§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
On a point of Order. Will you indicate to the House, Sir, whether any of the Amendments on the Paper will be taken?
§ Mr. Speaker
Yes, it is my intention to call the Amendment—not right at the beginning, but in about two hours' time—in the name of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards).
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
In view of the fact that all the Amendments are similar, might I point out that the first Amendment is in the names of myself, my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan), and my hon. Friend 1262 the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood)? However, in view of the importance of the other Amendment, I am quite agreeable to that being called.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Chair is not guided, when selecting Amendments, by the order in which they are put down.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Ernest Brown)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
As the House is aware, this is a Bill to effect improvements in the system of pensions law. Two of the improvements are of a comparatively minor character, but considerable attention has been drawn to them and to the issues underlying them, and some feeling has been shown about them—the treatment of capital assets on the one hand and the question of widows with children on the other. There is one improvement in the Bill which is of more importance, for it carries the break-up of the Poor Law one stage further, by applying the principles of the Determination of Needs Act to public assistance. I would like to make it clear at once that this does not alter the general Poor Law. We could not do that without raising the whole question of the Poor Law. But it is a move in the direction of applying the code for supplementary pensions and unemployment assistance to local public assistance.
The primary object of the Bill is to make these improvements in relation to pensions. I need not spend time in relating, except very briefly, the history which has led up to the production of this Bill. The House will recall that on 17th June last, as the result of a Motion which was accepted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on behalf of the Government, the first step was taken, and there was an examination of the rates of supplementary pension and unemployment assistance. It was then my duty to bring to the House draft Regulations providing for an increase of 2S. 6d. a week in respect of every adult and is. in respect of every child whose needs are taken into account. In winding up the Debate on those Regulations, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service said there were other matters for further examination, and it is with those that we are dealing in this Bill to-day. As was made quite clear in last year's Debate, the Government's examination of these 1263 problems is independent of the comprehensive proposals of the. Beveridge plan. This Bill is designed merely to effect some improvements of detail in the present system, without prejudicing consideration of the new system of benefits and assistance recommended by Sir William Beveridge.
I may say one thing departmentally. There seems to be a feeling in some quarters that there is delay in working out a comprehensive plan. I can assure the House that that is certainly not so from my experience. The House will know, that in regard to the wider plan, a great many issues do fall within the scope of the Health Departments and necessarily come to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself. I would venture to say that, apart from the ordinary routine work of my Department, it would be an underestimate to say that 60 per cent. of our work now is concerned with the working-out of that wider plan. I hope I have made it clear, if there are assumptions in any quarter that there is delay in looking at the wider picture, that those assumptions are not well-founded.
The Government have now completed their examination of the smaller points, and they have decided to propose that widow pensioners under 60 shall be eligible for supplementary pensions if they have children in respect of whom an allowance is being paid. But after the Bill and the Financial Resolution had been placed on the Order Paper, our attention was called to the fact that it might cause this situation—that if and when a widow with children who was receiving a supplementary pension from the Assistance Board arrived at a date at which her children passed out of the category in which allowances were paid on their behalf, she would then have to go back to public assistance. We looked into the point, and we have amended the Financial Resolution accordingly, and it is the intention of the Government to propose an Amendment in Committee which will secure that the widow in receipt of a supplementary pension by virtue of the provisions of Clause 3 of the Bill, will not cease to be eligible for such a pension by reason of the fact that she ceases to be entitled to an additional allowance in respect of a child.
§ Mr. Brown
Because these things are much more complicated than those who have not had to draft the Bill may understand. I reply to that point, because it is important for the House to see that this comparatively small Bill touches at least five codes of law, and the Minister who has to handle the drafting of any alteration or improvement in these various codes of law deserves the sympathy of all concerned for this reason—that he can scarcely make one alteration, without bringing to light the need for some other alteration. I have made it clear that the Government intend to propose an Amendment on this point.
It is also proposed to make two adjustments in the rules relating to the treatment of capital assets which apply to supplementary pensions to unemployment assistance and to financial assistance to the blind. The present rule is that the Assistance Board, or the local authority, takes into account in full any capital (other than "war savings," which are dealt with separately) in excess of Loci and treats a smaller amount as equivalent to an income of is. a week for every complete £25 after the first £25. In the Bill it is proposed to increase this figure of £300 to £400 and at the same time to reduce from 1s. to 6d. the amount which is to be taken into account as a weekly income for each complete £25 after the first £25.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
Before the Minister passes from that point, would he explain why 6d. has now been chosen? It represents more than 5 per cent., and no one can get 5 per cent. nowadays. It is much more than 5 per cent.
§ Mr. Brown
The answer is that we have discussed the basis concerned, and have come to the conclusion that this is the best improvement that could be made—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] It works out in this way. If the capital is anywhere from £200 to £224 195. 11d., it is to be treated as producing a weekly income of 3s. 6d. instead of vs., and the allowance or supplementary pension will be increased accordingly. It is deemed to produce that—
§ Mr. Silverman
The right hon. Gentleman says that 6d. on the amount he has mentioned would produce an income of 3s. 6d. But it would not produce anything of the kind. There is no place now where 1265 funds can be invested at 5 per cent., or whatever would be necessary to produce such a weekly income.
§ Major Procter (Accrington)
Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us what investment there is in the whole country which would produce that?
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
Is not the real answer that the is. was irrational and that the Government have reduced it to 6d., and therefore there is now only half the irrationality?
§ Mr. Brown
I should say that at the time Parliament agreed to the first figure it was thought that the is. was reasonable and that in the light of further discussion it is now thought that the proposed new figure is reasonable. This new provision will affect about 125,000 pensioners with capital of £50 or more.
There is another change which affects supplementary pensions only, and that is in relation to superannuation payments. The present rule is that the first 7s, 6d. a week of any such payment is disregarded in assessing resources. It is now proposed that the total amount to be disregarded shall be 10s. 6d. a week, which is the same. as for sickness and disability benefits under the National Health Insurance Acts, whether the pensioner's resources include one or more than one superannuation payment. This will affect nearly 40,000 cases in which more than 7s. 6d. a week is now being received.
Two small changes are proposed in relation to non-contributory old age pensions. The first provides that financial assistance granted by a local authority to a blind person shall not be calculated as part of his means for pension purposes. This assistance will, thus, be like the supplementary pension in the sense that it will be given so as to bring up the pension to what is required to meet the needs of the blind person and his dependants and an increase in the assistance will not result in a reduction in the pension. This, as hon. Members will appreciate, will avoid a source of irritation to local authorities and to blind persons, which, although recently partially met by administrative means, still exists to some extent. We are taking steps here to regularise the position. 1266 The other small change provides for reciprocity with the Isle of Man, so that persons born in that island and living in Great Britain will be able to obtain pensions under conditions similar to those which apply to persons born in Great Britain and living in the Isle of Man. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many?"] I could not say without notice.
Another matter to which the Government have been giving attention is what is known as the household means test. The Determination of Needs Act, 1941, abolished this test as applied to supplementary pensions and unemployment assistance, but left it in force as regards outdoor relief under the Poor Law, and left it to the local authority to apply it or not as they think fit to financial assistance to the blind. It is now proposed to clear up these differences in the household test by applying the rules in the Determination of Needs Act both to the Poor Law and to the Blind Persons Acts.
May I now look at the Clauses of the Bill in some detail to explain, as simply as I can, what they do?
§ Mr. Silverman
Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the effect of this Bill would be to apply to the Poor Law the kind of conditions and disregards and application of household needs test as applies to the Pensions Board?
§ Mr. Brown
I did not say that at all. Those who are familiar with the Poor Law know that the Poor Law has never been on the household needs test as such; it has been on the family test. I explained at the beginning that it was not possible in this Bill to touch the whole Poor Law structure. (An HON. MEMBER: "That remains the same") That does not remain the same. It is entirely different, for this reason. The old complaint against the household means test used to be that it led to the break-up of families, but as to this alteration, I suspect that the complaint will be the other way. Normally, there will still be an obligation on those not in the household, but what we are doing is to remove the household test as it is removed from unemployment assistance, on the one hand, and Supplementary Pensions, on the other, from public assistance. It is that which was put to us by the bodies who made powerful representations to us. It was that for which they asked, and that is being done by the Bill.
§ Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)
Is it not a fact that the married man outside the home that is going to receive public assistance will still be liable and under an obligation to help to maintain?
§ Mr. Brown
I made that perfectly plain both in the first statement and in the second.
Now let me come to the detailed points. With regard to Clause I, Sub-section (1) raises from £300 to £400 the maximum value of the money and investments to be treated as capital and carries out the change I indicated earlier in my speech. It applies to unemployment assistance, supplementary pensions and to financial assistance to the blind. Sub-section (2) does two things. It raises the amount of the superannuation payment to be disregarded from 75. 6d. to 10s. 6d. a week, and it also provides that, where the resources of the applicant include more than one superannuation payment, the amount disregarded shall be los. 6d. Subsection (3) provides that draft regulations for amending the Regulations as regards unemployment assistance and supplementary pensions in accordance with the changes that are made in this Clause are to be made within a month of the passing of the Act and to be submitted to Parliament for approval as soon as may be after they are made. Sub-section (4) gives the Assistance Board three months in which to review existing cases. It may be remembered that Section 4 of the Determination of Needs Act gave them two months for this purpose. Members may ask why the longer period? The longer period is necessitated by the greater stringency of man-power.
In regard to Clause 2, Sub-section (1) provides for the abolition of what is called the household means test in the granting of outdoor relief through the Poor Law and the provision of financial assistance for blind persons, and makes the rules contained in the First Schedule to the Determination of Needs Act, 1941, applicable to members of households who are applicants for such relief or assistance. The effect of these rules is as follows: First, the resources of the members of the household, other than the applicant, the husband or wife, and any dependent member, are not to be regarded as resources of the applicant. Second, where the applicant is the householder or the husband or wife, the resources of the 1268 applicant will normally be deemed to include a small contribution, net exceeding 7s. a week, towards the expenses of the household from any dependent member. Three—first, if the householder is the father, mother, son or daughter of the applicant and has a substantial income, £6 a week or more according to circumstances, and there are no members of the household dependent on the applicant, the needs of the applicant normally will not be deemed to include the need of making contributions towards the cost of his board and lodging or other expenses of the household; secondly, in other cases where the applicant is not the householder, the applicant's needs will normally be deemed to include the need of making a reasonable contribution by way of rent. Sub-section (2) of Clause 2, provides that an Order for the maintenance of a poor person who has attained the age of 16 may not be made against a member of the same household other than the husband or wife of the poor person.
One or two comments on Clause 3 may help the House.
§ Mr. Brown
A little later. Sub-section (1) of Clause 3 makes widows with contributory pensions which include allowances for children, eligible, irrespective of age, for supplementary pensions. Sub-section (2) and the First Schedule makes the necessary changes in the Poor Law consequent on the inclusion of a new class of persons among those who are eligible for supplementary pensions. These changes, which are similar to those made in respect of existing classes of eligible persons, are shortly these. Outdoor relief except relief in respect of medical needs and relief in cases of sudden or urgent necessity is not to be granted to persons who are eligible for supplementary pensions except before the date on which the basic pension was received. Second, if outdoor relief, not in respect of medical needs, is given during the period of waiting for a basic pension or in respect of sudden or urgent necessity, the cost is to be repaid by the 'Assistance Board. Sub-section (3) enables the Assistance Board to make payments in respect of past periods in certain cases. This is important, for eligibility for supplementary pension 1269 depends upon "being entitled to receive weekly payments." This state of affairs does not exist until the basic pension is actually awarded, which may be later than the date from which the pension began to accrue. The Assistance Board have no power to meet need retrospectively, and as long as they were dealing in the main with old age pensioners, it has been possible to deal with the situation administratively. A person knows when he or she is going to become 60, 65 or 70 and can apply for a pension in advance so that, as Members know, in the great majority of cases it is actually awarded as soon as it begins to accrue. Failure to do so is generally the pensioner's own lack of application. But a widow is not in this position. There is commonly a delay of about six weeks between the husband's death, when the pension begins to accrue, and the award of the pension. The Government think that the Assistance Board must be given power to deal with that need retrospectively during this period, when the widow may have been running into debt or using savings that would otherwise be disregarded or treated as capital. If this is done for widows it would not be practicable to withhold it from old age pensioners where, owing to exceptional conditions the decision on an application for pension is delayed. So the Government have decided to give the Board power to do this.
I do not need say anything special about the Isle of Man. Subsection (2) of Clause 4 provides for reciprocity in noncontributory old age pensions, which is in the nature of a debt of honour to the Isle of Man who are now paying pensioners from Great Britain in Man without any quid pro quo, on the understanding that the matte)' will be dealt with at the first opportunity.
Clause 5 deals with expenditure out of moneys provided by Parliament. The Clause authorises the meeting of expenditure resulting from the Bill from moneys provided by Parliament. Clause 6 defines the appointed day. Clause 7 is the application to Scotland, and Clause 8 is the short title and extent.
I would like to say one general word.
§ Mr. Bevan
There is one important thing on page 3. The right hon. Gentle- 1270 man has told the House that under this Bill the determination of needs proviso can be applied to applicants for outdoor relief. How on earth is that the case, when in the proviso to Clause 2 the obligation still remains upon the Poor Law authority to act in accordance with the procedure of the Poor Law Acts?
§ Mr. Brown
That, of course, covers the point which has already been made clear three times [HON. MEMBERS:No."] I think so; if not, if hon. Members, having put the Question, will let me inquire, an answer will be given before the Debate ends. As I understand it, this is the legal way of indicating that we are dealing solely with the household test, already abolished for certain purposes by the Determination of Needs Act, and that the Clause will not affect the fundamental structure of the Poor Law.
§ Mr. Bevan
Every Poor Law authority in the country will be confused by the situation. The Minister has told us that under this Bill the same procedure as is applied to applicants for outdoor relief is now to be applied under the determination of need. If local authorities act in accordance with this instruction, they will be breaking the law and will be subject to a surcharge, because the proviso takes back the power the Clause gives. The Minister is confusing the House and the Poor Law authorities.
§ Mr. Brown
I think the hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. I have stated accurately the position, and I have already promised to give an answer before the Debate ends. I do not think that after the care which has been given to the drafting of this Bill my statement will be found to be inaccurate. I have just ascertained that what I have said is quite right. What happens now is that under the family test in many cases discretion is used and in many cases it is not in fact applied.
§ Mr. Silverman
We really must get this clear. I am not clear, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is clear either. At present the Act demands that a Poor Law authority which grants relief shall collect it back from certain classes of persons. The Minister said that this Bill does not alter that. Clause 2 purports to alter it or to make certain distinctions in respect of it. The proviso preserves the existing law, and, therefore, it is im- 1271 possible for the Poor Law authorities to act under Clause 2 without a breach of their present obligations under the Poor Law Act.
§ Mr. Brown
The answer to that is to be found in the record of the many thousands of statements I have made in the course of Debates and the number of challenges which have been made afterwards. That is the answer to that [Laughter]. Now we are all enjoying ourselves. I will go back to the point I was making before I had the assistance of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). The Bill contains proposals to amend five different codes of legislation, dealing with the Poor Law, blind persons, non-contributory old age pensions, supplementary pensions, and unemployment assistance, and it refers to a sixth code, namely, contributory pensions. Thus the assistance of the hon. Member was quite unnecessary, and my accuracy is now, I think, unimpugned. I will only add that the present Bill continues the process of breaking up the Poor Law by adding another class of persons to those whose needs are to be dealt with by the State, namely, those referred to in Clause 3. As "The Times" rightly points out to-day, Clause 2 also is an important reform of the Poor Law, for in future the principles governing the treatment of households by the Poor Law authority will be similar to those which Parliament, the year before last, laid down for observance by the Assistance Board.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
The question which is before the House to-day is one in which my hon. Friends have taken a very deep interest for a very long time. I am not saying that my hon. Friends and I are alone in the House in wishing to help those who have fallen by the wayside, but we are dealing now with a relatively narrow problem arising out of a pledge which my right hon. Friend gave to me last July, after we had specifically asked for some reconsideration of the question of savings and of widows. If I remember rightly, in the two Debates which were inaugurated by my right hon. Friend this question of dealing with old age pensioners on a much more generous scale ran through them both. That was particularly so in the Debate in July when the Regulations were under consideration. Those Regulations did improve the situation of aged people, widows and the like, rind my right hon. Friend, on the narrow points, undertook to deal with this matter. I must say that my right hon. Friend has fulfilled the pledge given to me; I do not think he has fulfilled it with all the generosity I should have liked, but he has, in fact, done so. There is one further improvement which has been made by the alteration of the Financial Resolution and the subsequent Amendment of the Bill which will deal with a point which will affect all my hon. Friends on this side of the House, namely, the quite impossible cat-and-mouse situation of a widow being one day on A.B. scales and then, because her child dies or she ceases to receive children's allowance, has to go back to the Poor Law. That is one concession which my right hon. Friend has agreed to to-day.
But there remains the question of old age pensioners. I believe myself that the time is long overdue for an increase in the basic rate for old age pensioners. That is the view shared on all sides of the House, because on the Order Paper the Amendments to the Second Reading of this Bill, coming from various quarters, including all parties, stress the importance of an improvement in the basic rate of pension. With that object I am in full agreement. I do, however, appreciate that in the circumstances of war-time and in the many difficult considerations which will arise, to expect that to be done in a complete way is to expect too much. On the other hand, that is no justification for 1273 not giving to the aged more generous treatment in order to enable them to live in decency and to enable the poorest of the poor to do something to meet the increased taxation which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his last two Budgets, has, with that ruthlessness with which we always associate him, inflicted upon the poor. It may well be that the Government are right at this stage in saying that they cannot handle the question of the basic rate. Personally, I accept that point of view, but I do not accept the view that there can be no further improvement in supplementary pensions. Provision can be made for that in the Regulations, and I hope that the Government, between now and the publication of the White Paper containing the draft Regulations, will give very earnest consideration to this question.
I believe myself that there is a good deal of feeling in the country on this problem—certainly there is in all quarters of the House. I hate this nibble, nibble, nibble policy of dealing with a problem of this kind. I would like, and I have said so before, to take the question of the aged off the Floor of this House until we come to discuss a permanent scheme as part of a comprehensive scheme for ensuring social security for all. I hope, therefore, that the Government will take heed of this very serious plea. Nobody can say that I am being awkward in this matter; indeed, I can feel the drips of icy water from some of my hon. Friends running down my back. I think, however, that that makes my appeal all the more forcible, in that having taken this very moderate point of view I am entitled to ask the Government to bring forward in the Regulations something that this House can accept with honour for the aged people.
I intend the support the Second Reading of this Bill, and I would like all my hon. Friends to support me in the Lobby, although I realise that there may be a difference of opinion. I support this Bill with certain mental reservations. I appreciate that it is an improvement, and T. look forward to the Regulations being sufficiently generous to stave off any further pecking at this problem until we have dealt with it in a broad and statesmanlike way. I do not want to delay the House, but I want to make the position of some of us clear in this matter. The Regulations which will cover other 1274 things besides old age pensions, will, I hope, show that some regard has been paid to the feelings of those in this House whose hearts are sore at the appeals which have been made to them by the aged and widows. I hope the Regulations will show that a good job of work has been done.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I wish to intervene for only a few moments, first to say that this Bill is a harmless and Departmental Measure.
§ Sir P. Harris
That is the point I was about to make. A promise was made in the King's Speech that a Measure dealing with old age pensions would be introduced. That promise aroused considerable interest in that it was believed that something constructive, if not revolutionary, would be forthcoming. I cannot understand anybody voting against this Bill. So far as it goes, it fills certain gaps and remedies certain weaknesses, but it is by no means the Measure which was foreshadowed in the King's Speech. Hopes were aroused in the breasts of hundreds of thousands of old age pensioners that some great improvement was going to be made in their condition. I do not say that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is the particular moment to increase the basic rate, but there is a demand among the old age pensioners that there should be some real improvement during the war-time in the payment made to them.
§ Major Procter (Accrington)
I should like to add a word to what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I am sure that many of us on this side are in complete agreement with all that has been done in this Bill, but it does not go far enough. I should like to plead for a more comprehensive scheme of social security for the old age pensioners, and, although it is war-time, to increase the basic rate of pension so as to enable them to meet the rise in the cost of living and to prevent an agitation throughout the country which in itself is a danger to democracy. A large organisation has been formed which is putting a sort of pistol to the heads of Members of Parliament, saying in effect, "If you don't do what we tell you, we will vote against you." These sectional 1275 demands are a danger to democracy. I deplore these organisations—they ought not to be necessary—but there is essential justice in the claims of the old age pensioners, widows and elderly spinsters for an increase in the basic rates. The time has come for the Government to meet their needs by producing at an early date a comprehensive scheme.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
I wish first to say a word of apology to the right hon. Gentleman, because through circumstances over which I had no control I did not hear the beginning of his speech. Some people say this is not an important Bill, but while the Bill itself may not be important, the issues raised by it are of the greatest and keenest importance. It is a mistake in democracy to think that human issues—the issues of food, clothing and shelter—are not grave issues. They are issues of which war is often the result, nations as well as individuals trying to gain the mastery over the things that they require for life. I hope we shall examine this problem from the approach of seeing if the Bill, even within its limits, cannot be made much better than it is. I am not going to say that the Government have broken their pledge, but with most pledges and most statements it is always possible to make two approaches. I have for many years been dealing with employers about wages, and when you have made an agreement there is always the question of the approach to it—how will it be interpreted, how will it be worked? It can be approached meanly or generously.
If you take the Government pledge in its narrowest and meanest sense, they have carried it out, but taking it in its broadest sense, together with the statement in the King's Speech the pledge does not mean what the great mass of the people thought it did. To us it meant that they were going to examine the question of old age pensions and deal with it. One of my complaints is that it has never been examined. This Bill, in many ways contemptible, is not the result of examination at all. Ten months ago they gave a pledge to the Leader of our party that they would examine this issue, and they have produced this Bill, but it was never thought out. Before the ink was dry on it it was altered. It was shown that the issue of the widow was in- 1276 defensibly wrong and they altered it. Most Members will agree that we ought to see that the soldier injured in war and his widow and children are decently treated. The Government have brought in the childless widow, but they have left out the widow of the soldier killed in the war. Under the Bill she is to get nothing. It is true that the scales are not published, but the childless widow and the widow of 60 are chargeable to the Board, and the scale is fixed for her. It is obvious that you cannot make the scale any more generous than hers because you are not going to be any more generous to the old age pensioners.
Taking the scale that you have fixed for the widow of 60 at 21S., after paying a rent of 6s. she is left with 15s. I defy the best calculator in the world to show that a woman can live on 15s. a week after paying her rent. Under the present scale a soldier's widow paying 10s. rent is slightly worse off than a person under the Assistance Board. A man injured in the war is granted a pension of £100. He lives for, say, two years. He had two children before he was injured, and a child is born 12 months after he receives his injury. If the widow is eligible, she will get 3s. for the third child from the Widows' Pension Fund, and she is left with three alternatives. Either she has to keep this child out of her pension that she has for having the other two, or she has to go to the Poor Law, or she must work. Whoever intended that the soldier's widow was to be worse treated than a man who happens to be injured and has a child after he is injured? Why should the child be differently treated from any other child? The Government know nothing about the Bill they have introduced. They never thought about the case of the widow until their attention was called to it. It was under pressure that they changed it, because they had never examined the problem.
