(1) The administrative expenses of any local or joint committee ( including the expenses of any sub-committee thereof), to an amount approved by the Minister shall, instead of being defrayed in manner provided by Section one of the Naval and Military War Pensions, etc. ( Administrative Expenses) Act, 1917 ( hereinafter referred to as " the Administrative Expenses Act"), be as from the first day of April, nineteen hundred and nineteen, defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament.
(2) Every local committee and every joint committee shall submit for the approval of the Minister an estimate of the administrative expenses proposed to be incurred by the committee for any prescribed period, and may from time to time submit to him supplementary estimates.
The Minister shall consider all estimates submitted to him for his approval under this Section, and shall, if and so far as he considers any such estimate reasonable, approve the estimate.
(3) For the purposes of the provisions of this Section the administrative expenses of a local or joint committee shall include travelling expenses and compensation for loss of remunerative time in the case of members of the committee or any sub-committee thereof calculated in accordance with Regulations made by the Minister subject to the approval of the Treasury.
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words
This first Amendment which stands in my name is one about which I believe there is some misapprehension. Some idea seems to exist that it is framed in a spirit of hostility towards the Pensions Ministry. That is not the case. It is an entirely friendly Amendment. The misapprehension also is that this Amendment has something to do with the scale of pensions. It has not; it has merely to do with the administration expenses of the local committees. It has for its sole object the enabling of local committees to raise themselves to a higher degree of efficiency even if that entails some expenditure over and above the maximum allowed by the Ministry of Pensions. It is quite possible that in certain cases the Ministry of Pensions, for reasons which may be perfectly sound from the general point of view, may not see its way to allow to certain local committees grants on a higher scale than the scale allowed to other local committees, yet it may be in the interests of the full efficiency of certain committees, notably in our great cities, that extra expenditure shall be undertaken. If this extra expenditure is undertaken over and above the estimate accepted by the Ministry of Pensions, then the individual members of the committee will be personally responsible for any items which may be disallowed. The only other course is for local committees to be allowed to obtain if they can the consent of the county council, the city council, or other local authority which has funds, to the spending of a certain amount over and beyond the estimates accepted by the Ministry of Pensions and to be recouped for that expenditure out of the local funds. Anybody who knows how jealously local authorities guard their local funds knows that it is in the highest degree improbable that local authorities would grant these sums to cover extra expenditure unless there were good and valid local reasons for it, even although the Pensions Ministry dealing with the broad general principle might not have allowed it. The local authority would, of course, be acting, in granting any such sum, in the interest of or for the convenience of local residents. Assuming that the local authority saw fit to offer to defray these extra expenses which the local war pensions committee desire, a further formality would have to be gone through—I think it would be merely a formality in most cases—and that is the local authority would have to obtain the consent of the Local Government Board. There, again, I believe there is a little misunderstanding. Some hon. Members seem to think that that procedure might involve conflict between the Ministry of Pensions and the Local Government Board. I submit that nothing of the kind would occur. If there was any dispute or argument, it would be dispute and argument between the local authority which was finding the money and the Local Government Board. There is really no reason why the Local Government Board and the Pensions Ministry should ever come into contact over the matter, much less have anything between them which might cause friction."But the council of any county or borough or urban district for whose area a local committee has been established may, with the consent of the Local Government Board or the Secretary for Scotland, as the case may be, make such payments as they think fit to supplement the amount approved by the Minister towards the administrative expenses of any such local committee, district committee, or sub-committee, and any such supplementary payments may be made out of any fund or rate out of which the expenses of the council making the rate are payable."
