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Clause 2—(Power Of Minister With Respect To Framing Of Schemes, Appointment, Suspension, Etc, Of Committees)

Volume 110: debated on Wednesday 6 November 1918

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(1) For the purpose of securing the proper exercise and performance in any area of the powers and duties assigned to local committees by the Naval and Military War Pensions, Etc., Act, 1915 (hereinafter referred to as "the principal Act") the Minister may by Order do any of the following things—

  • (a) require the council of any county or borough or urban district to take into consideration any recommendation with respect to the amendment or modification of any scheme regulating the constitution of a committee, and in particular (without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision), require the council of a county to take into consideration any recommendation with respect to the division of the county into districts and the appointment of sub-committees for the districts, and to frame a supplemental scheme to be approved by him for giving effect to the recommendation:
  • (b) require a local committee or a district committee to appoint sub-committees for any special purposes, or for any special parts of their area:
  • (c) require two or more local committees to appoint a joint committee, and determine the powers and duties which are to be delegated to any joint committee:
  • (d) after consultation with the local committees concerned, dissolve any joint committee or any sub-committee:
  • (e) after consultation with the local authorities of the areas in question, provide, by the amalgamation of existing committees or otherwise, for the establishment of a single committee to act for any two or more of the areas for which committees are required to be or may be established under the principal Act, or for an area consisting of any such area or areas and any part of any such area or areas:
  • (f) exercise the power of appointing members of any committee in the case of failure by the council of any county, borough, or district, or by any other body or person, to exercise the power:
  • (g) where he is satisfied, after holding a public local inquiry, that any committee has been negligent in the exercise of its power, or has made default in the performance of its duties, under the principal Act, suspend the committee for such time as may be specified in the Order from the exercise of its functions or from the exercise of such of its functions as are specified in the Order, or declare that the existing members of the committee have vacated their office:
  • (h) where he is satisfied that any member of a committee is habitually absent from meetings of the committee, or is obstructive, or is otherwise not discharging his duties as such member in a satisfactory manner, declare that the member has vacated his office.
  • (2) Any Order made under this Section may contain such suplemental and consequential provisions (including modifications and amendments of the principal Act or any Act amending that Act) as the Minister considers necessary for the purpose of giving full effect to the Order, and in particular in the case of an Order providing for the suspension of a committee may contain provisions for authorising any person to exercise in the place of the committee, while it is so suspended or pending the appointment of a new committee, the functions of the committee or such of those functions as are specified in the Order or for the appointment of new members of the committee, as the case may be.

    (3) If in any case where the Minister has made an Order under this Section any council, committee, or other body, does not within such time, not being less than one month, as may be specified in the Order, comply with the requirements of the Order, the Minister may himself exercise in the place of the defaulting council, committee, or body the powers vested in the council, committee, or body in relation to the matter with respect to which it has made default.

    I beg to move, in Sub-section (1, a), to leave out the words "take into consideration" ["district to take into consideration"], and to insert instead thereof the words

    "frame a supplemental scheme to be approved by him for giving effect to."
    This Amendment is purely drafting, and it has to be taken into conjunction with the other Amendments which I shall move in the subsequent lines of this paragraph. The reason why we wish to leave out these words is simply this: That by a later Amendment at the end of this paragraph it is proposed by my right hon. Friend to insert these words: "The Minister shall not make an order under any of the first five paragraphs of this Sub-section except after consultation with the councils or committees concerned." It is therefore quite unnecessary that we should have it in the Clause, as it is now, that the councils should take into consideration any recommendation that we make, because we are going to consult them in the first instance.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendments made:

    In paragraph ( a), leave out the words, "require the council of a county to take into consideration," and insert instead thereof the words, "as respects the council of a county for giving effect to."

    Leave out the words "and to frame a supplemental scheme to be approved by him for giving effect to the recommendation."

    In paragraph ( b), leave out the words, "or a district committee."

    Leave out the words "for any special purposes or."

    Leave out paragraph ( d).

    In paragraph ( e), leave out the words "after consultation with the local authorities of the areas in question."—[ Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen.]

    I beg to move, in Subsection (1), to leave out paragraph (h).

