§ This Part of this Act in its application to Scotland shall be subject to the following modifications:—
- (1) The expression "Local Government Board" means the Local Government Board for Scotland: Provided that as regards the making of regulations respecting sums payable out of the Local Taxation (Scotland) Account the said expression means the Secretary for Scotland; the expression "Local Taxation Account" means the Local Taxation (Scotland) Account; and the expression "inspector of the Local Government Board" includes a person acting under Section seven or Section eight of the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897:
- (2) The expression "county borough" means a burgh or police burgh within the meaning of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1889 (in this Section referred to as the Act of 1889), containing within the police boundaries thereof according to the Census of nineteen hundred and eleven a population of twenty thousand or upwards, and all other burghs and police burghs shall, for the purposes of this Part of this Act, he held to be within the county, and unless already represented on the county council shall, for the purposes of this Part of this Act, be represented thereon as may be determined by the Secretary for Scotland on a representation in terms of Section fifty-one of the Act of 1889:
- (3) Except in this Section, references to a county and the county council thereof shall, as regards—
- (a) the counties of Kinross and Clackmannan;
- (b) the counties of Elgin and Nairn; and
- (c) the counties of Peebles and Selkirk;
- (4) Expenses incurred by a county council under this Part of this Act shall be defrayed out of the general purposes rate; provided that notwithstanding anything contained in Act of 1889, the ratepayers of a
46 police burgh shall not be assessed by the county council for any such expenses unless the police burgh is, for the purposes of this Part of this Act, held to be within the county; and provided further that with respect to every burgh within the meaning of the Act of 1889, which is, for the purposes of this Act, held to be within the county Sub-section three and Sub-section four of Section sixty, and Section sixty-six, of the Act of 1889, shall, so far as applicable, have effect as if such expenses were expenditure therein mentioned:
- (5) Expenses incurred by a town council under this Act (whether under requisition from the county council or otherwise) shall be defrayed out of the public health general assessment, but shall not be reckoned in any calculation as to the statutory limit of that assessment; and references to the borough find or borough rate shall be construed accordingly:
- (6) The expression "borough or urban district" means a burgh or police burgh within the meaning of the Act of 1889, and the expression "rural district" means any part of a county outwith a burgh or police burgh:
- (7) The expression "Lord Chief Justice," in reference to questions or disputes arising between the Insurance Office and a society whose head office or principal place of business is in Scotland, means the Lord President of the Court of Session:
- (8) The expression "county court" means the sheriff; and in lieu of an appeal from the county court upon any question of law there shall be substituted an appeal from the sheriff upon any question of law in terms of Sub-section (17) (b) of the Second Schedule to the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1906; provided that the decision of either division of the Court of Session on such appeal shall be final:
- (9) The expression "workhouse" means poorhouse; "coverture" means marriage; "levy any distress or execution upon" means use any diligence in respect of; "ejectment" means removing; "amount of judgment debt" means amount decerned
47 for; "Public Health Acts" means the Public Health (Scotland) Acts; and "High Court" means Court of Session":
I submit that the Amendments of the Government amount to a new Clause. The only part of the old Clause which remains—broadly speaking—are the definitions. But there are 176 new lines in the new Amendments, and, in addition, there are three small drafting Amendments and two Amendments which leave out eleven lines. They leave out the only enacting lines in the Bill as drawn, and in exchange for them they insert the 176 new lines, which amount to a new Clause altogether for Scotland. Under the circumstances, I submit that the Clause amounts to a new Clause, and that it is not in order to take it now.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am obliged to the hon. Member for having given me notice of this, and, of course, I have given it careful consideration. Perhaps the Committee will recollect that I gave a ruling some days ago on a point raised by the hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork relating to a Clause affecting Ireland. My ruling on that occasion appears to govern necessarily the present case. The question put to me was whether the modification of the Clause—referring in that case to Ireland—ought to be introduced as a new Clause, or whether it would be more properly dealt with on Clause 59. My reply was that if it applied to Ireland only it would not be out of order on Clause 59. Therefore, it seems to me that if a private Member had made a proposal for a separate Insurance Commissioner for Scotland on this Clause it would have been my duty to accept it. It follows that the same ruling applies to the Government Amendments. My ruling, therefore, on this Clause is that Amendments which do introduce practically alterations of the main Bill are not out of order on this Clause applying to the two countries separately.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
While accepting your ruling, may I submit that under the Closure regulations you inflict by it a tremendous hardship on the House by depriving it not only of the right of a Second Reading Debate on the Clause, but subjecting it to the limitation of the time for debating it; while normally your ruling is sound and excellent, these conditions I submit make it desirable for you to take the other facts I have mentioned into your consideration.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Of course, it is my duty to carry out the Resolution of the House, but I would point out to the hon. and learned Member that the effect of my ruling is the opposite to what he anticipates. It will give an opportunity which possibly a new Clause may not give for the discussion of such proposals as these.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
On a point of Order. I want to know whether it is in order on an important change in the Bill so far as Scotland is concerned for the right hon. Gentleman to put down an Amendment at a time when it is impossible for hon. Members to put down Amendments to it?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is a matter over which I have no control. It is my duty to take the Amendments as they appear on the Notice Paper. That is a matter of argument, but not a matter of order.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
On a point of Order. I should like to have your opinion as to whether an Amendment I have just handed in is in order or not. Will it be in order for me to move after the word "Scotland," to insert the words "and Wales?"
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has handed in an Amendment which is clearly not in order on this Clause. It would go entirely outside the scope of the Clause.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
On a point of Order. Is it not a fact that the Amendments put down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer do in substance amount to an alternative to the existing Clause. In these circumstances will you consider the well known practice of the House in regard to proposing Amendments which do in substance amount to an alternative of the existing Clause. I would recall your memory to the words of Sir Erskine May, eleventh edition, page 487:—Neither can an Amendment be proposed to insert words at the commencement of a Clause with a view to proposing an alternative scheme to that contained in the Clause, or to leave out from the first word to the end of the Clause in order to substitute other words—such Amendments being in the nature of a new Clause.I respectfully submit to you that in substance the Amendments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to this 49 Scottish Clause do amount to a direct alternative to the Clause already existing, and thus are contrary to the practice of the House as stated in May.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think the proposals on the Paper before me are necessarily governed by that rule of the House. As I stated a moment or two ago, in my opinion, it would not have been out of order for any private Member to propose a separate department for the working of the Bill in the cases of Scotland and Ireland respectively, and, therefore, I am bound to accept the Amendment proposed by the Government.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
On a point of Order. May I ask you to consider whether in fact the Amendment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is within the scope of the Clause? If you look at the Clause as it stands in the Bill, it is purely a definition Clause. It defines the meaning of certain terms used elsewhere in the Bill when those terms have to be applied to Scotland. The first Amendment in the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer establishes a new Department, and I submit that that should be the subject of another Clause or a new Clause, and that it cannot be properly a part of the definition Clause. It does not say that the expression "Commissioners" in the case of Scotland shall mean so-and-so, it begins by enacting that a special body shall be set up for Scotland.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I had to consider Clauses 58 and 59 together, for the same ruling must apply to both of them. As I have stated, the point was raised by the hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork (Mr. T. Healy) some days ago with regard to the Irish Clause. Then I said that modifications could be moved in certain particulars as applying to Ireland. I have to reply that where the modifications are not out of order on the Irish Clause, similar modifications are obviously not out of order on the Scottish Clause.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
In order to know just where we stand, shall I be in order in proposing an Amendment that in place of the health committees under this Clause an entirely new body shall be established in Scotland?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That does follow from my ruling. I noticed that one of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues had an Amendment down to Clause 51 that the Clause should not apply in the case of 50 Scotland, and I then said that the point should be raised on this Clause.
§ Mr. TIMOTHY DAVIES
On a point of Order. Is your ruling on Clause 59 that it would not be in order to move to insert the words "or Wales" after the word "Ireland," with the object of extending the same provision to Wales.
§ The CHAIRMAN
As that point would not be in order on Clause 58 the same thing would apply when we come to Clause 59.
§ Mr. BARNES
On a point of Order. Might I ask, as we have not had an opportunity of understanding these new proposals in due time, is it in order to move to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again, with a view to discussing the whole circumstances under which these proposals have been thrown at us?
§ The CHAIRMAN
By the Order of the House, I am precluded from taking notice of a Motion to report Progress.
§ Amendment proposed: After the word "modifications" ["shall be subject to the following modifications"], to add the words:—
§ (1) For the purpose of carrying this Part of this Act into effect in Scotland there shall be constituted, as soon as may be after the passing of this Act, Commissioners for Scotland (to be called the Scottish Insurance Commissioners) with a central office in Edinburgh, and with such branch offices in Scotland as the Treasury may think fit, and the Scottish Insurance Commissioners shall be appointed by the Treasury, and may appoint such officers, inspectors, referees, and servants for the purposes aforesaid as the Scottish Insurance Commissioners, subject to the approval of the Treasury, may determine, and the provisions of this Part of this Act wren respect to the payment of the salaries and remuneration of the Insurance Commissioners, and the officers, inspectors, referees, and servants appointed by them, and with respect to the payment of the expenses incurred by the Treasury or the Insurance Commissioners in carrying this Part of this Act into effect shall, with the necessary modifications, apply to the payment of the salaries and remuneration of the Scottish Insurance 51 Commissioners, and the officers, inspectors, referees, and servants appointed by them and to the payment of expenses incurred by the Treasury or the Scottish Insurance Commissioners in carrying this Part of this Act into effect in Scotland, and for the purpose aforesaid the Scottish Insurance Commissioners, and the officers, inspectors, referees, and servants appointed by them shall respectively have all the like powers and duties as are by the foregoing provisions of this Act conferred and imposed on the Insurance Commissioners and the officers, inspectors, referees, and servants appointed by them, and references in those provisions to the Insurance Commissioners shall be construed as references to the Scottish Insurance Commissioners;
§ (2) All sums received in respect of contributions in Scotland under this Part of this Act, and all sums paid out of moneys provided by Parliament in respect of benefits under this Part of this Act which are administered in Scotland, and the expenses of administration of such benefits shall be paid into a fund to be called the Scottish National Health Insurance Fund, under the control and management of the Scottish 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 in Scotland, and the administration of such benefits shall be paid out of that fund, and the foregoing provisions of this Act, with respect to the National Health Insurance Fund, shall, with the necessary modifications, apply to the Scottish National Health Insurance Fund accordingly;
§ (3) Joint regulations to be made by the Insurance Commissioners and the Scottish Insurance Commissioners with the approval of the Treasury shall provide for the preparation on a uniform basis of the tables to be prepared by the respective Commissioners, and for the making of all necessary adjustments and settlements of accounts in cases of insured persons removing from Scotland to England or Ireland or from England or Ireland to Scotland, as the case may be, both as between the National Health Insurance Fund and the Scottish or Irish National Insurance Fund and as between approved societies and branches and otherwise in respect of such cases, and for the transfer of sums from one fund or account to another.—[Mr. Ure.]52
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. Ure)
It became apparent as the Bill was passing through Committee that the powers and duties which were confided to the Insurance Commissioners were so extensive and so numerous that if the same body of Insurance Commissioners were to act in Scotch affairs under this Bill as in English affairs under the Bill, it would be impossible for Scotland to secure that prompt and efficient attention to its needs which my colleagues from Scotland and I are earnestly desirous that it should secure. Under these circumstances the Government had to consider what was the best means of securing attention to Scottish business tooth prompt and efficient. It seemed clear to all Scottish Members that there required to be a central office in Edinburgh in any event, and possibly some Commissioners there. That might be an unsatisfactory arrangement, because it would require constant referring from the office in Edinburgh to the head office in London, which necessarily entails delay and inefficiency in administration. Therefore, having all these things in view, we came to the conclusion that it would be better, on the whole, to set up a separate body of Insurance Commissioners to whom we could entrust the administration of this Act, with highly important and numerous duties confided to them for Scotland alone. Of course, if there was to be a body of Insurance Commissioners in Scotland with a central office there it was felt that there ought to be a separate National Insurance Fund for Scotland, to which contributions should be paid, and from which payments should be made—in short, that if you set up Insurance Commissioners for Scotland alone they should be entrusted with all the duties and all the responsibilities which were thrown upon English Commissioners under the Bill. Accordingly, we made provision, not only for setting up separate Scottish Commissioners, but also constituting a separate Scottish Insurance Fund. It was equally plain that, in the course of industrial migration from one part of the United Kingdom to another, provision would be required to be made for the individuals—I mean with regard to transfer values and the rest—so that contributions should not be thrown away. Accordingly the third part of the Amendment deals with the powers conferred 53 upon the Scottish Insurance Commissioners to make arrangements to that end. That is the sum and substance of the Amendment, and I think Scottish Members, at all events, should be satisfied that there was really no other course open to us.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
None of us could see the Amendment till Saturday morning, and a good many could not see it even then unless they had access to the Scotch papers. Apparently the method of the Government now is that they make their announcements to the electors in constituencies where a contest is going on or to the newspapers. I cannot understand how Scotch Members, when they are under a strict Closure, especially those sitting on the other side of the House who desire to have an opportunity of expressing the voice of Scotland, can sit silent—I do not say silent, because the hon. Member (Mr. Barnes) has done his best to try and get a hearing—when Scotch business is being conducted in this fashion, Amendments being put down at half-past five on Friday night, just before the House rises, and when it is impossible not only to get any opportunity of consulting those who are interested in the matter, but to put down any Amendment. It is to my mind a confession of inability to manage Scotch matters. I say that specially when we are aware that contemplated legislation proposes to add to the burdens of the already overweighted Scotch Office. But I am not in the least in a position to discuss the matter. I have had no opportunity of considering those people who have written many letters to me, and no doubt to all Scotch Members, pointing out the differences between the condition of affairs in Scotland and those in England on which we have had no explanation. The Lord Advocate did not intend to make a statement at all until he was challenged from this side of the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "This side too."] I am glad to hear it was from both sides, and I hope the challenge will be rammed home.
We have had no explanation as to the actuarial figures upon which the right hon. Gentleman proceeded, and as to whether the separate Scottish fund will leave us in the same position we were in before. I do not know whether there are any figures—I should doubt it exceedingly—which go to show that the condition of affairs in Scotland will be left as it was before. There are a great many friendly societies which exist on both sides of the border. How 54 are their interests to be adjusted with regard to this Scottish fund? No information is given us about that at all. It will require to be investigated by actuaries in order to see that no injustice is done to the branches on the Scottish side. There is not a tittle of information given on that subject, and, for my part, I decline absolutely to take any part in discussing an Amendment of this kind, so wide-reaching, without having time to consult those who are alone able to instruct us in a very technical matter. I believe there is a Home Rule party on the other side. I do not know who the leader is. Is it the hon. Member (Mr. Watt) or the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Eugene Wason), or the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Munro-Ferguson)? Are they in a better position to discuss the Amendment than any on this side? Are they content that Scotch business should be managed in this way? I think this is carrying negligence of Scotch business far beyond anything that has been done before, and if Scotch Members submit to it they are getting exactly what they are entitled to. No more and no less. It is high time that even the worm on the other side should turn, and turn with some effect, instead of wasting their breath in speaking, and then going into the Lobby to support the Government.
§ Mr. BARNES
I wish to support the right hon. Gentleman in his demand that we should have more time to discuss the matter, or that discussion should be deferred until we understand it. As a Scotch Member, I protest against this Amendment being thrown at our heads at the last moment in this manner. I have been away during the week-end and have not seen this proposal until about an hour ago, and, therefore, it is impossible for me, as representing a Scottish industrial constituency, to give any opinion on it worth having. There is a point in which I am personally interested. The first proposal makes special provision for Scotland. The second makes a provision based on the assumption of self-contained societies in Scotland. That is an assumption which is not based upon fact. I am a member of a society which has its headquarters in London, and we have, I should say, probably not branches in the sense in which branches are referred to in this Bill—that is, registered branches—but practically parts of the same society having its headquarters in London. We have at least 12,000 or 14,000 members in Scotland. I want to know how they and the members in England are affected by the second 55 paragraph in the new proposals that all sums received in respect to contributions in Scotland under this Part of this Act, and all sums paid out of moneys provided by Parliament in respect of benefits administered in Scotland shall be paid into a Scottish fund. As a matter of fact, they will not be administered in Scotland at all. In respect to this 12,000 or 14,000 members of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, or of that number of them who may become members of an approved society for the purpose of this Bill, the benefit will not be administered in Scotland at all, but in London. Consequently, so far as they are concerned, they appear to be outside the provisions of this new proposal. I do not know whether they are or not. I should like to know, and before I give a vote on the matter I want to understand the position. Then, in paragraph (3) provision is made for the settlement of accounts of insured persons moving from Scotland to England. That again is based upon the assumption that there are separate funds in respect to these 12,000 or 14,000 members in Scotland, as against the 80,000 or 90,000 members in England. There will be no such separate account unless some special machinery is to be set up, of which I know nothing to make that separate account. I should like to be perfectly satisfied on this point before I give a vote, and if I am not satisfied I shall certainly vote against the new proposal, if only as a protest against its being submitted in this manner.
§ Sir GEORGE YOUNGER
I desire to add my protest to that which has been effectively made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Scott Dickson) and the hon. Member (Mr. Barnes). I have been in Scotland for the week-end, and have only seen the Amendment this morning. No doubt the intention is good enough, but we really have had no intimation given us, and we do not in the least know where we are. Can the Lord Advocate say now that this alteration, this sort of Home Rule proposal, with regard to the Scottish fund is going to be a profitable or an unprofitable one—whether, in point of fact, the separation of the Scottish fund from the Imperial fund is not going to create a very great loss to Scotland rather than a gain? In my private opinion it will and must undoubtedly be a disadvantage to Scotland. We have very large, sparsely populated portions of Scotland where medical benefit 56 will be very expensive, and we have altogether a different kind of country from the more populous and richer country of England. Has the Scottish Office ever asked on what actuarial basis this proposal is made? Have they ever asked how far the general figures which have been provided for the Chancellor of the Exchequer are correct or not? Is it not a scandal and a disgrace that a proposal of this kind should not only be put on the Paper at the last moment, but that the representative of the Scottish Office should never tell us a word about these financial questions, which are of the very essence of the scheme? No one seems to understand the second portion, which deals with the administration of the funds. Supposing there are new societies in Scotland, what is to happen to them? Can they ever succeed under a system of this kind? I do not believe it. I take exactly the same view as the hon. Gentleman. I cannot discuss this because I do not know anything about it and have had no opportunity of considering it until an hour or so ago. I am not surprised that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has gone like a timid rabbit to his burrow. He knows very well when he is offering people a pig in a poke. In this particular case I am not surprised that my hon. Friends are not going to be taken in by this sort of business. They are not going to buy a pig in a poke. The only one who ever dealt in that way to any advantage came from Aberdeen, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not come from Aberdeen, and I am not surprised that he has disappeared from the arena. I think it is a very wise withdrawal. I cannot vote on this at all, for I do not understand it.
§ Mr. MUNRO-FERGUSON
I have cordially supported this Bill throughout, so much so that I never spoke on it until Wednesday last, and that was in regard to a Clause which dealt with areas. I ventured to say then that the question of areas did affect Scotland particularly, and that I thought some Amendments would have to be made in regard to that and other points affecting especially the sparsely populated districts in Scotland. I stated that if the Scottish Office was going to deal with these points by Amendments, the Amendments ought to be on the Paper. The Lord Advocate tells us now that there is no other course open than that of proposing this amended Clause. I ask why was not the consideration of this Clause offered in 57 a more profitable and business-like manner. Exactly the same precedent has been followed in this matter by Dover House as was followed in the case of the Town Planning Bill. In that case a Scottish Clause was introduced. It seemed to be supposed that that Clause as regards town planning embraced the whole arrangements, whereas the fact is that under that, as under this Bill, every Clause affects Scotland as much as England or Ireland. You cannot deal with the whole of the interests of Scotland under a Clause of this kind, and that was why I spoke on Wednesday on the question of areas. Surely, as the Bill was introduced in May last, we might have had this Clause, which represents, we are told, the only policy, put on the Order Paper of the House before 11th November to be discussed now or on the Report stage.
I follow the argument of the Lord Advocate with regard to the consideration of this Clause. The right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot be suspected of inclinations towards Home Rule because he has already told us that we have the best of all possible Governments, and therefore I do not accept this proposition as Home Rule. But I do accept it as likely to form a better basis of a working nature than that provided by a Central Committee. It rather appeals to one's business instincts. I admit all that has been said about the impossibility of considering this proposal properly, and I cannot express my view too strongly as to the extraordinarily slovenly manner in which this subject has been dealt with by the Scottish Office, and my indignation at its consideration being withdrawn from the Scottish representatives. And yet this, I suppose, is what is called representative government. When we come up against the practical question I do not see how this matter can be postponed, and I think we have to pass the Clause. I do not see how it can be considered on the Report stage because the guillotine will so operate then as to make discussion impossible.
§ Mr. MUNRO-FERGUSON
Well, if we had not voted for it, we should not have got the Bill. I support the Bill, and my hon. Friend does not. The guillotine will operate on the Report stage in such a way that the Clause will not be discussed. Nevertheless, I do not see that there is any course open to us but to accept the new proposals. There were one or two points raised by my hon. Friend the 58 Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) which deserve consideration. I only saw these Amendments for the first time on Saturday, and that was through an act of personal kindness. I arranged to meet some of the leaders of the friendly societies in my own Constituency on Sunday. [HON. MEMBEHS: "Oh."] In Scotland, under the guidance of the Scottish Office, it becomes necessary in such circumstances to interview one's constituents on Sunday. I went into this matter of how the societies would be affected. I believe many of the societies of which my hon. Friend has spoken would prefer, at any rate from the sentimental point of view, to maintain their unity with the head quarters of their societies in England. On the other hand there is no real objection that I know of to their establishing separate offices in Scotland. There will be difficulties, because part of the benefit dealt with by the society will have to be dealt with by the head office, and the Government part of the benefit will have to be dealt with by the office in Scotland, so that you would have the benefit administered by two offices, one in England and the other in Scotland. There are disadvantages, but I do not think the difficulties as regards friendly societies will prove to be insuperable.
