§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman 'do report Progress,' and ask leave to sit again."
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I wish to say a few words, by leave of the House, upon the present position of the Bill, before we report Progress. We have now had twelve days in Committee, and I think the progress that has been made has been very satisfactory on the whole. The Debates have not been controversial in character. If I may be allowed to say so, I think the Committee have responded to the invitation of the Government that the House as a whole should take a part in moulding and fashioning the Bill. When I first introduced it, I gave that invitation to the House of Commons, and I have repeated it since. I made it clear that as far as those who are in charge of the Bill are concerned, it was our intention to use the party machinery as little as possible, except when we came to matters of finance, for which the Government alone is responsible. Our intention was to defer to the wishes of the House in every other respect, and rather to invite assistance to fashion, to alter, and to construct the Bill. I think the result has been that the invitation has been very fairly and generously accepted by all parties in the House. Perhaps there have been some differences and matters of controversy, but that was inevitable. The Government have sometimes had to give away. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not often."] Very often, the Government have had to give way. I do not object to that, though there is one Amendment I am not quite satisfied about. In view of the alterations made, I think on the whole they are improvements in the 735 Bill. I say quite frankly that all these criticisms from both sides of the House have been exceedingly helpful, and the alterations have been, towards the improvement of the Bill. If we continue on those lines to the end, I hope we shall get a Bill which will be truly national in the sense that all sections and parties in the nation will have a share in it; and I think it is very important, when we come to the administration of a Bill of this kind, that we should have a Bill, with which everybody is fairly satisfied, and that all parties in the House have got a contribution in the scheme, making it a contributory scheme in that sense. The result will be that it will be found a much better scheme, and it will work much more smoothly.
I venture to submit, after we have had twelve days discussion in Committee, that all the main outlines of the scheme have been accepted. I would just remind the Committee what we have decided. It has been decided that we should proceed on a basis of compulsion. That I think was accepted by all parties in the House. I do not recollect any opposition to it. Another main point that has been decided is that it should be substantially universal, and that it should apply to all the industrial classes of the country. It has been decided, also, that there should be a voluntary part of the scheme, and that that should apply to all those who wish to have the advantages of the Bill. It has also been decided that the Bill should be a contributory one. The State contribution, the amount of the State contribution—or at least the proportion of the State contribution—has also been fixed, the distribution of the balance between the employer and the employé has yet to be settled when we come to the Schedule. In the main, I may says, also, the machinery of the Bill has been accepted. It has been decided by the House that the Bill should be worked not by the State, but through the agency of friendly and kindred societies. With regard to the Post Office contributors, I shall have something to say later on; but in the main, I am glad to say, the machinery has been accepted. The benefits also have been defined. In some important respects they have been extended. The sanatorium treatment is to be given, within the limit of our resources, to women and children of insured persons. I think that is a valuable addition. It will involve an additional charge upon the State, which I shall have to meet, and I shall be very glad to do my 736 best to do so. Another very important alteration in the Bill is that we have extended tubercular treatment not merely to sanatoria, but also to other methods of fighting the disease. We have practically engaged ourselves, committed ourselves, to a real national campaign against consumption. I think that is a very important alteration in the Bill, which hon. Gentlemen opposite have pressed upon the Government. What were the difficulties with which we were confronted. To judge from the criticism in the country, our first great difficulty was with regard to the societies which should be allowed to come in to give assistance on the administration of the scheme. There was an idea at first that it should be confined to existing friendly societies, or to societies organised in the same way. There was an impression abroad that the great collecting societies—the great industrial assurance societies—would not be allowed to come in to assist in the administration of the scheme, even if they conformed in their organisation to the principles which we laid down as essential to the acceptance of the assistance of friendly societies. That difficulty has been settled. I agree that it is the general desire of the House that every society which conforms to these conditions should be allowed to come in to assist in the work of administration. The friendly societies and trades unions cover about five millions of members. It is very difficult to say what are the exact numbers; there are so many differences. Nominally they cover six millions; but there are many who are members both of trades and of friendly societies, and there are many who are members of two or three societies, and, therefore, it is quite impossible to estimate very closely the number. But I am assured by those who have gone into the matter that the existing societies will not cover more than 4½ millions of the industrial people of this country, and barely that, because of the friendly societies 10 per cent. belong really to the lower middle classes of this country. That will leave something like ten millions who are not regular members of the friendly societies, and who have made no provision against the days of sickness, at least no provision of this kind. It was feared that it would be quite impossible for the friendly societies, however admirable their organisation may be, to absorb such an enormous multitude of members as would be cast upon them within six months or nine months after 737 the passing of the Bill unless they got assistance from other societies, and the Government has accepted Amendments upon the Paper, with regard to which I have received no challenge up to the present, making it possible for all societies who are prepared to conform to the conditions laid down to assist in the administration of the scheme. That, I think, will remove one of the greatest difficulties in the way of the scheme.
The second great difficulty, judging from the mass of correspondence and the number of deputations I had to deal with, and the criticism and communications from Members and otherwise, was the difficulty of the medical profession. I think it can be said that that has been substantially met in the course of the last few days by the Amendments which have been carried and have been incorporated in the Bill. These two great difficulties have been disposed of. What are the other difficulties? Here I am rather asking for the consideration of hon. Members, I do not invite their opinion at the present moment. I should prefer that they should take these matters into their consideration and should assist the Government, not merely by way of criticism, but by way of suggestion as they have done in the past. The first great difficulty is the difficulty of the women contributors. A very severe criticism has been passed upon the scheme—not altogether justified—owing to the fact that women contributors pass out of the benefit fund the moment they are married, and that the only benefit they receive is the benefit of a right of re-entry into the scheme when they become widows. Actuarially, that is perfectly sound, but the Government has consented to consider proposals which will enable married women who have been contributors to continue their contributions for modified benefits during the time of marriage. I do hope, whatever scheme is accepted by the House of Commons, the right of re-entry into the scheme on full terms will not be excluded, because I do think that is very important.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Yes, that is part of the present scheme. At present they are entitled on the death of their husbands to come in for disablement benefit if, at the time of the death of their husbands, they would otherwise be entitled to the benefit. That is one of the things I 738 ask the House of Commons to consider between this and the time we reassemble—the conditions on which women contributors ought to be allowed to continue. First of all, we think they ought to be allowed to continue for sick pay. I would put this consideration before Members of the Committee with regard to sick pay. I do not say it would be more difficult in the case of married women than in the case of married men, but in the case of married women who are unemployed, there is not the same check upon malingering. Therefore, it may be very disastrous to the funds of the society if you allow married women to come in, except in cases where they are in institutions. This is a suggestion put before me by some of the deputations of organised women labour which I received. They suggest sick pay should be given to a married woman where she has been sent to a hospital. That is, of course, a complete check upon malingering, and it is also a justifiable payment, I think, for the simple reason that in that case somebody will have to be engaged to look after the household. Therefore, it may be very desirable sick pay should be paid in those cases in order to assist the husband to find somebody who will take charge of the household. Those are the suggestions made: that married women should be entitled to medical benefit; to sanatorium treatment; to sick pay as well whilst she is institutionally treated, and that she should be allowed to continue her membership of the society upon a reduced scale of contributions, receiving those modified benefits. I should like the Members of the Committee to take that suggestion into consideration with a view of giving me, when we resume our labours upon this Bill, their collected advice and counsel upon that point.
