§ The Insurance Commissioners may make regulations for any of the purposes for which regulations may be made under this Part of this Act or the Schedules therein referred to, and for prescribing anything which under this Act or any such Schedules is to be prescribed, and generally for carrying this Act into effect, and any regulations so made shall have effect as if enacted in this Act.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
I beg to move, after the word "may" ["Insurance Commissioners may make regulations"], to insert the words "subject to the provisions set out in the Ninth Schedule to this Act."
I think the House will see a very great improvement to Clause 48 in the Amendment that stands in my name. Clause 48 is the Clause which confers very wide powers indeed upon the Insurance Commissioners for the purpose of enabling them to make regulations for the purposes of the Act. The Government consider it advisable, in regard to Part II. of the Act, to confer certain safeguards, and to make certain provisions which the House will see if they turn to Schedule 9. Power of taking objection against the proposed regulations is there given, and to lay down the procedure as to inquiring into such objections when the Government Department does not consider such objections frivolous. The Schedule lays down a procedure for examining witnesses and other people. The object of my Amendment is to bring into Clause 48 the safeguards which are 1911 provided by Schedule 9 in respect to the Second Part of this Bill. I quite admit that if this Amendment is accepted, that it will be necessary to make certain verbal modifications in the Schedule when we come to consider it, but I think the Attorney-General will agree that it is advisable in regard to this part of the Act to provide safeguards similar to those which we provide in respect to Part II. of the Act. This is, in many respects, purely a drafting administrative Amendment, which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to accept.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I think there is some force in the argument used by the Noble Lord, that it is desirable, perhaps, to have some kind of restriction upon the general powers of these regulations, but I think if he considers the matter a little he will see that it is not expedient to adopt the regulations of the 9th Schedule. It is really only a question of detail; we are agreed as to principle. I am willing to do something to meet the Noble Lord. In the 9th Schedule these provisions are those of the Factory and Workshop Acts, and are really regulations for the dangerous trades. What may be applicable to the dangerous trades are not applicable to the general trades dealt with in this Clause. I think with him that it would be right and better that we should introduce some provision so that Parliament may be seized of the matter, and have some power over the regulations when they come into force. One thing I should point out, and that is this: that it is necessary in some parts of the Bill that there shall be power to bring regulations into force without delay. I think that it would be well to have recourse to the procedure adopted in the Old Age Pensions Act. There in a similar case power is given to both Houses of Parliament to petition within twenty-one days. I shall propose later that at the end of the Clause we should introduce this proviso:—Providing that if an address is presented to His Majesty by either Houses of Parliament within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which the House has sat next after any such regulations is laid before it praying that the regulation may be annulled, His Majesty in Council may annul the regulation, and it shall thenceforth be void, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.1912 That is, I think, a more convenient way of dealing with this matter. It is essential that we should have regulations made at once, but the Houses of Parliament should have control over them.
§ Mr. FORSTER
The words suggested by the Attorney-General are a great improvement on the Clause as it stands. The analogy of the Old Age Pensions Act exists to a certain extent, but the precedent, if followed, will not be quite satisfactory in regard to the regulations of this Bill. Under the Old Age Pensions Act there is no contribution on the part of the person affected. If the regulations which were made had come into force before Parliament had had an opportunity of discussing them, and they had proved unsatisfactory, and were subsequently annulled, no great damage would have been done. Some persons would have got pensions to which they were not entitled, or some persons would have been refused pensions to which they were entitled.