On the other hand, the friendly societies have as good a claim as we representatives have in this House to have time for the consideration of this Clause. That is denied to them. The Clause as it stands in the Bill affects agriculturists in Scotland, a point on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was extremely sympathetic. But I gather from the amended Clause that, if the Commissioners appointed separately for Scotland cannot deal with the matter of contribution, a good part of the case put forward on behalf of farm servants and crofters in the sparsely populated districts would be prejudiced by the Clause. At any rate, we should like to have some explanations on this point. The Lord Advocate referred to one or two other points in regard to areas. There is the phrase, "auxiliary committees," which I do not understand. I do not know whether the district committees, which are the public health authorities, which I suggested might probably be the most practical local health committee areas, are to be utilised for the purposes of this Bill. I deeply regret that there was no sign of the Scottish Clause in its present form on the Paper before. I think that neither the friendly societies, the Scottish representatives, 59 the agriculturists, nor the crofters have been fairly treated in putting back a matter like this. We have had every opportunity during the last three or four months of obtaining access to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I doubt if ever access was more easy to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether his attitude has ever been more sympathetic, or whether more practical treatment was ever given to the representations made to him. We have no complaint against the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this matter.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
How many deputations from Scotland has the Chancellor of the Exchequer seen in regard to this matter?
§ Mr. MUNRO-FERGUSON
It was quite open for any deputation from Scotland to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think the case for Scotland has been represented. Speaking as an agriculturist, I know that the case has been represented, and I know that I have never received more sympathetic treatment from any head of a Department than from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have repeatedly been to him on this subject. What we have cause to complain of is the Scottish Office's dilatoriness and incapacity to grasp the fact that the Bill applies to Scotland, and that only the day before yesterday was this Clause published, when it is too late to deal with it by argument.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I thoroughly agree with what fell from the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes). I do not think it is quite fair to spring these proposals upon us at the last moment as has been done. I was in Scotland at the week-end, and certainly the people there knew nothing about them. I had not the opportunity, like my hon. Friend (Mr. Munro-Ferguson), of breaking the Sabbath; otherwise, if I had been in a similar position, I should have done as he did. But apparently the information which was communicated to my hon. Friend was withheld from others.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
Well, perhaps I do not buy the "Scotsman" on Sunday morning. It does not matter to me whether they were in the "Scotsman" or not. I do not think that we should get our information at first hand from the 60 newspapers. I do not think that sufficient time has been given for the proper consideration of this matter. I think that the Lord Advocate ought to have asked for a little more delay, and that he should have helped the Scottish Members to get time for the consideration of these Amendments. I do not think there were any deputations from Scotland, and the Scottish Members have had no opportunity of considering the Amendments. I do hope that some arrangement will be arrived at by which we may have a little delay, in order to allow time for the consideration of these matters, instead of having them rushed at us to-day. After all, there is a great deal which is obscure in Sub-section (2) of the Clause with regard to benefits-administered in Scotland. We do not know in the least whether it includes English societies. It may be that they are cut out as regards Scotland, but we do not know whether the societies are to be purely Scottish or whether they need not be so. We do not know how the societies in Scotland are going to view the Clause, and I think we ought to have an opportunity of consulting our Constituents in regard to that matter.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
This is a matter of very considerable importance, not merely for Scotland but in reference to the working of the Bill. The Bill has been before the House for several months, and what my right hon. Friend (Mr. Munro-Ferguson) says is perfectly correct. I should have been only too delighted to have seen, I will not say my hon. Friends behind me, but any section of the Scottish Members that had any suggestions to make. Within the limits of time I have never refused to meet any section of Members from any part of the House. On the contrary, I have been very grateful for any assistance or any suggestions to have been afforded to me. The Irish Members considered the position for months and discussed fully the question of a separate Commission. The question is one which the Government will not press upon the Committee. It is entirely a matter for the Members of the different parts of the United Kingdom to decide for themselves. I understood that after consideration the Scottish Members have come to the conclusion that they would prefer a separate Commission. That was not the proposal of the Government. The Government proposal was to have one Commission for the United Kingdom and to treat insurance here as in Germany as an Imperial 61 matter. If the Scotch or Irish Members come to the conclusion—it is a conclusion I have not come to: I wish to be perfectly frank with the Committee—that they desire a separate Commission, I do not see how I can resist the same demand from the Welsh Members, if they say they prefer a separate fund.
All I can say is, I regret the conclusion they have come to. It introduces an additional complexity into the working of the measure, but still it is one of those questions in which you have got to defer to sentiment. You have got it in some parts of Germany, for instance, in Bavaria, where there is very strong national sentiment, and I believe that they have separate offices. But there they have introduced, in order to get a general superintendence even over the Bavarian separate fund, a sort of superintendent office with superintendence over all. Of course, the same thing will have to be done here, because you will have to adjust all sorts of, I will not say disputes or differences, but accounts between the Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and English offices. For instance, take the point raised by the hon. Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes). It undoubtedly means that those societies which at the present moment, are neither Scottish, Irish, Welsh nor English, but which are societies for the whole United Kingdom, must have separate sections for the working of this particular fund for each part of the United Kingdom. A man who is a member of the society of my hon. Friend moves, say, from Glasgow to Newcastle. You have got to ask him that he shall become a member of the English section of this society, and there will have to be a fixing of the transfer value. You must have someone to superintend those financial adjustments. I understood the suggestion put forward was that the chairmen of the various Commissions could meet to settle these questions as between the various parts of the United Kingdom, with a superintendent above them. I will not conceal from the Committee that the demand for separate Commissions does interfere with the simplicity of working of the whole scheme. But I am entirely in the hands of the Committee on that subject. I understand that the Irish Members have unanimously demanded a separate Commission for Ireland.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
It is not for me to express an opinion as to what might be done by Irish Members. Even as it affects Scotland there may be advantages, but I should like to know whether they have considered—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
It was no fault of mine. I stood by the Clause, but the views of the majority of Scottish Members were represented to me as being almost unanimously in favour of the separate Commission.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not know that it makes any difference. Supposing it had been put down as an Amendment by Scottish Members, it would have to be debated just the same, and would have had to be considered on its merits, and it is not too late to consider the question on its merits now, because it is obvious that every Member for Scotland must have thought out for himself whether it would be better to have a separate Commission.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Then my right hon. Friend must not have attended the meeting of Scottish Members.
§ Mr. MUNRO-FERGUSON
I was telling about the redistribution of areas in this House when that meeting was on.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
No one on this side of the House attended any meeting, and I thought that this was not a party Bill.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I should have expected you would have heard something. Up to the present, I have received no representations from hon. Members on the other side as to whether they prefer a separate fund or the Bill as it stood, but, at any rate, here it is. This is a Scottish day.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My hon. and learned Friend is quite wrong; Ireland comes on to-morrow. I am looking forward to it then.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have never concealed my view with regard to the idea of a separate Commission, but that is entirely a matter for the majority of the representatives of the particular country affected. If they think they gain from the point of view of separate administration—and I can well understand why they think so—they may think Scotland can manage more economically, and that they are more skilful in financial matters, and will therefore gain by not being mixed up with the English and the Welsh in finance—if that is their view, I think they are entitled to put that demand forward. All I want is that the Committee should realise exactly how it works. It is not unworkable. It simply means four separate funds. It means four separate offices, but that I think we should have to create in any case. I do not think you could avoid separate offices, because it would be such a very huge thing to administer. But there is this much to be said for separate funds, that in Ireland and hi Scotland there are local circumstances different from those in England. They are different in many respects in Ireland, where there is this additional reason that they have practically no societies there at all. In Scotland they have a smaller percentage of the population belonging to societies than in England or in Wales, and they have the great problem of the Highlands, which is a problem which we have not got here at all. There is nothing approaching it in England or in Wales, nothing like the huge scattered areas where a doctor may have to travel thirty miles before he gets to his patient. They have got all those special difficulties, so that there is that argument in favour of a separate Commission for Scotland, which is a very strong one. I simply put that forward in order to show the mind of the Government with regard to this matter. Speaking on behalf of the Government, I should have preferred, on the whole, the Bill as it stood with separate offices. On the other hand, I think there are very strong considerations in favour of a separate Commission for Scotland and a separate Commission for Ireland. It is a matter for the Scottish Members themselves very largely. I do not think that there is any feeling either in England or in Wales on the subject. I see the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) preparing to intervene in a few minutes. Of course, I will take into 64 account any views that may be expressed from any part of the United Kingdom in regard to it, but the position of the Government is, that they understood the Scottish Members were practically unanimous in the view that it would be better to have a separate Commission for Scotland—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
And that they desired it on account of circumstances peculiar to Scotland, which are different from any conditions existing in this country; and if, in order to readjust the Commission for the special circumstance of Scotland, they felt it desirable that there should be a special Commission for Scotland, we certainly shall not resist it; on the contrary, I put the Amendment down because I understood that that was the general view of Scottish Members on the subject.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I think that the Committee must have felt that the position was a curious one before the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke. Now he has spoken, and I think it is an amazing one. Was ever a House of Commons so treated by a Government? Was ever a great section of our country so treated by a Government as this House of Commons and Scotland were to-day? The statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, besides being one of the most curious I have ever listened to, is also a very important one. Would you believe that not a single indication has been given from the Government Benches until he spoke, that any such doubts and hesitations were in their minds? Would you believe that the Lord Advocate (Mr. Ure) at first attempted to move this Resolution without any speech at all?
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Did he give any indications at any single moment as to what the intentions of the Government were on the subject? No man could have dreamed from what the Lord Advocate said that the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Government was that which is now explained. Before the Chancellor was able to come into the House half a dozen Members had spoken, and from one and all there came 65 the same complaint, that no time had been given to consider this matter. From one and all representing the different sections of opinion in this House, except the Nationalist Members from Ireland, everyone who spoke had urged that a longer time should be given for a consideration of the proposals which the Government had made. Under the rules which govern us, no one can make that Motion except a Member of the Government. I think that after what the Chancellor himself has told us it is urgently his duty to make that Motion himself.
It is not fair to the House, it is not fair to Scotland, it is not fair to any portion of the United Kingdom, which is just as much concerned as Scotland, that we should be called upon to decide at a few hours' notice whether we will have this Amendment or whether we will go without it. What has been the action of the Government? They intended in the first place to treat this matter as what might be called an Imperial one, a word not the most applicable, for we have come to use the word Imperial in rather a larger sense, and we have not got an adjective which is easy of application to our home purposes; that is to say, the United Kingdom. That was the original intention of the Government. Why we should not deal with it as a United Kingdom matter when we are on the eve of a series of Home Rule Bills, is something which the Government have not thought it worth while to explain. That was the original intention of the Government, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will regret it if the Committee come to any other decision. But at a moment's notice he flings the reins to the Lord Advocate, who moves an Amendment which nobody had seen until Saturday, and most people not until to-day, and he asked the House of Commons to there and then decide whether they will adhere to the original decision of the Government, or whether they will entirely reverse it, before any Member of the House of Commons knows what the result of either course of action will be. We were inviting the Lord Advocate to tell us about the finance of the question; he has not said a word about this, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer said nothing until I showed some restlessness—happy restlessness. This Amendment is to be carried because a Committee of Scottish Members—a large number of Scottish Members here to-day have never heard of it—are reported to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by someone we do not know to be in favour of it. The Chancellor 66 of the Exchequer seemed to think that Scotland would be worse off than she would be under the old arrangement.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The Chancellor of the Exchequer says he did not mean that. If he did not mean that what did he mean, when he said that England had no cause to complain if the other portions of the United Kingdom are treated separately. Did he not mean that England would be financially advantaged by having her interests separate from those of Scotland, Ireland, or Wales? Of course he meant it. No other meaning is possible. I think it is extremely likely to be the case. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Somebody asks me "Why?" I am not going to discuss that now; I do not want to go into questions of that kind at this stage. What I do want to go into is the impossibility of this House dealing with this matter without having seen it, or of coming to a decision worthy of it and which represents any considered opinion of the House, if we must deal with it at once. The Chancellor of the Exchequer suggests that England will gain by divorcing her finances from those of Scotland, and Wales, and Ireland. I think that is very likely, and as an English Member, I do not know that regard for the interests of my constituents compels me to object to a proposal of this kind. But this is one of the instances which discloses the value of being part of the United Kingdom, and what are the advantages for the poorer parts of the country of legislation applicable to the United Kingdom. They are not the sort of advantages to be thrown away in half-an-hour, without knowing what we are doing. I quite agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it would be necessary to have separate offices in Edinburgh, Dublin, and London. I do not think that Wales would require it; that only follows because the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks that if he concedes this scheme to Scotland and to Ireland it would ill become a Welsh Chancellor of the Exchequer to refuse it to the Welsh people. He does not at all mean that the Welshmen want it, but Welsh pride might be outraged if not allowed to have it.
When Prince Bismarck had to meet Austria and the German States in conference it is related of him that he pulled out a big cigar at the first meeting, and smoked it. It then became necessary for 67 the representatives of every petty German State also to smoke his cigar in order to assert the equality of the government which he represented with the Prussian Government represented by Prince Bismarck. So, if there be a separate office for Scotland and Ireland, there must be a separate office for Wales. That is not going to render the administration of the Act cheaper, and it is going, above all, to increase the number of salaries to be paid. The Government are going to spend more money on administration, and there will be less available for real benefit under the Act. If you take the present proposal you do not create merely a separate office. I have not overlooked the fact that the expenses of administration do not come on the fund, but come on the Treasury. But the more you take out of the Treasury the less there is to follow; the more you spend on wasteful things, the less you have to spend on needful. Therefore, you are taking away from what is needful in order to spend it on what is not needed. You are to have a Commission in each place, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that what he has in mind is to form a super-Commission over those Commissions. It becomes really difficult for the House of Commons to do its duty when the mind of the Government is never expressed in any Amendment which is put upon the Paper. They have always got something up their sleeve which is not expressed in the Amendment on the Paper, but which is thrown out in the course of Debate in answer to some interruptions. This is not a complete scheme, because you have to make this super-Commission, which will require to be arranged for in another Clause. You are asked to decide matters which affect the interests of every single society that exists in every portion of the United Kingdom—that is, all the big societies that exist.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I include the trade unions, which are very conspicuous instances of the fact. The Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us that there was a Scottish Committee; that there was a meeting of the Scottish Members of his own party held upstairs, and that this is the Amendment they desire. The hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy) was justified in saying that this is an Irish day and an Irish question, and we are justified, therefore, in saying that it is an English question. It affects the 68 interests of all our constituents, it affects interests as widespread as the United Kingdom itself, yet the question is to be decided in this House without any proper consultation with those who are most affected, or of hearing what their views on the subject may be. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us what we never thought of in listening to the Lord Advocate, that he would regret the adoption of this proposal, but that it was a matter for the House to decide. If the right hon. Gentleman takes that view and throws the responsibility upon the House, I think he ought to give the House all the assistance which is in his power. He ought to tell the House all the details that he can command—what will be the exact financial and administrative results of the proposal, what are the reasons in its favour, and what are the reasons against it. Of the financial results he said nothing except in answer to an interruption from me, and my interpretation of which he has since challenged. He ought to tell us with much more fulness than he has the reasons for and against. Above all, if the responsibility is left to the House, he ought to give the House full time to consider what they are doing, and should adjourn the new Amendment until such time as we have had an opportunity of properly considering it.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I thought I had put very frankly before the Committee the arguments for and against this separate Commission. With the indulgence of the Committee, I am quite ready to repeat what I said, but there is nothing more to be said about it, I think.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
We should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman what would be the financial effect of the Clause.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I will come to that later on. I do not quite appreciate the point of the right hon. Gentleman that we cannot settle a Clause of this kind when we have got about six and a-half hours in which to debate it. After all, in regard to this proposal, I am not sure whether it has not been on the Paper for some time, except with regard to a separate Commission. Of course, I only got this communication from my friends on Thursday formally, but I knew it was a matter under discussion, because I believe it was on the Paper at least for some days, if not for some weeks. The 69 right hon. Gentleman says—I am not complaining of it—that he had not looked forward to the various Amendments on the Paper; very few Members ever do that. Let us consider the point which he invited me to discuss. At any rate, I understood the attitude of Scottish Members, and that this proposal had been formulated for some time; at all events, I heard of it. I was not aware whether Scottish Members, as a whole, were in favour of it, and it was only on Thursday the information reached me that the majority of Scottish Members had decided in favour of the Clause.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
We never heard of it. You ought not to say the majority of Scottish Members. You ought to say of the Liberal Members.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Is not that the majority of the Scottish Members? I mean by a majority of the Scottish Members, undoubtedly, the overwhelming majority. I am bound to defer to that view. From the start I invited the House, as a whole, to express its opinion on the Bill, and why should I refuse to defer to the opinion of the majority of the Scottish Members on a question which specially affected Scotland, and which cannot possibly affect England and Wales detrimentally, for reasons which I shall give later on? What are the arguments for and against it? I started with the arguments against. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) said that I was in a state of hesitation about the matter. If I was I should have thought that I would have framed the Bill in a totally different fashion. That showed what my original view was with regard to the matter. What I say is that I am bound to defer to the opinion expressed by those specially concerned. They came to the conclusion that it was better from the point of view of Scottish interests that they should have a separate Commission. That is not only the opinion which has been expressed by the Members merely, but I have seen it expressed in Scottish newspapers and in reports of Scottish associations that they have come to the conclusion that Scotland would benefit by having a separate fund. Why? They think Scottish administration would be so much better and more economical. That is their opinion. The right hon. Gentleman represents an English constituency, and I represent a Welsh constituency. I naturally think that Scotland would benefit a good deal by having 70 the assistance of Wales in administering this fund. They do not think so. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that they would benefit by having the assistance of opinion from the Midlands. They do not think so. They have come to the conclusion that Scotland can administer its own financial affairs so much better than if she gets assistance of those south of the Tweed. If that is their view, I do not see any overwhelming reason against it.
The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir G. Younger) asked me what the financial effect will be. That will depend entirely on the administration. I do not know any special conditions in Scotland that will make the burden of sickness heavier there. On the contrary, Scottish Members have assured me that the burden will be lighter in Scotland, and especially in the rural districts. That is the view of the Scottish Member as presented to me, and if that is the case, Scotland stands to gain by it. On the other hand, if the average is pretty much the same, and if the administration is worse in Scotland than it is in England, then Scotland stands to lose. How can you possibly anticipate whether you gain or whether you lose when everything depends on the administration and upon the other fact which I have already mentioned? If the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Younger) is prepared to tell me that in Scotland health is much worse, and that there will be a heavier drain on the fund, then I will tell him at once that Scotland will lose by this. If, on the other hand, he tells me that they are much healthier than we are and that they are less likely to draw from the fund, then Scotland will stand to gain. If he tells me he has less confidence in Scottish administration than he has in English administration, and if he thinks English administration will help Scotland, and if he thinks Scotland gets assistance from the people south of the border, that the fund in Scotland will gain—and those are the considerations affecting the question—then it is a question of confidence in his own countrymen.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
The right hon. Gentleman refers to the question of administration. I quite agree the administration will be as good in Scotland, but what I am not satisfied about is the position of the fund. That is what I spoke about. I am not satisfied that Scotland is making a good bargain in this. I am not saying anything against the administration. That is quite another matter.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Scotland gets exactly the same thing as England. The individual Scotchman gets his two-ninths exactly as the Englishman does. There is the same contribution, in proportion to the population, in Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not see what the point of the right hon. Gentleman is. The individual Scotchman will derive exactly the same benefit from the fund as the individual Englishman. That is what I mean. He gets two-ninths of his benefit. I know there is an argument as to whether that two-ninths represents two-pence or not, but whatever it represents it represents the same thing to a Scotchman as to an Englishman—exactly the same thing. Therefore it will depend entirely on those two great factors—namely, whether the health of Scotland is worse than England or whether Scotchmen are worse administrators than Englishmen. The only other point is that of the cost of administration. That is so infinitesimal in proportion to the amount of the fund which is administered that it will not affect it in the estimation of a hair. It will not, really. It will not turn the balance in the estimation of a hair. Why? What does it mean? You must have separate offices in Scotland, and there the right hon. Gentleman agrees with me. I never doubted that. You could not administer the whole of the fund from an office in London. You could not do it for Scotland, you could not do it for Ireland, you could not do it for Wales. You must have separate offices to administer the funds in those districts. I do not know to what extent even in England you may have to have a sort of branch office in different parts of the country. That has got to be considered later on as a matter of business administration; but I am certain Scotland would require a separate office, and so would Ireland. The expense of the Commissioners is a very small matter in proportion to the enormous sum which has to be administered. Supposing you get three or four Commissioners for Scotland, you would have people corresponding to them in the offices, you would have to get 72 people perhaps of a higher class and give them a slightly higher salary—slightly. Not to be reckoned in thousands but in hundreds. What does that matter when you come to consider a question of millions? Does the hon. Gentleman wish to interrupt?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
There are not going to be many mickles. After all, it will be a question purely of two or three extra men; or, rather, of two or three men who will be getting perhaps slightly higher salaries. Scotland, I am sure, would insist on having the best men available. It is a great mistake to think you will save by saving two or three hundred pounds and getting inferior men. No business could be run on those principles successfully. You will save infinitely more by getting a first-class business man at first, and I should have thought that a leading Scottish business man like my hon. Friend would recognise that at once. Those are the pros and cons. There is undoubtedly a preliminary disadvantage to the society, but that is not as great as the right hon. Gentleman imagines. You have the case, say, of the Oddfellows and the Foresters, while I frankly say the difficulty to the trade unionists will be a little greater, as they have not, I think, got branches. In the case of the great friendly societies you have got separate finances for every branch in the United Kingdom, and that is what you recognise here. You will have each with separate accounts and separate valuations. You will have the Oddfellows with thousands of separate branches, thousands of separate accounts, thousands of separate valuations. You have got them now. It will increase the number, but what is the only difference that will happen afterwards? They will have to get four separate sections, and they will have to bring those branches into separate sections. You have got county groups at present.
