Army pay. We agreed that it would be just as well for him to get married, so that if he was spared after the war his money—wife's allowance—would go towards setting up a home. As you can see our lives have been one long drag of pinching and scheming, just trying to get shelter and something to eat. Year after year. Now when we might have had a bit of ease, the Government has taken our family, and we have 38s. 6d. a week to provide for three for coal, light, insurance and rent, etc. Clothes I have left out. I have had nothing new for 20 years. Our case is no different from thousands of others who have had to drag on the dole and who now still drag along on old age pensions. For ourselves, getting towards the end of our life's journey, it does not seem to matter so much. Quite possibly we have become so accustomed to it that we have sort of lost any feeling or hope for betterment, but for our children's sake and their children afterwards this war, terrible as it is, will have proved worth while if they have better homes and security from want. Summed up briefly. The Government allowed us 2s. a week for each child. Now they have taken them. Do our sons and daughters have to go through the stress of war, probably give up their health or even their lives? For what? Another 2s. a week for a child on the dole and then, if there is another war, just conscript them in the time to come! They have only their lives to live after a long struggle to live, and at even-time a means test for old age with 38s. 6d. a week for three as maximum pay. I am sorry if I have rambled in setting my case before you but believe me it is exactly as thousands are situated but I have tried to give you some idea of what our life has been and how an increase in the old age pensions, either pension or supplementary, would hearten our sons and daughters in their outlook for the future, something they know they will have been fighting for, something worth while.I apologise for having read so long a letter, Mr. Speaker, but I think it is a pity that old people should not speak for themselves where they can, and I know of no Member of this House, even on these benches, who could have painted a better picture of what conditions are than the picture which is drawn in that letter.
I have only a few more words to say. This party came into being because it represented itself to the working-classes of this country as having a new outlook on the question of poverty. It owes its rise to power on that. It told the people of this country that it differed from every other political party then and in the past because it put the sufferings of the poor first and would be satisfied with nothing that left their problems unsolved. It said, too, that we alone had a remedy for suffering 613 and misery of this kind. It went to the poor and said, as the American poet whose lines appear on the statue of Liberty, outside New York harbour, has said,Give me your tired, your poor, your helpless millions yearning to be free.They came to us; they believed us. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour sits on the Treasury bench because he has for a long time been saying the things we are trying to get him to practise to day. I am not saying that he has not rendered service; of course he has—
§ Mr. Silverman
My right hon. Friend need not thank me. He will, I hope, not think it necessary to be grateful for an appreciation of what he has done. That, he is entitled to have from his critics and friends alike. Dare my right hon. Friend stand up at that Box and assure this party and the people of the country that the Government would have collapsed if he had insisted that the increase should be 5s. instead of 2s. 6d., if he, with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal, the Deputy Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Trade, had gone to the Prime Minister and said—
§ Mr. Silverman
—and said, "We cannot vote for so miserable an increase; if you are not prepared to give more than 3s. 6d., the party to which we belong will divide against the Regulations, and we shall have to vote with them." Does my right hon. Friend really mean to tell the House that the Prime Minister would have said," I am very sorry. We have done our best for two years to maintain a united front in this nation and to fight Fascism, but if you insist on having the 5s. instead of 2s. 6d., I shall have to resign." Is that common sense? Is it not clear that if this party and its representatives in the Government had wanted this enough, they could have got it, and that the responsibility for the old people getting so little lies in the main with this party, which has not carried out the promises on which it has risen to power? I shall go into the Lobby against the Regulations, whatever Amendment is called, or if no Amendment is called. I 614 appeal to my hon. Friends, if they still stand by the political and social faith which alone justifies their existence as a political party, to do likewise.
§ Captain Elliston (Blackburn)
In spite of the distrust and disappointment expressed by several hon. Members, I believe that the great majority of the House considers that we have reason to be grateful to the Government for the supplementary pension and allowances they are providing, considering the circumstances of the time. We have been reminded in the course of the Debate that, at a moment when we are at one of the greatest crises in our national history, we are finding time to turn aside and discuss the comfort of our old people.
§ Captain Elliston
No doubt it is quite right that we should do so, but I do not think we should reject what is, after all, no more than an interim provision to meet the immediate needs of the old people, which all of us desire to alleviate. The time will come when the greater questions that will follow from the report of Sir William Beveridge will be considered by the House. As was said by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White), all these questions should be covered by a single comprehensive scheme, generally acceptable to Members of all parties. There is no Member in the House who is satisfied with the treatment of old age pensioners at this time, but, as a means of tiding over a difficult period in which the Government have so many other matters to consider, I think we should accept the present proposals with a real measure of gratitude at having got such early consideration of the suggestions that were made in the Debate last month. I cannot understand why hon. Members, in connection with old age pensions particularly, should talk about the niggardly or mean spirit which has actuated our policy. I can think of nothing which Parliament has accomplished during the last 30 years that does more credit to it than the steady extension of the pensions system. At the present time, the Exchequer is finding as much as £100,000,000 a year towards pensions, and we are now to vote a further £10,000,000 for the same fund. This is something of which we have reason to be proud, and some- 615 thing which certainly cannot be described as niggardly. Unfortunately the constant habit of self-disparagement which we cultivate in this country does us a great deal of harm in some countries, especially in the United States of America.
§ Captain Elliston
Those who read the American newspapers must have been very much impressed by the way in which, during this war, our best friends in the United States are careful to say that, of course, they cannot condone the social injustices that exist in this country. Nevertheless, in the matter of pensions there is no country in the world that has approached what we have managed to do.
§ Captain Elliston
It is somewhat disappointing that so far we have heard nothing of the Amendments which have been placed on the Order Paper. There are persons who assure the people that money is no object and that it is a simple matter for the Government by a stroke of the pen to give everything that is asked of them. The proposal for a flat rate of 30s. a week would mean the immediate expenditure of £160,000,000, in addition to what we are already spending on pensions. It is fantastic to suggest in a light-hearted way that such a proposal would be an easy and immediate solution which should be accepted without discussion. We are told that all these things would only call for the expenditure of an amount equal to one or two days' war expenditure. But those who say these things do not tell the people that we are already enduring unprecedented taxation, and that we are piling up a colossal debt that will have to be paid later; they do not tell the people that we have sold or pawned all the securities that we held in foreign countries and which brought in return business orders to this country. Surely in such a matter we should tell the people the whole truth.
I hope and believe that the Beveridge Committee's Report will recommend a great extension of pensions, a contributory scheme that will enable every person in the country to ensure security and safety for the future. Meanwhile, fortunately, 616 our pensioners are patriotic and sensible people. They are not likely to be deluded by wild promises. They realise that at the present time many thousands of small shopkeepers and professional men are hit as hard as they are and have little margin of income for anything beyond bare necessities. I believe the pensioners will accept in a spirit of gratitude the concessions which the Government have been able to make immediately, and, like the rest of us, look forward to the time when we can achieve a more concerted and better planned scheme for the greater comfort, security, and welfare of the old people. The case for the pensioners is so strong and so tragic that there is no reason to exaggerate it or to ignore some of the lighter aspects of the problem, which are carefully suppressed in a Debate of this sort. Nobody has mentioned that at the present time 750,000 of these pensioners are in full employment. Nobody has mentioned that 1,300,000 of them are receiving an average supplement from the Assistance Board of 9s. 6d. a week. Those are material facts. Nobody has referred to the many hundreds of thousands of pensioners who also have pensions from their former employment. Those are things to be considered. As I have said, the position of the old people is tragic enough, and pitiful cases exist. Many of them are due to the proud reluctance of the old folks to apply for supplementary help from the Assistance Board. Yet, as anyone who has done his duty as a Member of Parliament knows well enough, there are cases that make one's heart bleed; but let us not be too pessimistic in our outlook. We are surely entitled to take some pride in what has been achieved by this country in connection with old. age pensions in a period of barely 30 years during which we have twice had to fight for our very existence.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I have listened with interest to the speech of the hon. and. gallant Member for Black-bum (Captain Ellison), and I want to tell him that many of us would like to have the opportunity of stopping his heart bleeding. If the hon. and gallant Member, and others whose hearts are bleeding, would join with us, we could compel the Government to do justice to these people, and the hon. and gallant Member would then be in the happy position of ridding himself of a heart that causes him so much trouble by bleeding.