Take the widow with an industrial record who works, but is not eligible for a pension. The number of widows who are ineligible for the widows' pension is amazing. Through some technical fault —perhaps the man has neglected to become a voluntary contributor—she is disqualified. Sometimes a man has neglected, because he was on a means test, to sign on the exchange and got passed out. Sometimes rather than draw relief here he went to the Colonies to search for 1277 work. Because he was adventurous and left his wife she has no pension. Why should she not be brought in? A widow with an industrial record who has one or two children will come back on to the Board through her industrial record of unemployment assistance, but the minute her industrial record finishes she goes back with her children to the Poor Law. The soldier's widow ought to be on the same basis as any other widow if she needs it. It must not be forgotten that the Assistance Board do not pay out money for fun. Anybody who has tried to get money from them has seen how difficult it is. Why should a soldier's widow in need be deprived of the right to come under the Government supplementary scheme like anybody else? I do not think the Government have studied her case and nobody who knows about her will stand for this treatment.
I want to say a word about the Poor Law issue. I am not qualified to argue the legal merits of the Poor Law business. Sons who are inside the house are told that they will be relieved to the extent of a determination of needs test. But what about the sons who are not in the house? There is no relief to them. It may be argued by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland that the system of going after sons and daughters outside the house has fallen into disuse. If it has fallen into disuse, that is all the more reason why the Act of Parliament should be put right. The position now is that a son in the house, being a member of the household, gets the relief of the Determination of Needs Act, but under the Poor Law Act the son outside the house, not being a member of the household, does not get any relief at all. I make the frank admission that Glasgow, in dealing with these poor people, has an honourable record in recent years, but even Glasgow when dealing with people in institutions chase after certain of the relatives who they think can afford to pay. This Bill makes no attempt to deal with that situation.
May I say a word about the issue of the old age pension itself? Some of my friends say that the basic pension cannot be increased. I think that the best way of doing it is to increase the basic pension. I cannot see any strong argument against it. The great argument hitherto used has been the man at work, but I cannot see any difficulty here. To a country that 1278 can do the immense things we have done in the war that is a simple problem. I would dispose of the question of the man who is at work by saying that by administrative action or by Act of Parliament the problem could be dealt with. I come back to the question of the basic pension. The argument that used to be made against an increase without a test was that we did not want to give additional sums to people who already had fair sums of money. To some extent the argument is still going in that direction. Under the law a married couple can have £99 war savings each and not 1d. is touched. That does not end it, however, for they can possess an additional amount of £399 each and yet draw 7s. 6d. They can actually possess £200, and then you say to the poor old pensioner who has merely got a boy or a girl working, or perhaps two children working, "We must not touch your basic scale. We might make you too rich or too comfortable."
Returning to the question of the widow, the woman of 60 for some unknown reason gets 1s. less than the man of 65, who gets 22S. That is the basic scale on a 6s. rent. I cannot understand the way the Government work about with shillings. Can you imagine any of us running a business and treating the woman of 60 differently from a man of 65 to the extent of 1s.? Only the Treasury mind could do that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or the Poor Law mind."] I do not believe it. The Poor Law in Glasgow would be insulted if it was suggested they had a mind like that. I do not believe they would make such a difference. Take 22S. as the scale. That is what it will be when we have passed this Bill. I have been long enough in Parliament to know that 22S. will be the standard for years to come. Once this Bill goes through that standard will be fixed and nothing can alter it. I see a Parliamentary Private Secretary laughing—
§ Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)
I am asking my hon. Friend if he would bet on that.
§ Mr. Buchanan
If the hon. Gentleman comes here with a superior knowledge of these things, perhaps he can tell us.
§ Mr. Woodburn
My hon. Friend said he was certain that there would be no increase of the 22s. I am merely asking if he is prepared to bet on it.
§ Mr. Buchanan
The hon. Member is laughing about it. He may have a better reputation than me for being a first-class revolutionary, and this is an opportunity for him to show his revolutionary ideas.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I will learn it from the hon. Gentleman. He is a first-class comedian. My experience tells me that if the Government intended to give an increase they would, having given ten months' consideration to this question, have done it now. Is there anybody who knows any reason for saying that if they intended to give an increase after ten months' examination of the facts, they would not have done it now? What new facts will emerge next month or in the next six months? All that will emerge is that the old age pensioner will still have 22S. as he is getting now.
§ Mr. Buchanan
The hon. Gentleman who is Parliamentary Private Secretary to a Cabinet Minister said he would like to bet that I am wrong. He has access to information and to the minds of the Cabinet Ministers. Can the Minister of Health assure us that the hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) is right and that the old age pensioners will get something extra? May I ask the Under-Secretary for Scotland? He is closely associated with the hon. Member for East Stirling; he sits in the same locality and travels North in the same train. Can he give us the source of his inside information and let us know when an increase is coming? I am not apparently being taken seriously. This is too tragic a matter to be taken lightly. I am told now that we must wait for the Regulations. When the Regulations come I shall be told not to vote against them because if I do the Regulations will be defeated and the widow will get nothing at all. Then somebody else will say, "Wait until the next time," and each time I wait the old age pensioner, who cannot afford to wait, is waiting on.
The old age pensioners cannot maintain decency on the present scale. We can talk about it as much as we like, but that is the actual position. It is an impossibility for a human soul to be maintained on the present scales. The great 1280 trade union movement would never have tolerated for the wage earners the treatment that is meted out to old age pensioners.Recently the arbitration tribunal dealing with engineering wages took the view that there was a great deal to be said for those who were least paid getting the greatest increase. If ever a principle ought to be applied, it is that principle in this case. In this petty Bill the only increases granted are increases to people who have something already. To the poorest people, to those in direst need, the people who ask and require comfort and succour, nothing is granted. The House of Commons is a great Assembly. One of its greatnesses is that from time to time it asserts itself even against the Government of the day. I have rarely seen the House of Commons in a better light than one night when we were discussing allowances to the unemployed. For once the House was roused over a domestic issue, it was packed, and it asserted itself, and the Government of the day had to withdraw its proposals. The issue that roused the House then is the same issue that is before us to-day, the issue of poverty, the issue of men and women not having enough to live on. I say honestly that, argue it as you may, use figures as you may, the standard rate for the old age pensioner is fixed at a level which gives no man or woman, however careful, however shrewd, the decencies of home life. The House has a paramount duty in these days to see that no citizen of this country of ours, no matter how humble, shall be in want or destitution. Our first step is to see that these old folk are raised to a level above the pauper and the destitution stage.
§ Major Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
No hon. Member can have listened to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) without having been deeply impressed not only by its eloquence and passion but by the depth of the sincerity of his remarks. I agree with a very great proportion of all that he said. Both of us come from the Glasgow area and know well the pitiable condition of many old age pensioners, and that pitiable condition has existed far too long, and I cannot believe that such things are confined to Glasgow. They must be apparent in many other great industrial cities, and not only in the cities but in other parts as well. I agree wholeheartedly with the 1281 hon. Member's criticism that this Bill does not go anything like far enough. Those of us who feel' strongly on this subject certainly had our expectations aroused by the references in the King's Speech to this subject, and the great mass of the people also sincerely believed that something would be done on a more generous scale in the comparatively near future. I cannot oppose the Bill in so far as it goes, but it goes only such a little way. It is impossible to oppose it, but I want to be placed on record as sharing the sentiment of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals that it is a bitter disappointment that we have not been able to get more from the Government.
I agree with what has been said about a very large number of widows who are not really covered by this Bill. Many cases have been brought to my notice concerning not only the widows of civilians who apparently will receive no benefits under the Bill, for, as the hon. Member for Gorbals has so rightly said, a very large number of the widows of soldiers who are badly off will receive no benefits. It is a scandalous thing that the wives, widows and dependants of those who have served us so magnificently in this war are not receiving anything like justice from the country and from the Exchequer. Many instances are constantly brought to the attention of hon. Members and we can get no satisfaction, though we write letter after letter. It renders us impotent to serve the interests of the widows and dependants of soldiers who in many cases are suffering very seriously indeed as a result of their husbands having fought and died for their country. It seems that it is impossible to put any heart, sympathy or understanding into the minds of the Treasury and the bureaucracy who run us to-day. When will they begin to wake up and listen to the voice of Parliament? For many months this has been one of the most burning questions in the hearts of all of us. The Government know that. The Government know that we are desperately keen, and yet we are fobbed off again and again by bits of regulations, hopelessly involved and most difficult to understand.
All these additions and subtractions which are the major contents of this Bill could have been avoided if the Government had come out with a Bill definitely adding to the basic rate of the present pension. There are far too many involved 1282 calculations to be made by those who will have the responsibility of administering this Bill, and I could wish the Government had taken their courage in both hands and given us something definite in the way of an increase on the basic pension. I deplore the fact that there is nothing whatever in this Bill to hold out the slightest hope that the elderly spinster is to have a fairer deal from the State. Many elderly spinsters are in a most unhappy condition, and if only we could have done something for them in addition to what we are, trying to do for widows in this small way, this pitiably small way, it would have been a great and generous concession which would have been appreciated enormously by many hundreds of thousands of elderly spinsters who are almost in penury.
§ Mr. Spearman (Scarborough)
I was very glad to hear the generous admission from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) that hon. Members in all parts of the House have the welfare of old age pensioners at heart. We are all equally anxious for their welfare, although we may disagree as to the extent of what it is practicable to do for them. The question of the raising of the standard rates of pensions has been brought forward, and I think all of us have had cards from the organisation sponsoring it, asking that the rate shall be raised to 30s. I would like to remind hon. Members that money is, after all, only a convenient method of obtaining goods so as to avoid the cumbrous method of barter. It is no good people having twice as much money unless there are twice as many goods to buy, and it is no good having more money if the prices of things are to be higher. Therefore it is clear that it is not a question only of providing more money but of providing more goods, and so far as I am aware that can be done in only one of three ways. The first is to divert them from war purposes, which would be quite unthinkable to all of us. The second would be by producing more, and that is impracticable because at the moment we are all fully employed in this country, and it technical improvements could enable us to have a greater output then the goods should go towards the war effort. The third way, of course, is by a diversion of goods from the better-off to those who need them most. If anyone has carefully examined the White Paper on 1283 national income he will clearly see the bulk of further taxation must fall on those with an income of less than £1,000 a year.
The Chancellor told us last year that to raise the rate of old age pensions to 30s. a week would cost £168,00,000, and so that any substantial addition to expenditure must fall upon people with incomes of £3, £4 or £5 per week, because if he took everything from the rich, from those who pay super-tax, he would get only enough to pay these higher rates for a few weeks. Therefore the brunt of the burden would have to fall on those with small incomes, and I say it would not be right to impose this further burden upon them at this time, save to deal with the cases of old age pensioners who are in urgent need; and we know that some considerable proportion of old age pensioners are still at work and that others have additional means, which shows that not all cases can be urgent. We were also told last year that even raising the pension to 30s. would still not put out of need all those concerned.
I have great confidence that after the war we can go a long way in social reform, but all that can be done at the present time is to see that those who specially need help get it, and to see that the machinery is in good condition.
I support the Bill because it improves the machinery. I am thinking particularly of the alteration in regard to applicants for supplementary pension, but I regret that there have not been other improvements; I should hike to bring three proposals to the notice of my right hon. Friend. A man of 70, with a capital of £865 gets his pension in full, but if the man has £1,102, he gets nothing at all. If the money is invested in Government stock, the old age pensioner with £865 receives an income of £52 a year, whereas the one with £1,100 does not get a pension and so gets only £33 a year. The pensioner with an income of £65 gets his pension in full, but for every £2.12s 6d. in excess of that sum he loses Is. a week. There could be no complaint about that if that figure were the income which the man actually received, but it is not. It is the income which the Minister thinks he ought to receive, and this is how the Minister bases it: He takes the first £25 of the man's capital free; he assumes a rate of interest of 5 per cent. on £375, 1284 and he assumes a rate of interest of 10 per cent. upon the remainder. It is very difficult to see how any man can get to per cent. or even 5 per cent. in these days, but we must remember that the plan was devised in 1919 when the Bank Rate stood at 6 per cent. It now stands at 2 per cent. It was possible to invest in Government stock to yield 6 per cent. in those days. Now only 3 per cent. can be obtained. It is surely not being too precipitous now to ask the Minister to put right this anachronism of 1919 and which he has put right in regard to the qualification for supplementary pensions.
I have examined these figures as carefully as I can, and I think the position in 1919 was something like this: An old age pensioner was assumed to have invested the first £375 in a Government stock to yield 5 per cent. and as to the remainder of his capital half in a Government stock to yield 5 per cent., half in an annuity to yield 15 per cent., making an average of 10 per cent., these returns could be obtained in those days. If you take the current rate of 3 per cent. yield on Government stocks and 12 per cent. as the annuity rate, and bring the position of the non-contributory pensioner up to date as has been done with regard to supplementary pensions, then you raise the capital which would be disregarded to £1,102. A man with that amount would get the pension in full; he would get a pension proportionately less unless his capital exceeded £1,400. I find that few constituents' cases are more hard to answer than that of the man who comes and says that he has worked hard all his life and has saved all he could, and yet, in spite of his accumulated savings, he is worse off than the man next door who has lived an idle life and spent all he could get. I have suggested reforms to the Minister in keeping with what has been done in the past. If the Minister has anything more appropriate, so much the better.
The second anachronism I would ask him to consider concerns the deduction of the £39 income which is allowed from any means other than earnings. Why should a man who, for example, receives a pension from a former employer be able to deduct that sum and get his pension in full while a man who goes out and does a job of work is not entitled to a pension? I suppose again that that was devised in 1285 the days when we thought it preferable to try to keep old people out of industry as much as possible in order to make way for the younger ones. I hope it is becoming generally recognised that the more hands there are at the wheel the greater will be the national wealth. I hope that this anomaly will be removed.
Finally, I should like the Minister to consider the question of anniuities. He is assuming that non-contributory pensioners and supplementary pensioners will invest part of their capital in an annuity, which they would have to do in order to get the income to which the Minister referred. If that is so, ought not the State to see that the pensioners get that annuity upon favourable terms? At the present time a man aged 70 only gets an annuity of £11 10s. The women's figures are rather different, because they have a way of living longer than us, which make them less desirable as annuitants. The rate is based upon the assumption that annuitants live longer than other people because only those who expect to live a long time apply for an annuity. If you take the general mortality rate, then the rate for an annuity would be just under 14 per cent. Take the case of a supplementary pensioner who has £401 and has invested it in an annuity which gives him an income of £56 a year. If he invested in the annuity now available, the same money would bring him only £46. The difference of £10 represents a supplementary pension of 4s. a week. I would like to see the Government giving an opportunity to buy an annuity of a fixed amount, say not to exceed £400, to people with a capital not exceeding perhaps £1,400, on a more generous basis than 14 per cent. but I suggest that the Government could approach that figure without any loss at all. The alterations I have tried to put forward would cost the country comparatively little, and would certainly cost far less than if the old age pensioner had not earned and saved. It would cost far less than the increase in the national wealth which will result from encouraging people to work and save by giving them a good incentive.
In times of peace, when the resources of the country are not fully occupied— and they never have been in times of peace during this century—I go a long way towards agreeing that financial considerations should not interfere with what is economically possible. I believe that a 1286 wise and expansionist policy would be able to initiate desirable social reforms, but I urge upon hon. Members that what might be done in the open economy of peace is entirely different from what could be done in the closed economy of wartime. In these days, our two anxieties must be to relieve acute need and to concentrate everything we can upon winning the war at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House declines to gives a Second Reading to a Bill which fails to make provision for an increase in the income of old age pensioners and ignores the needs of childless widows under 60 years and elderly spinsters.This is one of a series of Debates to which I have listened on this topic, and I have never known the Minister of Health so reticent, so quiet and so lame in the presentation of a Bill as he has been to-day. We missed his brass-band tactics. He generally has employed the tactic of the political dive-bomber, and has endeavoured to terrify us with the vehemence of his address, but to-day he was quite a different man. One wonders whether such a miserable Bill as this one has at last touched his conscience. It is surprising that in every speech made, apart from that by the right hon. Gentleman himself, there has been no warmhearted approval for the Bill. Everyone who has spoken has complained about its inadequacy and has talked about the things it fails to do. I want to indicate some of the failings of the Bill, in so far as it fails to meet the needs of the vast majority of people in this category.
It will be well within the recollection of the House that a Debate took place in June last year opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar), who made out an extremely good case for an improvement in the income of the old age pensioners. At the end of that Debate the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he would give consideration to the representations that were then being made, and the Government accepted the Motion that had been moved by the hon. Member for Abertillery. In July, the Government brought forward their Regulations, which embodied the result of their considerations of the Debate of June. At that time, there was an agitation in this House that four things should be done. 1287 The half-crown per pensioner increase should be increased to 5s.; widows under 60, and orphans, should be brought within the ambit of supplementary pensions; the method of treating superannuation payments should be amended, and, fourthly, there should be a change in the treatment of capital assets.
Those were the four things in the mind of my hon. Friends on this side of the House when the Amendment was put on the Order Paper to the Motion which was before the House last July. It will be within the recollection of the House that the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) moved the Amendment in order to give the Government an opportunity of stating what they proposed to do in the light of those proposals. After a very hectic Debate the Minister of Labour made an announcement on behalf of the Government. He made certain pledges, and so that there should be no mistake as to what those pledges are, or what they mean, I propose to quote them. In answer to the demand that the 2s. 6d. increase should be raised to 5s.; what was the reply of the Minister of Labour? It was this:I repeat that it is the intention of the (overnment to make reasonable provision for.old age pensioners.That is the first undertaking, the one which appeared first when he asked the House to give him time and to listen to the pronouncement he was to make on behalf of the Government. That will be found in column 636 of Hansard, 29th July, 1942. The next part of his pledge was this:We shall, in any event, give further consideration to the position of pensioners, including widows under 6o who need assistance beyond their pensions.Not some widows, not widows with children, not widows without children—widows. That was his pledge in regard to the demand from this side of the House that all widows should be brought within the terms of supplementary pensions. Of course, it will be within the recollection of the House, that the Minister, in order to get the House with him, shed a lot of crocodile tears for the poor spinsters who had been worn out; he regarded them as the most deserving section of our community, and he gratuitously brought the spinsters within the terms of his speech 1288 without any request from the House. That is why this part of his statement is included within the terms of the Amendment. I may say here that the terms of the Amendment consist of the phrases of the Minister of Labour in giving the pledges from that side of the House. The third pledge he gave was this: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. "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1942; col. 636, Vol. 382.]The fourth assurance, given specifically in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) was that the superannuation resources should be reviewed, and that all these pledges would be implemented in this Session in new legislation. It is against the background of those pledges that this Bill must be considered, for this Bill is now alleged to be the fulfilment of the pledges given in July of last year. I want to stress that point, because it is no use talking about what you are going to do with the Regulations. If it is plain that this Bill embodies all the pledges, there is no need to do anything more than is in this Bill—if it does. My contention is that it does not embody the pledges. Those were the assurances which caused the acting Leader on this side of the House to seek to withdraw his Amendment, very much against the wishes of my hon. Friends on these Benches, and it will be recollected that when my right hon. Friend got up to seek to withdraw his Amendment the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) engaged in violent controversy with the Minister of Labour. What was the allegation the hon. Member for Seaham made? It was that this House was being tricked. That was his allegation, that we were being fobbed off. I want to say that there is nothing in this Bill to refute the allegation of the hon. Member for Seaham. We were tricked; we have been fobbed off. It has taken the Government over 10 months to produce this miserable pettifogging Bill, which does not redeem their own pledges and damns the expectations which the Government themselves aroused in the hearts of over 1,000,000 old age pensioners in this country.
To what extent does the Bill redeem the pledges? On two points I suggest that it does. As regards superannuation, I think the Bill does what was promised. We were not promised that it should be 6d., 1289 3d. or 9d.; we were promised that it would receive consideration. It has been given consideration. Whether it is ample consideration is another matter. The next point was that the method by which superannuation and resources are calculated would be reconsidered, and both things are provided for in the Bill. On these two minor points, affecting an insignificant minority of pensioners, we have no complaint. The Government have done what they said they would. What else does the Bill do in relation to the pledges? The first thing it does is to introduce uniformity into public assistance, a thing not mentioned in the Debate in July. I welcome that small step; I think it is a step in the right direction. Then, with regard to widows, the Bill for the first time introduces into the ambit of supplementary pensions legislation widows with children. As an interim measure it may be the right way of doing the job, but why on so narrow a front? Really, I am at a loss to understand the reason why this small section of widows has been taken in and the vast majority left out.
We understood that the steps that the Government would take—and I quote the Minister of Labour from memory—would be designed to fit into a permanent structure later on. What has been done is to create greater diversity and new classifications and to create greater confusion. As I see this legislation, which was going to make adequate provision for old age pensioners, it merely improves the position of 160,000 out of 1,200,000. It has given more to those who have got and denied to those who have nothing. That is the damning indictment of it. There is not a single penny to be given to the 1,000,000 old age pensioners who have no resources at all. Nothing has been done for them. What has become of the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of giving the greatest help where the greatest need is? That has been the defence of the means test, but apparently the Minister of Labour takes a new view of feeding the fatted calf and starving the worst-off. Nearly 12 months' cogitation has not produced a single penny for those old age pensioners. Let us deal with the position of the elderly spinsters. Who was it led them to expect something? Not Members on this side of the House, but a representative of the Government, speaking for the Government. The issue was not raised in any other part of the House. Might 1290 I ask whether the Minister gratuitously flirted with the spinsters in order to deceive them, or to deceive the House, or both?
Even the widows have been treated in a pretty bad way. Those without children can go to the devil or the parish, or can continue to live with their pride in their silent privation, as they have done for many years. One notices that by the amendment to the Act the anomaly has been increased. A woman may be pregnant before her husband dies, and the child may be born six months 'after the husband has died. She will not get a supplementary pension while she is carrying the child, but as soon as the child is born she will get a supplementary pension. She may be living with her widowed mother who is under 60, and there will be this anomalous position, that the widowed daughter in the same house will draw supplementary pension, and the widowed mother will not be entitled to it. Surely that is the position, that is the consequence of the Bill, that you will have two widows living in the same house, mother and daughter, the mother refused a supplementary pension and the daughter given one. Then—I do not know whether it has been thought of—if the widowed mother has been dependent on the widowed daughter in the past, there is this queer situation, that the widowed daughter can draw a supplementary pension to meet the needs of her widowed mother, but the widowed mother is not entitled to it in her own right. What a silly, cruel position in which to place households in this country.
Let me take the other position. A widow of 59 may have reared a large family. She may have spent herself in household drudgery and become old before she ought to. She will not get a supplementary pension, but the girl of 20 who may have had a baby for a month, and whose baby may have died will continue to draw supplementary pension, and the poor old woman who has made this great contribution to the life of the nation is denied it. This, in my view, is just playing with the situation. Our elderly women will ask why. This situation will be quite beyond their comprehension, and the only answer we can give is that the reason is to be found in the minds of Ministers of this Government. I regret very much that the Minister of 1291 Labour is not present. It was only recently that I attended a large meeting of old age pensioners and elderly people in Bristol, the place where he is revered, where he built up his reputation, and a place in which he is held in very great esteem. They thought they could now look forward to a large measure of justice. They referred to him affectionately as "Our Ernie." What will those elderly people in Bristol think of this miserable Bill? I am afraid it will do a lot to break their faith in the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour.
I want to cite a typical case. What is the position of the old age pensioner? That is the gravamen of our case. The man and wife will get 25s., plus 8s. cost of living, plus 4s. supplementary allowance, making 37s. in all, with their contributory pension. I am assuming that they pay 6s. rent, so as to leave out the rent adjustment factor altogether. That leaves them with a net income of 31s. Their coal and light cost 4s., insurance 1s., soaps and polishes is. 6d. That leaves 24s. 6d. to keep them in food and clothing and other little personal expenses. That is to say, they have is. 9d. a day each for food, clothing and personal expenses, which is less than is given to the soldier for his personal requirements after providing him with food, clothing, and shelter. Less is given to maintain the old person than is given as what I might call pocket money to a soldier after all his requirements have been met. How is this position to be justified? The Government have come to the conclusion that an 18s. unit basis must be taken for soldier's wives, so the soldier's wife living under the same roof as two old age pensioners will get 18s. for food and clothing, and the old people will get 12s. 3d. each. An hon. Member referred to the financial difficulties and to the question of not giving people money unless the goods were on the market. The old age pensioners are not able to buy the whole of their rations now, because they have not enough money; and as for the unrationed goods, they cannot smell them. [An HON. MEMBER: "You have not mentioned the clothing coupons."] That is true. Last year when that silly business of allowing 1s. for clothes and blankets was decided upon, they found that the old age pensioners had not got the money to buy them, and they were given to friends and relatives.
