HC Deb 07 November 1911 vol 30 cc1583-8

(1) All sums received in respect of contributions under this Part of this Act and all sums paid out of moneys provided by Parliament under this Part of this Act in respect of the benefits thereunder and the expenses of administration of such benefits shall be paid into a fund, to be called the National Health Insurance Fund, under the control and management of the Insurance Commissioners, and the sums required to meet expenditure properly incurred by approved societies and local health committees for the purposes of the benefits administered by them and the administration of such benefits shall be paid out of that fund.

(2) The sums payable to the said fund out of moneys provided by Parliament shall be paid in such manner and at such times as the Treasury may determine.

(3) Any moneys forming part of the said fund may be paid over to the National Debt Commissioners and by them invested in accordance with regulations made by the Treasury in any securities which are for the time being authorised by Parliament as investments for Savings Banks funds, but those Commissioners shall in making the investment give preference to stock or bonds issued under the provisions of the Acts relating to borrowing for raising capital for the purposes of the local loans fund where the purposes for which such capital is required is the making of advances for the purposes of the Housing of the Working Classes Acts, 1890 to 1909.

(4) The accounts of the National Health Insurance Fund shall be audited in such manner as the Treasury may direct.

(5) The National Debt Commissioners shall present to Parliament annually an account of the securities in which moneys forming part of the said fund are for the time being invested.


I beg to move, in Subsection (1), after the word "fund" ["paid into a fund"], to insert the words "divide into two parts which shall be kept separate, one in respect of men and the other in respect of women."

With reference to the proviso in Clause 34, I do not think it is enough to see that the men's and women's funds are kept separate. I want to see how the thing works out in practice. Are the funds in the hands of the friendly societies to be separated? I believe that as far as you start a separate fund the friendly societies may be compelled to separate their funds too. This has a rather important bearing, and is really a big question, because it is generally felt that the figures for invalidity in reference to women are placed much too low, and if you compel the separation of men's and women's funds you will drive women into separate societies or separate branches of men's societies, and as a result there will be a selection against those societies, or they will get worse risks than the men's lives. The point is really extremely important, for there are no figures now of women's benefit and women's invalidity to compare with men's sickness and men's invalidity. So we are working in the dark, and I am rather afraid that the Government scheme will mean that no men's society will take women personally, and the effect of separation will be to segregate all the women's risks in certain societies, and that in the end these societies, through no fault of their own, will become bankrupt, and the result will be either increased contributions or reduced benefits. I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer can reassure us as to this. Separation sounds very simple. When we asked for it—I am afraid I pressed for it too—I am not sure that we all saw how far it went, and it was accepted in the first instance to benefit the grievances of women. We felt that there was an unexpended balance in the fund of which they ought to get the benefit; but we do not want the effect of separation to be to drive all the worst risks into women's societies, and therefore lessen the stability of those societies.


The hon. Member for Durham has moved an Amendment in favour of dividing the funds and keeping the women's fund separate from the men's, but he has made a speech which in every particular is opposed to that Amendment. I am not sure really what he wishes us to do. His view on the Paper is that it should be divided into two parts. He is perfectly right, historically, when he says they started this first. They were very insistent, as they generally are. They all wished that we should divide the fund so that women should get the full benefit of their own contributions and the contributions of employers and of the State. Now, when they quite realise what that means, they are beginning to change their minds. Their first view was that there was some advantage in keeping the funds separate. They were under the impression that the Bill would enable the men to draw some advantages and benefits from the women's fund.


I think it did.


Now they are beginning to see that is not the case, and they are all for the other point of view.


The real position is this: In the first place, I moved the Amendment with the express object of ascertaining the intentions of the Government. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer must remember that the position is changed by the Amendments to Clause 34. Before those Amendments were inserted, I think there was an unexpended balance of the women's fund, and that would have gone to the general fund. It is to secure that balance for the benefit of the women that we insisted on separation. I want to know now what are the intentions of the Government, and how they are going to provide for the separation of the funds in order to meet the difficulties to which I have called attention?


I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman as to the unexpended balance on the women's side, but now they want to get the unexpended balance on the men's side. Yet they say they have no votes, and have no friends in this House. I should like to see this argued on the merits. [An HON. MEMBER: "Remove the Closure."] My next observation was going to be, if the hon. Member had waited, that this is not relevant to the Clause. If we are to divide the men's and women's funds, it is not in this Clause you can do it, and it is out of civility to the hon. Gentleman that I am addressing these observations to the Committee. This is not the point at which it can be done, and the hon. Member knows that perfectly well. That is the real position. We shall put down an Amendment, but first of all we have decided not to do so until the Women Workers Association have come to a decision on the point. They first decided to divide the funds, and now I believe they are coming this week to press us not to divide them. I promised not to indicate our views until we heard the reason why they had changed their minds. For the moment I think it better that we should not indicate our views until we have heard what their views are.


I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not been as economical of his views as he has been of the time which he allows us to discuss this matter. After all we are entitled to look to the Government to say what is intended with regard to the division of the funds. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, time after time, has told us that it was intended to divide the funds into two branches, the men's fund and the women's fund. He has, at times when it was convenient to the Government, said that that was an advantage to the women, and to-night he seems to suggest, sheltering behind the few moments there are to discuss this matter, that it is not an advantage to the women to divide the funds, and that the women are now trying to grab part of the men's fund. Small blame to them if they were, in fact, trying to do that, because, even with the Amendments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to the women's fund, they are, in my view at any rate, extremely badly treated. But this is a point of real importance, a most serious point, which goes to the whole question of the solvency of the women's fund. You are either going to have good and solvent societies for the women, as good and as solvent as the men's societies, which will really be the friendly societies for the women, bringing not only solvency, but the ordinary friendly society aspect, or else you are not; and unless the Government make up their minds whether they are going to divide these funds, or what they are going to do with these funds, whether they are going to centralise the funds, at least as regards a large portion of the benefits, it is impossible to fairly and properly consider this Clause. Of course the guillotine—

And, it being Half-past Ten of the clock, the Chairman proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House of 25th October successively to put forthwith the Questions on any Amendments moved by the Government, of which notice had been given, and the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at Half-past Ten of the clock at this day's sitting.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made, in Sub-section (3), leave out the words "Any moneys forming part of the said fund may," and insert the words "The Insurance Commissioners shall ascertain periodically what sums standing in the Insurance fund to the credit of the several societies and of the Post Office fund and of the Navy and Army insurance fund are available for invest- ment and the amount so ascertained shall, so far as not required under the provisions of this Part of this Act to be paid over to societies for investment, or to be retained for investment on their behalf, or for the discharge of liabilities of societies, be carried to a separate account, called the Investment Account, and shall."

At the end of Sub-section (3), insert, (4) There shall be credited to the Post Office fund and to the Navy and Army insurance fund interest at the prescribed rate per annum on the sums from time to time standing to the credit of those funds in the investment account.—[Mr. Lloyd George.]