617 I have been very much impressed by speeches from both sides of the House expressing the general dissatisfaction of the House with the proposals of the Government. That dissatisfaction has been expressed by Members belonging to different political parties. One of the things which perturbs me most is that these proposals are characteristic of this Government. A Government which acts in this pettifogging, miserable fashion appears to me to be a Government which will put the country into greater and greater difficulties as time goes on. The policy they are pursuing in their treatment of the old age pensioners is symptomatic of their actions throughout the whole of their administration—try a 2-pounder first, then a 6-pounder; a wee tank and then a big tank. They have led the country from one disaster to another. It is pitiful, with the world in its present condition, that the Government should put us into the position of proclaiming to everyone that the great British nation, with the richest Empire in the world, absolutely refuses to do justice to the old people to whom the country owes so much. The hon. Member talks about difficulties, but let him remember that these are the people who have produced the wealth of this country. It was their toil and their labour which gave the country much of its wealth, and all they ask for now is decent treatment.
I am somewhat bitter when I hear all these tales of sympathy. It reminds me of Dives passing into the house and finding Lazarus at the door. He brought him into his house, and Lazarus told him of all his difficulties. As he told him of his difficulties, Dives wept; his heart bled for Lazarus. He rang the bell for the butler, and when he entered he said, "James, take this poor old man out and put him outside the gates. If I hear any more of his stories, he will break my heart altogether." The Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer do not put the old people outside the gate, but they give them this half-dollar. It appears to me that a Government with such a mean mind as that, and with such a pitiful outlook on the problems which we are called upon to face, will, unless we get rid of them, plunge the country into absolute disaster. I hope an opportunity will be given for hon. Members to go into the Division Lobby. I see there is an Amendment standing on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for 618 South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan), but for my part I prefer the Amendment which is associated with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). I would be prepared even to take the Amendment which, I believe, represents the considered view of the party above the Gangway. Hon. Members expressed some doubt as to whether it will be pressed to a Division, but for my part I hope it will be, moved so that we shall have an opportunity to go into the Lobby and record our dissatisfaction with the Government's policy,
I have a letter from an old age pensioner, and I should like to read one sentence from it, because I think it is illuminating. The pensioner writes:Personally, I am wondering whether it is the heart or the head of Sir Kingsley Wood which is made of wood.I never expected much from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but, when I think of the record of the Leader of the House, and all the brave speeches he has made in the past, I have a certain amount of sympathy for the Minister of Labour, when such a stalwart supporter is ready to accept this miserable scheme. I am sure there is dissatisfaction with this half-dollar Government's policy of dealing with the old people of the country. The country wants something better for its old people; it wants dignity and comfort for the old people in the winter of their days. I believe that in time to come this Government will suffer for the insult and miserable way in which they are treating the decent people of our country.
§ Mr. Granville (Eye)
Like the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson), I should like to say how glad we are to see the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) back again in this House, fully recovered, and how glad we are to hear his vigorous voice in defence of the old age pensioners. For my part I am doubly glad, because I shall have an opportunity to go into the Division Lobby with him. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) drew attention to the fact that we had 24 speeches in the Debate on 17th June because hon. Members were brief, and I shall try to follow his lead in my speech to-day. I have discussed this question with my constituents, and I am extremely disappointed that the Government have been unable to give us at least 5s. increase instead of 2s. 6d. I be- 619 lieve that the time has come when the Government should be bold enough to increase the basic rate for all old age pensioners. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) dealt with the means test, and, with him, I hope the time is not far distant when the Government will be able to abolish the means test for old age pensioners.
Reference has been made to speeches made in the country by members of the War Cabinet. When members of the War Cabinet, the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of War Production, make speeches on what will happen after the war, the kind of world we are to have and the social reforms which will be introduced, following the great speech of Mr. Henry Wallace on the century of the common man, and make gramophone records and play them over the B.B.C., appealing to people to make greater efforts in the prosecution of the war because of something which is coming, I say that in my view that sort of holding the carrot before the donkey is not going to cut any ice with the people any longer. If they mean all these things are going to happen, why do they not come here and vote in the House of Commons for a little bit extra for the old age pensioners? The Chancellor of the Exchequer smiles at that. I have met my constituents. I do not know if he has met his. Many of these old age pensioners will not be able after the war to enjoy the reforms or the kind of old Etonian model of how to make concessions to the working classes which are put over by the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of Production. I also regret that the Prime Minister does not take a greater interest in these questions of social reform during the war. Social security is one of the greatest war assets that we have. I believe that the time to start your promises of what you are going to do after the war, if you remember what happened after the last war, is now. The War Cabinet and the Government should convince the people that they mean business. They are wasting their time if they think they are going to play this political chicanery and get away with it.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has sat through most of the Debate, is not going to wind up for the Government. I listened to the speech of the Minister of Health, and I think he made 620 out a reasonable argument in favour of the case he was putting over. But he is not the Minister we have to deal with. We have to deal in the first place with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and then with the War Cabinet. The Minister of Labour is to reply on behalf of the Government. If they think they will get away with this kind of political tactics, if they think they are going to put Members into the position that they will have to vote for or against an increase and then they will be able to turn round and say, "You voted against the old-age pensioners," they are making a great mistake. They cannot get away with that. If necessary, I shall vote against the Regulations because I know that, if I do not, we shall never get the long-term policy or real increases. I have seen this carrot-before-the-donkey business, and it gets you nowhere. If we do not give a real vote for the old age pensioners to-day on this Motion, we shall never get the rest of the social reform policies which the Foreign Secretary is always offering us. If the Government do not give us a definite undertaking that they will provide an increased scale in the immediate future, I shall vote against these Regulations.
I believe that the only way to get justice and independence for the old people is to vote against the Government on this question. If the House exercised its authority and told the Government it was going to vote against them, we should have an improved scale before the Recess. I am not content to wait till sometime next year, or 1944. Therefore, I make this last appeal to the Minister of Labour, who has to face a difficult situation with his own party. I hope he will not make his old speech about national unity all over again and tell us that he took on his job at the behest of the Prime Minister and is going to see it through. This is part of the job that he took on, and if he will not say that he means to carry through this real social reform during the war, I beg him at least to give us the legitimate reasons why we cannot have an increase in the basic rate of old age pensions now.
§ Mr. Craik Henderson (Leeds, North East)
I was one of those who in the last Debate urged further consideration for the old age pensioners. Like all other Members, I desire that everything possible 621 should be done for them. But, listening to to-day's Debate, one would be inclined to overlook that what is happening is that the present proposals of the Government are to hold the gap until we get the Beveridge Report. From some remarks that have been made, and adjectives that have been used, one would be inclined to think that the Government were dealing most ungenerously with the situation.
§ Mr. Henderson
That is merely the hon. Member's opinion. The Government are being pressed by many of us to deal with hardships which admittedly exist, and I think that the proposals that they have put before us will remedy the position relative to the pre-war period, and that is all that they could be expected to do until we get the final Report of the Beveridge Committee. All we were entitled to expect was that the old age pensioners during the war should be put in at least as good a position as they were pre-war. The Government have met that situation. We should all like more done for the old age pensioner, but the question is, Are we entitled at this stage to ask for more? I admit that the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) is entitled—he belongs to the Opposition; he is not a supporter of the National Government—to come forward and press for whatever he wants, but, with the exeception of his party, the rest of the House are theoretically supporters of the National Government, who have decided that they can allocate about £10,000,000 meantime, and I think in the circumstances we must accept that decision. They know how much the country can afford. There are great claims coming forward. There are increased pay for the Services, family allowances, and a great many questions like that. They have made this temporary decision, and, however much I may believe that the old age pensioner is deserving of support, we must accept the decision of our leaders.
I feel disappointed, however, that in some respects they have not been able to meet some of the requests that have been put forward. On this point I disagree with a good many hon. Members opposite. I am particularly disappointed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not been able to modify the needs test so far as the 10s, non-contributory old age pension is concerned. Thrift is a quality 622 which ought to be encouraged, and it is unfair that the man who has saved for many years should be put in substantially the same position as the man who has not bothered to save. I wish the Chancellor had been able to make some further concession to such a man. I feel that too much emphasis has been laid in the Debate on the purely money side of the problem and that much can be done for the old age pensioner along other lines. The people who are suffering most among old age pensioners are those who are living alone, and I support the views which have been expressed by Members on both sides that more should be done by way of experiment to give, say, a one room and kitchen house with a nurse in attendance for the old people and with communal rooms if they want communal feeding. More could be done for the happiness and welfare of these old people along those lines.
In spite of what my Friends on the opposite side have said, we are passing through a period of great financial stringency. It is all very well for people to say that we are spending an enormous amount every day on the war, but that is an argument which no individual would use about his own affairs. No man would say, "Because I have had to spend £1,000 on operations or illness, therefore I should spend £100 on a radio set when I meant to spend only £10." We must face the situation that after the war the financial position will be a grave one and that we must maintain our social services. It would be unkind to our old people to have to cut down their pensions later on. We must try to build them up gradually. It is often forgotten that more progress has been made in the provision for the old people in the last few years than in 100 years before that. We are gradually building up a good position for them, and if we go too far, we will do more harm than good. The criticism has been made that the Government have been very unfair. The Government have met the desires of Members on all sides that the old age pensioner should be put in as good a position as in pre-war days. The House should accept that and hope that when the Beveridge Report is made and we see what the position is, more can be done. Until then it is unfair to criticise the Government as if they were behaving ungenerously. To make such criticism when they are giving old age pensioners 623 £10,000,000 a year more in the most expensive war in history is unjust.