The other great difficulty is with regard to the Post Office contributor. This is a very real difficulty, and it is one which calls for the sympathy of every Member of the House. At the same time, I think it would be a mistake for us to overlook the obstacles in the way of arriving at a satisfactory solution. The members of the Post Office Fund will presumably be those who are rejected by the friendly societies on one of two grounds. One ground is that upon medical examination no society would accept the responsibility of insuring them against sickness. In the main those cases would be tubercular cases, because every case of tuberculosis would be a serious charge upon a society. The average case of ordinary sickness leads to sick 739 pay for about three weeks, a month, or six weeks, but a tubercular case almost invariably leads to fifty-eight weeks' sick pay. Sometimes it leads to two or three year's sick pay, but the average, so I am assured by the friendly societies, is fifty-eight weeks. That is a charge of so serious a character that friendly societies would not accept cases of that kind, if it was known at the time the man claimed entry he was suffering from advanced tuberculosis. Therefore, these poor people would be excluded at first from the full benefits of this scheme, and would have to join the Post Office Fund. Then there is the second case, and I want the House to remember this. It is always assumed the Post Office contributors would be entirely composed of members who were rejected by the friendly societies on medical grounds. That is not the case. There are many people who would be rejected by friendly societies, because no society would have them. After all, these societies are working men's clubs, and there are many cases where no working-men's club will accept a certain type of man. They will not associate him. They regard him as a wastrel. There are many men who would be rejected on that ground. The exceptional State subsidy for the Post Office contributor means not only an exceptional State subsidy for the poor fellow rejected on medical grounds; it means an exceptional State subsidy in many cases for the wastrel whom no society would accept. I therefore really want the Committee to bear that in mind, and not allow themselves to be carried away, I will not say by sentiment, but by quite legitimate sympathy, into doing something which will encourage the most thriftless class of the community, and that class which has the least right to the sympathy and financial support of the State.
May I also point this out. The class which will be excluded from the friendly societies on medical grounds will diminish year by year. It will be practically confined to the first few years of any scheme, for this reason: It is only during the first few years that you have men who come in at all ages, and tubercular diseases and other diseases hardly develop before the age of sixteen. Therefore, after the first few years, there would be very few cases excluded on medical grounds, but there would be a considerable number of cases excluded on the ground that the applicant was a man whom no society would include among its members. 740 He would be the sort of man who was always in arrear. As a matter of fact, I do not think the Committee and the public generally have realised the extent to which this scheme is an encouragement of thrift. The introduction of the principle of the payment of arrears is in itself a guarantee that the society will scrutinise very carefully the character, the general demeanour, and the conduct of a man before they allow him to come in. If he is of the wastrel type and works for a few weeks and then goes off, he would always be in arrear, and the society would be responsible for 5 per cent. of his arrears before he got any benefit, and they would be responsible afterwards for 25 per cent. of his arrears in respect of reduced benefits. Now, owing to the pressure of hon. Members, a society will be responsible for even a larger share of his arrears. A society, will, therefore, look very carefully at that class of man before they ever allow him to come in. I do not think that is at all a bad thing. It means the scheme will be a very considerable encouragement of thrift and industry, because the societies will scan carefully, from the industrial point of view, the general conduct and character of the man who comes to see whether he is likely to be a constant charge upon the fund or whether he is likely to be a faithful and loyal contributor. Therefore, when we come to the Post Office contributor, I do ask the members of the Committee and the public to consider whether it is desirable for the State to contribute a larger share than is now proposed. It will involve a larger contribution towards, not merely the man who is medically unsound, but it will also involve a growing contribution towards the maintenance of the man who is not industrious, who is thriftless, and who is a wastrel. That is the real danger in calling upon the State to contribute much more liberally towards the Post Office contributor. There is another reason. If there is a larger contribution from the State fund to the Post Office contributor—and I put this for consideration and as food for reflection—than is at present proposed, it will be an encouragement for a man to join the Post Office fund against the friendly society. Even a good life would join the Post Office fund, because if he joined a friendly society he would only get two-ninths, whereas if he joined the Post Office fund he would get, let us say, one-third or a-half, or at least an increased contribution. That would be a distinct discourage- 741 ment to men to join, the friendly societies and trades unions, and on the other hand it would be a distinct encouragement to men to join the State scheme. We really want this to be a system which will be worked through these voluntary societies, and I think it would be a great mistake from that point of view to increase the subsidy to the Post Office contributor.
There is one advantage in the system of Post Office contributors, and it was pointed out to me the other day, I think, by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sherwell). It does not exactly create the problem, but it concentrates the problem. It will enable the State to discover what the problem really is in the course of a few years. You will get all the men who, I will not say are physically sound, but who are fairly sound. I do not imagine the medical examination is going to be a severe one. It is not at the present time. I do not think a doctor examines a man too carefully in these cases, and I think that is right. He examines him to see whether he is generally sound or not, and whether he will be a charge on the fund in the next six or twelve months. It is not, for instance, the sort of examination a man has to undergo to get into the Army. What will happen will be this. You will find in the course of the first year or two of the working of this scheme that you will be able to discover the number of people in this country who are so physically unsound that they cannot pass a superficial examination by a doctor. That segregates them. It enables you to know what the problem is. You will find out the number of people rejected on physical and medical grounds exactly as you do now when they apply to join the Army. You will find that for the whole of the community for the first time, and there will be a record. You will know how many tens or hundreds of thousands of people there are who cannot face merely the glance of a doctor and who cannot enter a doctor's consulting room without his knowing there is something wrong with them. You will, I hope, know more than that. I hope the doctor's certificate will be able also to say, and I think it would be a very good thing, the ground of rejection. You will have a medical examination of practically the whole nation, and you will be able to say 200,000, 300,000, or 400,000 people have been rejected on the ground that they are suffering from tubercular disease. That will be a very useful thing when you come to deal with the problem in the future. After 742 all, this is only a contribution towards settling this problem, and whichever party is in, you will have to deal with the problem of the Poor Law, whether you deal with it on the basis of the Majority or the Minority Report, or upon a blend of both, or upon the basis of somebody else's suggestion. This will assist enormously in discovering the nature and character of the problem in a way which it has never been discovered before.