I am very anxious that we should, as far as possible, come to an agreement on the main features of this Bill. The Ministry, as I promised when I spoke on the Second Reading, has held conferences with some of the Gentlemen who take a particular interest in pensions, and we have agreed to a certain number of Amendments. I do not say at the moment that there has been any sort of bargain and that no other Amendments have to be moved, but I think as an evidence of the intentions of the Ministry it is only necessary to look at the Order Paper and see the very large number of Amendments the Ministry have put down in order to carry out the views expressed to them by various critics. I cannot accept this Amendment. It would enable the local committees, if they so desired after they had submitted their estimates to us, and after we had approved of the same, to bring forward a supplementary estimate and to submit it not to us, but to the council of the borough or district in which the committee was situated, and if they could persude the council to pass the estimate the council would have to refer to the Local Government Board. In that way they would get a sort of supplementary estimate passed by another Government Department over and above what we had authorised. I submit that if any estimate for which we have given sanction proves to be insufficient, the proper course for the Committee to take is to do what is provided for in the next words of the Bill, namely "from time to time submit supplementary estimates." That being so, I maintain that they should submit their supplementary estimates to us, and not endeavour to get a provisional amount from another source. These administration expenses are either on a proper scale or they are not. If they are on a proper scale they will be approved by us. If they go outside what is reasonable and proper, they ought not to be allowed. On the point as to whether there would be trouble between one Government Department and another, I suggest that it would be most inconvenient and most unprecedented to approach one Government Department and then another in the way suggested. We do not think that is proper. If it is a question of meeting any special local requirements; if, for example, it is desired to pay an extra large salary in order to retain the services of a particular man who is regarded as essential to the work, we should certainly take that into consideration, and we should not lay down any hard-and-fast rule, but we cannot admit the principle of going for further funds to another Government Department. We must stand by the principle of the Bill, which is, that the whole cost of the administration should be paid by the State and that the Ministry of Pensions should be the judge as to whether the proposed scales are reasonable or not.
I am much obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend for his conciliatory statement, but I still think there is a little misunderstanding. It is quite true that a local committee may submit a supplementary estimate in case the original estimate be too small, but it can only be submitted for approval, and may be either approved or disapproved. I do not suppose for one moment that my hon. and gallant Friend would lay down the principle that every estimate, supplementary or otherwise, submitted by the local war pensions committee should be accepted by the Ministry of Pensions. Therefore we are face to face with this, that it is quite probable that a local war pensions committee may submit an estimate or supplementary estimate in excess of what the Ministry of Pensions considers reasonable. It is only in cases like that where a local war pensions committee could with any reasonableness approach the local authority and ask them for a Grant to enable them to carry out the scheme up to the high standard of the locality, and it is to guard against that particular contingency that this Amendment is deliberately offered. This Amendment is not altogether mine. It has been agreed to and pressed by the conference of local committees which met at Birmingham recently, comprising all the largest and most important local committees in Great Britain, and as it comes from such an important body I do ask my hon. and gallant Friend if he cannot reconsider the matter, particularly if words could be inserted to make it clear that the danger which he suggests would be avoided. I do not suggest for a moment that, if the Ministry of Pensions say that there is a line of action to which they distinctly object and which they will not authorise, the pensions committee could, as suggested, go by a side-wind to another Government Department and defeat the Pensions Ministry. But if the Pensions Ministry say, "We approve of the principle which you are endeavouring to carry out, but we cannot for certain reasons give you all the money you want to carry out that particular thing of which we approve," then surely it would be possible for the Pensions Ministry to adopt some such course as that suggested in the Amendment. I would, therefore, ask the hon. and gallant Member whether he would not accept this Amendment with the insertion of some such words after "but" as "unless the Pensions Ministry object," or "with the consent of the Pensions Ministry." There would be nothing unreasonable in that.
I beg to move, in Subsection (3), after the word "time" ["remunerative time"], to insert the words
The Clause provides that the administrative expenses of local committees shall include travelling expenses and compensation for loss of remunerative time." This is a small Amendment in some respects, but it involves a fairly large principle. It does not affect committees in urban localities, but it certainly does in the county areas. If a man has to devote, as men are invited to devote by the Ministry, time for the purposes of this committee, and are to have travelling expenses, you require to enlarge the words so as to cover the whole of the monetary loss. Those local war pensions committees are made up of representative bodies, among whom are trade unionists. The principle has already been accepted with regard to a great many of them, and I invite the hon. and gallant Gentleman in charge of the Bill to make his words inclusive, so that if the Ministry really do desire that type of man for the committee, there will be no monetary loss entailed on him."and reasonable day and night subsistence allowances."