As soon as the regulations were annulled that matter was put right. Under this Bill people will be contributing every week, and of course a very much larger number of persons will be affected than under the Old Age Pensions Act. Supposing you get people contributing every week for several months under regulations which Parliament, as soon as it has had an opportunity of discussing them, is found to disapprove, there will be a great deal of inconvenience and trouble in setting the matter right. I only mention this point, not by way of opposing the proposal of the Attorney-General, because I think it is a very important point, but for the purpose of simply asking him not to commit himself to the policy that all the regulations made by the Insurance Commissioners should be treated in this way. I quite agree there are a great many regulations that would have to be brought into force at once, and that Parliament may well review them at the earliest possible moment after they come into force, but I think there are some regulations that Parliament ought to see before they take effect at all. I am told that at the Grand Committee, when Part II. was under discussion to-day. this point of the regulations was urged, and I am informed that the Government committed themselves to the view that some regulations should be treated in one way and some in another, and that some should have the force of law only after they received the sanction of the House, 1913 while others should have effect from the moment they were passed. I ask the Attorney-General to consider this question and to consult with the President of the Board of Trade and other Members of the Government who have charge of Part II. of the Bill, and see whether or not the question of the regulations were dealt with today in this way.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I follow the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman. I am not aware of what took place in the Grand Committee in regard to the unemployment part of the Bill. When we come to the end of the Bill and know what regulations there is power to make in the first part and the second part, I can well conceive it may be desirable to distinguish between the two sets of regulations, one set which may be required to bring into force at any moment, and other regulations which may be serious in their effect and for which better sanction should be obtained from Parliament. It may be so. I will consider this question, having regard to what took place in reference to Part II., and I will consider the suggestion which the hon. Gentleman has made.
§ 9.0 P.M.
May I ask the Attorney-General, while he is considering this, to be good enough also to consider the suggestion contained in the Amendment upon the Paper in my name. I do not know how far he may be able to go in that direction. There is a Government Bill down for Committee stage to-night—namely, the "Rag Flock Bill"—and it contains this Clause:—All regulations made by the Local Government Board under this Act shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after they are made, and the Rules Publication Act of 1893 shall apply to such regulations as if they were statutory rules within the meaning of Section 1 of that Act.If the Attorney-General will consider that as well, and see if these rules can be introduced so far as possible, it would be very useful. The point I am anxious about is this. There are some regulations so far-reaching in their effect that before they can be put into operation many persons interested should know what they mean. Under the Rules Publication Act these regulations cannot take effect for forty days, and the object is that notice may be given. I do not know, perhaps, that the Attorney-General could go so far as that.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
Some of these regulations will have effect upon the rights of certain persons, and will regulate their rights while they are in force. Supposing these regulations were not accepted, and were ultimately revoked by the decision of Parliament, then the Attorney-General's proviso that anything done up to that time should stand good. I quite agree that something of that sort must be necessary; but if the Attorney-General considers it, he will also require in his proviso to make adjustments where adjustments ought to be made, and the rights of parties have been wrongly dealt with by rules brought into force but afterwards denounced. I do not mean to say that anything so done should be declared illegal, but the rights of certain parties should be set right when the rules, although legally put into operation, have caused injustice to certain people concerned. It is a difficult matter, but perhaps the Attorney-General will bear it in mind, in order to make it possible to set right what was legally done at the time but unfortunately interfered with the rights of private persons. As regards the Rules Publication Act that notice should be given there is considerable difficulty. Under the Rules Publication Act you have to give notice for forty days, and to give notice to all parties and bodies concerned. That will be very important in the case, for instance, of the Naval Prize Act. There are provisions for rules and regulations, and you must give notice to Chambers of Commerce and Chambers of Shipping, and so on. But to give notice of all the rules to all the bodies concerned here would be undertaking a responsibility which I think the Attorney-General and the Government should properly decline to do. Therefore I do not think you could give the notice the Rules Publication Act procedure requires, so many are the regulations to be made.
§ Mr. BARNES
I have an Amendment on the Paper, and I wish to ask if the Attorney-General can make provision for the point contained in my Amendment. It is a proposal to provide that the person shall be able to get a certificate of birth or death at the fee laid down in Section 97 of the Friendly Societies Act, 1896.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I hope I shall not be out of order if I say one word with 1915 reference to the Amendment referred to by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division. All I wish to say is that I have his point in mind, and will consider it. The question raised in regard to the Rules Publication Act is really a very difficult matter for the purpose of this Bill. I do not understand the suggestion is that it should apply to the general regulations, and I understand the purport of the suggestion made is in reference to the regulations, which are the most serious in their effect, in order that the House might have an opportunity of discussing them after they were laid before Parliament and before they take effect. I admit there are great difficulties in the way, but I will bear the point in mind.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
After what has fallen from the learned Attorney-General, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I beg to move, after the word "shall" ["regulations so made shall have effect"], to insert the words "after lying upon the Table of the House for fourteen days."