§ Mr. William Brown (Rugby)
My mind goes back to the Debate that we had on this matter on 17th June. On that occasion the House was put into an awkward position. There were three alternatives open to the House. One was to do nothing about old age pensions; the second was to support a request from the Front Bench on this side for an inquiry; and the third was to insist upon an immediate increase for old age pensioners. On that occasion the machinery of the House was so used as to make it impossible for us to take the third course. We were precluded by the circumstance that the Amendment calling for an immediate increase was not called from having the opportunity of saying that an immediate improvement should be effected. We were limited to a choice between doing nothing and supporting the request for an inquiry which was made by the Front Bench on this side. I have an uneasy feeling that the mechanism of Parliament which was used in the sense I have indicated will again be used to-day to prevent a clear expression of the desire of Parliament on the question of the treatment of the old age pensioner. It is true that there is an Amendment on the Paper—the only one, I understand, which is to be called—expressing the view that the Government's proposals are inadequate. I wonder whether the Front Bench on this side will carry this Amendment to a Division.
§ Mr. Brown
The odds are conservative, even for a Scotsman. Let us suppose that the Amendment is not pressed to a Division. In what position is the House left? The position is that in order to express our dissatisfaction with the proposals of the Government we have to vote against any increase in old age pensions. Whenever in the course of my trade union and political life I have found an opponent who had recourse to these tactics, I knew in my soul that sooner or later I would beat him. It is in my soul to-day that if the two Front Benches perpetrate that trick on the House of Commons, it becomes the bounden duty of Members of all parties to vote against them in the Division 624 Lobby. Any suggestion that we do that because we are against an increase in old age pensions coming from that Bench would merely add to the enormity of the offence they have committed by the character of the proposals they have introduced.
The next section of what I want to say refers to the proposals themselves, and I want to deal first with those who do not figure in them at all. I put a Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day which was not reached at Question Time but to which I have received a written reply. I asked what the Government propose to doTo meet the following types of cases which have not been brought within the supplementary pension provisions now before the House; widows under 60 years of age in receipt of 10s. widows' pension, plus children's allowances, who, because of their family responsibilities, cannot seek radical readjustment of their lives which a return to single woman's working status implies.There is one category of people who are left completely untouched by even the proposals brought forward to-day. The Second category in my Question are:widows under 60 years of age who because of ill health or long-established domestic environment are unfitted for return to industry.That is a second category left completely untouched by the proposals of the Government. Then there is the third category:persons under 70 years of age who are not entitled to Contributory Old Age Pension who by reason of advancing years or indifferent health are unable to secure employment.The reply which I had to that Question says:Such cases as my hon. Friend refers to will no doubt be the subject of consideration in the course of the discussion in the House to-day. Certain provision is already made so that public assistance is given if the means of the persons concerned are inadequate for their support.I invite the House to consider the two sentences of that reply. One sentence says they can already have something subject to a means test, and the second that there will no doubt be some reference to them to-day. I have before me a note of the speech made by the Minister of Hearth when in 1940 he introduced proposals dealing with the subject we are discussing to-day, and I want to read one sentence of the speech then made by the ex-Member for Rugby:It has often been suggested in this House and elsewhere that poor people should not at the end of their lives have to suffer the indignity 625 of going before a public assistance committee every week or so to obtain the wherewithal to live. With the passing of this Bill that will cease.
§ Mr. W. Brown
. If I have attributed to the right hon. Gentleman the sins of his predecessors that is only part of the doctrine of continuous collective responsibility for which the Government stands.
§ Mr. W. Brown
After that statement by the then Minister of Health we have the present Chancellor of the Exchequer telling me in his reply to-day that people in the categories I have described can still only get help subject to a means test, but that doubtless some reference will be made to them to-day. In other words, three categories of people within the scope of the consideration of this House on 17th June are left so far utterly untouched by the proposals of the Government, and left within the scope of the means test, which according to the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor disappeared in 1940.
I turn now to the people who are covered by the Government's proposals and are given 2s. 6d. extra, again subject to a means test, because that is what it really means. The standard rate is left completely unchanged. I try to attend the Debates in this House, and I have made notes during the day of some of the reasons advanced in defence of this beggarly proposal of 2s. 6d. One hon. Member opposite made it the burden of his speech that if we took our courage in both hands and gave 5s. all in one go then by 1960 we should be "broke." The argument rested upon assumptions which are demonstrably false. The first assumption underlying it was that the production of wealth in Britain must remain static between now and 1960, and secondly, that it would be as unjustly distributed as it is at the present time. The first assumption is wrong in the light of past experience, and the second is determined to be wrong by our own will here in this country. Then he made the point that in 1960 we should have an extraordinary increase in the number of old people and a decrease in the number of children. He forgot that five minutes earlier he had said that there 626 was a balancing of liabilities, and the deduction from what he said was that, if we had to spend more on old age pensions, by the same token we should be spending less on children's allowances.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
We are aiming at the same thing. It is only a matter of method. The hon. Member's method is by State dole and mine is by contributory insurance.
§ Mr. Brown
That might conceivably be an argument when we come to deal with a post-war scheme of contributory insurance, but it is obviously utterly irrelevant to a Debate on the present system of old age pensions. Then it has been said that this is only an interim measure, but surely that is no reason why it should not be an adequate interim measure, and the issue between hon. Members to-day is whether the 2s. 6d. is adequate or not.
Before I sit down I wish to address a few remarks first to the Government side of the House and then to this side of the House, and I beg that hon. Members will hear me in patience, even if they disagree. The root cause of our failure in this war—I believe this to be an important observation [Laughter]. Yes, and as the news comes through from the various war fronts you may have reason to regard it as a serious observation. I say that the principal contributory factors in the series of defeats we have suffered in the war are, first that we had only one front rank man in Britain who saw the need for preparing this country for war and that even he did not see the essential conditions for conducting totalitarian war. The first condition for conducting totalitarian war is a united people, and we see how much unity there is in Britain as soon as we touch a really economic issue in this House. The second factor is that we must have a people with a dynamic of social hope. I say that there is not a piece of legislation that has been introduced by this Coalition Government since it was formed in 1940, which has done anything whatever to contribute the dynamic of social hope to the conduct of this war. The social hope of the men in the factories does not come from the Government Benches, but from Russia. If that hope fails them because the same mental inadequacy is brought to bear on the problems of the war as has been exhibited 627 here, this country, believe me, will go through something which no side in this House has hitherto taken into its contemplation.
One word to the Opposition side of the House. I believe that hon. Members there acquiesced in the creation of this so-called National Government. It is not a National Government but a coalition of party forces. I believe that hon. Members acquiesced in its creation from good and honourable motives, believing that they were thereby contributing to the business of trying to win the war. I ask hon. Members to look back on their experience since the Government was formed. Is there a thing the Government has done which has justified the surrender of independence entailed by that acquiescence? There is not a social problem—take mines, pensions and man-power—connected with the war, that has come up within the last year or two upon which hon. Members have had terms which they would have dreamed of accepting if they were negotiating with employers in similar circumstances.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Go and ask the miners' executive. They will tell the hon. Member. They know more about it than he does.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Brown) must be allowed to make his speech without these continual interruptions.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member has made his point. Perhaps he will let me get back to my speech. On these Benches is a party which owed its great number of votes to its claim that it was different from 628 the Liberal and Tory parties. It put the Liberal party and Tory party in one opposition camp and staked out its own claim to votes. Here is the most obvious, simple and justified issue upon which Members of the Labour party can take their stand. When we come to divide, as we shall, I urge them not to allow themselves to be deterred from voting on the merits of the case by any Parliamentary manipulation of procedure, or by any argument that, if they vote against the Government, they will weaken it. The Government do not want weakening, they want destroying. I hope that Members will vote on this issue according to their consciences and, having done that, will justify themselves to their constituents.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
I beg to move, in line 5, to leave out "be approved," and to addcannot, in the absence of any specific assurance of further Measures to be introduced in the next Session, be accepted as an adequate step towards meeting the difficulties of old age pensioners and widows.In accordance with the arrangement that was announced by Mr. Deputy-Speaker at the beginning of this Debate, I move the Amendment standing in my name and those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood) and my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar). The proposals of the Government have not satisfied the House as a whole. They do not satisfy the social conscience of the country as a solution of the problem of dealing with old age pensions. In every part of this House, including the Government Benches, the imperfections of our old age pensions and our social services generally are recognised. The justification put forward for these proposals is not that they are adequate or are a solution of our difficulties, but that they are an interim step and a stop-gap. That is all very well as far as it goes, but we have not had from the Government any promise of a definite and specific kind that when the Beveridge Report is published and the Government have had time to consider the matter, a permanent solution will be offered and that a Measure—complicated, it may be—dealing with the whole structure, will be introduced.
