§ At the end of Section one of the principal Act there shall he added the following Subsection:—1906
§ (6) No grant from this fund shall he made to a member of the House of Lords.—[Sir C. MacAndrew.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Sir C. MacAndrew
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Clause can apply only to Members of the House of Lords who have been Members of the House of Commons. I am fortified in my Amendment by the finding of the Select Committee which reported last year. I will read the relevant paragraph:Your Committee have considered the question whether or not former Members of the House of Commons who have become Members of the House of Lords should be eligible for grants from the Fund, if fulfilling the conditions laid down in the Act. Your Committee are of the opinion that in no circumstances should a grant from this Fund be made to Members of the House of Lords.The Amendment stands not only in my name, but in the names of all the trustees. The point is a very simple one. As the Committee knows, the names of all beneficiaries are kept secret. That being so, if we were helping Members of another place and a constitutional question arose, it might make the position very awkward. If I may read a line or two from the evidence that I gave to the Select Committee, I think it will make the point perfectly clear.I did have a certain amount of worry. The difficulty was resolved because the income of the man in question was over the amount laid down in the Act. In the case of a Member of the House of Lords applying for a pension, it was felt that if the House of Commons were subsidising Members of the House of Lords, supposing it grew to very large dimensions, it would be awkward and it would raise a constitutional issue. What would be the position if the House of Commons were in a position to say to Members of the House of Lords, 'If you do not do this, we do not give you your benefit?'.Because under the Act all these grants are to be reviewed annually, and whether or not any threat or suggestion of any kind is made, if a man in another place were in receipt of a grant and a clash arose between the two Houses and he knew that his £225 could be cut off, it might become awkward. If the House of Commons wishes to say that Members of the House of Lords should receive grants, that takes the responsibility away 1907 from me and my hon. Friends. I should like a decision on this. I am not prepared to be responsible for a situation which may lead to a crisis which would far outweigh any importance which I would ever hold in this place. I think the matter is perfectly simple.
§ Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite
I hope the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will see his way to accept the new Clause, on grounds somewhat different from those advanced by my hon. and gallant Friend. I am not going into the more delicate details of this matter, but another place has now become a dumping ground for Ministerial failures. I hope the Home Secretary will contain himself—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I have not ruled that it was out of Order, but even though a remark is in Order it may not be desirable.
§ Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite
May I substitute for "dumping ground" the words "goal of all true demagogues under Socialism." I was about to say that I hoped the Home Secretary would contain himself in his disappointment over his refutation by his party the other night. I rose only to make the practicable suggestion that if their Socialist Lordships find themselves under financial stress owing to their unexpected promotion, surely the solution of the difficulty would be for their Lordships to start their own pensions fund. I cannot see why this honourable House should have to subscribe to a pensions fund for their noble Lordships in another place. I think that should commend itself to hon. Members in all sections of the Committee. Surely, their Lordships, if they are to be strengthened and sustained by the promotion of hon. Gentlemen opposite—I will not go into particularisation—by the promotion of those who, to put it mildly, have been failures here, either financially or otherwise—because the hon. Member 1908 for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards) said only yesterday that the Front Bench opposite is peopled by those who, owing to failure to become capitalists have become Ministers—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I have perhaps given the hon. and gallant Member more latitude than I should have done. May I ask him now to address himself to the new Clause?
§ Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite
But this new Clause suggests that this House should subsidise its ex-Members who go to another place. I have given some reasons why elevation takes place under the present dispensation. I am sorry if it is out of Order to refer to the present Government. I would have thought that was very much in Order. However, I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Beaumont. But if we have now reached a stage at which another place has got into such straits that it is no longer self-supporting—a drastic comment on Socialism—can it not have its own pensions fund? I hope the Financial Secretary will accept the new Clause.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
The hon. and gallant Member has been needlessly offensive. The point put by the right hon. and gallant Member for Ayr and Bute Northern (Sir C. MacAndrew) is a perfectly good one and it is one which the Government have considered. The Government have, however, come to the conclusion that the point really is a thin one. To begin with, those who have been members of the House for the requisite time, which is at least ten years, and have subscribed during the whole of that period to this Fund ought not lightly to be robbed of their rights. The mere fact that a Member goes upstairs, should not in itself disqualify him from coming to the trustees and getting help if he has fallen on hard times. If the new Clause were accepted, it would prevent any such individual ever getting any help from this fund, although he might by the time he needed it have ceased for many years to be an active Member of either House. It would also rob his eldest son of any call on the Fund after his death. We think that this would be drastic and on occasion unfair; the trustees might feel that they were fettered in a way in which they ought not to be.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
As we read it, it may be wrong, it would preclude his eldest son. I am glad of the assurance that the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not wish to exclude an orphan child of a Member who goes to House of Lords. But we do not base our view that it would be wiser for the Committee not to accept the new Clause on this ground although we think that it is a sufficient one in many ways. It does seem to us that the constitutional argument for excluding the ex-Members of this House (who happen to be Peers) from the benefits of this Fund is rather thin. As I understand the hon. and gallant Gentleman's argument, it is that a peer who draws from this fund might feel obliged to vote in a particular way in another place. It is, however, not the Government who would be providing the money. In fact, only the trustees would know to whom payments were being made. It seems to us to be very far-fetched to imagine that a member of the House of Lords, who previously had been a Member of the House of Commons, and who was drawing the small amount which is possible under this Bill or its predecessor, could be made to vote in some way which was desired or forced upon him by the Government. The Government would have nothing to do with it, and would not even know who were drawing the money. We think the constitutional issue is not a valid one; as the Members concerned would have subscribed to the Fund, we hope that the Committee on a free vote will reject this new Clause.