The Poor Law Commission had to proceed upon such evidence as was available, and the only evidence available was the evidence of those who came within the range of the Poor Law. That is not the problem. There is a much larger problem outside, and a problem which deserves far greater sympathy than the problem of the Poor Law—the case of the man who struggles even to the last against what he considers the contaminating touch of pauperism. That is the problem which, I think, deserves the greatest sympathy at the hands of the House of Commons. We shall discover that by means of this kind. You do not discover it by the German method, but you do discover it by means of this principle of segregation, whereby societies absorb all the fairly healthy people in the community, and whereby you segregate and set apart all those who are physically unfit or unfit for other reasons to take their part in the great army of industry. By these great recruiting agents, as it were, you will find out those who are not fit to be enrolled and enlisted. A suggestion has been made that one method of dealing with the Post Office contributor would be that there should be a levy upon the surplus of the societies. I am not going to express any opinion. I am just going to indicate the sort of thing I hope Members will reflect upon and consider. It is said there is a real danger that the society will pick the very best lives, that the medical examination will become a real one in some societies, that all the worst lives will be excluded, and that those societies will have enormous surpluses, purely and simply because they have been selfish enough not to take their share in bearing the general burden of the community. I do not think there is any great danger of that being universal. I think, first of all, the competition that will be promoted by the Bill will be fatal to that. After all, every society is very anxious to get its membership up. These men are making great sacrifices. Most of the work is unpaid. I have been amazed at the work that 743 is done without any pay at all, and they could not do it unless they regarded it as a religion. Amongst the many things they are always eager about is to increase the number of their members, and to record it each year in their annual report, and to show how many more communicants they have this year than they had last year. There is nothing that hurts them more than to have to admit that the number of their adherents has gone down. I am dependent very largely on that to prevent these societies from being too greedy and too selfish in the way they choose their lives. I do not think they will do it. What is much more likely is that you may have societies formed in. connection with religious denominations where the conditions are presumably more healthy, where the discipline that is exerted on the members conduces to healthier lives. You have certain societies of that kind now. Some of them are in connection with Church of England and Nonconformist denominations. I have looked at their reports, and it is wonderful how much they can do and the benefits they can distribute at a very small charge. That is very largely due to the fact that the conditions which are imposed upon them by the discipline of the denominations is undoubtedly conducive to keeping a man off the sick list. These, I think, are the only societies where you probably find an aggregation of picked lives. That is not serious enough to affect the general actuarial average. The real competitors will be the friendly societies, the collecting societies, the industrial societies and the trade unions. The vast majority of contributors will be divided between these great societies, and then we shall get a sort of picked societies, which will be able to show a great surplus. But the mere addition to their membership will make it impossible for them to gather all the picked lives of the community inside their four walls. I am not at all afraid of that.
But it has been suggested that power ought to be given where there is a large surplus to levy a contribution of 10, 20, or 30 per cent. on that contribution, and pay it to the Post Office Fund. I should like Members to consider that very carefully before they come to a conclusion about it, because what it may mean is that you will be levying a contribution not only upon good management but also upon good lives, and I do not mean good lives physically but thrifty, industrial lives, for the benefit of those who have not conformed 744 to the conditions which make health possible. I am not so sure that the Committee will not come to the conclusion which I have come to after a good deal of reflection and thought, after considering it for weeks and months with my colleagues with the aid of very valuable advisers, that on the whole the best thing is to start the experiment in this way. No one suggests that this is going to be a final experiment. You must begin somewhere; we shall find out faults and weaknesses in the system and I should not be a bit surprised if the greatest weaknesses of all will be those which have never appeared in the speeches of any Member. That is the sort of thing you will find as you go along, and you cannot find it out from the best brains in the House. It is a thing which you will discover as you go along, and it will come out in the experience of those who manage the societies which will have 15,000,000 of people. Therefore, I again suggest, that it may be far better to begin the experiment in this way.
These poor people will be better off than they ever were before. That is the first thing to get into their minds. At any rate under this scheme they will get 9d. for every 4d. they put by. If they are only earning 15s. a week it will be 3d., if 12s., 2d., if 9s., 1d. For every 1d., 2d., 3d., or 4d. they put in they will get 9d. to put in the bank opposite their name. They will get more than that, and this is invaluable. Most of those who deserve sympathy amongst them will be tubercular patients. I do not think you will get many rejected with regard to health except the tubercular people. There are certain diseases which are very bad from the point of view of industrial insurance, but from the point of view of sick pay societies they are thoroughly good. Take heart disease or a disease of that kind. The disease which is worst, from the point of view of a sick pay society, is a tubercular complaint which will go on for weeks and weeks and not one which comes to a sudden termination. These poor people will be in the main tubercular patients, and they will derive this benefit from the Bill. They are getting the whole benefit of sanatoria, not of their 1s. alone, but all the shillings that are paid in by the whole of the 15,000,000 people. In addition to that there is a larger State contribution to sanatoria than towards the general benefits of the scheme, and there is the additional benefit that the State is undertaking half the excess provided the local authorities will undertake the other half. As a matter of fact the 745 local authorities have undertaken much more than that now, and I am perfectly certain the vast majority of them will be found pressing the State for an additional grant in a very short time. They will be entitled to remain in these sanatoria and to remain there without any deduction from their pay. That is very important. There is no deduction from their pay at all in respect of sanatoria. That was decided yesterday. They are infinitely better off than they are now. When they break down now they have nothing but the charity of their associates, or, what they consider still more degrading, charity from the, parish. They have got this now between them and destitution, and, what they regard with still greater horror, pauperism. That is a great improvement, and I suggest it is well worth while for the Committee and the public generally to allow the experiment to be tried in this form for at least a few years. They will be better off, and if we still find out that we can do something more for them it would be so much easier for us to do it when we know what the problem really is.
I come to the only other point which I can think of as a great outstanding point. I am leaving on one side comparatively small points, like Clause 51, which are not essentials to the scheme. I should like to say a word with regard to the local health committees and their constitution. In my view, whatever happens the local health committee ought to represent the majority of the people who find the funds, and this is more incumbent than ever since we have transferred the administration of medical benefit to the local health committee. What does that mean? There is £1,000,000 sanatorium benefit under the local health committee. There is now to be another £4,000,000, or rather very nearly £4,500,000 of medical benefit, transferred to the local health committee. It is true that existing institutions are excepted. Friendly societies which have got now medical aid in their schemes will be able to retain it if they wish. Such societies as those which were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) will be able to retain it if they wish to do so. In my opinion they will not wish to do it very long. I believe that gradually they will find it to their interest to transfer it, and we must contemplate the whole of medical aid being transferred. At any rate, a very substantial part will be transferred, so that we will begin with these societies, having £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 to administer. Where does it come from?
