Orders of the Day — State Pensions.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 20th February 1940.

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Mr. J. J. Davidson:

I desire to raise a point of which I gave notice, in regard to the matter on which I put a Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 13th February. I asked the right hon. Gentleman: what steps he is taking, in view of the call for national economy, to investigate the whole position regarding pensions payable to ex-members of the judiciary, ex-Prime Ministers, and the pension payable to the present Lord Nelson? To the great amazement of many Members of the House, and to the amazement of people in the country, and if I may judge by the letters I have received from England, Scotland and Wales, and especially in view of the present national crisis, the right hon. Gentleman replied: I see no reason for such investigation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1940; col. 578, Vol. 357.] When I asked the Question I had in mind the position that had been placed forward time and time again by Government spokesmen since the beginning of the war. I have had letters from men who have done active service, been maimed, or lost sons or good friends in the service of this country, and whose meagre pensions die with them. The Press that this Question has received has surprised many of my hon. Friends. Generally speaking, the Press does not give true statements to the public, but on this occasion it is to be complimented for the way in which it has brought the matter in front of the public of this country.

The Government have declared emphatically, in speech after speech, that, in this crisis, we are faced with one of the strongest enemies, financially and materially, that we have ever faced, and that all must share in the burdens of the war. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has gone as far as to say that every fnrthing—not every £ or every £5, but. every farthing—in the finances of the country must be usefully employed to prosecute the war successfully. He has warned us that if we did not effectively utilise every farthing of the nation's financial resources, we might lose the war, with woeful results. I am with the Government in that declaration, but I shall be interested to hear from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury how he justifies the Chancellor's statement that he sees no reason for an investigation into the huge pensions of from £1,000 to £5,000 a year that are payable to men who were handsomely rewarded by the country with salaries of up to £10,000, in order to preserve them from corruption, by keeping them free from any worries that might be caused by lack of money.