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I beg to move
That, in the opinion of this House, the time has now arrived to appoint a Select Committee, with Treasury representation, to consider and report upon the best means of giving effect to the recommendations of the Ward Committee of 1906, who reported that, in the case of ex-service civil servants, previous non-pensionable service in the Navy or Army shall be included for the purpose of their Civil Service pensions.
This matter has been the subject of many debates and questions in this House during the past 25 or 30 years, and I think the objects of the Resolution are fairly well known to all hon. Members. What we ask to-night is that a Select Committee should be set up to consider the best way of putting into effect the recommendations of the Ward Committee of 1906. With the permission of the House I will refer to the composition of the Ward Committee, and its terms of reference, and I propose to give some extracts from its Report. This was an Inter-Departmental Committee representing the War Office and the Admiralty. The chairman was Sir Edward Ward and the other War Office representatives included the late Lord Cheylesmore. Pay master-in-Chief C. E. Giffard represented the Admiralty and other members of the Committee were Sir Frederick Harrison, General Manager of the London and North Western Railway; the Chairman of the South Metropolitan Gas Company, and two representatives of the Directors of Recruiting at the War Office. That very strong Committee went fully into the case of these men. Its terms of reference provided that it was to consider and report generally on the whole question of the civil employment of ex-sailors and ex-soldiers. Section 43 of the Report reads as follows:
At present ex-soldiers and ex-sailors who, having been discharged from the Army or Navy without pension, subsequently obtain an established position in the Civil Service, are debarred from reckoning any military or naval service for pension. The disadvantage of such an arrangement to the ex-soldier and sailor may best be illustrated in the following manner:.
'A' joins the Civil Service at the age of 19, and 'B' joins the Army at the same age, and obtains, on his discharge at the
age of 26, a Civil Service appointment. Both men, their total service being equal, are superannuated at the age of 60. 'A,' whose service has been entirely civil, receives a maximum pension of 40/60ths, and 'B,' not being able to count his military service, receives only 34/60ths of his salary. In point of fact, the longer the Army service the greater will be the disproportion in favour of the civilian. Such an arrangement as this is, in our opinion, inequitable, and rest upon a purely arbitrary basis, for Army or Navy service, with its attendant risks, should be regarded as at least equivalent in its pension—bearing value to Civil Service; and the existence of a rule which declines to recognise the former as such is not unnaturally viewed by those concerned as unjust.
The report goes on:
An amalgamation of civil and naval service for civil superannuation is admitted in the case of certain shipwright boys who engage to serve for 12 years from the age of 18 in the Fleet, and are then transferred to the civil establishment of His Majesty's dockyards, being held liable to sea service in emergency up to the age of 50, and for this purpose enrolled in the Royal Fleet Reserve. 'Seatime' is allowed in all such cases to reckon for civil superannuation. Similar provision is made in regard to dockyard riggers and seamen in yard craft by Order in Council of 16th April, 1861, and the civil servant who joins the police carries with him his civil service towards pension under the Police Act, 1890.
Now comes the recommendation of the Committee under this head:
We recommend that similar treatment should be accorded to ex-soldiers and sailors who, having received no Army or Navy pension, are eventually appointed to pensionable posts in the Civil Service, and that if there is not power under the existing law to carry this recommendation, early steps should be taken to obtain legislative authority to remedy this legitimate grievance.
This was the Report of the Ward Committee of 1906. We have now got to the year 1926, and no steps have been taken by successive Governments to put that recommendation into effect. It seems to me that what held good in 1906 holds good now—the principle is the same—and I can see no reason, except on the score of expense, with which I shall deal later, why it should not have been adopted years ago. It must be on the face of it morally right and just that two men entering the employment of the same employer, in this case the State, at the same age, and continuing in it for 40 years or so, should on retiring have the same pension. In the higher grades of the Civil Service people are transferred
from one Government Department to another, but when they are transferred from the India Office to the Admiralty, or from the India Office to the Irish Office, of which there have been cases, they do not immediately lose the whole of their former service and have to start again, but that is what is happening now with these men. The whole of their Army or Navy service counts for nothing at all, unless they have served for 21 years in the Army and 22 years in the Navy, when they get a pension. In civil life this would never happen at all. Frequently men go into private employment with a firm. They go into one department at 18 or 19 years of age, and they may be transferred to another department in three or four years' time, but any pension scheme which that firm has counts from the time they enter the employment of the firm and not from the moment they go into their last job. It seems to me that there can be no moral reason whatever why this system should not be applied to the colour service of men serving in the Army and Navy, and also in the Air Force. Naturally, in the Resolution I cannot mention the Air Force by name, because it did not exist at the time of the Ward Committee in 1906, but the Resolution really, of course, applies to the Air Force just the same as to the Army and Navy.
I come now to another point, and that is the inducement it would be for the right standard of recruit to enter the fighting services if this recommendation were put into force. It would be a very fine inducement for a man of good character, ambitious, wanting to get on, to know that if he enters the Army at the age of 18, serves seven years, and then goes on into another Government Department, such as the Post Office, those seven years of his Army life, seven of the best years of his life, possibly, would count towards his final pension. I am sure at the present time there are many youths of 18 or 19 who would willingly go into the Army, partly because of the attraction of Army life, and partly because of the chance it would give them of seeing foreign countries, which they would not see otherwise, who are deterred by the fact that in some way even now, though not so much as in the past, that Army or Navy life seems but a blind alley, and there is always the fear that, on retire- ment at the end of seven, 12, or 21 years, there will be a difficulty about their further employment. It seems to me that if we held out this inducement to young men we should get a far higher standard of recruit coming into the forces, with a certain knowledge that, if he conducted himself well and did nothing foolish, at the end of his Army career of seven or 12 years, when he might pass on to another Government Department, instead of those seven or 12 years being wasted they would all count towards his final pension on retirement at 60. I do not know what the exact recruiting figures at the present time are, but I remember questions in this House recently which brought out the fact that the standard of recruits presenting themselves for enlistment in the Army was not very high. The physical standard was poor, and a great many people were rejected, but if we could have this recommendation carried into effect, I am certain that a very much better class of recruit would offer himself for enlistment.
Now we come to what is really the crux of the whole matter, and that is the question of expense. In the past the sole objection of all Governments who have turned down this recommendation of the Ward Committee has been on the score of expense. I think that everybody, from the days of the Liberal Government in 1906 to those of the Labour Government of the year before last, has agreed that morally the thing was right and just, and that it would be useful and a help to the general efficiency of the Services and of the Civil Service, but they have turned it down because they thought it would be too expensive. I venture to say, with great respect to the very formidable array of people who are going to sit on me when I have finished, that I think we are rather at cross purposes on the subject of expense and of the number of people who would come under this actual recommendation. I have been told officially by the Treasury that this would involve the enormous sum of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 or more, but the whole of this Resolution is based on the actual ex-regular soldiers and sailors. We are not including the hostility men, who enlisted for the duration of the War. They enlisted under contract, and received a gratuity on demobilisation at the end of the War. The people with whom we are trying to deal to-night are a very limited number of men, who enlisted under a regular contract for seven years with the colours and five years with the reserve, and then passed on into the Civil Service. I have gone very carefully into the figures which have been supplied to me by the United Association of Ex-Naval and Military Civil Servants, who have the whole time conducted this, I will not say agitation, but demand, for the last 20 or 30 years, in a very reasonable and proper spirit. I think the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who received a deputation which I accompanied a couple of months ago, will agree that the case was put forward most reasonably and tellingly, and without any accusations in regard to past treatment. I think these figures, therefore, can be taken as substantially correct.
The number of ex-regular soldiers and sailors at present employed by the Government in the Civil Service is roughly about 17,000. I do not want the House to muddle up the ex-regulars and the hostility men; I am talking entirely about the ex-regulars. The number who would retire annually out of this 17,000 would be, roughly, 2 per cent., which works out at about 340. The average salary would be £119 per annum, plus £78 bonus, which works out at about £197. Allowing an average of eight years' colour service for each, this would add £19 14s. per annum to each man's pension, being 8/80ths of the £197. That total for each year would embrace 340 men, and the total cost of their actual pensions would be £6,698. In addition, you would have the gratuity which is paid on retirement at the age of 60, which would work out for those 340 men at an additional £16,000, so that for those 340 men, the 2 per cent. of men retiring annually, the total cost would be, roughly, £23,000. Out of that £23,000, only the £6,000 odd for pensions would be recurring. The gratuity would not recur to those men. Therefore, the cost for the present year, if this were granted, would be roughly £23,000, and next year it would be the £6,000 for the pensions of the men who retire this year, and an additional £6,000 for the 2 per cent. retiring next year, making £12,000, plus the new gratuity for the men retiring next year, but not the gratuity being paid this year.