746 It comes from the members of the approved societies and the Post Office contributors.
You cannot transfer the administration of a fund which is contributed by these 15,000,000 people outside to the representatives of the ratepayers. That is not representation with taxation. The taxation is the taxation of the members of these societies. It is they who pay, and if you hand over the administration of the money to another society, or rather, to another corporation, who have no responsibility for the funds at all, except in the matter of distribution, there will, I am afraid, be temptation to spend too freely to relieve the rates rather than to relieve the condition of the members of the societies. I do not say that relieving the rates is a bad thing, but we will all admit that this would not go to relieve thorn considerably. I do not think it is right to levy contributions on employers and employés for the purpose of relieving the rates of the community. Incidentally, I have no doubt, this would to some extent relieve the rates. I do not see how you could avoid it, but the first consideration in the spending of money is that it should be spent for the benefit of the 15,000,000 who are in the scheme. They should have the dominant, deciding, and final voice as to the manner in which the money ought to be expended. On the whole, I think, that proposition receives the general assent of the Committee. I want to give the Committee a warning. My hon. Friend the Member for Durham takes a different view. He would like to hand the whole thing over to the county councils. I think that would be a very dangerous thing to do. I think the friendly societies, the trade unions, and the new societies which are to come in and find the money are the people who ought to have the final voice in the matter. It is not merely a question of money. It is the health of their members which depends upon them, and surely they ought to have a final voice in deciding who the doctor shall be, and how the doctoring is to be done. That is all I want to say in regard to that point.
I wish to refer to another point. I believe the county councils ought to be represented. If the county councils contribute anything they might say: "We will only contribute on condition that you give us increased representation." That is a matter of bargain for the local health committees, but at any rate the local health committee will get something in return. These, in the main, are the outstanding 747 points. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about women?"] I beg pardon. I am glad my hon. Friend has mentioned that. The other great outstanding question is how to deal with domestic servants—with those who bargain, as in the case of agricultural labourers, to have sick pay by the terms of their employment. This applies also to those engaged in the mercantile marine, and to clerks who are guaranteed pay during sickness. The general principle in all these cases is the same, and I have no doubt many others will occur to Members of the Committee which have not been mentioned, but which are in the category—people who are guaranteed under the conditions of their employment that sick pay or the equivalent of sick pay, or something better than sick pay, will be provided for them In case of sickness. In the case of clerks they will get, much better than the benefits under the Bill during sickness. Take the case of a clerk paid by the year. If he is simply suffering from temporary sickness his employers will go on giving him his wages as a rule. That therefore renders it unnecessary that there should be any provision in his case for thirteen weeks temporary sickness. The same thing applies to the domestic servant. She is not discharged, but she is retained in her situation, she gets board, and her wages are given to her. In the case of the clerk, the domestic servant, and the agricultural labourer, their employers contribute something which is already provided in the contract of their service, and I agree that that is a criticism which it is difficult to meet except in the way of altering the Bill. To meet these cases I have already made my suggestion, and now that we have two or three months to reflect upon it I invite the Committee to again consider the best way of carrying it out, or to consider some alternative which may be preferable to my suggestion. My suggestion is that where there is a contract of service which provides either for the equivalent of the benefits of the Bill during temporary sickness, or for something better, in that case you should exclude these classes altogether from temporary sickness pay, and simply provide for them medical attendance and disablement benefit. That is the suggestion which I put forward. [An HON. MEMBER: "And sanatorium benefit."] Yes, and sanatorium benefit. There are very few cases where medical attendance is guaranteed. Sailors are guaranteed 748 medical attendance up to a certain point. They are guaranteed as long as they are on a voyage, but the difference is that it is not guaranteed when they land. That is the trouble in their case. I think that in the case of domestic servants, clerks, agricultural labourers, and sailors, medical benefit should be provided for them. If you cut out medical benefit, it makes a difference of 1½d., but I do not think any of these classes should be excluded from medical benefit under the Bill. In fact I am perfectly certain that there would be sore disappointment on their part if they thought they were not going to be guaranteed for them. It would be a very serious thing for agricultural labourers whose wages are from 15s. to 16s. a week, although those wages are guaranteed during sickness, to find themselves confronted with a medical bill of about £10. It may cripple them for the rest of their days. Many a man has been so completely disheartened by having to save in order to pay off a medical bill that he almost gives it up in absolute despair. I think, therefore, we ought to have a State guarantee for the medical service in all these cases. That is a matter which, I hope, will be thoroughly considered by hon. Members.
I had the pleasure the other day of meeting a very able deputation of shipowners of this country, and I had the advantage, which I have often enjoyed since I have been in charge of this Department, of receiving the advice and assistance of Sir Norman Hill, who is simply one of the ablest advisers on any industry in this country, and he is now utilising his very resourceful brain in finding some means of dealing with the case of the sailors. It is a very difficult case, because though, by his contract of service, the sailor is doctored more or less efficiently during the time he is on board ship, and even during the time he is in a foreign port, still there are gaps in his service. He is not like a domestic servant or an agricultural labourer who is engaged all the year round; he may be ashore for three weeks or a month. If he is not in exactly the same position as the others, there is no provision for him during that period. That is a difficulty which is inherent to the service of the sailor. Therefore, it is a very difficult case to deal with. I am not sure that the method which is applicable to the other cases will altogether exhaust the possibilities of dealing with the case of the sailor, but on that I think the House may fairly trust the suggestion which will 749 emanate from the shipowners of this country who are quite willing to make provision, who have met us very fairly, who recognise that the case of sailors must be provided for in cases of disablement, and have never tried to get out of the liability at all, but have acted in a manner highly creditable to that great industry because they felt that the sailor who was hopelessly broken down, not merely through old age, but through disease, should be dealt with, and they are quite willing to find their share to meet that case.
I understand that an hon. Member wants to consider the case of members of an approved society. That is a case which I have got to consider. Here again I must ask hon. Members not to be rushed away altogether by the natural sympathy that they have with these little societies. There is a great deal of sentiment attaching to them which is very creditable to everybody, but they have often proved a trap. I remember in my own little village we had a society which is now no more; it went on paying for a certain time; then they found, not having any actuarial advice, that they gradually became insolvent, and people who had been paying in all their lives, when they reached old age, found that there was nothing for them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand (Mr. Walter Long) reminded the House not long ago of the hundreds of societies spread over the country which become insolvent. It is not that they are badly managed; it is very often inherent in the nature of the case. They cannot get the best advice; they cannot afford it to begin with; not merely that, but you may have an epidemic in a district, and there are some cases which make such a draw upon the funds of the society that it becomes bankrupt, and has nothing to fall back upon. Then again it depends so much upon the individual secretary or chairman. If you get a good secretary it may work out all right. If you happen to fall upon a bad one, the society is bankrupt in a very short time before anybody knows it. He comes to the committees, and he shows everybody that never were things in such a flourishing condition, probably for the very reason that he is paying out more money than anybody did before, and he adduces that as proof of the improved business that is going on.