I put this Amendment down on the Paper because the pledge was given to me by the present Home Secretary that early in the Bill a definite mode would be adopted of dealing with these instructions or regulations of the Insurance Commissioners, and I want some assurance that that has been carried out. I want to draw attention to the enormous powers the Insurance Commissioners will have, and to point out that owing to the unfortunate action of the guillotine resolution here tonight, this most important question of the Bill will not be fully considered. I believe the Insurance Commissioners within the next few years will have a greater influence upon the destinies of this nation than even the Home Office, and it does seem to me a bad arrangement that this important question has been removed from the purview of the House in this way. I hope some indication will be given to the Committee of the calibre of these men and what particular relation they will have to the Treasury, and to the approved societies. My Amendment suggests that the regulation should lie upon the Table of the House for fourteen days. I admit that that would not quite meet the case, because there is nothing to prevent the permanent officials who will have the 1916 destinies of this Bill in their hands from bringing forward any important alterations when the House is not sitting, and getting them well into force before the Members of this House have had an opportunity of reviewing them.
At the same time I am indicating in my Amendment that there must be some opportunity for the representatives of the people to bring influence to bear upon the Commissioners. I might not press this proposal if some definite information was given to the House about the stamp of people who will be appointed as Commissioners. I know that question is not in order now, and if I have to be a victim of the guillotine I am not prepared to submit without a protest. That is one unfortunate instance of the action of this Time-Table. I do not find fault with the Time-Table, but through some mistake this most important Clause of the Bill was never reached. What I want to impress upon the representatives of the Government who are here is that the position these Insurance Commissioners take up, and the question whether they should be subordinate to this House is most vital to the approved societies. I have the utmost difficulty at the present time in inducing very many important organisations to keep in touch with this Bill, and maintain their decision to loyally work it. If these men should be of an inferior calibre I want to give a warning that some organisation will not be prepared to undertake the task of working the Bill.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I am sorry my hon. Friend was not present when we had what I consider was a very fruitful and business-like discussion in Committee, and we arrived at the conclusion which, I think, was satisfactory to the Members of the Committee, and which, I think, will be satisfactory to the hon. Member for Pontefract. Of course, I cannot go into the question of the stamp of the Commissioners because that would not be in order during the present discussion, but I may inform the hon. Member that I have said that I am willing to introduce a proviso inserting verbatim a provision in the Old Age Pensions Act which will meet the point he has raised. I have also said that I will consider, when we arrive at the end of the Committee stage, whether there may not be some regulations which are too important to be dealt with in that way, and should be dealt with under some other more convenient procedure giving Parliament greater power over them. That is 1917 what I have undertaken to do on behalf of the Government, and I hope my hon. Friend will withdraw his Amendments.
§ Mr. BOOTH
In asking leave to withdraw, I should like to inquire whether, seeing no information has been given to the House in regard to these Commissioners, we can have any statement from the Government before this Clause is finished, giving the Committee their views in regard to this important point.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. BARNES rose to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the words, "In such regulations provision shall be made for giving effect to the Friendly Societies Act, 1896, Section 97 (1), in respect to payment of fee by an insured person to a registrar of births or deaths."
§ A Clause of the Friendly Societies Act of 1896 makes provision for a member of a friendly society to get one of the certificates for the purpose of the friendly society at the cost of 1s., whereas the ordinary law enables the registrar to charge 3s. 7d. It may seem a very small matter for persons in this House, but the difference between 1s. and 3s. 7d. is very considerable to very many poor people who will be brought under the operation of this Act. A large number of people will from time to time require certificates of births and deaths. There is, for instance, the provision of about sixteen years, and there will be certificates wanted to prove a person is not over a certain age and in many other ways these certificates will be required. I am not particular whether it comes in here or not. All I want is a statement from the Attorney-General that he will insert somewhere the Section to which I have made reference and apply it to anybody wanting a certificate required by the Insurance Commissioners. I brought it before the President of the Board of Trade to-day on the unemployed part of the Bill in the Committee upstairs, and, although I did not move it there in the right place, he is going to put it in a Clause near the end dealing with what are known as subsidiary provisions.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid the hon. Member is under the same disability here. It will certainly be outside the scope of this Clause.