Therefore, for this year, the cost will be, roughly, £23,000 and for next year, roughly, £30,000, and will increase by not more than, roughly, £7,000 each year, and you have got to allow a certain amount off that for the people who die. Therefore, I cannot think that, even in the present time of almost national emergency and the necessity for national economy, that this is going to be a very large sum. I do not want to touch on anybody's corns too much, but it would take seven or eight years for these pensions to reach the figure of £200,000, which was talked about so much recently for sports fields for the Civil Service, and, naturally, these men who have been trying to get this additional small pension, which would make all the difference on their retirement, cannot help contrasting the stubbornness of the Government in refusing this slight concession, and their willingness, until pressure was brought upon them, to give the £200,000 for sports grounds. Of course, there is another point. If the general system of disarmament comes along, as we all hope it will, provided it is entirely universal, the number of people employed in the Army and the Navy will be decreased and there would be still fewer to draw pensions.
I am afraid I have dealt with this subject very inadequately, and not nearly so clearly and concisely as I could have wished, but I would appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government to try to separate what we are really asking for and what the Treasury has always accused us of asking, because there is a very big difference between the sum of £23,000 we want for this year and the £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 which they have frequently talked about. We are not asking for the money straight away, but for consideration of the recommendations of the Ward Committee of 1906, and the best ways of putting them into effect, and I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government to meet us half way and to have a Committee of some sort to consider this matter. It is a very real grievance, only involving a small sum, but involving a class of men who have served the whole of their life in the State service, and I feel that this Government, of whom I am one of the warmest supporters in this House, would do well to remember these men are their servants, that they have served the State well, and both on moral grounds and on grounds of expediency I hope the Government will see their way to grant what we ask for.
I beg to second the Motion.
I wish to deal with other precedents which seem analogous to the claim raised on behalf of these ex-service men. A policeman, for instance, on leaving the police force and joining the Civil Service, under Section 14 of the Police Act of 1890, is allowed to count for pension service in the Civil Service, four years for each three years of his service in the police. I am quite aware that he has subscribed for his pension, and, perhaps, on that account he is allowed the extra year for pension service in the Civil Service after leaving the police service. But if the policemen are to have their police service recognised, why should not the ex-Army and ex-Naval men? If they went into ordinary civil life, they would be on the same basis; neither of them would be pensionable at all. So I do not see, because they go into the service of the State, there should be any difference whatsoever. Quite recently the Treasury has admitted that certain telegraph messengers who joined up at the age of 18 prior to the War should, on return to those posts which had been kept open for them in the Post Office service, be eligible for pay and pension from the time that they first entered the service, counting their military service, and they were never on the establishment. Then, again, we have the case of the telegraph messengers who are now encouraged to enlist, and told that when they come back there will be places earmarked for them which will be given to them if their characters in the service are reported as having been good. But those men when they return will not be eligible for pensions for the time they have served. When the original telegraph companies were taken over by the State, the whole of their employés were allowed to reckon their service for pension service from the time they joined those telegraph companies.
I was very glad to hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved this Resolution refer to the Air Force, because I consider that on any questions connected with the Service we should always consider their claims. In the Air Force we have at present a certain number of mechanics who are not skilled men. They would be available for posts such as postmen, but we have also a very large number of highly skilled men—telegraphists, wireless men, telephonists and skilled engineering men. Later on they may enter certain parts of the Civil Service. Are we going to keep those excellent men out? Are we going so to treat them that they are not eligible to have their pensions from the time they joined the Service? It would not be fair in any way to do that, and I think we have to look forward if we want to get good recruits to justify the work they do while serving in the Army, Navy or Air Service. Lately, we have had broadcasted through the wireless the great advantage of joining certain branches of the Service, and it has also been advertised by other methods. I think a greater advantage would be if the large number of ex-service men dotted all over the country in the Civil Service were able to tell the young men how well they had been treated, and encourage them to join. Instead of that, what do we find? We find up and down the country a large number of disgruntled men who are grousing at the terms under which they are serving, and I am sure that they deter in a great measure the right class of men from entering the Service.
It is too big a handicap to ask the soldier, after seven years' service, to start on the same lines as the civilian. When he enters the Civil Service he receives different treatment to the man from the National Telephone Service, or the man who comes in from the other branches to which I have referred. He has to be sure of having a good character. He has to undergo a medical examination. Each of these things, of course, are quite right and are justified; but when he starts he generally has to run up a ladder, and he is only a temporary employé. His Army and Navy service is ignored, and he is more or less penalised as a servant of the State for having served in the Army and Navy; whereas, if he had been a civilian all the time, he would have the advantage of it. Some 30 years ago, when the poems of Mr. Rudyard Kipling began to be known in the country, they aroused a certain amount of emotion and enthusiasm for Tommy Atkins. To-day we have gone a much longer step than that. Every right- minded and thinking man and woman in this country wants to do the best they can for the ex-Service men. I regard this Motion as a means to an end; to put right the grievance which is felt by these men. I am sure that if we do that we shall have a certain justification in the action we take.
I rise to support the proposal before the House. I should make it clear that I do so in my individual capacity as a Member of the House, and not in any way as committing any other hon. Member on these benches. It may be within the recollection of the House that on 7th August last my hon. Friend the Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker) and myself raised this question. We brought forward many of the points advanced by the hon. and gallant Members who proposed and seconded the Motion. They have in the main stated the salient facts in regard to the position of the men on whose behalf they moved this Resolution. I hope the House will bear in mind in this discussion that it is what are called the professional soldiers and sailors with which this Resolution deals; that it has no regard to the hostilities men who joined up in 1914–18. Special terms were made for these. They are not included in this. Practically every adult man was a soldier. It ought to be borne in mind that the amount of money that is being asked for is not being called for in one lump sum. It is to be spread over a great many years, so that I am inclined to think that the figures which were put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Nuneaton (Captain Hope) are outside what may be required, and that the figure is within a narrow limit; for it has to be remembered that in the main part these men will not come on this fund until they are 60 or 65 years of age. That means that it will be a rapidly diminishing payment, and that you are not likely to exceed the amount in any one year that has been paid out over the preceding period. The only other men who are concerned are those who leave before they have completed their pensionable service, and they are disposed of by one gratuity payment.
The Ward Committee were in the main concerned with the failure to get the right sort of recruits for the Army and the Navy. They brought forward reasons for this state of affairs, and said that we should make it clear that these men were not going into a blind-alley occupation, or that, having served their country, they would be taken and thrown upon the unemployment scrapheap. That is a point that we want to raise now. We want the House particularly to remember that under present conditions 70 per cent. of postmen who enter the service are recruited from the Army and Navy. These men are paid a comparatively small sum of money and their pensionable rates are based on that. It will be seen that it is seven or eight years deducted from pensionable service that makes all the difference between poverty and a certain level of comparative relief from anxiety. There is not quite the same position in the case of the boys mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who seconded the Motion, because, after all, they were in the position of civilians who had gone out; they had their places safeguarded for them during the hostilities of 1914 onwards. I say that because I do not want the Chancellor of the Exchequer with his clever debating skill to cut in and try to score a point on that. We are not concerned about the hostilities people.
The people for whom we are specially concerned are the professional soldiers and sailors. The hostilities men were in an entirely different position altogether. 80,000 Post Office servants joined the Forces. They were in the position of civilians. Their position was safeguarded, and special terms were given to them. They got back their civilian positions when they returned. That is the whole difference between these people and the professional soldier and sailor.
The professional soldier entered as a soldier either from economic reasons, or a desire for adventure, and to take advantage of all those glorious opportunities held out to him on the posters referred to by the Mover and Seconder. His is an entirely different proposition. He returns to civil life. If the soldier enters the Civil Service in some position or other he has to satisfy certain Regulations, or if it is in the higher posts, he has to pass examinations. What is asked is that, in the interests of getting the very best type of recruit for the special fighting Services, you should hold out some prospect to the men that when they have finished their work they are not going to be thrown upon the industrial scrapheap, or that they will not be victimised because of the service they have done, but that this should be counted continuously for pension. We must bear in mind that it is practically nearly a 30 or 40 years' prospect for these people even after they enter the Civil Service. You are not being called upon to foot the bill immediately, or being called upon to meet immediately very heavy payments.
The present Minister of Agriculture, when he replied to the Debate in August last, said it would mean a sum of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. Of course, he was then in the position that nobody could get up and correct the misapprehension which, quite unintentionally, he put before the House. It will not do anything of the sort. At no period can it exceed a sum of more than about £23,000 a year. I doubt whether it will be that, whether indeed that will be the average, because the mortality rate of the people who have reached 60 or 65 is in these days fairly high. After all, what are we asking the. House to do? We are not asking that the House should accept the statement of the case as it is put forward here, but that it should be sent to a committee for investigation, in order that there may be an inquiry into the recommendations of the Ward Committee. It must be remembered that that Committee was composed not only of representatives of the Army and Navy, but comprised also shrewd business men, who would have the interests of the taxpayer at heart; and when it is remembered that Sir George Livesey, who earned a certain amount of fame for breaking trade unionism in days gone by, was a Member of that Committee its Report might command the sympathy of even hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I hope the House will support the Resolution. It does not ask the House to commit itself right away to the expenditure of this money. The men who are concerned are so confident in the righteousness of their case that they are prepared to submit it to the scrutiny of a Select Committee of this House, and feel very pretty confident that when they have examined it the Committee will say that they have a claim, in equity at least, for the consideration of the House.