    If hon. Members will look at the Paper they will see that there are various other Amendments to this particular paragraph. I am not sure that the best way of raising the matter is on my own Amendment. Perhaps, however, quite briefly, I may say that in this paragraph the Ministry of Pensions are taking power to which they are not entitled, and in which they may find themselves very quickly in conflict with the municipal and county authorities. Because the House will remember that the local war pensions committees are actually created by the various urban and district councils of this country. Take, for instance, our big city councils. They appoint the local war pensions committee, and not only so, but they have the right to appoint the great majority of members on the committee. Supposing they wish to continue members which the Ministry think ought not to be continued. It seems to me that the Ministry is inviting trouble which the Ministry might save itself. After the War the municipal authorities will revert to their old custom of electing a third of their number yearly, and therefore the work of the pensions committee will come under review. Any member of the committee who has not done his duty will have to answer for it to the electors. I think the Ministry of Pensions need not invite trouble of this sort. I imagine the hon. and gallant Gentleman on the Front Bench will agree with me that the Ministry already has enough—

    I put it to him that once the soldiers and sailors of this country are demobilised and begin to take an interest in the work of the local war pensions committees in our municipalities and counties, they will take good care that the people elected attend to the work.

    I beg to second the Amendment.

    I am rather in a difficult position in regard to this Amendment. From the point of view of England, Scotland, and Wales I am in agreement with my hon. Friend who moved to leave out this paragraph. Broadly speaking, I am perfectly satisfied that the local war pensions committees in these three countries, England, Scotland, and Wales, will carry out their duties satisfactorily, and do not require a measure of power to be given into the hands of the Ministry to enable the Ministry, without any inquiry, though after consultation, as I see in an Amendment put down by the Ministry, to get rid of a person who is
    "habitually absent from meetings of the committee, or is obstructive, or is otherwise not discharging his duties as such member in a satisfactory manner."
    That is all right. But there is another part of the United Kingdom—Ireland. There, undoubtedly, unless the Ministry is given some power more than they have at present to deal with the local war pensions committees, the discharged soldier will not get the justice to which he is entitled by law. Does the Committee know that within the last week or two—and I believe it is so still—the secretary of the war pensions committee in Dublin was the head of the Sinn Feiners, and head of the Anti-Conscription Committee formed in that city? I put it to hon. Members, How can discharged men in Dublin hope to get justice and their rights if the secretary of the local pensions committee holds views which, I understand, the gentleman to whom I referred does hold, and without fear of contradiction? Therefore, while I quite agree with my hon. Friend that in respect to Great Britain we should not give such large and unrestricted powers into the hands of the Ministry sitting in Whitehall, yet I do earnestly press upon hon. Members that they must not, in giving a decision, forget what is going on in Ireland every day, nor forget the position of the ex-soldier in that country. The position of the ex-soldier in many parts of Ireland is deplorable. He has gone at the risk of offending those about him, and of offending large sections of the population. He has enlisted to fight for our cause. He has estranged his friends. He is cut by his relations. When he comes back he is treated as a pariah in his own district. Nobody will speak to him or give him employment. Unless some such Clause as this is put in on behalf of the Ministry of Pensions, so far as Ireland is concerned, he will not get the pension to which the House of Commons says he is entitled. What I desire the Parliamentary Secretary in his reply to bear in mind is not only the efficient, just, and patriotic committees in Great Britain, but also the other committees in some parts of Ireland—not all—who are not doing justice to the ex-soldier and who do require some stringent action to make them do justice.

    I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh that what we are legislating for is what have been termed the inefficient and bad committees. If all the committees were as good as the majority in the great cities in Great Britain there would be no necessity at all for this Bill. I hope my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment, because it is proposed to alter paragraph (h) as it stands in the Bill. If hon. Members will look at the Notice Paper, they will notice certain Amendments which, I think, will make the paragraph a perfectly proper and workable one. We propose to leave out the words so strongly objected to in the third and fourth lines, "or is obstructive, or is otherwise not discharging his duties as such member in a satisfactory manner," and insert words to the following effect:

    "Where a committee represent to him—"
    that is, the Pensions Minister—
    "that it is desirable with a view to securing the efficient discharge of the committee's functions that some member of the committee should cease to be a member."
    If a committee represents that there is a person on their body who is not doing his work properly, and who is defeating the real work, he may, after he has received and considered the recommendation of the committee, declare that that member has vacated his office. I think if the two Amendments which I have suggested are accepted, the objection to paragraph (h) will disappear. There is in practically all such schemes a provision that where a man absents himself from his duties for six months his place is vacant; and surely we want, in a case of district committees or sub-committees, some power whereby we can get rid of the man who will not attend. The fact that some individual is put on the committee because he is an important man in the neighbourhood, and never comes near the place, but simply prevents someone else coming on, he is an absolute nuisance. I hope my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment, but will allow me to move the Amendments of which I have given notice.