1292 These old people, with their 1s. 9d. a day, have children and grandchildren scattered over all parts of the globe, fighting in this war. They get letters from them, and they want to reply. Two letters cost 5d., which is equivalent to the cost of a meal. As a House we have congratulated the boys who did the job in Tunisia, but I am afraid we make it impossible for many old age pensioners to write personal letter to their relatives in Tunisia, because it would mean depriving themselves of the necessities of life. I am tired of seeing old people in our villages not going to chapel because they cannot put anything in the collecting plates, of seeing old men sucking empty pipes and going down to the library to read the papers, because they cannot afford to buy one for themselves. This country has done so much to bring freedom to the world, that we shall sink very low in the minds of the people we represent if we cannot guarantee to those who have made our greatness possible a standard of existence very much better than that which they now have.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I beg to move "That the Debate be now adjourned," in order to call attention to the fact that we have no Member on the Government benches who is capable of speaking for the Government on this matter. That has been the case for the last hour and a half. I want to press this point. To-day we received three-line whips, calling attention to the fact that a very important Debate was taking place. There is to be a Division. The Mover of the Amendment has spoken in the absence of any Member qualified to reply for the Government, and the Debate is to continue, apparently, in that way. That is treating the House with contempt. We are entitled to have a Member of the War Cabinet here to listen to the arguments. The Minister of Health informed us, in reply to an interruption, that this was not a mere departmental Bill, but that it was a product of the Government as a whole. Yet there is no Member on the Front Bench opposite able to say anything about general Government policy. I contend that the Debate ought not to continue until there is a representative of the War Cabinet present.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
I do not wish to intervene in the domestic controversy between my hon. Friends on this Bill, nor do I wish, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to controvert your Ruling. But I want to draw attention to the fact that it has been the case in the past that such Motions have been accepted, and that it is in accord with the traditions of the House that some Member of the War Cabinet should be present.
§ Mr. Bevan
I submit, Sir, that while it is perfectly competent for the Chair to refuse such a Motion, it is most unusual in my experience, which goes back a number of years. [Interruption.] I am not impressed by the arrival of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health. He has no power. I want a Member of the War Cabinet here. In view of the fact that the Government have issued a three-line whip all over the House, and that we are discussing the Amendment on which the three-line whip has been issued, I submit that you ought to accept the Motion, as it is disrespectful to the House that the Debate should continue in these circumstances.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am rather glad that this question has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), because it has brought a few more Members into the House. I am only sorry that there are not still more present to hear my speech. We do not want people to go into the Lobby not knowing what the Division is about. There is too much of that done. I do not criticise the pledge that was given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. I realise that that pledge has in fact been carried out. I complain because that pledge was not carried out immediately, as to give us a chance to go on to something better. That pledge was given in July, and it is now May. Such a pledge could have been carried out in a month. May I read a statement from a newspaper, showing what this Bill means? This article, which is headed "Crumbs," appeared on 12th May, immediately after the Bill came out: 1294A few miserly crumbs offered by the Ministry of Health's new measure, called, ominously, the Pensions and Determination of Needs Bill will not satisfy the demand for adequate old age pensions. Savings up to £400 are to be left out of calculations of "need." Widows under sixty who have young children may apply for extra pensions. Supplementary pensions of a few shillings here and there will cost about £850,000. The personal means test remains. The few concessions leave the old indignities and stinginess untouched. The system ought to be abolished and a basic.pension of at least £1 a week introduced at once as a stop-gap until the more liberal provisions of the Beveridge plan are carried out. Administering pensions on a "supplementary" and "means test" basis is a shocking waste of time—and, we suspect, little economy in money.[An HON. MEMBER: "Name the paper."] It was the "News Chronicle." That sums up fairly well what this Bill contains. Had that been done straight away, I do not think there would have been any complaint. May I draw attention to the statement that caused me to expect something better? On 11th November, 1942, the King's Speech said:Renewed consideration will be given to the position of old age and widowed pensioners and further Measures will be laid before you."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th November, 1942; col. 7, Vol. 385.]Surely, it was never meant that this should be the "further Measures." His Majesty, on the advice of his Ministers, must have thought there would be something better than what we have here today. I am not going to examine the Bill in detail: it is not worth it. I am going to deal with the Amendment, which calls for something better. On 17th June, when we were dealing with the original Bill, to which this patched-up thing has been added, 25 speeches were made from all parts of the House, and 19 of them were in favour of a basic increase. One would have expected that regard would have been paid to the views expressed by those Members. I thought that the King's Speech had that in mind, and that this Bill would have been more comprehensive. Practically all of us have been invited at some time or other to attend old age pensioners' meetings. At these meetings the cry has always been for an increase in the basic rate. What has been our answer? I put this question to every Member who has attended these meetings, and to Conservatives in particular, because I know that many Conservatives attended them in 14 part of the country. They have always said, "Yes, we are 1295 prepared to do something for you. It may not be as much as you want, but there should be some addition to the basic rate." The Government would help those Members in their difficulty if they came forward with a Bill for some basic increase.
Now the Government have brought forward a small Measure. If this is carried, I know what will happen—the Government will wait until the end of the war and do nothing. The force of opinion on this question may cause the Government to reconsider their position quickly and something more may be done. We are asking for some due recognition of a body of people who have had nothing at all since the war started. I base my argument on this ground. Since the war there has been an increase in the cost of living. I agree that prices have been stabilised, but that has not prevented the price of many things necessary for life being increased, and it has been stated by the Ministry of Labour that the cost of living has increased by 30 per cent. The old age pensioners who have not gone in for supplementary pensions have not received an extra penny. Is it fair for the House of Commons so to treat this deserving body of people who are not considered because they have not sufficient representation behind them? When people have a trade union body to fight for them something is done for them, but nothing at all is done for these old age pensioners, who, if the cost of living has gone up by 30 per cent., are entitled to something on their pension. These people have received no increase in pension because of their thrift. If they have saved any money, they are not to come and ask for anything more at present. They are expected to spend that money, and then, when they are nearly destitute, something may be done for them. In the whole history of our country the idea has been that a person should be as thrifty as he could and save what he could, and that he would not be penalised for that; and now, at a time like this, cruel penalties are being imposed on these old people.
The Amendment is fairly comprehensive and gives every hon. Member an opportunity of helping to do something in that direction, and for a clearer definition I will read it to the House. It is as follows:That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which fails to make provision for an increase in the income of old 1296 age pensioners and ignores the needs of childless widows under 6o years and elderly spinsters.No one can take objection to that. However, it may be said that, if we defeat the Bill, it may be a long time before we get anything more. I do not want hon. Members to take that view, because the Government always have their ear to the ground to sense public opinion. If we reject this Bill, the Government must do something quickly. No Government would dare remain in office long without doing something. I have always been in favour of accepting everything we can get, yet there does come a time when we have to make a definite stand if we want to achieve our object, and it is that stand that I am prepared to make to-day. I know the consequences that, if we defeat the Government, they may withdraw the Bill and not bring forward any other scheme. I am however, prepared to face my constituents and tell them that I did it because I thought the Government would then get a move on and do something else. It is not too much to ask that childless widows under 6o years of age ought to be included. We have always admitted that women are the weaker sex. Physically they are the weaker sex, and mentally—I am not going to say anything about them. They are not able to carry on as long as men in doing hard, physical work. There are also the elderly spinsters. On Saturday night I attended a meeting addressed by Miss Florence White, who has done a great deal of work in this direction. Elderly spinsters should have some say in this matter. They had said that they were not going to press for reform while the war was on, but the war has gone on now for a long time, and they think that they ought to have a say in a matter like this; they are therefore putting forward their case.
It is on the broad ground of equity that we are making this appeal to the House of Commons. The putting of my name to the Amendment is causing a lot of anxiety and doubt and involving many of my colleagues in a difficult position. They will be torn between standing by the Government and supporting the Amendment, and probably there will be a lot of heartburnings in that connection. But I appeal to them also, as I appeal to other Members of the House, to take a bold step forward. Let us tell the Gov- 1297 ernment that this Measure does not meet the case. They think that they are well-intentioned and are carrying out their pledge, but we cannot accept this Bill, and something better must be done after all the pledges that have been given and the anticipations of the public. This would be a step in the right direction, and I believe that at least 90 per cent. of hon. Members would like to see some increase in the old age pensions. If the Government.would say, "We cannot go to 30s., but we are prepared to give something; we will withdraw the Bill and come forward with another Bill which will increase the basic rate by 5s. to all old age pensioners who are not working and will include childless widows under 60 years and elderly spinsters," it would be accepted gladly by the House of Commons. There may be some argument about leaving out those who are working. I want to meet that argument, because on one occasion the Minister caught me out by asking, "Does the hon. Member appeal for pensions for those who are working?" He said that 784,000 were in work. He asked whether I would be prepared to go to the public and ask for the old age pension of these people to be increased. I saw the force of the argument. However hostile I may be to a speaker, when he puts his case well and thoroughly, I appreciate his point. I said to myself that I could not face the public and ask for an increase of pension for those who were working, because we had asked that they should receive full rates of pay. So I withdrew.
The retirement pension is the policy of the Labour Party, so that I am not going outside the Labour Party's point of view. It is also contained in Sir William Beveridge's Report. I am converted to the idea that this must be a retirement pension. We are fighting for something with which to meet the basic needs of our people, and if people are getting money in any other way, then we have no need to fight for them. There is no need for them to get money from anywhere else if they are working I am fighting for the old people whose pensions remain at 10S. and who have nothing else to which to look forward. I commend the Amendment to the House, and I hope that it will be carried.
§ Mr. Willink (Croydon, North)
Before dealing with the merits of the Amend 1298 ment and the Bill, I want to say that those of us who sit on this side of the House have some complaint against "the usual channels" for fixing the Second Reading of so important a Bill on the day that an event is taking place outside which has not taken place for several years.
A good deal has been said about the exact construction or meaning of certain pledges given in his final speech by the Minister of Labour and National Service in July of last year, and a curious situation has resulted. So far, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) and the Seconder of this Amendment have expressed the view that the pledges have been fulfilled; on the other hand, the Mover of the Amendment said with great vigour and, indeed, bitterness, that the pledges have not been fulfilled. I do not propose to examine whether pledges have been fulfilled or not. Is not the wiser course to consider the merits of the Bill and of the Amendment? It may well be that any cross-examiner could find points in the Minister of Labour's final speech which are not covered by this Bill, but there is one point which is far more important on the merits than any question of that kind. Since those pledges were given we have had issued and have discussed at great length the Beveridge Report, for which we were waiting at that time.
Approaching this subject, I hope with full conscientiousness, I would ask the House to consider whether this is not a subject on which it is difficult to maintain integrity. There is strong pressure from large and influential bodies, and it is a curious situation on which I sometimes think we ought to reflect, that, when those who reach the distinction of the Front Bench are capable of coming to unanimity, those of us who have less responsibility are also unanimous, but with a more generous or popular policy. And I do not think that the explanation is that members of the Government completely change their character. Is not the dominant factor in the present situation that this Government and the House have set their minds to a great task, and that is, the co-ordination of our social services, on the general lines of Sir William Beveridge's Report, with modifications which have already been indicated, but with a great many loose ends which have not yet been fully explored? 1299 Looking at this Bill and at the Amendment, I feel that the most vital principle for this House in approaching any legislation dealing with unemployment assistance, old age pensions, widows' pensions, pensions for the blind and the Poor Law, is to see that we do not make confusion worse confounded in the process of building up the scheme we all hope to see. That is a very much more relevant consideration than the terms of any pledge, and it is also to be asked that the pledge was phrased in different terms in different parts of the Minister's speech. In my view we are doing the right thing if we approach the matter in that way.
From that point of view, may I now consider some of the criticisms made of the three main provisions of the Bill and the diverse propositions suggested by the Amendment and by the Mover and Seconder of it? Prima facie nothing which is not in line with the Beveridge scheme as it is before us now should be accepted; nothing which is beyond all doubt contrary to it should be adopted at this stage. It would be mad to accept something which drove a coach and horses through the Beveridge scheme as a. whole, and I ask hon. Members opposite to consider their own position if they are by this Amendment asking for something which is flat contrary to the Amendment for which 119 of them voted on 18th February last demanding "early implementation of the plan."
§ Mr. Silverman
I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposition to be that what the House ought to consider is whether anything they ask for or is done now would be in conflict with the Beveridge plan. Has he not forgotten that the Government have already stated that they do not propose to adopt the -pensions portion of the Beveridge plan?
§ Mr. Willink
I have already referred expressly to the modifications which have been indicated, and I suggest that when a proposal is made at this stage there should be a comprehensive scheme of pensions for childless widows and spinsters, which is right outside the Beveridge plan, that must be premature and in my submission is entirely contrary to the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) when he asked for reconsideration of the Government's policy with a view to early 1300 implementation of the Beveridge Plan— a plan which excluded the widows' and spinsters' pensions which are being demanded to-day. I am in sympathy with much of what has been said, but our main duty in all these matters of social security is to press the Government to give us information by reasonable instalments as their comprehensive plans develop and opportunity of debate.
May I consider, first of all, the proposals in Clause r? The essence of Clause I is that by it we draw nearer to the time when the means test will have gone. It is not universally realised to-day, except by such people as the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), whose deep knowledge on these matters all of us admire, that in considering the question of supplementary pensions, the capital value of a house in which a pensioner lives is not taken into account, that up to £375 capital in war savings is not taken into account, and that the first £49 of ordinary, not war, savings is not taken into account. There were some fallacious calculations earlier in the Debate with regard to the basis of interest which it is now proposed to be taken. The principle, I think, still survives, that a pensioner who may have a house and £375 war savings and who, it is proposed, may also have up to £400 ordinary savings cannot claim that that capital position can be wholly preserved for his dependants at the expense of the taxpayer. The inroads on the capital position are extraordinarily small, as I shall show in a few moments. Take the position of a man with, say, £200. I think the position is this—and the hon. Member for Caerphilly will, I know, be able to check me in his head and tell me whether I am right or wrong in a few seconds. Take the case.of a man with just under £225. You have £175 to consider which, under the new proposals, counts as 3s. 6d. a week. That is the equivalent of £4 0s. 8d. per cent. When he has just over £225 the actual arithmetical rate is £4 12s. per cent., which is, I think, the highest he can reach. The average is somewhere between four and four and a half. That is not so far away from the yield which can be obtained, and the compensating disinvestment which would be required from that figure of £200 would not be more than £8 to £10 per annum. On the other hand, I think it is satisfactory that the £300 has been raised to £400. When 1301 the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) suggested that the result of reducing the 1s. to 6d. was to reduce an irrationality to half an irrationality, that was not a fair way of putting it. It was a debating point at best. In fact there is a reduction of a 9 per cent. yield to something like a 4 per cent. yield; those two bases are different in kind.
Now I come to Clause 2. On this it is quite clear that so far as they go the Government are acting in accordance with the Beveridge plan. One of the main criticisms made by Sir William Beveridge concerned the multiplicity of differing needs tests and this Clause brings into the field of the Poor Law the policy decided upon by this House, by Parliament, in the Determination of Needs Act, 1941. I think it may be convenient to remind the House of what Sir William Beveridge said about that. On page 142 of his Report he says:When discussing a unified means test, as regards ownership of the resources to be taken into account there appears to be no reason for disturbing materially, if at all, the settlement reached under the Determination of Needs Act.So far as they have gone these provisions follow and, in a small way, are an instalment of the Beveridge plan. I admit that I have not had time fully to explore the implications of this Clause as between a member of a family in a household and a member of a family out of a household.
§ Mr. Willink
But it is clear that this point cannot be a reason for voting against the Second Reading of a beneficent Bill.
Now I will come to Clause 3, which is, I think, the most important in the Bill, both in what it does and in the controversy which has arisen about it. There is probably no class suffering more in this field of widows' pensions than widows with children under 16. It is of the greatest advantage that supplementary pensions have been brought within their reach. On the other hand, I take the strongest and clearest view that what is being pressed for by a section of the party opposite runs right against the Beveridge proposals, for the implementation of which they asked. The House will remember that with regard to widows the Beveridge proposals have been described 1302 already by the Government as somewhat harsh.. As I understand it, the Government do not propose—certainly not by this Bill—to disturb the 10s. pension. Sir William Beveridge would not have given it; he gives nothing but 36s. a week for 13 weeks and training benefit where there are no children. Members have no right to ask the House to vote for something, of a most substantial character contrary to the Beveridge Report when, only four months ago, those Members whose names are prominent in connection with this Amendment were prominent in connection with the Amendment to which I have referred. One of those Members was the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell).
§ Mr. Willink
Yes, I see the hon. Member is getting ready to catch Mr. Speaker's eye. On the general question of hardship at the present time I am amazed, in view of our Budgetary burdens, how little I hear of the hardships of supplementary pensioners. I am in my constituency a great deal, and I do not believe my constituents consider me a heartless Tory.
§ Mr. Willink
I hear a great deal about the hardships of the widows of serving men whose incomes go down most disastrously after 13 weeks, but I do not hear about the hardships of spinsters of 50 and childless widows. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, yes"] It must be that there are hard cases, but I should have expected to hear more about them. I cannot help thinking that a substantial measure of exaggerated propaganda has been put forward on this subject.
§ Mr. Buchanan
The hon. and learned Member says he hears about soldiers' widows. Is he aware that under this Bill they are expressly excluded? What about the widow of a soldier who may die two years after his discharge and the third child who cannot become chargeable to this fund? Will he defend that position?
§ Mr. Willink
What the hon. Member is saying is exactly in line with my own thoughts. I think substantial Amendments are required to alleviate the position of soldiers' widows, but not in this Bill.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Why is it that the widows of serving men should be excluded from this Bill? Is there any reason why that should be so when other classes of widows are included?
§ Mr. Willink
I do not understand the hon. Member's point. I do not know what he means by exclusion from this Bill. Such a widow is dealt with under the Pensions Warrant, and I think any question of that kind must be answered by a Minister. I am entirely with the hon. Member in thinking that there are most substantial injustices in that quarter, about which I hope we shall hear more very soon.
Now I want to challenge the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and the hon. Member for Seaham on two observations which they made not so very long ago. In July of last year the hon. Member for Leigh make a passionate plea for an increase in the basic rate. In the Debate on old age and widows' pensions he asked for an all-round rise of 5s. and made an assumption which turned out to be wholly unjustified. He said: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"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1942; col. 597, Vol. 382.]As I pointed out on the third day of the Beveridge Debate, under that plan large classes of pensioners would get only 14s. a wed for years ahead, and to ask for a 5s. increase in the basic rate now, when all these matters are being considered, is something which is unreasonable. And now I want to ask a question of the hon. Member for Seaham. In the course of a somewhat acrimonious discussion in that Debate he charged the Minister of Labour with raising the bogy of an increase in the basic rate. I had better quote accurately what he said. It was convenient from the debating point of view to be able to take the point at that stage that the basic rate was not in question. The basic rate, as I understand it, is in question on this Amendment. What the hon. Gentleman said was: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, 1304 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 widow's pensions.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1942; col. 642, Vol. 382.]Does he stick to that to-day or not? In my submission it would be disastrous to go outside the shape and scheme of the Beveridge Report or to do anything contrary to and contradictory of it. In my submission the Bill is small but it is useful, and to prevent it coming into operation would be foolish, and indeed disastrous.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
Among the letters that I received this morning was one from a recipient of an old age pension plus a supplementary allowance. It is a pathetic letter disclosing the misery experienced by this old person. It occurred to me while the hon. and learned Gentleman was addressing the House that I might very well send to this old person, who pleads for further relief, the philosophic speech that he has just delivered. Indeed that is the issue before the House. We are not discussing a long-term social insurance policy. If we were, the Amendment would be of a quite different character. It would be much more comprehensive. The hon. and learned Gentleman made an interesting speech and with rare patience I waited for the conclusion. What was the conclusion? There was none at all, beyond asking Members to support the Government. The plea to Members to support the Government no longer carries any weight.
§ Mr. Willink
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman regards it as essential that the important part of the speech should always be at the end, and I am not sure that he was present throughout my speech. What I urged was that we should press the Government to let us know at regular intervals how they are getting on with the Beveridge scheme.
I shall address myself to that point before I resume my seat. It is quite clear that every Member of the House, without exception, is fully in sympathy with the claims of the old age pensioners.. If that statement is challenged, I am quite prepared to give way, but no one dare say otherwise. Everyone realises that old age pensioners, apart from those in receipt of remuneration derived from employment, are in a parlous condition. I do not want to have recourse to the language of exaggeration. 1305 I will not say that they are in complete destitution, but their way of life is distinctly hard.
§ Commander King Hall
I think my hon. Friend will find it is. Is it not a fact that in an article published in a newspaper yesterday the hon. Gentleman said that there was a large army of old-age pensioners in a state of destitution?
§ Mr. Shinwell
There are a great many in a state of destitution. I do not understand why the hon. and gallant Gentleman interrupts. His interruption has no relevance, but, since he is seeking for information, I shall be glad to furnish it. It is true that in an article in the "Daily Herald" I stated that there was a very large proportion of old-age pensioners, amounting to an army, who were in a state of destitution, but that does not apply to all old-age pensioners. I do not wish to exaggerate the position. Every one is concerned with the condition of the old-age pensioners taking them by and large. On that, there is no difference of opinion. The issue before us, stripped of all verbiage and irrelevances and denuded of the philosophical utterances of the hon. and learned Gentleman, is whether it is desirable, not as a long-term policy but as a temporary expedient, to come to the rescue of the old-age pensioners. It is an issue which must be faced frankly by everyone in all quarters of the House.
It is very important that we should consider the background of the Bill. Rather more than ten months ago this party, to its credit—it is always to the credit of this party that we have borne the claims of the old-age pensioners—made demands on the Government to assist the old-age pensioners. At that time the Beveridge Report was not before us and it was doubtful whether we should have it for a long time. The Government could furnish us with no information on that head, although we frequently questioned them. So, this party, as I say, made demands on the Government to do something for the old-age pensioners at once and, in consequence, the Government produced the Regulations. There was no Bill. The purpose of the Regulations was slightly to 1306 raise the supplementary allowances. On the submission of the figures contained in those Regulations, this party revolted and many Members, to their credit, associated themselves with us. But the Government, having considered all the factors involved, and more particularly the probability of the Beveridge Report emerging in due course and embodying a long-term policy, considered that an increase of half-a-crown to a single old age pensioner as a supplementary allowance, was reasonable. That is the language that was used. In the opinion of this party, and of others, it was not a reasonable advance. Acerbities were disclosed in the course of the Debate. If there is one subject upon which Members on this side and elsewhere feel with the most passionate intensity the implications of the situation, it is the plight of the old age pensioners. Sometimes we are vehement and express ourselves strongly, but it does not necessarily follow that we wish to embarrass the Government or to impair national unity. It is because we feel that, to some extent we represent those people. We do not claim a monopoly of course, although, curiously enough, the hon. and learned Gentleman rarely hears of the plight of the old age pensioners. That is why acrimony occasionally emerges, and it will continue to exist, until something reasonable is provided for these old people.