It often appears to be my fate to offend my own personal friends, but I am going to run the risk of that; it is not going to prevent me from doing what I conceive to be my duty. I say that being, I think, the only Member of this House, and the only one who ever has been in the House, who has had the very great honour and distinction of serving in the ranks, from the position of a private soldier upwards, for 22 years. I should have far more sympathy with the Motion which has been so ably moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Captain A. Hope) if he had asked the House to set up a Committee to go into the whole question, but he has not done that, because his Motion is for a Committee to report upon the best means of giving effect to the recommendations of the Ward Committee of 1906. It reminds me of my experiences when I joined the Army 36 years ago, when we had to sit down to listen to lectures on how the Battle of Waterloo was fought and won. Why rake up something in a Report presented 20 years ago? The condition of things to-day is entirely different. The hon. and gallant Member spoke of 17,000 ex-regular soldiers who are in the Civil Service, and subsequent speakers have been very careful to emphasise the point that this Motion applies only to the regular men, leaving out what they call the "hostilities men." Why should they be left out?
We should have been in a very poor way in the War if it had not been for the manner in which these now despised hostilities men came along in their hundreds of thousands to back up the regular fighting troops. It is preposterous to think we could open a question of such gigantic proportions and confine it to regular soldiers. If we were to do such a thing it would be the biggest insult we could offer to those men who really did save England. I speak as an ex-regular, and am proud of the fact, but, after all, it was our job as regulars to fight, and it was not the job of those civilians, but they came along like Britishers and joined up in their millions. They stuck to the old country then, but now it is proposed in this House that we should take no notice whatever of what are called the hostilities men.
The next point with which I want to deal is the reference made by the hon. and gallant Member to people who join the Civil Service from the Army and the Navy requiring a good character and a clean bill of health. I have never met a saint in human life yet, and I am not sure that I am anxious to. I know very well that most of the hon. Members of this House think they are saints, but I am afraid I am talking to more sinners than saints; and the same thing applies to all Civil Service entrants. Whether they are ex-service people or civilians, when they want to join the Civil Service they have to produce a good character—if it be only a forged one! With reference to the observations of the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton regarding civil servants, I would like to ask him does he mean the black-coated branch of the Civil Service, or does he mean those who join the Post Office, or those who become messengers? Also, has he forgotten entirely all those ex-service men who served the State and have now joined the Civil Service that is unpensionable in Woolwich Arsenal and the different dockyards? The first job for this Government is to see that all their present employés are pensionable before they attempt to bring more people in with a promise of pensions.
The hon. and gallant Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Brigadier-General Warner) began his speech by talking about the anomalies of pensions. If we start talking of pension anomalies where are we going to end? If we want an anomaly we can take the case of an hon. Member of this House with 30 years' service, and a Captain in the Army, and who does not draw so much pension as a police constable who leaves after 25 years' service. There is an anomaly if you like! Then there was the question of telegraph messengers. What appears to be lost sight of is that the telegraph messengers who joined up in the Army sacrificed their contractual rights. We did not, as regular soldiers—it was part of our job to fight—and because the Post Office have for once fulfilled their obligations to an underling is it to be used as an excuse to bring the whole lot in? Then the hon. and gallant Member went on to speak about disgruntled ex-service men in the Civil Service.
As a man who travels up and down this country a good deal and has many old comrades in the Civil Service, I emphatically object to the statement that they are disgruntled. A few here and there may be. Is there one hon. Member of this House who has not got something to "grouse" about? It is the privilege of soldiers to "grouse," and we are never happy unless we are "grousing," and the more we "grouse" the less we are inclined to get into mischief. I cannot let the observations of the hon. and gallant Member about the early writings of Kipling pass without remark—though I know it will be a most unpopular thing, for latterly that talented gentleman has done everything he could to laud up Tommy Atkins. But go to his earlier writings which the hon. and gallant Member referred to and read his "Soldiers Three"—the biggest and most cowardly and dastardly attack that was ever written on British Tommy Atkins—even up to the time of his
Cook's son, Duke's son, son of a belted Earl.
of the South African war. It is only recently that that talented gentleman has got to know Tommy Atkins as he really is, and to begin to understand that the man he slandered 30 or 40 years ago is really a gentleman in word and deed.
Now I turn to the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Ammon). I used the expression in this House four years ago, "God save the Army from their new found friends," and I have heard the hon. Member pleading to this House to do something for the ex-service men. Of all the bigoted, cast iron trade unions which when the War was over did their utmost to bolt and bar the door against the ex-service man, it was the Civil Service. We have had questions asked in this House to-day about 8,000 out of some 40,000 or 50,000 ex-service men who sat for an examination, and after months of waiting a decision has not yet been announced. Now we have men standing here pleading the cause of the ex-soldier, and it is almost enough to make Gilbert and Sullivan turn in their graves.
We have been told by the hon. Gentleman opposite that civilians who left their employment and joined up during the War had their places guaranteed for them. I wonder whether in the years that have elapsed since the Armistice there has ever been a greater misstatement, perhaps inadvertently made, than that. If these hostility men, as they have been called, had had their places guaranteed should we have found 10,000 or 20,000 of these ex-service men walking the streets to-day? It is a wrong principle, because if we open this question for the ex-regular man, we must include those gallant civilians who helped the nation during a time of emergency.
I think the hon. and gallant Member for Bosworth (Captain Gee) has done the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) a very serious injustice. The hon. Member for North Camberwell is associated with a section of the Civil Service in regard to which it cannot be said that they have shown hostility to the entrance of ex-servicemen. Of the organisation to which we have the honour to belong at least 50 per cent. are men who have served in the Army or the Navy. I feel sure that there was no desire on the part of the hon. and gallant Member to misrepresent them.
I should like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Captain A. Hope) on the courageous stand he has taken with regard to this Resolution, which raises a subject which is not new either to the hon. Member for North Camberwell or to myself. It is a subject which has engaged our attention over a long series of years, if not for the whole of the 36 years to which reference has been made. I realise that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved this Resolution was taking a courageous course in tabling his Motion in face of the known opposition of the Government on this question, and I should like to congratulate him upon the stand which he has made. I want to bring this question down to a very small point. The claim is, as I understand it, that continuous service under the Crown should count for pension, and that claim has been continuously made for 30 years, and it has been based on the belief that service given in the Army, the Navy, or in the Civil Service is service given to one head, and should consequently be regarded, if continuous, as service to the State which should be treated as one complete whole.
I do not want to weary the House by going over the recommendations of the Ward Committee. A paragraph from the Report of that Committee was quoted in full by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved this Resolution, and it definitely expresses the view of that important Committee. I understand that the attitude of the Treasury is that the Ward Committee went outside its terms of reference, and that it failed to take evidence upon this particular point. In reply to that I would respectfully submit that we need not be concerned here to-night whether the Ward Committee exceeded its terms of reference or whether it took sufficient evidence on the subject. I submit that the Report of the Ward Committee is material in this discussion, because it does go to prove that a body of impartial men, after careful consideration of this particular question, came to the definite conclusion that this claim was well founded, and was worthy of support.
It is the practice of this House to make a very great deal of pledges given in the past, and of pronouncements made by those who subsequently attain office. I do not want to be a party to any abuse of that particular practice, but it is perhaps worthy of note that according to my information, on 23rd April, 1908, in reply to a Parliamentary question by a gentleman named Colonel Seely, a Mr. Winston Churchill said:
That he was of the opinion that the Treasury should take into consideration ex-naval and military service in reckoning service towards pension, and he had reason to suppose that they were prepared to adopt that course.
In addition to that, and perhaps, if I may say so with respect, of even greater importance, in August, 1911, the present Prime Minister and the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury signed a Memorial asking that previous colour service should be recognised for pension purposes. I do not want to make too much of these points; I merely mention them in passing, just as items of interest. But I do submit to the House that I have not yet heard an argument to controvert the position that a man who enters the
Government service in one capacity, and serves the State faithfully and continuously in more than one Department, should be entitled to expect that such service should be regarded as a whole when he comes to be considered for superannuation. I do not know whether I have grasped the Treasury attitude aright, but, as I understand the position, their objection is not based on any ground at all other than that of financial stringency; and, powerful as that argument may be to-day, it has not been equally strong over the whole period during which this request has been made. On the 7th August last year, during the discussion to which my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell referred, the right hon. Gentleman who is now Minister of Agriculture said:
The overwhelming reason against opening this matter now is the question of expense. Civil Service pensions cost about £4,500,000 a year, and the Fighting Services pensions nearly £14,000,000 a year. At a time when national economy is so essential we could not really undertake to extend conditions which were not meditated in the original contract to the particular favoured section of the Fighting Services."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th August, 1925; col. 1847, Vol. 187.]
