§ [Sir DAVID BRYNMOR JONES in the Chair.]
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)
I beg to move that the following new Clause be read a second time:—
§ Saving for Occasional Employment in Rural Neighbourhoods.
§ Where a workman is employed in a district, the principal industry of which is agriculture, and the workman usually follows in that district some occupation other than an insured trade, and is employed in an insured trade occasionally only, contributions under this Part of this Act shall not be payable in respect of the workman, except in cases where the employer and the workman agree that contributions shall be payable notwithstanding this provision.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir J. Simon)
The object of this Clause is to relieve from the obligation to be members of the Fund, those workmen who in rural districts are not as a rule employed in one of the insured trades at all. Probably in parts of Scotland the Clause would be of practical utility, and the same condition of things no doubt exists in Ireland. We have had representations from Ireland about it. The general effect would be that in a district where the principal industry is agriculture, which seems in the circumstances the best way of describing a rural district, the fact that a workman who is normally employed in occupations quite outside the scope of Part II., occasionally does a little building work, say, will not involve him and his employers in the necessity of subscribing to the scheme. It seems to us that unless some such provision is made we may have this hard case which would be administratively very difficult to deal with, namely, the case of a man in a rural district who, as his ordinary occupation, is engaged in it may be agriculture, or it may be fishing, or it may be in connection with sport, but who possibly for one or two weeks in the year happens to be engaged either on an estate or in connection with an ordinary builders' contract in building a cottage. We think 2018 that great administrative difficulties would follow if such a person was necessarily brought within the scheme; therefore we propose to add this Clause which will not require such a man or his employer to pay contributions, if he satisfies the conditions laid down. But at the same time, if the employer and the workman prefer that in such a case he should be within the scheme, we would still leave it open to him to get the advantage of his subscriptions as far as they go. It seems to us that the Clause would be a practical convenience and an administrative improvement.
§ Question, "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I beg to leave out the words "is employed in a district, the principal industry of which is agriculture, and the workmen." If this Amendment is carried, I should move as a consequential Amendment, to leave out the words "in that district." It is rather a difficult Clause. The whole Committee would doubtless wish to attain the object the Government have in view, but it does not seem quite clear that the language employed will give effect to their desire. I speak with some diffidence, for I am not a lawyer, and I seldom understand these Clauses until they have been explained. But so far as I understand the Bill, hitherto the occupation of the individual man, and not his environment, is what decides whether or not he shall come within the scheme; whereas here we have the opposite principle, which may lead to confusion, namely, that the man's environment and not his occupation shall decide the point. In considering whether the Clause as it stands really gives the concession, for such it is, which the Government intend to agricultural interests, this is the point which strikes me. In a really agricultural district the question will seldom arise of the man who usually follows some occupation in an uninsured trade, and occasionally follows an occupation which is an insured trade. Such men are to be excluded from the Bill. But when you come to districts which are very common in England—a typical one is that represented by the hon. Member for Dudley—which by no stretch of language can be called "districts, the principal industry of which is agriculture," you do undoubtedly frequently get men who are employed principally in agriculture or in trades outside the in- 2019 sured trades, but who very often lend a hand in an insured trade. They, if they desire the concession, are apparently barred from it by this Clause. It seems to me that if any district requires such protection as this Clause gives, it is such districts as I have indicated; because, whether from the point of view of agriculture or from the point of view of the man who works in an industrial district, the Black Country, or part of the mining districts, it is desirable to do all you can to keep in the country the man who is working in the country, both for the sake of agriculture and to prevent the competition in the labour market of the big towns. I think if the Clause read as it would were my Amendment adopted, it would give the interpretation that we should all desire.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I should like to enforce what my hon. Friend has said. The Clause as it stands is a very curious one. It is confined to districts where the principal industry is agriculture, and it is certainly intended to apply almost entirely to agriculturists who occasionally do a turn at an insured trade. It is intended to say that if they do they shall not during the occasional period when they are so employed have to pay these contributions. It seems to me that, though the principle is excellent, it does not go far enough. In the first place, why should the saving be applied only to agriculturists? Why should it not apply also to people in other industrial uninsured trades, who occasionally do a job in an insured trade? Another point, which to my mind is more important, is the geographical limitation. My hon. Friend has instanced the Black Country, part of which I represent. The Black Country is preponderatingly a mining and industrial district, but there are farms scattered here and there, where a few cows are kept, and a little agriculture is done, and there are men whose general work, therefore, is agriculture. These men now and again do a turn in some engineering or constructional work. It is a common thing for them, when there is a great demand for labour in the works, perhaps at a time when agriculture is slack and there is nothing doing on the farm, to take a turn in what will be under the Bill an insured trade. Why should these people be excluded from the benefits of this Clause? After all, it is in these districts that the case is most likely to arise. In a purely agricultural district, such as 2020 Wiltshire, there are probably very few insured trades, and it is highly improbable that the average Wiltshire agriculturist will ever do a turn in an insured trade. On the other hand, in a district like the Black Country, or Lancashire, or the West Riding of Yorkshire, or Durham, it is highly probable that this state of affairs will arise, so that the Clause will really be far more useful if it is not limited in the manner proposed. I do not think there is any difference of principle between us, but in order to make the Clause really operative I hope the Government will see their way to meet us.
§ Sir WALTER NUGENT
This is a Clause in which we who represent agricultural districts in Ireland take a great deal of interest, and we would not like to have the words omitted as proposed by the hon. Member (Mr. Baldwin). The Clause as proposed seems to us to meet the case of agricultural Ireland. In that country we have only two centres where there are any builders as the term is understood in England. In the agricultural districts of Ireland, men who do that type of work are very much the same as those who do similar work in the agricultural districts of England. They are the ordinary mason or carpenter, who perhaps once in a year, or once in two years, gets a job of building labourers' cottages or some small work of that sort, but for the remainder of the year they return to their usual avocation, and they never employ men except at those particular times.