I cannot see my way to accept this Amendment As my right hon. Friend has rightly said, we already provide travelling expenses and compensation for loss of remunerative time, but it is a very unusual thing to provide also subsistence allowances. I am informed—I am not bringing any general charge against the local war pensions committees—that there is a danger in the case of some committees, if this general charge for subsistence is allowed, that it may lead to unnecessary delay of journeys in order to secure allowances. But I realise that there is a real difficulty and that there is hardship in certain cases, and we have been in communication with the Treasury on the subject, and I think without any general provision like this being put into the Bill we shall be able, by the arrangements which we have made with the Treasury, to pay subsistence allowance in the case where owing to great distance and so forth it is really necessary for members to stop over the night. In those circumstances I do not think it necessary to insert the words in the Bill. We are aware of the difficulty and think we can make administrative arrangements to meet any real case of hardship.
If my hon. and gallant Friend assures me of that I will withdraw my Amendment. What was in my mind was this, I remember quite distinctly that I was asked to do a bit of work for the Government, and because I was asked to do that work I was offered a pound a day subsistence allowance. It does not cost me at any time a pound a day to live, and it seems extraordinary that in the average case a pound a day subsistence allowance should be given to Members of this House and other people while on Government business, while you may not get the man you want to do this work because you do not make a subsistence allowance. But as my hon. and gallant Friend says that he has made arrangements with the Treasury to cover this, I will withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, at the end, to add the words
The Bill provides that administrative expenses shall include travelling expenses and compensation for loss of remunerative time in the case of members of the committee or any sub-committee thereof. My Amendment proposes that administrative expenses shall include travelling expenses of persons not members of the committee or any sub-committee where the Ministry is satisfied that such persons have special experience of the work and give their services regularly. I hope that my hon. Friend will accept this Amendment, in order, at any rate, to give the Ministry the power of allowing expenses of this kind if he desires to do so. It will relieve what is a very serious and difficult position, in London, at any rate. There is a large number of voluntary workers who attend the local offices on two, three, four, or even more days a week. They interview applicants, advise them as to their rights, act as visitors, and so on. Many of them have been working since the beginning of the War and have gained a very large experience, and are in very close touch with the families of soldiers, and it would be a very serious matter if we lost their services. If they are members of committees or sub-committees, they can receive travelling expenses and compensation for loss of remunerative time, but if they are not members of a committee or sub-committee they can receive nothing. So that one gets this rather unjust position, that a person who only attends a committee for an hour or so a week gets travelling expenses, but people who give days to work in the local office cannot even get their travelling expenses. Many of these voluntary workers would not accept any expenses, but it so happens that now we have a considerable number of people who are feeling the pinch of the War who are put to considerable out-of-pocket expenses by having to go to different parts of London in doing this work, and while they desire to continue to make a free gift of their services to the public, they do ask whether this small concession should not be made. All I ask is that my hon. Friend should take power to do something in that direction if he considers it desirable. He would certainly save money by it. It would be quite impossible to replace many of these persons by officers, either paid or unpaid, because they will not have experience in the work."and may include travelling expenses of persons not members of the committee, or any subcommittee where the Ministry is satisfied that such persons have special experience of the work and give their services regularly."