    Of course, I shall be glad to expedite business, and I will not press my Amendment. The point I wish to emphasise is with regard to the other members of the committee; and I think the Ministry of Pensions will find themselves in great trouble if they get into conflict with the members of the municipalities and the county councils, who are put on the committees by law. The case of the co-opted member is a different one. The City Council in Edinburgh, for instance, is not going to take the Minister of Pensions' dicta with regard to the attendance of its members on one of those committees. I agree that often people are co-opted who never take part in the work, and I say, clear them out as much as you like. I do, however, suggest that if my hon. and gallant Friend wants to make a distinction, I shall be satisfied if he will look into the matter between now and the Report stage, and then, perhaps, he will be able to find words which will draw a distinction between the members from representative bodies and those who are co-opted.

    I am quite prepared to accept this proposal with the Amendment suggested. I would point out, however, that in many schemes a provision is made for members of sub-committees as well as of committees to vacate their seats if they are absent for six months. The difficulty often is that members of the municipal authorities who become members of the sub-committees do not attend at all, and I think the Ministry of Pensions will have to use this power with very great discretion.

    I would like to suggest that it would be much better if we put in a time limit forfeiting the seat for non-attendance after being absent from a certain number of meetings.

    May I point out to the hon. Member why we cannot do that? If we put in a time limit a man may just turn up at one meeting and stop a few minutes and then stay away, whereas if we carry my suggestion then we are the judges in the matter.

    I think the Ministry of Pensions would be well advised to put the onus of getting rid of people who did not attend on the committee itself, and I think that would be achieved if after the word "satisfied" were added the words "on the recommendation of the committee." I am afraid this proposal will cause a great deal of unnecessary friction between the Ministry and these committees, and I think my suggestion would prevent the right hon. Gentleman from coming into collision with the representatives of these various bodies. I suggest to the hon. and gallant Member that some such words as I have indicated would meet the situation.

    I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not adopt the suggestion which has just been made, for he can rest satisfied that in ninety-nine cases out of 100 the committee will not recommend that anybody should be removed, and particularly the people we want to see removed from the committee, such as some man or woman of social standing whose object is to show that he or she is doing some work in connection with the administration of the Pensions Act and yet never attends at all. For these reasons I hope the Committee will not listen to the suggestion that has been made. I am also sorry that the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) suggested that this should be applied only to co-opted members. I hope it will apply also to members selected by the municipal authorities, because my experience is that they are the worst attenders. We want men and women on these committees who take a deep interest in the question of pensions, and I do hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not accept the suggestion which has been made by the last speaker.

    I think the Ministry should hear a few words which have been sent to me with regard to this and the previous Sub-section by an influential member of the committee in the borough which I represent. He says,

    "We have got to remember that the Minister will always be responsible to Parliament, and will not be likely to do anything very absurd."
    I could not imagine the Minister recklessly turning out any councillor for Edinburgh with the hon. Member for East Edinburgh in the House. I think it is a great pity that this Clause was introduced in this form, because I believe it has caused more trouble, by leading to misunderstanding in this Bill, than any other Clause. As it is now drawn I think the Committee might very well accept it.

    This proposal is to be extended to members of district committees who are habitually absent. The Amendment as it appears on the Paper only refers to members of local committees.

    If the hon. and gallant Member will look at the Definition Clause he will see that the expression "committee" is defined as including a sub-committee, and the expression "sub-committee" includes a district committee.

    Amendment negatived.

    I beg to move, in Sub-setion (1, h), to leave out the words,

    "is obstructive, or is otherwise not discharging his duties as such member in a satisfactory manner,"
    and to insert instead thereof the words,
    "where a committee represent to him that it is desirable with a view to securing the efficient discharge of the committee's functions that some member of the committee should cease to be a member."

    I have had no answer from the Minister on the point I raised with regard to Ireland, and this seems a very appropriate moment to press my point. We asked that we should only turn out a member where the committee think it is desirable that this member should cease to belong to the committee. That is where it breaks down as regards many bodies in Ireland, because the vast majority of the members of the local war pensions committees are, if not hostile, quite indifferent to the welfare of the soldier, and therefore you will not get from these committees the expression of sympathy which you would get from the committees in Great Britain, and also from many of the committees, I am glad to say, in other parts of the United Kingdom. It is notorious that there are whole districts in Ireland where the local committees do not do their duty by the discharged men, and, therefore, if you put upon those committees who are not doing their duty the sole initiative of starting the idea that any individual member of the committee ought to be got rid of, you will get no result from it. The only thing I can say is that there must be some power given to the Ministry to enable them to deal with the situation which undoubtedly exists in some parts of Ireland. I would ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman if he has made special inquiries with regard to certain parts of Ireland. It will be seen how detrimental to recruiting it is that these discharged men do not get their rights. Therefore, I must ask, on this Amendment, for some information as to how he proposes to deal with the problem of the discharged soldiers' pensions and allowances in some parts of Ireland?