It is for the purpose of eliciting that promise from the Government that the Amendment has been put down. I have been asked whether it is the intention of 629 the Labour Party to press this Amendment to a Division. I am prepared to give to that question a perfectly direct and concise answer. The Amendment has been put down to secure from the Government a specific pledge that, next Session, Measures of legislation will be introduced to deal with this question; if the final speaker on the Government Benches, announcing the Government policy, is now prepared to give that pledge, this Amendment will be withdrawn. [Laughter.] Certainly. We shall be straight with the House. This Amendment says that, in default of a pledge from the Government of Measures next Session to deal with this question, we are opposed to this proposal, but if, now, the speaker for the Government gives that pledge, we shall not go to a Division against the Government. That is inherent in the terms of the Amendment. If the Government fail to give that pledge and promise that Measures will be introduced next Session, we shall press this Amendment to a Division.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
To suggest that I have been disappointed with this Debate is an understatement. I was hoping that, having regard to the issues that must be settled in this country, and settled on a broad, large, comprehensive basis, Members of the House would take an opportunity, especially in view of their disappointment with certain of these proposals, to be more constructive and contributory than they have been. I have been a long time in constructive work. I know that denunciation is the easiest thing to indulge in; I know how easy it is to denounce a Government and to enter it as a supporter of its leader, and how cheap it is to say, "The rest of the Government are pygmies, but I would willingly be in it if I had the chance." The Government does consist of party representatives, and I make no apology, and never shall, for being a life-long member of the Labour Party and the Socialist movement, and one who has never left it. I have stood by it through all its vicissitudes, when it has been down and when it has been up—more often down—so that I would ask those who lecture me to-day on being a representative of a party, to look back at their own acrobatic careers before criticising other people.
630 As I said, I had been hoping that the Debate would have been constructive. Let me turn to what the House asked. It has been suggested that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is very adroit. I do not think he is cleverer than I am. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is slicker."] I do not think he is more adroit, and I shall not submit to the painful suggestion that the Chancellor of the Exchequer went to the Assistance Board, got a figure, and led me up the garden with it. Oh, no. I am replying to this Debate to-day because I agree with this figure.
§ Mr. Bevin
Listen to my argument before you shout "Shame." Shouting "Shame" in a Debate is the conduct of a heckler, not of a statesman. [Interruption.] Do not tempt me with interruptions. When I am asked whether it affects the Government, I say "Yes." I have never in my life gone back on an agreement, not even with an opponent.
§ Mr. Bevin
My record in making agreements is one of the finest in the country and has been the basis of great industrial developments. In this business it was not a question of the Conservative Members, or the leader of the Liberal party, or anybody else imposing their will. The facts of the case were examined and gone into very carefully. A decision was arrived at and on that decision I stand, for good or ill. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirk-wood) was good enough to say that I had done some good things in the Government. Let those who say that I am wrong decide in their own conscience what action they will take, and let me decide in my own conscience what action I will take, because on whatever Committee I serve, in whatever circumstances, when I have said, "yes," I stand by it. On that, as a religious principle, I will never go back. I lay it down as fundamental in this case.
Let us return to what the House asked. The House asked that we should examine the problem of old age pensions, and many contributions were made to the discussion. It would not, I think, be inappropriate if I gave a little retrospect of my connection with this problem. It was I, in the Trades Union Congress, who 631 wrote the pamphlet asking for a State superannuation scheme. I will not be accused of not trying to do my best. It was I who, on behalf of the Trades Union Congress, as the ex-Minister of Health will remember, raised the question with the Government before it was debated in this House, and tried to negotiate a new State superannuation scheme. Instead of what I then thought was a proper scheme, this House carried a Bill introducing supplementary pensions. I venture to suggest that the results have been costly to the State, and that it is evident that it has not given final satisfaction. That is the position the Government find themselves in now.
Therefore, we could have taken one of two steps. We could have delayed this, if we had gone into all the wider considerations, until the House reassembles next Session. But we tried to interpret honestly the desire of hon. Members that something should be done immediately. Then, for whom should it be done? The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker)—and I appreciate his sincerity in this and I have no criticism to offer of him—said that we ought to have decided to raise the whole question of a general advance for pensioners. Let me put him one or two considerations, because I have great respect for his judgment, and I think that if he were in my position he would have come to the same conclusion. Basic pensioners now at work number something like 784,000. As Minister of Labour I have been asked thousands of times, since I have had to direct them back to work, what is the position of a pensioner returning to work? I think the Labour party at least will agree with me that I have been right in saying that they must be paid the full rate of wages. I ask hon. Members, assuming that I send a man back to work at a full rate of wages, and that he and his wife have a pound a week pension, if I then ask this House to supplement that pension, will there not be an outcry from the other men in the country? I am perfectly certain there will be. We know all about friendly societies and benefits and all the rest of it, and that is an issue which would be very difficult.
Then there are—I cannot be precise as to the figure—many thousands of people who were employed under the Municipal 632 Corporations (Superannuation) Act; many civil servants, many who were in employers' pension schemes, and other kinds of pension arrangements. Happily such things have grown in the last 20 years. Could I have come to the House and suggested, on the basis of conditions arising out of the war, an addition to their State pensions? How often have I heard criticism of the amount of pension paid to policemen? [An HON. MEMBER: "He gets the pension."] He does not get a supplementary pension.
§ Mr. Bevin
Please do not interrupt. I am suggesting that he gets a good pension, but he may have contributed to the State pension, and may be getting £1 a week on top of it. Under the proposal put to me to-day, in spite of his good pension and in spite of the additional £I a week, it is suggested that I should give him 5s. on top of that. [Interruption.] I suggest quite frankly that questions would pour in from my hon. Friends opposite if we did such a thing. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is all very well to say "No" to-day, but I know what hon. Members will do to-morrow. Then there is another large class which has property and various other sources of income which it was found impracticable to add into arrangements of this character without careful consideration. A general advance was therefore rejected. I am putting my cards on the table. These were the considerations.
Secondly, we got to the capital business. With the capital business we have sympathy, but what is capital in this respect? When I came to examine the matter from my point of view, I found in the Act a number of disregards. In the case of a person with money, that is, cash or property, that is simple, but suppose a balance is worked out in the scheme between a person with property and a person who is drawing benefit of one kind or another. If I am a trade unionist and have paid for 40 years into my society and I get a superannuation payment, that is as much savings as if I am drawing rent from a house or dividend from a cooperative bank, and that is a disregard in the Act, and it is impossible to assess that on the same footing as the disregard on capital. Therefore in the time at our 633 disposal—I am speaking purely on the question of time, not of principle—we found it impossible. Thus it was not the simple issue of the 1s. for the £25 business. There were the other disregards that had to be taken into account. It involved legislation and could not therefore be dealt with in the time at our disposal before the Adjournment. Then we said, "If those problems are such that we cannot solve them, should we decline to do anything? "We decided to put to the Assistance Board the question of what we could deal with at this moment. Therefore we came to the amounts, if I may put it in a more precise way. We decided, or at least as a result of the investigation the Board reached a decision which we accepted quite properly. Therefore the Board is not being brought into the discussion, because the Government have accepted responsibility; we hide behind no one. I think that is the proper thing to do with any statutory authority. Therefore, any dispute you have is with the Government, not with the Board. Let me make that perfectly clear.
Take first of all the coal allowance. Hon. Members in the House to-day have dealt with the question of a differential pension between the single and the double household. You cannot decide that in a minute. There will be a dozen things about that immediately it is raised. Many arguments will be advanced on both sides, and it needs a careful balance as to what is to be done. But at least we did one thing. Under the old arrangements there was a system of paying 1s. 6d. for coal allowance for the single person. We could not quite see how a single person could burn half a fire, so we decided that whether it was a single or a double—man and wife—household, the coal allowance should be the same, but the effect of it is to give to the single person a slight addition more than the man and wife who are living together. The effect in money, taking the additional month, and taking the increase in the coal allowance for the year, is about 3s. 1d. a week for single persons as against what he was entitled to previously, spread over the year. Having regard to the circumstances which had arisen—and I am speaking with a full sense of responsibility, and with the Debate of the House before me—I felt that for the individual person, as an interim arrangement, that was a reasonable advance, and I do not go back on it, and I 634 do not apologise for it whatever anybody may say about it. For the double household—man and wife—the increase, spread over the year, works out to about 5s. 4d. a week. Throughout the country generally that, in effect, is what it means.