§ Captain Crookshank
I am rather surprised at the right hon. Gentleman's speech, because he said once or twice that it did not seem right "to us" to do this or that. Again I say, who is "us"? This is a House of Commons matter. We are very much guided by the Report of the Select Committee, which unanimously decided, as will be seen in paragraph 32 on page 10, that this should not 1910 be done. All, therefore, that my hon. and gallant Friend's Clause does is to put into words the recommendation of the Select Committee.
The right hon. Gentleman says the point is a thin one. It does not seem to me to be a thin one at all, for the Select Committee, having heard the evidence, came to the conclusion it was undesirable that members of the other place, if after some years time they fell upon evil days, while still able to sit in that place should draw upon the Pension Fund of this House. The whole object of the Fund, as I thought it, was really to help ex-Members of this House and ex-Members of this House, in words, do not mean Members of another House. It means an hon. Member or an hon. Lady no longer connected with Parliament at all.
§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North) indicated dissent.
§ Captain Crookshank
The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) shakes his head, but I do not think, if I cast my mind back to when this was first instituted, it was ever intended to deal with any except those Members of Parliament—
§ Mr. Pritt
Since the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has put the question to me, my recollection was that it was people who were no longer Members of this House. Surely, if they happen to become Members of another House, where they are not paid, they should not be deprived of expectations as a result of having sat long years here and listened to the right hon. and gallant Member.
§ Captain Crookshank
Heaven forbid that that should be one of the reasons for getting a pension. I disagree with the hon. and learned Member. I thought on the whole—and most hon. Members were here when the Measure was originally enacted—that it was made for those who had spent long years of service in this House and afterwards fell upon what the right hon. Gentleman called "evil days." It may be that some people of a more extreme type may have the feeling that "evil days" is exactly the same as becoming Members of another place, but that is not the normal acceptance of promotion elsewhere. It 1911 does seem to me that it raises a possible predicament between the two Houses, and I should like the views of a constitutional lawyer on this. We do not even recognise the other place. We call it "the other place" and we do not put it any higher than that. What they do and what we do in these matters have nothing to do with each other.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
That puts the whole thing in a nutshell. If we do not recognise them, it would be strange that we should put something about them into the Bill.
§ Captain Crookshank
I would not say that. I say that when you have set up a Select Committee and all the Members agree irrespective of party, as will be seen by the names on the new Clause, it should be made clear beyond peradventure that in this Bill we are not going to make any grants if it happens that ex-Members of this House become Members of another place. It seems that it is an important constitutional point.
This is a purely House of Commons point. It would be a great pity if the House at this hour were to go against the recommendations of the Select Committee after it heard all the evidence. There are pages of it but I do not propose to read them now. It would be a pity to do that when they, having heard all that evidence, came to the conclusion that those who are pensioners, whoever they may be—no-one knows except the trustees—if they become members of another place subsequently, should not draw upon the fund. It seems to be that the original idea was for a pensions fund for hon. Members and that, therefore, it is completely inapplicable for such persons as become Members of Parliament by becoming Lords of Parliament. They are then Members of Parliament again by all constitutional right. Lords are as much Members as we are. We may put "M.P." after our names and they do not, but they are Members of Parliament too.
Therefore it seems completely ridiculous that Members of Parliament in another place should be eligible for pensions which Members of Parliament ex hypothesi are not eligible for in this House, because they are still Members of Parliament in the House of Commons: that is the matter in a nutshell. In view of the strong and 1912 unanimous recommendation of the Select Committee, and as this new Clause is in the names of those concerned, I hope that the House tonight will not put itself in the slightly ridiculous position of possibly, in the future, giving a grant to Members in another place and therefore making it unwittingly awkward for such Members, when they become peers, in regard to the way they exercise their votes in that House. It seems to me that the matter is crystal clear and I hope there may not be a Division about it.