In the course of that Debate something was said, rightly, about the widows. Undoubtedly there are still anomalies and, if the Bill passes, anomalies will continue. No one disputes that. Something was said about the question of savings. Therefore the Government gave a pledge, but only under duress and because strong pressure was exerted, and it was given only at the last minute. That pledge went far beyond the question of widows and the question of savings. The most important part of it was a promise by the spokesman of the Government that the question of a further increase for old age pensioners would be considered. There is no doubt that, to a large extent, that part of the pledge mollified opinion among Members—[An HON. MEMBER: "On the other side"]—in all quarters of the House. [Interruption.] Anyway, whether that is the issue or not, it is less important than our desire to do something for the old age pensioners. 1307 We have waited for ten months with infinite patience and now this Bill has been produced.
Naturally, we ask what is to be done by way of an increase, and some of my hon. friends say that this is the occasion for an increase in the basic rate. In order to demonstrate that I am not an extremist in the matter—because I am more concerned about getting something for the old age pensioners, no matter in what form, than about standing on ceremony or sticking out for some particular issue—I have pointed out that there are difficulties associated with the demand for an increase in the basic rate. It may be bound up with the Beveridge Report and a long-term policy and the same applies to other changes in old age pensions. So I go for what I believe is practical, namely, a further increase in the supplementary allowances. That presents no difficulty. The Government cannot say that because of the Beveridge Report they cannot increase the supplementary scale. They cannot say that because of their long-term policy they cannot increase the scale. I see the spokesman for the Government here, and if he has not the necessary authority there is the Leader of the House. All they have to say in the presence of the hon. Members is that when the Regulations are submitted to the House, they will provide for an increase in the supplementary scale. I will give way if they are prepared to respond to that modest request. Will my right hon. Friend acquiesce? Does he regard is as immodest, as extreme, as revolutionary to ask for another 2s. 6d. on the supplementary scale? Certain circumstances will have to be taken into account and every old age pensioner will not receive it. Does he regard that as likely to interfere with the budgetary arrangements or to impair national unity? In short, are we asking too much, while awaiting the adumbration of a long-term social insurance policy, if we ask for an increase in the supplementary allowance? There is not a Member who dare get up and say we are asking too much. If any hon. Member is prepared to get up and do so, I am ready to give way.
I am told that on the contrary we are asking for too little. That shows how modest I am in my request. I will tell hon. Members why I am modest. I had a letter this morning along with some others from old age pensioners. It comes 1308 from Limehouse, the constituency of the Deputy Prime Minister. The writer says that he was married in December, 1887, and he goes on to tell me that he is suffering from acute rheumatism, that his age is 75, and that he has over 40 grandchildren. We cannot complain about his productive capacity. He has an old age pension of 10s. with a supplementary allowance of 18s. 6d. He is, indeed, on the higher scale. He pays 10s. a week rent. It may be a furnished room, but he does not say. He pays for lighting and coal 5s. 3d. a week. I suppose that is an approximate charge and it seems reasonable. He has to have his room cleaned every week for 2s. 6d., for a man of 75 cannot be expected to clean his room. Other items amount to Is. 3d., and he has left for feeding and everything else, including tobacco at the higher rate because of increased taxation, 9s. 6d. a week. That is why I feel that if I did get even another 2S. 6d. for that man, it would be worth while. Of course it is not enough, but it would meet certain liabilities which are likely to accrue from time to time. Is there an hon. Member who will get up and say that that old fellow is not entitled to another 2s. 6d. a week? Of course they dare not do it. Hon. Members are full of sympathy, sympathy is oozing out of them for the old age pensioners, but when it comes to challenging the Government they say, "For Heaven's sake do not embarrass the Government." I say, frankly, that if I have to choose between my loyalty to the Government and my loyalty to the old age pensioners and the principles of my party, I stand for my loyalty to the old age pensioners.
Let us consider the Beveridge situation. My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) made a most interesting speech and spoke with great sincerity, as he always does. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) challenged him about the Beveridge Report. I will explain the position in relation to the Beveridge Report. It is quite simple. When this party accepted the principles underlying the Report we made certain reservations. They were explained at the time and they are stated in our official documents.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Yes, frequently. If my hon. and learned Friend will read the 1309 three days' Debate he will see that, over and over again, objection was taken to many of the proposals in the Beveridge Report, although, generally speaking, we accepted the principles underlying them.
§ Mr. Willink
Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether any reservation was made such as would be in consonance with what he has been saying about the case he has mentioned? He said that it was not asking too much to ask another 2s. 6d. for a man who is getting 28s. 6d. That is 7s. above the Beveridge proposals.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If my hon. and learned Friend will be patient, I will deal with the point he has raised.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am surprised at my hon. and learned Friend. I seem to have taken him out of his usual urbane mood. Usually he presents a calm demeanour, but on this occasion he seems to be disturbed. I am sorry if I have occasioned him any difficulty. Let me deal with our attitude to the Beveridge Report. It cannot be dealt with simply by replying to my hon. and learned Friend's question in the form he desires. The acceptance by this party of the Report was conditioned by many reservations. Sir William Beveridge himself was not committed to the figures in the Report. Has my hon. and learned Friend forgotten that? What is more important, the Government had reservations, because they rejected the pensions scheme of the Beveridge Report. It may be said that the Government, as indeed my hon. and learned Friend and the Minister of Health have said, are considering the Beveridge Report, are working hard on it, are operating with feverish activity on it. Hon. Members appear to forget that Government spokesmen on the occasion of the Beveridge Debate made it plain that the Report when it was finally submitted must be taken as an integrated whole, that we could not expect that it would become operative until after the end of the war, that the financial circumstances had to be considered, and all the rest of it.
At any rate, it is clear beyond any possibility of doubt that the Government do not intend to provide a final solution of the old age pensions position until the Beveridge Report is embodied in legislation and presented to the House after the 1310 war. Again, however, if any right hon. Gentleman opposite will get up and tell me I am wrong and that the Government propose shortly—in a month, two months, six months or even twelve months—to produce a new pensions scheme in a comprehensive social insurance scheme, I am prepared to accept that statement. I believe that hon. Members on this side would then be prepared to go to the old age pensioners and say, "In a few months you will get a considered announcement. You will probably get an increase of the basic rate and the whole thing will be put on a proper footing." That would be acceptable. But the Government cannot do that, and the position is that there is to be no Beveridge pensions scheme for a long time, if at all. Who knows what the financial conditions may be? Let us assume that, something will come. I want to be generous to the Government, to hon. Members opposite and opinion that subscribes to the Beveridge Report. Even if the Beveridge scheme comes into operation after the war the old age pensioners will have a long time to wait. Therefore, is it not desirable in the absence of a fully-considered, well-prepared scheme of a comprehensive character, to provide some modicum of relief to these people who are in need?
That is the issue before the House, and it is no use hon. Members talking in legalistic fashion, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Croydon has done, about the anomalies and the further anomalies that will arise. That is the issue, and I challenge hon. Members to face it. I ask the Government to do one of two things—either to announce from that Box before the end of the Debate that in the forthcoming Regulations old age pensioners will receive some increase, or to adopt the only decent alternative and withdraw the Bill. It may be said that if we withdraw the Bill some people will suffer. Just look at the Bill and see what the financial proposals are. The hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Commander King - Hall) referred to a newspaper article for which I was responsible, in which I said that the financial commitments in this Bill would cost the nation no more than a couple of destroyers. I have since found that I exaggerated the cost. It will not cost as much. I was taking the pre-war price of destroyers. Therefore, if this Bill never reached the Statute book it will mean little 1311 or nothing except that the agitation will go on as, indeed, it will go on, unless the Government do something better, and do something which will appease those who are anxious to find some measure of relief for our old friends. Some of us are disturbed because of the increased price of commodities that are in common use. We are disturbed about the increased price of tobacco attributable to taxation. We pay 2s. 6d. for an ounce of tobacco. Some of us do not care how many ounces a week we smoke. It does not disturb us—or perhaps I should say the smoking of the tobacco might disturb us, but the cost does not. The old age pensioner who wants to smoke an ounce of tobacco finds it hard to have to pay 2s. 6d. It may be said that this is sob stuff. It is not sob stuff to the people concerned. It is hard for the person who has been accustomed to these little luxuries in life. It is very difficult to change when you reach maturity.
I appeal to hon. Members to protest against the Government's parsinomy in this matter and to say to them, "Here is your opportunity to do what is right." I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh, my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) and other of my hon. Friends on this side who are so anxious to increase the basic rate, "Exercise more patience; we may have to wait." Let every Member, in the meantime, demand from the Government further relief for people who are helpless, unprotected and unorganised and who can only express themselves vocally through Members of this House.
§ Mr. Storey (Sunderland)
The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) has gone a good deal further than either the Mover or Seconder of the Amendment, because he has asked for an increase in the basic rate of supplementation. I shall have something to say about that when I come to deal with the rates of supplementation. First, I want to deal more specifically with the actual Amendment. I feel that the supporters of the Amendment, in asking for a flat-rate increase on a non-contributory basis, have overlooked a good many things. They have overlooked the fact that our present pensions were never intended to be a complete provision for old age or a substitute for thrift. They have overlooked 1312 the fact—[Interruption.] I am quite prepared to face my old age pensioners, and know that my hon. Friend stirs them up in my constituency particularly.
§ Mr. Storey
I know, and I will deal with that petition at the proper moment. They have overlooked, too, the very large number of old age pensioners who at present have means or are at work and are not in any need of assistance from their fellow citizens. They have overlooked, too, the enormous cost of their proposals which, unlike the war effort, cannot be financed out of capital, because it is a continuing charge and must be met out of income over a long period of years. While, therefore, I wholeheartedly favour that the State should at the very earliest possible moment afford all citizens an opportunity to contribute to a higher rate of pension on an actuarial basis, I think that as an interim provision the Government are right to proceed by the extension of supplementation.
If we believe that they are right to proceed by the extension of supplementation we have to show that the supplementation is both sufficient and widespread enough. I turn, first, to the question whether it is sufficient. If it is to be sufficient it must enable pensioners to maintain a decent standard of living. The hon. Member for Seaham said we should do this by increasing the rates of supplementation. I ask the House to look at the present rates of supplementation. Many of us have been advocating the adoption of the Beveridge plan, in which Sir William Beveridge worked out the rates which he proposed for retired persons. They were carefully worked out by an expert committee, and Sir William Beveridge estimated that the requirements of the retired, at 1938 prices, amounted in the case of a married couple to 29S. 8d. If the House will add 30 per cent. to that figure to bring it up to present-day prices it will make the Beveridge rate for a married couple 38s. 6d., against the Board's rate of 37s. We have to remember that the Board's rate is subject to winter allowances, subject to an adjustment for rent, and subject to provision of clothing, bedding and household supplies where necessary. The winter allowances, spread over the year, are equivalent to 1313 Is. 3d. per week. Sir William Beveridge, in his calculation, included 8s. 6d. for rent. The Board's figure of 37s. is based on a rent of 6s. To make the two figures comparable we have to add 2s. 6d. to the Board's 37s. Let us add the figures together: 37s. basic rate, Is. 3d. winter allowances, 2s. 6d. rent adjustment. That gives a rate of 40s. 9d., against Sir William Beveridge's proposal of 38s. 6d.
I think I have said enough to show that those who are asking for the implementation of the Beveridge Report must feel that the Government, in the provision they have made for supplementation, have already met that issue. If we have to remember that supplementation must be sufficient we must also make quite sure that we do not penalise thrift and that we treat capital assets generously. That, I submit, the present Bill does. I did not quite agree with the figures which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) quoted on this subject. I think he slightly underestimated the notional income, but it is quite clear that the notional income on savings is something under 5 per cent. I think we should all admit that anybody can invest savings at present to get 3 per cent.
If the notional income is something under 5 per cent. and the actual income is 3 per cent. you are eating into capital at the rate of 2 per cent. per annum. It would take 50 years to exhaust your savings at that rate. If you put your savings into National Savings Certificates and sold a few each year it would take more than a normal lifetime to exhaust your savings. To put it in another way, £100 would only be exhausted at the rate of 9d. per week. We have seen that supplementation of pensions can bring in at least 4os. 9d. to a married couple, of which 30s. 9d. is supplementation to which they have not paid anything at all, and is it too much to ask that they should meet the odd 9d. out of their savings? It is all very well for hon. Members to groan, but the figures are there. The figures have not been disputed and cannot be disputed. I think I have said quite enough to show—[Interruption.]I know that hon. Members opposite do not like it, but it is time somebody talked frankly to them. I think I have said quite enough to show that supplementation is sufficient.
1314 I turn now to the question of whether it is widely enough spread. I think we should all agree that supplementation to widows with children, particularly with the extension which has been announced to-day, is right, and we are entitled to say that here, again, those who want Beveridge and nothing but Beveridge have got something better than Beveridge. But the main criticism is that there is no supplementation for widows without children. Frankly, the national interest demands that widows without children who are capable of work should work.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
Does the hon. Member suggest that a widow of 55 who has been a widow for 20 years is able to go on working, and she is not in this Bill?
§ Mr. Storey
I am coming to that. All of us would like to see the widow who is ill or is unsuitable for employment able to draw supplementation, but where is that going to lead us? What about spinsters? What about the difficulty of proving the state of health or unsuitability for work? I think it is better when we are dealing only with an interim proposal that we should not attempt to include these classes. If they are in need, after all there is assistance available to them, and let us face the fact that there is no moral difference between taking assistance and taking supplementation towards which you have not contributed.
In conclusion, while this Bill is, I think, on right lines as an interim solution I would join in pressing upon the Government that the opportunity to contribute to a higher pension cannot be given too soon. With actuarial principles demanding that the premium shall be calculated for an entrant at 16 and that the State should carry the additional costs of all who enter above the age of 16, the sooner the State gives the opportunity to new entrants to contribute to higher pensions the better it will be for the State's purse. While, therefore, I accept this Bill as a useful step in the right direction I do put a very strong plea to the Government that at the earliest possible moment they will afford new entrants into the contributory scheme the opportunity to contribute to a higher rate of pension on a sound actuarial basis.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I rise to support the Amendment, and I do so because it is the only possible course to follow if one takes a progressive and Socialistic line on this issue. My Friends and I have put down an Amendment which has not been called. It says:That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which while professing to deal adequately with the problem of the maintenance of the old people and widows fails to relieve in any adequate measure their necessities, creates new anomalies, makes no addition to the present statutory allowance of 10s. per week and urges the granting of the demand for 30s. per week put forward by the Association of the Old Age Pensioners.In substance the Amendment before the House conforms to that one. When the Minister of Health made his speech I thought he was ashamed of the Bill because he said very little in defence of it. He briefly explained the parts in which he thought certain advantages were given. The Bill is backed by the Minister of Health, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Minister of Labour and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We are getting the worst of both worlds in this combination in the Government, because it restrains Members of the Opposition from demanding full justice now for the old age pensioners and others. The Tory-dominated Government is using war necessities to create that national unity about which so much has been said. I can hardly conceive any Government thinking it worth while to include a Bill like this in the King's Speech, which usually foreshadows only Measures of importance. We are told that this Measure will cost £800,000, that is to say about one and a half hour's cost of the war.
The hon. Member who has just spoken dealt with some of the advantages of the Bill, compared with the proposals of the Beveridge Report, but I do not know that any hon. Member advocated those proposals except as a basis. I remember saying that they would form the basis of some scheme of social security. In defence, hon. Members may say that this Measure is a result of not having some broader plan of social security to embrace all these classes of people, such as widows, orphans, old age pensioners and unemployed, but pledges were given of a very far-reaching character. I would like to see what defence will be made of the pledges that were given to this House that 1316 the position of those classes would be dealt with. Up to now, nobody has attempted to defend them. The hon. Member attempted to show that there would be some benefit from the Bill. One cannot help noticing benefits, such as that superannuation is raised from 7s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. and that an individual may have extra capital. It used to be argued that you could not pay pensions to people who had money in the bank—that was the argument for the means test—but we have gradually got away from that point of view because of the force of public opinion.
In all walks of life people, including a large number of Conservative business men and die-hard Tories, tell us that we must never go back to the days previous to 1939. They are unanimous and sincere in saying that we ought to give the old people a decent standard of life at the earliest possible moment and not the pitiful allowance on which we asked them to exist in the past. I believe that the Government do not represent that progressive thought and conscience which the nation has developed during the war. The Government have been divorced from the actual suffering of the great mass of the people. I realise that the people who are hardest hit are those who have always been hit in every crisis, those who have fixed allowances which never rise according to increases in the cost of living. The Ministry of Labour would never dream of telling transport workers or engineers that they had to continue to suffer on 1939 standards, because those workers can make themselves felt by threatening to withdraw their labour. The old age pensioners and others depend upon the support that they can get in the House of Commons in the interpretation of the popular will of this country.
This is a disgraceful and contemptible Measure to deal with a tragic situation in which people are suffering tremendously because of their lack of purchasing power. On the point about changes in the cost of living, I remember, when I was a young man, taking a great interest in prices. As a grocer's boy I used to sew up bags of Lyle's sugar which was sold at 7 lbs. For 10½d. I remember that coal was 6½d. a cwt. I worked with the late John Wheatley at the age of 11 or 12 as a messenger boy, when I discovered how many competitors there were in these things. I remember when eggs were 5d. 1317 and 6d. a dozen and liver was 4d. a lb. —now it is 1s. 8d. Coal is now at least 3s. 6d. per cwt. compared with 6½d. then. If an old age pensioner consumes coal and has to use one bag a week at 3s. 6d., that makes a substantial inroad into the miserable pittance.
These people ask me: "Why do we not get a substantial increase in our allowance?" If I were to tell them that the Government said that we cannot afford it they would laugh, and they would be justified in laughing. That was the old stock-in-trade argument in prewar days, in the 1931 period. It was the argument that broke the Labour Government when it was stated that we were getting into a financial panic because £100,000,000 had been borrowed by the State to keep the unemployed whom Capitalism could not employ. I read the article in the "Daily Herald" by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), and I agree with every line of it. I am surprised that, after this Measure was promised in the King's Speech and after all the process of questioning and demand and speeches in this House, the Government should only have brought forth this Bill. I am surprised that anybody connected with the Labour Party can attempt to defend it. It is this sham that is doing such tremendous harm in the country. Hon. Members get on to a platform, and are elected, on the basis of the discontent and antagonisms of the people, but when they get on to the Government Front Bench they do not want by-elections or antagonisms any longer, because they are in the Tory pocket. They come here and try to defend the indefensible by saying that we have to maintain national unity. We have seen among the intelligent and humane Tories in this House, a revolt of feeling. They are not prepared to stand up and defend this sort of thing and yet we can get Labour Ministers to append their names to Bills of this kind.
The old age pensioners are being crushed mercilessly by an economic system that is steadily going down into despair and confusion. The people most in need of assistance are those who are being denied. The great mass of the old age pensioners have no money in any shape or form. One old age pensioner in my constituency came to me in a state of great anxiety. His wife had died, and believing that he had a sum to come from insurance, sufficient to cover the funeral expenses, he had con- 1318 tracted with a funeral undertaker to bury her. He found that the policy had run out because the old lady had been unable to keep up the payments. We had to pass round the hat to get enough money to bury the old woman. Such people have worked and served their country well, in war or in industry, and have piled up a credit, in the shape of unpaid wages, for the selected few who live on the backs of the workers. But when they demand a return, in the shape of old age pensions, from the fund they have created, there is a howl from the other people, who ask: "Where is the money to come from?" The answer is "Where all money comes from. All wealth is produced by the energy, suffering, sweat, blood, tears and toil of the ordinary men and women." The old age pensioners are not getting a square deal.
The Government are not intelligently and wisely interpretating the conscience of the country. People, whether Tory, Liberal, Labour, Communist or Christian are all demanding that the old people should be put above this struggle. If the House of Commons accepts this Measure we shall go on for another year or so, and great numbers of the old people will go to their graves unwept, unhonoured, and unsung, justice never having been done to them. Is it that the nation cannot afford it? They see thousands of millions being spent on the defence, not of their interests, but of the interests of the few. Therefore, we are asking that a number of millions should be set aside for those who have made this country and the world what it is, and have given it the wealth it already possesses. Everything the human eye can see in this House or outside of a material character has been fashioned by the energy and sacrifice of those people who are the old people of our generation. Therefore, I say that the Government, if they did the wise thing, would withdraw this Measure.
The Government should be big enough to admit that they have failed to interpret the wishes of the community and of this House, and withdraw the Measure and come forward with some form of compromise which will do justice to the old people. I am sure this House would back them if they did. If they do not intend to do that, I make this further appeal: Let the leaders of all the parties in the Government take off the Whips, refuse to apply the Whips, leave it as a pure matter of conscience, and you will get the best 1319 hiding you ever got in the Lobbies of this House. [Interruption.] I do not expect the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) to agree. He is not a Tory in the ordinary sense; he is a backwoodsman of the sixteenth century. I feel sure that the ordinary Tory is anxious to give justice to the old people. I talk a great deal to them in the Lobbies. Sometimes Communists say I am often seen talking to Tories in the House, and I do talk to everybody. I believe in the saying, "Honour all men, and bow down to none." I refuse to pass anybody by, whatever their view may be. I believe that there are a great many Tories in this House who would feel more comfortable to-day if the Government were doing that act of justice. I appeal to the Government to withdraw the Measure and bring in something more worthy of being included in the King's Speech. If not, take off the Whips and allow freedom of action to Members of this House, and I am satisfied that this Labour Amendment would be carried by a very strong majority in the Lobbies to-day. Anyhow, we shall vote in the Lobbies for it.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I am very happy to have an opportunity briefly to explain my attitude to the Bill and to the Amendment. I am one of those who do not object to the proposals of the Bill, but I regret very much not what is in it but what has been left out. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, in introducing the Bill, said that it was intended to bring about improvement in the details of the present scheme. To my mind the detail that most needed improvement was the raising of the basic rate, and it may be because my mind works in a very simple fashion that to me the issue seems quite clear. It is this: The present basic rate of 10s. was fixed in 1919, which is 24 years ago. I do not know whether any wage rate or salary scale that was fixed 24 years ago is considered sufficiently good for to-day, and I therefore feel that an overwhelming case can be made out for increasing the basic rate and that that case has been made very much stronger by the fact that we have now been at war for 3½ years, and the war has reduced the purchasing power of that 10s., as compared with its pre-war standard, to something like 7s. 8d. Of all persons who have been most affected by the increase in the cost of living since the war surely the worst 1320 off are those on fixed incomes, retired persons who are no longer able to take up employment. I think the hardest hit of all must surely be the old age pensioners. In addition to the cost of living there is the increase in taxation which has affected the old age pensioner.
When the Chancellor was discussing the increase in the Tobacco and Beer Duties he appeared to allow the old age pensioner two ounces of tobacco a week and a pint of beer a day. How is it possible for him on a basic rate of 10s. to live up to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's standard? Therefore, I feel very strongly that there ought to be an increase in the basic rate for those old age pensioners who are no longer able to follow their employment. We are told there are something like 750,000 old age pensioners who are back at work, and we accept the Minister's argument against an increase so far as they are concerned. But we do feel very strongly that for the rest, and that view is shared by some hon. Friends of mine who put their names to an Amendment, there ought to be an increase in the basic rate. What should be one's attitude towards the old age pension? If you regard it as a dole, something which is just to keep the old people alive, you will argue down to the very last penny as to what is necessary for mere subsistence. If you have a somewhat different conception of old age, not a modern conception but what the ancient Romans used to describe as "leisure plus dignity," if this is the kind of old age one wants to see old people of all classes and sections enjoying, you will not reason too strongly about basic needs. I submit that on general grounds there is an overwhelming case for an increase in the basic rate, and I urge the Government to recognise this fact.