§ Mr. BARNES
Can you give me any guide as to where I can move it? I have looked very carefully through Part I., and it seems to me this is the only place.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It will certainly be in order as the new Clause, but, if the hon. Member desires it, I will look into the matter later.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the words,Provided that if an address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which that House has sat next after any such regulation is laid before it praying that the regulation may be annulled, His Majesty in Council may annul the regulation, and it shall thenceforth be void, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done there-under.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I am not sure if those words will quite do. I am inclined to think we ought to have had the Amendment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is no provision in this Clause to say the regulations are to be laid before Parliament, whereas the Amendment the Attorney-General has moved says if the regulations have been made, then within twenty-one days an address may be presented. It does not really matter, because, as I understand, the whole thing is going to be reconsidered, and, of course, we can rely on the definite assurance of the Government that these regulations shall be laid, and that the Attorney-General will consider whether or not it is possible to frame words so that some of them shall not come into effect until the House has had an opportunity of seeing them.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I think the main regulations ought to be framed and ought to be published at the earliest possible moment after the Act is passed and as soon as possible after the Insurance Commissioners start work. There is very scant knowledge of the details of the Act outside those who take a day-to-day part in our proceedings, and it is essential the regulations of the Committee should be published at the earliest possible moment.
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.1919
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. BOOTH
May I ask when the Committee or the House may expect some statement to be made on behalf of the Government as to their intentions with regard to the Insurance Commissioners. This Clause practically gives the Commissioners power to make a new Act of Parliament. Their regulations are to have the same effect as an Act of Parliament, and really for all practical purposes the discussions in this House are simply a guide or an indicator, perhaps, of public feeling. It is quite possible these permanent officials, under this Clause, will give us a totally different Act of Parliament and enforce it immediately. I should be very sorry if each one of these Commissioners represented some kind of factiou, and I do think the House is entitled, when giving these extraordinary powers to this body, such powers as no other body has had before, to know what is in the mind of the Government with regard to the calibre and standing of these people. If they are to be poorly paid men, receiving salaries such as no insurance society would pay its branch managers, then the outlook is gloomy in the extreme.
The difficulties of putting this Bill into operation are almost staggering to those who are looking forward to having anything to do with it, but it would be a little more satisfactory to Members of this House in granting these extraordinary powers if some indication were given, even if it were only a faint indication, that the Commissioners would be the best men that can be got, and also from where they will be obtained. I think we are entitled to know whether they will be simply permanent officials or whether they will be drawn from the friendly orders, the doctors, and so on. We have had no indication whatever, so far as I know, but I do not think I am asking for anything unreasonable, seeing that huge business concerns and thrift organisations are going to be entirely in the hands of these men in future. They can make the friendly orders and the approved societies or mar them, and there is the greatest anxiety being manifested upon all those organisations, who very earnestly and sincerely desire to work under the Bill and to make it a success.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
I should like to join in the appeal made by the hon. Gentleman. It is rather a striking departure for the 1920 Government to come down to the House and ask us to entrust these very wide powers to a body of the composition of which we do not know. We do not know the type of man who is going to be appointed or the scale of salary to be attached to the office. We have none of the details that can help us to form any sort of conclusion as to whether the proposed Insurance Commissioners are a body of men to whom it would be wise, prudent, and safe to entrust these wide and comprehensive powers. I do not want to make any unreasonable request, I know that the Government have already promised to take an early opportunity of giving us the names of the Commissioners, but, at the same time, I cannot help feeling that this evening, when we are asked to pass a Clause conferring on the Commissioners these very wide powers, would be a suitable occasion for the Government, if not to give us the actual names, at any rate, to convey to us some indication as to the class of men to be appointed and the scale of remuneration they will enjoy.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I had an Amendment down to the Clause dealing with these Commissioners, but, through the operation of the guillotine, which the hon. Member for Pontefract so much dislikes, it was not reached. I wish to call the attention of the representative of the Government to the point of that Amendment. It was that no Member of this House should be eligible for appointment on the Commission. So far as the Labour Exchanges are concerned past records of such appointments are not very reassuring. As a matter of fact, the central office of the Labour Exchanges was very badly packed. Gentlemen from Africa, sons of dukes and earls, were pitchforked into positions for which they had absolutely no qualification whatsoever, except that they may have been the relations or personal friends of some Members of the Government of the day.