I am not in favour of this Amendment. The hon. Member who moved it may have reasons which he has not given why it should be accepted, but the reasons which he has given are not sufficient. I think that probably the member of a committee or sub-committee who is appointed either by the local authority or is co-opted ought to have his expenses paid, or it may be legitimate that an individual who represents an organisation like that of soldiers or who has some status of that sort should have his expenses paid. But I do protest, in the name of economy—a word which is very seldom heard in these days—that there must be some limit to the payment of expenses out of public funds to all and sundry who give what is called voluntary work. Voluntary work, I understand, to mean work given for which no remuneration is received. I admit that the person who gets no expenses does work which is voluntary in that sense, but I do think that we ought in the public interest to limit the expenses to people who are connected with a committee or represent a large body of people concerned in the work. If we are going to decide that, we should be making a raid on the public purse, which I do not think would be justified.
I am very pleased to find that there is somebody here who still preaches economy. It is not very often that we hear that done in the House at the present time. In reply to my hon. Friend, the Chairman of the London War Pensions Committee, I need hardly tell him that nobody appreciates more than I do the work which is done by a great army of voluntary workers, and especially in London, where it is very difficult to get voluntary workers on the spot, and where very often it is necessary to have public-spirited people who will go where their services are needed. But I would like to point out that at the present moment, in addition to the members of the committees, any voluntary worker can receive travelling expenses when really engaged on the business of the committee. That is to say, if they visit, for instance, a discharged man, or if they go to look after a case of separation allowance, or, while they are actually doing the work of the committee, their expenses are paid. Therefore I think the Amendment merely amounts to this: That it is a request that travelling expenses to and from home should be paid. I do not think that that is a proposition to accept. These people in a very public-spirited manner offer their services, which are understood to include getting from home and going back. May I point out also that no official is allowed to charge expenses to and from his home? It is true that these people are not salaried, but are voluntary workers. But inasmuch as their expenses are now paid when actually on the business of the committee, I do not think we can extend the matter, and therefore I am afraid we cannot accept the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move at the end, to insert
This is a very simple Amendment, which follows very closely upon a similar Clause in connection with the Insurance Act. I think it has been found very beneficial to large numbers of people who take an interest in the administration of the Insurance Act, that they should be able to form a joint association and to attend meetings, and there to exchange experience and views, and in many cases to obtain hints as to how administration could be carried out, not only effectively, but economically. The hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Ashley) is, I gather, impressed with the question of economy, and I suggest that the formation of an association of this kind would lead to economy, It is really a small proposal that war pensions committees may be enabled to form an association, and that any committee may subscribe thereto a sum not exceeding £10 in any one year, and may defray the expenses of not more than four representatives at the meetings of such an association."(4) A war pensions committee may pass as general expenses incurred by them in the execution of their duties any sum not exceeding ten pounds in any one year as a subscription to the funds of any association of war pensions committees which may be formed and whose objects are approved by the Pensions Minister as well as any reasonable expenses of the attendances of representatives, not exceeding in any case four, at meetings of such associations on a scale to be approved by the Pensions Minister."
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give favourable consideration to this Amendment. He will himself know how expenses are allowed in connection with municipal corporations and other bodies when they are meeting together in association. That has been found to be very useful for the purposes of administration. I would point out that in this case the association to which the subscription is to be paid must be one whose objects are approved of by the Pensions Ministry, so that the Ministry will be able to control the kind of association, and it will not simply mean handing out a sum of £10. The limitation on the number of people who may attend is also reasonable, and would form quite a sufficient check on the amount expended.
What is asked in this Amendment is something on the same lines of what has happened in connection with Poor Law associations, and it is suggested that war pensions committees should be in the position to contribute to an association of their own. I think that would do a great deal to coordinate the work and make it similar all over the country. If you allow committees to go about on their own, you are not likely to have that co-ordination which might be brought about by an exchange of views. I can testify to the amount of good done by the Poor Law associations.
