Business Of The House
May I ask the Leader of the House if the House is to sit on Friday?
I believe there is such a general feeling, as a result of the present circumstances, that the House should not sit on Friday, that I have decided it is not necessary to sit on Friday this week.
How many Orders on the Paper are to be taken to-day. Is the Naval and Military Pensions Bill to be taken?
Yes, that Bill will be taken, and we shall take as many Orders as we can, but not the Housing Bill.
School Teachers (Superannuation) Bill
Read the third time, and passed.
As amended, considered:
Clause 1—(Temporary Limitation Or Variation Of Tithe Rent-Charge)
The sum which on or before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, becomes payable under the Tithe Acts, 1836 to 1891, in respect of any tithe rent-charge, shall be the sum payable in respect of that rent-charge as ascertained by the septennial average prices published under the Corn Returns Act, 1882, in the month of January, nineteen hundred and eighteen.
The Board of Agriculture and Fisheries shall, after the twenty fifth day of December in the year nineteen hundred and twenty-five, and in each succeeding year, compute in the same manner as the septennial average is directed to be computed under the Corn Returns Act, 1882, and shall publish in the "London Gazette" in the month of January following the average price of each sort of British corn for the preceding fifteen years, and the sum payable under the Tithes Acts, 1836 to 1891, in respect of any tithe rent-charge payable after the first day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, shall be ascertained by the average prices so computed for the preceding fifteen years in substitution for the septennial average referred to in the Corn Returns Act, 1882.
I beg to move, at the end of the first paragraph, to insert the words:
I am not going to weary the House again with any detailed explanation of why this Amendment is necessary. I went into the matter in Committee last week when I moved an Amendment in identical terms, and I think every hon. Member who listened to that Debate came away with the impression that I had made good the case I had sought to make, and even the right hon. Gentleman who was in charge of the Bill admitted the great hardship that would result if this Amendment were not accepted. As I shall point out presently he adumbrated a nebulous suggestion of what might happen in the future in the way of an arrangement between the Welsh county councils on the one hand and the Representative Body of the Church on the other. The Welsh Members and the Welsh people are not satisfied with that assurance. They want to make it perfectly clear in this Bill itself what the Government propose to do. As the House is aware next year at the conclusion of the War—I do not know whether it will be this year or next year, but probably next year—the Welsh Church will be Disestablished and Disendowed according to the provisions of the Welsh Church Act, 1914. That Act was put on the Statute Book in September, 1914, and but for the accident of the War it would have been in operation, certainly since March, 1915. The result of the War—the effect of the War has been that the value of the tithe which in 1915 was put at 77 has gone up by leaps and bounds, so that this year—on the 1st January it was 109, and its value on the 1st January next year will stand at 123. According to Schedule 4 of the Welsh Church Act the Welsh county councils, immediately on the date of Disestablishment, will have to buy the life interest of the clergy in Welsh tithes on the septennial average in force at the date of Disestablishment. If, therefore, the septennial average in force on the date of Disestablishment be the septennial average, which will be declared on the 1st January next year, the Welsh county councils will have to buy up the Welsh tithe at the value of £123 per cent. The Welsh Members and the Welsh people have never demurred to that position. They have thought it was rather hard luck upon them that owing to the War the price of tithe should have risen from 77 in 1915 to 109 this year, and 123 next year, but in spite of the fact that they have felt it was hard on many of them they have never complained, they have never raised this question in the House, they have never used it except in answer to complaints on the part of the Church that it has lost certain money through vacant benefices. They have, in fact, never made any complaint at all, and we should not complain to-day—indeed we do not complain to-day of the fact that, owing to the fortune of War the value of tithe has gone up from 77 to 109 and 123 next year. But what we do complain of is that this Bill, which has been introduced, not at the instance of the Welsh Members but in order to safeguard the interests of English and Welsh landlords and tithe owners, should add an additional grievance to the already bad bargain which the Welsh people made in 1914 owing to the operation of the War. Next year the Welsh tithe will have to be bought by the county councils. They cannot help themselves. They are compelled to buy under the Welsh Church Act if the Representative Body ask them to. They are in a different position from the English tithe payer under this Bill. It is true that the Bill fixes the price of the tithe for the next seven years at 109, but it does not compel the English tithe payer to redeem at 109. The English tithe payer can do exactly as he likes. If he thinks it is a good bargain, he can redeem; if he thinks it is a bad bargain, he need not. It entirely depends upon his own view of the matter. But the Welsh county councils will be compelled to buy the life interest of the clergy in tithe next year at the figure either of 109, as fixed by this Bill, or 123 if the Welsh Church Act is held by the Courts to be the Act which decides what the price of tithe will be next year. If it be right and fair, as far as the English tithe payer is concerned, that the price of tithe for the next seven years shall be fixed at a uniform rate of 109, why should you leave it at Large, as you do in this Bill, whether the Welsh county councils will have to buy up the Welsh tithe for all time at 123 or 109? Is there any hon. Member who can really Bay that this is not a perfectly reasonable suggestion? The Representative Body of the Welsh Church met in September at Cardiff, and, I understand, decided to accept commutation, and they will meet the representatives of the Welsh county councils next year in order to arrange the terms. In order to show what benefit the Church has already had owing to the operation of the War, let me give one figure. The first question which will arise will be on what basis are you going to the value of the Welsh tithe. Is it to be ascertained on the septennial average in force at the date of Disestablishment as defined by the Welsh Church Act, in which case it will be 123, or is it going to be ascertained by this Bill, namely, at 109? It is a matter of vital concern to the Welsh county councils. Neither they nor the Representative Body will be able to decide it. They will have to go to a Court of law to ascertain what the legal position is. If the Court decides in favour of the contention that the price is to be ascertained by this Bill, the Amendment only makes it perfectly clear now, and avoids having to go to the Courts next year. If the Courts decide that the price should be not 109, as fixed by this Bill, but 123 as fixed by the Fourth Schedule of the Welsh Church Act, does anyone think it fair and just to force public authorities in Wales to make a ruinous bargain which would end in bankruptcy? They would have to buy up the life interest of the Church at thirteen years' purchase; they would have to borrow money under Government security in order to buy up something like £180,000 a year of Welsh tithe. I am told that, instead of the £2,250,000 which the then Home Secretary mentioned as the figure which would have to be paid for commutation purposes, the county councils would have to pay between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, so much will the Church, or, if you like, the individual clergy, have benefited owing to the accident of the War having taken place. In addition to that, they will have to borrow the money and pay at least 4 per cent. on it, besides losing the difference between 109 and 123, namely, 14 per cent. every year. In seven years they will have lost 98 per cent., in addition to the interest on the borrowed capital. Am I, therefore, saying too much when I say that if the Bill does not provide what I ask to make perfectly clear in this Amendment, the Welsh county councils will be bankrupt at the end of seven or eight years? If the Amendment is not accepted, they will refuse to accept the position which has been thrust upon them. Why should they with their eyes open go into bankruptcy? If the Bill fixes the price for commutation purposes, my Amendment leaves the thing in exactly the same place. If it does not, it perpetrates an injustice which I am perfectly certain not a single hon. Member, whatever his political views, will dare to defend. Moreover, this is a Redemption Bill. The second Clause and the Schedule combined compel the tithe owner to allow the tithe payer to redeem. Assume, if you like, that the price of redemption is 109. By the Welsh Church Act you compel the Welsh county councils to buy up tithe at 123. By this Act the Welsh county councils, having become tithe owners, you compel them next year to allow the tithe to be redeemed at 109. If the Bill were applied to England, every English Member in the House would be up in arms against it. Are you going to have it said that because we are small and insignificant, as far as numbers are concerned, we are to be treated with greater injustice than any other part of the Kingdom? I ask hon. Members if they do not think in their hearts that we Welsh Members are right in asking that this form of words should be accepted. I made this appeal to the right hon. Gentleman last week, and he put me off with vague expressions of sympathy and with some nebulous suggestions of a future conference between the Welsh county councils and the Representative Body. He went so far as to say that before the Report stage was reached the conference will have taken place."and such sum shall be deemed to be the amount of the tithe rent-charge according to the septennial average in force at the date of Disestablishment of the Welsh Church within the meaning of the Fourth and Fifth Schedules of the Welsh Church Act, 1914, if the said Act comes into operation before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-six.
Will you read the words?
"I very much hope that these two bodies—that is to say the Welsh county councils, on the one hand, and the Representative Body of the Welsh Church on the other—may meet, and that before the Report stage of this Bill—"
The hon. Member is not reading from the OFFICIAL REPORT.
I am reading a note that I made out of the OFFICIAL REPORT.
You are not reading the words I used. I ask you to read the words.
They are exactly the words I read."I very much hope that these two bodies may meet, and that before the Report stage of this Bill they may be able to announce some scheme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1918, col. 1532.
There is no promise there.