That is really what happens in these societies, and unless they are federated, and have something to fall back upon, and unless they have got the super- 750 vision which comes from the checking of one society by another, very often they end in complete insolvency and disappoint the hopes of those who have depended upon them. Do not again, I appeal to the Members of the Committee, do a thing which is merely popular for the moment, and which will turn out to be very bad in the long run. Let us consider what is the best thing in the interests of the members of those societies themselves. I have had a very admirable suggestion that you should have some sort of county pool in those cases, so that at any rate in so far as a single county is concerned they shall back each other up. Otherwise, you may get a society becoming insolvent, because, let us say, of an epidemic of typhoid fever, diphtheria or for some other reason, while all the other societies enjoy a magnificent surplus because they have not been visited by that epidemic. Perhaps it might be possible in some sort of way without mentioning numbers at all to get a kind of county pool.
Here is the suggestion which I think is rather a valuable one: "That all approved societies which have fewer than 10,000 persons as members, and which carry on business in any county or county borough, shall, except as hereinafter provided, be grouped together for the purpose of valuation. The provisions of this Act as to the application of surpluses of branches of societies, shall apply to such grouped societies as if they were branches of a single society, subject to the following modifications." The effect is that you should have a separate valuation of each of these societies. Let us make it clear at the start, that this valuation will have no reference to their present position, because what I am afraid of is, that they will run away with the idea that we are going to collar their surplus and are going to distribute their money to members of the other societies. I cannot imagine a greater state of ferocious excitement than that which would be caused by this idea. "What," they would say, "our society, which has gone on since the flood, and flourished, is to be compelled to distribute to that miserable little society of the other parish!" There would be great jealousy and indignation. I want to make clear at the start that this is not to be done, because we know how difficult it is to get a notion out of the minds of people with regard to this Bill. The worst of these vested interests is that you cannot get out of the heads of those concerned in them that they are to pay their 4d. twice 751 over, but when they get to know that they will receive 6d. from the State for each 4d., I expect to get as much correspondence by way of apology as I have by way of criticism. It is not a proposal which comes to me with a view to touching their present surpluses. But the surpluses that are to be created under the Bill will for the purpose of valuation be treated as a sort of county pool, in so far as half of them are concerned. The position which we have got now is similar to that of branches of friendly societies. The Foresters and Oddfellows have branches and a centre, and it is an inducement to a branch to manage itself well, because it gets half. It is an encouragement that the central society is able to average, as it were, the risk over the whole country. What we want is to average the risk as between individual parishes and the whole county. I throw out this proposal really by way of suggestion for consideration in the meantime. It will entail no additional expense; they can carry on exactly as they do now. In future if they have a surplus due to the fact that the health of the community in one particular district is better than another, they can then help each other. That is the whole principle of this Bill, as it is the principle of friendly society management. I make that by way of suggestion. I have not at all committed myself to this except by way of suggestion. That is all I have got to say. I think we may congratulate ourselves on having overcome the greatest difficulties—the doctors and the collecting societies, which were so admirably mobilised by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth), who developed very skilfully his attack upon me. They have now come inside, and they are our allies, and all I can say is that if they are as effective in supporting the Bill as they have, been in criticising it they will be very valuable allies indeed. These great difficulties have been overcome, and I can see no great difficulties that we cannot overcome in the future. I shall have to keep a tight hold upon the purse strings. I am bound to do that, not only in the interests of the taxpayers of the country, but in the general interests of the whole scheme. There I have been obdurate and stubborn, but I think I have been reasonable in the main. I think it is important that that should be done. But within these limits I think I have adhered scrupulously to the pledge I gave at the start, and I have accepted the assistance of the 752 House in all quarters in fashioning and altering the Bill in every direction. I have considered every suggestion brought before this Committee, and I have received some valuable assistance from Members of all parties. I beg to thank them for the assistance they have given, and I hope that at the end we shall be able to rejoice together that between us we have produced a scheme that will relieve a vast amount of suffering in this country.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
I think, before I put the Question, that I ought to remind the Committee that the statement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just made has been rather irregular. Our rule of debate, applied to a Motion to report Progress is that speeches are confined to that subject, but it is sometimes convenient that a discussion should be allowed. In fact, it is desirable, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that any representative of parties in the House should say anything they wish to say, but it would be an undesirable precedent to allow a general debate to proceed.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I hope the Committee will allow me to take part in this irregular Debate for a few moments. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made an exceedingly interesting statement, and I felt that I was taking part in a First Reading Debate on the introduction of a new Bill. I do not say that in any unfriendly spirit, but the right hon. Gentleman has referred to changes made, and suggestions for alterations in respect of so many large questions that remain for consideration, that I think when the Bill finally emerges from Committee it will be found to be a very different Bill from that which engaged their attention to begin with. The right hon. Gentleman said he congratulated himself, and congratulated the Committee upon the fact that we have settled so many and difficult problems which the Bill contains. I wish we had. What have we settled? No doubt we have settled the broad principle on which the Bill is based, that is to say, the principle of universal, compulsory, contributory insurance against sickness and disease. That we settled, I think, on the Second Reading, and we have settled it in Committee as far as we have gone. We have settled the various benefits that are to be conferred under the Bill. We have settled various points which no doubt occasioned difficulty—points of difficulty that have arisen between, friendly societies on the one hand 753 and doctors on the other. I hope we have settled them. I am not altogether sure that they have been finally disposed of. The right hon. Gentleman reminded us that there is one thing we have not settled, and that is the proportion of contribution which is to be levied upon employers and employed provided for under the Bill. If the Committee will allow me, I would remind them of the speech I made on the introduction of the Bill, pointing out that the Government would have to justify the Committee, would have to justify the proportion they took from these two partners in the scheme. The Chancellor of the Exchequer reminded us that the settlement of that question has been deferred until we come to the Schedules. I believe and I hope that when we come to the consideration of it we may be able to settle it in a satisfactory way.
The question still remains open and undoubtedly we should be foolish if we blinded ourselves to the fact that there is a difference of opinion as to the proper proportion which these two contributing parties ought to bear. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has referred in the concluding part of his speech to a proposal that has been made to him in reference to a proposition which he sketched in brief outline—a suggestion that the smaller societies should form a county pool. This is a novel suggestion, and it is one which I shall think over carefully. It, undoubtedly, contains within it a principle which appeals very strongly to me, and that is the principle which gives a stimulus to county feeling. I am a great believer in esprit de corps. I am a great believer, as far as we can get it, in county feeling within the county. I believe it makes for the good of everybody who lives within the county, and therefore the suggestion which has been thrown out is worthy of our most careful consideration. Then the right hon. Gentleman referred to the question of women under the Bill. I say at once that those of us who sit on this side of the House have been taking a special interest in this Bill. We have been for some time past devoting our attention to the position of women under this scheme. We have been attempting to find some method practically within the finance of the Bill—because we have been necessarily limited by the finance of the Bill—we have been endeavouring to find some method which would give women fairer treatment than they receive under the Bill as it stands. We have not been able hitherto to complete our inquiries be- 754 cause they necessarily depend very largely on actuarial calculations, but we have been giving our minds to this problem and we had hoped that before long we might be able to put Amendments on the Paper containing, in outline at any rate, the suggestions we had to offer. But the proposal which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made opens up a wholly new problem in connection with this question. In undoubtedly involves the reconsideration of the financial contributions by the Government. All I will say now on that question is that we shall consider most carefully and with a very friendly mind the proposal which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has sketched for us.