    I should like to point out that the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Ashley) does not seem to have read paragraph (g), which specially provides that where the Minister is satisfied, after holding a public local inquiry, that any committee has been negligent in the exercise of its powers, or has made default in the performance of its duties, under the principal Act, he shall have very drastic powers to act.

    He may

    "suspend the committee for such time as may be specified in the Order from the exercise of its functions or from the exercise of such of its functions as are specified in the Order, or declare that the existing members of the committee have vacated their office."
    I think it is under that that the Minister has to act. He may suspend the committee or declare that existing members of the committee have vacated office. That, I think, is the power.

    9.0 P.M.

    I do not like this attack upon Ireland by my hon. and gallant Friend above the Gangway (Colonel Ashley). I understand his position to be this: That there are in Ireland local war pensions committees which are garrisoned by, as my hon. and gallant Friend said, in one case, Sinn Feiners. I think he said that in one case the secretary of the war pensions committee was a Sinn Feiner, and that the discharged soldiers were afraid they would not get what they were entitled to through these local committees. I have been in Ireland quite recently and I have been in touch with the discharged soldiers in Ireland in three of the biggest centres—in Belfast, Dublin, and Cork—and in only one case did I find there was any difficulty and that was in the case of Cork.

    I would like to point out that however much my hon and gallant Friend may dislike Sinn Feiners—however much any of us may dislike them—after all the public bodies in Ireland are created as the public bodies in this country are created, and so long as they carry out their functions it does not matter whether the man who is in an official position is a Sinn Feiner or anybody else, and the whole thing with which this House is concerned is that the Minister of Pensions, or the hon. and gallant Gentleman who is in charge tonight, is prepared to guarantee to the House and to the nation efficient administration in Ireland. It does not matter in whose hands it is. That is what I want to make clear. We do not want to east any aspersions on any of the committees. I would not mind at all if every secretary was a Sinn Feiner so long as the secretary of the local war pensions committee in any Irish town or county administered what there is to administer to the discharged soldier. If the Ministry of Pensions guarantees the administration, it does not matter what is the channel. Therefore I regret that my hon. and gallant Friend should raise this question and in this way, and suggest on this Clause in paragraph (h) that it is necessary in accepting the Amendment of the Ministry of Pensions that certain exceptions should be made in the case of Ireland.

    I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) for what he has just said. We as a Pensions Ministry are not prepared to draw any invidious distinctions between between different parts of the United Kingdom. It is quite true there are some bad local committees in Ireland, and there are also some very good committees, and there are some very bad local committees even in Great Britain. What we are prepared to do is to take such steps as will enable us to deal with all committees as they should be dealt with. We do not rely exclusively on this paragraph (h). It is quite true you may have a bad committee in Ireland or anywhere else, and it may come to this, that the committee as a whole are not doing their duty, in which case, as the Member for Paddington (Sir H. Harris) said, we should have recourse to Sub-section (g), which means that after a public local inquiry we can suspend the committee, and by further powers, as we see lower down, appoint other people to carry on their work. In other cases we must rely on paragraph (h). I agree with nay hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) that we are seeking in this Bill to take some steps that will guarantee efficient administration in any part of Great Britain or Ireland, or any other part of the United Kingdom, and it is quite impossible for us to insert any particular special Clause for dealing with Ireland or any other part of the Kingdom.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Farther Amendment made: At the end of Sub-section (1), insert the words,

    "The Minister shall not make an Order under any of the first five paragraphs of this Sub-section except after consultation with the councils or committees concerned."—[Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen.]

    I beg to move, after paragraph (h), to insert the words.

    "(i) require local committees to appoint discharged men on all district and sub-committees"
    From time to time one hears that the clerk of a local war pensions committee says that the provision in the Act requiring the appointment of discharged sailors or soldiers or the widows of men killed in the War only applies to the main committees. My hon. and gallant Friend has sufficient experience of the discharged men to appreciate that they are of some use to the committees, but the use that has been made of them could be enlarged. I hope, therefore, he will be willing to agree, wherever sub-committees are set up to deal with questions affecting discharged sailors and soldiers, that men who themselves are discharged sailors or soldiers should be appointed upon them. For instance, it seems to me absolutely essential that a discharged man should he upon a sub-committee appointed to deal with the question of employment. I want, therefore, to make it imperative upon local war pensions committees to see that discharged men are represented upon all sub-committees.