I did not say a promise; I said a nebulous suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman, in spite of the ingenuousness of his manner, is too careful a politician to give anything in the nature of a promise, but there is a distinct suggestion there, and what he says is that he hopes that before the Report stage of the Bill these two bodies may be able to announce some scheme. What on earth could the Welsh Members deduce from these words except that the right hon. Gentleman was going to act as a sort of honest broker between the Welsh county councils on the one side and the Representative Body of the Church on the other; that the Report stage was not to be taken in a hurry; and that sufficient time was to elapse before the Report stage so as to enable the Welsh county councils to meet and to consider and discuss the matter and to approach the Representative Body of the Church? The Representative Body is derived from all parts of Wales and, I think, from some parts of England. The Representative Body would have to meet. We understood that these two public representative bodies would come together to discuss the matter and prepare a scheme. The right hon. Gentleman said,
That was said last Wednesday. Will it be believed that on the following day, when the business of the House was being arranged, the Report stage of this Bill was put down for last Monday, the very first Parliamentary day after Thursday, and, but for a protest made in this House, the Report stage would have been taken last Monday! It is taken to-day. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has taken any steps to approach the Welsh county councils? Has he taken any steps to approach the Representative Body? I venture to say that he has not. Why this haste? Why not put it off for a fortnight? There is no pressure of public business in this House. Why this hurry if it is not that the right hon. Gentleman wants to get rid of this question before the election takes place? Yesterday we got rid of Home Rule. To-day he thinks he is going to torpedo Welsh Disendowment and then there will be a clean slate for a General Election. I confess that I have been disappointed with the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman. I admired him, even before I saw him in this House, as the author of "The Psalms in Human Life," one of the most delightful devotional books ever written in the English language. But I am afraid that contact with politics, and especially experience in a Coalition Government, which is bound together by no common conviction or common principles, but only by the ties of expediency, has rather detracted from the purity of the right hon. Gentleman's conduct. Holy Writ tells us that we ought to combine the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness of the dove. I am afraid I have to confess that when I regard the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman in this matter I see in it more traces of the slippery trail of the serpent than of the silvery wings of the dove. He has deliberately, as I am compelled to believe, added a new injustice in regard to this matter. Why? This does not affect the tithe payer in Wales, but it affects the Welsh county councils, who will be the tithe owners in Wales next year. Why has he done it? He supplied the answer last week, when he refused to accept this most reasonable Amendment. He said last week that the Welsh Church had a grievance over the taking of certain benefices. He has deliberately added to the grievances of the Welsh county councils in order to make the Welsh people reopen the finance Clauses of the Welsh Church Act, although when it was put upon the Statute Book they thought it was there for good and that it would come into operation on the day of Disendowment. I am surprised that the Welsh Members of the Ministry have not approached the right hon. Gentleman to force him to accept this Amendment. Has he asked the Law Officers of the Crown what the legal position is to be next year? Has he asked either the Attorney General or the Solicitor-General? I think he ought to have done that after last week's Debate. If I am right that the price of tithe for commutation purposes will be at 123 next year, then a manifest injustice is done. I think the right hon. Gentleman himself expects that the price of tithe next year will be 123. If, on the other hand, as some leading lawyers in this House have told me, I am wrong, and that this Bill fixes the price for next year, what harm is there in accepting this Amendment? The right hon. Gentleman gambles on the chance that next year it will be found the price will be 123 and not 109. Why does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Flint (Mr. Herbert Lewis) not use his great influence to have this common act of justice due to Wales? He says he aspires to be the Member for the University of Wales at the next election. The University of Wales will benefit to the extent of thousands of pounds a year by the Welsh Church Act, but this Bill, if my reading be correct, will make it impossible for the University of Wales to get one penny piece in our lifetime from the Welsh Church Act. Is the right hon. Member for Flint so blind and deaf to the interests of his future constituents that he is not going to move his little finger in order to help his Welsh colleagues to get a proper act of justice done to them in this matter? What about the right hon. Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond). Where is he? He has succeeded to a fine old Liberal Nonconformist seat. His predecessor was Lewis Llewellyn Dillwyn, a man who by his persistence in moving year after year for twenty or more years a resolution in favour of Disestablishment, brought Disestablishment within the realm of practical politics. Where is the successor of Lewis Llewellyn Dillwyn in this matter? Where is the rev and hon. Member for East Carmarthen (Rev. Towyn Jones) in this matter? He was sent into this House to ginger up his Welsh colleagues who were supposed to be lax in the matter of Disendowment. Is he going to Whip for the Government to-night? Is he going to stand up for a Coalition Government which brings in a Bill which defeats the hopes and aspirations of Welshmen for many generations? He has already announced that he is going to stand as Coalition candidate against all comers at the next election. Is he going to defend this? Is he going to say a word in favour of this Bill, or has he made his peace with the right hon. Gentleman? Misfortunes bring together very strange bedfellows. One of the greatest misfortunes in my opinion is a Coalition Government, and this Coalition Government, in bringing the President of the Board of Agriculture and the rev. and hon. Member for East Carmarthen into the same bed, has brought together strange bedfellows. In the privacy of their chamber, or of the right hon. Gentlemen's chamber, I can well imagine the scene that will be enacted when this Bill has gone through triumphantly, with the aid of the Coalition Whips. I can imagine the rev. and hon. Member for East Carmarthen leaning his head upon the manly bosom, of the right hon. Gentleman, and, looking lovingly into his eyes, saying, "I have wrought for you, I have fought for you, I have voted for your Bill, and I have even Whipped for your Bill. You love me a little now, don't you? "It reminds me of a story I heard from America of a young lady who died, and on whose tombstone was inscribed these words:"Before the Report stage of this Bill they may be able to announce some scheme."
"Our Mary Ann here lies at rest,
Her head is on old Abraham's breast,
Its very nice for Mary Ann,
I can quite imagine that the right hon. Gentleman, when he views the reverend and hon. Member asleep upon his breast, will feel something like old Abraham with Mary Ann upon his breast. I have nothing to say against this Bill as it stands except so far as it incidentally touches the question of tithe in Wales. I have never said a word against the Bill. You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that when you told me on the Second Reading that I could not move to omit Wales from the Bill without moving the rejection of the Bill, I refused to accept your invitation. I have nothing to say against the Bill itself. It is a proper Bill. It is a Bill that has been forced upon us. In-deed, I think it was a question which I put down in April last that first directed the attention of my right hon. Friend to the abnormal increase in tithe. In the introduction to the Bill the Government admit that something ought to be done in order to limit the increased value of tithe. If that be the justification for the Bill, as I presume it is, what justification is there for saying that the Welsh county councils should have to buy up tithe at the abnormal figure of 123 for the next thirty years? That is what it amounts to, and the Welsh county councils will receive from the tithe 109. If the right hon. Gentleman is still open to an appeal, I would urge upon him at this last hour to accept this Amendment, which is only a declaratory Amendment. It does not alter the Bill in the slightest degree. It can do no harm; but if it smoothes the passage of the Bill it will at the same time soothe a great number of susceptibilities in Wales, and will avoid an agitation among the county councils of Wales on the eve of a General Election, which will have a tremendous influence upon the effect of that election one way or another. Why should the right hon. Gentleman go out of his way to make his chief unpopular in the country he loves? Why should he hold up the Prime Minister—the greatest Welshman of the day and of all time, the man who has done more for Welsh Disestablishment in the past than any other—to ridicule, contempt, and odium in Wales by turning into a travesty the Welsh Church Act, for which two generations of Welshmen have fought and sacrificed? I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman even at this last moment to accept this Amendment. I do not appeal for a concession. This Amendment is not a concession at all. There are injustices inherent in the whole position which cannot be removed by any amending of this Bill. The proper way would be to bring in a Bill dealing with those injustices. I am only asking him to remove the injustice which he himself is perpetrating in this Bill. I am only asking him to declare that he does not mean to perpetrate that injustice. I appeal to him, therefore, at this eleventh hour to accept this Amendment, and if he does so I will not say that he will have the gratitude of the Welsh people, because he will only be doing justice; but, at all events, he will clear the fair fame of the Prime Minister and his five Welsh colleagues of the aspersions which will otherwise be cast upon them in the course of the coming election, and will remove a source or contention and agitation which will embitter the whole social and political relations in Wales for the next twelve months. If he does not accept these words the Welsh county councils and the Welsh people are not going to suffer this injustice. Therefore, whether he does it now, or whether his sucessors will be compelled to do it hereafter, matters very little, except from the point of view of his own honour and his reputation as a just and honourable man.But not so nice for Abraham."
I beg to second the Amendment.This Bill, I understand, proposes to do two things. The first is to relieve the landowner from further liability than 109 in respect of tithe for the next seven years, and it is going to do so at the expense of the Church. That, however, is an aspect of the question which does not concern me. There is in this Bill a further provision that the landowner for the next seven years, however valuable tithe may be, can redeem at 109. So the result of the Bill is, first of all, that the tithe owner will only pay 109 for the next seven years, whatever the value of the tithe may be, and no relief is being granted to the county councils. The position of the Welsh county councils will be that while they must next year possibly pay 123 for the tithe, the landowner in Wales will still be entitled to redeem at 109. I agree with my hon. Friend that if it was a question purely of commutation, we should have to face the burden and take it as the luck of war. For my part I would not object to that. My objection to the Bill is that we may be compelled to commute at 123, while, on the other hand, the landowner, who certainly has no claim upon the generosity of the country at the present time, can redeem at 109. For, in any event, he is doing exceedingly well out of the War. Sir Howard Frank, who is a great authority, says—
Surely this has very little to do with the Amendment before the House.
I am sorry if I am rather irrelevant on the point. While we must commute for the Church at 123, the landowner, on the other hand, according to the provisions of this Bill, can redeem from us at 109. I submit that that is an act of gross injustice. The landowner is to be allowed to come forward and say, "Though you paid 123 for tithe last year, you must hand it over to us for 109." That is the legal effect of this Bill. My hon. and learned Friend merely proposes to have a declaration in this Bill that if commutation is to take place, it shall be at 109—that is the price of the tithe next year. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment, or, if he cannot do that, that he will provide that, so far as land in Wales and Monmouth is concerned, the price for redemption of tithe for the next seven years shall be 123.
I shall not follow the Mover of this Amendment in his interesting speech. I have the privilege of knowing my hon Friend longer than I have known the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He has given us a terrible account of the depravity of the right hon. Gentleman, and how he lost his innocence by rubbing shoulders with people like myself. I know that if my hon. Friend is moving a simple Amendment for which he has got a good case, nobody can put it more clearly, precisely, and persuasively; but when he is talking about Abraham and Mary Ann, and reverend Members on the Front Bench, and when he wants to know, as we often did, I am afraid, in opposition in 1906, where various members of the Government should be; when he goes into all those figures, I generally get a little suspicious of the strength of the Amendment which he is moving. If he had a strong case he would put it strongly, and leave my hon. Friend and the Whip alone. Seriously, what is this Amendment? The facts are these. By the Welsh Church Act the county councils have to buy tithe after peace is concluded next year at the current rate of the day, which, it seems pretty clear, is likely to be 123. To that extent the Welsh county councils will have the worst of the bargain. My hon. Friend says he does not object to that in the least, and the Seconder of the Amendment says that he does not object to it in the least. If they do not object, so much the better. I think, perhaps, the reason is this. If Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church had taken place, say, in 1915, they would have paid less for the tithe; but they would not have got the very large sum which they have got in the way of lapsed annuities. Particulars have been got out. I do not wish to trouble the House with figures, but if the Act had been carried in 1915 instead of in 1918, though they would have gained upon the tithe they would have lost upon other matters, in consequence, to more than double the amount. If you take the figures, that is perfectly clear.That was the bargain. This Bill has nothing to do with the bargain. It does not affect it. The Bill is a totally different matter. Those are the simple facts between the Welsh Church and the Welsh county councils. They will have to pay more than in 1915, and to that extent they will lose. The Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment said that they do not object to that, because it happens to be a matter of luck. But further than that, if they look into the figures for 1915 instead of 1918 they will see that the county councils will be considerably the gainers. All that the Amendment does is to say that, instead of paying 123, they will have to pay 109 to the Welsh Church. If they do not object to the bargain, why ask to have it altered? Can anybody fairly vote for the Amendment when the Mover and Seconder say that they do not object to have to pay the Welsh Church 123, as it is the luck of the bargain, but wish to get an Amendment passed which has the effect of saying that they shall not pay 123, but shall only pay 109? Their real grievance is a grievance which a lot of tithe owners will have, for if they pay 123 for this tithe, or whatever they have paid, this Bill gives the tithe payer a power to redeem at 109. That is a grievance which every tithe owner will have under the Bill. I pointed it out on the Second Reading of this Bill. There is no doubt that next year, in the case of any person who owns tithe in England or Wales which is worth 123 the landlord can come along at any moment and redeem at 109, and the Welsh county councils will be really in the same position as every other tithe owner. That is the general position. If they are serious in their objection, then, I say, that every tithe owner in England will have the same grievance as they. The suggestion was made—in fact my hon. Friend did put down an Amendment, if I remember rightly—that the Bill should not apply to Wales, and that therefore justice should not be done in this matter in Wales. Not a single Welsh Member was in favour of that. Not one single Welsh Member dare go into the Lobby in favour of it, and the Amendment was taken off the Paper.
It was withdrawn. Occupying farmers would have a good deal to say to hon. Members from Wales if they got up and moved that this Bill should not apply to Wales, because those farmers like it, as it gives them the opportunity of redeeming tithe below the sum likely to be reached in the next four or five years. For the reasons which I have mentioned, I shall support the Government and oppose this Amendment.
It seems to me that the Seconder was proceeding under a misapprehension. I do not understand this Bill to alter the principles of redemption established by the Tithes Commutation Act of 1836, except in this respect, that under that Act tithe has to be redeemed by twenty-six years' purchase at par, while under this Bill all that is done, as I understand, is to reduce the number of years' purchase to twenty-one. Redemption is one thing, and the value of tithe is quite another. What Clause 1 proposes is to fix the price paid for tithe at 109 for a limited period, and otherwise it would have risen to 129, or a higher sum.