In Germany, where you have got calculations of this kind, you have separate branches, and in each branch five separate sections. You have got men who belong to the first, and the second, and the third, and the fourth, and the fifth class in every society there. You have got to pass men from class 1 to class 2 and from class 2 to class 3, and perhaps back from class 2 to class 1, and when you have to transfer men 73 of that type from, say, Bavaria to Würtemberg, you have got to go through gigantic actuarial calculations. We have nothing of that sort, and by the simple process of having one payment and one only, we have simplified the thing enormously. There are, no doubt, disadvantages, but I think the advantages enormously outweigh the disadvantages. It is not such a very great process as it appears on paper. It is true that when you transfer a workman from Ireland to Scotland, that a process will have to be gone through. It will be purely actuarial, purely automatic, because you will then have your actuarial scale, and any clerk in an office in a few minutes will be able to say what the transfer value of the man is when he is taken over on the Scottish fund. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a super-Commission, and thinks this involves a great super-Commission. It involves a clearing house, that is what that means, and it does not involve a great super-Commission administering and in charge and overriding all the other Commissions, and constantly interfering with their work. It is really an equivalent to a great clearing house.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to mean that there must be some central body which will exercise co-ordinate control, and to mean that would be to mean more than a clearing house.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
It will settle the principles on which you transfer from one district to another, and at first that would be a question of actuarial tables. Instead of setting up a separate Commission, all you do is to bring together the chairmen of the various Commissions to discuss the matter. It is true you must get somebody to represent the Treasury, and to be chairman of that body, but it is not a separate body in the sense of a separate administrative body. You must have the chairmen meeting together to decide the principles upon which you will transfer from one district to another and make your regulations. It is very important to co-ordinate the regulations. Scotsmen have confidence in their own administration, and on the whole I think that that confidence will be justified by the results. But it is entirely a matter for themselves to consider. The proposal does introduce a few complications. From the point of view of simplicity I have said from the start that I would prefer the Bill as it stood. But I would say that, with regard to many of the Amendments which, after argument and 74 debate I have accepted. I have accepted many Amendments from different quarters, from friendly societies and others, because you have to adjust the various interests concerned. But I should be very surprised if any Scotsmen in this House took upon themselves the responsibility of saying that they would not prefer an independent Commission for Scotland. That would be a very serious responsibility to take. It depends very largely on the amount of confidence they have in their own countrymen. Against the proposal you have simplicity, the difficulty of setting up separate sections in trade unions and friendly societies, and an infinitesimal addition to the expense of administration. Those are the three great arguments against the proposal. In favour of it, you have the fact that there are peculiar conditions in Scotland which do not apply to other districts. There are considerations with regard to local authorities and with regard to huge tracts of the Highlands with which you have nothing to compare south of the Tweed. There is also the fact that Scotsmen will be able to meet in Edinburgh, whereas they could not come south of the Tweed to discuss questions concerning their own administration. These are the considerations for and against. It is for the Committee to decide. The Government have shown their view in the matter by first of all putting forward what has been described as a United Kingdom proposal. We have also said that Scottish and Irish opinion prefers separate administration and separate funds.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
Will the names of the Commissioners be announced before the Bill leaves this House?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I cannot proceed to discuss the names of the Irish or of the Scotttish Commissioners until the Committee has decided in favour of that course; but I have been working on the English Commissioners, and the names are almost ready. I shall be able to give them, if not before we leave the Committee stage, certainly before we begin the Report stage. I agree that the House has a right to get the names before we finish with the Bill, but I think it would be a great mistake for either Irish or Scottish Members to press for the names now.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I will certainly press for the Irish names, to see that they are not Molly Maguires.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I really could not deal with that without hearing the discussion in the Committee and ascertaining whether it decided to accept the Commission. The hon. and learned Gentleman must realise that you cannot in a fortnight or three weeks set up a satisfactory Commission.
§ Mr. CLYDE
I think the right hon. Gentleman has, if not by direct statement, at any rate quite clearly, let us see that, so far as his own opinion is concerned, if he had been left to his own devices we should not have had this Amendment thrown at our heads for the first time this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman gives us as the apology for putting the proposal before us that it has been pressed upon him by a majority of those who represent Scotland. I can quite understand that that would be a very good reason for the right hon. Gentleman yielding his own opinion, if there had been a fair opportunity of openly discovering what Scottish opinion was on the subject. But while he constantly referred to the opinion of the majority of the Scottish representatives, he made it plain enough that he meant a majority of the Scottish Members on his side of the House, who are a majority of the Scottish Members as a whole. I know nothing about the extent of this majority of a majority, but the right hon. Gentleman knows very well that a majority of that kind may quite easily be a minority of the whole. In one sense it may fairly be said that I am not entitled to make complaint to the same extent as some of my hon. Friends, because I had to leave the House before the end of last week. It is true that I heard a Lobby rumour that some form of decentralisation of the administration of the Insurance fund was in the wind, but I heard no more than that. I never heard a suggestion that not only the administration, but also the fund, was to be completely separate. I never heard a suggestion that, besides the fund being separate, there was to be involved, as a corollary of that, a severance in the administration of the societies and trade unions themselves. I should have liked to have heard from the right hon. Gentleman whether the representations on the part of Scottish Members to which he yielded involved not merely a severance in administration, but a severance in finance, bringing in its train a severance in the administration and working of the societies themselves. Because, if that was the representation of a majority of the majority of Scotttish Members opposite, I should like 76 to know how that majority got any authority, either from Scotland or from the friendly societies or trade unions, to place any such proposal before the right hon. Gentleman. I have no doubt some of them will get up and explain. I do not know who they are, but I challenge them to explain in this House what authority they had from any source in Scotland for proposing not merely a decentralisation of administration, but a complete severance in the funds, involving as it does an interference with the constitution and working of friendly societies and trade unions as they now exist. I shall be much surprised to hear that any considerable number of either friendly societies or trade unions gave them any authority to do anything of the kind. I shall be equally surprised to hear that they got any authority from any considerable number of local authorities in Scotland to put their names to a proposal involving an entire severance in the fund.
I follow what the right hon. Gentleman said about the direct financial consequences. On the line which he took I have no answer to make, but I have a criticism to put forward. Each of us must speak for himself. From my point of view, as a humble student of the Bill, under difficulties which the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself will be the first to recognise, it seemed to me that one of the advantages rested in the very large spread of the risks which a United Kingdom scheme ensures. If the right hon. Gentleman said—he has not said it—I do not know whether he meant it—that after a careful examination of the question the spread of the risks, though limited to Scotland, is sufficient to give us as good security as we had before, or even better, we should have to accept the explanation, which the right hon. Gentleman would give upon his responsibility as a Minister and with the advice at his disposal. But if the scheme was recommended to us, as it was, on the basis that it brought the magic of averages to the aid of the scheme, I for my part would like the average to be as widespread as possible, and I am not satisfied that the change in that respect has ever been considered from that point of view, or is really advantageous to us in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman clearly challenged Scottish Members in all parts of the House to express their opinion upon the question of a separate Commission. He stated that he would be surprised if any Scottish Members took upon their shoulders the responsibility of saying that they did not approve of a 77 separate and independent Commission for Scotland. I am one of those Scottish Members. I approve of a certain amount of decentralisation. I think that a separate office was inevitable. I do not see how the scheme could be worked otherwise. I say that the measure of decentralisation which a separate office involves is called for in the case of Scotland in a sense that it would not be called for in the case of the county of Kent, or, perhaps, even in the case of Wales. But on that I am not well qualified to judge. I am not touching on the question of national sentiment or national pride. I think that national sentiment or national pride may be carried too far. I was thinking of the practical problem. There are elements in the practical problem local to Scotland, and which in the case of Scotland necessarily bulk very largely in the problem of administration. Therefore I say that a certain amount of decentralisation is required. But I say quite distinctly that, if the idea of setting up a separate Commission should involve us in a United Kingdom clearing house, with an expense which the right hon. Gentleman may minimise, but about which I am not so confident, I think that that is not only unnecessary for the purpose concerned, but that if it carries with it the establishment of independent finance, with the consequence of cutting into the existing organisation and working of friendly societies, it is a positive misfortune. In that sense I take up without any hesitation the glove which the right hon. Gentleman has thrown down. Of course, all that I have said, or anything any of us can say about this question, has to be said absolutely on the spur of the moment. I do not care whether the moment comes at the beginning of the five hours which the right hon. Gentleman thinks, or suggests is enough, or at the end of it. I am not capable in the time of forming a judgment upon the larger questions which this change involves. For that reason I am not going to discuss them. But I do say at first sight that the proposal, and especially that of an entirely independent Commission, the severing of the finances of this scheme between the two parts of the United Kingdom, and all the results of the interference with these existing organisations, seem to me to be entirely unnecessary. May I add that it may be, I think it would be true, to say that the proposals, especially that of separate Commissioners, are not made with the approval of some of the representatives of 78 the local authorities. At any rate I did not have the advantage of any Sunday meetings with any of my friends in Scotland. I did have the advantage of seeing one or two of them on Saturday—a more suitable occasion for the amicable discussion of this problem than even a Sunday evening; and I am in a position to say that some, at all events, of the representatives of the local authorities in Scotland—it may be because they have not had time to master these proposals—do not agree in the views which I understand some of the brethren have represented to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. PIRIE
We have had two speeches from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am bound to say that in my opinion they have only made confusion worse confounded. If we have to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for throwing more light upon the subject, then we have to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) for demanding an explanation from the Chancellor, and so getting the second speech. I am glad for the first time in my ten years in the House to be able to say that I agree with every word of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, as also I did with the major part of the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Central Division of Glasgow (Mr. Scott Dickson)—with one exception. He blamed the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a certain extent. I am not for a moment going to apportion the blame to anybody. The success of this Bill, in my opinion, and my support of it is entirely due to the personal loyalty and personal affection that I have for the Chancellor himself and to his personal qualities. Otherwise I should not have seen my way to give such a constant support as I have given. I am, I believe, expressing an opinion widely shared. How could any solution of the present situation be possible when you think of the conditions under which we are discussing this Bill? Events have shown that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dumfries was right when he voted against the Government, as was also his colleague when he backed him up. The action of many Scottish Members explains the present day's discussion. Anything more absurd than the discussion of this Bill has never, so far as I know, existed before in this House. The absurdity is emphasised by events which have taken place in the last twenty-four hours.
79 People talk as if the Amendments were on the Paper on Saturday. Some of the alterations proposed only appeared this morning, and so far as I am personally concerned, whatever action the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Central Division of Glasgow thinks fit to take on this Bill I will follow him. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has frequently told us how the Scottish Members approve of this Bill. This morning I got a notice of a meeting of the Scottish Members. I could not attend. I never do attend these meetings—for a reason I will explain later on—but I heard from some of my colleagues, a dozen or more of whom attended, what had happened. What takes place at these meetings suggests to me that if the present Government, in some extraordinary way, were going to sentence to death a couple of Scottish Members, the chairman and vice-chairman, say, of the Scottish National Committee, the Scottish Liberal Members would approach the question in this way: "It is very hard, and a great pity, for our two colleagues are both good fellows; but after all we must not, by protesting, embarrass the Government." I am happy to say that the small committee to which I have the honour to belong does not act in quite that sheeplike fashion, and I hope that the Scottish National Committee are prepared in the future to show the beginnings of a little more backbone than has been shown in the past. It is no wonder that the Chancellor of the Exchequer appeals to Scottish Liberal Members! Again I say, in view of the extraordinary attitude of the Government, in view of the fact that the Amendments have only appeared on the Paper to-day—and it is the second time I have protested against this short notice—and the fact that the views put forward to-day have not a single chance of being considered by the people of Scotland themselves, I shall certainly support any action the right hon. Gentleman opposite deems it necessary to take.
§ Captain GILMOUR
I would venture to say a few words of protest on behalf of what I suppose the Chancellor of the Exchequer considers to be a minority of Scottish Members. It is really time that that protest was made, and that the people of Scotland should understand the position in which at the present time legislation is being carried on in this House. I listened with some amazement to the 80 explanation of the right hon. Gentleman. After all it was hardly an explanation. When we come to consider that explanation, surely it is evident that he himself does not support the proposal which is now upon the Paper. The Government, having got themselves into a hole, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in order to effect the extrication, comes down and makes a speech, the first part of which is a condemnation of this very Amendment and the second part of which is a long exposition in defence of the position which he has now taken. I cannot see that either the friendly societies or those who are interested in the future working of this part of the Clause have any reason to be satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's explanation. Speaking for myself, I only saw these Amendments in "The Scotsman" on Saturday. Though I have met numerous representatives of friendly societies I had never for myself actually had placed before me in a concrete form this proposal which we now see, but I have urged and urged with some force the necessity of having upon the central controlling body representatives of Scottish opinion.
With that I am fairly in accord. But when we come to a proposal like this, whether it is good or evil, this House is left in a position of not being able to thoroughly discuss it; and we, and the people of Scotland, and the friendly societies have to take it upon trust. No one can say, on either side of the House, that the reasons which were put forward by the Lord Advocate were reasons which would lead any of us to grasp or grip what these proposals mean. If that is to be the way in which the people of Scotland are to be treated, I think it is time the people of Scotland understood how business is conducted. [An HON. MEMBER: "Home Rule."] Like my hon. Friend, I join issue with the Government upon this point. I do say that I, for one at least, disagree with the proposal for a separate Commission in Scotland. I do it because I have always held the opinion that in this matter the greater benefit to the people of Scotland would be to be part of a great United Kingdom scheme.
It is all very well to tell us, as the Chancellor has told us, that the individual Scotsman is not going to lose in any respect by this alteration. I may be very ignorant. I may not have grasped what the Chancellor means, but it does appear to me that we in Scotland, with our 81 difficulties—which I quite recognise—think we are going to get the full benefit of a big national scheme of sanatoria, and the benefit of all those other parts which are going to be given to the general public, that it would be infinitely preferable, and far more secure from the Scottish point of view, that we should be part of one great whole scheme rather than independent. That being the case, I do think that the Government are ill-advised in pressing this question to a decision at this moment. Let us at least have the opportunity of looking further into the matter. I, at least, have never had placed before me by, or pressed upon me from any representatives of friendly societies with whom I have had a good many communications, this view which we have now placed before us. Whether they agree or disagree, I should at least like to hear more about it before we are forced to come to a decision.
§ Mr. LYELL
The Chancellor of the Exchequer deserves a good deal of commiseration at the present time. Like another hon. Member, I do not propose to apportion the blame. In any case, the fact remains that it is only within the last two or three days that this subject of a separate Commission and a separate fund for Scotland has been mooted at all. The result is that at the very last moment the scheme is, by discussion, presumably in the Scottish Office, certainly by a meeting of Scottish Members upstairs, finally brought down and laid before the judgment of the Chancellor, and a few hours ago placed upon the Paper in its present form. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has brought this forward avowedly on the recommendation of the Scottish Members' meeting upstairs. He did not particularly bless the scheme himself. I listened to his first speech, and I am bound to say I could not make out how the Chancellor of the Exchequer was going to go into the Lobby in support of his own Amendment. I did not have the pleasure of attending the meeting. Possibly I was to blame. Other duties prevent one some times. But if I had attended that meeting the recommendation to the Chancellor would not have been a unanimous one. I certainly should not have supported a recommendation involving a separation of the fund.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has thrown out a challenge to hon. Members, I suppose representing both parties, to come forward to say they are opposed to a separate Commission. That challenge has been taken up by the hon. and learned 82 Gentleman the Member for West Edinburgh on behalf of Scottish Members who sit on the Opposition side of the House. So far as a separate Commission is concerned I am not quite certain whether I am not prepared to take up the Chancellor's challenge. I should have preferred that the whole of the Commissioners should have been in Scotland, or as many of them as the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to give. I shall certainly press the right hon. Gentleman very strongly that the number of Commissioners should not fall short of the number corresponding to the insured persons in Scotland. That, I think, we should be amply entitled to insist upon. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us it was a matter of confidence in administration by Scotchmen. I hold we have every confidence in administration by Scotchmen and it seems to me he provided a solution himself when he said it was in any case a question of decentralisation in Edinburgh run by Scotchmen and by highly-paid commissioners, not so highly paid as the full-blown Commisioners, in all probability under the direct control of such members of the central committees as happen to be Scotchmen. Scotland would undoubtedly get the benefit of that highly scientific administration.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am not going to force any conclusion from my hon. Friend, but I think he ought to know what the facts are and what the effect would be. There is very great difference between a separate office and a separate fund. Whatever the administration would be from a purely separate office, Scotland would not get the benefit that a separate fund would give. With a separate fund Scotland would not merely get the benefit of the separate administration of these men in that office, but of all the branches of approved societies in Scotland. I would like my hon. Friend to address the Committee as to whether he wants a separate fund.
§ Mr. LYELL
I quite agree the question whether we should have a separate Commission or not is not very important; it is the question of whether we should have a separate fund that is important, and I am entirely against the separate fund. In the first place, I want the net spread to be as wide as it can possibly be spread, and in the second place, I am not at all certain whether you have a separate Commission of decentralising administration, that this represents a good bargain for Scotland. In the first place, the Chancellor of the 83 Exchequer talked about the distinct features of the Highlands. What are the distinct features of the Highland areas? There are enormous distances to be covered, but these distances are going to make administration far more costly than in England, and for these reasons I think this scheme represents a bad bargain for Scotland. Let me deal with the question of national feeling and national sentiment. I deny the question of a separate fund in any way prejudges the question of Home Rule or devolution for Scotland. In Germany, where you have a half-a-dozen separate Parliaments, or more, the whole of the insurance scheme is worked from the Imperial centre, and, therefore, if for no other reason than that, I maintain this separate fund should be spread as widely as possible. It is in no way prejudging the question of dealing with the power of separation of certain expenditure by the Executive, which, of course, I should be out of order in discussing now, but which we shall have ample opportunity of discussing later on.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
There is one fact I think the Committee ought to be in possession of. I understand the Manchester Unity now has not only separate branches, but pool their death benefits in regard to Scotland alone at the present time. The Manchester Unity have stated they would separately pool their Scottish branches, and the feeling among the friendly societies, as far as we have been able to make out, has been strongly in favour, not merely of separate Scottish administration, but of a separate Scotch fund. I think it is right that the Committee should know that fact before they come to a conclusion.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down must have shown the Chancellor of the Exchequer that opinion is not as unanimous on this matter as he thought it was amongst the Scottish Members on his own side of the House. Almost every speaker who has spoken since he made his own speech has disavowed attachment to this separate Commission and separate fund, although the Chancellor has stated that he doubted whether any Scotch Member was prepared to make himself responsible for such a view. We have one particular difficulty before we go any further, and that is to decide between two Ministers of the Crown, and whether we shall follow the Chancellor of the Exchequer or 84 whether we shall follow the Lord Advocate, who expresses presumably the opinion of the Scottish Office. Surely a Committee of the House of Commons was never put in a more absurd position than to be compelled to select between the opinions of two successive Ministers who have risen and expressed different views upon the Question before us. I think the right hon. Gentleman, however clear and lucid his explanation was to the Committee, did try to put this thing in a false light. He told us it was merely a question of administration.
I am quite as ready as other Scottish Members to bear testimony to the excellence of Scottish administration. That is not the question, but when the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that it was merely a question of administration he surely sought to throw dust in the eyes of Members of the Committee. How is it merely a question of administration? Would any great insurance company think that the position of its funds were not entirely and vitally altered if it broke up its business into three or four branches? Would that be merely a question of administration? Would any amount of dexterous and able administration for a moment alter the vital effect that would have upon the finances of any society which broke up its business? It is preposterous. In his first speech, which was on entirely different lines from the second speech which the Chancellor made, he distinctly gave us to understand that this division of the fund would be for the monetary disadvantage of Scotland. No one listening to that speech could have any doubt but that was the effect, and, moreover, he gave the reason when he spoke of the sparse population, of the poverty in certain parts of Scotland, of the scarcity of contributions to the friendly societies, and of the smaller number of those societies in Scotland. Does not all this alter the financial position? If these circumstances do not alter the financial position, why were they used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this speech? It is perfectly clear that this is not a question of administration, or one that you could deal with by administration. When you come to separate the fund you are face to face with the differences and circumstances of the two countries.