In the appointment of these Commissioners there ought to be some care taken that there is no political jobbery, that no account is taken of personal friendship, that we shall not have such a thing as the transfer of a Soares to a lucrative position in the Civil Service over the heads of a good many other people. I feel very strongly on this matter, because I have been a member of local authorities which are really forbidden by the President of the Local Government Board to appoint their friends to any position. What is 1921 good enough for a board of guardians or for the London County Council ought certainly to be good enough for the House of Commons. I should like to see the Commissioners appointed irrespective of politics, and I am very sorry I was unable to take the sense of the House on my Amendment. Why should we not put on ourselves the self-denying ordinance which many municipal councils and boards of guardians, as well as the London County Council, apply to themselves. Many of these bodies will not allow any of their own members to accept any office under the authority until a certain period has elapsed from the termination of their membership. No doubt some corrupt boards of guardians and corporations do the other thing, but the House of Commons at any rate ought to set a better example.
§ Mr. ANNAN BRYCE
We do not know to whom these Commissioners are to be responsible. I cannot find any indication in any part of the Act as to whom they are to be subordinate to—whether it is to be the Local Government Board or the Treasury. It surely is necessary, before we give these enormous powers to these gentlemen, we should know to whom they are to be responsible, and I hope the Government, before the Report stage, or at any rate on that stage, will vouchsafe us some information on the point.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. McKenna)
I will answer the last question first. All estimates are presented to the House by the Treasury, and consequently, as the salaries of these Commissioners will be on the estimates, the Treasury, in the absence of any department being specified, will have to answer for them. That is the rule which applies to all services not under any special department of the Government. I hope the hon. Member for Pontefract will accept my assurance that the Government are entirely at one with him, and it is only a question between us as to when the announcement should be made. We all desire that the Commissioners shall be men of standing, knowledge and reputation, calculated to inspire confidence in the minds both of the public and of the approved societies. But it would be undesirable to dole out the names piecemeal. Every assurance has been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the standing of the men he would wish to see appointed to these posts, but it would be 1922 undesirable at this stage, and upon a Clause dealing with other matters, to go further and indicate who the particular Commissioners will be. (An HON. MEMBER: "How many are there to be?"] That is a point we had better leave until the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes his announcement.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I think it is positively nothing short of scandalous that these powers should be given to Commissioners and that we should not have the slightest knowledge as to who they will be or whence they will be drawn. I am delighted to find it is in order, to a certain extent, to refer to these gentlemen. I should also like to mention, in passing, how glad I am that even the hon. Member for Pontefract is finding out what the discussion of an important Bill under the guillotine means. There is one most important Clause which practically constitutes the Bill and brings it into working. It is the Clause under which the Bill is to be carried on, yet the House of Commons has been denied the opportunity of saying a single word upon it. That is the effect of carrying on a discussion of a Bill under the guillotine—a Bill we are all doing our best to pass. I hope that the general expression of feeling on the part of the Committee will induce the Government to take the earliest opportunity of publishing the names of these gentlemen, and of giving us some indication as to how many there are going to be. We do not know whether there are to be three or thirty. The local health committee was quadrupled in numbers the other day, and, perhaps, on that account, the Government are wise on the present occasion not to lay down any limit as to the number of Insurance Commissioners. But we should like to know whether it is to be a small body or a large one, and I hope the Home Secretary will take counsel with his colleagues in the Government, and not lose a single moment in giving us the fullest possible information—information, indeed, which we should have had long ago.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
Before we pass from this matter I should like to emphasise its importance. It is not only important in reference to this particular Clause, but in reference to Clause 37, which passes on its way by guillotine to-morrow at 4.30. By that time we shall have given all these powers in Clause 48 to the Commissioners to-night, and we shall give them power to-morrow, without any opportunity of 1923 saying anything about it, to remove all difficulties and to re-write an Act of Parliament as and where it is inconvenient to carry it out in its present form. Under these Clauses we are setting up an arbitrary tribunal we do not know. We are giving it powers which ought only to be entrusted to persons of the greatest weight and authority, as to whom we know nothing, and as to whose number and composition we have nothing more than a vague assurance.
§ Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.