It is taken at what the tithe was on the 1st January, 1918, and that happened to be 109, and next year it will probably be 123.
Surely it is twenty-one years' purchase! [HON. MEMBERS: "In the Schedule."] I thought so, for there it mentions twenty-one times the amount. With regard to the Amendment, the provisions of the Welsh Church Act are somewhat different, but in that Act there is a special bargain which proceeds, as I understand, on a wholly different basis from that of redemption of tithes, and has got nothing to do with the redemption of tithes, but deals with the sum that the Welsh county councils should pay to the incumbent who loses his tithe. That money was to be invested at a certain rate to produce a certain income. Owing to the War that bargain has gone against those who sought the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. In other words, the price has risen, and the result is that when they are going to give an annuity to the incumbent they will have to pay more; but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that when that Act was passed those who sought Disestablishment made a very good bargain, because the price then was about 80 and there was no prospect at that time that it should ever rise to 100 or anything like it. What is the position under the Welsh Church Act? In one respect the county councils lose, but in other respects in regard to lapsed livings they win, and therefore you want the account adjusted. What I understood my right hon. Friend the President to say was that at the proper time and in the proper Bill they would introduce an Amendment to the Welsh Church Act, to adjust fairly on the one side and on the other the considerations that have now arisen owing to the War. That seems to me to be perfectly just. I confess, having listened to the arguments of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. L. Williams), I was not impressed with the fact that he established any injustice of any sort or kind.
Admittedly on all sides of the House there is a grievance in this matter with regard to the position of the county councils. The grievance being admitted, the point is how to raise and ventilate it and, if possible, remedy it. There is some force in the argument that in this attempt to remedy the grievance we may be perpetrating an injustice, as it were, to the Welsh Church, who are entitled, under the Fourth Schedule of the Welsh Church Act, to redemption at the price six months after the end of the War or Disestablishment. That was their bargain, and they say, We are entitled to that bargain. But the county councils, in having to pay 123 by this Bill, are put in this position. They have to accept 109 instead of 123, so that the grievances of the county, councils is clear, admitted, definite, and there is no suggestion as to how it is to be met. Some say, "All right; if you Welsh Members object to this, ask that Wales be excluded from the Bill." The hon. and learned Member (Mr. Rawlinson) said that we would object to that proposal. It is only natural that the farmer in Wales objects to the farmer in England being allowed to redeem at 109 when he himself is not allowed to redeem at all except by private bargaining between the tithe owner and himself. So Wales would say. "We do not want to go out of the Bill, because we would be doing an injustice and simply going from one injustice to another." In this instance it would be doing an injustice to the farmers in Wales, and we do not want to do any injustice to them. I suggested in Committee and suggest again that there is only one way to meet the difficulty. The Amendment is proposed in order to try and get some remedy. The question is, who is going to pay the difference between 109 and 123? If the county councils buy at 123 and sell at 109 the difference has to fall on the ratepayers of the county councils or on the taxpayers. This difficulty has been created by the Government and if it is important to get this Bill through then the nation ought to shoulder the payment of that difference. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make that clear and that this injustice will be removed and the suggestion which I have put forward may receive the whole-hearted support of the House.
I should like, after the somewhat warm attack made upon me by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. L. Williams) to look at this question purely as a matter of business, and it is the more easy for me to do so as the hon. Member is not in his place to hear my answer. I hope the House will forgive me if I go into some detail about the question. Let us go back to the origin of the Bill and to the circumstances that made it, as I think, necessary to bring it in, and to the objects which it seeks to attain. Owing to the War the value of tithe rent-charge went up wholly abnormally. It was 77 in 1914, and in 1918 it was 109, and in 1919 it will be 123, and in 1920 it will be 136, and between the years 1923 and 1924 it will reach a maximum height of something like 176. It was considered by the general body of tithe owners that when the tithe had risen so abnormally from causes arising out of the War it was inexpedient that they should attempt to exact the full rate to which they were legally entitled. They agreed that some restrictions in the tithe rent-charge was advisable, and I may say that they have agreed in the main to the restrictions imposed by this Bill as reasonable restrictions. I think that attitude a wise one. I do not think that in 1923 and 1924, when the War, as we all hope, will have been finished three or four years, and prices may be falling, you could possibly exact these excessive tithes without provoking organised opposition. The difficulty if prices have fallen would be simply trebled, and in no country and in no part of the country would the difficulty be so great as in Wales, and this for two reasons: In the first place, Wales largely consists of small occupying owners, who are therefore tithe payers, and, in the second place, the staple cereal product of Wales is oats, and it is in oats that the greatest fall may confidently be anticipated. Consequently, you would be calling upon small poor men to pay this excessive rate of tithe on falling prices. Therefore I think this Bill is not only sound in principle but necessary in practice. What it does is this: It restricts the rate to which the tithe rent-charge may rise. It restricts it at the figure at which it stands to-day for the next seven years. Then it goes on to limit the range of variation, and by the quindecennial average it restores to the tithe owner a portion of the money he would have received on this higher rate of tithe, only it gives it in a deferred form spread over a term of years instead of a violent rise of two or three years in the middle of the War. That is the object of that part of the Bill.Now lot us see how it applies in the special case of Wales, where, I admit, difficulties and complications have arisen. Under the Welsh Church Act the index figure at which the vested existing interest of the clergy are to be commuted is a single year at the septennial average. That single year was, as the Act contemplated, 1914, when tithe stood at 77. Now suppose the date of Disestablishment under the Welsh Act had actually taken place in 1915, what would have happened? That figure would have told heavily against the members of the Church, because all this enormous increase in the value of tithes would have gone away from them and into the pockets of the county council. Would the members of the Church, if they had then come to this House and complained of the bargain struck in 1915, have received the support of the Welsh Members? I do not think so. I think they would have argued skilfully, eloquently and quite fairly that the bargain was a bargain and ought to be adhered to.
The right hon. Gentleman I think forgets they have an option whether they will be bought out, whereas the county councils have no option if the clergy think they shall be bought out.
That is one of the terms of the bargain—quite so. I say the bargain taken as a whole. What is complained is that that single-year figure owing to the War has turned against the county councils. The bargain is no longer in their favour, it is against them, because if you take the figure of 1919 (as the date on which Disestablishment will come into force) they have to commute the vested interest of the clergy at 123. Therefore the bargain goes against them, and they argue in effect that it should be amended in their favour and against the Church. That is what the Amendment practically means. Now one thing they say is, "We are quite satisfied with the bargain; we only want to be left alone. Leave us alone and we will carry out the bargain," because they say that if tithe is allowed to reach this abnormally excessive height they will then be able to finance their transactions of commuting the vested interests of the clergy. Well now, if they think they could exact from the small tithe-paying occupying owner of Wales this very heavily increased tithe without provoking organised opposition, I disagree with them. You remember that they are not at the present moment tithe owners; they are potential tithe owners. They have had no experience of that kind of property, and the present tithe owners from their long experience are convinced they could not obtain these highly increased tithes, I agree with them. I believe the county councils would be burned in effigy in every county of Wales. If the Welsh county councils really think they should be left alone in the bargain, that they should be left absolutely out of this Bill, if in effect they think this, that they could compel the small occupying owner who in 1915 was paying on every pound of tithe 15s. 3d., if they think they could compel him in 1923 on falling prices to pay £l 15s. 3d., let them accept the offer made them and be excluded from the Bill. They refuse that alternative, and they bring forward this proposal to amend the bargain of 1915 in their favour by reducing the figures at which the vested interests of the clergy are to be commuted from 123 to 109.Now look at that proposal. This Church Act was to be brought into operation in 1915. The operation of it has been postponed, and during these four years of War the whole financial arrangements which were made in 1914 for carrying out the Act have been disturbed. They are upset in various details; there are gains on one side and losses on another. If yon are going to amend the bargain of 1915 at all, then I submit the only fair way to do it is to take the whole financial arrangements together, look at them actuarially, examine them closely and readjust them fairly and equitably as a whole, and I understand that the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. L. Williams) rather holds the same view. That is the fair thing to do. If the county councils reject the alternative of being taken out of the Bill, why do not they accept the other alternative, that is a consideration of all the various points on which the finance requires readjustment, look at it together and readjust them on equitable lines? But I submit to this House that it is quite unfair in the interest of one side to the bargain to pick out one point and amend that, and leave all the other claims untouched and without relief. Manifestly, if a man has a claim and another man has a counterclaim, the right thing to do is to consider the claim and counterclaim together at the same time. You cannot deal with one side, and at the same time leave the other side outside your relief without prejudicing the position of the other party, and that is what this Amendment proposes to do. You are going to prejudice the position of the members of the Church by relieving the county councils of their grievances under the Welsh Church Act, and leave the members of the Church wholly unrelieved. I venture to submit to the House that that is an unjust and unfair thing to do. I submit to the House also this, that where you are dealing with a body of men who are not directly represented in this House, it behoves the House to be careful that it does not, on the representation of parties who are directly represented, do those unrepresented parties an injustice and an unfairness. I am perfectly confident that this Amendment, if carried, will inflict this injustice upon the members of the Church in Wales. Then you come to what is, after all, if I may say so, the real ground of grievance which the Welsh party has in this matter, and it is this. They say—and they say with some force—"You are going to make it more difficult for us to carry out our financial arrangements, because you are going to reduce our receipts from the property which we are compelled to purchase." That is so. To a certain extent that is absolutely true, and I admit there is that difficulty. I do not think it is so great as you imagine. In the first place, if I am right, you cannot put the possible receipts that would be received by county councils from tithe at the very high figure which tithe would reach in 1923 and 1924, because you would not be able to realise without provoking organised opposition throughout the country. Another point is this: You do get under the quindecennial average the greater portion of the moneys you would have got in 1923 and 1924 restored to the tithe owners, but in a deferred form spread over a term of years. That is a considerable advantage. The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen, on the Second Heading of this Bill, drew a perfectly lurid picture of the state of the Welsh county councils when tithe drops year after year away to next door to nothing, and he said, "Look at the position after the Napoleonic Wars, and take example of that as a proof of the point to which tithe will dwindle." Apart from the fact that the conditions then and now are wholly different—absolutely and entirely different—we have met his point under this Bill. We have given him a range of values, and below that range tithe cannot fall, though, if that is his fear, it is met by this Bill, and we do, therefore, not make the financial problem of the county councils seriously more difficult than it would be in any circumstance. We do make it, I admit, slightly more difficult, and for this reason: We ask the county councils—the potential tithe owners—to accept the same sort of sacrifice of exceptionally abnormal profits which we ask every tithe owner in England and Wales—nothing more and nothing less. Therefore, I submit to the House that this Amendment, if carried, will be grossly unjust to the members of the Church in Wales, and that the proper remedy is a finance Bill, which shall go into the two sides of the account, examine them critically, calculate them actuarially, and readjust them. The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen has appealed to me in what would have been very moving terms if I had felt guilty of any of the charges which he somewhat freely levelled against my head. May I make an appeal to him? I make it with all the more force, perhaps, because I am one of those Members who have never known a Welsh Church Debate in this House, and know nothing of the bitterness and exasperation which those Debates have provoked, but I would say this: In business, when two men who have got to do business together fall out on a question of principle, it is sound policy for the man who has won on the point of principle to make it easy for the other to go on doing business with him in every possible way. The Welsh party in this House have won the point of principle, and if it is good policy in business to do that, I submit to the hon. and learned Member that it is good policy in political life. If you look at the particular subject-matter, you can put that a good deal higher. Here is a matter of religion. There are two great religious communities at variance. They have been in the past enemies. Well, I hope they will always be rivals in the sense of being emulous of each others' religious activities, but, as long as human nature remains the same, we have got to have these different religious organisations. It is a question of temperament more than anything else, and I would ask that the Welsh party here should not attempt—as, in my opinion, they are in effect doing—to hamper the religious activity of a body which may be a rival but can no longer, I hope after the four years of war, be considered an enemy. Further than that, there are in Wales a number of men—I do not know how many, but a considerable number of men—who are members of the Church but who are willing to sacrifice unity for the sake of freedom from secular control. They are ready at this moment to act loyally with the Welsh, whatever their religious feelings may be—loyally with them to take part in the national religious and local life of the Principality; but if you take advantage, on a side issue like this, to settle in your own interest one side of grievances which are felt on both sides, you do a great damage to that cause of religious peace which we all hope to see in the Principality of Wales.