The right hon. Gentleman touched upon the question of the deposit contributors. I confess that the position of the deposit contributor under the Bill is one of extreme difficulty. There is almost an irresistible inclination on the part of any one who has followed our proceedings in Committee, to give to the deposit contributors something more than his actual contributions entitle him to. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer uttered a word of warning in connection with that. Certainly it is a warning, if I am right in thinking that he did utter a warning, which I should like to second. We have got to see to it that this Bill is not put upon a charitable basis. We have got to see to it that while we give full value for the money that we call upon the various classes of the population to contribute, and while we impose upon them the duty of contributing, and while we give them right in respect of the contributions that they make, that we should not allow the element of charity to enter into the schema at any point. I think we ought to treat it as a matter of business from first to last, and that we ought not to look at it with eyes of charity at all. The right hon. Gentleman went on to draw a picture in vivid colours of the inestimable benefit that is going to be conferred by the erection of sanatoria and the treatment of people in sanatoria. I began to wonder when the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us of the vast numbers of people who would derive benefit from their stay in such institutions where the accommodation was to be found.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I said that for the first time we had undertaken to deal with tuberculosis. I meant in other ways as well. I did not say anything about confining it to those institutions.
§ Mr. FORSTER
Of course, I entirely accept the Chancellor of the Exchequer's correction. I do not want to press the point unduly, but it is a question which the Chancellor of the Exchequer recognises as fully as anyone else, that undoubtedly in the beginning when this scheme first comes into operation there will in all probability, and I think must of necessity, be a shortage of accommodation for the people who really ought to receive sanatorium treatment. As the days go on, as new sanatoria are built, as home treatment develops, no doubt a more comfortable state of things, a more comfortable prospect, will open before us. I think we ought to bear in mind that in the early days at any rate we shall not be able to give that full measure of benefit which we hope we shall be able to give later on. Necessarily I touch very lightly on these various points. I do not at this peculiar time of day want to argue them at any undue length. The Chancellor of the Exchequer also referred to that rather wide category of persons such as seamen, clerks, domestic servants, and others, and to the proposal which he had to make with regard to them. It is a very difficult question, because, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, it will in all probability be necessary to preserve for them disablement benefit and sanatorium benefit. Therefore, I quite sympathise with the difficulty he finds, the difficulty that is to say of freeing them altogether from any contribution while they are engaged in their period of service. All I would desire to say now is that we shall very carefully consider the suggestion he has made, and we hope that we may be able to find ourselves in agreement with him, or substantially so, in suggesting some method of treating these people fairly.
I think the right hon. Gentleman reminded us that this is the last day on which we shall discuss the Insurance Bill before we meet again in the autumn. I am bound to say I think the Committee will be glad of the opportunity not only of thinking over the questions that lie before us, but thinking over also in those intervening weeks what we have done. I know from what I am told and correspondence I have received that some things that the Committee have done have not given universal satisfaction. I suppose it would be quite hopeless to expect that any Committee of this House would give universal satisfaction. But I think that we shall review the position of the various interests 756 that have been affected by what we have done with careful scrutiny, and I hope we shall find, as the result of our careful scrutiny, what we have done injures no body, but confers benefits upon the great body of the people. I know that the friendly societies feel rather strongly about certain proposals that have been carried through the Committee, and I am sure that all the Members of the Committee will wish to consider whether or not the position of the friendly societies has really been injured by anything that we have done. For myself, I do not believe that their position has been injured, but I, in common with other Members of the Committee, certainly intend to review what we have done with a careful and critical eye, and to see whether or not we have inflicted hardship or injustice on any section of the people.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer bore handsome tribute to the assistance which he had derived from those, in whatever part of the House they sat, who have taken any part in our discussion. I was glad to hear and recognise that our discussions had been of a purely business character. Certainly, we who sit on these benches, and other Members who sit elsewhere, have done our utmost rigorously to exclude all question of party feeling from our discussions. We have endeavoured to approach the question wholly from the business point of view. It is not always easy, especially in the circumstances of the present Session, to lay aside the heat of party feeling. We have endeavoured to do it, and I think in the main we have been successful. I think the right hon. Gentleman will admit that there has been no sign of obstruction. Our Amendments have been directed to removing anomalies, smoothing rough edges, and making the Bill more workmanlike and workable. I said a moment ago that many of the difficulties lie in front of us. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a master of the art of conciliation. I know no one who can pilot a difficult Bill through this House with more success than the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this measure. But we must recognise that many of the difficulties we have discussed have not been settled; they lie before us for settlement, and we should be foolish if we did not realise and face that fact. Sooner or later we have to settle them, and it is a good thing that we have now, what we have not yet had, an opportunity for quiet and calm reflection upon all the difficulties contained in the Bill.
757 Various problems with which the Bill deals are so involved and so interlaced that it has been almost impossible since the Bill was introduced, only three months ago, fully to realise and appreciate all the effects, all the advantages, or all the drawbacks of its various proposals. Therefore we welcome a fuller opportunity than we have yet had for quiet examination. I think the Bill would have benefited more if it had been possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give us more time for its examination. We realise his difficulties; we are not finding fault with him; but we who sit on these benches have found it difficult really to find time and opportunity for full and careful consideration of all that we have had to undertake. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us when he introduced the Bill, that it was the result of three years' long, arduous and anxious thought. We naturally have had very considerably less time than that in which to examine the merits of his proposals. We have done our best to inform ourselves of the full meaning and effect of the various provisions of the Bill. We intend to continue to examine closely, with a friendly but critical eye, all the remaining Clauses. We hope that when the Committee stage has been finished we shall have some opportunity before the Report stage begins to pass in broad review what the Committee has done to the Bill as a whole. I do not think we shall be making any undue or improper request to the right hon. Gentleman when we ask for such an opportunity. When the Bill was introduced we promised the right hon. Gentleman friendly help, friendly co-operation, and goodwill in the effort he was making, for the first time, with a great and very difficult problem. I think he will admit that we have hitherto fulfilled the promise we made. I hope we shall continue to fulfil it until the Bill finally emerges from Committee and Report stage. Naturally we reserve to ourselves now, and we shall always reserve to ourselves until the Bill is finished, the right of reviewing as a whole what the Committee has done, and of settling whether or not the Bill is one which we think the country should accept. That is a right which is always inherent in every Member of the House of Commons, and naturally to that right we adhere. Subject to that, I can only say that we shall continue to pursue the course we have adopted, and we hope that we may help the right hon. Gentleman 758 to remove anomalies, to smooth hardships and to improve the Bill.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
I desire on behalf of those with whom I act to address a few observations to the Committee. We are quite prepared heartily to acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman has taken a most commendable course to-day, not only in surveying his accomplishments, but in reviewing the work that is ahead of him. We of the Labour party have found it necessary to criticise some of the provisions of the measure. On one or two points the criticism has been keen and sustained. In future, of course, we must hold ourselves perfectly free to offer criticism on main points upon which we may entertain objections. Nevertheless, I think I am able to say on behalf of the Labour party as a whole, that we regard the measure as one worthy of acceptance as far as its general principles are concerned, and that our main motive is to effect such modifications as will remove apprehensions in the country, and make the measure acceptable to the class that we particularly represent. I do not know whether it would be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to have the seventeen Clauses that we have now passed reprinted and circulated amongst the friendly societies and others concerned, in order that between now and the re-assembling of Parliament we might have the benefit of their opinion upon what has already been done. I throw out the suggestion because it has been put to me by certain friendly societies leaders that it would be very advantageous for them if they had in their possession the actual state of the Bill so far as we have gone.