The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate has brought forward this scheme without proper consultation, and without taking the decision of the particular Member in charge of the Bill, and he has thrown this suddenly at the House in the hope, 85 however the hon. Gentleman who spoke last may disavow it, that it might be accepted as a specious form of Home Rule, and that hon. Gentleman from Scotland might be afraid to oppose it because it met a certain national sentiment. National sentiment may be all very well, but it must not be set against the real advantages of Scotland. Nor have the dangers that this separation might cause to the people in Scotland to be risked in order to satisfy that sentiment. Members on both sides of the House differ as to the merits of this question. I do not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will find that the differences amongst those opposed to it are so wide as he thinks; he will find that there is a great deal of agreement on this side, and on his own side, which he has not anticipated. There is one thing upon which we are all agreed, and I hope hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House from Scotland will be as energetic as we are on this side on that subject, and that is that this is a scandalous method of managing the business of Scotland. It is all very well for the Member for Aberdeen to say he supports this Bill only from motives of personal affection, or for the hon. Member who has just sat down to say that he cannot lay blame upon anybody. I distinctly lay blame upon the Secretary for Scotland and those who represent him in this House for the scandalous manner in which this Clause has been sprung on the representatives from Scotland. We have had no time to communicate with our Constituents.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to have found support amongst the Scottish Press. I can only say, as a reader of tolerable diligence of the Scottish Press, I do not know where he finds that support. None of the great papers have treated this question, much less given strong support to this measure. We have not had time to discuss this question or to learn the views of our Constituents, and we have no information as to the fundamental point and data upon which alone proper and reasonable and rational opinion can be formed upon the question. In these circumstances, with this entirely new Clause brought in in the last few hours and thrown at the House of Commons without any opportunity of discussing it, it is a scandal which Scottish Members on all sides should resist, and I for my part am not prepared to acquiesce to the very easy method of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith adopted, when he said all this is very bad and is as scandalous as 86 it can be, but it cannot be helped, and we must all submit, because neither now or on Report stage shall we have an opportunity of discussing it. We may differ upon the Amendment now before the House, but we must all of us, as Scottish Members, anxious for the independent and dignity of our country, unite in repudiating the methods of dealing with Scottish business as favoured by the Lord Advocate and the Secretary for Scotland, whom he represents.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir WALTER MENZIES
When this discussion commenced I understood the objection taken to it by the hon. Member for Central Glasgow was on account of the short notice we had of the discussion. Since that speech we have had various objections from the other sides and from one hon. Member upon this side against the scheme itself. [HON. MEMBERS: "More than one."] I am very much surprised that there should be many Members on this side who object to the scheme, particularly as it was a scheme unanimously approved of at a very considerable meeting of Scottish Liberal Members. There were between twenty and thirty hon. Members there. We asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer on that occasion to give us a separate office, separate funds, and separate Commissioners. We also asked that in the crofting districts and the agricultural districts there should be varying contributions. We have not heard yet whether that suggestion is to be embodied. I place no reliance on the statement that there will be any disadvantage to Scotland in having a separate fund. I believe there will be sufficient insured persons in Scotland to make them a reliable average, and any insurance company would take them on the lines of there being a sufficient number of assured persons. Something has been said about the health of Scotland. I do not make any particular claim with regard to the health of Scotland being better than it is in England. We have had health committees on our county councils and a separate authority for some time in Scotland, and therefore these matters have been better looked after in Scotland. So far as I am concerned I shall back up heartily the Clause we are now discussing. I acknowledge that hon. Members on both sides have had too little time to put down Amendments. Personally, I should like to have provided that all the Commissioners and officers, inspectors, referees, and servants of the Commissioners in Edinburgh 87 should be residents in Scotland, or that they should have some knowledge of the local conditions. That Amendment and one or two others I trust may be moved at another stage of the Bill, and then I shall be perfectly contented with this proposal.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
I am afraid I can hardly sympathise with the hostile criticism which has been directed at the Government because this Clause has been put down rather late. The proposals contained in this Clause are the result of a large amount of negotiations and they are the fruit of representations made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As a matter of fact they are matured views which have resulted from those negotiations and representations. Negotiations and criticism have been going on for some considerable time. The local authorities of Scotland have made suggestions, and as a result of all this a new Clause is put down, and under these circumstances I do not think we have any right to complain, when these negotiations have been going on for some considerable time, that this Clause is now put down for the first time. We now find that the various Amendments which have been suggested are crystallised in these proposals, and the Clause we are discussing represents concessions made to representations put forward over a period of some weeks. Therefore I think that complaint is quite unjustified. I think it would be a great advantage to Scotland and to this scheme to have separate Commissioners and a separate fund. The conditions in Scotland are so different, and unless we have some power of local adaptation we shall find constant friction and difficulty. I think that we should not only have separate Commissioners but they should also have wider powers of adaptation.
This idea of separate Commissioners commends itself because of the hope that those Commissioners will have the power of adapting themselves to local needs. In the crofting and agricultural districts it is impossible to frame regulations applicable to all the conditions in those districts, and if the Commissioners are granted some wider powers, they will be able to adapt the Bill to local conditions. In the crofting districts they are not going to derive benefits under the scheme that the people elsewhere will derive. The medical benefits are of no use to a crofter who lives ten or twelve miles away from the 88 doctor. The sanatorium is of little or no use to the agricultural labourers, who are not likely to require it, because you very rarely find a case of tuberculosis among them at all. If you are going to confer benefits which are wholly illusory upon the agricultural labourers, you ought to give to the Commissioners some power of conferring benefits which they appreciate for the contributions they make. I am in hopes that the Government will accept some Amendment which will widen the powers of the Scottish Insurance Commissioners and enable them to adapt the benefits to local circumstances. I think there would be an advantage arising from the fact that you have better public health administration in Scotland than in England, and you have also got a better administration of friendly societies. I have had the advantage of getting the view of one who is better qualified than any other man in Scotland, who has been associated for the last thirty or forty years with this kind of administration, and he expressed the view very strongly that if there were separate Commissioners and a separate fund it would be a great advantage to those who have to come under the operation of this Bill. On the whole, I think that if a separate Commission and a separate fund are established, and if, in addition, somewhat wider powers are given to the Commission to adapt the Bill to local needs and requirements, it will greatly improve this scheme.
Sir G. PARKER
We have now come to understand a little more clearly what the Chancellor of the Exchequer meant, and more particularly what the Lord Advocate meant, in regard to the objects of this Clause. We now understand what we did not understand before, that there is going to be a separate fund as well as separate offices. It is generally thought that hon. Members representing English constituencies should not intervene in Scottish affairs; but I hope this Parliament still remains representative of the United Kingdom. I am intervening because I wish to enter a protest. Supposing every Scottish Member in this House had agreed, instead of only twenty-five hon. Members opposite, that this Clause was a good thing for Scotland, I should still object and protest, because the Clause was only put down on Friday night, and many of us were not permitted to see it until Saturday, and some of us not until today. It seems to me that it is an absolutely unfair thing to this House and to 89 those electors outside in the constituencies to expect us to vote and speak intelligently and analyse the Clauses of the Bill intelligently under such circumstances. I do not believe it is possible for any hon. Member unless he knew the intentions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for some time past to clearly see the effect of this Clause in all its bearings. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his two or three speeches dropped something which incidentally is a matter of very great importance. The right hon. Gentleman said there will be a super-Commission for dealing with the finance of this Clause. That is to say, supposing there is a separate administration in Scotland and a separate fund and administration in Ireland and in Wales, as well as in England, you have to set up in order to do away with confusion and prevent chaos another Commission. [HON. MEMBEES: "No!"] That is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said. He stated that you could only get at a proper adjustment in order to preserve the stability of the finance of the Bill, by having a super-Commission, I do not care what it is to be composed of. I know it is suggested that the chairmen of the separate Commissions, with a Treasury official in the chair, must adjust the finance of each portion of the United Kingdom where there are separate Commissioners and separate funds.
I am not the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I am not an authority on finance, but I think I have enough intelligence to realise that that is a matter which is going to be a real difficulty created by having separate funds. You create a difficulty by establishing separate funds and then you have to establish another Commission in order to do away with those difficulties. This seems to me to be an extremely elaborate way of securing good financial conditions, and I protest very strongly against what I consider to be the wholly unfair treatment of hon. Members of this House. I will not say anything about the Scottish Members, although I think they have good cause to complain. Why should twenty-five hon. Members on the other side of the House, having the ear of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, agree to certain proposals and expect those on this side equally responsible, although not so numerous, to agree with them so suddenly. Hon. Members opposite know all about these proposals, and they think we are guilty of some mental obliquity in not seeing all at once the effects of this Clause.
90 The effects have been made very clear by the speeches of hon. Members opposite, and the Committee should not be prepared to discuss now this Clause and its effects because the stability of the finance of the Bill is at stake. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to allow us to adjourn and give us an opportunity of thinking the Clause over in order to see its effect in regard to its relation to the general financial conditions of the Bill.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I entirely object to this proposal being considered a Scottish matter. I join issue with those hon. Members who think this Clause has anything more to do with Scotland than with England. I trust my hon. Friends around me will recognise that this is not a Scotch night. If you resolve upon separate Comsioners for Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, you also resolve to have separate Commissioners, and a separate fund for England, and that is a point upon which English Members have a right to be heard. I hope there will be no more consideration of this subject as if it were merely a narrow parochial question appertaining to North Britain. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Then I will say the part of Britain beyond the Cheviots. This is a movement in the anti-federal or State direction, a direction which has been found to be quite the wrong tack in insurance matters in the United States. Opinion in the United States, particularly of those who have anything to do with insurance, is now concentrated on altering it back to federal control. I can assure my hon. Friends who are Free Traders that in this matter of insurance the only question in the United States is whether a State can protect itself against its neighbour. The States do that, and there is inter-protection on this one matter of insurance. It is not possible on any other subject. I do not mind if this is thought to be a wise thing. I have really an open mind about it. In my opinion England will not lose. I say that, after thinking it out during the last few hours and taking some advice. I do not think England as a country has anything to fear from dividing it. There will be a little increase in expense, and I could not quite look forward to the fact that representation and expenditure would not go together.
If the four chairmen are to meet, as is suggested, I enter a protest against that, because England would be in the position of only having one voice against three voices from the other nationalities. The 91 funds they will administer and the expenditure they will control would not jointly be equal to the English portion. I, therefore, say at once I do not see how you can expect the English Members to agree to a joint conference which consisted only of the chairmen of these separate Commissions. I cannot presume to give advice to Members for Scotland, but it is in the nature of the case that one will have to give a vote on this Amendment, and, as was made quite clear by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it will also involve England. I have always made it clear that on all Scotch matters I vote with the majority of the representatives from that country, and my vote, therefore, will take that shape to-day. If the general view of the Scotch Members is they would like Commissioners at Edinburgh, I feel myself bound by loyalty to representative principles to vote with them, but I thought I would point out there will be dangers following. The next proposal will be that the fire companies and the life companies in Scotland shall report to a body in Edinburgh instead of to a body in London. We are beginning an experience which has been tried and found to fail in the United States. It is quite true that there, owing to the extraordinary predominance of Massachusetts, the other States are gradually led to adopt the Massachusetts idea, but that is only voluntary, and some of the States have become so tenacious of their rights that, even against their own interests, they refuse to give up their own special laws. It may be we shall take that course here, but I want the Committee to do it with their eyes open. It means, if we do adopt this course at the instigation of the Scotch Members, we are here for insurance by State control rather than for national management, and I do hope the Committee will treat it in that serious way.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
This Debate has traversed a great deal of unnecessary ground. The only question with regard to the appointment of the Commissioners can be that of expense, and that is a very small matter, because under any circumstances it is quite clear you must have a Scotch Office and deputy Commissioners, or whatever you like to call them, and whether they are deputy or principal Commissioners it can only be a question of a few hundred pounds difference. The real point to which one should direct his attention is the separation of the fund, and for 92 my part, if this was a general scheme of insurance for the whole country, taking in everybody alike, I should be against the separate fund, because the larger population of England would make the average greater, and Scotland would benefit to the extent of that average; but this is not a national scheme of insurance. It is not like insurance for life or for fire. It is insurance by platoons and battalions. When this Bill gets to work, you will only have two classes of insured persons. You will have the friendly society man and the voluntary man. The friendly society man gets the profit his own society makes, and he gets the benefit of the surplus, whether the society is in England or in Scotland. Any surplus of any society goes to that society. You cannot touch the voluntary man. He has no surplus, or if he has it goes to himself; it is not spread about. The English voluntary subscriber gets whatever is to his credit, no more and no less; and the Scotch voluntary subscriber gets the same.
It is not a question of general insurance where the larger average would make a profit for the smaller average. It is divided up into friendly societies, and each and every one of them is interested in its own progress. According to their own numbers and to the way they guide their funds they will receive amongst themselves, and only amongst themselves, whatever surplus there is, and they will have to make up amongst themselves whatever deficit there is, either by reducing benefits or by a levy. There can, therefore, be no danger to a special fund. That will only be distributable as funds are available amongst the people themselves. That being so, I fail to see how there is any danger in a special fund. The great overwhelming number of people in England would make a bigger average and improve the Scotch position, and, if it was a universal scheme of insurance, I should therefore oppose the Amendment. We should be very glad to get something from England. We do not get much, or that which we ought to get. Having regard, however, to the fact that we must have an office for Scotland, some deputy Commissioners, and sane management, and having regard also to the fact that this is not universal insurance, but insurance by departments, where each department gets the benefit of any surplus it has, or has to bear any loss it makes, I do not see how it can make any possible difference to the fund.
§ Mr. HODGE
I desire to associate myself with the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes). The point he raised has not been answered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and we desire to impress it upon those in charge of the Bill. He gave the Engineers as an example. They have a small proportion of their membership in Scotland. They would require to form a separate fund, and if there was greater sickness in Scotland it would be to the disadvantage of those men and would interfere very seriously with the administration of the society. The society with which I am connected is in a similar position. We have, out of a total membership of 19,000, only 1,400 members in Scotland. Some hon. Members have been talking about the greater the number the less the risks, but here there would be fewer members, and the risk would be greater. Personally, I have no objection to setting up a separate set of Commissioners for Scotland, but it would certainly be bad for administration and create a great deal of trouble and confusion to have a separate fund, and I really hope the Government will see their way to oppose the separation of the funds. Let us have one fund. Have separate Commissioners if you like, but a separation of the funds would undoubtedly lead to a very great deal of confusion in the administration of the Act so far as the trade unions of this country are concerned. Hundreds of them have branches in Scotland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the friendly societies have a separate fund so far as Scotland is concerned, but that is not the case with the trade unions. They treat the funds as one unit, and the difficulty that would arise with so many trade unions covering the whole of the United Kingdom is perfectly apparent. I hope we shall get some reply from the Government on that particular point; otherwise we shall be compelled to vote against the amended Clause.
§ Major ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
I entirely agree with the last speaker. I think it is a great mistake to have a separate fund. There is danger in it. The greater the number, the greater the safety. I certainly object to dividing up the funds. I have no doubt Scotch Commissioners are as good if not better than English Commissioners. I do not think we need bring in any comparison. We are quite able to hold our own, and so are Englishmen. I should like to add my protest against the way these Amendments are chucked at us 94 at the last moment. Nobody on either side of the House has had a fair chance of carefully considering them and of going through them and preparing a speech on them. They are chucked at us at the last moment, and one has to make the best of a very bad job. I think Scotch Members and Scotch business deserve more consideration at the hands of the authorities at Dover House. I have always tried to support them whenever I have been able, but, if this sort of thing continues, it will simply mean the hostility, not only of all Liberals, but of Unionist Members as well.
§ Mr. MORTON
I certainly regret that more time was not given to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but during the last three weeks, whilst they have been neglecting their duty. Liberal Members have been continually considering this matter. I admit that the Scotch Office seems to have been behindhand in making up their minds as to what was best, but it was rather a difficult case to settle. A number of Members have claimed a right, although representing English Constituencies to intervene in Scotch affairs. Every Member must know that we are entitled to discuss any subject we like, no matter from which part of the United Kingdom it comes. It is our duty as welt as our right. As far as Scottish Liberal Members are concerned, we have been considering it for some time. We have had our meetings and we have found out what the Scottish Office are going to do for the crofters. Of course one of the most difficult things to deal with has been the case of the crofting districts. We communicated with the Scottish Office, and, as I understand, as a result of the negotiations we are, according to the Amendments on the Paper, to have separate Commissioners for Scotland. Some hon. Gentlemen seem to think that that is an entirely new matter and that we have never had anything of the sort before, that everything connected with Scotland must necessarily be managed from London. But we have a separate Education Board for Scotland. We have a separate Fishery Board, and we have also a separate Lunacy Board.
§ Mr. MORTON
It may be in Whitehall, but the fact remains that the English Board of Education does not interfere with the Scottish Board in any way, it is quite 95 separate. We have too, I would remind the Committee, something in the nature of separate boards in Scotland for old age pensions, and I agree that, in this matter, we ought to have separate Commissioners and a separate fund. There will be no difficulty about paying over or receiving the money; the point will be as to spending the money, and that is where Scotland will come in. These Commissioners are to be able to modify a scheme or to set up new schemes so as to meet the Scottish case, and especially the crofter case and the case of the farm servant. That is where it will come in. They will be able to do what it will not be possible to do in England, where you do not understand the Scottish case. How many hon. Members have ever seen a croft? I find very few people who know where Sutherlandshire is, and fewer still who have ever been there. I doubt whether any of them know anything about the crofters' case. I come now to another point. According to the notice on the Paper, in Ireland they are not to have any medical benefits, and the money is to be devoted to other purposes—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now, I think, discussing a matter which will arise on a subsequent Amendment. I think it would be more convenient if we devoted ourselves to the question of a separate Commission and a separate fund.
§ Mr. MORTON
I am not going to discuss the Irish case. I was only going to ask either the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Lord Advocate whether in the Amendments now before us the Commissioners will have power to deal with similar cases should they arise in Scotland. In some counties in Scotland they are already giving medical relief out of the rates, and if that can be continued we should like to know it from the Lord Advocate. I only mention the Irish case because it is apparently on all fours with the Scotch case. I admit that this is a difficult case to deal with. There are many very difficult points to be settled if they are to be dealt with in accordance with the wishes of the people of Scotland. So far as I can gather, the present position is this: Are you going to allow the people of Scotland to manage their local affairs in their own way?
§ Mr. MORTON
Hon. Members opposite may say that they are objecting to Home 96 Rule. They may call it what they like, but the fact remains that the Scottish people want to manage these funds in accordance with the wishes of the people who live in Scotland, and that end will be better secured by having separate Commissioners and a separate fund than in any other way. Some people may object to the scheme altogether. What we are endeavouring to do is to make the best use of it. I took the opportunity in September and October of seeing my Constituents, and I have considered the matter in consultation with them. I am sorry that hon. Gentlemen opposite did not take the trouble to see the Government Amendments on Friday. They knew that they were going to be presented, and it would have been quite possible if they had so desired to have made themselves acquainted with the terms of them. The Irish Amendments were already down, and it would not have been much trouble for them to inquire what was likely to happen in regard to the Scottish case. I admit, of course, we have not had sufficient time to consider this Bill fully, but seeing that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given us a whole evening for the consideration of this one Clause I do not think we have much reason to complain. I am not at all objecting to what the English or Irish Members are doing in criticising these proposals. We must never forget that Scotland, to a very large extent, rules the world, and the English Government as well. [An. HON. MEMBER: "And the Opposition."] But I do hope that hon. Gentlemen generally will, in a matter like this, especially in the interests of economy, agree to these proposals, because I believe that Scottish Commissioners will be able to carry this out in a more economical manner than the general body of Commissioners. For instance, they will be nearer to the seat of action.
I fully discussed this matter with my Constituents, and we all realised the difficulty of applying this fund to the crofters, who form a very considerable proportion of the population of Scotland. We came to the conclusion that the only possible way of dealing with the problem was to have a separate scheme for Scotland, and, although our original plan did not take the form of having separate Commissioners, I must honestly confess that the Scottish Office are in these proposals trying to meet our views. I repeat my appeal that the Scottish people shall be allowed to manage their own local affairs in their own way, because they will thus be managed in the best interests of the people generally. I 97 am glad to know that these proposals of the Government go a long way in the direction of Home Rule for Scotland.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I was somewhat surprised to hear that the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not fully made up on this point. I should like to know whether the Government Whips are going to tell in this Division. Is this matter going to be left to the general sense of the House? The reason why I venture to intervene in a purely Scottish Debate is that I think we are entitled to some information as to the actuarial effect of this proposal. I put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to whether in the framing of the scheme the Government had taken into account the general population of the three kingdoms and the proportion of the Government contributions in relation to such population. An answer was given to that, and in a much more extended form to a question put by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, and it was to the effect that the Government in the framing of their scheme did not divide the country into separate nationalities, but framed it having regard to the three kingdoms as a whole. What a light is thrown on the manner in which these Amendments have been put down. The Irish Amendments were put down on Wednesday. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he heard the Scottish Amendments for the first time on Thursday, and that means that Scotch Members did not move in this matter until they saw the Irish Amendments on the Paper. They used the Irish leverage—I am not complaining of that—in order to bring pressure to bear upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to grant a separate scheme for Scotland. I should like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he was able, in the brief time allowed him between Thursday, when he first heard of this matter, and Friday, when the Amendments were tabled, to form any opinion on the actuarial question. I do not think it is unreasonable to ask the Government for a reply on that point. If they had not the information in their possession as regards Ireland when did they get information which enabled them to decide to accept a separate scheme for Scotland? I do not think that we are unduly trespassing upon the time of Scottish Members in asking for that information. The hon. Member for Sutherlandshire (Mr. A. C. Morton) raised the question of medical benefit. I should like to have some in- 98 formation upon that, especially with regard to the Scottish position. Nobody can complain if one is unable to take in at a glance a newspaper column of Amendments. The Amendment appears to me to make no change in the Scottish position whatsoever, except to provide that there shall be Scottish Commissioners and a Scottish fund. It does not do what the Irish Clause does, namely, make any change in regard to rates. The hon. Member for Sutherlandshire has just stated that they have in Scotland a system of benefit for the purposes of Poor Law. I want to know whether, if what we are getting for Ireland is of advantage to Ireland, why the Scotch are not getting the same thing.
I must say this to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that every time he has got up he has thrown new light upon the matter, and he has clearly shown that neither he nor his actuarial advisers have their minds absolutely made up as to the position. If it was right when the Bill was originally introduced to base the scheme as a scheme for the three kingdoms, how is it actuarialy sound if you can suddenly crack it into three parts? That is a question on which we are entitled to some information. Lastly, I should like to say I regret that this kind of legislation, on so abstruse and difficult a subject, should practically involve the withdrawal of the Committee stage in the House of Commons. It is really idle to say that those whose intelligences are not of the most nimble description can take in difficult and complex questions such as these in the course of an afternoon. It is not merely that you are working under Closure conditions, which in itself is a very great embarrassment, but you are dealing with questions of finance which will involve every Scottish employer, English employer and Irish employer in licking stamps every Saturday night to put on the cards and in taxes upon themselves. It is not right suddenly to come down and say to us, "I brought in my Bill last March or April and suddenly on a Monday afternoon I changed my whole plan, and Scotland having had an opportunity of considering a particular plan during the whole spring, summer and autumn, in the winter I will give the House of Commons, under Closure conditions and for the first time, without the opportunity of considering it or of consulting their constituents, a new plan."