The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to me to have fully appreciated the strength of the case put forward by my hon. and learned Friend. The whole of his argument, if it is a substantial argument, is an argument against this Bill. If it is grossly unjust to the Church in Wales to accept the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend, it must be equally grossly unjust to the whole Church of England to pass this Bill at all. I cannot help thinking that my right hon. Friend has allowed himself to be carried away by a slight misuse of language. He tells us that in 1914 we came to a certain bargain which was thought advantageous to the laity in Wales, but now has turned out advantageous to the Church in Wales owing to the War, and we are not entitled, he says, how to go behind the bargain of 1914. But there was no bargain in 1914. If there were a bargain in 1914, there was a bargain in 1836. It is just as wrong to break the bargain of 1836 as it would be wrong to break the bargain of 1914. Let us look at the history of this case. The Act of Parliament of 1914 settled certain conditions under which the Church, a representative body in Wales, would have the right of claiming the commutation of tithe. The operation of that Act was postponed owing to the War. Owing to the War certain new conditions have arisen—conditions which have raised enormously the value of tithe. For this country the right hon. Gentleman, I dare say quite rightly, recognises that those new conditions have got to be dealt with by Act of Parliament, and a limit has got to be put to the rise in the value of tithe. These conditions have arisen through the War. Had there been no war the Welsh Church Act would have been in operation, and it is owing to the War that these new conditions have arisen, and owing to the War that the operation of the Welsh Church Act has been postponed. If the new war conditions have rendered this Tithe Bill necessary, the same conditions have rendered a reconsideration of the conditions under the Welsh Church Act. We would have been quite content to have had the Welsh Church Act in 1915 come into operation. It was postponed owing to the War. Advantage must not be taken of the postponement in order to put a new burden on the county councils in Wales which was never contemplated at that time. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Oh, yes; if you are going to reconsider the conditions of the Welsh Church Act because, owing to the lapse of time, the conditions and circumstances of the War, they have operated unfavourably to the Welsh people and to the county councils, and favourably to the Church, you must go into the whole question of finance." That does not follow. I agree, if the right hon. Gentleman can show any single particular in which the Church has been damnified by the postponement owing to the War, then we would be quite willing to consider that.
By all means set off the lapsed interests against the tithes. Take a general account of what the Church has lost by the operation and what the Church has gained by the postponement. The Church has gained enormously by postponement. [An HON. MEMBER: "Work it out and see!"] We are willing to accept that as a bargain. At least, I accept it for myself.
Restore the 1915 conditions.
I say more than that. I speak for myself and, I believe, for the whole of those for whom I used to speak in the past when I carried the Welsh Church Act in this House. We are willing to go back to the 1915 financial conditions, or we will be willing to bring into hotch-potch all that the Church has gained and all that the Church has lost since 1915, and we will include this Bill as it applies to England as one of the conditions. Will the right hon. Gentleman take that?
If the right hon. Gentleman means a finance Bill going into the question of commutation on both sides I do accept.
I do not mean reopening the 1914 basis, except so far as that basis has been altered by the lapse of time—by the War. We do not wish to take any advantage from the Church—not one farthing—owing to the lapse of time since the War. It was not their fault; it was not our fault, that the Act was postponed. We postponed it because of the War, but do not let either side get an advantage. Certainly I would suggest to my right hon. Friend he ought not now to raise a subject of the greatest controversy in Wales. He ought not to throw a permanent charge on the county councils which cannot be defended for a single instant, for if it is right to fix it at 109 for all the Church outside Wales, it is right to fix it at 109 inside Wales.The only other point with which I have to deal is this: My right hon. Friend says, "Stay out of the Bill altogether if you like." Of course, that is impossible. How could you expect the tithe payers in Wales to go on paying at the present prices when other tithe payers under the Bill do not do so? If you were to make such a difference of treatment in England and Wales, you would get every sort of disturbance. My right hon. Friend knows as well as I do that the offer is an idle one. If my right hon. Friend will reconsider his Bill, and will go through the whole account between the Welsh county councils and the Church, taking credit, if he likes, for the lapsed interests, but giving the county councils the benefit of the Bill, and taking into account the benefit which the Church has received from the increased value of the tithes, I know on which side the balance of profit will lie. We shall be quite satisfied. Otherwise I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is justified in refusing to accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
I am very glad the Government has refused to agree to this attempt to upset the settlement which the Radical party forced in the Welsh Church Act of 1914, and which they now find is not working out quite so much to the benefit of the Welsh county councils as they then thought. I would not have arisen had it not been for the speech of the right hon. Gentleman beneath me (Mr. McKenna). Speaking on this subject, he has not, for the first time, been guilty of misstatements of fact. One of the most important was his assertion that the Welsh Church, as a body, had made money out of a rise in the value of tithe caused by the War. That is not the case at all. Any money which the Welsh Church receives from tithe by the Welsh Church Act is received only as a trustee, and has to be repaid to vested interests. Therefore any gain in the case of tithe is not that of the Welsh Church but that of the Welsh clergy.
It is a very important point, and people in the position of the right hon. Gentleman ought to be careful of such points. Especially so when they are offering bargains in the name of the whole Liberal party, of the whole Welsh Disestablishment party, to the Representative Body of the Church in Wales. The point I desire to make is that what the right hon. Gentleman asks us to do is fundamentally unfair. In the Act which he himself passed a certain compensation was fixed for the clergy under Welsh Disestablishment on the septennial value of the tithe. That was, in 1914, compensation which seemed just to him. The effect of this proposed Amendment is to reduce that compensation from the figure of 123 to 109. That is not fair. If the septennial average seemed just to the right hon. Gentleman in 1914 it ought to seem just to him now. The fact that the value of tithe has gone up is scarcely to the point. As the hon. Member said, it is the fortune of war. The cost of living has also gone up immensely. The Welsh clergy are not gainers out of the bargain, as is thought by some hon. Members. A very extraordinary statement has been made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. McKenna). He says, if we can show that in any point the action of the War has been prejudicial to the financial settlement fixed by the Liberal party in 1914—
By the large majority of the Liberal Party.
If we can show that the influence of the War, the events of the War, have had a prejudicial influence on the interests of the Church, then that matter ought to be reconsidered. I say this is an extraordinary statement, because the right hon. Gentleman seemed to assume that there was none. I ask him to consider the amount the Church is losing through the lapse of vested interests. It runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds. For these vested interests no one is going to receive a single penny compensation when Disestablishment takes place, and to come down to this House and to say that the whole question—
I understood the Noble Lord to correct my right hon. Friend for using the term "Church" when he meant "clergy." Is the Noble Lord not falling into the same mistake?
I was trying to follow the Noble Lord.
No; the point is this: During the four years of war a large number of the clergy have died. If these clergy had been alive when the Act comes into force there would have been paid as commutation to the Representative Body in Wales a sum which would have been greater by several hundreds of thousands of pounds than what will be paid now.
Yes, as trustees! But the successors of these people are still there! They have to be paid somehow. Therefore it is true to say in this case that the Welsh Church is made poorer by hundreds of thousands of pounds. The point is a very important one.
But the Noble Lord must be aware that where there is a credit side to the Welsh Church financial claim there is also a debit.
The hon. Member may think so.
Do you accept it?
No; I do not accept it. If that, however, is the view of the hon. Member, by all means let his proposals be put forward; but for heaven's sake do let us bury the hatchet in this Welsh Church question!
Does the Noble Lord agree with the proposal put forward by my right hon. Friend to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture, namely, to put the whole thing into a, hotch-potch?
I would be willing to accept the offer that the whole of the financial arrangements of the Welsh Church Act should be reconsidered in the light of the events of the War and the situation produced by the War. That I am willing to do and am desirous of doing.
May I ask the Noble Lord to make the thing clearer? Is he willing to accept the basis of the Disendowment of the Welsh Church Act, and endeavour to readjust the financial position, giving credit to the Church for vacancies, and also taking into account the gain accruing from the rise in tithe, and so on?
I am certainly not willing to accept the 1914 settlement as a basis, because it was a basis that was proposed under circumstances which are entirely different to present circumstances. What I am willing to do is to reconsider the whole question of finance. I do not want to reopen the question of Disestablishment. I am perfectly willing to meet the right hon. Gentleman on that ground—I hope in the most friendly way possible. But to come down to the House and ask to introduce a side Amendment into the Bill that has not got anything to do with the Welsh Distestablishment question is to attempt to ask something which is unfair to the clergy in Wales, unfair to the Church of Wales, and unreasonable in itself, and I am very glad the Government have not accepted it.
It appears to me the Government ought to give us some indication, some answer, to the speech of my right hon. Friend opposite as to whether they are prepared to enter into a financial arrangement on the basis of the arrangement come to in the Act of 1914. I gather from the speech of the Noble Lord opposite that that is not his view; that he is not prepared to take the settlement of 1914 as the basis; to try and arrange a figure, so that neither side, neither the Church on the one hand nor the county councils on the other, are to gain by the position created by the War. If that is the question my right hon. Friend put to the Government, as to whether they were willing to accept that as a basis of a discussion, we have had no reply, and I submit very respectfully we ought to have, as to their views on that important matter. It appears to me that the trend of this discussion for some time has been that the House is endeavouring to deal with a matter which really concerns Wales and Wales alone. Welshmen are concerned in this. They well realise that whereas the landlords of Wales are going to have 109, the county councils for some or other reason will have to pay 123. That is a matter which concerns the Welsh people and they alone. We know perfectly well that the Welsh Members in this House are a very small number. We shall be voted down by outsiders who have not heard this discussion. I think it is a clear case of the House endeavouring to deal with an Act which has reference solely to Wales by an Act which deals with England and Wales together. I suggest that this is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs, and that it shows more and more the need for devolution, and for allowing Wales to settle these matters in its own way—by the Welsh people. I see the Noble Lord has come down from the Foreign Office. I know he takes a very great interest in this question. I am sure we shall be very delighted if he can give us a reply on behalf of the Government as to their attitude in this matter. You cannot separate the arrangements between the Welsh Act and those which are proposed in this measure. We ought, I think, to have some guidance, some leading from the Government, before we go to a Division.