The Minister of Pensions is not averse to such a claim, whereby members of local committees could meet together in conference and discuss matters of common interest. As a matter of fact, it has been the practice of my right hon. Friend and myself on many occasions to go to various large centres in the country and call conferences of war pensions committees. I held, too, quite recently one in Edinburgh and one in Inverness, and similar conferences were held in various parts of England. But I am not sure that we can agree to the proposal made in this Amendment, and I do not think that my hon. Friend who moved it quite realises what would happen. He suggests that there should be four representatives of each war pensions committee. There are 325 war pensions committees, and, multiplying by four, that would give you 1,300 representatives. Then probably such an association would hold a number of meetings each year, and that would mean bringing the representatives from very long distances—from Scotland and from Ireland—to some large centre like London or Manchester. I think that would not be a satisfactory arrangement, and I do not think we would be justified in incurring any such expenditure. I do not think it is quite true, as my hon. Friend who moved said, that this proposal is based on what was done in the Insurance Act. What was done in that Act was that the Insurance Commissioners were empowered to appoint an advisory committee, which they did. I would, therefore, suggest to my hon. Friend that we should deal with the question somehow like this: If he were good enough to withdraw his Amendment I should be quite prepared, at the same place, to move an Amendment providing that the Minister of Pensions shall, as soon as may be after the passing of this Act, appoint an advisory committee, consisting of representatives of local committees, to advise and assist him in regard to any matters the administration of which is vested in him, and any expense incurred by the representatives of local committees in attending the meetings of such a committee shall be defrayed out of the administrative expenses of the Ministry. We should be quite willing to accept a proposal in that form. I think an advisory committee such as that would be useful both in enabling the representatives of local committees to meet and also enabling us at the Ministry to profit by their advice and views. I do not think we can accept the proposal in its present form. It would give us far too large a body and would be far too expensive, and generally would not carry out the objects we have in mind.
I imagine there would be no opposition to the institution by the Ministry of an advisory committee. Such a body is useful at the Board of Education and elsewhere. But that is not at all the same thing as that which is suggested by this Amendment. What is aimed at by this Amendment is the authorisation of the payment of reasonable expenses for forming an association of a kind analogous to the Association of Poor Law Authorities, or the Association of Corporations, or the County Councils Association, or the Territorial Associations. One knows by practical experience that they are useful bodies, and although they do make a demand on the time of the persons who attend, yet in the long run they conduce to economy by clarifying the issues and by finding out what are national and what are merely local interests, and in many ways they contribute to the effective working of the local bodies of the country. What I understand hon. Members to ask in this case is to have power, to have the same sort of mutual conference and combination on the part of these committees acting from themselves and by themselves. That is quite a different thing from an advisory committee, which in itself would be a very good thing. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will see that his suggestion is a really different matter. It may be that the words of this Amendment are too wide. No one wants to be going to London or Manchester too frequently, but there ought to be some facilities given, so that this detailed work throughout the country may be properly co-ordinated by the deliberations of a conference or association.
I support the objection to the creation of a special ad hoc committee for this reason. The Association of Municipal Associations and also the County Councils Association have been referred to, but after all the local war pensions committee in both county and borough areas is primarily a committee of the county or borough authority. I presume my hon. Friend opposite really has in his mind the provision of expenses to make it possible for this body to meet.
It is mentioned in the Amendment.