I do not altogether understand what the right hon. Gentleman meant when he spoke of "the favoured section of the Fighting Services," but I would remind the House of a statement which has already been made during this discussion, that at least 70 per cent. of the men who are being spoken of here to-night fill poorly paid positions in the Post Office, and I suppose that in the main even a larger percentage are filling lowly paid positions' throughout the Civil Service. It is a matter of very considerable moment, to a man about to be compulsorily retired from the Civil Service, whether or no a period of eight years shall be added to the superannuation calculation. A man in a lowly paid position, whose pension is calculated upon a period less eight years, and who, according to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved this Motion, is likely to suffer a loss of 10s. a week or more on his pension, will find a very material difference in his domestic conditions after his retirement has taken place, and I would make a very special appeal to the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply to have some regard to the effect upon the condition of these men when they are
forced to retire on something less than the full pension to which their civil colleagues are entitled.
In my view, it is no reply, after 30 years of agitation, to say that the State is not in a position to afford to make this reform. I believe that there are very many anomalies in connection with our Civil Service pension system at the moment, and, when the Labour Government was in office, I took the opportunity on at least two occasions to plead for an inquiry. That is the plea that I want to make to-night, and, just as I made it when the Labour Government was in office, so I make it now, when the Labour party is in Opposition, because I believe it is not satisfactory that anomalies should continue to exist when those anomalies can be removed. My simple plea here to-night is that, for the well-being of the Civil Service, for the well-being of the community generally, a Committee should be appointed to inquire into the whole superannuation system, with a view to the removal of every avoidable anomaly.
I rise to support the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Captain A. Hope). A great many young men join the Fighting Services to-day who, perhaps, will not have a chance of going on to complete their full term of service. They will serve for seven years in the Army, or for 12 years in the Navy. I am sorry to say I do not know how long it is in the Air Force, but we all know one thing about the Air Force, anyhow, after yesterday's Debate, and that is that a man's flying life is very soon over, and that, at the end of that term, he is either going to join what some of the journals of this country call the ground forces of the Air Force, or he has to be disposed of in some other way. I say, as regards all these young men, who are in the prime of life at that time, throw open further Government employment for them if they are fit to carry out those duties, and count the whole of the time they are serving the Government towards their pension.
One thing has not been mentioned to-night, and that is that we have not attempted to give any definition of the word "pension." The true definition of the word "pension" is simply deferred pay. A young man who joins the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force, and serves for a short time, draws very low pay, and does not get his deferred pay at the end of that time at all. Why not let him go on with his present employer, the State, and earn that deferred pay in the further employment of the State? I had the honour, Mr. Speaker, little more than a week ago, of attending a function at your house, and I met there the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I was dressed in the uniform which I was entitled to wear as a naval officer, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when I first saw him, also looked to me like a naval officer, but, when I got closer to him, I found that he was an Elder Brother of Trinity House, and he told me on that occasion that he ranked with some high official in the Naval Service. Apart from and beyond that, we know that the right hon. Gentleman has actually himself been in charge of His Majesty's Navy and of His Majesty's Army, and he cannot possibly be deaf to the appeals that are now being made to him on behalf of the young men who are leaving the forces in their prime of life.
The other day, if I may repeat what has been said already by one of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, the Government were thrusting at the heads of the Civil Service a sum of £200,000 which was really unrequired and unwanted by the Civil Service, and, after all, when all is said and done, at this time the provision of playing-fields must be regarded as a luxury. We are not, however, appealing for a luxury at all to-night; we are simply appealing that a man of 60, having served during the first part of his life of service to the State in the Army or the Navy, should not be deprived of one-tenth of his deferred pay. We know at this particular time that the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for Air are all very anxious and are engaged in setting up training establishments or classes for training men while they are still serving in the forces, so that they will not have to go out of employment when they leave the forces. They will still be able and fit to earn their living. I think that a large number of years of service in any of His Majesty's forces does not fit every person to enter civil life or employment on his discharge. Three of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues are engaging themselves seriously in this matter. Why not open this other avenue? The Mover of the Motion said we shall be getting a better class of recruits into the Service. I appeal to him most strenuously not to close the door in the face of these young ex-service men. Be generous. If he will only reconsider this and allow this Select Committee to be set up, he will be very pleased in the long run that he has taken that action. I add my appeal to the appeal of my hon. Friends on this side and the other side of the House.
The only hon. Member who has opposed this Motion is my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bosworth (Captain Gee), and if every ex-service man had the same qualities as he had I feel quite certain there would not be the same necessity for the action recommended. It is because he looks at it from a successful man's point of view that I feel I cannot quite agree with him. I daresay he has not always agreed with his generals, so he will pardon a general not agreeing with him. He stated that it was very antediluvian to go back to the Ward Commission. I think the Mover of this Motion showed that the same grievance is in existence now as it was 20 years ago. I was a soldier before the Ward Commission, and I can testify that that grievance weighed heavily among men in my regiment and many other commanding officers who had to see to their future when they left. It is a matter we talked of then, and I had always thought that, if I had the honour of getting here and helping to make laws, I would give my support to the Ward Commission.
Another criticism my hon. and gallant Friend made Was should not the "hostility men" as he called them—very gallant soldiers who came to our support—get the same treatment as the old ex-service men. In some ways they have got much more in the way of gratuities. As my hon. and gallant Friend said, all we regulars had to do was to do our duty. We saw others come in, in the South African War, at 7s. 6d. a day, while our men were getting 1s. One of any men, speaking of one of a new batch of recruits who had just come out, told me that one of them was the biggest waste in his village; yet he was paid 7s. 6d. a day, while the regular got 1s. "If I come home," he said, "and have the luck to get into the Civil Service, still I must start life again." I also submit to my hon. and gallant Friend that no one has more respect than I have for what we called our hostility men, the men of Kitchener's Army, but would there have been any chance of them fighting at all or any chance for this country if it had not been that the "old contemptibles" kept the field till they were ready. And for that reason alone the old soldier deserves more of his country than he gets at the present moment.
I am very glad that we have the support of the Navy for the old sailor as well as the old soldier; I think that should always be a point in the Services. There is one point which has not been considered. Our Army is different from any army in the world, in that it is a voluntary Army. For that reason we have to pay certain wages which more assimilate to labour conditions than in any other army. You also have to give certain inducements to anyone who is going to make the Army his profession. For that reason alone the first thing you should do to these young fellows is to ensure as far as you possibly can that, when they leave after seven or 12 years, something more should be done for them than is done for the ordinary man in the army of any other country. They have done their seven or 12 years. They have to wait 21 years for a pension. If they leave after seven or 12 years, they have still a chance of getting on in civil life. I would only say in addition that every Civil Service Department should do what the Post Office has always done for the Army. I hope the Post Office will continue to do what they have done for the last 30 years, that is, to give 50 per cent of their places to old soldiers and sailors. If that were carried out in all the Civil Services, we might not need to press these Motions for better treatment for old soldiers and sailors. Unless there is some alternative of that sort, I will support the Mover of this Motion, and I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will find some means of giving some addition to the security and pay of the old soldier and sailors.
I had not intended to intervene in this Debate but after listening to the hon. and gallant Member for Bosworth (Captain Gee) I did feel that his literary criticisms were not altogether just. As far as I am able to, I wish to enter my opposition to them. He referred particularly to the early works of Mr. Rudyard Kipling, and compared them with that remarkable piece of poetry, "Duke's son, cook's son," and so on, very much to the advantage of the latter and to the disadvantage of the former. The early works of Mr. Rudyard Kipling dealing with the Army give a very much better view of the Army and were much more creditable to the old soldier than those later works to which the hon. and gallant Member subsequently referred. In the nineteenth century there was the unfortunate verdict of the great Duke of Wellington on the fighting soldier. I am afraid that even in my very early days the village soldier was regarded with some contempt by civilians.
With regard to the Resolution, if I devote a few sentences to that, I shall be observing the unity of Debate which was observed by the hon. and gallant Member for Bosworth himself. Hon. Members on all sides are extraordinarily generous when, it is a matter of other people's money. The Government on an occasion of this sort are always charged with being parsimonious and mean. It seems to me to be rather an abuse of language to call a Government mean or stingy, whatever they do, because you cannot be mean and stingy, and you cannot be generous on the other hand, with other people's money. Therefore I hope the House will disabuse its mind, in considering this question, and subsequently in voting upon it, of any idea that a charge of meanness against a Government is one that can be sustained. It has always appeared to me that there is one duty only of a Government or a municipality in regard to those it employs, that is the duty of getting the utmost possible efficient service out of them for the least possible amount of pay.