We have been asked, What about the future? Perhaps I ought not to notice nods of the head and approval, but I noticed to-day when it was suggested that workmen's compensation and all the other problems have to be brought into review, and an hon. Member suggested it should be treated separately, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) approved that it should be treated separately. I suggest that in the final analysis you cannot treat it separately. If a national scheme of social security is to be worked out, all these facts have to be brought into account, whether one likes it or not.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am sure that the Minister does not wish to misrepresent even a nod. I certainly agree, and said so in my speech, that when a full reconstruction scheme such as is being considered by the Beveridge Committee is being dealt with, all these things may have to be considered together, but the problem to-day is what to do with the existing generation of old age pensioners while the final scheme is being worked out.
§ Mr. Bevin
With all respect, the hon. Member who was speaking was referring to the future scheme, and so am I. One of the great problems associated with this problem of widows' pensions arises out of workmen's compensation. There are many widows caused as the result of accidents in this country. It is a difficult problem indeed, and it cannot be avoided. I make this pronouncement. As a longstanding trade union official, I hate the lump-sum settlement. I detest it. I have had to sit down time after time with insurance companies and lawyers and all those people and decide the fate of a man when I have not had the medical knowledge—nor had the doctor—as to what the future would bring. I have seen men come back afterwards, broken men with the money gone. I am reminded of the docker in Liverpool who after a terrible accident went to draw his money. When he received it he turned it over in his hand. The lawyer said," Are you not 635 satisfied, Paddy? "The man replied," I was just wondering who had the accident." Believe me when I say how true that has been of workmen's compensation in this country. [Interruption.] I hope the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) will cheer too, if he has any humanity in him, considering what is involved.
§ Mr. Shinwell rose—
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is the right hon. Gentleman afraid to give way? His Tory friends are cheering him: how long will they do that?
§ Mr. Bevin
I do not mind how long the Tories cheer, and how long the hon. Member hates. I know my friends behind me, and I know the hon. Member. Now let me get on with the case. I am not ashamed of what I have done in the Government in this matter. I want to lead on to this second stage. The Government are determined to try to solve this question of the social security scheme. Any steps that are taken in future must be of such a character that they will weave themselves into the permanent structure. That does not mean that we must wait for the permanent structure to be completed. Someone said that it would involve long negotiation with vested interests of all kinds. Certain branches of it will; certain branches of it will not. Those branches that will not, involve the two points which have been raised in the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence). The first of those two points is the case of the widows under 60. The Act of 1940, which was largely due to the negotiations between the Trades Union Congress and the Government at that time, brought the age down to 60. That was a great step, considering the difficulties that existed before.
There is, however, another section of the community, which is very small, but which must be taken into account in relation to this question of widows under 60. That section is the spinsters. Many of these women who have been in industry or in offices, when they find themselves in distress or ill or unable to work have far greater difficulty in getting back into 636 employment again than almost anybody else. Exactly how that—[Interruption], I am making a pronouncement on behalf of the Government, and I ask hon. Members to listen, because this is a declaration of policy. Apart from all the repartee, nothing is dearer to the hearts of the people from the Labour benches who are serving in this Government than the question of getting a solution of this problem. We want a solution; but we want the right solution if we can get it. On the question of the widows and orphans—and we do not rule out the question of the spinsters, and the difficulties that arise in connection therewith—the Government will give further consideration to the pensioners who need assistance, or, if there is delays they will give assistance beyond their pensions. The position will be reviewed and considered at the earliest possible moment.
Let me put on the records the considered opinion of the Government, and I have supplemented that by the words' I have used about spinsters. It is the form of words which sets forth not a new declaration of the Government, but, in more precise terms, what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in the last Debate. I repeat that it is the intention of the Government to make reasonable provision for old age pensioners. Improvements have already been made and the present Regulations embody further marked improvements. The Amendment asks for an assurance that further measures will be introduced next Session. It is expected that the subject will again come up for consideration later in the year when the Beveridge Report on Social Services is available. And note these words—we shall, in any event, give further consideration to the position of pensioners, including widows under 60 who need assistance beyond their pensions. I can add the assurance that attention will again be directed to the way in which capital resources are to be calculated for the purpose of assistance. I do not think that on behalf of the Government I can make a more explicit and careful statement, setting forth policy, than that and it is our intention to pursue it with vigour.
We must get a basis upon which to work. I agree wholeheartedly with the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) that we must consolidate these services into some ordered form. I want to say to him that that does not mean, if 637 I may put it in more precise terms than I did before, that we shall wait until we have got a complete ordered form. But the schemes we are going to try to work out, on the basis of the Report, will be designed with a knowledge of what we have to fit in to the complete picture when consolidation is reached. That raises very large considerations as to whether it has to be contributory, or whether it should be part contributory, and how much contributions will take up. We must also have regard to other Motions carried in the House recently. The House, I believe, unanimously declared that we should consider family allowances. There is agitation going on—and I have nothing to say about it, but the Government cannot be unmindful of it—for improvements in soldiers' pay and allowances. We have to take into account the variety of claims that the public and the House are making upon the Government at the present time.
If these claims were translated now into a contributory scheme—and I am merely giving this as an illustration—so far as I can estimate, it would mean a tripartite contribution of between 25s. and 30s. per week per employee in industry. Money has to be found by contributions or by taxation and the heavy drain on various forms of income in the country does affect the budgetary position. I know it is said we can spend money on war. That is true but, after all, that is living on capital and it is no use trying to deal with social security which has to be permanent unless you design it on the basis of your possible national permanent income. That is the only calculation by which you can arrive at a correct judgment. It is rather difficult to take a fictitious basis in war but notwithstanding that and with the knowledge, and the returns and everything else before us, we intend to make a big effort when the investigation and consolidation proposals are before us, to see how far we can bring to fruition the work which has been going on in this House since 1908.
Lastly, mention has been made of the multifarious inquirers and I think I ought to report to the House that as a result of the passing of the Determination of Needs Act, which has removed much of the criticism made in this House—and many of to-day's quotations were entirely out of date—together with the different methods employed by the Assistance 638 Board the number of officials has been reduced in the last 12 months by over 5,000, or nearly 30 per cent. of the total employed. That is a very big reduction. I and the Government would like to see inquiries cut down still more. It used to be said of this nation—wrongly, I think-that it was "A nation on the dole." What should have been said was "The nation and the citizen on the basis of a contract, guaranteeing social security." If we can get on that footing then, more and more, it will be dealt with on right lines but unforeseen things must still, I fear, be subject to some kind of welfare scheme which will have to be worked out, for dealing with the sick and with incalculable cases. Therefore, with perfect honesty and sincerity I say that this is a reasonable percentage advance to tide over immediate difficulties. Having given a pledge as to future policy, I honestly feel that the Government are entitled to the unanimous support of the House for the work they have done.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
I do not intend to enter into the wider ranges of this Debate in which I think a little too much heat has been engendered I do not intend to follow that course. However, I would like to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown) that due notice will be taken of his lecture to my party. I come to what is rather more serious. Those for whom I speak—and, indeed, a very large number of other hon. Members, as the speeches in the Debate have shown—are gravely concerned about the plight of the unemployed people, although that matter has not been debated. They are gravely concerned about it, although the discussion has been about the aged people and widows. I have heard speeches which I did not expect to hear from Members of the Conservative party.