§ Mr. Pritt
I should have thought that there was some confusion of thought in reasoning, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman does, that here is an Act which says, "If you have been in the House of Commons for 10 years and you are in need of money, then you may apply to the Fund and you may get something"; and at the same time to look upon it as saying. "You may happen also to have gone to another place and are therefore Members of Parliament. Why should that make any difference when you are seeking to draw upon the Pension Fund gathered by Members of this House?" I should have thought that there was a complete confusion in suggesting that there was anything unconstitutional in that.
There is a more practical and reasonable matter. It might be desirable that in another place two-thirds of the Members might have to vote upon something on which ex hypothesi this House has already expressed an opinion, and they might be going to vote against the view expressed by the majority of this House. Surely it is a little odd that a number of Members should have that awkward and delicate duty—as when a Bill for the complete nationalisation of the land might have to come before a House half of whom were landowners.
§ Colonel Ropner (Barkston Ash)
As a member of the Select Committee, I want to assure the House that the Committee were unanimous in their view that the Members of the House of Lords should not share any part of this Pension Fund. I think it is a little difficult that the new Clause is proposed from this side of the Committee and is opposed by the Minister from that side. It may be a little difficult for all Members to appreciate that this really is a free vote—a question about which we ought to make up our own minds quite apart from party ties. 1913 The hon. and gallant Member for Gains-borough (Captain Crookshank) has already reminded the Committee that the Select Committee, formed from all parties, was unanimous in its recommendation, but may I draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the new Clause has been proposed by the Chairman of the Trustees and is supported by all the other Trustees among whom there are members of all three parties. It seems to me—though I find it rather hard to give a concrete reason—that there is something wrong about a Member of the other place receiving a pension from this House, just as I would think there was something wrong for any Member of this House to receive a pension from the other place. I suggest that if Members of the other place want to benefit from any sort of pension arrangements, they ought to establish a Pension Fund in the other place.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)
I wish to make two short points in support of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gains-borough. One, I think, hon. Members in all sections of the Committee who were in the last House will confirm. It is a point which, I think, gives some relevant guidance on this matter, though I do not suggest that it is in any way conclusive. When the proposal was originally made to establish this Members' Fund, the first proposal was that the Fund should be composed of the contributions that we all make and also of gifts from any member of the outside public who liked to contribute, and there were a number of public men who might have done so. But the more the matter was thought about and discussed the more it was thought, I think in every section of the House, that it was very undesirable that the Fund should not be wholly raised
§ by this House and by former Members and be a domestic matter of this House. I am not suggesting for a moment that that is conclusive, but it does show how little this House would like it if the Fund were in any way formed with outside support. Is it not likely that the other House will have similar views about the undesirability of its members looking for any help of this nature from outside sources?
§ I hope that hon. Members in all quarters will see that there is some force in that. It would raise rather undesirable features in both Houses, and for that reason should be avoided. The only other point I wish to raise is in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary. He said that the trustees might at some time desire to exercise their discretion in this way. It seems to me that that is a very surprising argument when all the existing trustees are asking the Committee to relieve them of having such a discretion. They are asking for it to be provided by the law of the land that they shall not have such discretion. Anyone who has ever exercised the functions of a trustee knows that it is sometimes quite useful not to have certain discretions, for thus you exclude many undesirable applications. You avoid exciting false hopes in a number of people who might be tempted to apply. On the grounds of the Committee's report, of the unanimous desire of the existing trustees not to have any such discretion, of the desire of this House that the Fund should not be contributed to by any outside source, and the possibility that similar feelings will operate in another place, I hope for all those reasons that the House will accept this new Clause.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 46; Noes, 48.1915
|Division No. 148.]||AYES||[1.15 a.m.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Howard, Hon. A.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Bossom, A. C||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Bowen, R.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T||Kinley, J.||Studholme, H. G|
|Butcher, H. W||Lambert, Hon. G.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Channon, H.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O E.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|De la Bère, R.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Willougbby de Eresby, Lord|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Maclay, Hon. J. S.|
|Drewe, C.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Duthie, W. S.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Colonel Ropner and|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Lieut.-Commander Gurney|
|Hare, Hon, J. H. (Woodbridge)||Ramsay, Maj. S.||Braithwaite.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V||Holman, P.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Baird, J.||Hoy, J.||Snow, J. W.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Jay, D. P. T.||Soskice, Sir Frank|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Jenkins, R. H.||Symonds, A. L|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Moyle, A.||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. J. T. (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Evans, John (Ogmore)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Foot, M. M.||Pearson, A.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Pritt, D. N.||Williams, R. W. (Wigan)|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Woodburn, A.|
|Gunter, R. J.||Rankin, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Mrs. Freda Corbett and|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Mr. George Porter.|
Question put, and agreed to.