I am one of the few individualists left, and I would not for a moment, as an individualist, suggest that the individual employer, who is finding the pay out of his own pocket or out of his own profits, should adopt the attitude of squeezing his men down to the lowest degree, paying as little as he can for the most service he can get out of them. But when we are dealing with other people's money, it is a very different case indeed, and as an individualist, I claim that it is the duty of every Department of the Government to do exactly as I have said, and to get for the public the greatest possible amount of efficient service at the lowest possible price. You cannot judge the merits of a Government by any ethical standard whatsoever. An ethical standard is one that can only be applied to an individual and not to an organisation. You cannot attach moral qualities to a Government, or a State, and therefore I hope hon. Members will disabuse their minds altogether of that extraordinary modern heresy that has grown up, and will see that it is the duty of the Government to resist this Resolution with all their power.
I do not find myself greatly moved by the hon. Member who has just spoken, though I agree with him to this extent, that a Government cannot, strictly speaking, be accused of meanness or charged with generosity in dealing with money which does not belong to it. But I think it can be laid down that the business of a Government is to be economical and to observe a sense of proportion. I support the Resolution because I think, in observing a sense of proportion, the Government can still grant the comparatively small sum of money that is involved. It is the sense of proportion that should be looked at. I consider that it is perfectly relevant to contrast this with the suggested grant of £200,000 for a sports ground, and I should consider it equally relevant to contrast it with the £2,000,000 which I understand the Government propose to devote to a somewhat unprofitable coal mine in Kent. When you contrast that relatively small sum of £23,000 with the, in any case, large sum of £2,000,000, the Government should employ their sense of proportion and find it in their hearts and minds to grant that small sum to this deserving body of men. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will throw his mind back to the answer he gave in 1908 and will not swallow the promise he made then, and I hope he will find it possible to grant this amount. I see, on referring to the paper, that the Ward Committee only dates back to 1906, and I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bosworth (Captain Gee) was rather stretching a point when he compared it with teaching the soldier about the battle of Waterloo, which, if I remember rightly, happened in 1815. There is a lot of difference between 20 years and 111 years, and I think the recommendations of the Ward Committee might very well have been followed. I think particularly they might have been followed when one remembers that in 1906, in a time of comparative prosperity, that amount of money could have been granted within anyone feeling the pinch. Even now, in a time of financial stringency, this amount of money would be an economy in the real sense. Therefore I support the Resolution, and I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see his way to accede to it.
I cannot help rising to register a small protest against the suggestion of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) with regard to the duty of the State or a municipality in the matter of the employment of its servants. One realises the logic of his argument One realises that he allows the private person, as indeed he must, to employ whom he likes as he likes, and that so far as the State is concerned, because it is dealing with someone else's money, it must seek to secure the utmost possible service for the lowest possible pay. I will grant that that is logical enough, but I think there is a duty beyond the mere employment and getting the work done which devolves upon the State. It must, as far as it can, set an example, and especially where ex-service men are concerned, and if it is to bear that in mind it must have regard to the conditions under which its servants, and especially its ex-service servants, serve in order that there may be no finger of scorn pointed at it by those who seek to get out of their obligations, and who do not do all that might be expected of them in the matter of employing ex-service men under the most advantageous conditions.
I feel some little difficulty in coming to a decision as to what is the proper course to take upon this Motion. One could not help having a very great sympathy for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, did one not know how capable he is of dealing with all and any persons who set themselves up against him. But he is at present in a peculiarly strong position, as he usually contrives to find himself, for he has not yet disclosed to the House what are the economies which it may be necessary for him to bring forward this very week, and as that is the case, and as he may be intending to take away from us concessions and benefits of even greater value than this one, he may be able perhaps to bring forward arguments which will make us pause before we see if it does not lie in our power to take some action on this matter. He may say, "Do not do this lest worst befall you. You do not know what is in my Economy Bill." One realises that difficulty, and it is only fair to say that in present conditions it is rather difficult to attempt to force upon the Government any action which involves a greater expenditure of money, when they are very definitely pledged and intend to bring forward a Bill which has exactly the opposite effect. That circumstance makes me feel some little difficulty in voting for this Motion.
On the other hand, I have very great sympathy for the men who are affected. I do not find myself in a position in which I think it necessary to include the hostility men, and I do not subscribe to the arguments which the hon. and gallant Member for Bosworth (Captain Gee) introduced, that if we do for the Regular soldiers what we are not prepared to do for the hostility men we are in any way discounting or diminishing the regard which we have for the men who joined for the War only from their civilian employment. Nor do I feel that there is any particular claim which the hostility men can put forward which compares in any way with that of the ex-Regular men. The hostility men were enlisted on special contracts, which expired with the War, and in very many cases, notably the one quoted by the hon. and gallant Member who seconded the Motion, the telegraph boys, they went back to their jobs and counted their seniority. They went to the War and came back with their jobs secure, and universally throughout the country with their seniority secured. That being so, I do not see that there is any very difficult precedent created if we give this or some other concession to the Regular men and refuse it to the temporary men.
I am hopeful that in some direction or other the Chancellor of the Exchequer may perhaps be able to indicate that he will be able to do something to meet us in this matter. If he is unable to do so, it places us in an exceedingly awkward position. I realise that it is not his job to get us out of that position. I wish it were, because one could rely upon him to do it. It does place some of us in a very difficult position, because we feel strongly that these ex-regulars should, if possible, get some concession. We are partly impressed with that view because of the extraordinarily moderate and serious way in which their campaign, if it may be so termed, has been conducted. There have been organisations which have come before this House with threats and suggestions that if this or that were not given there would be upheavals of this or that sort, and too often suggestions that benefit should be given, accompanied by thoughtless proposals of that sort, calculated to frighten us, have succeeded.
Here is a case where a proposal which appears just is logically put forward, and put forward with good grace, with persistence it is true, but nevertheless without threats and without any of those approaches which naturally put our backs up and make us give way only with reluctance. Here is an opportunity where a concession might be made, not simply because it is a good case, but because it would perhaps show to the numerous organisations throughout the land which seem to have their very being in trying to secure concessions for somebody, that a gentle, kindly, sympathtic approach is better than to come to Parliament or to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with bludgeons.
There is one point which I think has not been stressed tonight in the attempt to compare the soldier with the civilian, and it is that the two conditions of service are not comparable. You cannot compare the sheltered industry of men working in the Civil Service with the professional soldier, who is earning his livelihood on the burning plains of India, or in the chilly blasts of Chitral, who is risking life and limb and condemned, perhaps, to go for days without water. It seems to me impossible to compare the service of the soldier or the sailor with that of the civil servant.
That being the case, and it being agreed that they are both working for the same employer, the State, I am not concerned so much with the views of hon. Members of this House, because I believe they are all in accord, but my fears are rather in the direction of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. No single Member of this House is such a renowned warrior or has seen service in so many quarters of the world as the right hon. Gentleman. If his argument is going to be, "You, who are advocating economy, now ask me to incur an expenditure," may I, on the principle that a mouse may help a lion sometimes, suggest for the right hon. Gentleman's consideration that there was issued a little time ago a paper giving a return of the appointments in the public service carrying remuneration of £2,000 a year and upwards. Prior to 1913–14, there were 98 such appointments, and in 1925–26 there were 309. The difference between the one figure and the other is something like £400,000. To show that this is applicable to the discussion now before the House, I would point out in connection with the officers in the high command of the Army and the Territorial Force, that they have increased from 17 to 58 in these years. The money required to do justice to the men concerned with this Motion, £23,000, could be provided by the elimination of the 14 Territorial Army divisional commanders who were not in existence when the War broke out.
There is another direction in which it would be far better to do justice to the case of the ex-naval and ex-army men if economies could be effected in certain educational matters. It does not, for instance, matter to the ordinary child whether the polysyllabic word is a verb or not. I want to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to show intellectual courage just as he showed courage on the battlefields which he visited and on which he fought. I cannot think that any representative of the Government would wish to deprive the professional soldier of any opportunity supplementing his income and ensuring that it will be a living wage when he arrives at the age of 60.