    I do not think this Amendment is necessary. It would do nothing more than re-enact the provision of the Act of last year which requires a certain number of discharged men—not less than two—and not less than one woman who is a pensioner, or the widow of a soldier who has been killed should be appointed upon the committee. As a matter of fact that Act has been generally availed of and in the great majority of cases discharged men have been appointed upon local war pensions committees and their sub-committees. There are very few committees who have failed to do that. If my hon. Friend will look again at paragraph (f) he will see that in cases where there is failure on the part of the council of any county, borough or district, or on the part of any other body or person, to exercise that power, we may exercise the power to appoint members. We therefore have power alrady ourselves to appoint dischargd men where the committee fails to do so, and we fully intend to act upon that principle. I would like to say that we are quite satisfied that the intention that we had in passing that Act was thoroughly justified and that committees grow in efficiency and knowledge by the presence of a certain number of discharged men.

    I should like to reinforce the appeal made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge). It is quite true that the pensions committees have done what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, but the point is that although a pensions committee may be doing its work very well it may yet fail to appoint discharged men upon the committee and its sub-committees. It may be very difficult for the Pensions Minister to try and enforce that provision or desire or wish upon a pensions committee when the general work of the committee is thoroughly satisfactory, though at the same time there may be great local dissatisfaction because no discharged men are upon these sub-committees. It is a small point, and it would be very easy for the Government to grant the concession. It could not possibly do any harm. It would be a direction having the force of law, and if that direction were given in the Bill it would have an enormous influence in enabling discharged men to serve—and serve usefully—upon these committees and sub-committees.

    I would appeal to the hon. and gallant Gentleman to consider this Amendment favourably. Probably in its present form it is rather too wide. It is often very necessary to have a special sub-committee to visit a hospital or something of that kind consisting of one or two people—

    And it would be a nuisance if, when appointing three people to do a particular job, the clerk came and said, "This is not right; we have not got a discharged soldier upon the committee." There are very few occasions upon which a discharged man would not be put upon any properly constituted committee, but it might be a nuisance if when appointing small sub-committees you had always to consider appointing a discharged soldier. On the other hand, I do think that we should ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to meet us so far as the district committees are concerned and to say that on such committees it is essential that discharged soldiers should be appointed. The hon. and gallant Gentleman tells us that, in fact, two things have happened. First of all, there is the statutory obligation to appoint discharged soldiers upon the committees themselves—no one denies that—and, secondly, there is the fact that in practice discharged soldiers are placed upon practically every sub-committee. I would like to carry the statutory obligation rather further than it goes at present without unduly hampering the administration of the committee. I would suggest, as a reasonable compromise that he should give us compulsion with regard to the district committees which deal with areas. When you are dealing with a whole area, it is right that you should have the district committee representing the same kind of composition as the bigger committee. I would therefore suggest, as a means of getting on, that, if the Ministry agree, the hon. Member for East Edinburgh should accept the offer of compulsory direction to appoint with regard to district committees and should give it up with regard to all sub-committees. I do not think you could discriminate between the different sub-committees, but if the direction were given with regard to the district committees I believe it would be followed with regard to all important subcommittees.

    I want to say one word in support of this suggestion. These committees, of course, will have to deal with a vast number of discharged men and their dependants, and in practice it is found in almost every case that where you put upon administrative bodies representatives of the people who might complain of anything in connection with their conduct you are very much more likely to have no complaint. If there were anything objectionable, there would be some reasonable opportunity of it being put right, because there would be a representative there who would be able to explain what the difficulty was. At all events in a modified form, such as that suggested by the hon. Baronet (Sir M. Barlow), it would be very desirable that the Government should, if they could see their way to meet us to that extent, accept the Amendment if my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh agrees to the omission of the words "and sub-."

    I desire to point out, in support of the acceptance of this Amendment, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman in charge of the Bill has a little overlooked the difference between the proposed Amendment and the powers he can exercise under paragraph (f). Paragraph (f) gives the Minister the power of appointing the members of a committee in the case of failure by the council to exercise the power to appoint. It is quite one thing for the central authority to impose its will and to exercise the central power of appointing to a committee; it is quite another thing to require the local committee, really by a sort of hint given to them, themselves to carry this out. In one case the Minister exercises the power and appoints; in the other case he insists upon the local committee exercising their choice locally as to the person they will appoint. The difference is that in one case the appointment is made centrally under suggestion, and in the other locally under command. On that ground I think this Amendment would be a useful power to add to the Bill.

    I would point out that I am entirely in agreement with the proposal that discharged men should be on the committees. In fact, my right hon. Friend brought in a Bill entirely for that purpose.