There is no doubt it is the opinion of the Commissioners on Church Temporalities that a Bill dealing with the financial arrangements which were carried out in the Welsh Church Act
Division No. 89.]
|Anderson, William C. (Attercliffe)||Donnelly, Patrick||Hazleton, Richard|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Doris, William||Hearn, M. L.|
|Bliss, Joseph||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Boland, John Plus||Duffy, William J.||Higham, John Sharp|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Esmonde, Capt. John (Tipperary, N.)||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E. H.|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Ffrench, Peter||Hogge, James Myles|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Field, William||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Byrne, Alfred||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Fleming, Sir John||John, Edward Thomas|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Glanville, H. J.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Clough, William||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Joyce, Michael|
|Cory, Sir Clifford (St. Ives)||Hackett, John||Kelly. Edward|
|Cotton, H. E. A.||Hancock, J. G.||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Crumley, Patrick||Harbison, T. J. S.||Kenyon, Barnet|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Harmsworth, Sir R. L. (Caithness)||Kilbride, Denis|
|Davies, Ellis William (Elflon)||Haslam, Lewis||King, Joseph|
|Dillon, John||Hayden, John Patrick||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
is urgently needed. It is imperatively necessary, quite apart from the present Bill. The Government would be quite willing that all the questions at issue between the Church and the Representative Body on the one hand and the county councils on the other which arise out of the commutation question should be gone into in that Bill and actuarially calculated and adjusted.
On what basis!
I do not quite understand what is meant by "On what basis"?
May I make the matter more simple? There were certain principles settled in the 1914 Act. These principles would have been in operation now but for the War. The events that have followed in the wake of the War may very properly be taken into account, for, owing to the War, tithes have risen in value, and it is owing to these events that this Bill has been introduced. All these post-war factors arise out of the War, and ought, quite reasonably, to be taken into account in a general settlement; but as to the Act itself, you must not go behind it.
The question arising out of the commutation we are willing to submit in a general finance Bill. My only objection to this Amendment is that it takes one side only of the commutation question. I believe the Welsh Members would find that provided they had their own claim on the lapsed interests, for instance, properly considered it would be found that they would be met in a generous and liberal spirit.
Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
The House divided: Ayes, 106; Noes, 159.
|Layland-Barratt, Sir F.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Smallwood, Edward|
|Lundon, Thomas||O'Dowd, John||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk.B'ghs)||O'Leary, Daniel||Somervell, William Henry|
|Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||O'Malley, William||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|MacGhee, Richard||Outhwaite, R. L.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Parrott, Sir James Edward||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Maden, Sir John Henry||Pringle, William M. R.||Thomas, Sir G. (Monmouth, S.)|
|Mallalieu, Frederick William||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Thomas Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Marshall, Sir Arthur Harold||Reddy, Michael||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arton)||Weston, John W.|
|Mason, Robert (Wansbeck)||Richards, Rt. Hon. Thomas||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Molloy, Michael||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Mooney, John J.||Rowlands, James||Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea)|
|Morgan, George Hay||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Muldoon, John||Runciman, Sir Walter (Hartlepool)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Nolan, Joseph||Sheehy, David||Mr. L. Williams and Mr. Hinds.|
|Nugent, J. D. (College Green)|
|Anderson, G. K. (Canterbury)||Foxcroft, Capt. Charles Talbot||Newman, Major J. R. P. (Enfield)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Ganzoni, Francis John C.||Newman, Sir Robert (Exeter)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Lieut.-Col. William||Gardner, Ernest||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Ashley, Wilfred W.||Gastrell, Lieut.-Col. Sir W. Houghton||Norman, Rt. Hon. Major Sir H.|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Baird John Lawrence||Gilmour, Lieut.-Col. John||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||Parkes, Sir Edward|
|Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, South)||Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)||Partington, Hon. Oswald|
|Barnett, Capt, R. W.||Gretton, John||Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.|
|Barrle, H. T.||Hall, Lt.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.)||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord C. J.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Beach, William F. H.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Harmood-Banner, Sir J. S.||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Harris, Sir Henry P. (Paddington, S.)||Pratt, J. W.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Prothero, Rt. Hon. Roland Edmund|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Henry, Sir Charles (Shropshire)||Pryce-Jones, Col. Sir E.|
|Bonn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Hermon-Hodge, Sir R. T.||Randies, Sir John S.|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Bird, Alfred||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Blair, Reginald||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Hills, Major John Waller||Royds, Major Edmund|
|Boscawon, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Lancs., Darwen)|
|Boyton, Sir James||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Rutherford, Sir W. (L'pool, W. Derby).|
|Brassay, H. L. C.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Samuels, Arthur W.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Shortt, Edward|
|Burn, Col. C. R.||Ingleby, Holcombe||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Carnegie, Lieut.-Col. Douglas G.||Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Jackson, Sir John (Devonport)||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Jessel, Col. Sir Herbert M.||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Robert (Herts, Hitchin)||Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Sykes, Col. Sir Allan John (Knutsford)|
|Clyde, J. Avon||Joynson-Hicks, William||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Kellaway, Frederick George||Tickler, T. G.|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||Larmor, Sir J.||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Colvin, Col. Richard Beale||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid.)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Weigall, Lieut.-Col. W. E. G. A.|
|Coote, William (Tyrone, S.)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Lindsay, William Arthur||White. Col. G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Lonsdale, James R.||Wilson, Capt, A. Stanley (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Currie, G. W.||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Currie, George W.||McCalmont, Brig-Gen. Robert C. A.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon).|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Wood, Sir John (Stalybridge)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Wood, S. Hill- (Derbyshire)|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Dixon, C. H.||Meux, Adml. Hon. Sir Hedworth||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Falle, Sir Bertram Godfray||Moore, Maj-Gen. Sir J. N. (Hanover Sq.)||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Morison, Thomas B. (Inverness)|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Mount, William Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Captain.|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Guest and Colonel Sanders.|
I beg to move, at the end, to add the words,
"except that the sum so payable in any year shall not exceed one hundred and ten or be less than ninety pounds in respect of a rent-charge of the original commuted value of one hundred pounds, or a proportionate amount in respect of any greater or less rent-charge."
This Amendment is in fulfilment of a bargain I made during the Committee stage. I believe that some arrangement of this kind is necessary, and I think tithe payers and tithe owners will recognise that the variations I suggest is a reasonable one.
There is one point I wish to raise on this Amendment. I should be very grateful if the right hon. Gentleman or the Under-Secretary could answer my point, and it is this: What inducement will there be for any tithe payer to redeem if this Amendment is carried? It seems to me that if you fix tithe now at £109, and then say it shall never rise above £110, and yet it may go down to £90, what inducement is there to the tithe payer now to redeem?
The answer is a very short one. The price which the landowner can get for his land at the present moment is thirty years' purchase. If he sells a portion at thirty years' purchase he redeems the tithe rent-charge at the rate of 21.
It all depends whether the value of the land is thirty years' purchase, and that is rather a big subject on which the right hon. Gentleman knows a great deal more than I do. I must say, looking at it from the point of view of a layman, it is not clear, and when the right hon. Gentleman is dealing with this subject later on I hope he will make it clear that these terms do give a reasonable inducement to the tithe payer to redeem; otherwise, simply reading the words as they stand, they will give the impression that it is not worth redeeming at £109. If the tithe is not going to rise above £110 it may go down to £90.
I understand that the effect of this Amendment will be that tithe will never rise above £110, and will never go below £90. The result of that is to throw a certain amount of cold water upon redemption. I cannot say what the price of land is going to be in a few years time, or whether it is going to command thirty years' purchase or not, but the way to look at it at the present moment is, if you redeem it now, you can do so on the basis of providing capital at 5 per cent. interest. Supposing the value of money goes down, and the rate of interest at which you employ your spare money is only 4 per cent in ten years' time, you would then have done better to redeem your tithe now, because you would have employed your spare money at 5 per cent. That would be the only advantage, but of course it would be met by the corollary that if money should go up to 6 per cent. in the future you would have got a bad bargain. I only rose, however, to ask whether I was right in thinking that the effect of the Amendment is that it cannot exceed £110 and cannot be less than £90?
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the meaning of the last half-dozen words in the Amendment, namely, "or a proportionate amount in respect of any greater or less rent-charge"? I find considerable difficulty in interpreting these words, and perhaps he will tell us what they mean.
If the tithe rent-charge in any particular land happens to be £50, or £57, or £34, the proportionate amount will be that laid down here. If you simply said only £100, that would not cover all the sums which are smaller; but £1 in tithe is in proportion.
I raised some objection to the addition which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to make in the Committee stage fixing a maximum. He said it had been represented to him that a maximum without a minimum certainly would be a very unfair thing. I am bound to say the Amendment now on the Paper seems to have nearly revolutionised the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman accepted the quinquennial average the other day for the purpose of establishing a longer stage in the change of price and so levelling the matter a very great deal. But really that is rendered nugatory by fixing this maximum and minimum, because the tithe can only vary between a very small amount altogether. This question was before the tithe owners in the Lower House of Convocation, whose report was one of the most valuable reports on the subject. They look with very great suspicion on this fixing of a maximum and a minimum, especially where there is a narrow minimum like this of £90 and £110. If tithe were to at some considerable time fall in the future to the old levels at £66, there would undoubtedly be great agitation against having to pay for it at £90, and I do not think it is very wise to fix limits, and especially narrow limits, like these. Tithe has followed the general run of prices. By taking fifty years you would do more to adjust the run of prices, and it certainly is not very wise to put in a limitation for many reasons, and very specially for the reason raised by my Noble Friend below me, that, in very many cases, it would check that repayment that we all desire. All the Amendments have, I think, gone rather in the way of checking redemption. The Bill was introduced first with the object of encouraging redemption, but I think the Amendments have gone the other way. Certainly, this one has gone very much the other way, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he thinks it is worth while to press it when he has got a quintennial average in the Bill.
I am quite prepared to leave it out at this stage, and to reconsider it with a view to bringing it forward if we think it necessary in another place.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 2—(Compulsory Redemption Of Rent-Charges Exceeding Twenty Shillings)
A tithe rent-charge, notwithstanding that it exceeds twenty shillings, shall, except in exceptional circumstances, on the application of the owner of the land charged therewith, and without the consent of the owner of the rent-charge, be directed to be redeemed under and in accordance with the Tithe Acts, 1836 to 1891, as amended by this Act.
I beg to move, after the word "shall" ["twenty shillings shall"], to leave out the words, "except in exceptional circumstances."This and the next two Amendments are really drafting Amendments intended to meet the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Bristol (Sir C. Hobhouse). The words that I proposed on the spur of the moment did not appear to me to be particularly happy, and they are altered now. I think this Clause, as amended, will, enable the Board to deal with any exceptional cases of hardship such as those which the right hon. Member for the Ashford Division suggested.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: After the word "directed" ["be directed"], insert the words "by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries."
At end of Clause, insert the words "unless, owing to any exceptional circumstances, the Board otherwise directs."—[ Mr.Prothero.]
Clause 3—(Consideration For Redemption,)
(1) The consideration money payable on the redemption of a tithe rent-charge on any land under the Tithe Acts, 1836 to 1891, or this Act, shall, in lieu of the amount authorised or directed by the Tithe Acts, 1836 to 1891, be such an amount as may be agreed by the owners of the land and of the rent-charge, and in default of such agreement as may, on the application of the owner of the rent-charge, or of the owner of the land or any part thereof, be determined by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, in accordance with the provisions contained in the Second Schedule to this Act, to be fair compensation for the redemption.