Personally, I am generally in favour of the principles of the Bill. I believe it is perfectly correct that we should adopt the contributory principle. Nevertheless, when we reach the Schedule it will be necessary that we should urge the claims of the more poorly paid classes of the community, and we respectfully hope that then the right hon. Gentleman will not grasp the purse-strings too tightly, but that he may be prepared to meet our representations with sympathetic favour. I hope, when we get to the consideration of the constitution of the health committees, he will adhere to the principle upon which they are founded. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct, in my opinion, in laying it down that those who contribute to the scheme should have its administration. I am certain that if it was proposed 759 to hand over the administration of the scheme to the county councils it would immediately cause such friction and apprehension on the part of trade unions and friendly societies that it would be utterly impossible to carry the scheme any further. We are grateful for and heartily acknowledge the concessions which the right hon. Gentleman has been pleased to make in response to our representations. Of course, we shall have to pursue certain points a great deal further, and we trust that he will be prepared to give equally favourable consideration to those other points. The Labour party will be in a position to make some suggestions respecting what is generally regarded as the unsatisfactory condition of the deposit contributors. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that they might be divided up into two classes —one, those who are rejected by the friendly societies because they are tubercular, and the other the ne'er-do-wells. Personally I do not entertain the apprehension that this group will be of very large dimensions. Of course, the tubercular section must be a fairly large section; but I am hoping by the treatment that is prescribed under this measure, and the facilities which are now being adopted for the first time of treating this great white scourge, that we shall in the course of a few years be able to bring it into more manageable dimensions. The right hon. Gentleman did quite well to point out that this measure in itself is not going to eliminate consumption from the community. Other schemes will have to be adopted: better housing, better working conditions, and the general raising of the standard of national life, before we will be able to get rid of this great scourge. For, after all, consumption is pre-eminently a poverty disease. In so far as this will affect that problem, undoubtedly it also will have the advantage of diminishing the ravages of this disease in the country.
Respecting the ne'er-do-well, my experience is that he is not, as such, rejected by the friendly societies. The friendly society is very catholic in its tests. The right hon. Gentleman very fairly interpreted the regulations imposed, which are never too strict. The medical test is not of a very drastic kind. I have myself taken many men to a surgery with apprehensions as to whether I should get them passed or not into the friendly society. We know the rivalry between active members in being able at the end 760 of the year to claim that they have been able to introduce the largest number of members. Nevertheless, the ne'er-do-well is given many chances by his colleagues in the friendly society. If he lapses once, and it is proved that it is due to any circumstance over which he has not had effective control, they come to his assistance. Ultimately, if he is a very hardened case, he falls out—as a result of his lapses, and not because he has been previously rejected, and not because of something that might be proved against his character. I think that is just where the Post Office section will be recruited from, and not because friendly societies or trade unions impose any character test. Rather you will find that it will be due to this fact: that these men are quite incorrigible and that if they ultimately lapse you have them on your hands. My point is this. I do not think they constitute such a large class as some people are inclined to contemplate.
We are rather glad that the right hon. Gentleman should have in his mind a proposal for dealing with that considerable class who are already provided for in times of sickness. The railway clerks and others have made representations to us and we have been compelled to acknowledge that they have a ease for consideration. We have come to a very similar point of view to that reflected by the right hon. Gentleman this morning. We as strongly deprecate as he, and I think, go so far as to strenuously oppose, their exemption from this national scheme—because we believe they ought to come in and accept their share of national responsibility. They are a favoured class as it is, and we feel, as we are perfectly entitled to, that they should come in and bear some of the responsibility as well as reap the advantages. We think you will be perfectly right when you are ascertaining that if you find that it is certain that these men receive their wages during sickness—that is a matter of definite ascertainment—that it will be quite fair if we exempt them from that portion of the contribution that is requisite to maintain the ordinary sickness benefit. At the same time we are glad to observe that the right hon. Gentleman recognises the need for compelling these men to provide for disablement, because our investigations go to prove that although they may be entitled to sick benefit under ordinary circumstances, the benefit is not very long sustained, and the probability is that they may require disablement benefit. Therefore we think the right hon. Gentleman 761 will be proceeding on a correct and commendable principle if he compelled insurance in all cases for disablement, for sanatoria benefit, and medical benefit generally. We think that will afford a very fair and satisfactory solution of this part of the problem.
The only other point of the Bill that I want to make an observation upon is that of the members that constitute an approved society. Personally, I confess I have all throughout felt considerable sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. Every active friendly society worker has had experience of these smaller friendly societies. I happen to be in one myself at the present time, and am constantly being levied. I know that every levy imposed means a diminution of membership. You will have here, moreover, a collection of what is called "old lives." You are not recruiting. Everybody knows that friendly societies cannot exist in a state of solvency unless they can attract young men. If you get a considerable proportion of young lives it is going to reduce the contribution. In one of the friendly societies with which I am connected, and in which we occupy the proud position of being the best friendly society in the district, this latter fact is simply due to this one thing, that we have had attached to that friendly society a junior section. At the age of seventeen we have drafted the juveniles into the senior court. That has meant that that court is constantly being fed and that is equally as good to us as if we had been paying the highest form of contribution.