So far as this particular Bill is concerned, I am very anxious to see its proposals become law, because I recognise that so far as they go they are good. Therefore I cannot vote against the Second Reading of the Bill, but I have made my position perfectly clear. I stand now, as I have stood for some time, for an increase in the basic rate. I hope that even if the Government get their majority on the Second Reading they will recognise the strength of feeling in all parties in this House that the next change to be made, and that at an early date, should be in the direction I have indicated.
§ Mr. Barr (Coatbridge)
A good deal has been said as to the Beveridge Report. We are not to-day considering anything so large as that, but there are some things in the Beveridge Report, some statements and figures, that have a very relevant bearing on the Bill which is before the House. I would remind the House that the kind of pension which Sir William Beveridge had in view was one in a man's and woman's own right; in the second place, that it should be enough for subsistence even though the pensioner had no resources whatever; and thirdly, that it had not to be reduced if the pensioner had resources. What I think is more important are the figures and the calculations of the rates paid at present to old age pensioners and to widows and others. What he tells us, and what his figures say, is that these are far below the benefit given for unemployment, for disability or for sickness. Yet while what they are receiving, and I think this is what is most relevant, is far below what is given to their companions in distress, if I might so call them, on the other hand their needs are not less. Indeed the Report says that in some respects their needs are more, such as in regard to fuel, lighting and household sundries. Taking things all round, he comes to the conclusion that they should certainly not have less than these others and fixes his figure. accordingly.
What we have to remember—it has a bearing on what we are doing to-day—is that the Beveridge Report has a transitional period, a long period of years during which the rates rise from 25s. to 40s. That is certainly a great weakness. It takes 20 years, and the Government have expressed their disappointment at this long term. They are able to do, and have promised to do, something better than that. The Lord President of the Council speaking on 16th February last, said in this regard:The Government definitely prefer a different approach. They would prefer fixed contributions and benefits now. It may be that the initial pension may be somewhat higher than that recommended in the Beveridge Report, having regard to the existing assistance grants, and to the proposed benefits for invalidity and unemployment.I am not going to stress against the Government that word "now." I take it that they might do better at the initiation of the Government's larger scheme that may be coming. What do they say 1322 in regard to that? They say that their initial scheme, however it may end—it may not equal Beveridge in the end—will begin better. Is this their fair beginning for doing better? Is this a token and proof of the promise and potency that, however they may end, at least they will begin better than Beveridge, and that we should rely on them thus far? What was the Lord President's reason for discarding that part of the Beveridge Report which related to this case? He said:Once contributions and benefits are fixed, a very heavy commitment, running into many hundreds, if not thousands, of millions of pounds would be immediately entered into." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1943, col. 1672, Vol. 386.]Certainly no such accusation can be made against this scheme. I need not repeat the figures. It is quite true that the £850,000 referred to under Clause, first and second subsections, does not cover all the expense. It is pointed out to us that in regard to the new supplementation the Government cannot say what it will take for women with children, or in regard to past needs or in regard to blind persons. I have not found them always so encumbered with difficulty when we have asked questions as to what would be the cost when we were pleading for spinsters and others. They gave us estimates as to what it would cost.
The cost indicated by the Lord President of the Council, and by others who referred to it to-day does not frighten me at all. I recall that the non-contributory old age pension began at 5s.; during the last war a further 2S. 6d. was added, to meet the cost of living; when the Labour party came in, it was raised to 10s.; and still it went on progressing. I remember a question being asked in 1939 as to the cost of these non-contributory old age pensions. In the year 1913, it came to £12,400,000; by 1939 it had risen to £39,000,000; and still it went on rising. When the question about spinsters and extra costs in that way was put, in 1939, we were told that, taking into consideration all the various forms of contributory pensions, it was now £95,000,000; and the right hon. Gentleman sought to frighten us by saying that, bringing in voluntary insurance, which was looming ahead, it would be in 40 years, £228,000,000. But the nation is finding a buoyancy and expansion, where there is need, in finance. 1323 The Budget figures show that the central Government expenditure on war finance has grown from £3,339,000,000 in 1940 to £5,106,000,000 in 1942. So there is the expansion of the net annual income. It has gone up in four years from £4,490,000,000 in 1938 to £7,384,000,000 in 1942.
I do not want to detain the House by dwelling upon the question of the pledge. We admit that the pledge has been honoured in two particulars; but it was always implied, and sometimes said, that, the general question of the position of old age pensioners would be taken into account. That was said on the day that the pledge was given. It was not said that it would be favourably considered, but it was said that it would be considered. The result is the Bill we have to-day. There are many ways of honouring a pledge. You can say that you did not break it. That is the farthest that the Government can go in this regard. On the other hand, you can have a pride in saying that you have honoured it, and honoured it handsomely. Many Members here have read Aristotle. Aristotle, in his "Ethics," discusses the "magnificent man," whom he calls his "Ideal Man." There are two qualities that he gives to the magnificent man. The first is that he "glories in great expenditure." It cannot be said that the Government do not, in many respects, glory in great expenditure, but not in this realm which we are discussing to-day. Here is another sentence from Aristotle about the "magnificent man." If he had been writing it as a prophecy about this Government, he could not have been more far-seeing. He said that the magnificent manwill be more like to consider how he will do the thing most beautifully or most appropriately than how much it would cost, or how he might do it at the smallest expense.I would like, in closing, to give three quotations. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has gone, which is a pity. I meant the first for him, because it is from John Bunyan. We all know about the Hill Difficulty. I do not know whether many Members have read Nathaniel Hawthorne's; "The Celestial Railroad," which is a revised edition of the "Pilgrim's Progress." It might be called "Pilgrimage made Easy." In it, all the difficulties are made easy by Mr. Smooth-it-away. There is a bridge over 1324 the Slough of Despond. There are no persecutions now in Vanity Fair, because they have a minister of their own; they like him, and he speaks smooth things to them. As for the Hill Difficulty, Nathaniel Hawthorne says:Through the very heart of this rocky mountain a tunnel has been constructed, of most admirable architecture, with a very lofty arch.There seems to have been some tunnelling done here; and so they have discovered women and children and benefited them, and evaded the Hill Difficulty, and what was the big question in regard to this matter. I appeal to the Minister of Labour and others, seeing that the Minister of Health is not here. In John Bunyan's version, the pilgrim looks at the Hill Difficulty, with all that it is to cost, and he says—and I should like some of this heroism to be shown by the Government:This hill, though high, I covet to ascend; The difficulty will not me offend.That is a spirit I commend to the Government and other Members.
I come now to my second quotation. It is from John Wesley's "Thoughts on the Present Scarcity of Provisions." This was written nearly 200 years ago. After describing poor people he had known gathering the bones that the dogs had left in the streets, and making broth of them, to prolong a wretched life, he said:Such is the case at this day of multitudes of people in a land flowing, as it were, with milk and honey, and abounding with all the necessaries, the conveniences, the superfluities of life.After well nigh 200 years, there is still a good deal of truth in that. Poverty, in a land of plenty, still abounds.
My third quotation is apt at least today, because it so happens that this is the centenary of the publication of Carlyle's "Past and Present," published in 1843. In the very first chapter, he said:We have more riches than any nation ever had before… In the midst of plethoric plenty, the people perish.When I think of the figures of the Budget, and how we are going on year by year, and of the fact that we have more riches than any nation ever had before, I think also of my poor people in Coatbridge and Airdrie, and the houses in which they live, these old age pensioners and others. I make this confession on their behalf, that we stand at the head of overcrowding in all returns that have been issued 1325 for Britain. The people come to me every Friday, when I am in my constituency, and they tell me that there are four, five or six in a bed, in a single-roomed house —although, be it said, they have stood at the top or almost at the top for Scotland in the number of new houses, per 1000 of the population, they provided before the war. When I think of the wealth of the country. and the housing conditions; and the poor fare that is given to the poorest of the poor, to the poorest of the old age pensioners, I say that it is still true what Carlyle said in "Past and Present" 100 years ago:In the midst of plethoric plenty, the people perish.
§ Major Gates (Middleton and Prestwich)
If I had had my choice, I would have followed my hon. Fiend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd), because I found myself in complete agreement with what they said. As regards the pledge, I think the hon. Member for Gorbals was fairest in what he said—that in its narrowest sense the pledge has been honoured: in its widest sense it has not. If my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) had been in his place, I would have said, although I have no desire to defend the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), that up to the time when the Amendment was moved and seconded every speaker had expressed disappointment with this Bill. I hope that the Government are taking due note of that disappointment.
It is three years almost to a day since I entered this House, and I hope that hon. Members will forgive a comment from a very junior Member. It is only natural that on this occasion I should look back on my experience of this House. I have listened patiently to a great many discussions on pensions. It seems to me that they all take more or less the same course. I hear great eloquence, causes are pleaded with sincerity and emotion, the most convincing cases are made, and we are all agreed that something must be done. I say "all." Even the Minister concerned, even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will get up and express agreement and sympathy with the causes which have been pleaded. Then what happens? Either the Chancellor of the Exchequer or somebody else connected with the Treasury will say, 1326 "Yes, we agree; this should be implemented; but will some Member kindly tell us how it should be done?" I feel that what we need more at this present moment is not these wide-ranging, moving discussions on pensions, but a full-dress Debate by the many learned and hard-studying Members of this House on the post-war possibilities of the finance of this country.
I was most interested by a speech made yesterday by the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson). In the same connection, I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) has been badly treated for his misuse of a phrase about pounds, shillings and pence. It is not so much a question of increasing the wealth of this country as of increasing the relationship between our wealth and its expression in currency. During my lifetime a great many scientific developments have taken place, but our conception of finance has not kept pace with the other advances of human activity. I believe that we are very much richer than we think we are. I doubt whether orthodox finance, in our present conception of it, could carry all these schemes—all these dreams that we have of our post-war world—all our rebuilding, all our Beveridge schemes and all our pension schemes, but I am one of those who believe it can be developed and expanded without risk of financial disaster. I am expressing a personal wish and preference when I say that I would like to hear that full-dress Debate held in this House, and I would willingly listen to even my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) on such questions.
So much in general, but in particular I wanted to intervene in this Debate to call the attention of the House to a point of principle in our Pensions Acts where, I think, this House has been wrong in principle and which, as far as I can see on my reading of this Bill, this Bill perpetuates that particular principle, or at least, it does nothing to ameliorate it. The principle is that which we seem to have established that persons shall be paid a pension from the date when they establish their claim to it. That is wrong. A person should automatically be paid a pension from the date when he becomes entitled to it, arid sometimes there is a very big difference, as has just been brought to my notice. I will quote a case briefly to the House. It is of a woman who felt she was 1327 entitled to a pension but who failed in her application, when it came to the question, "Is your husband an insured contributor?" Her husband left her 15 years ago in rather distressing circumstances. She is an old lady of 63, and she did not know the answer whether he was or not, and so she could not fill in the questionnaire completely and correctly, so that her claim failed, as, of course, it must by the Regulations. Many months elapsed before she could find the whereabouts of her husband who had deserted her 15 years previously, and when he was found he turned out to be an embittered man and refused to give any information. This was first brought to my notice in March, 1941. In November, 1942, over 18 months later, we eventually discovered. the information we required. The form was filled in, and I will say that the old lady received her pension promptly and expeditiously. But I maintain, as a question of principle, that that pension should have been paid, not from November, 1942, when we established the validity of the claim, but from March, 1941, 18 months previously, when that lady became due for her pension. As that principle, I feel, is wrong and nothing is done about it in this Bill, I have ventured to draw the attention of the House to that question..
§ Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)
It may be argued that the Government have carried out the undertaking made last July, but how meagre is the fulfilment of the pledge that was then given. We certainly expected. something more tangible and substantial. The, little offered will undoubtedly be a bitter disappointment to the great mass of old age pensioners. The raising of the capital values will be accepted by those with capital. It removes certain anomalies such as exist among those who have small savings in the local co-operative societies, but these are very few indeed in comparison with the many with little or no savings at all. Can it be denied that the increase in the cost of living and the recent Budget increases hit the old people very hard? There has been no adequate increase even in supplementary allowances with which to meet this increased burden. When one learns the cost of maintaining a person in an institution, one wonders how many of the old folks manage to exist on their allowance. Even before the war it cost on an average 3s. 11d. a week to keep an old man in an institution, and the cost now- 1328 adays must certainly be considerably higher.
Government speakers on previous occasions have stated that our social services were the best in the world, but, may I remind the Government, we fall very far behind our Dominions in this respect. New Zealand and Queensland present an object lesson to the Mother Country in the care of the old folk. The plight of the poor widows ought to have received the attention of the Government years ago, and the war has certainly accentuated their plight. It is very humiliating for the helpless widow with no children to be forced to seek public assistance. Domestic circumstances prevent many from Offing work to enable them to provide for their children, and this Bill offers scanty help in such cases. Much has been said about the childless widow and the spinster. The Bill, we must admit, gives some easement, because they get the benefit of the disregard under the Assistance Board. We may be told that this is only a temporary Measure, just a stop gap, until the Government formulate a scheme to give effect to the Beveridge Report. While one cannot help deploring the treatment meted out to the old folk and widows, one has to consider whether it would be wise to deprive old age pensioners and widows of even this morsel. As it has taken the Government Io months to produce this meagre Measure, one wonders how long the old folk and widows would have to wait before a more generous Measure could be introduced.
In view of what the Minister of Health said to-day, I hope there will be no delay in working out a comprehensive plan. In the interval there are the draft Regulations to be dealt with, which may mean something better for the recipients under this Bill. Therefore, I would urge upon the Government when they are considering the draft Regulations to take into consideration the criticisms that have been levelled at this Bill to-day. Feeling disappointed as I do, and as many of us must do, I yet feel that it would be unwise to reject even the tiny scrap that it provides. May I finally express the hope that the Government will take to heart the criticisms which have been levelled against the Bill and will introduce in the very near future a Measure 1329 more adequate to the needs of the pensioners, widows and spinsters?
§ Mr. Ralph Etherton (Stretford)
From the speeches of many of the hon. Members opposite one might think that the Government had been unsympathetic towards. the aged, but an examination of the facts does nothing to support that sort of charge. More has been done by this Government since the war, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) pointed out on 29th July last year, for the aged and the widows than had been done in many years of peace. The record of the Government on this matter is, I suggest to the House, a good one. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), and, I think, another hon. Member, drew a comparison between the cost of an increase in the basic rate and the cost of some of the charges of the present war. I am surprised that any hon. Member in this House should fall into so fallacious a comparison, because, of course, the one has to be met out of capital by borrowing and the other is a continuous charge which the nation has to meet for all time. I feel that the agitation that we have had and the speeches which have been delivered urging an increase in the basic rate of the old age pension are misconceived, and for this reason. No increase in the basic rate of the old age pension could in any way benefit those who are in need of further assistance. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because whatever the increase in the basic rate was, by that amount would it be necessary to decrease supplementation in all those cases where there was supplementation.
Mr. McNeil (Greenock)
Surely, the hon. Member is forgetting that within 10 months we have had a lifting of supplementation, and similarly we can have an increase in basic pension and an increase in the determination of need.
§ Mr. Etherton
It is true, as the hon. Member has just said, that there can be changes in the rates of supplementation, but the point I am making is that the agitation which we have witnessed here to-day, and which has been taking place for some time in regard to an increase in the basic rate, is completely misconceived. I could understand it being urged that there should be some change 1330 in the rates of supplementation. There may or may not be a case for that. In my view, at the present time, the case is a very thin one. I will not go into all the details of that matter, because it was dealt with most adequately and in a very realistic way by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey).
§ Mr. Tinker
We are asking for an increase in the basic rate for all old age pensioners who are not working, which would mean that supplementation would also go up accordingly.
§ Mr. Etherton
I appreciate what the hon. Member says, but I cannot see how a rise in the basic rate would effect what he wants for those whom he has in mind.
§ Mr. Etherton
For the reasons I have just given. Sir William Beveridge and his Committee heard a great deal of evidence and made an exhaustive examination as a result of which Sir William made certain recommendations with which we are all familiar. Even those recommendations were not well received by those who had been conducting this very considerable campaign, and particularly by the Old Age Pensioners' Association, whose President happens to be a constituent of mine, so that I hear a good deal about their activities. One can forgive them for singleness of purpose, but I think they ought not to spoil their case by being unreasonable in this matter. They appear to want, if I understand their arguments correctly, specialised consideration at the expense of other social services. The Beveridge proposals, which I hope to see implemented at the earliest practicable moment, represent a carefully balanced plan. The Home Secretary indicated on i8th February in this House that the Government hoped to be able to better the Beveridge proposals for old age pensioners. This Bill to-day is a, step forward, because it removes some of the anomalies, and that there are anomalies I do not think anybody would deny. What I fear and notice is that some hon. Members opposite are sometimes carried away by their enthusiasm for good causes. The Home Secretary summarised his experience in these matters much better than I could hope to do when he said on 18th February, when speaking of his experience on the London County Council: 1331We had members, my own political friends, on the Council naturally demanding that we should do this, that or the other; it was what they were sent there for. Somebody wanted free milk for all the children in all schools; somebody else wanted free meals; somebody else higher rates of public assistance benefit. And we said, as any well conducted municipality or Government ought to say, that those items were desirable things, but they had to be looked at in their relativity."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February, 5943; cols. 2034–5, Vol. 386.]It is just that aspect of the problem which hon. Members opposite appear sometimes to ignore. Let us approach this matter in its proper perspective. I am as anxious as anyone to see that everything practicable is done for the aged, not only by cash but in kind, As I have already said, this Bill is another step forward, and I feel that hon. Members should give it the welcome it deserves.
§ Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)
If Sir William Beveridge had been here today, he would have been proud to have heard his name mentioned so often, but I think we have had too much "Beveridgitis" and have not heard sufficient about this Bill. I listened to the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink), who came in, did his piece and now, I expect, has gone to wind up across the road and tell the Conservative annual conference that he has been here and put things right. I was amazed at his statement that he has had little correspondence and few interviews with old age pensioners in his division. If he had-represented a division in Lancashire, Yorkshire or Durham, where there are many old men, who are made older much more quickly than in any other counties in the British Isles because of their working conditions, he would have had many complaints. I would like to take him with me to my division for a week-end. When I get home my wife usually has a queue waiting at the door for me with their complaints, and the majority of them are about pensions or about the work of the Assistance Board. Then we had the speech by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey). I would like to go on a platform with him in his own division and hear him make the same statements there as he did here to-day. If he did, I should not have much fear but that at the next General Election there would be no more Storeys in this House.
1332 I do not intend to delay the House very long, but I want to put two points to the Minister of Labour. I remember that when my right hon. Friend was making his promise to us there was a rare old row on these benches. He said that the Government would look into the question of widows' and spinsters' pensions. What I want to draw attention to is the fact that this Bill will create more anomalies than it removes, so far as the introduction of widows to supplementary pensions is concerned. We intend to put widows with children on to supplementary pensions but not to put any widow under 60, who has no children, on to supplementary pensions. I know widows over 60 have had supplementary pensions, and I want to say, to the credit of the Government, that they are doing very well with their pensions. There is a widow in my own division who is now getting 31s. instead of her former 10s., and she feels that she is in clover. There are other widows with 28s, or 29s., which has been given to them because of rent and other circumstances, and I want to give credit to the Government for that. But I am not bothered about them. There are widows in my division who have been asking me ever since supplementary pensions came into operation, "George, when shall we get anything? We have got nowt yet." That is the way they talk in my division. I have said to them, "Your turn is coming. Ernest told us it is coming, and I have any amount of faith in Ernest." I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will not mind me saying that, but if I had said, "The Minister of Labour," they would not have understood what I meant. While I was at home last week-end I met a widow who said, "How are we getting on?" I said, "I will be able to tell you next week." This woman has been a widow for 18 years and is 54 years of age. She has been charing to help make both ends meet, yet we have a Member on the other side saying that this is the sort of woman who must get nothing at all. I would like him to come to my division and tell that tale to this woman and others who are in a similar position.
That is the fault that I have to find with this Bill, It does not state any age for the widow who has no children. The War Office is different. I hoped that the Government would have taken a leaf out of the book of the War Office. A soldier's widow 1333 under 40 without children has a pension of 17s. 6d. I am not questioning the amount; I only want to apply the principle. If she is over 40 and has children, she gets 25s. and the children's allowance. Why is it not possible for the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health to put in an age limit for the widow who has no children? Cannot they insert a provision that a widow of 40 or or 45 whys has no children shall be entitled to a supplementary pension the same as a widow who has children? I do not think that is too much to ask. She has had to work her soul out when she has been left with children, but the children have grown up and, when they reach adolescence, you expect them to get married and have children of their own. The widow who is left has nothing but her 10s.
Now I want to say a word on the determination of needs. The Financial Memorandum says that Clause 2 (2) modifies the power to make Orders for the maintenance of poor persons against relations who are members of the same household. What does that mean? Only six weeks ago in the Barnsley Magistrates' Court three young men were hauled up because their mother was on poor relief. The sons are married. One has three children, one two and the other one. They were prepared to pay a certain amount, but the public assistance committee said it was not enough. They said they were not going to pay any more. They are earning more money than they ever earned in their lives before. There was a time When they were doing two or three days' work a week, and they lived very scantily. They had not sufficient to live on themselves. They are now working six days, because coal must be produced. The public assistance committee got to know how much they were earning. The eldest boy gets 8s. 6d., the second 7s. 6d. and the third 6s. 6d., and they will have to contribute towards their mother's support. The lad who is staying at home, if he is earning £3 a week and the mother is making his bed and looking after him and doing his washing, has a liability under the determination of needs to 7s., but the liability of the other lads is put on by the magistrates. In this Clause the Minister is giving to the boy at home, who has no responsibility for the home at all, privileges over and above the other lads who have to contribute. I ask both Ministers to put their heads together and give me an answer to the point that I have put forward.
§ Sir Arnold Gridley (Stockport)
There are two things on which I want to say a few words. I represent a constituency in which I suppose something like 85 per cent. of the population work with their hands. Fortunately we have a wide variety of industries—cotton, many classes of engineering, hatting, glove making, confectionery and many others. When I first went there and had a look round, and gave the people an opportunity of summing me up, I was almost in despair, for I thought, How can a place like this return other than a Labour Member? History, however, proved later on that the great majority of the workers were more Conservative than Labour. But a great many of them have grown old in the service of their town and its industries and, it naturally follows, in their country. This question of the old age pensioner is one into which I felt it my duty to examine. That examination has proceeded of late, and this week-end I met some of my old age pensioners and those who had been moving about among them. One thing I regretted to find was that there were some well-intentioned but misguided people going about among them leading them to believe—and this is a form of deceit I intensely resent—that they had only to persist in a demand of 30s. a week each for husband and wife and the Government would certainly grant it. I think that that is quite wrong and reprehensible. It is wicked enough to deceive little children; it is almost as wicked to try to deceive old people. The first thing I found was that when it was explained to these old folk what a burden such a demand if granted would place upon the country, in addition to all the other demands which they are still wise enough to realise will have to be met, the universal comment was, "We do not want to be put in a position that will make things more difficult for our children who are following us."
I find that one need of a great many old age pensioners is for free medical treatment as of right. The better type of old age pensioners, however poor they may be, are very proud. Doctor friends of mine told me of cases where doctors had attended these old people without any intention of making a charge for the attention and medical skill devoted to them, but it has been surprising to find how insistent some of them are on having bills rendered so that they can pay, though 1335 many of them find it extremely difficult to do so. I am satisfied that if it were possible somehow or other before long to provide for them free medical attention, it would be an additional form of assistance which would be of the greatest possible value.