We all get, at any rate I do, every week or two proposals from an insurance 99 company to show the great advantage of insuring your life, house, bicycle, safe or motor-car, and the great advantage that particular company gives over others. How long does it take to understand one of these advertisements. You will not understand it in the course of two or three hours, and yet the modern system of legislation is to be conducted on this plan, that, whereas your ancestors, who fashioned your liberties and protected them, who provided for First Readings, Second Readings, Committee stage, Report stage and Third Readings, you are, in regard to this difficult question of insurance, and of the liabilities of the three Kingdoms inter se, going to take the advice of a finance Minister, thrown down in the course of a single afternoon. This question gives rise to very important questions of personnel. The reason I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when we should get the names of the Commissioners, was that when you had it as a scheme for the United Kingdom, ordinarily one would suppose that the insurance questions did not give rise to any political considerations. We know from the way the Old Age Pensions Act has been worked that politics are continually introduced. So it will be in regard to this insurance. Scotchmen are the princes of insurance managers, and I do not suggest that they will not be able to manage their own insurance affairs. As to personnel I am satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman has been thinking of his Insurance Commissioners for six months, at any rate for a considerable time, and he knows that in regard to the difficulties, the anxiety, and the prudence, he has to draw upon in the great civil service an enormous body of talent. Take the case when you have divided this into Scotland and Ireland, have you the same material to draw upon? I answer, I do not know. All I do know is that the right hon. Gentleman between Thursday and Saturday has altered the whole of his Bill as regards Scotland, and I think it is not unjust to infer from that that he has not brought to the Scottish question, and inferentially to the Irish question, the same attention, care, anxiety, and experience which undoubtedly he will have to apply in the case of England.
I therefore ask for information; I think we are not unjust in asking for it, because it concerns our own affairs when we come to deal with them, and it is not unjust to Ireland. I ask whether the actuarial effect has been altered. The pivot has 100 been shifted by what is now being done. Why is Scotland, if she already has medical benefit, bound by no terms similar to the Irish terms, and what are to be the names of the Scottish Commissioners who are to work this part of the Bill? If we cannot have the names now, when are we to have them, and shall we before the Bill leaves the House have at some stage as regards England, Ireland, and Scotland, an opportunity of discussing personnel in regard to a matter which will affect the poor and the very poorest. When matters of this kind are so much canvassed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is not unjust to ask questions of this kind.
§ Mr. WILKIE
As one of the supporters of the principle of this Bill when it was introduced I have sat through the long discussions without saying very much on many of the points, in regard to which, with all respect to other Members, we who are already working the two departments every day of our lives, and on which we should be able to give the Committee practical and not merely theoretical views. I confess it is almost impossible to follow the chameleon changes in the Bill. We are doing in our trade organisations what the Government propose to do in their insurance scheme. We are discussing two distinct points in these Amendments. Unfortunately, I only saw them to-day. One is the question of a Commission in Edinburgh to administer the Bill, with which I entirely agree; and the other is to initiate a separate fund entirely for Scotland, which I think will be the greatest disaster Scotland has ever had. I challenge my Friends here to go with me and find out whether they can get the organised workers in Scotland to agree with that proposal. In the case of the friendly societies the same difficulty does not arise. I am speaking as a Scottish Member and also as one who, with one exception in the House, has been the longest trade union secretary in the country. When we say that it may not affect the friendly societies in the same way, it is because their lodges are self-contained. But our association fund, so far as England, Scotland, and Ireland are concerned, is one. We pay the same contribution and we receive the same benefit wherever we go. We have district committees in all important centres. We think there ought to be in Edinburgh a separate office for Scotland, but a separate fund will be a tremendous I blunder, and I hope that blot will not be 101 put upon the Bill. I will earnestly ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reconsider the matter.
Take an actual case; take, for instance, four organisations, the Amalgamated Engineers, the Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners, the Boilermakers and Iron Shipbuilders, our own association, the Ship Constructive and Shipwrights, and many others, all with members in the United Kingdom. The thing would be perfectly unworkable. We are having men leave the Clyde and coming to the Tyne every day of our lives, and vice versa, and from the Tyne to the Mersey in the same way, and when they come they simply take their card; they pay the same contribution and get the same benefit, go where they may. If you set up this separate fund you will have complications and adjustments of value. When I left Scotland and came to England I had difficulty with my friendly society, but we have no difficulty in so far as the trade unions are concerned. I never knew any large body of people or organisation who asked for health insurance, but the organised workers have time after time asked for assistance when they were spending, instead of 3 per cent., 75 per cent., and 90 per cent, of their funds on unemployed benefits. When we were keeping labour efficient for the use of our employers and the public, which is the employer of the employer, we contended that so far as unemployment benefit was concerned, if we had to keep our members efficient for the work they had to do, the employers and the public as well ought to assist us. That is endeavoured to be met in Part II. of the Act. If hon. Members support this separate fund it will not be many years before they will rue it, because they will find that the fund will not be in such a healthy position in Scotland as if it were a universal fund. I desire to see the Bill become an Act because I believe that with all its defects it is a beginning oh the lines of looking to the underfed and ill-paid. I know this feeling for Scotch Home Rule. I have more than once said in the House that we from Scotland do not get the consideration we are entitled to, notwithstanding that we are represented in the Government, on the Opposition Bench, and in the Labour party.
§ Mr. WILKIE
You can always command it. Unfortunately we cannot. I advise 102 my fellow Scottish Members to grasp the substance and not the shadow. We are going to get the shadow of Home Rule in this matter, and we shall lose the substance. I hope this matter will be seriously considered, because I am afraid if it is carried it will be to the great disadvantage of the Scottish workman.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer must begin to be sorry, to use a horticultural metaphor, that he ever tried to bed out the thistles. The process must be a little painful to his feelings and to those of his colleagues. The only reason I have heard him advance was that it was the wish of the majority of the Scottish Members. I think the House is entitled to hear a little more about this. I am informed that these Resolutions were put forward at a meeting at which not only not a majority of the Scottish Members were present, but not even a majority of the Scottish Liberal Members were present. If I am right it seems to me that the ground on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer rested his chief argument is not firm, and really if his Bill is to be based at all, as it, ought to be, on public opinion in Scotland, no effective opportunity has yet been given for public opinion in Scotland to express itself with regard to these new proposals. They appeared on the Paper late on Friday, and they were modified again on Monday morning, and I am surprised to hear the hon. Member (Mr. Morton), who is always saying that Scottish opinion is not treated with deference, suggest that these Amendments represent the considered opinion of Scotland. I do not believe they do. The hon. Gentleman really wishes separate treatment for the crofter population, involving, I had almost said, a separate scheme for that part of Scotland.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I agree. You require separate treatment for the crofter population, but that is a separate scheme, and it is not this Amendment. This Amendment comprises two heads—a separate Commission and a separate fund. As regards the separate Commission, sentimental reasons apart, I do not think it makes very much difference to the administration whether you call your Commissioners in Edinburgh head Commissioners of a separate Commission, or Sub-Commissioners of a central Commission. So far as that is concerned, I should be 103 perfectly prepared to see separate Commissioners in Scotland. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take into consideration what the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. T. M. Healy) has said. We ought to know, and we have a right to know at the earliest stage possible, the names of these Commissioners. I think the same case exists with regard to the names of the English and Irish Commissioners. We never had a chance, of course, of asking for the names of the English Commissioners, because we never got a discussion on Clause 41. Now the Parliament Act is in force and this House is the only controlling authority in financial matters and, before the administration of a great financial trust is entrusted to the hands of any body of men, this House ought to know the names of the men to whom that trust is to be committed. I think that is a sound doctrine. I know it is a constitutional doctrine. There is no greater financial authority from the constitutional point of view than Mr. Gladstone, and not once, but repeatedly, he gave his authority for this proposal. When the Irish Land Bill of 1881 was passing through this House the same point was raised. A body of Commisisoners was being set up entrusted with very wide powers, though not as wide as those, and with the administration of a large sum of money, not spread over a series of years such a large sum as this. He was asked by Lord Randolph Churchill to give the names of the Commissioners before the Bill left the control of the House. Not only did he comply, but he said he thought it was a very proper request, and he actually postponed the Clause which was under consideration in order that the names might be supplied. What is more, not only did he give the names, but they were put in the Bill. I have the words of Clause 41 of the Land Act of 1881. The Commission is to consist of three Commissioners, a judicial Commissioner, and two other Commissioners.The first judicial Commissioner shall be Mr. Sargent, O'Hagan. … The first Commissioners, other than the judicial Commissioner, shall be Mr. Edward Falconer Litton and Mr. John E. Vernon.With that precedent and with the precedent of every other great Commission which has gone before it, we are entitled, and we ought to know before the Bill passes from the control of the House who are to be the Commissioners. So far as the Commission is concerned, I do not think the question of a separate Commission, in name or in fact, is a matter of primary 104 importance. I agree with what has been said by almost everyone who spoke from that side that the separation of the fund is an important and a very serious matter. The right hon. Gentleman said he has consulted public opinion in Scotland—I suppose the friendly societies. Has he consulted trade unionist opinion in Scotland, and does trade unionist opinion in Scotland assent to what he has to say? I receive considerable representations from a part of industrial Scotland, with which I was once more intimately connected than I am now, and the information I have does not go to show that the Chancellor's view is right.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I was not referring to any particular constituency, but to the West of Scotland generally. I do not think any trade union has discussed the question, and that is all the more reason why no action should be taken until they have had an opportunity. The only articulate voices which we have heard in this House in regard to trade unionists' opinion have come from the hon. Members (Mr. Hodge, Mr. Wilkie, and Mr. Barnes), and all three, without exception, have condemned the proposal which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has brought forward. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire says there is no possible difference involved in a separate fund. There is a difference at both ends of the scale. In the other case you have a fund where your risk is spread over a much smaller area. At the other end of the scale you have the fact that the conditions in Scotland vary very greatly from the conditions in many parts of England, and owing to the very fact that you have great districts with a sparse population your administration costs in Scotland per head of the population will be much higher than they are in the Southern portions of Great Britain. At both ends of the scale we stand to be hit. Of course, I quite recognise, and though I do not always sympathise I admit, the strong claims and the strong feelings of some hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to nationality. There is no man in this Committee who feels more strongly in regard to nationality than I do myself. I quite recognise the desire of hon. Members for the preservation of their own nationality, and I understand why they are anxious to support an Amendment of this kind. What- 105 ever may be their opinion in regard to nationality, and whatever the sentimental value they attach to that, I believe that if they accept this Amendment to set up a separate fund for Scotland, they will render that country no service but the greatest disservice possible.
Sir HENRY DALZIEL
I have listened to the Debate this afternoon, and so far as I have been able to analyse it, it seems to turn on two general points. The first is that the Scottish Members and Scottish people ought to have had more time to consider the proposal of the Government. I am bound to say that that is a just complaint with which I entirely associate myself. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Central Division of Glasgow (Mr. Scott Dickson), that it shows how badly Scotland is treated in this House. I think he made an excellent Home Rule speech, because I was fully convinced, after his very able protest, that there was no other direction in which to look for the proper consideration of Scottish interests and affairs than to Scotland itself. I ask the question, who is responsible for the fact that it was only on Friday morning that the Scottish Members were asked to consider the Amendment? I do not think the blame lies with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am not concerned with the Scottish Office. I think the blame must rest on the Scottish Members themselves, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken up a perfectly legitimate position on this point. He brought forward this Bill as a great non-party measure, and he invited all sections in the House to help him in moulding it into an acceptable measure. Some Scottish Members went to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and said, speaking on behalf of the vast majority of Scottish Members, "We ask you, from a representative point of view, to give us this concession. We ask you to give us the right to have a Scottish Commission." What else could the Chancellor of the Exchequer do? He was bound, as a democrat, claiming to be anxious to conciliate the different interests, to say at once, "If you can demonstrate to me that you represent a vast majority of the Scottish Members, and that you represent on the whole Scottish interests, I will in the pursuance of my general policy do my best to meet you." Therefore, I say the fault must rest with the Scottish Members. This position should have been taken up, not three or four days ago, but three or four months ago.
106 I am not blaming any particular individual in regard to that, but I do say the fault that this question has not been before the country longer is that of the Scottish Members. I am bound to admit that the situation as it has been presented to us in regard to Ireland has a bearing on the question. The hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy) has referred to the position of Scotland in this matter. The fact that the Government have intimated their intention to give separate Commissioners for Ireland must have an important bearing on the position of Scotland. You cannot shut your eyes to the fact that it would have been difficult for the Scottish Members to have said, "When we are claiming Scottish control over Scottish affairs, and when the Irish are doing the same for Ireland, the Irish are going to have control over insurance matters, and we are not to have it." I say this proposal is perfectly sound and can be defended. I maintain that the position of any man who calls himself a Home Ruler and pretends that he cannot vote for this proposal is entirely indefensible and difficult to understand. The control of the affairs under this great national insurance scheme is a matter that hits home to every workman throughout the land. I say first of all that Scotsmen can manage this scheme with greater success than it could be made if the work were carried out from a centralised office in London. I say you will get better men to administer the fund in Scotland. Is it not a fact that the most successful insurance offices to-day are run by Scotsmen? Is it not a fact that nearly every manager of your English offices is a Scotsman? It is the same with your banks and other businesses. It is the same with your Government. I think the Church is the only thing in which you have not Scotsmen.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I know that the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley has a more personal knowledge of the Church than I have, and I accept his correction on that point. But speaking of insurance companies and banks, I say that Scotsmen have shown themselves at any rate equal to Englishmen, and therefore we say with regard to this small matter in the general government of Scotland, surely the carrying out of this particular proposal can be done with greater success in Scotland than if it were carried out by a Commission in 107 London. There are one or two other important considerations. Why I support the proposal is this: The office and the Commissioners will be more amenable to public opinion in Scotland. There can be no doubt of the fact that with the Commission in London, any of our constituents, whether they belong to the working classes, to labour organisations, or to insurance societies, would not be able to make their protest so effectively on any branch of administration as they would otherwise be able to do if they have an office in Edinburgh to which they could go as deputations to have interviews with the special Commissioners, and in that way bring their own local opinion to bear in a manner that must be felt. That would not have been possible under the original proposal in the Bill. Under the proposal in the Bill, what chance would the crofter interest have on this question of the Commission? I say it is absolutely clear that with special Commissioners for Scotland the particular claims of the crofters will be far more sympathetically dealt with than they possibly could be with Commissioners in England. There is this further consideration. There is plenty of work in Scotland for the Commissioners. Although I only saw the amended Clause this morning for the first time, I think it is a very wise proposal, which ought to be supported.
We have had some criticisms on the effect it is going to have on the scheme. It has been said: "If you carry this out Scotsmen will not be as well off as under the proposal in the original scheme." That has not been demonstrated in the Debate. I have listened to every speech, and I defy any hon. Member to quote a single case in which an insured person is going to be worse off under the proposal now made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer than he would have been in under the original scheme. It is not so. Will anyone tell me, when he talks about comparisons and averages, how Scotland is to be worse off? First of all, the question of averages does not arise. It is a general rule that the greater the average the better the security. But Scotland is quite a large enough entity to give a large enough average. I maintain, in regard to the whole argument put forward for Scotland, that a case has been made out for the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Is it possible that in the case of any English society, say the Manchester Unity—I take a society with only English 108 branches—a crofter in the North of Scotland is going to have any interest in their surplus? I put that question when you talk about the strength of the fund. He will have none whatever. The whole advantage of the scheme is that it deals with different individuals and societies. Therefore it is drawing a red herring across the path to say that this is going to have a material effect in regard to the fund. My opinion is that it will tend to secure the success of the scheme, and I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will adhere to his proposal.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
May I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is going to put down a precisely similar Amendment dealing with Wales?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think I can relieve the mind of the hon. Member by stating that it would not be in order to ask that question.
§ Mr. EUGENE WASON
My hon. Friend the Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir H. Dalziel) began by absolving the Chancellor of the Exchequer from all blame, and he also absolved the Scottish Office from blame. He said that if any blame was to be attached it was to those Liberal Members who met last Thursday and approached the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make the concession he has now put on the Paper.
§ Mr. EUGENE WASON
I am very glad that I am in the same boat as my hon. Friend. Those present at the meeting over which I presided are very willing to take the blame. We are very glad to have the hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs associated with us. Although he was not present at that meeting, we are glad that he approved of what we did. We found the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as I have invariably found him in connection with this National Insurance Bill, willing to listen to anything brought forward in the interest of any individual. I introduced the deputation with reference to the Scottish agricultural labourers, and he received us very sympathetically. I have no doubt that he is going to make some discrimination in regard to them. I cannot see, if we have these Commissioners for Scotland, how it will not be for the benefit of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Central Division of 109 Glasgow (Mr. Scott Dickson) talked about our being "worms" if we agreed to this proposal. I do not think that remark applies to all the Scottish Liberal Members. My hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Pirie), for example, takes every opportunity of saying that unless he has his own way in every particular he is going to vote against the Government. So far as this proposal is concerned, I am satisfied that it commends itself to the vast majority of Scottish Liberal Members. I believe when it is understood, as it will be, in Scotland it will receive the unanimous approval of the Scottish people.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
May I ask the right hon. Member who has just spoken how many members attended that meeting?
§ Mr. EUGENE WASON
I am not going to debate the question, but there were twenty-four members present.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
The Chancellor of the Exchequer based his case on the assumption that a majority of the Scottish Members had asked for this, and now we hear that there were only twenty-four.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I desire to associate myself with the protest at having to discuss this matter at such very short notice. Having to deal with this subject in a very limited time, it was inevitable that we Scottish Members should base our decision on a matter of vital importance to Scotland without having had ample time to consider it. We are not here to register a decision come to after mature consideration. We come here to take what we can get under the terror of the guillotine. The Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon has presented two very different views on this Amendment. He indicated that he would himself prefer the terms of the Bill, but in a subsequent speech he rather became an advocate of this scheme. I am very glad that it was so. He said that we have really nothing to fear and that there were only three difficulties. One was that the administration of the Commissioners might not be quite so good, and—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
It does not really depend so much on the administration of the Commissioners as on the 110 administration of the society. It was merely a matter of whether the societies in Scotland were badly administered. That was the point.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
There was also a further question of the societies. Since the Chancellor spoke it was mentioned that three of the larger societies, the Manchester Unity, the Foresters and the Shepherds, were desirous of accepting the new situation. I may point out that the responsibility for the delay does not altogether rest on Scotland. The reason why we could not accept the Bill as it was was this. It was admitted at a very early stage that the Bill does not deal with the special difficulties and circumstances of Scotland. I myself, by question in this House, put it to the Lord Advocate whether the Scottish Office was taking a practical view of the situation and was preparing Amendments to deal with it. The Lord Advocate informed me before the House rose in August that that was so. I took an early opportunity recently of again asking the Lord Advocate when we were likely to see those Amendments, because, naturally, we desired to ascertain whether we could accept the adaptations which the Government might make. We have never had those until Saturday morning. I think it is hardly fair or accurate to blame Scottish Members for the position in which we find ourselves to-day. It was really inevitable.
No man will say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not done almost more than any human being could do to meet the representations with regard to every difficulty and every situation that were brought before him, and, therefore, it was inevitable that this had to be deferred to a later time. In regard to the proposal itself we could not accept the Bill because it did not adapt its conditions to the conditions of Scotland. While we entirely accept the separate Commission and the separate fund as most desirable things, still we have not got all we want because the Commission have no power to adapt this Bill for Scotland, and have got to administer it exactly as it is for England. So far as the Amendments on the Paper are concerned there is nothing in them to adapt the Bill to Scotland. The hon. Member for Sutherlandshire (Mr. Morton) has suggested that the crofters shall be dealt with specially by the Commissioners. There is no power whatever to deal with crofters differently from men in London. I would urge on the Government that they 111 should meet this position. We should have some indication of what view they take. Then, in reference to the interests of the agricultural labourers in Scotland, I do not see how, as the Bill stands, any consideration is going to be given to their special needs. Therefore I would urge on the Government to indicate how the difficulties of the crofters and the agricultural labourers are going to be met.
§ Mr. AINSWORTH
As representative of a large county in which crofters and fishermen are the principal members of the community, I desire to say that I trust special consideration will be given to their interests. I was extremely pleased to hear the sympathetic way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of this subject. As he said, in the crofting districts you have a widespread, mountainous area with a scattered population, whose means of livelihood are necessarily extremely limited. It is, therefore, necessary that their conditions of life should be taken into consideration. In these poor portions of Scotland—and this is a point to which I would like to call particular attention—money payments and money receipts mean a very different thing from what they mean in other places. It is a great hardship for a small man, a crofter, or a fisherman, to whom every penny is of importance, who very rarely sees money at all, but lives on the produce of his land, of his boat, to have to pay even a small sum. On the other hand, a sum like 5s. a week, which might seem small in some parts of the country, is a small fortune to Highlanders. Therefore, it might be well if the premiums and benefits were readjusted on some scale more in proportion to the position of the people.
The Lord Advocate is in full possession of all these facts, and I am perfectly willing, as a Scottish Member, to leave the Chancellor in the hands of the Lord Advocate. I sincerely trust that he will bring his knowledge and his powers of argument to bear on the Chancellor, so that the right hon. Gentleman may find some way of dealing with this extremely difficult problem. The conditions in Scotland are so totally different from those in England that it is absolutely reasonable to have separate Commissioners and a separate fund for Scotland. With regard to what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Cork said with regard to the conditions in Ireland, both Scotland 112 and Ireland are extremely poor as compared with England, and therefore it is perfectly reasonable that they should be treated differently in the carrying out of the Act. A great deal has been said about the delay on the part of Scottish Members in bringing this matter under the notice of the Government. I have not the slightest hesitation in assuring my hon. and learned Friend that we were waiting to see what we were doing for Ireland, where the conditions are so similar. I trust that hon. Members opposite will support us in getting this separate treatment for Scotland. I would like to see a Scottish Member going down to his constituents and saying he was against a separate Board of Commissioners and a separate fund for Scotland. I hope we shall get this proposal through with Amendments as soon as possible.