The right hon. Gentleman has suggested something about taking these smaller societies and grouping them in county areas. The right hon. Gentleman, who preceded me, very naturally, of course, placed stress upon the desirability of promoting the county spirit. Nevertheless, I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to come into conflict with existing agencies. Most of the friendly societies are already grouped in something like county or district fashion. This is not part of the actual national organisation, but it is part of the local or district organisation, and appertains to that county spirit that has been referred to. The district organisation is not bounded by the actual boundaries of the county, but most friendly societies are grouped in districts at the present time. Personally, I am not quite clear as to how this scheme would work, and I think that we will require to give the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman a 762 great deal more consideration than we have been able to bestow upon it up to the present. Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman threw it out as a suggestion, and between now and the autumn Session we will undoubtedly be able to take the opinion of those who are particularly involved. We will return here with better knowledge and with greater facility for dealing with that and other controversial points. In conclusion, I want to say that while we of the Labour party are anxious to do what we can consistently with full deliberation of Part I. to get it through as early as possible, we want to make certain that Part II. is running no risk whatever. Because I ask the House to accept this assurance that the great bulk of trade unionists of the country desire Part II. They look towards Part II. to bring them substantial benefits. At the present moment they feel the drain in connection with the out-of-work benefit.
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman if there is one point appreciated by the trade unions of the country, it is this: Where these State resources are brought to the aid of the trade unions, not in their ordinary industrial work, but in the benefit portion of their work—that there they will have help in keeping their members through times of stress and depression. Whatever we do will be guided by our strong desire to get Part II. through this Session in company with Part I. In fact, I think I must have to go so far as to say that if we fail to secure Part II., Part I. will not be quite acceptable to us. Generally speaking, we favour the broad principles of the Bill. We have, as I have already stated, offered sustained criticism on certain of its provisions previously, and we will hold ourselves perfectly free to criticise the remaining stages of the Bill. Nevertheless, the general principles being favourable and acceptable to the Members of our party, should afford the Committee an assurance that we will approach the remaining portions of the Bill in the same spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman has been able to state that the Opposition will also approach this measure. I hope the highest anticipations of the right hon. Gentleman will be realised, because he is a master of florid language, and, after all, one's platforms' views are not always realisable in the cold classes of an Act of Parliament. We of the Labour party are glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman is taking a keen interest in the actual life of the people of this country, 763 and we believe that if this measure does not come up to all the anticipations formed of it by some of its most enthusiastic supporters, the motives behind it are at all events good. It is, however, but one step in several that will have to be taken in order to complete the work on which the House is entering at the present time. We are glad to co-operate so far in making the measure what the right hon. Gentleman desires it shall be, not a party measure, but a measure supported by the whole House, and as a result of that co-operation we hope to secure its harmonious working, and we hope that it shall realise in the course of years many of the anticipations entertained in regard to it. It is just about time the State came to the aid of the friendly societies. There are three facts in the working life of the people—the general increase in longevity of the people, the burden of the expenditure on their societies, and the compensation cases. These three points constitute a heavy drain and the average member of the friendly society is not in a position to give a much larger contribution than he is making at present, and therefore I feel it is quite right that the State should come to the aid of these great institutions, and I hope, as I suggested previously, we may be able to show in the course of a few years that the measure will be all that the right hon. Gentleman claims for it—a blessing and a help to the people at large.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would remind the Committee that the general discussion is now closed. I do not object to having some questions asked.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
I only desire to ask a question in reference to something the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down mentioned. The Chancellor of the Exchequer referred, in the course of his remarks, to a proposal in regard to numbers in approved societies. What I desire to ask has reference to the peculiar position of Scotland so far as approved societies are concerned. The conditions in the Bill as it stands are such that Scotland will be practically excluded. If my recollection is right, there will be about one society in Scotland with the requisite number of members that would allow it to come in. I hope, therefore, that the Chancellor will give further consideration to this point.
§ Mr. HICKS BEACH
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would see his way for sending copies of his 764 suggestions which he has promised to the Central Land Association and to the Chamber of Agriculture and other kindred bodies.
§ Mr. GEORGE THORNE
We all appreciated the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and regard it as very valuable, and I would ask the Chancellor if he would suggest some method whereby we may have his statement in full. I should like to have some written statement upon which we could submit our views to the various persons concerned. Further, the Chancellor referred to a very valuable suggestion about the numbers and constitution of the approved societies, and I should like to have that printed. I should be very glad if these things could be done.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
Under the Bill as it stands, there is not a single society in Scotland that would come in. The highest membership of any one society in Scotland is 6,100. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree to put the figure at 1,000 for Scotland.
Will the Chancellor give us any idea of the principle on which the federation of these small societies will be allowed?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The question of my hon. Friend is a very important one. The idea is that they should federate so as to bear each others burdens, and so that the smaller societies should not become bankrupt because of the exceptional strain upon its resources. When my hon. Friend (Mr. Price) says that approved societies in Scotland do not come in he cannot have read the Bill. All they have to do is to associate with other small societies, and if in Scotland people decline to associate with their neighbours, I do not think they should get 2d. from the State to promote such extravagant notions. It is open to these societies to come together and federate, so that no exceptional strain shall be put upon any one society. They should federate in counties, and where they are in the same trade they should federate with other societies in that trade.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I will consider the question of numbers later on. The friendly societies passed a resolution that it should be 5,000. I should not quarrel with that but I still say after we have had 765 time for reflection, the House should consider whether it is desirable to bring down the numbers. I am very doubtful. Instead of having a friendly society here and another one there, neither strong enough to face the great struggles, there is some necessity in compelling them to come together. Under the new Clause they would be able to come together in their own county. It would compel them to come together in the same county. With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member who said that the Chamber of Agriculture and the Central Land Association and other such bodies should have copies of the suggestions I put forward. I will send them copies if he will send me a list of the bodies to whom they should go. With regard to the point raised as to whether this information can be put forward in some printed form, I will consider whether this can be done as was done in the case of the Budget speech.
§ Mr. BOOTH
Is it intended, when we resume in the autumn, to take the second part of the Bill after we have disposed of the first part? Has the Government considered whether the two things could be separated and one portion sent to the Grand Committee, or do the Government think the best method is to pass the complete Bill?
§ Dr. HILLIER
Will it be in accordance with your ruling if I very briefly deal with one specific point?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think there is a good deal to be said for the suggestion of my hon. Friend, and I will put the matter before the Prime Minister. At the present moment I should not like to say anything definite, because I do not know what the general view of the House is on this point.
Mr. J. W. WILSON
There has been a general feeling among hon. Members that they wish to do everything they possibly can to ensure the passing of the second part of this Bill. If the President of the Board of Trade could arrange with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to separate the two parts of this Bill, one part could be taken on Grand Committee. Members are so keen to see this trial made in regard to the unemployment question that I am sure there would be found to be a very general opinion in favour of sending it up to a Grand Committee.
Mr. J. W. WILSON
I am only speaking for this side of the House, and I have heard it said that it is a pity we cannot have the second part of the Bill dealt with upstairs.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not suppose from anything that has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite that the suggestion to send Part II. of this Bill upstairs meets with general agreement on this side of the House. I should protest against a part of this Bill of such enormous importance being dealt with by any tribunal except this House.
§ Question put, and agreed to; Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday, 14th August.