Let it be admitted that, since the war broke out, more has been done for the aged and the widows than was done in many years of peace. But it still remains true, and many Members in all parties are very perturbed by it, that, while the new proposals are a substantial advance on what has already been conceded, they are not sufficient. I realise that the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) said some very hard things about me. Indeed, I inaugurated the Beveridge Survey; but when it is suggested that 639 nothing can be done until the whole great plan of social security has been completely laid down—which is what the hon. Member suggested—that, of course, is not true. No legislature in the world has ever passed an Act so comprehensive and so voluminous as this new social security code will involve. There may be many Acts of Parliament required, although there may be a single general plan behind it and a common inspiration to abolish want in adversity. Therefore, it is possible to do something as soon as the Beveridge Report is issued, which may be within the next two or three months, something which will not in any way make it difficult to implement the whole general plan, but which will be a method, without prejudicing the future, of doing something more for the aged and for the widows.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour that what we do in war-time ought to be of a character that can be woven into the general and more permanent structure. I do not like the term "final solution," because there are no final solutions in social problems. We have moved this Amendment—and it was not done without very great thought—in which we say that we cannot, in the absence of any specific assurance of further measures to be introduced in the next Session, regard the proposals as being an adequate step towards meeting the dif ficulties of old age pensioners and widows. I had hoped that my right hon. Friend would have given some specific assurance. I am very sorry that he has not. I am thinking of two particular points. First, the question of capital savings. There I realise my right hon. Friend's case about the man who is a superannuated member of a trade union. Of course, they are savings. But the point which has been put specifically by my hon. Friends is the case of the small savings of the old age pensioner who might also be a super annuated member of a trade union or of an approved society. I had hoped we might have had an assurance that in the coming Session that problem might have been dealt with. It is not an enormous problem, It really does not involve—
§ Mr. Greenwood
That, if I may say so, brings me to the end of my speech. If we have this specific assurance, which the right hon. Gentleman has now made, that these two problems will be the subject matter of immediate legislation or early legislation in the new Session, then in that case I would, of course, be prepared to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. [Interruption.] If, and I am saying it to my hon. Friends, I get that specific assurance, I shall ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. [An HON. MEMBER: "We object."] My hon. Friends may object. They are like the hon. Member for Rugby, who is not adding to the dignity of this House. But, on the understanding which my right hon. Friend has given, in that case I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
I should not have detained hon. Members had it not been for the unwarranted and unjustifiable attack made on myself by the right hon. Gentleman. Let us see exactly where we are. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the subject of lump-sum payments in workmen's compensation, and he rightly and properly took exception to that sys tem, as indeed this party has done for many years. When he did so, it will be observed that hon. Members opposite applauded. I merely ventured to inter pose to draw attention to the fact, for it is a fact, that the lump-sum payments, to which my right hon. Friend takes exception, embodied in workmen's compensation legislation were imposed by the Conservative party represented on the opposite benches. That is all I did. Why my right hon. Friend should take exception to that and immediately make a venomous attack on myself by suggesting that he would prefer the friendship of members of the Tory party to myself—
§ Mr. Bevin
Let the hon. Member quote me correctly, whatever else he does. I said I paid no concern to the cheers, either of my friends at the back, or to the hon. Member's hate. If I was wrong in the heat of the moment in saying that, I say quite frankly that I am quite prepared to withdraw and not carry on any personal feelings.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In the circumstances, since my right hon. Friend has so graciously withdrawn the observations he made, I can do no more than leave myself in the hands of the House. [Interrwption.] Hon. Members must not suppose that they can intimidate me by cries, whether articulate or inarticulate. If I have anything to say to the House, as long as Mr. Speaker does not think I am transgressing the Rules of Order, I shall address hon. Members. I regret that this incident should have occurred. My right hon. Friend and I have often been at loggerheads and, if he wishes to continue the conflict into a Debate of this character, that is a matter for him to decide. I have no desire to do so, and I leave it there.
To come to the substance of the Debate, the Leader of the Labour party has just intimated that, on the statement made by the Government, he is prepared to withdraw the Amendment officially submitted by the Labour party. My right hon. Friend is the Leader of the Labour party, but he is not the whole of the Labour party. I refuse to allow the Amendment to be withdrawn, and we shall take it to a Division. But I shall give my reasons. I mean no animosity towards him. It is merely a difference of politics, a difference of tactics, if you like, a difference of political strategy—call it whart you will. We are told that these are specific assurances about beneficial legislation affecting old age pensioners and widows which will be submitted in the autumn. That is next Session. That is next November. Any legislation that comes before the House—I do not care what hon. Members say to the country—must be based, if I interpret my right hon. Friend's speech aright, on the recommendations embodied in the Beveridge Report. At any rate, they cannot be ignored. It is impossible for the Government to come forward with proposals which are unrelated to the Beveridge Report. Are we to assume that, when that report is presented to them, the Government will not require to give it mature consideration? Of course they will, and indeed we could not deny the right of the Government to give those recommendations full and mature consideration. They are likely to be comprehensive in character. They will present what will be regarded as a long-term policy if it is aiming at a final solution, at any rate aiming at a full solution, and conse- 642 quently it will take a long time before the Government are in a position to present considered legislation.
In the meantime what are the old age pensioners-to do? They are being fobbed off—let us speak plainly and bluntly—by the presentation of Regulations embodying a payment of half-a-crown in the case of the single person and 5s. in the case of a couple. My right hon. Friend said that this had been analysed and it had been discovered, taking the year round, what with one kind of allowance and another—the winter allowance and the coal allowance—it would amount to 3s. 1d. a week in the case of a single person and he says to the country, to the wider Labour movement and to the old age pensioners that in his opinion that is a reasonable advance. If we know the opinions of the old age pensioners—and we know them as well as any member of the Government—and if we consider the opinions of the people of this country, 3s. 1d.—I take the Government figure, and it is the highest possible figure—is not regarded as a reasonable advance taking into account all the circumstances. Does anyone suggest that 5s. 4d. in the case of a married couple meets the increase in the cost of living? Even if it does, having regard to the increase in wages in every industry surely no one will say that these advances are reasonable in the circumstances? What we are doing in these Regulations is for a long time to come—I do not care about these assurances—condemning the old age pensioners to a condition of poverty. We cannot accept that.
Let us consider what the central issue before the House is. We have had all this up before at our own party meetings. We have been considering this for some time, and I want to tell the House, what the House ought to know, that this party has unanimously decided that the allowances should be doubled. The party was right in its judgment. My right hon. Friend raised the bogy—it is a bogy in relation to this Debate—of an increase in the basic rate. It is true it was raised by certain hon. Members, but it was not the considered opinion of this party because we said that an increase in the basic rate must be an integral part of the long-term policy. We said the same about widows' pensions. We concentrated, therefore, on the simple issue of what in the opinion of the House was an adequate amount to pay to the old age pensioner by way of 643 supplementary assistance. Let it not be forgotten that when we are dealing with these Regulations we are not considering a flat increase which is to be advanced to everybody. It is not certain that every person will get the advance that is indicated in the Regulations. It depends on circumstances. The supplementary allowance has to take into account the circumstances of every person in the family.
Let us sweep aside all this verbiage about the future. The right hon. Gentle man opposite has said a great many things outside about social security and a mini mum wage in future, and he has been supported by the Lord Privy Seal who makes brave speeches about the new world that is to come. I ask both of them and the Labour and Socialist Members of the Government to give us a few examples now of the brave new world—not in the dim and distant future, but here and now. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour has given me my case. He rightly dealt with the finance of this subject. It is a very difficult thing, he said, to deal with this question of an increase to the old age pensioners because we are living on our capital. Is that cry to be raised already when we are engaged in discussing the architecture of the new world? If it is to be raised now in the middle of the war we can depend on it that it will be raised when we come to the consideration of a long-term policy. Let us, there fore, tell the soldiers who are fighting, the airmen and our gallant seamen that all this talk about the brave new world, all the fine phrases and the high-falutin' sentiments are pure poppycock, pure window-dressing in order to bulldose once more the people who are making sacrifices, as they were bulldosed, chloroformed and misled in the last war. It is not good enough and it is time that that was said. One further point. We have been told, and it is a most remark able thing that we should be told, that if we press this to a Division we may break this down. Talk about intimidation. Every time we raise our voice, every time we try to secure advances, we are told that what we are doing may lead to the break-up of the Government. I say that this solitary domestic issue is not related to the war effort except in respect of morale and—
§ Mr. Shinwell
If anybody gets up and speaks with feeling he is immediately told—[Interruption.] Are we to under stand that the Minister of Labour is the only person imbued with deep feeling about social questions? Are we to under stand—[An HON. MEMBER: "Get on with it."] You cannot force me to get on in that way. You are making a very great error if you think so. I am dealing with the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir J. Lamb
On a point of Order. The hon. Member did courteously give way to me, but I think he did not answer my question.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who jeered and sneered, that I admit that I have been speaking with deep feeling. He is frequently telling the House, much too frequently, I think, of his great exploits on social issues in this Government. He tells us of all the great social advances for which he has been responsible. I accept it, and I assume that he is obsessed with a deep and passionate sincerity for the well-being of the working classes, but surely he can give other people the same credit.