§ Mr. FALCONER
I have a few observations to make upon this question: In the first place, with regard to the fact that there is a limit of time for the discussion of these proposals, and the suggestion of responsibility, I have listened very carefully, and I think I have known all that was taking place in the meeting referred to and in the communications with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The fact was that until we had a reason to believe that the Chancellor was prepared to consider a scheme of separate Commissioners, to break up what has been called the United Kingdom idea, it would have been impracticable to put before him any Amendment, and it would not have been a private Member's business. It would have been a waste of time to put forward such an Amendment. That was the reason why, although some of us would have liked to see a separate Scottish scheme, we were not able to put it forward before, and did not press it when the right hon. Gentleman was so much occupied with other matters and with questions of general principle. But when we found that he was considering the question then we thought it was our duty to apply our minds to it at the earliest possible moment. It has been under consideration for some little time among the Scottish Members who sit on this side of the House, and I think very properly so. We have considered it not at one but at two meetings; we had a good deal of discussion upon it, and we came to the conclusion that it would be better for Scotland to have a separate Commission and a separate fund. We also came to the conclusion that it 113 would be most desirable that those Commissioners should have power to adapt this measure as far as possible to the special needs of the districts throughout Scotland. To that view I entirely subscribe. I have listened from beginning to end to this most wasteful Debate—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."]—wasteful in this sense—I am not reflecting on anybody—that we have not really been considering the Amendment that has been put down in order to make it effective for the purposes of the Bill. In regard to my preferring separate Commissioners and a separate fund, my main reason is that, I believe, it is only by having a body whose whole responsibility and sole duty will be to administer the Act in a way to meet the special need in the different districts of Scotland that you can succeed. You will best attain that object by having a separate Commission, who will have before them a quite big enough task. You could not get from the Commissioners in London the same attention for the questions which will come up in regard to health committees and other matters under this measure, that you will obtain by having separate Commissioners for the consideration of the Scottish part of the business that will arise.
My other reason is this: I support this measure as an instrument for improving the health conditions of Scotland, and there are many ways in which this Bill can be utilised in order to have a beneficial influence on that country. I should like the Commissioners to consider figures bearing on various Scottish questions, and I certainly think that a great deal of good can be effected in regard to the health of Scotland by having this plan carried out. With regard to the fund, my view is that as far as the friendly societies are concerned, it does not materially affect them, and that it is a matter of mere book-keeping, which they carry out at the present time. I am surprised to hear of the strong opposition from the Labour Benches, from the point of view of trade unions. I should be most unwilling that anything in this measure should interfere with the smooth working of the benefits of the trade unions. I venture to suggest that this is another case in which it would be simply a question of having business arrangements so fixed as to carry out, as at present, the whole system of trade union benefits without their being seriously interfered with.
The separate fund for Scotland is capable of being worked, to my mind, without 114 material interference with arrangements made between the trade unions and the Insurance Commissioners in London. It is merely a matter of book-keeping. That could be done in the office of the Insurance Commissioners in such a way as not to add materially to the burden upon trade unions. I do not know the practical working of trade unions, but to the best of my judgment I think they would derive advantage from carrying out a separate scheme for Scotland. I have no blame to cast upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Scottish Office or anybody. I believe that when this matter was first brought before the Scottish Office and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, both of them applied themselves as diligently as they could to dealing with this question of Scotland, in the short time at their disposal. So far they have endeavoured to carry out what they understood, and I understood, was the practically unanimous opinion of Members on this side of the House representing Scotland, I think they are entitled to our most grateful thanks.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I interpose only a moment as an English Member, and if I look at the matter merely from the point of view of an English Member I say at once that this Amendment does not really affect us very much so far, but it does affect us so far as it increases the cost which is going to fall upon the taxpayers. So far, and so far only, I think, will this make any difference to the Englishman. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, nor with the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, that we can regard its effect upon the Scottish section of the insured community with an equable mind. All the calculations upon the financial scheme as originally proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer were based upon actuarial investigation, and I want to know, and I think all Scottish Members before they vote on this proposal would want to know, what were the actuarial calculations as to this proposed division of the funds—what would be the effect from the actuarial point of view of the division of the insurance fund. The hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. Falconer) spoke with a considerable amount of assurance as to the effect upon Scotland that the creation of a separate fund for that country would have. The hon. Member faces the matter with equanimity, and has no fear, but I confess that I have endeavoured, as far as I could, to follow the Bill with some attention. I am absolutely unable to say whether the 115 effect of dividing the fund is going to benefit, is going to prejudice, or is going to protect the Scottish contributor. I have got no material on which to form objection. If that is so, in the case of one who has followed the fortunes of the Bill very closely it cannot be otherwise with the great majority of Scottish Members, who, if I may say so without offence, have not contributed very largely to the Debate in the earlier stages of the Bill. Great complaint has been made by various Members of the House of the short notice which they have received, and of the impossibility of coming to a thoughtful conclusion on the matter in so short a space of time. I cannot help feeling glad that some Members, other than those who have taken a large part in the discussion of this Bill have some experience of the extraordinary difficulty of dealing with important and difficult questions without adequate notice. This is one instance out of many of important subjects being flung upon the Table of the House on the shortest possible notice. I daresay that as long as the Bill remains under discussion we shall have other instances. I think it is not at all a bad thing that the Scottish Members, on whose support the Government so largely rely, have themselves experienced this difficulty of dealing with a very complicated problem on short notice.
§ Mr. URE
I have risen to reply to the complaints which have been made by hon. Members. Sometimes there has been something to be said for the complaints made, but I have usually been able, from my point of view, to give a good enough answer. On the present occasion, however, the complaints which have been made are wholly without justification. As the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy pointed out, six months have elapsed since this measure was introduced, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the beginning invited Members in all parts of the House to try and aid the Government in moulding this measure into a useful Act of Parliament. It was not until a recent date, so far as I am aware, that Scottish Members availed themselves of the opportunity which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave them of helping to mould this measure into such a shape as would meet the needs and desires of Scotland.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. URE
I am not quite sure whether my hon. Friend responded to the invitation to Members to give aid in moulding this measure. During the whole of that period, and for long before, this measure has been receiving the earnest attention of the Members of the Local Government Board in Scotland, but, as Scottish Members know, it is one of the inevitable disadvantages, in the case of a measure applying to the whole of the United Kingdom, that it is impossible to adjust the Amendment of a Scottish Clause applying the measure to Scotland, or an Irish Clause applying the measure to Ireland, until you see pretty well the shape which the Bill is going ultimately to assume. During all that period we have been keeping a close watch on the labours of this Committee, which has certainly done a great deal—and no one will more readily admit that than the Chancellor of the Exchequer—to improve the Bill. I am not here for one moment to say, if the needs of Scotland are kept specially in view, that they would not have been met by the Bill in its present form. We have made changes in respect of the powers of the Commissioners, and those powers are by no means so rigid as they were at first, and I am not in the least degree satisfied that the Insurance Commissioners at the present moment have not sufficient powers given them to enable them to adapt this measure to the needs of Scotland. The real difficulty in Scotland, as we all know, are the waste lands and the sparsely peopled parts of the country, where the population is separated into small groups, often on a distant island, with long stretches between each group, and without adequate means of communication. The administration in such circumstances is exceedingly costly and exceedingly difficult, and what you have to secure for Scotland is that such large powers should be given to the Commissioners that in administration they will be enabled to adapt this measure to the special needs of different parts of the country. I have watched those developments going on in the labours of the Committee, and personally I stand now at the end of this Debate exactly where I stood at the beginning. I believe in separate Commissioners for Scotland, because I desire that proper attention should be given to my country. I do not doubt the powers 117 of the Commissioners if I thought I was able to secure that those powers would be applied instantly when I wanted them to be applied. But I can see quite clearly that these Commissioners will be over-loaded, and that there will be great congestion, and that the needs of my country might be brushed aside and allowed to fall away until a more convenient season came, and we all know it very seldom does come. It is possible to exaggerate the importance of the change proposed in the Amendments to which I am now speaking. In my judgment it involves no question of principle whatever. It is purely a question of administration, and I do not gather from the Debate that more than perhaps two or three hon. Members are hostile to the constitution of separate Commissioners for Scotland. It would seem to be an advantage to secure the assistance of men who, as the hon. Member for Cork acknowledged, were singularly capable in the administration of insurance business to manage Scottish affairs.
§ Mr. URE
I saw as a business man that it was absolutely essential that we should have a central office in Edinburgh, and it is obvious that you must have highly placed and responsible officials there. Is it not quite clear that those highly placed responsible men must be paid adequate salaries. What then is the difference between Insurance Commissioners and highly paid responsible officials in charge of the central office. It is only so far as I can see, that if I went to the highly paid official he could give me no answer until he referred the matter to the Insurance Commissioners. Whereas, when I go to him as an Insurance Commissioner he will deal with the matter there and then promptly, and so the interests of my country will be attended to as I desire they should be. That is the justification for the Commissioners, and I really think when the Committee look at the proposal that they can find no fault with the constitution of separate Commissioners. You will not get rapid and efficient attention unless you have independent Commissioners for Scotland. The matter of salary is a bagatelle, it will be the difference between the highly paid official and the Insurance Commissioners, and can only be a bagatelle to which it would be quite unworthy of this Committee to give any serious attention.
118 If there is to be constituted separate Commissioners, can any hon. Member say on what ground we could deprive Scotland of having a separate fund. Would you really set up separate Commissioners unless you had a separate fund? I have been looking through the Clauses 14 and 16 and 18 and 20 and for the life of me I cannot see what would be the object of separate Commissioners unless there was a separate fund, and I should be dead against the setting up of separate Commissioners unless there was a separate fund. What are the objections urged against a separate fund. I heard several hon. Members actually suggest that if you had a separate fund for Scotland, and if you severed its fortunes from the fortunes of the sister country, that the fund might probably, or possibly, shall we say, be insolvent. The Member for West Aberdeenshire blew that suggestion sky high. Each man who is insured draws upon the approved society of which he is a member. If he is an employed contributor he goes to the society, and in the same way, if he is a voluntary contributor, and if he chances to be one of the outcasts, the deposit contributors, he goes to the Post Office. He does not go to the Scottish fund, and no Englishman goes to the English fund. He goes to the approved societies of which he is a member. Accordingly, to speak of a separate insurance fund, unless you understand what is meant by it, is wholly beside the question. This separate fund is, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer put it, only a matter of book-keeping, but essential book-keeping, if you are going to have separate Commissioners set up. The hon. Member for Ayr Burghs says that the fund might be asked to bear the cost of the Highlands and the difficulty of administration.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I did not say the Commissioners, I said the cost of administration would be likely to be increased by the large expenses where the doctors had to go such long distances.
§ Mr. URE
It appears to me, or at least I hope so, that there will be a cheaper and more frugal administration if you have Insurance Commissioners at Edinburgh, and that that would really materially affect the administrative difficulty in the Western Highlands. Therefore, when you realise that there is no common pool from which the insured draw, and that every insured person draws from his own approved society, you will see at once that 119 the suggestion as to Scotland suffering from having a separate Insurance fund is wholly meaningless.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
Would the right hon. Gentleman deal with the case of a society common to the two countries?
§ Mr. URE
I was going to deal with the case of the trade unions, because the friendly societies have all separate branches. So far as I can judge, and really I am not speaking with great authority here, the proviso in Clause 18, along with the new Clause dealing with the small societies, amounts to this. I admit there is a case, it is not a great case, but I admit there is a case made out by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) as to trade unions. There is no doubt if you have a branch trade union in Scotland, with the head office in England, that that branch will require to group if it has not sufficient members and is not able to comply with the conditions of the Bill. That is an inconvenience, but it is not so serious by any means as the hon. Member seems to think. What the Committee has to consider is, are we to give up our separate Commissioners and separate administration for Scotland and separate fund because some of the trade unionists—a few, not all—are put to some slight inconvenience and require to bring a particular branch to a certain number or to group it with others in the same district? The hon. Member for Cork also asked a question, but I think he knows there is in Ireland some dispensary arrangement which, unfortunately, we have not got. We have great and almost insuperable difficulties to contend with in the West of Scotland. I am very hopeful, and here I am not speaking for my right hon. Friend, that when the Bill comes into operation, and when we see the effect of the scheme, we shall be able to induce my right hon. Friend to give a little help.
§ Mr. URE
I would fain hope that some of my fellow countrymen would be able to emulate the example of the hon. Member's fellow countrymen in Ireland in that regard. Until that is done we must do our best. We are placing large powers in the hands of the Insurance Commissioners to adopt exceptional means as to that part of the country.
§ Mr. MORTON
Will the Insurance Commissioners for Scotland have power to deal with that question of medical relief?
§ Mr. URE
Yes they have, I think. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where?"] The hon. Member will find it in the Amendments proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Clause 58—page 47, line 15. I am not leading the Committee for a single moment to suppose that powers will be given to the Insurance Commissioners in Scotland, any more than in England, to vary the contribution. That is a different matter from dealing with the benefits under the Bill—additional benefits or otherwise.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any assurance that we will have the names of the Commissioners?
§ Mr. URE
Do not let us exaggerate the importance of this Amendment. Anybody dropping into this House this afternoon might suppose that we had taken a high flight, and that what we were doing was affecting the very foundations of the Empire. This is nothing more or less than how can we, in the most cheap, most expeditious, and most businesslike fashion administer this Insurance Bill in Scotland? I submit that the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer if added to the Bill will really give a cheap, prompt, and efficient administration.
§ Mr. BARNES
I want to know, will these scores of national societies set up in Scotland have to bear their own separate burdens of sickness? It seems to me that that 121 is the kernel of the whole business, and the Lord Advocate avoided the whole thing.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Some Amendments to the proposed Amendment have been handed in. I do not know whether the Committee would be prepared now to proceed to them. We have had a very full general discussion.
§ Mr. CATHCART WASON
I will not detain the Committee more than a minute. The question of separate Insurance Commissioners for Scotland has been very much over-discussed. I do not think it is a matter of very great importance, but I would most emphatically enter my protest against the idea that an office in London would not adequately meet all the necessary requirements of the Bill. I know from personal experience that whenever one goes to an office here in regard to a Scotch matter the business is very care fully considered. What I want to direct the Lord Advocate's attention to most particularly is the case of the Highlands and islands. Ever since the Bill was first introduced, it has been fully recognised that the scheme did not, and could not, apply as it stood to the Highlands and islands. The people there would not come under the provisions of the Bill except as deposit contributors. Reference has been made to Sub-section (6) of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's subsequent Amendment with regard to the variations—
§ Mr. PIRIE
I wish to give my reasons for supporting hon. Members opposite if they go to a Division. The speech of the Lord Advocate was more in the nature of an answer to the first speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has really made two distinct speeches. In the first he stated that he was absolutely opposed, in his own personal view, to the new scheme for Scotland; the second speech was of a more neutral description. The Lord Advocate has answered the first speech, showing that the Government 122 themselves scarcely knew their mind at the beginning of the debate. A new theory has been put forward by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel), namely, that it is the duty of Scottish Members to frame measures for the Scottish Office. If this scheme had been produced to an Assembly of the whole of the Scottish Members, Liberal, Conservative, and Labour alike, I should have had nothing to say against it, but I object to the opinion of a hole-and-corner assembly of Scottish Liberal Members—twenty-four one day and only twelve another—being put forward as the opinion of the Scottish Members. I am not voting against the measure on account of my objection to the scheme as a scheme. As a Scottish Home Ruler I rather favour it. But when the only two Labour Members from Scotland, men who know working-class requirements on the point, throw the greatest doubt on the efficiency of the scheme, Members ought to have some hesitation in the matter. My reason for voting against the proposal is that the Scottish people have not had a fair chance of judging it. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy says that it is the duty of Scottish Members to frame schemes for the Scottish Office. I do not think the Scottish Office has given much encouragement to Scottish Members to assist it. I remember, not very long ago, when fifty-two or fifty-five Scottish Members sent a memorial to the Scottish Secretary, asking for the Scottish Education Department to be moved from London to Edinburgh, and the memorial was flouted in our faces. That was all the courtesy we got. But I come back to the question which I put to the Lord Advocate. He was asked a fortnight ago by me, and three weeks ago by the hon. Member for Dumfries—
§ The CHAIRMAN
We have really spent a considerable time on the general discussion. I have allowed very great latitude. I think we ought now to proceed to the real business.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
I do not think the Government have at all met the position, nor have they appreciated the strength of our criticisms upon this proposal. Our objection is not so much on the point of administration as upon the division of the funds. I shall watch with interest to see whether the Labour Members support the view put forward so forcibly by the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge). I shall certainly go to a Division against the proposal.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1) of the proposed Amendment, after the word "Scotland" ["there shall be constituted … Commissioners for Scotland"], to insert the words "of whom one shall be a woman."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has already arranged that one of the Insurance Commissioners shall be a woman. In view of the change which has been made by which special Commissioners are to be given to Scotland, it becomes necessary to revise that decision; otherwise there will simply be a woman Commissioner in England.
§ Mr. MILLAR
I beg to second the Amendment. It seems to me that the thing has been already recognised as a necessity, and under the scheme as it stands women will be on the Insurance Committees. There will be four women appointed, two by the Insurance Commissioners and two by the Councils. I submit therefore that it is of the greater importance that we should have on the Insurance Commissioners at least one woman.
§ Mr. URE
I understand that a similar Motion was made at an earlier stage when the Insurance Commissioners were to be appointed for the whole of the United Kingdom, and I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, while not agreeing with the Amendment, said that he would undertake that one of the Insurance Commissioners should be a woman. I cannot go any
§ further than the right hon. Gentleman did on that occasion. If this Amendment is withdrawn I shall make a representation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in favour of the request of the hon. Member, if, as I gather, the Scottish Members as a whole desire that a somewhat similar undertaking should be given in regard to Scotland.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
Personally I am left in a very great difficulty by the reply of the Lord Advocate, because the undertaking which was given by the Chancellor was given when it was understood that there would only be one body of Insurance Commissioners. It seems to me logically to follow that there must be a woman commissioner in the Scottish body if that body is to be properly fitted. I wish we could have something more definite before the Amendment is withdrawn.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
It may be a very invidious thing to tie the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it may be as well to leave the matter where it is for the moment.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment, but to reserve to myself liberty of action on the Report stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 171 Noes, 89.125
|Division No. 385.]||AYES.||[8.30 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Cullinan, J.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds.)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbarton)||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)|
|Anderson, Andrew Macbeth||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||De Forest, Baron||Haworth, Sir Arthur A.|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick)||Dewar, Sir J. A.||Hayward, Evan|
|Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts., St. George)||Dillon, John||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Donelan, Captain A.||Henry, Sir Charles|
|Black, Arthur W.||Doris, William||Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon. S.)|
|Boland, John Pius||Duffy, William J.||Higham, John Sharp|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Hinds, John|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)|
|Bryce, John Annan||Essex, Richard Walter||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Falconer, James||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Farrell, James Patrick||Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Ferens, Thomas Robinson||John, Edward Thomas|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Ffrench, Peter||Jones, H. Hadyn (Merioneth)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Field, William||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Clough, William||Gibson, Sir James Puckering||Joyce, Michael|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Keating, Matthew|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Greig, Colonel James William||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Cotton, William Francis||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Kelly, Edward|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Hackett, John||Kilbride, Dennis|
|Crumley, Patrick||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Murray, Captain Hon. A. C.||Rowlands, James|
|Leach, Charles||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Lundon, Thomas||Nolan, Joseph||Sheehy, David|
|Lynch, A. A.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Shortt, Edward|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||O'Donnell, Thomas||Smith, H. B. L. (Northampton)|
|Macpherson, James Ian||O'Dowd, John||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|M'Callum, John M.||Ogden, Fred||Toulmin, Sir George|
|M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Pollard, Sir George H.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Martin, Joseph||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Masterman, C. F. G.||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Meagher, Michael||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Webb, H.|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N)||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co)||Pringle, William M. R.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Menzies, Sir Walter||Radford, George Heynes||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Middlebrook, William||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Millar, James Duncan||Reddy, M.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Mond, Sir Alfred M.||Richards, Thomas||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Mooney, John J.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Morgan, George Hay||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Muldoon, John||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Munro, Robert||Robinson, Sidney||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Archer-Shee, Major Martin||Gastrell, Major W. H.||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Gilmour, Captain J.||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Ashley, W. W.||Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Astor, Waldorf||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Rawson, Col. Richard H.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hall, Frederick (Normanton)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Hancock, John George||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Barnes, G. N.||Helmsley, Viscount||Snowden, Philip|
|Barrie, H. T.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs., N. W.)|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Stewart, Gershom|
|Bird, Alfred||Hodge, John||Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Hohler, G. F.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Horner, A. L.||Thomas, J. H. (Derby)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hudson, Walter||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Kirkwood, John H. M.||Ward, Arnold (Herts, Watford)|
|Cassel, Felix||Lansbury, George||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Larmor, Sir J.||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Clyde, James Avon||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Mackinder, Halford J.||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Croft, Henry Page||Macmaster, Donald||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine)||Younger, Sir George|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Morrison-Bell, E. F. (Ashburton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Marquess of Tullibardine and Mr. J. E. Gordon.|
|Fell, Arthur||O'Grady, James|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. BARNES
I beg to move, after the words "subject to the following modifications," to insert "(1) The minimum membership of an approved society in Scotland shall be one thousand."
I am not in favour of very small societies becoming approved societies under this Act, and I am not prepared to take the statement sent to so many Members on behalf of those small societies, that because they have existed so long they ought to be made approved societies. It seems to me that if a society is in existence for hundreds of years, as some of these 126 societies claim to be, but have still remained a microscopic body in point of numbers, it proves it has not fallen in with the main stream of national life. Therefore I do not move this Amendment with a view of covering many small societies that are claiming to come in under the Bill, but I claim that this proposal of a minimum of one thousand for Scotland only equalises the conditions as between England and Scotland. The membership of such societies in Scotland is very much smaller than in England, though not so small as in Ireland. It is obvious there should be some 127 exceptional treatment for Scotland in this matter, and I think one thousand may be suitable to fix as the minimum number for approved societies in Scotland.