The second plea I want to make is this. I am not one of those who are satisfied with the present basic rate. I want to see that rate increased. I do not postulate today what I think the addition ought to be. I have views which I have expressed in this House as to how far the Beveridge proposals may be implemented, and I do not think the work the Government are doing in pursuing their investigations—which I hope they are pursuing energetically—can be divorced from the question we are debating to-day. While I know it is possible for those in need to obtain supplementary pensions, what one finds is this: There are people, not only in one walk of life, who will get all they can and have no hesitation in applying for the utmost to which they may be entitled. There is another class who always pride themselves on their independence, which is a commendable type of pride, and even if they are entitled to make application for supplementary pensions it would cut them to the heart to have to do it. That is the type of old age pensioner uppermost in my mind. I feel that they should not, because of their wholesome pride, have to exist in conditions that not one of us here would like to see their aged parents living in. I make these two pleas because I can only look upon this Bill and the proposals it contains as an instalment. I hope that the Government can see their way—I hope it will be soon—to make some increase in the basic pension. Although it may be only a few shillings, how much will it really mean to the old age pensioners?
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I understand that technically, having tried to move a Motion for the Adjournment, I am not entitled to speak again except with the permission of the House.
§ Mr. Bevan
I am much obliged to the House for its permission. I think that Members in all parts of the House will now agree that the Debate is inclined to become somewhat repetitive, and neces- 1336 sarily so because there is very little meat on the Bill. The arguments, therefore, have a tendency to repeat themselves. The ground has been sufficiently cleared for the House to know exactly what are the alternatives before it. I am not going to argue the merits of the different Clauses of the Bill, because they have been discussed in very competent speeches, but I am deeply alarmed by two considerations. I am alarmed by the failure on the part of public opinion in the country effectively to register itself in the House of Commons. I am alarmed, too, for the effect that that is bound to have on the reputation of Parliament as a representative institution. I believe that no one in any part of the House will disagree with me when I say that there is an overwhelming majority in Great Britain for an immediate increase in old age pensions. I do not know whether members of the Government will deny that. But there does exist throughout all classes of the community and in all parts of the House a deep conviction that the existing standards of living for old age pensioners are much too low and that, therefore, an increase ought to be immediately accorded. If I am correct in saying that, I want to say a further thing.
No responsible body of opinion in Great Britain believes that it is impossible for us out of our resources to grant that increase. The old age pensioners, and the people generally, whatever views they may have had about the arithmetic of old age pensions before, are now convinced that a nation which can afford this colossal expenditure on war can afford the few millions necessary to give an immediate increase on old age pensions. So we have two very important streams of public opinion, one that an increase ought to be granted and the other that it can be granted. Why, therefore, is it not granted? I believe this question is fundamental. If a deep-rooted conviction among the population as a whole fails to find adequate representation in the legislation of the Government, a deep gulf is being dug between Parliament and the people. 'It is most important for maintaining national unity and morale at the present time that our legislation should be brought into closer alignment with the realities existing outside the House.
What are old age pensioners to do? They have organised themselves in 1337 various parts of the country. Some exception has been taken to that to-day. One hon. Member said that his old age pensioners were holding a pistol at his head by telling him that unless they got an immediate increase they would not vote for him next time. That seems to me a perfectly proper and democratic sanction to apply. That is exactly what this institution exists for. There is only one other way of doing it. Unless you can get your way by refusing to vote for people who will not give you what you want, the only other way is to organise rebellion, and why on earth the hon. Member should speak of a pistol being put at his head I do not know. The Income Tax paying members of society do exactly the same thing. Preceding every Finance Bill there is considerable perturbation in the City, and on one or two occasions I have seen Income Tax payers telling Members that unless they got certain reliefs through the Finance Bill they would not vote for them next time. No one regarded that as holding a pistol at the head of Members or as indicating the decadence of democratic institutions. It is a perfectly legitimate thing to do. Old age pensioners have organised in considerable numbers and therefore are articulate. They have been bringing pressure to bear upon us for some years, and largely as a result of that pressure they have got relief.
What are we to do? There are 40 of us who have put down our names to this Amendment. We shall go into the Division Lobby against the Government, and we shall be voted down by an overwhelming majority of Members who have no mandate from their constituents to vote us down, because if my original statement is correct, they will be violating the wishes of their constituents. Even the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley), although he deprecated certain things, asked for an increase in the basic rate. So if hon. Members stream through the Lobby to vote against our Amendment, they will do so in violation of every principle upon which this House is based. I have never heard any hon. Member dare to defend these scales, not one. Will any hon. Member rise and say that the standard of living possible with an expenditure of 16s. a week is enough? Is there anyone who will say we have not at our disposal the resources out of which we could increase the 1338 amount? If hon. Members will not take up either of those two positions, then in voting against this Amendment they will be violating their own convictions and what they know to be the wishes of their constituents. Nothing does more damage to Parliamentary institutions than that kind of cynicism.
The next argument behind which some hon. Members seek to conceal their embarrassment is that the Government are giving consideration to long-term reconstruction of our social services, and we ought to do nothing now which might prejudice the permanent reconstruction. I think it was the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) who used that argument. I am frightened by that argument, very much frightened indeed. In this Amendment we are not asking for any great change in the structure of social services, only for an increase in the incomes of old age pensioners. If the argument is sound that the Government cannot grant an increase now without prejudicing their future plans, what are they going to say about workmen's compensation, which is an intergal part of the social services? I cannot pursue this point very far, and am merely using it as an illustration, but if we cannot have a substantial increase in old age pensions now because of the permanent plans, how can the Government increase workmen's compensation without prejudicing their long-term plans? And if they do not increase workmen's compensation very soon, the miners will be on strike. Evidently the argument is unsound. Everybody knows that we could increase the amounts without prejudicing future schemes. I understand there is some doubt about it, but the President of the Miners Federation of Great Britain has already declared, and it has been published in the Press, that the Government will bring in a Bill to increase workmen's compensation. How will the Government be able to justify an increase in the basic rates in one form of social insurance and to deny an increase in another direction on the ground that it would prejudice the future? I think the argument answers itself. There is no reason why workmen's compensation or old age pension scales cannot be raised and the higher scales woven into the permanent structure.
If there is nothing in the argument that what we do now may prejudice future schemes, it is almost equally alarming to be told that we ought to look forward to 1339 these schemes as our main goal, because even though the permanent schemes may give an increase in pension rates we are not to have them until the war is over. Therefore I ask my hon. Friends, particularly those on this side of the House, to realise that what we say by not voting for this Amendment is that there is to be no increase in old age pension scales until the end of the war. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House, and it was confirmed by other Ministers in the discussion upon the Beveridge Report, that we should have to consider what we were going to do in the light of our post-war commitments. Therefore, if that remains the attitude of the Government, there is to be no increase and no scheme at all until after the end of the war. There is to be no increase in old age pensions at present. Hon. Members are prepared to walk into the Lobby and say that this is not a mere interim Measure, awaiting a better Measure shortly dealing with scales, but that this represents the last attempt that this House is to make to improve old age pensions standards until the war is over. That is the position with which we are faced. I suggest that there is no hon. Member in this House who dare go to his constituents and justify a position of that kind.
I say, therefore, that we are facing not a comparatively small Bill, but a major issue of Government policy. It is rather scandalous that we have had to wait for 10 months for the Bill. It was pretty evident from the speech of the Minister of Health that that time had not been devoted to any close study of the principles of the Bill, because, as the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), pointed out, the Bill was hardly in the Vote Office before the Government had to make an alteration in one of its main proposals. If we are voted down in the Lobby, what are we to do? What is left for us? At the present time there is a political truce. The unity of the Government is preserved by the party agreement, which disfranchises the old age pensioners in the constituencies from altering the composition of the House of Commons. We have agreed that we will not put up candidates against each other, so that the one sanction which can be applied against us by disgruntled constituents of voting at by-elections is denied them. Our position as a Labour Party becomes hopeless, 1340 because all that we can do is to stage a number of futile rebellions and find ourselves voted down by the sheepish battalions on the other side of the House. We get the advantage of making speeches, they vote us down, we do nothing about it, and the old age pensioner gets nothing.
There is only one other sanction that this party can apply. If we are to be voted down on matters deeply affecting the welfare of our constituents, the psychology of the Armed Forces and the attitude of the people towards the Government, the Government are exposing the unity of the National Government to grave peril. All that is left for us to do is to apply the last sanction of all, and that is to take the Minister of Labour away from there and put him here. There is nothing else left for us to do. Hon. Members must face these facts realistically. What sanctions can be applied to a change of Government policy when that policy is deeply opposed to the wishes of the people and to an important section of the Government itself? Every time that we press for any of these things to be done, what are we told? That to press our claims further destroys the unity of the National Government. It implies that our representatives in the Government have tried to get these things and have failed. It means that, the Conservative section of the Government are faced with the odium of keeping Labour Ministers there under duress. I do not know what position they want to adopt. If Labour Ministers have not been pressing for these increases, then they violate our principles; if they have been pressing for those principles, they have been denied them by the Conservatives, who say, "You shan't have them, and if you press too far, you break up the National Government." In other words, the attitude taken up by the Government is taking national unity to the point of ultimate break-up.
There are 40 names to the Amendment on the Order Paper, and we are to have a Division in which 50, 60 or 70 votes are going to be cast against the Bill. When the votes are counted, it will be found that the majority of this party will have voted for the Amendment or that sufficient of them will have abstained from voting for the Bill. This party will be hopelessly divided. That suits the Conservative Party. They allow us to talk, and they get their own way. There 1341 is only one thing for us to do. We must say to the Labour Members of the Government, "You must bring Government policy more into accord with our point of view, or the Government must be broken up." I am satisfied that a Labour Opposition would serve the interests of the nation far better than for Labour Ministers to be hostages. We could get far more, and the people of this country would have their grievances more immediately redressed. The political atmosphere would be much more healthy if that were the position. Members on this side of the House are anxious not to be driven to that position. We do not want to take the step of saying that our Members must leave the Government. We are very anxious to preserve the facade of national unity for the next year or so, because we are still going to face great military adventures. Why do hon. Members not help us to preserve it? They will not do so by asking us to support policies wholly distasteful to our constituents and out of accord with the modern mood.
If this represents the attitude of the Government towards this matter, what faith can we repose in any of their promises about the post-war world? If they cannot do now what would make a wholesale contribution towards national security, how will they be able to do it then? I believe that the reason the Government are not making more concessions at the moment is that they want to hold them all back. If they raised the scales at the moment, they would find it difficult to provide still higher scales when bringing in their permanent scheme, whereas if they deny the increase in the scales now, they will have something to give them. Our old age pensioners are being sacrificed at the moment to the future politics of the National Government. When that is understood in the nation as a whole, people will say that the Government should stop playing politics and be decent towards our people.
I am convinced that in the Bill we have one of the great test cases of the relationship between us and the Government and between the Government and the people. How are the Government to get out of this dilemma? There is a dilemma, without any doubt. When the Bill is passed, we are to have Regulations, and before we have Regulations we shall have 1342 a White Paper telling us roughly what the Regulations are to contain. There is no reason why the Bill should be proceeded with now. If the Government intend to bring forward Regulations that are to improve the situation, there is no reason why this Second Reading should not stand adjourned and the Government put their White Paper into the Vote office indicating what the Regulations are to be. There is no reason why the House and the Government should be put to the embarrassment of a critical Division. It will be critical, if not in votes, then in its implications. Why do it? It is not necessary. If the Government have generous intentions, why should they not make them clear now in a White Paper? They cannot issue Regulations in pursuance of the Bill until the House has authorised the Bill, but in the White Paper the Government could indicate their intentions about the Bill and about the draft Regulations. There is nothing unconstitutional in that.
The Minister may not be able to make a statement to-day to satisfy us, but unless he is able to do something on the lines I am suggesting, we are left once more with the impression that nothing is intended to be done at all and that this Bill therefore is not an interim Measure but the last Measure we are to have on this subject during the war. I end with a plea to the Government not to embarrass the nation, and not to undermine the structure of the National Government for a matter of this sort, on which there is common accord, where there is universal agreement that these old people's standards have to be improved, and regarding which people cannot understand why the Government are not doing that. I regret the attitude of the Government in this matter. Not only is it reactionary, but it is opposed to the deep, permanent and vital interests of this country.
§ Major Sir George Davies (Yeovil)
The hon. Member has been delivering one of a series of addresses which he has been making to the House in the course of this Debate. A previous speaker spoke of the question of holding a pistol to the heads of Members of Parliament, and in the very interesting speech to which we have been listening it seemed to me that the hon. Member was levelling a very direct pistol at the heads of certain targets sitting opposite him rather than addressing 1343 himself to the actual merits or demerits of the Bill or the Amendment before us today. This always seems to me one of those occasions when it is extraordinarily difficult for some of us to take part in the Debate, for this reason: As has been emphasised by other speakers, this is a matter which appeals to all of us, from a charitable point of view if you like to use that term, perhaps more than any other we can think of. It is our relationship with, and our responsibility to, those who are least able to continue the struggle of life, that is, the old and infirm. There is no doubt about that appeal. The old question "Am I my brother's keeper?" must still be answered in the affirmative by every right-thinking person, but it does not follow that when we come to consider the matter from the point of view of the possibility of legislation that we must not put out of our minds such appealing considerations, and get down to the actual facts of the problem with which we are faced.
There has been a certain amount of discussion as to whether this Bill is or is not carrying out certain pledges and undertakings that have been given in previous Debates. I do not propose to enter into that at the moment except to say that I think the view that is probably taken by most Members about it is that the pledges have been carried out actually in the letter but have rather failed in the spirit. We must, however, not shut our minds to this fact, that whatever may be said about the provisions of the Bill which claim to carry out those pledges, they are to a certain extent a definite improvement on the situation which has hitherto existed. I think there seems to have been a certain amount of confusion in some speeches, particularly connected with the Amendment, between the matter of the basic rate and supplementary pensions. Those who are asking now for an increase of the basic rate do not seem to me to have realised what was pointed out by an hon. Friend of mine a little earlier in the Debate, that to the extent that you increase the basic rate, unless other provision is made, to that extent do you reduce the supplementary assistance because the maximum amount has remained static.
I think that what really is the view of those who are in favour of this Amend- 1344 ment or are opposed to the Bill as a whole is not that the basic rate should be increased but that the total receivable income of old age pensioners—people over a certain age, and under certain conditions—should be increased. That is a very different point from the question of an increase of the basic rate, because it must be borne in mind that there is this advantage in certain of the provisions in this Bill which I hold are an improvement apart from those connected with the limit of the amount of capital which should be considered in calculating the benefits to be received, and that is the special provision that is bringing in a different class for consideration—the one dealing with widows and young children who hitherto have not been eligible for consideration. If we really concentrate on the total income to be provided for our old people, whether it is basic or whether it is supplementary, we come down to the question of want or need. That is a matter, the determination of needs, which has been wrangled over times without number in this House. It is a matter that had to be dealt with, and has been dealt with by Sir William Beveridge in his Report, which Members on that side, almost with unanimity and also many on this side, have wished to see "implemented in toto," I believe is the expression, though I think second thoughts are coming home to very large numbers of our people who realise that to do that would fall very far short of some of their aspirations.
Sir William Beveridge has pointed out that whatever the standard of want or need which you are eliminating or supplying, whatever that standard is to be, it must be ascertained beforehand to what extent that individual requires to be relieved from that fear of want, and so some form of investigation or determination of need is absolutely essential, because I do not believe there is any large portion of the community to-day, whatever their status may be, who would support the idea that out of their earnings, out of the wages they are sweating to obtain, should be paid to others financial assistance which those others do not really require. We then come down to the consideration of what should or should not be the standard to be laid down of want or need. That surely is somewhat elastic, because conditions change with the cost of living, the fact that to-day's luxuries may be to-morrow's necessities, and regard 1345 must be had to conditions which are changing all the time.
Here I would like to make a protest against two statements made in the course of two speeches to which we have listened. The hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Barr) made use of a quotation to the effect that in the midst of plenty the people perish. I repudiate that suggestion. There is not a word of truth in it. We are too prone to blacken our own characters and to forget that we have a record unequalled by any other nation in the world for the way we have answered the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Since the days of Queen Elizabeth, when the first vestiges of the feeling of responsibility for others began to dawn on our people, that first flicker has developed into a flame, until today, when we are faced with the almost immediate problem of considering how best to implement the suggestions in the Beveridge Report. The hon. Member for Sea-ham (Mr. Shinwell), whom I am glad to see in his place, since I wish to refer to him, spoke of a large or vast army of people—referring to old 'age pensioners—who were in destitution. I say it is not true. It is not fair to our people to use in this House those expressions, which may pass for currency on political platforms outside, and to say that there is a large army of old age pensioners, or of any other people, in destitution. That is simply not true, and it ought to be withdrawn or explained away.
I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Member for allowing me to deal with the point. Is it not a fact that if a single old age pensioner has only 9s. or 10s. a week to provide himself or herself with food and all other necessaries, that is a state of destitution?
§ Sir G. Davies
That may be, but I maintain that the position does not exist. It is purely hypothetical. The provision made for supplementary allowances and public assistance covers all those points. It is simply not true that there is a large army of people in this country suffering destitution. What is the line to be drawn as to where necessities should be supplied by the State, by the taxpayer, by the public in general? This matter was gone into with great care by Sir William Beveridge in his Report. He took into counsel people well known in studying these subjects, like Cadbury, Rowntree, 1346 and others, in order to find out what should be taken as the standard below which we should not fall. I have concerned myself to ascertain how that compares with the standard which can, with the exceptions that I will mention in a moment, be achieved by the provisions already existing for supplementary allowances. I myself was surprised to find that in the case. of an old couple, both pensioners, with an average rental of 10s. a week—you must take some basic figure for comparison—and getting the public assistance to which they are entitled, they are better off now to the extent of a shilling a week than they would be under the Beveridge proposal under which they would receive 40s. and then not until 1965. You may say that I am picking out cases which support my own argument, but that is not so. I am trying to compare like with like. If you say that. even with this Measure, we are countenancing a state of destitution for a vast number of our fellow-countrymen, I say that it is not true.
§ Sir G. Davies
Whether the Beveridge measure of want, or the one provided to day, is adequate or not adequate, is another question. What I want to say is that the question of the basic rate does not touch that matter at all; it is quite another consideration. The concern I have with the basic rate is a twofold one. We must bear certain facts in mind. I have not had the privilege of being here for the whole of the Debate, and hon. Members must forgive me if the figures which I am about to give have already been quoted. We have 3,500,000 people concerned with this question, of whom about 1,250,000 have their pensions supplemented by the Assistance Board. There remain some 2,000,000 others. The vast majority of those have never applied for assistance. There are three reasons for that. One, which was touched upon by an hon. Friend of mine upon these benches just now, is a feeling of pride, which we all understand and admire. Although their need exists, that feeling of pride has prevented these people from making any application for assistance, We do not know the number of these people, and it is impossible to find out. They do exist in substantial numbers, but not in "vast armies." Then there are those who because of certain possessions which 1347 they have—and it is no good pretending that no one amongst those who become eligible for old age pensions have possessions—do not qualify. And, thirdly, there are those who know that if they made application they would not qualify. The only people who can conceivably be affected by the increase in the basic rate are those who have been too proud to apply for public assistance. They are now receiving the statutory 10s., and if the basic rate is increased to 15s. they will be that much better off.
But there is a substantial number of people who are now getting the 10s. a week, who do not need it. That is the price we have paid for giving a basic rate to which any contributor is entitled. It was never intended to be something which anyone could live on irrespective of need. If we increase the basic rate, however much we increase it by, we shall be increasing that burden on the earnings of other wage earners for the maintenance, even to a limited degree, of those who are not, under any standard fixed by Sir William Beveridge or anyone else, in need of it.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Surely the hon. and gallant Member will agree that a big proportion of that large number of people who are drawing the pension have contributed to it, and that they are just as much entitled to it as he would be entitled to his insurance, or as his wife would be if he died?
§ Sir G. Davies
I agree that most of them have contributed, but not all. This is not an easy problem. I have said that the increase of the basic pension is not a solution, but when those who have studied this matter decided that a basic rate of 10s. was a proper one certain conditions were taken into consideration, primarily connected with the cost of living at that time. The cost of living has substantially increased since that basis was fixed. If the appropriate basis then was los. today it would be proper to increase it by a certain amount because of the increase in the cost of living. This is a small Measure. It is, to some extent marking time, for the reason put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink), namely: that we do not want to take an irrevocable step now which is going to conflict with the broad decisions that are taken when 1348 the Beveridge Report is "implemented." But small as they are, they are an advance. This Debate has brought home to the Government that they are small and that further steps will have to be taken. But I cannot see for these reasons that it is wise or desirable that anybody should vote against Me Second Reading of this. Bill, which, as far as it goes, is an indication that we wish to put on to the Statute Book something which shows how deeply we all feel the responsibilities we have to the old and the infirm and to those who need the assistance of those of us who are more fortunately placed.
Mr. Coilindridge (Barnsley)
I had better declare my attitude at the commencement of the few remarks I propose to make. I am supporting the position of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). That position is by no means a new position in this House. It consists of suggesting that we should accept what is embodied in the present Measure but at the same time, doing what is customary in this House, asking the Government to look still further and to accept other matters that we think would be beneficial to the people concerned. In this case it is the old age pensioners. It is an attitude which a good many of my hon. Friends sitting on these benches adopted in their normal lives before they entered Parliament. In the trade union world to which we belong we rarely have had occasions in our negotiations when we have got 100 per cent. of what we desired to have, but that fact has not precluded us from accepting what was offered, and, further, it certainly has not prevented us pressing home at the time of the acceptance the fact that we should have an improvement in the existing position.
It was natural to expect that this Bill would be a mixed kind of Bill, in view of the constitution of the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) tried to read into it that there are things calculated to bring down the Government if they persist in this policy. Candidly, I do not think that even the bulk of the people who have supported this Amendment on the Order Paper would wish it. The overwhelming number desire that this Government, which was formed in 1940 for the more effective prosecution of the war, shall still continue, and it was woefully wrong of 1349 my hon. Friend to introduce the suggestion that, if the Government got their way and large numbers of Members on these benches went into the division lobby against the Government—I hope they do not—it would tend towards letting down the troops and in all probability—
§ Mr. Davidson
Surely, my hon. Friend will agree that on the last occasion when we discussed this question a large number of Members on this side, including himself, went into the Lobby in favour of the old age pensioners, but we did not bring down the Government.
§ Mr. Collindridge
That really did happen, but it happened over the Beveridge Report. At no stage has there been a majority of this party who have wished to bring down the Government on this question. We know that overriding everything is the question of the prosecution of the war. It is not telling tales out of school when I say that the Parliamentary party to which we belong recently decided, in the democratic way of things, to accept by majority decision what the Government have to offer but still to continue to press for better old age pensions.
§ Mr. Collindridge
My hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) has had the opportunity of making his speech. I would suggest that he allows me to make mine. Since the hon. Gentleman made his contribution a Member on these benches has dealt, not with the question of pensions, but the question of what is going to happen to the Government assuming large sections of this party go into the Division Lobby against the Government.
§ Mr. Collindridge
I think my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham is just now indulging in the thing he suggested that the hon. and learned. Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) was doing. I have no desire at all, and indeed I would not have referred to this aspect of the matter but for the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale. I was saying, at the beginning of my remarks, that the customary practice in this House has been to accept even what is offered, but to be rather critical 1350 because ideas we have had have been left out of the proposals before the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield did that. Indeed, in the remarks that I have to make on this question I shall be somewhat critical of the Government's position on this Bill. My own life and that of many of my hon. Friends on these benches has been concerned with asking for certain things, failing to get them, coming away with what we have got and still continuing to fight for what we want. Surely, that is the democratic way of doing things.