§ Mr. Shinwell
—unless it is to unfold the venom that has obsessed the right hon. Gentleman against everybody who has dared to criticise his precious Government? That is the position. After all, the right hon. Gentleman cannot have it all his own way. If he attacks he must be prepared to be attacked. I am not complaining about being attacked. All I ask is the right to reply, and I am availing myself of the right to reply and I intend to do so in the future. No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman himself—he has tried it for the last 25 years—that I am the last person in the world to be intimidated. He cannot 645 play that sort of game with me. Very well; now what I say is that the simple issue before us is this, and I put it to the members of my own party. Are they prepared to agree with the Government, first, that the advances recommended are satisfactory and adequate? They can decide that by their vote. If they say the advances are adequate, I accept what they say, but I cannot agree with them and I shall vote accordingly, and I shall justify my position in the country and in particular in my constituency. The second point I put to them is: Are they satisfied with the assurances given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite on behalf of the Government in relation to new and beneficial legislation on this issue in the next Session? How can they say they are? They know they are being fobbed off once more, just as they were fobbed off by the famous formula which the right hon. Gentleman presented on the subject of taking over industry in this country. It is an old trick. I fancy it will not work so effectively this time.
I do not believe that a vote against the Government means the break-up of the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who said it would? "] I am glad that hon. Members on the Government Benches agree that no one in his senses would say such a thing. That interruption makes it unnecessary for me to indulge in further criticism. I do not believe that a vote against the Government on this domestic issue would break up the Government. On the other hand, I say that, if the Labour party are determined and adamant, if they get their feet well dug in and speak plainly to the Government, and in particular to the Prime Minister—who might take a little more interest in these domestic issues because they affect morale and probably the organisation of the war effort—and if they decide that the Government must change their policy, the Government will not quarrel unduly with them. The Government will recognise the will of the House and will acquiesce. I say that also to other Members in this House who are equally anxious with the Labour party to do the right thing by the old age pensioners. The issue is simple. It is not a question of a long-term policy and of legislation, but of what we can afford to give the old age pensioners now. I say that this great country can afford to give its old age pensioners something 646 better than is offered in these Regulations, and I hope that the House will decide accordingly by its vote.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Stafford Cripps)
I suggest to hon. Members that as we have had a long Debate and as all points of view have been expressed—very forcibly, perhaps—hon. Members might be prepared now to arrive at a decision.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
The cry of "Divide" does not annoy me. As an old Parliamentarian I have many times indulged in it and I have no criticism of hon. Members for indulging in it against me now. I rise only to say a word to two, because, whatever faults I may have, I have taken some interest in this subject. The Minister of Labour addressed the House on this issue, but much of his speech was irrelevant to the subject that we are discussing. No one would deny that the question of workmen's compensation is terribly important, but that is not what we are discussing. We are not even discussing the widest questions of the abolition of the means test or an increase in the basic rate. A simple issue is before us: whether the proposed Government Regulations are satisfactory or not. The right hon. Gentleman may bring in other issues, but that is the main issue before us.
As an old Parliamentarian, may I say a word to the right hon. Gentleman? It will not be unfair to him, but although I am much younger in years than he is, I would commend this remark to him: I think he is overdoing it. That is not meant nastily. I think he is overdoing two things. One is his constant claim, "I have done it." It is a constant claim, although he may disagree with that view. In every speech he says, "I have altered the legislation here and there." The second is the claim that because of his long and very honourable connection with the Labour movement he can justify anything he likes in this House. Let me just say to him that I remember a man with an (equally long record in the Labour movement and, if I may say so, most of it a very honourable record, who used to take the same line of defence. [Interruption.] No, 647 it was not Ramsay MacDonald, but he was one. He had a tremendously honourable record. The other is J. H. Thomas. I say to the Minister of Labour that he must not justify proposals on these matters in that way in the House. We, are a business assembly to some extent, and we ask him to justify proposals on their merits.
I want to say one or two words about the merits of this proposal. What are they? The merits of the case are that we are increasing the single man's allowance; the basic rate is 10s., plus 9s. 6d., and we are increasing the total of 19s. 6d. to 22s., plus a cost of living increase. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes. We are increasing the basic scale for one human being to 22s. I put it to the right hon. gentleman that the point about increases bears no relationship to the increase in wages. Every Socialist always said that the increase did not matter; it was what you had before the increase that mattered. In the old days we used to oppose men with £3,000 a year having an increase, because we thought they already had enough. What matters is what they are receiving now. The proposals which the Minister of Labour is defending are to the effect that a man should live on 22s. a week. It may be said that some may get an increase. I do not deny it, but take the case of the person with a low rent of 5s. or 6s. a week. That 22s. is the figure they have to live on. That is the sum with which they have to buy everything in life. [An HON. MEMBER: "It cannot be done."] Take the case of the married couple. Their increased allowance I think amounts to about 29s. 6d. plus 5s. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is 32s."] No, it is only 32s. in certain cases. But what is the test? The Poor Law authority. May I say to my Labour colleagues that frequently Poor Law authorities manned by Tories as well as those manned by our own people—the Poor Law authority in Glasgow is the town council—are paying a destitution scale which is higher than the amount proposed. The scale paid in Glasgow for the most destitute person is higher. In Lanark, as some of my Lanarkshire colleagues know, authorities, not manned by Labour people but by our opponents, are paying scales which are higher than we are proposing to-day.
It is asked that the Amendment should be withdrawn. Why? It is not that we 648 have a single guarantee about the minimum rate, because they have to go on until next Session. We have not a guarantee about capital, about the widow, but about the minimum rate, the destitution rates to be given next winter, nothing is to be done. The right hon. Gentleman wants to carry on this war victoriously. He came into the Government for that; that was his prime object. I say frankly to him that if there is one issue dominating the minds of the people whether in the London suburb, in the North of Scotland, or a Welsh valley, it is the treatment of our aged people. An ex-Lord Provost of Glasgow, who I think is as enthusiastic about winning the war as my right hon. Friend, and who, like him, has to stand a great deal of criticism, said in discussing the other day the point that we ought to raise it to at least a minimum of 25s. "The cost will be £10,000,000. Any Government that was wise would buy the morale of the people for at least £10,000,000". [Interruption]. I think you can buy morale. If morale cannot be bought, what was the defence of the miners' proposals? It was that the £4 3s. would give the morale to get our coal.
The Labour party are keen on this. Whatever differences may be submitted down there, whatever differences there may be between someone else and myself, the one thing I am certain of is that the mass of our party want something more done. Recently, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the House supported in this House coal rationing. A Tory committee smashed coal rationing. He ran away. Old age pensioners say to me, "The Tories can do that. Why cannot we get at least some small thing in return for your support?" Surely this is not asking too much. I say to the House and my Friends on the other side that by this Measure you are sentencing people for some considerable time to come to a standard of life which I think it is impossible to defend. There has been talk about the balancing of the nation's income and the effect on war-time policy. In the days before the right hon. Gentleman came to this House we had only one answer given to us for this pension not being decent. Never was an answer given to us that the amount was sufficient. The one answer every time was its cost. That is not said now, but most of those who have decided this policy to-day gave us that answer. 649 But I did not make ray observation in that sense. What I said was that the only defence was the cost. The old age pensioner now says, "You spend so much more on the war, so really do not give us the excuse about money any more. It was not true before the war. How likely is it to be true to-day?" To-day this issue is one which I and, I am sure, many others must feel to be of terrible social consequence, and I say to the House of Commons that if they do not deal with it the House of Commons itself will have fallen somewhat in prestige. I am certain that the great speeches that you will make about post-war work will be treated with a great deal of cynicism, because people will not believe you. If a man cannot do a small thing now—a thing so petty that I am almost ashamed of how little we are asking—there is little chance of him doing big things in the future.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. James Stuart) rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House proceeded to a Division.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
(seated and covered): Are you accepting the Motion, Sir? I know that it is against the procedure of the House to raise any question on a Ruling of that sort, but I would submit that a very large portion of to-day has been occupied with another matter, which
|Division No. 19.]||AYES.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Brooke, H.||Denville, Alfred|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh).||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Drewe, C.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Butcher, Lieut. H. W.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)|
|Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ.)||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Dugdale, Major T. L. (Richmond)|
|Assheton, R.||Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. R. (C. Ldn.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Ede, J. C.|
|Balfour, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. H.||Challen, Flight-Lieut. C.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Channon, H.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Chapman, A. (Ruthergien)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)|
|Beattie, F.||Cluse, W. S.||Elliot, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||Colegate, W. A.||Elliston, Captain G. S.|
|Beaumont, Maj. Hn. R. E. B. (P'ts'h)||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir Stafford||Entwistle, Sir C. F.|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Critchley, A.||Etherton, Flight-Lieut. Ralph|
|Benson, G.||Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Evans, D. O, (Cardigan)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Crowder, J. F. E.||Fildes, Sir H.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Culverwell, C. T.||Foot, D. M.|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Fox, Flight Lieut. Sir G. W. G.|
|Bower Comdr. R. T. (Cleveland)||Davidson, Viscountess (H'm'l H'mst'd)||Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. B.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'b'ke)|
|Brass, Capt. Sir W.||De Chair, Capt. S. S.||Gibson, Sir C. G.|
§ was put on the Order Paper by the Government. This Debate started quite late. There is a large number of Members who have not been able to speak, and it is an offence against the House for such a Motion to be moved by the Chief Whip. I submit, with all respect, that you ought not in the circumstances to have accepted the Motion.