I should like to add a word in support of the Motion before the House, and from a point of view that has not been stressed very much this evening. We are just now considering the Estimates for the three fighting services. Ever since the War one of the questions that has caused considerable anxiety has been the recruiting in adequate numbers of efficient young men for the Navy, Army and Air Force. Whether from war weariness or other causes it is necessary for those responsible to try and make these Services sufficiently attractive in order to overcome the obstacles which have prevented us getting a sufficient number of recruits. The Motion before the House has a very vital connection with that question. It concerns the outlook of young fellows who are joining the Services. One of the objects of those who have the interests of the Services at heart is that there should be before the young fellows who dedicate their services to the State a continuity of outlook which will justify them in taking the step. When a man joins the Forces it does generally unfit him for the ordinary battle of civilian life, if at the prime of life he leaves the actual fighting Services, and particularly is that the case with our newest arm, the Air Force, in which the flying man has such a short life. Therefore, when a man chooses this career he has to consider what he will make when he goes back to civil life, and from that point of view this Motion has a very distinct bearing.
Undoubtedly there has been for many years a grievance on what has been called deferred pay. The total amount involved is not great, and many of the speeches which have been delivered seem to be based on the idea that the Motion before us is to approve of this additional financial expenditure whereas it is confined to setting up a Committee. The Government will be well advised to take up the position that there is real ground for dissatisfaction, that it is more than the readjustment of a grievance, and that there is a marked difference between what have been called "hostility men" and the regular serving soldier, sailor and airman. As a non-regular I completely subscribe to that. Those who joined the Forces for the duration of the War were men who had a certain amount of civilian activity or had had education which was intended to fit them for civilian life, and although the time they were in khaki was an handicap, it was not by any means such a handicap as that experienced by the regular soldier, sailor and airman. Therefore, I urge the Government to take up this position, that this Motion is not definitely committing the House to the actual expenditure involved; that it will consent to the setting up of a Select Committee to investigate the complete deails of the matter, so that those who claim they have a grievance can be satisfied that their case is thoroughly investigated.
Before I offer any comments on the speech just made by the hon. and gallant Member, I should like to point to the appearance of the Labour Benches. We can judge of the interest taken in this question by their appearance; they are empty, while the Conservative Benches are comparatively full. As for the Liberal party, despite the extraordinary and varied number of its leaders, we are glad to see two Members of the rank and. file in the House at present. The hon. and gallant Member for Yeovil (Major Davies) concluded his remarks by saying that the Motion was to appoint a Committee to inquire into the whole question. That is exactly what the Motion on the Paper is not. If we pass it, we are committing ourselves to support certain recommendations of a Committee which sat 20 years ago. There is no question of an inquiry The Motion is to "Report upon the best means of giving effect to the recommendations of the Ward Committee of 1906;" and if we pass this Resolution, we are committed to a definite line. I agree that there is a great deal to be said for a general inquiry to see whether we cannot help the old soldier in regard to employment in the civil services, and if there was a demand for a Select Committee to inquire into that question, I should find it difficult to resist it because since 1906 we have had the development of the Air Force, which has introduced a new class of young soldier. Whatever the recommendations of this Committee may have been, they surely cannot apply to this young Service, the Air Force.
There is another point, and a more general one. The Regular Army looks to the civil services for its after posts, but the Regular Army is a scheme complete in itself, just as is the Navy. A man serves for seven years with the Colours, and then for five years with the Reserves, during which he gets reserve pay. That is a complete engagement; it starts and ends in 12 years. Therefore, so to speak, it is a scheme complete in itself. I do not see how you are going to put that on top of a Civil Service pension. We are talking now of economies in the Army. The pay of new entrants is being cut down. If you are going to pack on the top of that a Civil Service pension at an earlier age, does it not mean that you will have to go again into the whole question of pay in the Army, particularly that of the new entrants? Surely you are increasing the value of their emoluments very considerably. If there was any justification for the cutting down, we had better re-open the whole scheme and see what their present value would be under the whole system. This is not a little matter; it is a very wide and big matter. If you increase the pensions at one end, you will have to go into the whole question from start to finish. While I would be glad if we could get a Committee which would go into the whole question, as to how we can employ ex-service men in the Civil Service and elsewhere, I hold that by simply adopting the recommendations of a Committee that sat 20 years ago—recommendations which would apply to the Air Force although it did not exist 20 years ago—we should be dealing with the matter in a half-hearted way and not justly. Therefore, very reluctantly, I shall be compelled to vote against the Motion. We should be very foolish indeed if we wholeheartedly, out of a sense of generosity, gave way to the attractiveness of the arguments of the Mover of the Motion.
The hon. and gallant Member for Hexham (Colonel Clifton Brown) made some rather humorous remarks about the state of the Labour Benches as compared with those on the Government side of the House. If he recollected the state of the benches opposite on many occasions when we have moved Resolutions from this side of the House, he would come to the conclusion that the advantage is with us, even to-night. I have pleasure in supporting this Motion. I do so perhaps on somewhat different grounds from those put forward by the other side. Personally, I would support the Motion on the ground of co-ordination of the method of remuneration of all State servants. We believe that the State should be a model employer, and that it should set the standard for private employers in regard to the treatment of its servants. There is no question that those coming into the Civil Service somewhat late in life are faced with the fact that when the time arrives for them to retire their pension may be quite unlike what it should be, especially as coming from the State. That has been a difficulty which has been investigated of late with regard to the Civil Service. At the present time also we have a Departmental Committee of the Ministry of Health and the Scottish Office sitting in regard to the question of the superannuation of local government officers, in whose case it is felt that some principle of just superannuation should also prevail. In that connection the question is being debated whether the present optional Act should be made compulsory on all local authorities. The question at issue is one which is very frequently coining before that Committee'—the case of persons who come into local government service at a comparatively late age. The question of the value to be put on the previous service is one which has to be faced in the interests of justice. I think that in the case of soldiers and sailors and airmen who have been in the service of the State, and who have given efficient service, some part, if not the whole part, of the value of that service should be retained to them when they enter another branch of the service of the State. For these reasons I certainly think that the suggested Select Committee should be appointed. It is quite true that in this, as in the other cases which I have mentioned, the financial burden might be considerable, but that is a matter into which the Select Committee could inquire. It is very difficult to give on a superficial examination accurate figures, or to speculate on what the probable cost of any scheme would be. in the interests of the whole Civil Service and of the further application of the principle for which we stand, I strongly support the Motion.
It is not very often that private Members get opportunities to bring forward Motions at all, and I think that on this occasion, one of the few occasions left to us, the least we can expect is that one of the Ministers on the Front Bench shall state what the attitude of the Government is towards this proposal. I do not speak only for myself, for hon. Members on the other side have appealed to the Minister to state his views. This is not an occasion on which a conspiracy of silence between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary is justifiable.
I had no intention of intervening in the Debate, but I wish to appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accept the Motion. I speak as an old soldier who spent a great deal of his life in the Army. It seems to me to be very unfair that those men who have served in the Army should not have the same advantages as those who served in the Civil Service all their lives. It is obviously very unfair that a man who, perhaps, spends his whole life in the place in which he was born should be allowed to count the whole of his service towards pension, whereas a man who is serving the same master, and serving that master in a foreign clime and risking his life, perhaps on active service, should not be allowed to count his service towards pension. The arguments against the Motion have been very few and, as far as I can make out, extraordinarily weak. The Motion has been supported on all sides of the House, and very largely on this side. I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be able to produce some rather more valid arguments than any we have had so far. The only possible argument against the Motion is on the score of expense. The sum of £23,000 a year has been mentioned. That is a very small sum to spend on the men who have served their country well, have served it in various climes and circumstances, and I appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to adopt the Motion.
I wish to support the Motion. I am one of those soldiers who joined the Army at the outbreak of War, and I have the greatest admiration for the old soldier. I suppose that I was one of the first of the new Army to find myself in a regular sergeants' mess, and I can assure the House that I received every encouragement from those men who had been in the Army for a number of years and who taught us young soldiers so much. After all, every one of us realises how much we owe to the "Contemptible Army."
In those ranks I found many men who had no future—nothing to look forward to—and I support this Resolution because I think it only right that men who have served in the Army, Navy or Air Force should have that service recognised for pensionable purposes. I trust the Chancellor of the Exchequer has realised the feeling that exists in the House on this question. If he objects, as one hon. and gallant Member has objected, to the consideration of the Report of the Ward Committee, perhaps in view of that feeling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to meet us half-way and appoint a Select Committee to go into the whole question.
I do not quite follow my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hexham (Colonel Clifton Brown), who said that, bceause the Ward Committee sat 20 years ago, its recommendations would be inapplicable to-day. I do not think conditions have changed so much in the meantime, nor do I think there will be any particular difficulty in applying the recommendations of the Committee to the Air Force although that force did not exist at the time when the Committee sat. I think the reasons put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Yeovil (Major Davies) were extremely sound and to the point with regard to the better quality of recruits which the adoption of this proposal would bring about. I do not think, however, we should expect too much from it, because the dimensions of the Civil Service are scarcely wide enough to include all the men who would be discharged from the Navy, Army and Air Force. We must also remember that it will not do to have the Civil Service too full of reservists, otherwise, in case of mobilisation, the Civil Service would be seriously depleted. Therefore, although I believe this proposal would do good, yet, as I say, we cannot expect too much from it. At the same time, I believe it will be an act of justice to the men who are serving on regular engagements in the Navy, Army and Air Force, and who, at present, as the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) has said, are, to some extent, victimised, compared with men who joined the Civil Service early in life and have not served in any of the fighting Services.