    Wait a moment. The point is that this particular Amendment adds absolutely nothing to what we have got already. I have here the Act passed last Session. Under that Act every local committee and every district committee is bound to have a certain number of discharged men upon it. Not only so, but every sub-committee for an area—this touches the point of the area dealt with by the hon. Baronet the Member for South Salford (Sir M. Barlow)—must appoint two discharged men at least. Not only that, but with regard to the power to compel these appointments to be made, in addition to what I mentioned just now, we have taken the power under paragraph (f). The Act of last year says,

    "If the local committee or committees fail to make the appointment within such time, not being less than one month, as the Minister of Pensions may allow, the Minister may himself make the appointment."
    Therefore we have absolute power.

    No; I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. It says:—

    "Where any such sub-committee or any joint committee—"

    Yes, I agree, of an area. The Act says there must be discharged men on local war pensions committee, the district committee, or a sub-committee for an area. I understand the hon. Baronet the Member for South Salford is supporting the Amendment but wishes to omit special sub-committees appointed for some particular purpose. There is the difference between the hon. Member for East Edinburgh and other Members of the Committee. So far as I am concerned and so far as the Ministry are concerned, we feel that there is a very strong case for putting discharged men upon a local committee, a district committee and a sub-committee of an area, but if it is to be on every sub-committee I could not accept it. It is really impracticable. In my own borough the other day they appointed a very small sub-committee to reorganise the office. It consisted of three persons. As a matter of fact, one of those was a discharged man. To insist that there must be at least two discharged men upon every sub-committee, which may consist of only three or four persons, is really impracticable. It is agreed that we have all the powers that we really want. Therefore, my hon. Friend's Amendment adds nothing to the present powers.

    I would ask the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill whether he can state if it is a fact that under paragraph (b) they can now require a local committee to appoint a sub-committee not for an area, but for any special parts of the area?

    My hon. Friend will remember that we have got the words,

    "for any special purposes."

    Quite so, but you are there taking power to require the local committee to appoint sub committees not merely for the area, but for any special parts of the area, and it appears to me that the words in the principal Act, which were read, do hot insist upon the discharged men being upon those subcommittees. I would suggest that this Amendment might be passed in this form:

    "require local committees to appoint discharged men on all district and sub-committees appointed under this Section."
    That would include those appointed under paragraph (b).

    The words of paragraph (f) are for any part of the area. The words of paragraph (b) are

    "for any special parts of their area."
    I should say that "part" included special part.

    I am afraid we have come to an Amendment on which we must differ and take a Division, although we have been getting along very well so far. I quite agree that under the Act, with which we are all familiar, it is possible to put two discharged men and one woman, who may be the widow of a sailor or soldier killed in the War, on every local war pension committee, on every district committee, and on what my hon. and gallant Friend calls every area committee, but he will agree with me when I say there is probably no committee in the whole of the country which has appointed more than the two men and the one woman, whereas the phraseology of the Act of Parliament is

    "two at least."
    Hon. Members will remember that I moved an Amendment in this House, and tried to press it to a Division in which I pointed out that in that form the average committee would put on two men and two men only, and one woman and one woman only. That has been the practice in our committees. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Salford (Sir M. Barlow) has suggested—I think it is a fair criticism—that it would not be fair to ask that every sub-committee—be gave us the example of a sub-committee visiting a hospital—should have to appoint two discharged men before they sent the sub-committee to see the hospital. Of course, I do not wish to push my Amendment so meticulously as that. I can assure the Committee that I am talking of that of which I know. After all, the borough committees are the most important committees in the country. Let us be quite frank about it. The borough committees are those which deal with the largest number of discharged men. When you begin to create the sub-committees of that committee, such, for instance, as the employment sub-committee of a local war pensions committee, it is not provided that discharged men should be upon that subcommittee. The Act of Parliament is satisfied in the letter so long as there are two men and one woman on the main committee. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that there is not a thick wall of difference between us, but I think he will agree with my contention. If the word "district" annoys him, I will take it out, but I am going to press the Amendment to a Division. I want authority from the Ministry of Pensions to compel these local war pensions committees to interpret their powers much more liberally. The House of Commons passed an Act which stated that at least two men and one woman should serve on these committees, which usually consist of twenty-one members, and yet the general practice has been to keep down to the minimum point the number of discharged soldiers appointed to serve. In our opinion there should be a great many more discharged men on these committees. When the men are demobilised they will, perhaps, take matters into their own hands and secure for themselves a larger share of representation. In the meantime, many questions of vital interest to discharged men, and their dependants are being dealt with on sub-committees on which no discharged men are serving. I only want to get proper words inserted; I am not tied down to my own particular form of words. What we are doing now is endeavouring to secure a good workable Bill, and, so far, we have done very well. I want to give the Minister of Pensions some authority especially in regard to local war pensions committees, to see that when sub-committees are appointed dealing with questions vitally affecting discharged men, discharged men shall be elected to serve upon them. So long as we can secure that end I do not care what words are adopted; but, if necessary, I shall press my own words to a Division.