§ Mr. URE
I am sorry I cannot accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend. It appears that there is some misconception as to the minimum under the Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes an Amendment which provides that small societies of under 5,000 shall be grouped together. That is for the purpose of stability and solvency, and to give to the insured a perfect insurance. These small societies do not lose their individuality or powers of management in any way. It is only so far as regards stability and solvency, and if a deficiency arises they are to make up that deficiency and if there is a surplus they are to contribute their proper proportion and keep a portion for themselves. The real question here is, I think, about the contribution of the surplus. It is quite apparent there is no real hardship upon these societies in asking them to group together. They may say, and I believe do say, that when they have a surplus they would prefer to keep a larger proportion than one-half for themselves. That is quite intelligible for this reason, that what they fear is that when the great competition for membership takes place, when this Bill comes into force, the larger societies may have an advantage over them and may say, "We do not have to contribute to pull the weaker societies through," and so on. I am afraid that on the ground of stability, solvency, and insurance, it would not be possible to accept this Amendment. I think there are very few societies that will not be over 1,000 when this Act is in full swing, when the smaller societies are going to undertake an active crusade in which I wish them every success.
§ Mr. WATT
The right hon. Gentleman denies he took up that unsympathetic attitude. The differentiation of these approved societies between the different countries is admitted in the original Bill. The figure in the original Bill for England was 10,000, and a smaller number was put in in reference to the condition of Ireland. 128 It is reported, I do not know on what authority, but I would like the Lord Advocate to contradict me if I am wrong, that Ireland is to work on a very much smaller minimum, namely, 500. It was stated by the hon. Member for Waterford that it might be taken for granted that 500 would be accepted for Ireland. If 500 is accepted for Ireland, a thousand is a correspondingly fair number for Scotland. I believe that if 1,000 is accepted as a minimum for approved societies, it will be found that there are only twenty Scottish societies at the present moment that reach that figure, and I believe that if 5,000 is adhered to there is only one Scotch society that will reach that figure. It seems to me absurd to legislate for Scotland in a manner that would not affect Scotland at all. Our societies exist with a certain number and here you have a measure supposed to fit the affairs of Scotland exacting a much higher figure than the societies there reach. As far as I am able to understand the situation of these small societies in Scotland, they have conferred several times and have unanimously come to the conclusion that 1,000 was a good figure for them. I understand that the conference of the larger society, and which was held in London, sympathised with the figure being 5,000, but the smaller societies were not represented at that conference and were ignored. I think it would be a wiser line for the Lord Advocate to take to come down to the demands of the societies as they exist at the present moment, and not look forward to them grouping together after this measure becomes an Act. It is all very well for the Lord Advocate and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say unite and join together, but there is such a thing as Scotch pride in these matters, and there is the difficulty of getting these ancient and long-established societies united with those who have been their opponents hitherto. The difficulty is very great, and encouragement on the part of the Government to remain independent and yet come under the provisions of the Bill would, in my opinion, be a wise course.
§ Mr. JAMES PARKER
My hon. Friend the Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) has requested me to ask permission to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.129
§ Amendments made: In Sub-section (1), after the word "Scotland" ["Local Government Board for Scotland"], insert the words "(in this Section referred to as the Board)."
§ In Sub-section (2), leave out the words "on a representation in terms of Section fifty-one of the Act of 1889."—[Mr. Ure.]
Mr. DUNDAS WHITE
I beg to move in Sub-section (3), to leave out the words "((c) the counties of Peebles and Selkirk)." While some grouping of the less populous counties might be necessary for the purposes of the Bill, this particular grouping of these two counties did not seem appropriate. While they were united for the purposes of Parliamentary representation, they did not act together for general purposes of local administration, such as those connected with education and public health. In such matters, speaking generally, the interests of the county of Peebles resembled those of the Lothians and it co-operated principally with Midlothian, while the interests of the county of Selkirk rather resembled those of the border counties, and it co-operated principally with the county of Roxburgh.
§ Mr. URE
These combinations are suggested on account of the population. I will tell the Committee how the matter stands. The counties of Kinross and Clackmannan go together, Kinross having a population of 5,028 and Clackmannan 31,000. The counties of Elgin and Nairn go together and Nairn has only a population if 3,319. Peebles occupies a somewhat different position, because, although its population is under 30,000, it actually amounts to no less than 15,238, and we group it with Selkirk, which has a population of 24,600. Let the Committee observe that 20,000 are our limit for boroughs which are to have a separate joint Committee, and that is a lower limit than has been fixed for England where the county boroughs must have 50,000. We have a limit of 10,000 for the auxiliary committees, and I really think that solves a good many difficulties, because, as Members will recognise, the auxiliary committees do actually manage, and it is actually prescribed in Clause 43 that a borough of 10,000 shall manage an auxiliary committee. Whilst I admit that I promised to reconsider the case of Peebles, I am sorry I cannot give any undertaking. The Committee will see that it is purely a question of population, and on that account I am afraid I cannot accept this Amendment.
§ (4) No person shall be qualified for appointment as member of a local health committee by a county or town council unless he is a member of a local authority within the county under the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897, or of the town council, as the case may be; but this requirement shall not apply to women if women so qualified are not available;
§ (5) Before submitting for approval a scheme prescribing areas to be assigned to auxiliary committees the local health committee of a county shall consult with the county council, or any committee thereof appointed for the purpose, and shall consider any representation received from them;
§ (6) Where, owing to sparseness of population, difficulties of communication, or other special circumstances, they consider it desirable, a local health committee shall have power, with the consent of the Scottish Insurance Commissioner, to modify or suspend any benefits for the administration of which they are responsible; but where such modification or suspension takes place provision shall be made by the committee, with the like consent, for the increase of other benefits or the grant of one or more additional benefits to an amount equivalent to the value of the modification or suspension;
§ (7)—(a) If it appears to any county council that, having regard to the number of employed contributors resident in the county who are not members of any society approved under the foregoing provision of this Act, it is desirable that steps should be taken for the establishment under the council of an approved society for the county (in this section referred to as a county society) the council may at any time before the expiration of one year from the commencement of this Act submit to the Insurance Commissioners a scheme for the establishment of a county society;
§ (b) The scheme may provide for—
- (i) the representation of the council on the committee of management of the society;
- (ii) the appointment of officers and sub-committees;
- (iii) the delegation of powers to sub-committees;
- (iv) the giving of security fey means of a charge upon the general purposes rate or otherwise;
- (v) the restriction of membership to insured persons resident in the county not being members of any other approved society;
- (vi) the reduction of benefits below the minimum rates fixed by this Part of this Act; and
- (vii) such other matters as may appear necessary, and in particular such further modifications of the provisions of this Part of this Act with respect to approved societies as may be required for the purpose of adapting those provisions to the case of a county society;
§ (c) Where such a scheme has been approved by the Insurance Commissioners, the provisions of the scheme shall have effect notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Part of this Act; and, subject to those provisions, the county society shall be an approved society for all the purposes of this Part of this Act;
§ (d) A county council desirous of submitting a scheme under this Section may at any time after the passing of this Act take such steps as appear necessary with a view to ascertaining what insured persons resident in the county are eligible and willing to become members of the proposed county society, and generally for the formation of the society.
§ The principal part of this Amendment is contained in Subjection (4). The effect of this provision is that when you are constituting the local health committee the portion which is contributed by the local authority must consist exclusively of members of the local sanitary committee. The local authorities in Scotland attach great importance to this proposal, and when the county council is sending its members to the local health committee we propose that those members shall consist exclusively of the members of the local sanitary authority. I do not think there 132 are any other Sub-sections in my proposed Amendment which I need mention, except the 6th and the 7th. The 6th Sub-section is a very important Amendment. I am not sure that the Bill does not contain the power we are giving here to the Insurance Commissioners. We propose to give the local health committee power, with the consent of the Insurance Commissioners, to modify or suspend any of the benefits for the administration of which they are responsible. These powers are given to the local health committee in dealing with those parts to which reference has been made where the population is extremely sparse and widely scattered, and where there are great difficulties in regard to the means of communication. In those districts the medical benefits are very costly, and sickness and disablement benefits do not bulk largely. In those districts, in short, it is extremely desirable, if possible, to concentrate upon one or two particular benefits and allow the others to slip aside altogether, because of the situation in which the people are placed, and because of their special needs. I know hon. Members expect, and some may desire, powers should also be given to alter the contributions. I personally should be very glad if we had been able to see our way to do that, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells me it would play havoc with the finances of the scheme, and that very great difficulties would arise in connection with the State contribution. Great difficulties would also arise in connection with the industrial population migrating across the border and to Ireland with regard to the amount of their transfer values. The Chancellor of the Exchequer at all events is not prepared to accede to this proposal. He thinks it would really strike at the very root of his scheme viewed from the financial point of view. I think hon. Members, however, will find when the Bill is in operation the elastic powers given to the local health committees will meet the case of the West Highlands. Under Sub-section (7) we make a provision which is obviously very necessary in many parts of Scotland. We have a large number of small societies in Scotland. There are no fewer than 150 of them. They are highly respectable, some of them dating back to 1555. They are very enterprising, and I, at all events, hope they will spread all over Scotland after this Bill becomes law, but we cannot rely on that. There are at present numerous districts in Scotland where no friendly or benefit societies are to be found, and 133 where we ought to give the county council power to set up a county society with all the powers which the approved societies enjoy in connection with medical and other benefits. The provisions under Sub-section (7) are designed to confer that power upon the Insurance Commissioners, and we think it will be very valuable in many parts of Scotland.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CATHCART WASON
The Lord Advocate has spoken somewhat sympathetically of the conditions in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, which from the outset of this Bill have given all of us representing those places extreme anxiety, requiring our utmost care and careful consideration. While we are supporters of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and recognise the enormous benefits which will accrue to the old country from which operations of this Bill, we are fully alive to the fact it will not meet the very special circumstances of their case. Even Subsection (7), to which he has alluded, will not really meet the principal difficulties with which we have to contend. It is not the fault of the Bill, and it is not the fault of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or of the Lord Advocate. The difficulties arise from the physical circumstances of the country and the manner in which the people live. The Lord Advocate a few minutes ago indicated that possibly he might bring what influence he could to bear upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer in order that those special districts might get some special degree of attention. It must be remembered those communities, such as they are, are entitled to the fullest consideration. It is no reason because they live on an island far distant from the mainland they should be denied one of the greatest triumphs of modern civilisation—that is, medical attendance. Those who have suffered from the want of medical attendance, or who have seen those near and dear to them suffering from the want of it, know what pain and anxiety those people often suffer. I have often called the attention of the Lord Advocate to the circumstances which prevail with special reference to the number of deaths which are never certified. Doubtless the Lord Advocate knows the circumstances of one district where, a year or so ago, out of 148 deaths only nine were certified. That left a large number of persons unaccounted for. Of course, the people in those islands bear the highest character, and there is no suspicion of any- 134 thing like foul play or improper conduct, but there are the facts. Not only have we that to contend with, but we also have to contend with the stupidity and ignorance of those persons who may happen to have a little temporary authority. In my own district, of something like 300 inhabitants, they have themselves maintained a doctor in their midst. It has long been their ambition to get a doctor's house, but, despite the fact that all the money necessary has been placed at the bank, the landlord refuses to give, sell, or feu them a piece of land on which to build the house, and he has actually written to the Local Government Board a long and pressing letter, urging them to prohibit those poor islanders even having a doctor in the island, although they have a stormy sea and a dangerous passage to cross before they can get to one. There are other cases of which the Lord Advocate must be fully aware. The doctors in those places, to my personal knowledge, lead the most self-sacrificing and hardest lives of any persons in the community, and there is no class to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Government, and this committee should pay so much kind consideration. They have often and often to travel a long and weary journey, both by land and sea, without a chance of getting a fee at the end of the journey. What we trust will happen under this Bill is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see his way to provide some special means whereby a mileage rate may be paid to doctors visiting these poor districts. I am thankful to note that the right hon. Gentleman nods his acquiescence, and I assure him that if such a proposal is carried it will make him stand still nearer and dearer to the hearts of the people of this country than he does at the present moment.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult matters we have to deal with in connection with the Highlands, and that is why, when we were discussing the last Amendment, I said there was a special case for dealing separately with Scotland. We have nothing approaching the circumstances of Scotland in the case of either England or Wales. In Scotland doctors have to travel twenty or thirty miles, and even further, sometimes across tempestuous seas, in order to see their patients. I am told that a very high percentage of the people in these districts die young. That shows the necessity for securing for these 135 poor people medical and sick benefits. I hope it will be possible for us so to arrange matters as to be able to spend more money in medical attendance in these districts. That power is given by this Clause, and that is why we are inserting special provisions dealing with Scotland. I fully admit the urgency of the problem.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am very much interested in Sub-section (6), mainly for the reason adumbrated by my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland. My only regret is that there is no power in addition to the modification and suspension of benefits for the modification and suspension of contributions. I am well acquainted with circumstances such as my hon. Friend has pointed out. I know the extraordinary heroism displayed by some doctors in the Highlands. I know a doctor on the west coast of Ross-shire who in the stormiest of weather has often travelled twenty-five miles, and has never entered a fee in his fee-book because he knows that the patient at the extreme end of his journey cannot afford to pay him. I welcome in this measure, as I welcomed on the first Amendment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the introduction of the principle of decentralisation. I welcome this as a further step in decentralisation, because, from my knowledge, the local health committees and district committees are most anxious and eager to improve the state of health in the country. I am only sorry that the Lord Advocate could not go to the length of modifying or suspending contributions, because I am sure that that would have been of immense assistance in poor counties like my own. I am satisfied that if it were possible to modify contributions and to say that instead of a sickness benefit to the amount of 10s. a week on the west coast of Ross-shire it should be 5s. a week, with a proportionate contribution, it would be far more satisfactory. Five shillings a week in the Highlands is certainly equal to 10s. in industrial centres. After all, this Bill is in its origin a Bill for industrial people in large centres, but when you are applying to sparsely populated districts, where you have people who never see a coin of the realm from one week's end to the other, I do suggest that if it be possible, in view of the fact that there is so much poverty and destitution in these crofting counties in the north of Scotland, it would be well for the Lord Advocate to impress upon the Chancellor 136 of the Exchequer the necessity, not only of modifying and suspending benefits, but also of modifying and suspending the contributions of those who come under this insurance scheme.
§ Mr. ANNAN BRYCE
The Lord Advocate has told us that the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot accept the proposal to diminish contributions because it would make the scheme insolvent. But why has the right hon. Gentleman been able, in the case of Ireland, to make so many deductions from the contributions as well as so many exemptions. We want the Insurance Commissioners in Scotland to have the power of exemption as well as the power of diminishing contributions. I think we are entitled to ask the Government why, when they are able to make these large and important concessions for Ireland, they cannot do it in the case of Scotland. I voted for the first Amendment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the hope that something or other would come out of the discussion on the second. The first Amendment was really nothing but a pure skeleton, it simply set up a separate fund. We were invited to vote for it by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy who gave us a glowing picture of the advantages that were to follow on the second Amendment, but at present the second Amendment is also a pure skeleton. We have had a separate fund and separate Commissioners set up, but the Commissioners have no power to do anything. What is the use of making these remarkable exceptions, in the case of Scotland? What is the use of setting up this separate machinery and of creating all the complications that will arise under separate treatment if there is no power to do anything under it? We want something more than sentiment in Scotland. We want to get some benefit from this change.
§ Mr. JONATHAN SAMUEL
I should like to make one suggestion in regard to Sub-section (7), which delegates to subcommittees the power of the principal committees.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
I am afraid this discussion arises upon a remark made by the Lord Advocate, and the hon. Member is now dealing with my Amendment which I have not yet moved.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
The point I was raising was that there is power in the Subsection to delegate to sub-committees the powers of a county council. There is no provision in the Sub-section, in the case of a deadlock arising between the subcommittee and the principal commitee, for settling the point at issue. I put down an Amendment with regard to the English part of the Bill, which the Attorney-General conditionally accepted, providing that in the case of a deadlock the matter should be referred to the Commissioners who would have power to settle the point in dispute. In our English system of education you will find that powers which are delegated very often give rise to disputes, which often go on six, twelve, or even eighteen months without the possibility of settlement, because of the lack of some authority to settle them. It would be a great advantage to Scotland, England, and Ireland that some superior authority should have power to settle any matter in dispute.
§ Mr. URE
I will consider what my hon. Friend has just said. It does not appear to me that there is any necessity for making any special provision for it. All that the Sub-section says is that your scheme may provide for a delegation of powers to sub-committees. If the scheme does provide for that delegation it will surely provide, in delegating the powers, the precise extent of the powers, and the proper and reasonable limitation of their powers will be that they can be over-ridden by the committee.
§ Mr. MILLAR
I am glad that this Amendment makes it clear that the excellent work done by the public authorities in Scotland is going to be amply safeguarded, and that there is no suggestion whatever of overlapping. I should like to point out, however, that while the representation of the county council and of the borough council has been limited under the proposal so far as Scotland is concerned, where the question of rating may arise there should be further powers granted than those provided in Clause 43 (4), where the Insurance Commissioners may increase the representation of the county council and make a corresponding diminution in the representation of the insured persons when it comes to be a 138 question of levying a rate for providing sanatorium or medical benefit. I trust it may be possible to reconsider the Subsection as it may apply to Scotland and to the rest of the country, so as to substitute the word "shall" for the word "may," so that in every case where a rate has to be levied the Commissioner shall increase the representation in such a degree as to safeguard the local authorities who are responsible for the levying of such a rate. As to auxiliary health committees, I am glad to notice in the Amendment that the County Councils Association is to be consulted, and is to consider any representation received with reference to the formation of these local or auxiliary committees. It is very desirable, so far as possible, to keep in touch with the authorities which at present are administering public health affairs in Scotland, and to let them feel that they are being recognised at every step.
With regard to the Amendment dealing with the result of the inquiry by the Local Government Board, I think the Amendment is a distinct improvement. We have already powers under the Local Government Board to deal with inquiries in regard to sickness, and I am glad to think that the Scottish system is being recognised as it stands at the present time, and that instead of the person who makes the report having the right to be the final judge in the matter, it is to be left to the Local Government Board to deal with it. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to say whether in other respects the local authorities who administer our public health can be recognised. If the scheme is to work smoothly, as I believe it will, it is desirable that the opinion that they were being superseded should be removed. That has been largely removed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreeing to the proposal to call them insurance committees instead of local health committees.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
With regard to the point just raised by the hon Member, I sincerely trust that too much attention will not be paid to the suggestion that when a rate comes to be levied by a local authority to fulfil the demands made by the insurance committee, the majority of that committee should not consist of representatives of the town council or county council. In any case, the amount of money which would fall to be paid by the local authorities will be small in proportion to the total amount to be handled by those I committees. While it is desirable that 139 the health committees and the town council and the county council should be adequately represented, it is a mistake to give them a large majority.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (5) of the proposed Amendment, to insert the words:—With the consent of the Insurance Commissioners the Local Government Board for Scotland may, by order, prescribe such modifications of the provisions of this Part of this Act, dealing with the benefits conferred upon insured persons and contributions payable by them, as may be necessary to meet the special circumstances of any county or burgh specified in such order.We have in Scotland such varied forms of difference from either England, Ireland, or Wales, that I think it would be impossible without giving such a power as this to carry out this Act with justice and fairness throughout the country. There is not only the crofter question, but there is the question that is puzzling everybody and which is almost insoluble, the casual labourer question. There is also the fisherman, who is part owner to-day and may be a workman in two or three weeks' time. Then there are the Irish workers who come across to Scotland for the short harvest and go back again. So far as I can see, they will take the Scotch money over to Ireland. Then there is the question of the sick benefit—the question of the agricultural labourer. That is a very difficult case. The feeling in Scotland, and particularly in my Constituency, is very strong against the contributions in this Bill, and very strongly in the hope—I might almost say the determination—either to have nothing to do with the Bill at all or else to get such a fresh adjustment of contributions, and if necessary, benefits, as will make it fair and just to them. With regard to sick benefit, the farmers at present make no deduction. It is said they pay the wages. Of course they pay them. As a matter of fact the farm servant is engaged for six or twelve months, and at the end of his time the farmer makes no deduction for six weeks' illness. I have gone through nine parishes in my Constituency, and I cannot find that any single man has been ill for six weeks. Six weeks is a very long illness, and, as a matter of fact, it very seldom occurs. With regard to the medical benefits the Chancellor of the 140 Exchequer has very properly said that there are cases in the Highlands which are twenty or thirty miles from a doctor. That is an extreme case, but in such counties as Aberdeenshire, even in the Lowland part of it, in Perthshire, and in Banffshire, there are places where the nearest doctor is four, five, or six miles away, and the consequence is that when these men do want a doctor they very seldom get one. It only happens if a doctor happens to be calling round in the neighbourhood that he may give a look in, if he is asked.
The medical benefit to them is very small. In the first place, they do not often require it, and in the next place, the place is so healthy that it is not worth while for a doctor to establish himself there. It is so healthy that a doctor can neither live nor die there. I have gone into the figures in various districts and taken the trouble to work them out. I got them from nine parishes, and the total number of farm servants, men and women, was 1,553. The number ill during one year was 177, the total number of days ill was seventy-six, the number of disability cases was two, and the number of children born was 136. The total contribution under the Bill for these 1,553 men and women would be £2,281. Working out the benefits as applied by the Bill it would amount to £528, but the Chancellor proposes to reduce the contribution by 2d., which will reduce it to £1,753. That would leave them a margin of £1,085, and, as I have included in this calculation all the benefits except sanatorium benefit and disability benefit, that would leave a balance of £1,085 for these two. If, as a prudent actuary would, you knock off 33 per cent, from the £1,085, you will have £670 available as a premium with which to provide 5s. per week for fifty-five men. Fifty-five men out of 1,553 is ridiculous. It is altogether out of proportion. So what my people say is this, "We are quite willing to pay, but we are not willing to pay if we do not get an equivalent value for the money we pay," and unless we can show them that, there will be a very determined feeling against the Bill. These figures I have compared with the figures of a Ploughmen's Society in Forfarshire, which practically confirm my figures, though certainly mine are distinctly better than those of the Ploughmen's society. Of course, that is accounted for in this way, that it is one of the unfortunate things about the insurance problem that the moment you insure a person, the moment you offer a benefit, the sickness increases. If 141 a man has a bad finger, or the toothache, he does not bother about it if he is not insured, but the moment he is insured he goes to the doctor and is registered as a sick person. But even there it shows—and this is an actuary's valuation—that they are 25 per cent, better than the ordinary Ancient Order of Foresters insured—that is ranging from quinquennial periods back to 1890.