§ Mr. Buchanan
(seated and covered): I understand that after I had finished speaking a Member on the Government Front Bench moved, "That the Question be now put." I do not know whether you accepted that Motion or not, Sir. I would like you to give us some guidance as to whether you have done so, and whether you intend now to put the Motion. I have a second point of Order. I know that you have the prerogative of accepting or refusing this Motion. I ask whether, in view of the tremendous national importance of this issue, you would not reconsider your decision, bearing in mind that Members of this House have so much interest in the subject.
(seated and covered): I want to put a point of Order. I am told that I am entitled to put a point of Order. My point of Order is this. As I was on my feet before the Chief Whip got up to move the Closure, is there anything that can be done to change the Ruling that was given?
§ The House divided: Ayes, 203; Noes, 77.
|Glyn, Sir R. G. C.||Little, Dr. J. (Down)||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)|
|Goldie, N. B.||Llewellin, Col, Rt. Hon. J. J.||Salt, E. W.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Lloyd, G. W. (Ladywood)||Sandys, E. D.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Locker-Lampson, Commander O. S.||Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M. (Altrincham)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Oliver||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A.|
|Grigg, Rt. Hon. Sir P. J. (Cardiff, E.)||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Grimston, R. V.||McEntee, V. La T.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||MeKie, J. H.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Groves, T. E.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. H. (Stockton)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.|
|Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||McNeil, H.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. Oliver|
|Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley).||Mander, G. le M.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Marlowe, Major A.||Strickland, Capt. W. F.|
|Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)|
|Haslam, Henry||Molson, Capt. A. H. E.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Headlam, Lt.-Col. Sir C. M.||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Sutclifle, H.|
|Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N. E.)||Morrison, Capt. J. G. (Salisbury)||Taylor, Major C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Thomas, I. (Keighley)|
|Heneage, Lt.-Col. A. P.||Nall, Sir J.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hepworth, J.||Naylor, T. E.||Thurtle, E.|
|Hewlett, T. H.||Nicholson, Captain G. (Farnham)||Tomlinson, G.|
|Hicks, E. G.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)||Touche, G. C.|
|Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Oliver, G. H.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Waterhouse, Capt. C.|
|Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)||Paling, W.||Watt, F. C. (Edinburgh Cen.)|
|Isaacs, G. A.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. H. (Richmond)|
|Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Peake, O.||Westwood, J.|
|Jeffreys, Gen. Sir G. D.||Peat, C. U.||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|John, W.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. (Stl'g & C'km'n)||Pownall, Lt.-Col, Sir Assheton||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Johnstone, H. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Procter, Major H. A.||Williams, Rt. Hon T. (Don Valley)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Pym, L. R.||Willink, H. U.|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Radford, E. A.||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)||Raikes, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir K. (W'lwich, W.)|
|Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Woodburn, A.|
|King-Hall, Commander, W. S. R.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Rickards, G. W.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Law, R. K.||Robertson, D. (Streatham)|
|Lawson, J. J.||Robertson, Rt. Hn, Sir M. A. (M'ham)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Leach, W.||Ross Taylor, W.||Mr. Boulton and Captain|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rowlands, G.||McEwen.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Islington, N.)||Pearson, A.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hardie, Agnes||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Barr, J.||Harvey, T. E.||Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Hayday, A.||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham (St. M.)|
|Bevan, A.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Ridley, G.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Horabin, T. L.||Riley, B.|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Ritson, J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey, W.)|
|Cape, T.||Kendall, W. D.||Shinwell, E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirby, B. V.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Kirkwood, D.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Collindridge, F.||Leslie, J. R.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lindsay, K. M.||Stephen, C.|
|Daggar, G.||Lipson, D. L.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McGhee, H. G.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Mack, J. D.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||MacLaren, A.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dobbie, W.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)||Mathers, G.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Dunn, E.||Maxton, J.||White, H. (Derby, N. E.)|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Messer, F.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Foster, W.||Milner, Major J.||Woods, G. S.(Finsbury)|
|Gallacher, W.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Granville, E. L.||Mort, D. L.||Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Sloan.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Oldfield, W. H.|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
|Division No. 20.]||AYES.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Assheton, R.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Ammon, C. G.||Balfour, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. H.|
§ The House divided: Ayes, 223; Noes, 63.
|Barnes, A. J.||Grimston, R. V.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Peake, O.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Groves, T. E.||Peat, C. U.|
|Beattie, F.||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Beaumont, Maj. Hn. R. E. B. (P'ts'h)||Hannah, I. C.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Beochman, N. A.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Harvey, T. E.||Pym, L. R.|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Haslam, Henry||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Benson, G.||Hayday, A.||Radford, E. A.|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E.||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Sir C. M.||Raikes, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N. E.)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Riekards, G. W.|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Heneage, Lt.-Col. A. P.||Ridley, G.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T. (Cleveland)||Hepworth, J.||Riley, B.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. B.||Hewlett, T. H.||Ritson, J.|
|Brass, Capt. Sir W.||Hicks, E. G.||Robertson, D. (Streatham)|
|Brooklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Robertson, Rt. Hn. Sir M. A. (M'ham)|
|Brooke, H.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Ross Taylor, W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Rowlands, G.|
|Butcher, Lieut. H. W.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)||Salt, E. W.|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Isaacs, G. A.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)|
|Challen, Flight-Lieut. C.||Jeffreys, Gen. Sir G. D.||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)|
|Channon, H.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||John, W.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Johnston, Rt. Hn. T. (Stl'g & C'km'n)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Johnstone, H. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Colegate, W. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hemmersmith, S.)||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir Stafford||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. Oliver|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Strickland, Capt. W. F.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Law, R. K.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Lawson, J. J.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Davidson, Viscountess (H'm'l H'mst'd)||Leach, W.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Taylor, Major C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|De Chair, Capt. S. S.||Little, Dr. J. (Down)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Llewellin, Col. Rt. Hon. J. J.||Thomas, I. (Keighley)|
|Denville, Alfred||Lloyd, G. W. (Ladywood)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Drewe, C.||Locker-Lampson, Commander O. S.||Thurtle, E.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Dugdale, Major T. L. (Richmond)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Oliver||Touche, G. C.|
|Duncan, Rt. Hon. Sir A. R. (C. Ldn.)||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Ede, J. C.||McEntee, V. La T.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||McKie, J. H.||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Macmilian, Rt. Hon. H. (Stockton)||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Elliot, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||McNeil, H.||Waterhouse, Capt. C.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.||Watt, F. C. (Edinburgh Cen.)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mander, G. Ie M.||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. H. (Richmond)|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Marlowe, Major A.||West wood, J.|
|Etherton, Flight-Lieut. Ralph||Mathers, B.||White, Sir Dymoke (Farcham)|
|Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Whiteiey W. (Blaydon)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Milner, Major J.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Molson, A. H. E.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Foot, D. M.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Fox, Flight-Lieut. Sir G. W. G.||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)||Willink, H. U.|
|Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'broke)||Morrison, Capt. J. G. (Salisbury)||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Gibson, Sir C. G.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir K. (W'lwich, W)|
|Gledhill, G.||Mort, D. L.||Woodburn, A.|
|Glyn, Sir R. G. C.||Nall, Sir J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Goldie, N. B.||Nicholson, Captain G. (Farnham)||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Mr. A. Young and Captain|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M. (Altrincham)||Paling, W.||McEwen.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Cove, W. G.||Dunn, E.|
|Barr, J.||Critchley, A.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Dagger, G.||Foster, W.|
|Bevan, A.||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Gallacher, W.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Granville, E. L.|
|Cape, T.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Islington, N.)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Dobbie, W.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)|
|Collindridge, F.||Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)||Hardie, Agnes|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||MacLaren, A.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Horabin, T. L.||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Sorenson, R. W.|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Maxton, J.||Stephen, C.|
|Kendall, W. D.||Messer, F.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Kirby, B. V.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Naylor, T. E.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Leonard, W.||Oldfield, W. H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Lindsay, K. M.||Pearson, A.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Lipson, D. L.||Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey)||White, H. (Derby, N. E.)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Reid, Capt, A. Cunningham (St. M.)|
|Mack, J. D.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|McKinlay, A. S.||Shinwell, E.||Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Sloan.|
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
That the Draft Supplementary Pensions (Determination of Need and Assessment of Needs) (Amendment) Regulations, 1942, made by the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, acting in conjunction under Part II of the Old Age and Widows' Pensions Act, 1940, a copy of which was presented to this House on 21st July, be approved.