    Might we not add to the Amendment the words, "exceeding three"? This may not sound a very practicable proposition, I admit.

    I am anxious to throw on the committee the burden of putting discharged soldiers on these sub-committees. One great gain that will ensue from this Amendment is that it will ensure their being on pension committees more than the minimum number of discharged men. As long as the minimum number is only two, as long as it will practically be the number of discharged soldiers and sailors elected to serve on the committee. But the Amendment will compel that there shall be discharged soldiers on all sub-committees, and it will therefore be necessary for the pensions committee to include more than the minimum number of discharged men. That seems to be the point which underlies this Amendment. If you can compel there being on pensions committees a sufficient number of discharged soldiers or sailors to have available one or more for each subcommittee, you will have done something valuable to secure popular support for the work of the Pensions Minister. This provision will be good, therefore, for the Pensions Minister, because it will help to gain public confidence for that Department. I hope, therefore, the Amendment will be accepted.

    But this Amendment will not have the effect suggested. It has nothing to do with the numbers on the committee. It simply insists on putting discharged soldiers on all sub-committees, and I gather from what fell from the hon. Member for East Edinburgh that he himself would not press his proposal to that extent. I suggest that all the power desired is contained in previous Acts and in this Bill, and it is perfectly unnecessary to add these words. Nothing is to be gained by doing so.

    I think we need not fight about the precise words. What we all have in our minds is the desire that on the war pensions committees discharged men should have more say. We are all in sympathy with that idea. We are rather disappointed that the local pensions committees, in using their powers under the Bill, have not appointed more than the minimum number of discharged men upon the committees, and that they have rather made the statutory number the maximum number. What we should make up our minds to do is to see whether in this Bill or on the Report stage we cannot introduce words which will secure an increase of the minimum, and ensure that en the committees in our big towns and districts discharged men and their dependants shall be adequately represented. That is what I think the Committee wants, and I would suggest to the hon. Member for East Edinburgh that if he can get from the Minister an assurance that some words shall be put down which will secure that object, he might well withdraw the Amendment.

    Let me say at once, I do not think there is any real difference between us, and if this Amendment is withdrawn at this stage I will consult with the hon. Member as to the possibility of introducing words which will secure his object.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (2)

    I will only formally move it in order that the Minister may explain the Subsection. As originally drawn it had rather a peculiar appearance. It gave the Minister power to make modifications and Amendments of the principal Act or any amending Acts. He accepted several Amendments which the Committee considered satisfactory, and I think the explanation he gave to the Committee might with advantage be given to the House.

    This is really a very innocent Sub-section. Although it may look rather alarming, yet if hon. Members will read it carefully, they will see that all we ask is, power to make such modifications in the principal Act as are necessary to carry out previous Clauses. Unless we have the power to do that, everything we have already passed in this Bill will be nugatory. When we come to the proper place I shall move to leave out the words, "As the Minister considers," so that the Bill will run, "Any Amendment of the principal Act or any Act amending the Act as are necessary." That will take away any discretion from the Minister or any chance he may have of acting in an arbitrary fashion. It leaves the Courts to decide what alterations of the previous Act are necessary really to carry into force the provisions already passed. If we do not have this protection it will be impossible for us to take any action.

    I think probably the Clause on which this proposal is founded is contained in the Insurance Act and was placed there in order to enable certain consequential Amendments to be made. I remember the original form of that Section, and this certainly looks as if it had been drawn by the draftsman from the Section which exists in the National Insurance Act. Therefore it is not a new matter. It is something which we have done before, and which has been proved necessary in order to avoid complications and possibly stultification of a portion of the Act by reason of some passage in previous Acts which may have been overlooked.

    At the first glance this looks like a most arbitrary power. It seems to give authority to the Minister—which we understand is now to be withdrawn—not only to upset the principal Act, but actually to make modifications in any amending Act, which, of course, might be an Act passed next year, and it would be a most extraordinary thing for us to pass a Clause now enabling anyone to set aside not only some Act which we have already passed, but some Act that we might pass next year. Although nay hon. and learned Friend has pointed out that there is a similar Clause in the National Insurance Act, when I saw this Clause I thought it was carrying the thing to a bureaucratic point that I had never seen before and hardly dreamt was possible to be entertained by the House of Commons. I should be very much surprised if there is a Clause actually the same as this in the National Insurance Act, and though it is proposed to leave out "Minister considers," and put in "as may be necessary for the purpose," yet after all this is a power to make an Order which is vested in the Minister, notwithstanding the Amendment which the Government is about to propose, and if the Minister is to be at liberty to make an Order which is going to upset any provision of this Act in order to carry out what he, for the time being, chooses to consider is the right way to carry out some part of the administration, I really think we have come to a point where the Committee ought to protest. We ought to insist upon our own will being carried out, and the Act being fairly explicit as to how that is to be done, or else we ought to know what powers the Minister really is going to allocate to himself.