I take it he is more concerned with the provision of the funds to enable the body to meet than he is with the machinery by which it shall. I take it that so long as the bodies do meet and discuss the business he wants, he does not very much mind how it is done, and therefore if the contribution is made through the Association of Municipal Corporations or the County Councils Association, that would meet the case. But I do not rise to discuss that so much as a suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend about the Advisory Committee. I hope that he will not move that without putting it on the Paper, but that he will leave it to the Report stage rather than take it to-night on a manuscript Amendment, as he has suggested, for this reason, that while an Advisory Committee for the purpose of assisting the Ministry of Pensions is in essence a very admirable suggestion, I do not agree that that Advisory Committee should be entirely drawn from the members of the local war pensions committees. There are other bodies which will occur to most Members in the House to-night—and I am sorry there are so few Members present when we are discussing a matter so vital to so large a population in this country. This House has got in the habit of leaving these matters to a very few Members. Those, at any rate, who are here will have in their minds at the moment that various other bodies could with great propriety be agreed to by the Ministry of Pensions so far as these advisory problems are concerned. I have in my mind, for instance, that at the Ministry of Food you have an Advisory Committee composed not only of the retailers and wholesalers, but the consumers, and, obviously, if you are going to have an Advisory Committee, the Ministry of Pensions will not only want representatives of people who administer those pensions, but also representatives of the people to whom they are administered, and I am sure we would desire to see representative men chosen from representative organisations—of which there are at least three large ones in this country—on that committee, as well as the people who administer the pensions. If my hon. and gallant Friend cannot accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend opposite, at any rate he will not, I trust, press his Amendment to-day, but will put it down for the Report stage, so that we can, if necessary, put Amendments to it on the Paper.
I do not think the expenses of such a committee would have to be met by a municipal corporation. They would be the expenses of the committee, and the expenses of the committee have to come, not from the corporation, but must come from the Pensions Ministry. I do not know whether the Minister would consider it right for the Pensions Committee to put in their Estimates such an expense as this. This particular point has been pressed upon me both by provincial and by London members. One of them said to me the other day, "We do not know what other committees are doing," and I notice in the Bill, what I take to be the desire of the Ministry to do by means of their officers, and that is to secure a certain similarity and equality of administration, and I think that equality of administration would be very greatly assisted if members from various parts were permitted to meet in such an association as this. I cannot accept the proposal of the Minister, which I should like to consider quite apart from this Amendment. I cannot admit it at all as an alternative. The hon. Member himself mentioned the number of committees that there are, and said there would be too many to send representatives to an association. But how big is his advisory committee going to be, and how few will be the committees that will have any number upon it? What we desire to secure is that once a year some members of these committees may meet together and gradually be educated upon these points. If the Minister would like this Amendment drawn in a different way, leaving the sums which might be spent entirely to the discretion of the Minister, I would not object to that, or if he would like the number of four reduced; but I hope what he has said is not to be considered quite final in regard to rejecting absolutely this Amendment.
I think the proposal made by my hon. and gallant Friend with regard to an advisory committee may be an excellent proposal in itself, but I am afraid I cannot regard it as a substitution for this. It may be supplementary, but that is a matter for my hon. and gallant Friend to consider. Then I think my hon. and gallant Friend has made a mistake in his calculations when he took the number of local war pensions committees in the country and multiplied them by four, and suggested that that would be the number of representatives who would be attending, because the words of the Amendment are: "not exceeding in any case four." It obviously implies that where the committee was a small committee, the number would be much less than four. In some cases it might only be one, in others two, in other cases three, and it would only, perhaps, be in the case of a very large committee, where they would have eighty members, that four representatives would be sent. Therefore, my hon. and gallant Friend's calculation is really not actuarially correct. As my hon. Friend says, there would be no objection in this Amendment to alter it so as to safeguard against any abuse. Then the scale of expenses as suggested in the Amendment is to be approved by the Pensions Minister. That gives him adequate power to making economical arrangements. I think my hon. and gallant Friend must have been looking at some other Insurance Act than the one to which I referred, because I can assure him that at the meeting of the representatives of the local war pensions committees which met in Birmingham, I had handed in, on notepaper of an insurance committee, the exact words extracted from one of the Insurance Acts which related to an insurance committee association, and I have taken it word for word from that, only altering the necessary words by putting in a war pensions committee instead of an insurance committee and making alterations of that kind. Otherwise it is word for word what appeared in the passage submitted to me. I am very sorry indeed to differ very strongly from my hon. and gallant Friend, but this has been very carefully considered by a number of experts. The names against this Amendment show that the men who have backed it are men who really have some knowledge of the subject, and, in view of the backing which this has in this House and in the country, I am afraid that if my hon. and gallant Friend cannot see his way to accept the Amendment at all in that spirit we shall have to go to a Division.