I beg to move, after Sub-section (1), to insert the following new Sub-section:
In Committee I promised the hon. and gallant Member for Rye that I would bring up on the Report stage an Amendment to enable voluntary agreements to be made for discharging the liability for tithe rent-charge by charging the land with terminable annuities. This Amendment, as drafted, follows very closely the details of the Amendment which stood in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Rye, and certain other Amendments. But the provision is entirely voluntary, and any agreement made between a tithe owner and a tithe payer would require the consent of Queen Anne's Bounty, as is provided in the following Section, or, in the case of lay tithe, it is the consent required by the following Sub-section. I do not myself think that the power will be very largely used; but I see no objection to parties being authorised to agree to such arrangements if they wish to do that."(2) An agreement made under this Section may provide that the consideration money shall be discharged by an annuity payable yearly or half-yearly for such period, not exceeding fifty years, as may be agreed, consisting of interest at the rate of five per cent. per annum on the consideration money, and of such sum as would be sufficient if the periodical payments thereof were accumulated at compound interest at the rate of four per cent. per annum, to produce an amount equal to the consideration money at the end of the said period, and in any such case the Board shall by order direct the discharge of the consideration money by such an annuity as aforesaid and shall charge the land therewith, and the order shall contain such provisions for giving effect to the agreement and for protecting the interests of persons interested in the rent-charge as the Board may think fit, and after payment of the first instalment of the annuity the rent-charge shall cease and be extinguished."
I have got a notice on the Paper to move a new Clause. Would the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether that would come as an Amendment at the same point as his Amendment? Leaving out of consideration the application of the words which I have put on the Paper to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, I understand that the Amendment of my right hon. Friend really deals with the same points as that which I have raised, and does it for the same purpose. The position of a tithe owner is this. If he is required to find the sum which is to be chargeable on the property which he desires to relieve from the payment of tithe rent-charge, he can only do it in two ways; either by having so large a sum at his disposal in selling securities as to discharge at once the sum equivalent to the tithe rent-charge, or else by saving out of an agricultural income the sum which is represented by that equivalent. Now, it is quite clear that it would be very hard for the owner of agricultural land to save out of an agricultural income the amount required to discharge the tithe rent-charge. He would, therefore, have to raise the money by way of mortgage on the property. That would be a very undesirable thing to do, and would increase the cost of redemption very considerably. If, when the payer of the tithe rent-charge goes to the Board of Agriculture, he is pretty fairly certain that the Board will make an arrangement by which he can discharge the sum equivalent to the tithe rent-charge by yearly instalments, he will have added very little to the burden of the charge on the property by increasing that charge by the amount of the repayment of principal. It is difficult to make my point clear. I hope I have done so to my right ton. Friend. He will pay an equivalent to the present tithe rent-charge in the way of interest. He will add to that the amount required to discharge the capital, and if it is understood that it is the general policy of the Board that where the payer of tithe rent-charge desires so to discharge his obligations that that is to be the fixed policy of the Board, then his Amendment meets all my requirements, and all those of my friends who, outside this House, have suggested this to me, and I have nothing more to say. I should just like to have an assurance from the President of the Board of Agriculture that that is the case.
I am not prepared to go further in facilitating this arrangement than to say that there shall be a voluntary agreement between the parties. The right hon. Baronet proposes to make this arrangement of redemption by annual instalments compulsory in the case of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. I think it is quite true that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are not under the same disabilities with regard to accepting annual instalments as are the owners of settled estates, who would find it extremely difficult to reinvest the small bits of capital which are represented in that annual instalment. There is, therefore, that ground, I think, for the right hon. Baronet's suggestion; but, at the same time, I do not think that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should be treated differently from other bodies, like colleges, or other tithe owners. That is to say, they ought not to be forced to accept a redemption by annual instalments which might only amount to a few shillings at a time. I am quite sure that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are, as a body, most reasonable in all transactions of the kind; and I think, if the right hon. Baronet has a case in his own mind, he might be able to persuade the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to agree voluntarily to accept the proposal which he makes. I do not know whether he has consulted them; but I may say this, that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners themselves are very reluctant to be forced to accept annual instalments. I am therefore obliged to resist his proposal.
As an Ecclesiastical Commissioner I desire to oppose the suggestion that the Commissioners should be singled out, in all the country, for exceptional treatment. As the President of the Board of Agriculture says, they may be able to make a voluntary arrangement rather more easily than other people, and in that case, no doubt, a voluntary arrangement will be made. But they are the owners of a very large amount of tithe, and I think it would be very unfair if they were put in a less free position than any other tithe owner in the country.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 5—(Power To Charge On Land Money Payable For Redemption Of Tithe Rent-Charge)
(2) A charge created under the provisions of this Section shall have priority over every other then existing charge and encumbrance affecting the land, whether created under the powers of an Act of Parliament or otherwise.
I beg to move, after the word "Section" ["provisions of this Section"], to insert the words "or Section three of this Act."This is really consequential on a previous Amendment. The charges in Section 3 and in Section 5 are the costs of extinguishing the tithe rent-charge, and thus increasing the value of the land.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the words
It would seem to me sufficient to leave the Clause as it stands, without these words. It gives the new charge priority over every other then existing charge or encumbrance affecting the land. It is not easy to see what is meant by these additional words. In the former state of the section priority was given not only over existing charges but over future charges, but as it has now been limited to the then existing charges, these words seem hardly necessary, and I would like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman has any special object in leaving them in."Whether created under the powers of an Act of Parliament or otherwise."
I beg to second the Amendment.
In the almost precisely analogous case of the Improvement of Lands Acts the charges imposed are given priority, and the principle on which this Bill proceeds is the same. The value is increased by the improvement, or, as in this case, by the extinction of the tithe. All charges and encumbrances gain by that increase in value. The security is improved, and it is only fair that the cost of the operation which so increases the security should be given priority over everything else. We want to retain these words in the Act simply because if you leave them out there is a doubt whether a charge created by an Act of Parliament is an encumbrance to which priority would be given over the charge created under this section. It is not a point of very great importance. The words are included merely to remove all possible doubt.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (2), to insert the words
This Amendment is merely to ensure registration of the charge, and that due notice is given to anybody dealing with the land, whether by purchase or mortgage. It is, in effect, a drafting Amendment."And such a charge shall be a land charge within the meaning of the Land Charges Registration and Searches Act, 1888."
Amendment agreed to.
An Amendment stood upon the Paper in the name of Mr. D. White—at the end of Sub-section (2), to insert the words
"Provided that rates, taxes and assessments shall not be deemed to be charges or encumbrances within the meaning of this Section."
I want to have it made perfectly clear that rates, taxes, and assessments are not to be regarded as charges or encumbrances within the meaning of this Section. It seems to me that there might be a doubt, and I merely want to clear away that doubt. I understand that it is not the intention of the Government that the terms "charges and encumbrances" should include rates and taxes, and I rather fancy that the Amendment which has just been inserted renders this Amendment unnecessary.
That is so.
Does the hon. Member move?
No, I do not move.
Motion made, and Question, "That the Bill be now read the third time," put, and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.
Parliament (Qualification Of Women) Bill
Considered in Committee.
[Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]
Clause 1—(Capacity Of Women To Be Members Of Parliament)
A woman shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage for being elected to or sitting or voting as a Member of the Commons House of Parliament.
I beg to move, after the word "woman," to insert the words "if she shall have attained the age of thirty." I, and a great number of others, were rather astonished when we saw this Bill, to find that there was no limit fixed as to the age when women should become eligible to be elected as Members of Parliament. The Noble Lord is aware, as I said on the Second Reading, that I have been a persistent opponent of women's, suffrage, but I always held, if you gave the women the suffrage, that their admission into Parliament was a corollary and the natural result, but I never thought that you were going to have an age limit as regards the franchise and no age limit at all as regards women becoming Members of Parliament. I have always held that if you gave them the franchise you were bound to give them legislative functions, but under this Bill you are giving them legislative functions when they have not the franchise. My right hon. Friend, besides being a statesman, is also learned in the law.
I was once.
The Noble Lord is at the present time, and I would like to put to him a question. Perhaps he can enlighten me. We know that the minority of a male ceases at the age of twenty-one, and that he then attains his majority. Can the Noble Lord tell me when the minority of a female ceases, and when she attains her majority? It is rather important. I think he said, on the Second Reading, that a woman, under this Bill, could not be elected to Parliament unless she had attained the age of twenty-one. May I ask him on what ground he stated that? Has he any ground for stating it? Why is twenty-one the age? Of course, I am only a layman and I know nothing about the law, but, as far as I know, a girl or a woman never reaches her majority. The Noble Lord, on the Second Reading, told us that this applies to twenty-one. I say, quite respectfully, that I am not sure whether that is quite certain. In my opinion, there is no reason why a young girl of eighteen should not present herself as a candidate, and, if elected, sit in Parliament.
Why not eight?
Eight would be rather young, but we will put it like this: A flapper might present herself for election. We know that there is an age limit for a male, but, as far as I can ascertain, it will not apply to women. I know it will be urged that men are not debarred from sitting in Parliament even if they do not possess the electoral qualification and cannot exercise the vote. That is one reason urged by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Cleveland Division (Mr. Herbert Samuel) why no age limit should be assigned to women.
A man cannot be elected before he is twenty-one.
I have already dealt with that question. I believe, under this Bill, that a young woman of eighteen, or even under eighteen, could become a Member. Therefore that argument has not much force. You give the franchise to women when they are thirty, but under this Bill you make them eligible to become Members of this House at an indefinite age, and certainly below the age at which we give them the franchise. It will be known to my Noble Friend that in the different Legislatures on the Continent there is a certain age limit fixed before which men cannot become either deputies or senators. I believe, in France, you cannot become a deputy till you arrive at the age of twenty-five. In Italy it is the same. In France you cannot become a senator till you arrive at the age of forty. I, therefore, do press my Noble Friend to accept this Amendment. I assure him that it is not moved in any way to obstruct his measure. I must say that I am not enamoured of the Bill, but I accept it as the corollary of the other, and I submit that this is a logical Amendment, and that view is held by many of those who were strong partisans of women's suffrage. The Noble Lord will remember that when the Franchise Bill was before the House the question of giving the vote to women was left free to the House to decide. I would ask him whether he would be willing to leave this question open to the House, by which I mean that the Government Whips should not be put on when this Amendment goes to a Division? I think that is only fair. It is a point on which there is considerable difference of opinion, and it will not affect the principle of the Bill one iota. I do therefore ask him to take that into consideration. No one imagined that when this Bill was introduced the age at which a woman might become a Member of this House would be below the age at which they are entitled to exercise the franchise.
My Noble Friend, when he spoke on the Motion for leave to introduce a Bill of this sort, founded his argument on the statement that it would not be logical to grant a woman a vote, and to refuse to give her leave to sit in this House. I did not deny that there was a considerable amount of force in that argument, but I did argue that we did not know what the effect of this revolution would be, and that it was advisable to wait a little and see the effect of it before admitting women to this House. There was one flaw in my right hon. Friend's argument, and I think he knew that flaw, because the clergy for years have had the vote but have not been allowed to sit in this House. A man of such deep religious feelings and convictions as my Noble Friend must have been well aware of that fact. Now that we have the Bill we find that it is totally different from what we were given to understand it would be when the Motion was before the House, because the Bill does not admit women who are entitled to vote; it admits women who are not entitled to vote. That is entirely against the argument of my Noble Friend. What really has happened is this: Whenever a woman takes a little she generally says, "That is all I want; it is absurd to think I should want any more," but as soon as she gets that she wants something more—something which she said just before that she did not want.During Mr. Speaker's Conference—I think I am correct in stating this, because I have taken some trouble to verify it—a deputation of women did attend some members and ridiculed the idea that, if the vote were given to them, they would never wish to sit in the House. Now, having got the vote, they proceed to ask to be able to sit in the House. By this Bill they would be so qualified. Of course, the next thing would be to say, "It is not logical to allow a woman of twenty-one to be a Member of Parliament and at the same time to refuse her the vote." We shall then immediately have a Bill to reduce the age qualification from thirty to twenty-one, and we shall be told, 'It is not logical for you to oppose it; you gave them power to sit in the House; how can you defend the suggestion that a woman who is capable of sitting in the House, perhaps of sitting in the Chairman's chair, or in Mr. Speaker's chair, or even sitting where my Noble Friend is sitting at the present moment and presiding over the destinies of the Foreign Office, yet at the same time she is not fit to vote?" The idea is absurd. Now we come to the question raised by the Amendment, as to what is the legal disqualification which prevents a woman being elected at the age of eighteen. I have taken the trouble to ascertain whether there is any legal disqualification for men. It seems that previously to 7 and 8 Wm. III. minors were frequently permitted to sit in the House.