If I appear somewhat reluctant or dilatory in intervening in this Debate, it has certainly not been because—as one hon. Member has suggested—I am engaged or the Government are engaged in a conspiracy of silence. I have only been actuated by a strong desire to show respect to the right hon. Gentleman who at the moment leads the Opposition. I thought I should not unnecessarily thrust myself in before the remarks which I understood the right hon. Gentleman intended to deliver to the House speaking with the official authority of the Labour party. Remembering, as I did, that twice already to-day I have not been able to reply to his remarks, and wishing to treat his very able and very frequent contributions to our debates with the attention which they deserve, I thought it might be in accordance with his wishes that I should postpone any observations I had to make until after he had spoken, instead of exposing him in the position in which he now sits, to the risk of having his contribution to our discussion curtailed or possibly even cut out altogether, because of the inordinate length to which my performance may extend.
I have listened to the whole of this Debate, and I do not quarrel at all with the tone of any of the speeches, nor with the general intention and mood of those who have brought this Motion forward. But it is not quite as simple a matter as it appears on the surface, and I propose, if the House will permit me, to examine it in three separate aspects—its intrinsic merits, its comparative merits, and the consequential difficulties which would arise if the Motion were carried. What is the case which excites, and justly excites, the sympathy of the House? Here are two men in the Post Office or in the Customs, serving side by side. One man has served seven years in the Army or the Navy, and in consequence of that he is seven years worse off for pension than his comrade serving next to him, who has never been through the exacting round of military or of naval duty in the service of the Crown, and naturally there is this feeling: Why, because we have served the Crown, afloat or ashore, because we have given some of the nest years of our life to the arduous military service of the State, should we now find ourselves in a worse position than this comrade of ours, who has never been out of England and who went straight into one of the sheltered professions at the beginning of his manhood? I share to the full the views which have been expressed that this is a cause of heartburning, and of explicable heartburning, and as the hon. Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker) has reminded me, I appear to have expressed some opinions upon the subject myself as long ago as 1908, in the pre-War days. I do not think I expressed them in answer to a Parliamentary question, because the date mentioned by the hon. Gentleman was a date on which the House was not sitting, but I certainly did express, through the agency of a private secretary, general sympathy with the principle that military and naval service should count towards a pension in the Civil Service of the Crown.
I do not think that was the case. I think that the question was put on another occasion—I am not at all sure it may not have been an electoral occasion—and I gave an answer on the spur of the moment, and afterwards wrote to correct and amplify that answer. In the answer I said I was generally in favour, in principle, of continuity of service, and I understood the Treasury were in favour of that principle, too. In this I was completely misinformed, because for 30 years the Treasury have, with unbroken persistency, under all its various heads opposed this proposal. Of course, I am bound to find myself exposed to certain charges of inconsistency in this matter, but it is my duty now to urge upon the House some questionable proposal of expenditure, and now to urge upon the House the rejection of some very desirable demand. That is the duty which falls to everyone who holds the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer, and all I can say is that all these questions, whether in the nature of expenditure, or in the direction of economy—of refusing expenditure—are considered to the best of our ability by the Government, that we take what we consider is the right decision, and then it is the duty of the Minister in charge to
do his best to urge the House to act in accordance with the decision to which the responsible Government themselves have come. I have said what views I expressed pre-War, and I have now got my letter of the 23rd April, 1908. It is:
I am desired by Mr. Churchill to say that his answer to the question put to him without notice to-night by Colonel Seely on behalf of the postmen is as follows:
He is of opinion that the Treasury should take into consideration ex-naval and military service in reckoning service towards pension, and he has reason to suppose they are prepared to adopt this course.
I understand the Prime Minister also, any my right hon. Friend signed a memorial quite as recently as 1911 in favour of this scheme. But we are no longer in the pre-War period. The problem itself has altered in many ways, and the financial position of the country has changed even more remarkably. At the present time, every demand for expenditure has to be scrutinised with the utmost severity. We endeavour, as far as possible, to do so, and if on any occasion we show any signs of failing in our task, the House is every ready to assist us in the duty, and to keep us strictly up to the mark. But it is not only on the individual merits that you can attempt to judge this question of two men serving in the Civil Service, one with a military record and one with no military record, and compare their cases. That is much too narrow a field in which to examine the question. You must also consider the relations of those men.
Of course, if the House wished to embark upon a general policy of benevolence, an excursion into the field of Parliamentary generosity, this would be a very pleasing and very defensible direction in which we could advance. If we were looking round at the present moment for means of spending money on improving the general position of State servants and civil servants—if that were the requirement of the time; if that were the view of the House, then, I admit frankly, that this would be an extremely good and pleasant occasion in which to discharge that function. But that is not our position. Our position is exactly the opposite. We have to trim, to restrict, to retrench, to deny, and that is not only the view of the Government and the conviction of the Government, but it is, I trust and believe, the resolution of the House. Even if we were in a position to expand and to improve the general treatment of civil and State servants at large, even if we had a certain amount of money to be distributed in a more generous and broadminded administration of these affairs, I would submit to the House that there are many other cases which would rank before the hard—admittedly hard—case which has been so attractively placed before us this evening by the Mover and Seconder of the Motion.
There are the claims for compensation by those who suffered from air raids and bombardments during the War. These claims were scaled down from £25,000,000 to £12,500,000 by the Sumner Commission. Only £5,000,000 has been paid. It is the intention of the Government, as of the preceding Government, and of the Government before that, that only £5,000,000 shall be paid on that account. Take the case which is, in my opinion, even a harder case—that of the pre-War service pensioners—the soldiers, sailors and policemen who left before the new and increased rates, appropriate to the increased cost of living, had come into operation. Some small alleviation has been made, but the fact remains that these pre-War pensioners have scarcely received half of the real pensions value that the post-War pensioners have received. I have been told the case which shows how very capricious fortune is in these matters. It is the case of a police officer who was due to retire on 31st March, 1919, on pre-War pension terms. Owing to some exigency of the service which arose, he was employed for one hour on the 1st April, 1919, and his pension was consequently doubled.
To meet the claims of the air raids and bombardments £7,500,000 would be required, and to equalise the pensions to the values of pre-War pensions would be another £2,000,000 or £2,500,000. Thus we have already found at least £10,000,000 in claims which would, I think, justly rank in front of this proposal of my hon. and gallant Friend. We cannot afford it—this expense. The Government have decided against both these, in my opinion, harder cases than the one before us. There have been three General Elections. They have not altered the refusal of the House of Commons to agree to any further satisfaction of these claims. Is this the time, on the very eve of the introduction of the Economy Bill, to go out of our way to re-open a question which, as I shall show, is quite indefinite in itself, and which cannot possibly be considered apart from a whole series of other claims, in support of all of which eloquent and good-hearted speeches can be made, and for the satisfaction of all of which the House would be very glad to make exertions, if circumstances were favourable?
I turn from the comparative merits to the intrinsic merits of this case, and here, I am bound to say, that I cannot feel that the intrinsic merits, apart from good will and benevolence, have been at all sustained by the speeches which have been made. In the first instance, there is no contractual claim. No one has contended that. There is no question of the State breaking faith with anybody. The men concerned entered the Army or the Navy on certain terms. After serving their period for which they had engaged, the vast majority passed out, or were thrown out, into civil life, to shift for themselves, sink or swim, in the hard battle of life, without permanent or pensionable employment of any kind being guaranteed to them. A minority, a small minority in proportion—considerable in numbers but small relatively—were fortunate enough to obtain permanent employment under the State, with new chances of pension to replace those which they had formally renounced and abandoned on leaving the fighting services. The State, as an hon. Gentleman reminded us, is supposed to be the model employer. Certainly the State affords far greater security than the average working man find in any other sphere of life. Soldiers and sailors are continually endeavouring to secure further employment in the service of the Crown. It is the aim of all associations which are concerned with the welfare of soldiers and sailors, regimental associations and other welfare associations which look after the military man—it is their main aim to secure an ever-larger proportion of vacancies in the Civil Service for the soldier and sailor. Therefore, I repeat that soldiers and sailors who obtain subsequent employment in the civil services of the Crown are regarded, and regard themselves, as more fortunate than those who do not obtain such employment. Why, then, out of all the grievances, out of all the hardships, which we see around in the aftermath of Armageddon, should this particular class be singled out by the Mover of this Motion for a new and special improvement at the expense of the general taxpayer?