If that be so, and I have not the slightest reason to doubt it, you are up against a very big opposition. If you are going to take from these men more than you can show that you are going to give, you will create great dissatisfaction and a feeling of injustice. The maternity grant is not so great as in the ordinary case of insurance. For instance, for these 1,553 people there were only 136 births. The reason for that small number is no doubt this—and it is a point that you have to consider in dealing with these men—the house accommodation on the farms in Scotland is so small that a very small percentage of the people are married. If a man is taken into the farm buildings, whether it is a bothy or other house, he gets his food and so forth, but there is no accommodation for him. There may be one or two cottages, but a large percentage of them are bachelors, not by inclination, perhaps, but by force of circumstances, and the consquence is that there is not so much of a maternity grant amongst these people. What is wanted in Scotland, surely, is that we should have modified benefits. I know the Chancellor of the Exchequer says the farmer and the employers will benefit to this extent, that they will have healthier people to deal with, but you cannot give any benefit to a man who never gets ill, and I fail to see how you can attract these men. I have had cases shown me where men have been on a farm for seventen or twenty years, and never had a single illness. I know it is so in a very great many cases.
I should like to see a flexible scale. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will say he must not spoil the groundwork of his finance. Whether a man subscribes so much less and gets so much less benefit, or so much more and gets so much more benefit, cannot affect the actuarial calculation. For instance, I am quite sure these men do not want 10s. a week pay. They will be satisfied with 5s. or 6s., and, as they never want it, it does not make any difference. The medical benefit is very little even when they do want it. The 142 Chancellor of the Exchequer said there was something like 70 per cent, of the population in certain districts in the Highlands, and also a large percentage in other districts of Scotland, where they actually die without the aid of a doctor at all. They can do without him even in death. I am not sure that they do not live the longer on that account. These are the reasons which I would urgently press in support of this Amendment. I know it may be a little difficult to alter the calculations, but that is not insuperable. Let me assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer and this Committee that there is the strongest feeling throughout the North of Scotland against the agricultural part of this Bill. They all feel that the benefits should be amended or adjusted. I have received petitions from a very large number who, in despair of getting any relief, are asking me to vote against the Bill, and who have passed resolutions to that effect. I have also received—and I throw this out for the consideration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—the suggestion from a large meeting of farmers and farm servants that they should be confined to the sanatorium benefit and disability benefit. I do not know how far that would meet the views of other Members. Of the sanatorium benefit let me say that in this district, consisting of nine parishes which I have selected haphazard, there was, during the year 1910, not one case of tuberculosis certified by the Public Health officers. Therefore sanatorium benefit cannot amount to a very great deal in that district. For these reasons I would ask that this Amendment should be adopted, so as to give the Insurance Commissioners and the Local Government Board a freer hand to deal sympathetically, justly, and fairly, with all those varied and difficult questions which arise in Scotland.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My hon. Friend in proposing this Amendment has stated his point very clearly and with great force, and I think everything that can be said for it that is worth saying has been already said by him. I wish I could see my way to accept the Amendment, but for the reasons which I shall put before the Committee I cannot accept it. I am sure the Committee will consider impartially what I have to say. My hon. Friend says that he has chosen six or seven parishes which, he will admit probably, are exceptionally healthy.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
Well, the whole of my Division is healthy. It is 143 healthy that you all go there to get health. I did not select these parishes particularly for their health. I took them east, west, north, and south.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My hon. Friend gives away his case when he says that we all go there to get health. It is a particularly healthy district, and I expected that it would be very sound to return such a Member. Let us examine the proposition. I have constantly during the discussions on this Bill had representations from various parts of the country, all making the same sort of case. They come not merely from Aberdeen, but from north, south, east, and west. They say, "Look at this exceptionally healthy little parish of ours; we will never go to the doctor," and, consequently, they never die at all. That is the sort of case I have had put before me. I have had it on the agricultural Amendment. I believe the hon. Member for the Wilton Division of Wiltshire (Mr. C. Bathurst) made that case for the agricultural labourer. He said the agricultural labourer was exceptionally healthy, and therefore ought to have exceptional terms. Anybody who is really acquainted with friendly societies' work knows that the difference in cost in those districts is not very great, for the extraordinary paradox is that the healthier you are the more expensive you are to the friendly societies, because when you breakdown it is a long break-down—a breakdown of a kind which is very expensive—the ailments being rheumatism and kindred diseases. Taking the agricultural societies there are some cases where there is just a difference of a farthing between a friendly society in a rural district and a friendly society in an urban district, the difference being between 6¼d. in the one case and 6½d. in the other. They have simply to get federated in an agricultural society or a rural society, and they will get the full advantage of the special healthiness of their own occupation or of their own district. All my hon. Friend has to do is this: he has to confine the members of the friendly societies to his own district and rigidly exclude everybody else from that paradise of health. He will then get the full advantage of all the health of his district.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
Pardon me. What about the farmer? The farm servant will get the benefit, but what about the fanner, who subscribes a higher premium?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
His contribution is not very great. My hon. Friend put his case on behalf of the agricultural labourer, and I am glad to see that he is shifting his ground.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That is the best proof that he himself admits that his first argument was wrong. I did not interrupt the hon. Member when he was speaking. I reserved myself until he sat down. I have seen this case put forward by innumerable districts in every part of the country. Every specially healthy place with the death rate down will always come forward with that case. You cannot have a separate contribution for every healthy district. In one district you may have a death rate of ten or eleven, and in another a death rate of twenty. Are we to take the healthy districts, and say, "We will give you a special rate; we will reduce your contribution"? Where does the average come in there? How can you average risks throughout the country if you take out healthy districts and say that they will have a benefit in the matter of the contribution? It would mean a good deal more than the hon. Member imagines. It would mean more than taking out parishes. You cannot even take out counties, for you will find some parishes in counties where the health is bad and the death rate high, and you will find that the adjoining parish is specially healthy. Really, when you come to look at it, you would find that two, three, four, and possibly five sets of contributions would be required. If that is my hon. Friend's suggestion, it is absolutely unworkable. I have seen so many of these things which on analysis absolutely break down that I made the offer to look into any figures which might be laid before me.
The hon. Member gave me the case of a society and his own case. That is really a very narrow basis on which to build up the whole insurance structure, not merely for Aberdeen, but for the whole of Scotland. Still I am perfectly prepared to examine the figures, and I make this offer: I will instruct the Government actuary to examine these figures and get a report upon it in the course of this week. Inasmuch as it involves no increased charge, but a reduced one, it will be perfectly open to the Government to move an Amendment on the Report stage. But let me point out to them the risk of putting it in this form. You may vary benefits by order of Commissioners. The hon. Member proposes 145 to do more than, that. He proposes to vary taxation by order of the Commissioners. He proposes that the Commissioners should run up and down the scale of contributions. My hon. Friend has summoned to his aid what we are doing in Ireland. What we are doing there is this. Ireland, through its representatives, has practically said: "We do not want medical benefits." We have computed what that means actuarialy, and we have reduced the amount of contribution by so much. If Scotland says "we do not want medical benefits, and we do not want other benefits to which my hon. Friend refers," very well, in that case we can compute actuarialy what it amounts to and insert it in the Bill. But to allow the Commissioners to vary the contributions according to the particular parish, according to whether one district is healthy and another is not would be fatal to national insurance. But if Scotland as a whole is prepared to say that the workmen or agricultural labourers there would prefer to be without certain benefits, then we can compute actuarialy what that would be worth and we can put that in the Bill on the Report stage. But I would have to be assured that that is the feeling of Scotland. I would like to be assured that the Scottish agricultural labourers are really anxious to be deprived of certain benefits. My hon. Friend says that they do not want 10s., but that they would be satisfied with 5s. 6d.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Really I need hardly have asked it, because it comes from Aberdeen. This is an Amendment which I could not accept in any case, but before I accept the substance of it, which is reduced benefits for agricultural labourers in Scotland, I would like to be sure that the agricultural labourer in Scotland means it. I can understand him saying that he does not want to receive any benefits during the time he is receiving full wages. I have taken that out. He is receiving full wages during six weeks, and I have taken the six weeks out and reduced the amount by 2d. in consequence. But if my hon. Friend says that the agricultural labourer really does not want more than six shillings, and that he is willing to go without medical benefit and that all he 146 wants is sanatorium benefit in respect of consumption from which he never suffers—I understand from my hon. Friend that there is not a single case in Aberdeenshire—I should like really that there should be some consultation between hon. Members, so as to get some measure of agreement among them as to what they want in this respect. The only demand pressed upon me was with reference to the six weeks which were taken out, and whatever the actuarial value of that may be should be taken out of the contributions. That has been done faithfully to the fraction. But in addition to that, if it is said that the agricultural labourer in Scotland does not desire ten shillings a week but is equally happy with six shillings and does not want medical benefit and is not clamouring for maternity benefit and that all he wants is sanatorium benefit, I should like to hear from my hon. Friend and the Scottish Members generally before concluding that that is so.
Meantime I have done what I promised. I have given instructions that whatever figures he sends in shall be examined actuarialy. I am sorry to say that one of the Government actuaries is ill, but Mr. Wyatt and Mr. Watson are available and will examine them, and I shall be able to tell my hon. Friend and those who associate themselves with him what their report is. But I do earnestly recommend the Committee not to accept a proposal of this kind without the most careful actuarial investigation and without really knowing whether the agricultural labourer in Scotland is satisfied with these restricted benefits and also without, knowing whether the whole of Scotland is anxious to pick out the healthiest portions like Aberdeenshire and rule those separately, and not to average their risks with other districts. Those are questions on which I should like a reply from Scottish Members, and if they make up their minds about them, if I may respectfully say so, I should advise them to formulate their alternative plans of reducing contributions, because a contribution is in the nature of taxation, and that ought to be in the Bill. That is why the agreement with the Irish Members to reduce the amount of contribution was put in the Bill. Scottish Members should agree on the subject. The result of the actuaries' investigations will be placed at their disposal, and I am perfectly certain they will examine those points arising on it, and will give to them the attention that must be attached in any insurance scheme to the report of the actuaries.
§ Captain GILMOUR
This question raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire is of great interest to the farming and agricultural industries in Scotland. Whether the exact terms of the hon. Member's Amendment are accepted or not, I am glad to learn from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he is prepared to consider the claims of the agriculturists of Scotland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in dealing with this question has rather supposed that it was being dealt with from the point of view of Aberdeenshire alone. I am certain if the matter be given that consideration which it deserves it will be found that the demand for a modification in the mode of dealing with this question which is contained in the Bill comes, not from Aberdeenshire alone, but from the great mass of agriculturists throughout the country. I should be very loth to deny to the agricultural labourer in Scotland the benefit which others are receiving under this Bill, but it is undoubtedly the case that the agricultural labourers as a whole are certainly more healthy than the men of the towns. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has said that the main cause of their falling upon any scheme of this kind comes from rheumatism or from similar diseases. But it seems to me that the agricultural labourers will not derive that amount of benefit from sanatoria that other classes of the community will get. We contend that, however this scheme may be finally adjusted, the amount of contribution which the farmer is called upon to pay is out of all proportion to the justice of the case, when one remembers that in Scotland, which is different from other parts of the country, the farmer has in the past kept his men on full wages during the first six weeks of illness. We earnestly ask the right hon. Gentleman that nothing should be done which would in any way jeopardise the continuance of that arrangement. I am perfectly certain that neither the farmer nor the agricultural labourer desires that; and unless other arrangements are made, the farmers of Scotland feel that they are being placed in a position in which they ought not to be placed, and that they are being asked to give a contribution out of all proportion to what they ought to pay. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the contribution of the farmer was now a very small matter.
§ Captain GILMOUR
In any case it is an additional tax upon the farmer. When 148 one remembers that they have already given immense benefits to the men employed, I think there is some reason and some justice in the demand which the farmer undoubtedly makes, having voiced it through the Chamber of Agriculture in Scotland, and through various other I bodies. I myself think that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take into consideration the figures which the hon. Member for Aberdeen has submitted, if he is prepared to give some additional relaxation in this matter, and if he is going to give some advantage to the agricultural labourer as a whole, then there is no Member on either side of the House, but will be ready to accept the Bill as he will find it. But as the Bill stands at present, the agricultural industry in Scotland does not think that it is being fairly treated, and I am certain that if the opinion which at present exists in Scotland is allowed to continue, it can only result in difficulty for the agricultural labourer. That is what I personally am very anxious to avoid. There is one thing above all we must avoid, and that is setting up anything which will act to the detriment of the agricultural labourer. Unfortunately, rightly or wrongly, while this feeling does exist—it is voiced by all the farmers of Scotland, and I have had many opportunities of speaking with them on different occasions during the last year since this Bill has been promulgated—I think it is very desirable and necessary that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should take it into consideration, and I am glad he is prepared to meet the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am very charmed with the conciliatory manner in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has met the Amendment. It is admitted on both sides that the crofting parishes of the Highlands are in a peculiar situation, and I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is prepared between this and Report stage to say whether he cannot give special consideration to the crofting parishes of the Highlands.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think this Amendment enables us to do that, but if on consideration we find that it does not meet the case, I should certainly see whether it is possible to introduce words that will do so. As I have already pointed out, on the Report stage this matter can be dealt with.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The Clause proposes to modify the benefit, and what we are concerned about is the modification of the contribution. That point really concerns us more than anything else. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer would consider some proposal put forward by Scottish Members, with a view to altering the contribution, especially in the Highland counties, I think that would meet our case.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
May I ask whether the whole scheme of the Bill, so far as Scotland is concerned, is not to be considered at all? We are to have a separate fund, separate Commissioners, and practically a new Bill, on the suggestion of what the right hon. Gentleman calls a majority of Scottish Members, and I submit that these new ideas want little more consideration than they are receiving to-night.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The Noble Lord complains that I am willing to consider the suggestions of Scottish Members. This is really rather a curious complaint. I am a Minister of the Crown, and I am here to carry out the wishes of the House of Commons. Of course, there is some limits to what the Minister can do. I can assure the Noble Lord that I am glad to listen to any suggestion coming from Scottish Members, and I should be glad to consider a single practical one from him, but he has never given me the opportunity. If he will make any suggestion which will be of the slightest value, I promise to give it consideration. My hon. Friends behind me brought certain facts to my notice—they are hon. Members representing their constituencies—which I have said I shall examine very carefully. An hon. Gentleman opposite has made certain suggestions, to which I will give full consideration. With the help of my advisers, I will consider all these new facts brought to my notice, and I will not be in the slightest degree deterred by any silly jeers.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I should like to express my strong appreciation of the attitude which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken up on this question. It is a matter which to most of us in the rural districts has given the very greatest concern. The case of the agricultural labourer will be fairly and fully con- 150 sidered. The agricultural labourer is prepared to bear his burdens, but he is not anxious to have excessive burdens, or be called upon to contribute for wealthier people in towns, and that he should have the full value of the contribution he has to make. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has very generously promised to give the matter full consideration, and we are thankful to him for the generous way in which we have been met by him.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I think I have some right to resent what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said as to silly jeers. I have never jeered at one word in the Insurance Bill from the start to now. The right hon Gentleman knows perfectly well what I meant. This Bill has now been before us several months, and at the very last moment the right hon. Gentleman conies forward and offers to change the whole scope of the Bill. The proposals are brought forward between Friday and Monday. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of a majority of the Scottish Members, but he knows that twenty-four is not a majority. This is a new Amendment about which we have not had the opportunity of thinking at all. I quite agree with him that the whole question of the agricultural labourers' contribution is an unfair one, and if he wants to go further into the question we can do so. A great many more besides the agricultural labourer will be very unfairly dealt with so far as this point is concerned. I can give him the cases of stalkers, gamekeepers, and so on, who have got to pay the same contribution as people pay in the unhealthy potteries. I know what my Constituents think about this matter, and they do not agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this point. I am not saying that the whole of the Amendments the Government have put down are wrong, but I do think we have the right to consider them and to ask our Constituents what they think about them. I quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman does not want the constituencies to think about them, or the Members of the Labour party, but the last thing he ought to say is that we have passed silly jests, but we had not spoken against them.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
I understand the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to say that he will actuarily go into the figures I have given him, and that if between this and the Report stage he finds it is possible he will make some further concessions to those people. I think 151 the Chancellor rather put words into my mouth that I did not use. I did not say that those men wanted less benefits. What I did say was that they would be content with less benefits if there would be less subscriptions. I have had two very large memorials sent to me, one with over 2,000 names. In one they want to get out of the Bill altogether. It is not for me to say what they will accept or how. What I want to know is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be good enough to carry out his promise. The Scottish Members are anxious for the reconsideration of this question, and if the figures which we have given are fairly verified by the actuaries I hope he will meet us. I wish to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I think the observation which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made with reference to my Noble Friend is very ungenerous. I do not think that he has any reason to complain of the attitude which has been adopted towards the Bill or any part of the Bill on the part of hon. Members who sit on this side of the House. I think in calmer moments he will be the first to acknowledge that the case of the Scottish agricultural labourer has been pressed upon him without heat, with out party prejudice, and solely from the point of view of benefiting a large and important section of the Scottish community, and pressed on him in that way by Members who sit on this side. He referred to the intervention of my Noble Friend as an intervention in the nature of a silly jest, and that the proposal he made—
§ Mr. FORSTER
And that the criticisms or observations he made were in the nature of a silly jest. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to make references of that kind to hon. Members who sit on this side he is not going to accelerate or render more easy the task which we who sit on this side of the House already find sufficiently difficult, to divorce wholly party considerations from a considered criticism of the provisions of the Bill.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think the hon. Gentleman has lashed himself into very unnecessary fury. I think the Noble Lord would be the last to deny that it was in the nature of a jeer. It was not a suggestion; it was not real criticism; it was just in the nature of a gibe, and I do not think 152 he will deny that. What did he say? I had offered to consider very carefully suggestions which had come to me from my hon. Friend sitting behind me. Surely if they had come from hon. Members opposite the hon. Gentleman would be the very first to say that that is a very proper attitude for a Minister to take. Purely and simply because I adopted the same attitude towards hon. Members sitting on this side the Noble Lord started gibing and taunting me, and said, "Are we to have a new Bill?" I think the function of a Minister is to consider every suggestion which comes from any quarter of the House and every criticism, and consider fairly every new fact that is brought to his notice. I said I would consider carefully new facts and send them to the actuaries, and that between this and the Report stage I would make up my mind.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not think any Member of the House will deny that I have listened most carefully, and I challenge the hon. Gentleman to say whether I really have not given the deepest consideration to suggestions that have come to me from the opposite side, and have constantly thanked hon. Gentlemen for giving me suggestions, and notably in the case of the hon. Member for Colchester and the hon. Member for Wilton.
§ Mr FORSTER
If the Chancellor specially invites me to say that I will say that in this House the Chancellor of the Exchequer gratefully acknowledges our assistance, but he denies it outside.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. Gentleman's observation is irrelevant, and in the second place is inaccurate. Those are the two worst charges I can bring against any criticism.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think, if I may say so, that the whole incident was irrelevant. I will not draw any distinction. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment has asked leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. WATT
I desire to move, in Subsection (6) of the proposed Amendment, after the word "benefits" ["suspend any benefits"], to insert the words "or contributions." That will give the health committee power to modify or suspend not only benefits but contributions. This 153 power is to be given to health committees in Ireland, and I see no reason why it should not be given in Scotland.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
I beg to move, in Subsection (7) of the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "employed contributors," and to insert instead thereof the word "persons."
I should then move to insert other words so that the Amendment would read, "the number of persons resident in the county who are eligible for membership." The Sub-section enables the county council to consider only those who are not members of any society. I want to empower them to take into consideration also any persons who may be members of an approved society, but who would be eligible for a society which the county council might form. There might be only 100 persons in a county who were not members of an approved society, but there might be 200 or 300 members of approved societies who would be eligible for a county council society, and I want the county council to be able to take these into consideration in determining whether or not it is necessary to form a county society.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
The county council might want to have an agricultural labourers' society, and two or three hundred who may belong to other approved societies would be eligible as members of the society which the county council proposes to form.
§ Mr. FORSTER
Do I understand the hon. Member that the county council is to form a society which is to have the power of taking members out of approved societies to compete with, and not only to compete with, but to take away members who already belong to approved societies? If 154 the hon. Member sat for an English constituency I should like him to go to his constituency and invite support for that attempt to seduce members already belonging to friendly societies into the new society which is going to be established.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
I beg to move to add to the end of Sub-section (7), paragraph (b) (vii.), the words "reducing the minimum number of members required to form an approved society." So that it shall be within the jurisdiction of the county councils to reduce the number from 5,000 to any number they thought fit.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that is exactly the same point as was decided earlier on the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow. The Amendment therefore is not in order.
§ Further Amendments made: In Subsection (5), after the word "this" ["under this Act"], insert the words "Part of this."
§ In Sub-section (6), leave out the words "'borough or urban district' means 'a,'" and insert instead thereof the words "'borough,' and the expression 'urban district' mean."
§ In Sub-section (6), leave out the words "expression, 'rural district' means any part of a county outwith a burgh or police burgh," and insert instead thereof the words "expressions 'rural district' and 'council of a rural district,' unless inconsistent with the context, means respectively a district of a county within the meaning of the said Act and the district committee thereof."—[Mr Lloyd George.]
§ In Sub-section (8), after the word "sheriff," insert the word "court."—[Mr. Watt.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.