There is something about Ireland which I will not read. It is evidently plain from that that the Act which says that no person shall be capable of being elected unless he is of the age of twenty-one years has been violated, and that men under twenty-one have sat in this House. Surely some age-limit should be laid down, even if my Noble Friend is not prepared to accept thirty years. I cannot see how, on his own logic, he can refuse to accept thirty. I disagree with his interruption when he said that he is not learned in the law. He still is learned in the law, and I am quite certain that if he were arguing my case before a judge he would argue it with such force that the judge would be compelled to accept his proposal. I hope that I have convinced him that he is wrong."By Section 7 of that Act it was, however, enacted that no person should be capable of being elected in that or any future Parliament if he was not of the age of twenty-one years, and if he presumed to sit or vote that he should be liable to the same penalties as a person sitting or voting without having been elected. Since the passing of that Act, minors have, however, sat in the House, namely, Charles James Fox, who sat for Midhurst before he was twenty years of age, and Lord John Russell for Tavistock before he was of age."
I am afraid I cannot accept this Amendment. The argument put forward by my hon. Friend who moved it was that since we fixed the age of thirty as the age at which women can vote, therefore we ought to adopt the same age for their sitting in Parliament. I am afraid I do not agree with that either as a proposition of constitutional law or as really resting on the true facts of what has happened in this matter. So far as constitutional law is concerned, nothing is clearer than that the present condition of the English law is that it is not a necessary qualification for Members of Parliament that they should have the right to vote. Therefore, as a matter of constitutional law, there is nothing in that point so far as I can see.
I gather that the point of the Noble Lord's argument is that a certain man may not be qualified to vote because he may not have the occupational franchise or the residential franchise, but that he is qualified to vote on account of age. There is no disqualification for voting on account of age, but the point is that in the case of women there is a special disqualification upon the point of age and not on the point as to whether they have property or are otherwise qualified.
The general proposition is quite true, that it is a principle of the Constitution that anyone can sit in this Parliament who has not a vote for a Member of Parliament. As to this particular disqualification, everybody knows quite well why the age of thirty years was fixed as the age at which women could vote. It had nothing to do with their supposed capacity or incapacity between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one. That limit was adopted in order to meet the objection to the extension of the franchise without some limit of the number of women voters. That is perfectly notorious, and there is no secret about it. That is the reason why the age limit of thirty was introduced, in order to avoid extending the franchise to a very large number of women, for fear they might be in a majority in the electorate of this country. It was for that reason only, and it had nothing to do with their qualifications at all. No one would seriously suggest that a woman of twenty-five is less capable of giving a vote than a woman of thirty-five. The only question is whether the reason which applied to the limit of the number of voters applies also to Members of the House of Commons. You have merely to state it to see the answer. The object of this Bill, if it is approved at all, must be approved because it throws open a larger choice to the electors of the country. It enables them to choose, if they think right, women who are not disqualified by other legal disqualifications for membership of this House. Therefore, with all respect, I do not think there is anything in that point. Then it is said that if you do not put in some limit of age, a woman of eighteen might be elected. My right hon. Friend opposite (Sir F. Banbury) went on to point out that in fact men of eighteen or nineteen years of age have been elected, and he quoted the well-known instances of Charles James Fox—not a very conclusive condemnation of the system, after all—and of Lord John Russell, neither of whom were wholly undistinguished Members of this House. But, as a matter of fact, you have a legislative enactment which the right hon. Baronet read out, and which I freely admit I had forgotten. I thought the disqualification rested entirely on the common law. He points out that there is a legislative enactment, saying that no person under twenty-one shall be elected. You cannot do more than that. If you put it into this Bill you could not make it any stronger. There it is, it exists, and the Legislature has enacted that disqualification. This Bill provides that there shall not be a disqualification on account of sex. It leaves all the other disqualifications exactly as they were. Therefore it seems to be quite clear that no woman under twenty-one years of age will be entitled to be elected. I hope I have dealt with the arguments put forward in this case. To my mind it would be quite illogical and absurd to limit the choice of the electors to women over the age of thirty, if they are to be allowed to choose them at all. The right hon. Baronet was quite inaccurate in saying that I rested the case for this change on the ground that since women had got the vote, therefore they ought to be elected, in the sense that only those women who had the vote ought to be elected. What I said was that since you had swept away the disqualification of sex in the matter of the electors, there was no ground for maintaining it in the matter of Members of Parliament. That is true. I still think that is a sound proposition. For these reasons I am sorry to say I cannot accept the Amendment.
I am very glad the Noble Lord has taken up the line he has done. A more unreasonable proposal than that before the Committee I have never listened to. There is quite as strong an argument as any for rejecting the proposal, namely, that when you allow a person to become an elector, every person who has that qualification becomes an elector by right, but when you consider the qualification of persons to be elected, that is not the case. They are not elected as a right; they have still to obtain the assent of a very large number of people. It might well be that persons between twenty-one and thirty would not be fit to exercise the franchise, because it might be thought that the vast majority of them were unfit to be electors; yet at the same time it is quite conceivable that the persons the electors would select would be quite fit to sit in this House. There is no logical argument whatever in suggesting that the qualification to vote, which is a matter of right, and the qualification to be elected, ought to be the same. One is a question of what you do of your own free will; the other is a question of whether a large body of, say, some 30,000 or 40,000 of your fellow-citizens select you for a particular situation. I am glad the Government are standing for the principle that it is the electors and not Members of this House who are to decide who can and who cannot come here.
7 0 P.M.
Will my Noble Friend guarantee, supposing this Amendment is rejected and this Bill becomes law, that there will not be a demand to reduce the age qualification for voting from thirty to twenty-one? He nods at that. He will not do that. It was perhaps a rather impossible question to put to him, for he may not have sufficient influence to prevent women doing this thing. But will he oppose any such proposal?
When such a proposal comes forward I shall deal with it upon its merits, as I am sure the right hon. Baronet will do.
Does not my Noble Friend think that if he admits the Amendment to qualify a woman for a seat in Parliament below the age of thirty it will precipitate a movement that she shall be allowed to vote at the age of twenty-one?
I venture to appeal to my hon. Friend not to press this somewhat ungallant self-denying Amendment. It is not reasonable that we should deprive the women of the satisfaction of sitting at any age. A man may do so, and why should women not have the same qualification? I rather admire the stoical way in which the Noble Lord took the strong cross-examination directed at him by the hon. Baronet. I have no doubt he is fully supplied with the information which was asked for and I assume it will be forthcoming at the appropriate time. I hope the hon. Baronet will not press this disqualification, seeing that men are not subject to it.
I beg, to move, after the word "woman" ["A woman"], to insert the words, "other than a woman holding in her own right a peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom."I want really to discover how the law is going to stand when this Bill has been passed. This is really rather a good example of the inconvenience of having followed the Noble Lord's plan of introducing a single Bill dealing with the Membership of both Houses of Parliament. I would like to ask the Noble Lord to tell me whether it requires an Act of Parliament to enable women to sit in another place or whether anything more is necessary than a Resolution passed in that other place? It is rather important we should know when we are considering what we are going to do as regards the Membership of this House.
Is my hon. Friend moving an Amendment?
Yes; the Amendment on the Order Paper. What I want to know is, what will be the position if this Bill passes as it stands?-How will it affect ladies who hold peerages in their own right?
Does not my Amendment come before that of my hon. Friend?
It appears to me there is some danger under this Bill of making these Peeresses eligible to sit in both Houses of Parliament, and I think we ought now to make it quite plan that Peeresses in their own right shall not, by this Act, become eligible for Membership of this House.
I do not quite understand on what ground the hon. Member puts this disqualification of women unless it is that they have a seat in another place. I agree that no person should be entitled to sit in both Houses of Parliament. That, indeed, is a principle which is generally admitted, but I think it would not be right to exclude women from this House, unless it is quite certain that they are eligible for the other House. I hope the hon. Member will not press his Amendment. If in the course of the passage of this Bill changes are made which will include these women in the other House, some Amendment will then become necessary.
I want to prevent not only the possibility of one person sitting in both Houses of Parliament, but of any person exercising the option to do so. Take the case of a lady holding a Scottish Peerage. Is there anything whatever to prevent such a lady being a candidate for this House? Her position is rather different from that of an English Peer. The English Peer by constitutional custom can never sit in this House. I understand the Scottish Peer is only prevented sitting here by Statute. The Irish Peer is in a different position. I understand there are no Irish Peeresses—[An HON. MEMBER: "There are two!"]—and, therefore, it is practically impossible for the question to be raised in the case of Ireland. I imagine it would not necessarily follow that the statutory instruction with regard to Scottish Peers sitting here would apply to Peeresses. I therefore think the effect of passing this Bill as it stands would probably be that Scottish Peeresses would become eligible for English and Irish constituencies.
An Irish Peer now can be elected for this House. They are eligible for membership of it. Lord Palmerston's case is an instance in point.
I believe we have an example at the present time, but we shall be identifying ourselves with an extraordinary anomaly. A Scottish Peeress might be elected to this House, whereas a Scottish Peer could not be. It seems to me that this is a point which ought to be cleared up. It is quite possible the matter might become the subject of legal proceedings. Whatever may be the decision of another place, surely it would be better here to make it absolutely clear so that there can be no doubt whatever! I submit to the Noble Lord it would be well to make it clear that ladies holding Peerages in their own right should not be free to come here. Let us lay it down one way or the other and not leave the point in a state of absolute obscurity and unsettlement.
I think this point really needs a little more consideration. I understand my hon. Friend wishes to get rid of the possibility of ladies being elected to this House at their own choice. How does the matter stand? If I am correct—and I speak subject to correction—a lady who holds a Peerage of the United Kingdom, whilst she may not be able to sit in the House of Lords, is prevented absolutely being elected to this House because she is for all practical purposes a Peer of the realm and the disability which applies to Peers applies equally to her. Then we come to the Scottish Peers. Their case is provided for by the Act of Union. This is not merely a statutory disability imposed by some Act of Parliament, but it depends on the Act of Union, and under the Act of Union a certain number of Scottish Peers, and only a certain number, can be elected to sit in the House of Lords. If a lady holds a Scottish Peerage she is a Peer, she would have her chance and right of election as a representative Peer along with other Scottish Peers; but unless she secures election in that way she would not be able to take her seat. Is she to be under the disability to sit in this House? Then we come to the case of the Irish Peers. That also depends on the Act of Union with Ireland. If a lady holds an Irish Peerage she would have first to secure election as one of the representative Irish Peers before being able to take her seat in the House of Lords, but if she does not secure election, then it is possible that her disability as a Peeress would disappear, and she would be able to submit herself for election to this House. That being so, does the hon. Member wish to lay down that in no case shall an Irish Peeress be allowed to be elected to this House so long as she has not been elected as a representative Peer for Ireland? I should have thought that my hon. Friend was possessed of too liberal tendencies to wish to place the lady under such a disability. I understand there are, in fact, two Irish Peerages which pass in the female line. Is it suggested that ladies holding those Peerages should be placed under this disability? I repeat this matter needs more consideration, because many statutes require to be looked into before the point can be decided.