    After having gone into the matter with some care I think this Sub-section is necessary, and, I understand, any Order made under the Clause would have to lie on the Table of the House. Therefore I think there are ample safeguards.

    Amendment negatived.

    Further Amendment made; Leave out the words "the Minister considers," and insert instead thereof the words "may be."—[ Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen.]

    I beg to move, at the end of the Sub-section, to add the words,

    "Where an Order made under this Section contains provisions modifying or amending any statutory enactment the Order shall be laid before each House of Parliament forthwith, and if either of those Houses within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which that House has sat next after the Order is laid before it presents an Address to His Majesty against any of the modifications or amendments, His Majesty in Council may annul the Order so far as it relates to the modifications or amendments against which the Address is presented, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under the Order."
    The Amendment amounts to this, that any modification of the Act must be laid upon the Table of both Houses of Parliament for twenty-one days and during that period it will be open to any Member of either House to move that the modifications may be disagreed with, in which case they will not be carried out. It seems to me that is a complete safeguard. We have not the slightest desire to act in any arbitrary spirit, but merely to obtain such powers as are necessary.

    We think twenty-one days a reasonable period. I see some hon. Members wish to make it forty. We are accused of being guilty of terrible delay, and by no one more than the hon. Member (Mr. Hogge), and he is now suggesting an addition.

    It is not a matter of really great importance but I think twenty-one days is a reasonable period, considering that we should have to postpone our machinery for three weeks longer if the Committee insisted on it lying on the Table for forty days.

    The forty days are suggested, because this will refer to the suspension of committees and other matters of that kind, and some of these committees only have monthly meetings, and if the period is only twenty-one days it might be between the sittings of the committee. It was thought to be of some advantage that the period should be extended.

    I have found the Section in the Insurance Act to which I referred. I observe that twenty-one days is the time limit in that Act. It may be interesting, therefore, to know that for similar sanction we have already adopted a period of twenty-one days.

    On the Second Reading an undertaking was given by and on behalf of the Pensions Ministry that they would meet the Parliamentary Pensions Bureau and discuss points at issue and criticisms made in this House with regard to the Bill. We of the Parliamentary Pensions Bureau have been treated entirely in the spirit in which the offer was made to the House, and we desire to place on record that the Ministry has met us in the most reasonable way in regard to many Amendments, and I think we have been of some material assistance with regard to getting differences adjusted. The Ministry has put down here an Amendment which has gone a long way to meet us, but we still think twenty-one days is a somewhat short period. We do not suggest it merely on our own Motion, but because it has been put to us strongly from various parts of the country that it will not give time to certain committees, who do not meet very often, perhaps not so often as they ought to, under certain circumstances which it is easy to imagine, to put their views before the House. I would ask my hon. Friend whether he cannot meet us on this point. I do not think it will involve the very serious delay which he suggests. The making of an order is not a thing which will happen constantly. It will only happen under very considerable stress, and after very considerable discussion, and possibly friction. If the Ministry has found it necessary to make an Order, which is the highest prerogative it can exercise under the Bill, it will only be as the result of a good deal of trouble, Parliamentary discussion and difficulty, which has to be solved. If that has all gone before, I do not think it is unreasonable to give the House and the country and the committees concerned forty days within which to make their views known if they do not like the Order. I appeal to my hon. Friend to give way on this point.

    It is not really twenty-one days. It is twenty-one days on which either House has sat. That means seven or eight weeks at the very least. If you insist on forty days, it will be something like three or four months. Therefore, I really think the point is met when you consider that it is the number of days on which the House sits.

    Amendment agreed to.

    There are a great many manuscript Amendments put in, and it is rather difficult to say where they should be inserted.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

    I want to ask, in regard to Sub-section (1, g), why has the Parliamentary Secretary given up that power?

    We give it up because we were told we were very arbitrary people, and wished to interfere in all sorts of things. One of the things that was particularly objected to was this Sub-section. As things stand now a joint committee can only be formed by the various committees agreeing together to form one, and they can also agree together to dissolve it without further action on our part. Therefore, I do not think the Sub-section matters very much. We were told that it seemed unnecessary in the Bill, and, therefore, we omitted it.

    Question put, and agreed to,