If we deal with this case on grounds of equity or logic—on alleged grounds of equity or logic, what are we going to do for the man who has served seven years in the Army or the Navy and is now in industry, now working in a mill or a mine, with no prospect of pension and high risk of unemployment? He has served the Crown on exactly the same basis as these ex-service civil servants, he has shared the hardships, the dangers and the vicissitudes of the military or naval service ashore or afloat, he has made the same contract with the State. With what justice, certainly with what logic, can we add to the benefits of one who is already in a more fortunate position while ignoring altogether, just because he is unorganised, and because they are unformulated, the claims of the other? Therefore it is our opinion that there is no case in law nor contractual obligation for this proposal, nor, if we extend the view beyond the limited scope in which the Mover of the Motion confined himself is there any case in equity. There is a case for good will and benevolence, but that is something which we are not in a position to dwell upon at the present moment.
Now I turn to the consequential difficulties of the proposal. This proposal would carry us very much further than the supporters of the Motion have been willing to admit. The argument which they used about the onerous and arduous service in the fighting forces given under the most honourable circumstances is of a much wider application than that which they assigned to it. The pre-War Army was a very small thing compared with the Army during the War, and then very small numbers were involved, but now, with a tax-burdened country after a great War, far larger numbers of men are involved in the demand which is now made than could ever have been included 16 or 17 years ago.
The Mover of this Motion and the hon. Member for North Camberwell asked us to be careful to draw a distinction between what he called the "hostility men"—this is a new term to me—and the soldiers. It is the first time anyone has ever attempted to draw such a distinction before. He wished to see the hostility men excluded and the regular soldiers and sailors included. Why should they be excluded? Our Civil Service is crowded at present with ex-service civil servants, with war service only. I do not mean those who left the Civil Service to go into the Army, but those who came from the fighting forces to the Civil Service at the close of the War for the first time. It is crowded with these men, and they far outnumber the ex-regulars, but by what standard of logic, justice, reason or even of sanity can you make out that four years past service in the Army of a man who never saw a shot fired is to count in priority against four years service in the bloody trenches of France and Flanders.
It is said that the civilian fighters in the Great War—the hostility men, as they are called—received a gratuity. So did the regular soldiers who served; they received a gratuity too; and if it is said that it is not proposed to give this advantage which is claimed to any class of ex-regular soldiers, or to ex-soldiers who have already received a special gratuity on account of the Great War, then what we are invited to do is to exclude altogether services in the Great War from counting for the purposes of these improved conditions in regard to pension. How is it possible for the House to accept such a proposition? If this principle were conceded, does anyone suppose that we could defend it for a single Session? If we were to say we would allow professional service in the Army, apart from service in the Great War, to count for pension in the Civil Service, but not the service of hostility men who served in the Great War, how long does this House suppose that any Government of any party could hold such a line of argument? It would not be possible to resist the demand for the inclusion of all service, and especially the highest form of service, namely, active service, as counting for pension. You might have two men serving side by side, one who has never seen a shot fired, and you are told that he is to have five years' service credited to him, while the other man, who was all through the Great War, is told that that does not count, as he is only a hostility man. To what absurdity is my hon. and gallant Friend, from the very best motives, endeavouring to lead the House of Commons? If this Motion were passed, I have no doubt whatever that in a subsequent Session my hon. and gallant Friend or some other hon. Member, actuated by equally amiable motives, would come forward and propose to sweep away this absurd barrier, which excluded all this mass of hostility men, who bore the brunt of the War, from the privilege already conceded to those who had given a far less severe form of military or naval service; and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer of those days got up to make a protest, my hon. and gallant Friend or his successor would say with great effect and force, "You conceded the whole position from the moment when you allowed the case of the non-active service regular soldier, and you deprived yourself of every foothold to resist this just demand. Now you must carry it through to the end"; and he would be quite right.
This would involve a payment, not of £23,000 a year, as my hon. and gallant Friend says, but, as I am credibly advised, further charges, so far as the civilians who served in the Great War are concerned, amounting to upwards of £6,000,000, and a permanent charge, so far as the regulars are concerned, which would represent a capital sum of £2,500,000. The figures, therefore, are very large. Moreover, I do not believe that we could take a step like this without at the same time reconsidering all those other cases, only two of which I have ventured to mention to the House to-night. I now want to ask this question; Is it really in the interests of the fighting Services themselves—of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who are now serving—that the House should pass this Resolution? The Navy is not much involved, becaue there it is mainly long service, but the Army is very much concerned.
It is a serious drain on the manhood of the country to maintain upwards of 100,000 men in permanent service abroad, mostly in the East. They are taken at 18, and discharged at 25. Many of them have not learned a trade, or obtained a footing in civil life, except those who are fortunate enough to get into the Government service. Many of them are debilitated by an Indian sun or from some other cause. The one great object is to get them the largest possible share that public policy will allow—for you must consider the problem of the reserves, and you must not deplete your Civil Service completely on mobilisation—the one great object is to get as many as possible of these men into the Civil Service of the Crown, the Post Office, the Customs, the Prison service, and so forth.
At the same time that you have this desire and policy, which is the policy that we are pursuing and extending, and which we intend to develop, as far as possible, to greater lengths even than has been the case hitherto—at the same time you have the demand for economy, and you have the stern criticism to which all the Departments are exposed, especially in regard to their civil staff. I am sure, if you passed this Resolution, you would find that it would follow quite naturally that there would be great reluctance on the part of Departments, under the harrow of needful retrenchment, to take into their service an ever-increasing proportion of men who were saddled with five, six or seven years' extra pension rights above and beyond what would accrue to a man taken indirectly. Therefore I believe you would defeat your own objects in conserving the main cause of the soldiers and sailors, and that it would be a deterrent upon their employment instead of benefiting them as we all desire.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman asks for an inquiry, and he says, "Let us, at any rate, meet half way." I think the House should make up its mind about the matter. The facts are perfectly well known and have been well known during the last 25 years. It is needless cruelty to have an inquiry unless you have real intentions in the matter. It will only disturb a good many thousand households, you will only raise expectations which no Government will be found ready in the present time or within measurable time to grant, and you will in the end have inflicted suffering upon those whom it is your desire to help. The Government feel bound to give a clear guidance on this matter to the House. We say it is a matter of policy, that it affects and compromises the general finance, and we believe that, if this Motion were passed, it would lead at a subsequent date to a collision between the Executive, who would decline to obey, and the House of Commons. For all those reasons, we feel it absolutely necessary to vote against the Motion and to call upon our friends to support us in that course.
I rise at the first opportunity to follow the right hon. Gentleman and to explain how I misinterpreted his natural hesitation to take part in the Debate. I am not aware that the reason why our expectation of hearing him was delayed so long was that the right hon. Gentleman was waiting for my contribution. I do believe the reason why he hesitated to speak was because of the reluctance he felt in having to oppose a proposal to increase the expenditure of the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer certainly showed more enthusiasm this afternoon in defending the expenditure of millions than he has shown this evening in opposing the paltry expenditure of a few thousand pounds a year. It was my intention, if I did intervene in the Debate, to explain the attitude of the Labour party towards this Motion.
The Chancellor would, I think, have had no hesitation at all in rising earlier in the Debate if he had really known the purport of the observations I should offer to the House. I do not think the Motion, in the terms in which it appears on the Paper, is one which either the Government will accept or the House of Commons ought to support. I think the hon. Member who put it down has been most unfortunate in framing its terms. He asks the House of Commons to appoint a Select Committee, not to inquire but to accept the conclusions and recommendations of a Committee that sat 20 years ago. He appears to have forgotten that in the intervening period there has been a great War and that that calamitous incident has completely changed the circumstances as they existed 20 years ago. It seems to me little less than absurd to ask the House of Commons to take the recommendations of a Committee 20 years old and apply them without a new inquiry in the changed circumstances of to-day.
I am not going to express any views at all on the merits of the question. I have views, but the only thing I want to say is this. The Labour party have, I believe, on more than one occasion raised this question, but we have never raised it in the form in which it is raised in this Motion. All we have asked is that a Committee should be appointed to make a new inquiry into this question, and that is the position we occupy tonight. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it would be a mockery of the expectations of the people who are interested in this question if a Committee were appointed unless it was the intention of the Government to act upon the recommendations of that Committee. Yes, but on the other hand, if no inquiry is held, this agitation will continue, and I think if we had a Committee appointed, even if its conclusions were adverse to this demand, those who have for more than 30 years been carrying on this agitation would be satisfied, and if we do not grant an inquiry this demand will be continued and it will be raised in the House of Commons year after year. Therefore I ask the Government to agree to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into this matter without any of the restrictions that are laid down in the terms of this Motion, and if we vote in support of the Motion we shall do so not because we accept the terms on the Paper, but as an expression of our view that an inquiry into this question ought to be held.
After the right hon. Gentleman's speech, it is hardly to be expected that this House should persist, with his authority against it, in giving expression to the Motion that has been brought forward.