The discussion which we have had brings out a direct conflict of opinion between what, I think, is the opinion of most Members of the House and of the Ministry. The proposal contained in this Amendment seems to me to be eminently reasonable. Some of the details might be susceptible of alteration, but what it seeks to do is to enable the local pensions committee to charge expenses up to £10 a year, as a sort of subscription, in order that they may form their own association, meet together once or twice a year at a convenient centre, talk over their business, and thereby run their local pensions committee more economically and more efficiently. As has been pointed out, that is done by the County Councils Association, the Territorial Forces Association, and other public bodies, to the great benefit of the public service. That is what the Amendment seeks to do, and it seems to be a very reasonable Amendment. What does my hon. and gallant Friend, representing the Ministry, say? He says, "Oh, no, we cannot agree to that, but we will agree to a committee being set up, by the Ministry of Pensions, mark you, who shall nominate the representatives, and they shall then come together and advise us what ought to be done." That is exactly what I do not want. I do not want the pensions committees or their representatives to be nominated by a Government Department and therefore to be under their control, and practically to be appointed and dismissed by them. I want these pensions committees to be able to assemble together, as and when they will, talk over their mutual business, and try and help each other. That is the difference between the two opinions, and I shall certainly support my hon. Friend in his Amendment.
I think I am speaking the mind of the Labour party in general when I say that the principle embodied in this Amendment is one that would be universally approved, because it gives the idea of a purely democratic representation of the feelings of the community. I feel sure if the hon. and gallant Gentleman who is now in charge of the Bill would accept this Amendment, he would be doing a very great service to the feelings and opinions of the country in general. I know that these representative conferences of bodies of men can speak with authority on these matters, and the consensus of organised opinion that is involved in the matters put before the Pensions Minister certainly ought to have considerable weight, as being authentative, and fully representative of the general opinion of the whole body throughout the country. I think in that case it ought to be accepted by the Ministry that this represents the feeling of the whole country on the general principle involved in a matter of this kind. I do feel that it is so moderate, so considered, so fair, so essentially equitable, that it ought to be accepted by the representative of the Government. I earnestly appeal to him to consider this in all its bearings, and to say, "Well, this is a fair proposition, which is put forward in a most moderate and appealing sense, and I therefore ought to accept it."
I take it as evident that there is a very considerable volume of opinion in the House, coming from different quarters in favour of some such association. Although I do not disguise the fact that we should have preferred the original plan, I am quite willing to endeavour to meet this general consensus of opinion, especially if it will give satisfaction to the great local authorities and to our local committees. Anything that tends to their efficiency, of course, is exactly what we seek, and if they think by coming together and discussing matters, and so forth, that they will be able to improve each other, especially the good committees bringing up the bad ones, the Pensions Ministry can only hope this will be so. I do not think I can accept the Amendment exactly in the form in which it stands, for some of the reasons I have already given, but if my hon. Friend will withdraw it at the present stage I will undertake to put down, after consultation with them, an Amendment based on its principles.
The Committee will welcome the announcement which the hon. and gallant Member just made as to his acceptance of the Amendment in practically similar terms to that on the Paper. I only rise to point out, as was said by the hon. Member for the Kirkdale Division, that in the Insurance Acts we have got an almost exact precedent for this particular Clause. I understand he took the words from the provisions of the last amending Act. I had the honour of moving an Amendment in Committee dealing with this matter which lead to the constitution of an association of insurance committees, which has done splendid work throughout the whole country. It has been a standing example of what can be done by such committees coming together and discussing the difficulties amongst themselves. We all welcome the fact that that is also appreciated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman in charge of the measure, and that he is prepared to meet us on this point. I hope he will secure, in any Amendment which he accepts, the representation direct of the committee themselves, appointed by their own members, to the association in question.
In view of what my hon. and gallant Friend has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.