I must be candid. One of my hon. Friends suggested a moment or two ago that I wanted to jump in with both feet on this question. I have sat in this House since the first words of the discussion on this Measure, and, except for about 15 minutes, I have been in my seat the whole time. Therefore, it was wrong to suggest that I was desiring merely to whitewash someone. If anybody cast a little gloom on the proceedings and the Measure, it was the Minister of Health. He was wordy in explaining the proposals of the Bill, but he was by no means enthusiastic, in his usual way, in putting the proposals before the House. It was natural to expect that we should have a mixed Bill from a Government of this kind. I believe that members of the Cabinet who belong to the party which sits on these benches have done their best to get the proposals for which we stand accepted. But we cannot expect that we shall get from what is after all the minority section of the Cabinet all that we want. I would say, as an old trade unionist accustomed to negotiations, that I rarely failed to accept things which tended to improve our position and still press on for more. A good many people in my district will derive undoubted advantages from this Bill, but it would be wrong to say that there are not many more people who feel that if we are going to have a real settlement of old age and widows' pensions which will give general satisfaction, we must look upon this Measure as an interim Measure and press for further improvement.
The Measure leaves untouched some great grievances in connection with old age and widows' pensions. Can we justify the continued passing by of the widow without children or the widow whose children have gone to work? More 1351 often than not it is the middle-aged widow who needs the greater consideration. This Bill, as far as I can see, prevents such a widow having any extra benefits. We must press for redress of the unfair treatment of these women. Again, can it be denied that there is need for an improvement in the basic pension in the case of those old age pensioners who have definitely retired from work? I want to refer also to the failure of this Bill to give some redress to pensioners with resources. There is a penalty upon the thrifty worker who by living frugally, by regular attendance at work and with the advantage of good health, has found it possible by methodical saving to amass a small capital sum. I view with alarm the fact that there is nothing in this Measure to put these people in the position in which they ought to be. I claim that that class ought to be more encouraged.
When young people see how harshly the old pensioner with capital resources is treated I do not think they will receive much encouragement to be thrifty. Not only from the point of view of advantaging the thrifty pensioner, but as a good example it would be beneficial to treat this class of pensioner in a better manner. Under present conditions the thrifty pensioner with £400 capital, invested, say, at 2½ per cent. in the Post Office Savings Bank, receiving by way of income from that investment 3s. 10d. a week, is at a disadvantage because of that income and to the extent of 15s. he gets a reduction of his supplementary pension. This Bill admittedly improves the position, but you will still have individuals with a small capital sum of £400, invested at 2½ per cent., receiving from it an income of 3s. rod. a week, who will be at a disadvantage to the extent of 7s. 6d. a week because of a reduced supplementary pension. I was recently asked to analyse two pensioners cases in the district where I live. The pensioners were brothers. They had lived rather similar lives as regards their work, but the one had been thrifty and the other had spent his money as he went on.
It turned out that one brother with no capital resources received a State pension of 10s. for himself and 10s. for his wife, supplementary pension of 17s., a coal allowance for 26 weeks of 3s., and because 1352 he had a rent of 9s. a week was allowed an extra 3s. That resulted in a total income of £2 3s. His brother, with £500 of hard-earned savings invested at 2½ per cent., bringing him 43. 10d. a week, had his own and his wife's State pension of 10s. and the interest of 4s. rod. from his £500, making a total of 24s. 10d. No supplementary pension. That was the result of being thrifty and saving money. Surely that is not the way in which we ought to treat old age pensioners who have been thrifty. There are a good many things in this Bill which will benefit people, but I hope it will not be thought that because we support the Bill for the sake of those benefits we are going to discontinue a sensible and constitutional agitation on behalf of those people who have been left outside the Bill. Just as in our industrial lives we have accepted what was offered, so in this case we shall accept this Measure but, like Oliver Twist, press on for more.
I think a good many of those who have put their names to this Amendment have done so because they want to improve the old age pensioners' position. But let us look at what the Amendment says. It says:That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which fails to make provision for an increase in the income of old age pensioners, and ignores the needs of childless widows under 60 years and elderly spinsters.A good many of us would subscribe to that, but can it be suggested that a vote in the Division Lobby In favour of that Amendment will give us the conditions that we want? You will not get by voting for that Amendment an increase for anybody. The Amendment is really more negative than positive, but the fact is that this Measure, which, I agree, is weak and only moderate, is advantageous to many people, particularly in our industrial constituencies. I appeal to my hon. Friends on these Benches to accept this Bill for the moment for what it is. We are not unduly enthused or elated about it but it is at least something. We shall continue to press the Government to bring in legislation to include all the pensioners who have been left out to-day.
§ Captain Sir William Brass (Clitheroe)
I have listened to most of the Debate to-day, and one of the speeches which did not surprise me very much was that made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who said he thought 1353 it was right that a pistol should be held at our heads in order to force us to vote for an increase in the basic pension. Personally, I think that is all wrong—
§ Mr. Silverman
On a point of Order. Ought the hon. and gallant Gentleman to take advantage of the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)?
§ Sir W. Brass
Yes, I can see he is here; he is sitting on the Front Bench now, instead of at the back. I want to make some remarks about his speech, because I think it was thoroughly unfair from start to finish. He said he thought a pistol ought to be put at our heads in order to force us to vote for 3os. a week for old age pensioners, regardless entirely of what it will cost the country.
§ Mr. Silverman
Then the hon. and gallant Member should not misrepresent if he does not intend to give way.
§ Sir W. Brass
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is always attacking his own Ministers on the Treasury Bench. He said that sheepish battalions would go into the Lobby in favour of the Government, but what I suggest is that it will be the responsible battalions who will go into the Government Lobby, while irresponsible people, who do not mind attacking their own Ministers because it is the popular thing to do, will go into the other Lobby. It is a cheap and easy thing to be asked to vote hi favour of so much money being spent out of the public purse. It is often done by irresponsible people. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale often abuses his own Ministers, who have responsibility, while he and many others on the other side of the House have no responsibility whatsoever. I think it is a bad thing that 1354 we should have in this House an opposition which is continually pinpricking its own Ministers because it thinks it is popular in the constituencies. I do not think it is popular in the constituencies. I do not know whether hon. Members have realised it, but when it is advocated that a certain amount of money should be spent on pensions or anything else, it must be remembered that it has to come out of somebody's pocket.
In the old days it used to be said, "Soak the rich." But since then the Chancellor has pointed out that £30,000,000 is the only amount that could be obtained from all the Super-tax payers of the country and I am not at all sure that hon. Members will find it quite so popular when they go to their electors and say, "You must find this extra money out of your wages." I have said that, because I felt it keenly while the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was speaking. The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) also talked about a certain amount of money as if it were only the cost of two destroyers. That is very cheap stuff. It is easy to get up and say, "We are spending so much on the war; why should we not spend it on pensions?" Hon. Members opposite seem to forget one thing, and that is the very large proportion of this money that is being borrowed from working people, who are themselves contributing. We cannot go on doing that after the war. Pensions are not only a matter of war policy; they are concerned with post-war policy as well. We cannot continue to give undertakings which cannot be implemented later, when we cannot borrow the £4,000,000,000 a year that we are borrowing now. It is a bad thing to say, and very unfair, that the cost would be only a certain number of days' expense on the war or the cost of a certain number of destroyers. We cannot go on borrowing at the rate at which we are borrowing at the present time.
I think this Bill is a step in the right direction. I am not satisfied or happy with what it is doing, because it is only an instalment, but we are doing something to make the means test, so far as capital assets are concerned, far less burdensome than before. I do not agree that people should get public money regardless whether they need it or not, but I agree with one principle which I 1355 think is right and which is in this Bill, namely, that you should encourage thrift. The amount has been increased from £300 to £400, and the amount of contribution has been reduced from is. to 6d. That is all to the good, because it encourages the thrift that we want to see. It is wrong to encourage agitation among the people that if only they persist long enough, they will get what they want, regardless of the cost. There have been complaints that the supplementary allowances were too low, and I am not at all sure that I do not agree. I think they are rather too low. I have represented a working-class constituency for 20 years, and I do not believe that my constituents regard me as one who is trying to grind down the poor.
§ Sir W. Brass
I want to see the people in my constituency, as in others, living under happy conditions. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) pointed out, rightly, that the supplementary allowance was, in fact, higher than that provided for under the Beveridge scheme. I feel that the Beveridge scheme is something that we have to take as a whole later on. It is a contributory scheme and, as the pension rises, as indeed it should rise later on with the alteration in the value of the £, the contributions will increase at the same time, so that, as far as the contrast between the Beveridge scheme and this is concerned, I am not very much interested.
I want to appeal for the non-contributory pensioners. There are not very many of them, and they are not at all in a good way. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) when he talks about their pride. There are large numbers of people who are existing on 10s., and they will not ask for a supplementary pension because they feel that there is something infra dig. about doing so. These people come under the non-contributory Old Age Pensions Acts, which date back for a very long time. Would it not be possible to increase their basic Pensions? They are mostly very old, out of work and very hard up, and there is a great deal of pride about them. The case of the contributory pensioners is a different problem altogether. 1356 I am going to ask my right hon. Friend whether he would not consider increasing by 5s. the pensions of the non-contributory pensioners. The people you want to try to help are those who are not employed. I hope very much that my right hon. Friend will give some indication of some help in that direction.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Yesterday there was a great thanksgiving ceremony for the victory in North Africa, an event of world-shaking importance. Yesterday evening the Prime Minister enthused the United States Congress as he spoke of the great events of the past few months and the still greater events that lie ahead. A great Army and a great country! Now, look what the House of Commons, the Mother of Parliaments, is discussing. Look at the miserable, trivial production that has come from the Government to take up our time. It is almost unbelievable. I have heard about the mountain in labour but here are four mountains— "Presented by Mr. Ernest Brown, Mr. Ernest Bevin, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Secretary Johnston." They have "laboured," they have conceived and they have brought forth this miserable little freak, a shamefaced little illegitimate, which has no relation whatever to the pledge that was given or to the expectations of the country.
I often hear talk about "the usual channels." I am not fed through those usual channels. Other Members seem to draw their inspiration from this source. As to the pledges that were given, there must have been talk somewhere. Some of the people on the Government Front Bench who wanted to be important must have been whispering. From Member after Member I heard, "There is going to be an increase in the basic pension." That feeling also existed in every part of the country—that the Government intended to bring in something which would increase the basic rate. Why all the delay, the putting off from week to week and month to month, if this is all they are to have? The Memorandum says, "The main objects of this Bill are"—then we get two trivial items, which cover only a small percentage of the pensioners of the country. It has taken these four Ministers longer to produce these two miserable little items than it took our Army to take Bizerta and Tunis. That is simply playing with the House and the country and 1357 with the old age pensioners. The Bill is an insult to them and to their children and grand-children who carried through the heroic events of North Africa. It is an insult to Members of the House if they are not beyond the stage of being insulted.
The old age pensioners expected an increase in the basic rate. The widows, who have been so far neglected, expected to be brought in. some are brought in but others are not. We come here today and listen to the talk that is almost invariably served up from the other side. The hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley), for instance, has the audacity to say that the pride of certain people in the ranks of the working class will not let them apply for certain rights to which they are entitled, and that is a good thing.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The hon. Member said it was good for them that they should have this pride. Will the hon. Member for Stockport and his associates hesitate to grab anything that is going? If there is an indication of profit anywhere, an opportunity to dodge Income Tax, or a chance of getting gain anywhere, do any of them hesitate? Have they any pride? It is not pride that prevents poor people asking for supplementary pensions but fear, and the Minister of Health knows it. Many of these people are afraid to go before these various boards. I have a friend here to-day visiting me from my home town. His wife's grandmother, 90 years of age, gets a supplementary pension. A young investigator goes to her every month to see that the old lady is not wasting the money on riotous living, and she is asked all kinds of questions about how she spends her money. We are told that it has to come out of somebody's pocket. The hon. Member for Stockport took up the same attitude. Do he and his friends take up that attitude when it is a case of their own gang getting pensions? Why is it only when the working class get pensions that we hear arguments about the duty of the son to keep his father or that it is public money that is being spent? I remember one night a Tory Member giving us a lecture on the spending of public money, and he said that we must be satisfied that those who are getting it are in need of it. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) asked, "What about your 1358 own pension?" The Member said, "That is an entirely different matter." What about the pension we discussed a month or two ago of a man who was retiring with £2,450 of public money and no questions asked? He would have been insulted if any questions had been asked.
What about the thousands of people receiving pensions of £500, £1,000, £1,500, £2,000 and £2,500? 'The Lord Chancellor, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, put up a terrific argument at that Box in favour of the means test. He can serve a year or three years as Lord Chancellor, and when he retires he will get £5,000 a year of public money. That will come out of somebody's pocket. It will come out of the workers' pockets. Will Members on the other side talk about that? Public money can be handed out without thought, without a care, without a question of any kind as long as it is paid to their own class. The superior people in this country can do anything, and no questions are asked. Nobody asks them how much money they have in the bank, how many there are in the family and how much money is coming into the household. They do not have to go before a board and explain this and that, and they do not have young men and women visiting them and asking them questions. We have heard cases of investigators going to some of these elderly women and lifting up their outside skirts to see what they were wearing underneath. There are all sorts of insults of that kind. That is why many of the people will not make application for supplementary pensions. The old age pensioners are entitled to demand 30s. a week. They consist of men who have worked for 50 years on the railways, in the mines, in the factories, and of women who have given 50 years of devoted service to the home. Yet they are accused of impudence because they ask for 305. a week. Of course, it will cost a lot of money, and if they get their 30s. a week, some of the people on the other side will have to do with a bit less. It might be better for their physical and moral health if they did have a bit less.
We support the Amendment because of the demand that exists in the country. I do not know of any issue on which there is more unanimity in the country than on the issue of justice for old age pensioners. They make a claim for a larger pension, and they are entitled to it. The Government should be prepared to give it to them 1359 graciously. We are living in a time of great events, and we ought to rise to the height of those events. What a contrast between listening to the Prime Minister last night and listening to the Minister of Health to-day. Talk about coming from the sublime to the "gorblimey." The great mass of the people support this demand. I do not want to exaggerate, and I would say that go per cent. of them support it. It is not right to say that the workers will make a row because it would mean that something is coming out of their pockets. The workers know very well where the wealth comes from. It does not grow on orchard trees. You may have a big estate, but you cannot grow wealth. The workers will not raise any objection. Most of them, particularly the organised workers, want justice for the old age pensioners. This Amendment is put forward to get rid of this Bill and to force the Government to withdraw it, so that they will have to bring in another Bill. These crumbs will never satisfy the appetites that should be satisfied. Therefore, we urge the House to reject the Bill and to force the Government to withdraw it and to bring in a Bill more in keeping with the great days we are living in and with the justice that the old folk desire and deserve.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
We have had an impassioned Debate, but after sitting through almost the whole of it I think that if an analysis were made of the speeches, it would be found that 75 per cent. is not an over-estimate of the speeches that have been devoted to what is not contained in the Bill rather than to the Bill itself. Working on the principle of speaking as nearly as possible only to the Bill itself, my intervention will not be a long one. I have a kind of reputation for standing by those who are badly placed, for minorities, for those who are helpless and unbefriended, and it may be to some extent that attitude of mind which causes me to feel inclined to stand by this little Bill.
A number of my hon. Friends are very condemnatory of the fact that this is a little Bill. When I looked forward to the coming of this Bill I must say that I did not expect it to be a big Bill. In my own constituency I have told old age pensioners that I did not think it would be a big Bill, because I said that before any- 1360 thing in the way of big moves were made I thought the pledge given last July would require to be given effect to separately, and we have it from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) that this Bill does in fact carry out that pledge. While it is true that I want to see greater progress made, greater benefits for old age pensioners than are contained in this Bill, at the same time I would say that the Bill with which we are presented is not the instrument for carrying that purpose into effect. It does not seem to me that what we want can be done by means of this Bill, which is limited to certain improvements which I want to see in addition to the bigger things I have in mind. The fact that I want those improvements makes it quite impossible for me to oppose this Bill, because if I do oppose it, then I do not get the improvements, and people in the country who have been told that they will participate in these improvements within a very short period will be disappointed. If I were to vote against this Bill, I should be denying to them the fulfilment of a promise which has been made to them publicly by the publication of this Bill.
§ Mr. Davidson
May I ask the hon. Member one question? He has stated his attitude very clearly. If the Government, instead of bringing forward two small reforms, had brought forward one small reform, would he still accept that one small reform and look for more?
§ Mr. Mathers
That would not have been an implementation of the pledge which was given last July, because two reforms were most specifically promised at that time. Therefore I shall vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, because I want to see what is in this Bill carried into effect. I want to see the improvement in the thrift position, I want to see the improvement there is in this Bill for widows with children and for blind persons. I wish we could have added a greater improvement for widows under 60 without children, I want to see the improvement in public assistance payments by giving effect to,the Determination of Needs Act Regulations in assessing resources and disregarding the numerous items of income that can be received without detriment to the receipt of the supplementary pension.
In this connection I think there is something in this Bill that we must not destroy, because here is the first authority, as I 1361 see it, that the Government will have to carry into effect the granting of supplementary pensions to the class of widows who are being brought in. It is because of the prospect of the improvements that will flow from giving effect to that part of the Bill that I am further in favour of it, and feel that it is quite impossible for me to deny the opportunity to the Government to carry into effect, by means of new Regulations under the supplementary pensions scheme, what they would not have the power to carry into effect in respect of those persons if this Bill were not passed. Therefore, I dare not take the responsibility of denying to these people the opportunities that this Bill provides.
Much has been said about this being the only thing that the Government will do and that after this Bill has been passed the Government will sit back and do nothing at all. I do not take that view. If I had been inclined to that opinion, I should imagine that the strong feeling shown in the House to-day would have clearly indicated to the Government that they must not take that course. If there is an overwhelming demand in this House for the opportunity, which this Bill provides, to bring into effect new Regulations to make an improvement which I am sure everyone hopes will be a substantial improvement in the position of supplementary pensions—
§ Mr. Mathers
I am not a betting man, and therefore I shall not respond to my hon. Friend's desire to lose his money to me. I do not respond to that invitation to gamble. I am opposed to gambling in any case. But I have the faith, if I may put it that way, that out of the new Regulations which will come along following the passage of this Bill into law we shall have an improvement in the position of old age pensioners over quite a wide field. I started by saying that this Bill was a small Measure. Everyone admits it. I expected it to be small. It is small, but not quite so small as some of my hon. Friends have tried to make out. In the Financial Memorandum which prefaces the Bill there are references to amounts making up a total of£850,000, and a number of my hon. Friends have limited themselves to describing this as a Bill putting only£850,000—an estimated 1362 amount—into the pockets of the people for whom it is intended. But my hon. Friends should not ignore the fact that there is a statement in a further paragraph of the Financial Memorandum showing clearly that in respect of a number of people for whom no calculation can be made there will be a considerable amount of money to be added to that £850,000.
I know that we live in times of vast expenditure. If I try to relate the position in which we are as a nation to our own family life, I find the only thing I can do is to compare the position in which we are at the present time with the position in which a family finds itself when some member of the family is very seriously ill and requires a surgical operation. For that purpose they are willing to spend any amount of money. They will drain their resources to the uttermost in order to pay for the necessary treatment of that individual member of the family. But they do not, after that, base their weekly expenditure upon the expenditure that was incurred during that period of crisis in the family life. In the same way I say—and this is the only reference I am making to what these things cost—that we cannot possibly relate the expenditure upon these matters to the vast expenditure which is inevitable at the present time to save our national life. We cannot relate this vast expenditure to the normal, everyday expenditure to which we normally commit this nation. We have to keep in mind the fact, however, that this country can afford anything if it has the productive capacity and if the energy and the activity are there. If the making of wealth is there, by the only method by which wealth can be made, the application of labour to natural resources, we can afford anything. Building upon that basis, I am not afraid of any expense which this country may be called upon in the future to meet. I would conclude by once again reminding the House that we are dealing with a small Measure. I am going to back it with my vote.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
In rising to address the House upon this Bill, I do so as one who has associated himself inside and outside this House with the Beveridge Report and has advocated its implementation, and have spoken in favour of the principles of the Beveridge Report at a meeting of my party. I find 1363 it difficult to understand how it comes about that a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite can have associated themselves with the Amendment now before us, while, only a short time ago, they went into the Lobby against the Government on the ground that they wanted the Beveridge Report carried out in its fullest particulars. I would remind them that politicians should try to observe the principle of consistency. To vote against the Government on one occasion on the ground that they have not carried out or undertaken to carry out the whole of the recommendations of the Beveridge Report, and a few weeks later to propose an Amendment asking that certain things should be done which are clearly in conflict with the recommendations of that Report, is not a course of action which is to the credit of the hon. Members concerned, and is explicable only on the ground that whatever appears at the moment to be a popular issue in the constituencies will obtain their support.
When I read the Amendment I find that it asks for an increase in the income of old age pensioners. I can only assume that that means an increase in the flat rate of pensions. That is exactly the point that Sir William Beveridge was at pains to say could not be carried out at the present moment. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) spoke in favour of the Amendment. I have always understood that one of the principles of the Communist Party was "From each according to his means and to each according to his needs." I should therefore have supposed that he would be in favour of the general principle which is being applied by the Government of giving supplementary pensions in cases where the need can be proved. When one considers how the conditions of old people vary from case to case, it is obvious that you cannot have any flat rate of pension which will be sufficient for those who are in the greatest need and will not be excessive in the case of those who have other sources of income. We should therefore try to devise a system by which supplementary pensions will be given in the case of those who are in need. There can be no justification at any time for imposing heavy burdens upon the taxpayers of this country in order to pay money to those who are not in need.
§ Mr. Molson
I am not applying it in the case of contributory pensions any more than I would do so in the case of unemployment benefit, where a man has entered into a contract with the State and paid a contribution. In these cases it is perfectly right and reasonable that the full benefit should be paid. We are discussing an increase in the pension in order to meet special cases of need. Under the Supplementary Pensions Act, I940, it is possible now for a pension of as much as 37s. to be paid where both of an old couple are pensioners and one is a householder. The only effect of raising the flat rate of old age pensions would be that more money would be paid to those old age pensioners who are unable to prove that they are in need. That is exactly and precisely what Sir William Beveridge, in the Report which the Labour Party asked the Government to accept in every particular—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
The Labour Party did not ask the, Government to accept certain proposals of the Beveridge Report.
§ Mr. Molson
Throughout the length and breadth of this country hon. Gentlemen and their newspapers were saying that Beveridge was the bible of the workers' security and that the Government, under the domination of big business, was refusing it to them. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members are asking for a flat-rate increase in order that increased old age pensions should be paid to those who are unable to prove that they are in need, but they go on to complain that the Billignores the needs of childless widows under 60 years of age and elderly spinsters.There is a very important recommendation in the Beveridge Report, but it is not one to which very great prominence was given, so far as I remember, in the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were criticising the Government in the Beveridge Debate. It is that, as regards the future, pensions should not be given as a right to widows, except to those who had children. I can think of nothing more unreasonable or improper in a Government who have, as we know, the recommendations of the Beveridge Committee under consideration and have accepted the general principles of its Report, than 1365 now, in what is an interim Measure, to propose to increase the pensions paid to a particular class which Sir William Beveridge, after most careful consideration, thought should not be granted pensions in the future.
§ Mrs. Hardie (Glasgow, Springburn)
In his scheme, Sir William Beveridge gives the widow 13 weeks at 36s., and then he gives her training for another job. While she is being trained she gets 24s., and I assume that by the time she is trained he will find her a job. If not, she will come on to unemployment benefit. That is very different from what is in the Bill.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that to-day the Government have promised for the Committee stage the very thing that he is now condemning?