If I were sure the law is precisely what the hon. and learned Gentleman has stated I should be quite satisfied, but I do not think his view of the law is precisely the same as that of the Noble Lord, who seems to think that my Amendment is not a good one, and that these ladies ought to be allowed to be elected to this House. In view of the exposition of the law we have had I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
We come now to a series of Amendments which are intended to raise a question with regard to the other House. I think it will be much more convenient, and in better form, if the Amendment is moved at the end of the words of the existing Clause. The hon. Baronet comes nearest to the right form as I suggest that he should move to add at the end of the Clause, the words "or for receiving a writ of summons to attend and sit and vote in the House of Lords."
I beg to move, at the end, to add the words
I am somewhat surprised that my Noble Friend, who is not lacking in audacity, should bring in this what might be called half measure. Why he has confined his Parliamentary (Qualification of Women) Bill entirely to Members of the House of Commons I am at loss to understand, and I think that is the view of a good many Members of the House. If women are not to be disqualified by sex or marriage from being elected or sitting and voting as Members of the Commons House of Parliament, I should like to know what reason he can adduce why they should not receive a writ of summons to attend and sit and vote in the House of Lords. I am certain he does not imagine that life in the House of Lords is more strenuous than life in the House of Commons. Does he imagine that it would be a greater hardship for a woman to get a summons to sit in the House of Lords than it is for her to go through a contested election? Surely that cannot be the reason. As my Noble Friend has always been a champion of the other House, surely, if he considers that it is advisable and that this House would be improved by women becoming Members of it, he will not deprive the House of Lords, for which he has the greatest respect and which has been most useful to him in times gone past, of the privilege of having women Members. But it goes even further than that. Peeresses in their own right will be placed in my opinion in a very embarrassing position. Take the case of Viscountess Rhondda who has recently become in her own right a Viscountess of the United Kingdom. Is she to be deprived, because adequate provisions have not been made in this measure, of the opportunity of sitting in the House of Lords. It raises, to a certain extent, the point raised by my hon. Friend (Mr. Holt). Viscountess Rhondda, who would be qualified to become a Member of Parliament if any lady was, from her experience in business and other matters, according to this Bill would not be qualified to sit in the House of Lords, and I ask the Noble Lord whether she would be entitled to become a Member of this House? If this Bill is passed and you confine it to the Commons House of Parliament, not only will it be placing a certain number of women at a great disadvantage but you will be depriving the House of Lords of the advantage which the Noble Lord wishes to confer on this House. The Noble Lord understands the other House as well, and better perhaps, than any other Member of this House. Naturally he should do so from his past associations. It may be that while in favour of the Amendment he has hesitated to put it forward in his Bill because he is somewhat doubtful of the reception it will meet with in the House of Lords. I quite agree that the House of Lords cannot reject this Bill, although they will not like it. It is a logical conclusion of the franchise, and the Second Reading was passed unanimously, but I think the Noble Lord will agree with me that if the Amendment is inserted the Bill may not have the smooth passage he would desire in the other place. That is a matter to which I do not think we should pay much attention. Are women more unqualified to sit in the House of Lords than in the House of Commons? That is the issue we have to face. I shall be very interested to know why the Noble Lord has not inserted this provision in the Bill. It has been decided that women shall be qualified to sit in the House of Commons; and there can be no possible plausible argument brought forward why they should not have the same privilege when they are Peeresses in their own right from sitting in the House of Lords. Therefore, I hope my Noble Friend will take his courage in both hands, accept the Amendment and make his Bill a complete Bill."or for receiving a writ of summons to attend and sit and vote in the House of Lords."
I think I may have discovered the Noble Lord's reason for not putting the Amendment in the Bill. It is that he thought it would come much better from the House of Commons than from himself, and consequently, if the Committee is allowed a free vote on the question I do not think there can be much doubt that it will decide that what is good for us is also good for the other House. I trust, therefore, that as Women Suffrage has been dealt with in the past without putting on the Government Whips, the Noble Lord may be able to leave this Amendment to be dealt with in the same manner. If he does that I think the House of Lords will pay respect to it, and will probably treat themselves as they find we have treated ourselves here. Perfect equality demands an Amendment of this kind. I would certainly not lose the Bill for the sake of the Amendment—that is the last thing in the world I would desire—but I cannot think we should do that. The Amendment will be considered in the Lords, it will get there with all the weight of an almost unanimous decision of the House of Commons in its favour, and if the Lords decide to get rid of it, I do not think that will affect the safety of the Bill. Consequently, I think the Committee ought to put the Amendment in and leave it to the Lords to take it out if they think fit.
I approach this Amendment with the greatest sympathy for the general point of view which has prompted its proposal. There is something very attractive about saying there is no reason in the world why women should not sit in the House of Lords as well as in the House of Commons, and primâ facie I should myself agree to that as a general proposition. But when you come to look at it closely it is not quite the same thing. As far as the House of Commons is concerned, what you are doing is to say that any woman who secures the suffrage of her fellow-citizens in the constituency shall not be excluded by her sex from the House of Commons. You are opening the door wider to the choice of the electorate. If you make it apply to the House of Lords you are doing rather a different thing. You are there placing, by the operation of the Bill, a certain number of women in that House. I am told there are about twenty or thirty Peeresses in their own right. They would thereupon, by the passage of this Bill, be made members of the Legislature. That is a different proposition. It may be an equally good one, but it is different from removing the disqualification to be elected by the electors of this country. It seems to me a kind of proposition which might arouse a great deal of opposition in another place. The hon. Baronet (Sir C. Henry) did not think it necessary to conceal the fact that that was his main reason for putting it forward.
One of his reasons for putting it forward. It is rather important that the Committee should recognise that the hon. Baronet should have moved the Amendment having in view, to put it in the mildest way possible, that if he can secure its insertion it may imperil the chances of the Bill in another place.
I think the Noble Lord—
The hon. Baronet need not interrupt about that. The Committee heard him. What I rather feel about it is that when you are going to make what would really be a considerable change in the composition of the other House they have a right to say they ought to be the people to do it. It would be a very natural thing for any of us, if we happened to be members of it, to say ourselves. Peers are very much like everyone else, and I suppose they would say it, and if they said it, one must not conceal from oneself the fact that there is a very large body of opinion in that House which has always been very doubtful about the desirability of giving women voters political power. It is not possible that the two currents would coalesce and induce the other House to refuse to pass the Bill? On the other hand, what do we risk who are in favour of the change, as I am myself? If we put the Amendment in and there is a majority in the other House against it, they may reject it altogether, but they would at the very least strike it out, and I am quite sure this House would not be prepared to risk the fate of the Bill on the question whether they would insist on the Amendment. Therefore, if there is a majority against it in the other House, we may not succeed in carrying the Bill at all. If, on the other hand, there is a majority in its favour, there is no doubt whatever that the proposition would be put forward in the other House and it would be inserted in the Bill. Therefore, it seems to me, looking at it merely from the point of view of a friend of the Bill—
Politics is very largely a question of expediency. Looking at it from the point of view of a friend of the Bill, it seems to me that if you insert this Amendment you do not materially increase or very seriously increase the chance of achieving the purpose of the Amendment, but you do increase the risk of the success of the Bill. Under these circumstances, after giving very careful and, I think, perfectly impartial consideration to the matter during the period which has elapsed since the Bill was read a second time, I strongly advise the House not to accept the Amendment.
I would like to ask my hon. Friends not to press this Amendment, for a reason which has not been adduced, but which, I think, will commend itself to them. If I am not mistaken, they are both Members who in normal times would have been in favour of very drastic remedies being applied to the constitution of the Second Chamber. Is it wise at this time to attempt to tinker with its constitution? It is far better to leave the other House to make such proposals as they may think fit, undisturbed by any suggestion on our part, and then judge of those proposals when their lordships have dealt with them. If this Amendment were carried, it would be construed, and would be used, without the slightest doubt, as sanctioning the extention of the hereditary principle in the Legislature—the right to legislate on the ground of heredity. On all these grounds, and having regard to the fact that the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment entertain much wider views in regard to the Second Chamber, it would be much better, from the point of reform, to leave the Bill as it stands.
As one who spoke in favour of our inserting this proposal, I think it only right to say that I have been very much impressed by the argument just adduced by the Noble Lord. I think it really is conclusive; and, speaking personally, I should be quite prepared to leave it to the House of Lords to insert it themselves, as I hope they will do. I hope there will be no Division in this House. If we prefer not to state our view that it ought to be put in, I hope we shall not state our view that it ought not to be put in. Therefore, I would ask my hon. Friend to withdraw the Motion.
My hon. Friend (Colonel Greig) thinks that this Amendment would be an extension of the hereditary principle of the House of Lords. I do not agree with that. These Peeresses who would go to the House of Lords would not go in an hereditary character, because they are Peeresses in their own right. Therefore, I think the hon. Member will agree with me that that point of his argument does not carry much weight. Like him, I am strongly in favour of a reform of the Second Chamber. I think I am right in my deduction that the Noble Lord, in the interests of his Bill, thinks it better not to insert this Amendment. He thinks it is quite possible that he might lose his Bill if the Amendment is inserted. Personally, I should not be afraid if it is withdrawn; I will say that quite frankly. However, under the circumstances, and as I do not seem to get much support, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2 ( Short Title) ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Bill reported, without Amendment; read the third time, and passed.
Naval And Military War Pensions Bill
Considered in Committee.
[Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]
Clause 1—(Administrative Expenses Of Committees)
(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.
Clause 2—(Power Of Minister With Respect To Framing Of Schemes, Appointment, Suspension, Etc, Of Committees)
(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—
(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
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."frame a supplemental scheme to be approved by him for giving effect to."
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
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."habitually absent from meetings of the committee, or is obstructive, or is otherwise not discharging his duties as such member in a satisfactory manner."
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:
that is, the Pensions Minister—"Where a committee represent to him—"
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."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."
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,
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."We have got to remember that the Minister will always be responsible to Parliament, and will not be likely to do anything very absurd."
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.
I beg to move, in Sub-setion (1, h), to leave out the words,
and to insert instead thereof the words,"is obstructive, or is otherwise not discharging his duties as such member in a satisfactory manner,"
"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.
What does it say?
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."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 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.
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) require local committees to appoint discharged men on all district and 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—
I do not mean such committees.
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.
Yes, and sub-committees.
That is subcommittees of the main committees.
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,
Therefore we have absolute power."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."
That is for the two men and the one woman for the main committee.
No; I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. It says:—
"Where any such sub-committee or any joint committee—"
Of a district?
Of an area?
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:
That would include those appointed under paragraph (b)."require local committees to appoint discharged men on all district and sub-committees appointed under this Section."
The words of paragraph (f) are for any part of the area. The words of paragraph (b) are
I should say that "part" included special part."for any special parts of their area."
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
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."two at least."
Might we not add to the Amendment the words, "exceeding three"? This may not sound a very practicable proposition, I admit.
There may be only three members on the committee.
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.
I will accept that certainly, and will ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.