§ Mr. Molson
I am not aware of that, and I shall study Hansard to-morrow morning on the subject with very great interest. As for the intervention of the hon. Lady, I would only say that I am fully aware of the provision of an increased pension for 13 weeks and training afterwards in cases where it is necessary. What I should find it difficult to understand is how that particular argument could justify dividing against the Government, which hon. Ladies and Gentlemen opposite are supposed to be supporting, on the ground that it is carrying out part of one of the recommendations of the Beveridge Report. I think that in this Bill the Government are making those little adjustments in the administration of the old age pensions which we all of us should welcome. As the hon. Gentleman who spoke just before me said, in what I think the House felt was a weighty and responsible speech, there is no justification in dividing against the Bill, which is carrying out certain steps in practical and financial forms, because certain people would wish it to go much further. I continue to stand firmly on the general principles of the Beveridge recommendations, and I do urge on hon. Gentlemen opposite that they will not in the long run do themselves good, even in the constituencies, if they blow hot and cold and change their attitude in accordance with what they believe to be the fluctuations of public opinion.
§ Mr. Daggar (Abertillery)
Before dealing with one or two matters of interest to one who has a special interest in this subject, I may be permitted to make one or two comments on the observations of the hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat. It is obvious from his speech that he was speaking the truth when he said that he had not been in the House during the whole Debate. Had he been here he would have known that in no single instance has reference been made to an Amendment that we should ask for an increase in the flat rate. The Amendment before the House is one dealing entirely with a different method of improving the lot of old age pensioners. May I also be permitted to register my protest against the remark of the hon. and gallant Member for Yeovil (Sir G. Davies) when he associated the reasonable demands we are now making with charity? We are not here to ask for charity for the old age pensioners. We think they are entitled to a measure of justice, and that has been our claim upon every occasion on which we have dealt with this question of old age pensions. He also took exception to the word "destitution" being used in connection with the Debate to-day. I may be permitted to suggest to him that if he will do me the honour of reading a speech I delivered in June last year, he will find that I submitted to the House for consideration three actual budgets of three individuals differently placed, and I was able to demonstrate to the House that those individuals, after meeting the ordinary expenses of the household, had to exist on meals which could not exceed the price of 3d. Those figures have never been refuted, and until they are we are entitled to associate the word "destitution" with the conditions under which some of our aged people live at the present time.
As one might expect in a Debate of this kind, many irrelevant issues have been raised, such as the political truce, and here, to the amusement of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, the dissensions which take place in the party to which I belong. Reference has also been made to the fact that we ought not to associate the amount required to build two destroyers with the demands made for the aged people of this country. As we have said on more than one occasion, we have a slight knowledge of economics, and we know perfectly well that you cannot 1367 spend the same pound twice. If it is spent upon the production of destroyers, or upon anything else to destroy brains, that money cannot be used in order to improve the mental apparatus of any individual. But all we want to stress is that it is very difficult for us in our various constituencies—and here I wish to remind the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) that we will look after the interests of our own constituencies without requiring advice from him—it is very difficult, we do not say it is impossible, to persuade our constituents that a Government which can find £16,000,000 a day to spend upon war and other items of expenditure cannot find the amount of money required to improve the lot of the aged people of this country. That is the point we want to make.
In addition, I would remind hon. Members that the cost of pensions of all kinds in this country is less than 20s per head per year. While I do not claim to speak on behalf of everybody in the country—I am never disposed to express an opinion as being held by everybody in the country—I do claim the right to speak on behalf of the people I represent, and I know that in my division there is not a single individual who would not agree to increase that sovereign to two sovereigns per head per year in order to afford the aged people an opportunity to spend more than 3d. per meal each clay. I think that the main issue is to do with the nature of this Bill, and whether it implements the pledge given by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour on 29th July last. Here I want to make it perfectly clear that we are emphasising the pledge, not because it was given by the right hon. Gentleman, who, after all, is only a single member of the Government, but that the pledge he made was one which he was authorised to make on behalf of the Cabinet and the Government themselves. He told us on that occasion that the Government willgive further consideration to the … pensioners … who need assistance …He also said:I repeat that it is the intention of the Government to make reasonable provision for old age pensioners.That is the statement he made. [Interruption.] I am not quite sure what the right hon. Gentleman opposite observed. I am 1368 not introducing any words. If he desires that I should read the whole of the statement, I am quite prepared to do so, but I am entitled to be credited with sufficient honesty not to misquote the right hon. Gentleman. I note these words again—I am quoting:We shall, in any event, give further consideration to the position of pensioners, including widows under 6o who need assistance beyond their pension.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1943; col. 636, Vol. 382.]We submit that that pledge has not been honoured. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is very much disturbed again, as he is on most occasions when I am addressing the House. We submit that that pledge is not being redeemed by this Measure now before the House.
There are one or two other matters to which I wish to refer. Whenever the question of pensions, particularly old age pensions, has been the subject of discussion in this House some of us have regretted its frequency. It follows too closely the precedent established in dealing with unemployment insurance. That issue has been the subject of over 20 Acts of Parliament, and almost as many sets of Regulations. The same thing apparently will be true in the case of widows' pensions after the passing of this Measure. This will also necessitate the tabling of other Regulations. Every Member knows that the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1925, was the first Measure in which the Government made definite provision for pensions to widows and orphans of workmen who died otherwise than by accident or industrial disease. Some of us would have liked the Bill to provide for an increase in the widows' pensions without bringing them into the scope of the means test, especially as they have had no increase in their pensions since that Act was passed in 1925, although the cost of living in that time has gone up from 73 points to 100, an increase of 27 points. This, again, implies that we can now consider the means test to be a permanent institution in the legislation of this country. It is a feature of our pensions administration which I think is not only discreditable, but represents an unnecessary and wasteful expenditure of public money, and constitutes a subtle substitute for the primitive administration of Poor Law relief. These women will now undergo mean, petty and inquisi- 1369 torial investigations; they will become the recipients of blankets, household utensils and allowances for coal; and they will provide additional employment for clerks and investigators, all engaged on work of a definitely unproductive character.
The Assistance Board, to which they will now have to apply, cost this country over £4,250,000 in 1935, when it was created, and during its existence of eight years, it has cost about £37,000,000. When it accepted the responsibility for the payment of supplementary pensions in 1941, the cost increased by £500,000; and now that it is proposed to hand over to it responsibility for the payment of widows' pensions, the cost will obviously rise again. Let us assume that the number of employees of this Board is 8,000. If they were engaged upon useful work, the increase in wealth in this country would be in excess of £2,000,000 a year. I suggest that to save over £5,000,000, in addition to that increase in the wealth of the country, would be worth consideration. I make those observations because I believe that, as one writer has put it:If we wish to convince the world that democracy is the highest form of government and to persuade other nations to copy our institutions, we had better set about showing what democratic government can achieve in terms of human welfare in our own country.That will never be achieved by the continuation of the Assistance Board, to administer this infamous means test. It has been argued to-day, and it will probably. be argued again, that the Bill redeems the pledge given by the Minister on 29th July last year and the promise contained in the King's Speech. It may do so, but there is not a Member on this side who anticipated that it would not provide for all widows, especially as these women have received no consideration since 1925. There will still be widows left outside the operation of this Measure—and there must be thousands of them—because they have no dependants. Yet the pledge was given that all widows would be included under this Bill. As has already been stated, there has been a serious effort made to relate the proposals in this Bill to certain principles in the Beveridge plan. I am almost disposed to exclaim, "God save us from Sir William Beveridge"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I say again "Heaven protect us from Beveridge and his plan," because before it was published it was used by the Gov- 1370 ernment as an excuse for inactivity, for doing nothing, and since its publication it has been used as a defence for doing the right thing in the wrong way. To exploit it in such a manner is sheer political hypocrisy. Its proposals concerning pensions of any kind have not as yet been accepted by the Government, who are using the plan to defend their attitude, as I have described. We are told that the provisions of this Measure are part of a larger and more comprehensive plan. That is simply another form of the "short-term and long-term policy" of the Government. We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health that we must be careful and cautious, so as to dovetail it into some bigger piece of political furniture. Some of us would like to look at the design of that elaborate furniture. The final scheme may be a part of the Prime Minister's four year plan; perhaps a suitable window advertisement for a coupon election, or a political catch for the continuation of a similar Government to the one we have now. I have referred previously to the character of some of the speeches delivered by Members of the Government at week-ends. I am reminded of a speech made by one of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, no later than 28th September, when he referred to abig, peaceful, decisive, social transformation.I wonder what his description of this Bill would be. It is neither big nor peaceful. It certainly will not effect a social transformation. Other right hon. Gentlemen have talked about social security for all, opening wide the gates of opportunity, and they have emphasised the need for larger families, neither of which will be achieved by the miserable, mean Measure which is now under discussion. There will be thousands of widows left out of its provisions, notwithstanding the pledge given by the representative of the Government. It has been accurately and apty described by the "Economist" in these words:Thus, once again, Britain's social services have had to be patched up by an ad hoc Measure. If proof were still needed of the case for a unified scheme, such as was proposed by Sir William Beveridge, this hotchpotch Bill provides it.Unless an undertaking is given to "make reasonable provision for old age 1371 pensioners," which is part of the pledge given on 29th July of last year, the House will divide on the issue that is now under discussion.
The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevitt)
Nothing seems to excite so much interest in Debates in this House—and properly so—as when you mention any problem that touches on the transformation from the Poor Law, which has a very hated past, to some other system. In dealing with this Measure, I do not propose to follow all the ramifications of the Debate, which mainly, so far as the opposition to the Bill is concerned, deal with the larger problem, which my hon. Friends well know—and, if they are honest with me, will admit—was never intended to be dealt with by this Bill. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) for saying honestly that the Government had carried out the undertakings I gave in response to his request last year. The Government do not go back on their pledge to deal in a comprehensive way—and I hope completely—with the pensions problem in this country. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) seems to look upon me and others on this Bench as if we were just dancing dolls to be picked up by him and translated over there, and if he does not translate me too quickly, I hope to stand at this Box and play my part in that complete scheme. Happily it is not in his power to move me anywhere, either physically or morally.
Neither did I on behalf of the Government make any promise or give any pledge or any indication that there would be an increase of supplementary pensions in connection with this Bill. The express point put to us was that we should do something for widows who were in receipt of the pension—that is the 10s. pension—and it was also put to us that we should deal with capital. I have looked up some of the things—I am not going to quote them now—said by my honourable Friends about capital. I am amazed when I know that the Government have carried out their pledge in absolute fulness to find that it is just ridiculed. I do not think that is playing fair with the old age pensioners or playing fair in regard to a very difficult human problem. I venture to suggest that in handling a difficult thing of this character in their own organisa- 1372 tions hon. Members would not play with their own members in that way.
When the question of widows was being discussed I did say, with the authority of the Government, that we would look into the question of spinsters, and I say frankly that under the general scheme this problem of spinsters has got to be settled somehow. How, I cannot forecast at the moment. It is a very difficult problem, as any administrator of the Poor Law or of any similar fund knows, but we have to find a solution, and that we are endeavouring to do. What we have done in this Bill is to make the assessment under the Determination of Needs Act applicable to the childless widow. We could not, without a voluminous amendment of the Poor Law, which would have meant a good deal of delay, deal with the question of spinsters except on that basis. Therefore we have taken this step under the Bill, that if they apply to the Poor Law, their assessment will be on the same basis as if they were childless widows.' We have brought the two as near together as we possibly could without going into the whole ramifications of the Poor Law. That is a big step in advance.
The question of widows with children is far more simple administratively. There we propose a transfer. I very much regret that my hon. Friend for whom I have great respect, the hon. Member for Abertillèry (Mr. Daggar) has done me the injustice—I regard it as a personal injustice—of referring to the Determination of Needs Act as the household means test. That really is misleading to the country. The household means test went with that Act. I am not saying that the means test has entirely gone, but all the worst features of it went with that Act, and I think my hon. Friend will agree that that is so. To keep on talking as if nothing happens under this Bill is not, I think, doing us justice. It is doing an injustice of which I am sure my hon. Friend would not be guilty if he really thought about it.
What is the vital argument to-day? Where a person remains under the Poor Law the Determination of Needs Act is so superior, as against the family test, that we have applied it for the Poor Law person. This is a very limited Bill—I have never pretended that it is anything else—but I suggest that any hon. Member who votes against" it will not be thanked by the widows with children, who would be 1373 kept under the Poor Law if it was defeated. If Members went to their constituencies and 'said to the widows with children, "We had the chance of transferring you to the Assistance Board as against the Poor Law but we did not do it," I do not believe they would get a vote of thanks.
§ Mr. Bevin
It is not a Tory argument; it is common sense. [Laughter.] That only demonstrates the independence of the Labour Ministers. I was glad to have confirmation of what I am saying by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who has given a lot of time and attention to this problem over many years. I do not mind revealing that it was he who, with his knowledge, showed us the effect of the "cat and mouse" position. Many Bills have been amended in this House. I have seen errors in their first drafting, but, after all, what are hon..Members for if not to call attention to errors? My hon. Friend called attention to this matter and I thank him for it. I am not bringing in Sir William Beveridge. One of the reasons why it has crept in was an attempt to follow Sir William Beveridge too slavishly. If you look at the paragraph dealing with widows you will find the "cat and mouse" procedure referred to in his Report. I think the Parliamentary draftsmen followed that a little too slavishly and I thank my hon. Friend for finding out Sir William and putting our Bill right.
The other point, about the transference from the Poor Law, arose out of a strong deputation which was led by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) to my right hon. Friends the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland. That deputation asked whether, if we could not transfer people from the Poor Law, we could apply the Determination of Needs assessment, or get as near to it as we could. We set to work in this Bill to try to give effect to the request of that deputation. Some may say that we have not done it very well. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not done it at all."] Oh yes, we have done it. Not only so, but we have gone rather further than we were asked to do originally. We have really tried to get over an interim period before carrying out the pledge I gave on behalf of the Government.
1374 It is said that we have treated the old age pensioners very badly, and that we have paid only £1 per head per annum. We are, however, paying a little more than that for supplementary pensions alone. That does not bring in the old age pensioners over 70 and it does not bring in the 10s. a week to which we contribute over the wider field. It is thus quite misleading to say that we are contributing only £1 per head to the old age pensioners. It is far more than that. When we come to deal with this thing finally, it is the unanimous view, whatever may have been thought of the Government speeches, that it has to be a contributory system, and universal at that. While the clamour for pensions may rise, when you come to pick up how much you are going to carry on contributions, there may be a violent storm the other way. I have had some experience of increases in contributions, and I have not always had unanimous resolutions. We have unemployment, pensions and all kinds of things which have to be brought within this scheme, and when we bring it in, we really have to measure how much these contributions, or social service tax, which is what it will amount to, will be. We cannot quite measure the ability of the wage worker, or how much he can carry in the circumstances of the moment. We shall be back to normal hours, to standard wages and to a different standard, since overtime and the rest of it are involved. When you come to work it out and put too much on one and not enough on another, you do not get a balanced scheme. Then there is the amount that the State has to carry.
I make bold to declare, what Sir William Beveridge has to admit in his Report, that I cannot see a contributory pension carried which would entirely wipe out supplementation in some form and still give a standard of life necessary to meet the needs of the people. I think it is better to state that. Therefore, this Bill and the Regulations that will follow, have to be designed to fit in, administratively, with. the general scheme that will have to be evolved. Speaking for the Committee which is handling this problem I may say that the changes we are making administratively, with regard to these widows, as far as we can make them, bring a good deal of order out of chaos. We transfer, for instance, the widows with children from 200 local authorities, and put them under the Assistance Board. Anyone who 1375 has a knowledge of State administration knows that if you get your contributory pensions, your old age pensions and your supplementary pensions gradually transferred to one Department, it makes it easier to carry out your final task. [Interruption.] I assure hon. Members you cannot do it all at once in the middle of a war—
§ Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)
Is there any reason why widows without children should not go into it?
§ Mr. Bevin
Yes, because the widow without children is very much in the position of the spinster, and it is very difficult to deal with one without the other, upon which the whole basis of this transference has to take place. I do not want the task—and I am sure the House would not like to impose it upon us—of going into the whole problem of the rights and the transference of all Poor Law officers at this stage. It was a difficult task enough when the transference had to be done under the Poor Law Act of 1929. It is simpler administratively to leave it, where you have like with like, under one administration, temporarily, provided that the basis of assessment is applicable to the two alike. Therefore we have taken the line, without having to increase the staff—which the hon. Member for Abertillery complains of—that we can now transfer these widows and children without disturbing the man-power in administration too much. These things have been gone into with very great care. This is only a small Bill, no bigger than the proverbial servant's baby. [Interruption.] I am not a judge. I leave it to my hon. Friend with his superior knowledge.
§ Mr. Messer
Will my right hon. Friend make the point clear about the widows? I deal with a large number of widows who come to public assistance. Does he mean that for one widow to come to public assistance, and draw a pension as well as public assistance, is more complicated than a widow going to the Post Office and drawing the whole of her pension and supplementary pension?
§ Mr. Bevin
No, because you are already assessing her at the Poor Law, and you will assess her in future on the new basis, and that is all.
Let me put one other point which I did not want to raise. It has been said that 1376 we ought to give an increase to people who are not at work. I want my hon. Friends to think that out very carefully. All kinds of things come into the calculation of need. I have gone very carefully into this work test, and I am not too keen to introduce another form of means test in trying to deal with a comparatively small problem of this character. That will have to be hammered out in great detail when we get to the basis of the pensions which Beveridge recommends will only be paid on retirement from work, and I venture to suggest that when the Regulations under such an Act come out they will provide a very big opportunity for discussion on how they should operate. I have tried to_study this thing in all its bearings and its repercussions. I am not anxious to introduce new precedents singling out women particularly for that kind of treatment in contrast with men retiring from work. When the subject has to be dealt with on that basis, I am afraid both classes will have to be dealt with in the same set of Regulations. Therefore, we did not try to deal with that point in this Bill.
§ Mr. Buchanan
A number of women with children have been left out of the thing, and I was wondering whether on some future occasion the right hon. Gentleman could not allow us to specialise on that point, which raises an important issue.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
Is it not a fact that all supplementary pensions paid up to date have been paid only to men not at work?
§ Mr. Grenfell
I hope that my right hon. Friend is not making difficulties, because all we have asked is that some additional payment should be made to the man in need. What is the answer to that?
§ Mr. Bevin
I think the settlement or the vote which was taken last year. The 1377 Government made their position perfectly clear. We had that out last year, and hon. Members voted then as they will probably vote to-day. The fact is that with the 6s. rent basis, the basis we have introduced in the last two years, we gave our answer last year, and I cannot give any pledge. [Interruption.] I beg the hon. Member's pardon; it is in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I made it perfectly clear, and the hon. Member who put the two points to me accepted that position and asked that those points should be dealt with in this Session. The remainder of the whole problem of pensions was then left to the bigger scheme, when the amounts will be determined by the contributions and everything else.
|Division No. 20.||AYES.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Critchley, A.||Guy, W. H.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Culverwell, C. T.||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Sir C. M.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hely Hutchinson, M. R|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Davidson, Viscountess (H'm'l H'mst'd)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N.E.)|
|Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ.)||De Chair, Capt. S. S.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Apsley, Lady||Donner, Squadron-Leader P. W.||Hicks, E. G.|
|Assheton, R.||Douglas, F. C. R.||Hill, Prof. A. V.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Balfour, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. H.||Drewe, C.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Dugdale, Major T. L. (Richmond)||Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Dunn, E.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Beechman, N. A.||Ede, J. C.||Hudson, Sir A. (Hackney, N.)|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Hughes, R. Moelwyn|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Edwards, Walter J. (Whitechapel)||Hulbert, Wing-Commander N. J.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Etherton, Ralph||Hurd, Sir P. A.|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Fermoy, Lord||Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Fildes, Sir H.||Isaacs, G. A.|
|Brass, Capt. Sir W.||Foot, D. M.||Jeffreys, General Sir G. D.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Frankel, D.||Jennings, R.|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Fraser, Lt.-Col. Sir Ian (Lonsdale)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.|
|Burden, T. W.||Galbraith, Comdr. T. D.||Keir, Mrs. Cazalet|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Gammans, Capt. L. D.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's.)|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'broke)||Key, C. W.|
|Campbell, J. D. (Antrim)||Gibbins, J.||Kimball, Major L.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)||Goldie, N. B||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.|
|Cary R. A.||Cower, Sir R. V.||Lamb, Sir J Q.|
|Cazalet, Col. V. A.||Graham, Capt. A. C.||Lawson, J. J.|
|Challen, Flight-Lieut. C.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Channon, H.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Levy, T.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Linstead, H. N.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Loftus, P. C.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.|
|Colindridge, F.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M. (Altrincham)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Oliver|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Grimston, R. V.||Mabane, W.|
|Cook, Lt.-Col. Sir T. R. A. M.(N'flk, N.)||Groves, T. E.||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Islington, N.)||Macdonald, Captain Peter (I. of W.)|
§ was to be dealt with in a comprehensive manner, that the amounts and contributions and everything else had got to be settled. From the supplementary point of view that course was adopted then, and the only points left over have now been covered in this Bill, and the Government do not propose to withdraw it, whatever the protests may be. In the interests of the widows with children we propose to proceed.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Does what the right hon. Gentleman has just said mean that until a comprehensive scheme is produced—and no time is stated for its production—there will be no further increase in old age pensions?
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 232; Noes, 61.
|McEntee, V. la T.||Rankin, Sir R.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|McKie, J. H.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Thomas, I. (Keighley)|
|Making, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.||Rickards, G. W.||Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)|
|Mander, G. le M.||Ridley, G.||Thorne, W.|
|Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Ritson, J.||Thorneycroft, Maj. G. E. P. (Stafford)|
|Marlowe, Lt.-Col. A.||Robertson, Rt. Hon. Sir M. A. (Mitcham)||Thurtle, E.|
|Marshall, F.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Touche, G. C.|
|Mathers, G.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Medlicott, Colonel Frank||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Salt, E. W.||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)|
|Messer, F.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Walker, J.|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Montague, F.||Selley, H. R.||Waterhouse, Capt, C.|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)||Shakespeare, Sir G. H.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's)||Shaw, Copt W. T. (Forfar)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Westwood, J.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Silkin, L.||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Capt. C. E.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)|
|Muff, G.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Naylor, T. E.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||Willink, H. U.|
|Nicholson, Captain G. (Far[...]ham)||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Wilmot, John|
|Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.||Windsor-Clive, Lt.-Col. G.|
|Paling, W.||Southby, Comdr. Sir A. R. J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Palmer, G. E. H.||Spearman, A. C. M.||Wise, Major A. R.|
|Peaks, Rt. Hon. O.||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. Oliver||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir K. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Pearson, A.||Storey, S.||Woodburn, A.|
|Petherick, Major M.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Wragg, H.|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Strickland, Capt. W. F.||York, Major C.|
|Price, M. P.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray & Nairn)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Procter, Major H. A.||Studholme, Captain H. G.|
|Pym, L. R||Summers, G. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Radford, E. A.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Mr. Boulton and Mr. J. P. L.|
|Raikes, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M.||Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. Sir F. H.||Thomas.|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Mort, D. L.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)||Murray, J. D. (Spennymoor)|
|Barr, J.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Foster, W.||Parker, J.|
|Bevan, A.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Gallagher, W.||Roberts, W.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Granville, E. L.||Shinwell, E.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Grenfell, D. R.||Sloan, A.|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Hardie, Agnes||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Buchanan, G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Horabin, T. L.||Stephen, C.|
|Chater, D.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Stokes, R. R.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Loverseed, J. E.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Cove, W. G.||McGovern, J.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Dagger, G.||Mack, J. D.||Thorneycroft, H. (Clayton)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McKinley, A. S.||Walkden, E. (Doncaster)|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||MacLaren, A.||White, H. (Derby, N.E.)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Wilson, C. H.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Dobbie, W.||Maxton, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Silverman and Mr. Tinker.|
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill Committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for the next Sitting Day.—[Major Sir James Edmondson.]