§ Sir W. NUGENT
Supposing there are some building operations in the rural parts of Ireland, the builders from Belfast get the contract and bring down their own staff, but they may also employ local labour. We desire to prevent them having to pay for the local labour they employ, or the men themselves being compelled to pay. It would be quite useless for the employer, seeing that for the rest of the year they would return to their ordinary avocation. You say this case seldom arises in England, but it is the usual thing in Ireland. You have in England no districts remote from a large town, but in Ireland we have only two large towns. It is an entirely agricultural country, and there is absolutely no building work done except by builders from 2021 those large towns. If you omit the words as proposed, then, when they come down to a rural district and employ the ordinary common labourer, they would have to insure him. I hope the Committee will let the Clause remain as it stands, and will not omit the words as proposed.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The proposal which is made by the hon. Gentleman for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) is one which certainly would cut a very considerable part off this Bill, and it is one which the Government cannot accept for a reason which I think will be plain to the Committee when I ask them to consider what the real effect would be of that which the hon. Gentleman is urging. He desires to introduce into the Bill a provision to the effect that as long as the workman does not usually follow an insured trade he should never come within the insurance scheme of this Part of the Act. May I point out to him in the first place, that, if any such provision were made, the result, say in the important town of Dudley, which the hon. Gentleman apposite (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) represents, would be that the engineering shop which is calling for labourers would say, "Wanted, agricultural labourers for our engineering shop." Agricultural labourers are the people we want, because, if we can only get a man who will say he is not usually employed in this labour, then we shall avoid paying this 2½d., whereas, if we take people more regularly employed in the trade, we shall find it necessary to pay this contribution. It is no part of the Government scheme that we should so dislocate the ordinary process of industry as to make it actually to a man's advantage to employ in the unskilled branches of his trade somebody who says he is really employed in something else. The object of this Clause is very much more limited. It is to provide for the class of case explained by the hon. Gentleman from Ireland to the Committee just now.
In a district which is truly rural you do not in the ordinary course of events have engineering works and the like, such as are common in the Black Country, but you none the less may from time to time find a little piece of building going on, that a cottage is being built, and it may be a man who at one season of the year is a beater or a fisherman, is for a week or a fortnight employed in wheeling a wheelbarrow with bricks in it or doing some other unskilled work connected with the building of the cottage. That is the 2022 man this Clause is designed to exclude from the Bill, but that is a very different proposition from the most serious proposal made by the hon. Gentleman opposite in moving his Amendment. The result of his Amendment if we adopted it would be to exclude from this Part of the Bill every single person who finds himself in a position to say that after all an insured trade was not his usual occupation. May I point out one thing more? Such a provision for the purpose of administering this Act is not desirable from the point of view of the employer. An employer who has got a staff of men and who, in the ordinary course of events, will stamp the books of all of them and will regard it as the ordinary course that each of his men should have a book, would, if this were adopted, have to inquire as to what part of the year a man was employed in the industry in which he himself is concerned, and he would have to pick and choose between one man and another and say, "I must have books for those persons who are regularly employed in my industry and stamp them, whereas those persons who are not regularly employed in any industry will be exempt, and I shall be exempt in respect of them, That is not practicable from the administrative point of view. It would be creating an exception from the ambit of the Bill, and I regret I must resist the proposal.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
Surely the Solicitor-General has put the case too broadly. The Amendment would not confer any such privilege upon agriculture, and would not in the least induce an employer to say "Wanted, an agricultural labourer." He might advertise, "Wanted a labourer who does not usually follow the trade of building or mechanical engineering or the construction of vehicles." It would mean, if a person usually followed some trade other than one of the five selected trades, he should not because he took occasional employment in an insured trade necessarily require to be insured. I confess I do not quite follow why the mere fact that a man, who usually follows some occupation other than an insured trade, is employed in a district which is agricultural, should put him in a more advantageous position than a man in another district who is usually employed in a non-insured trade. With regard to keeping books, the same thing would apply under this Clause. The question here would be what is your usual occupation? Probably, no 2023 doubt, the usual occupation would be agricultural in an agricultural district, but it might be any one of the other insured trades. It seems to me the Solicitor-General has put the argument against the proposed Amendment much too wide, and the restrictions which he suggests the Amendment will introduce are just restrictions which would be as operative in the Clause as the Government have framed it. I confess I cannot see why the fact that a man who is in an agricultural district, and who usually follows a non-insured trade, but occasionally gets an odd job in an insured trade, should compel him to be insured. It seems to me the Amendment would go a long way to improve the Bill.
§ Mr. LEACH
I feel disposed, as advised at this moment, to support the Amendment. I represent the Colne Valley. It is not chiefly agricultural, but there is a little agriculture in it. Our chief industry is woollen manufactures, and I want to know if any man in the district I represent should, for a month or so, work on a building, whether he would have the advantage here offered to agriculturists. This Clause, as I read it, is drafted to deal with agricultural districts only, and unless I can be assured that a man in my division who leaves a factory because of shortness of trade or for some other reason and is employed temporarily on some building will have the advantage which this Clause gives, I shall be obliged to vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. STEWART
Would the Solicitor-General define an agricultural district? Is it decided by area or by population? In my Constituency I am dubbed an agricultural Member, and no doubt in area the division is still agricultural, but in population it is not. The words "the principal industry of which is agricultural" introduces a great difficulty, and I find myself in sympathy with the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, because, although there are many industries in my district, still the principal industry is agriculture, and I shall be inclined on the same grounds as the hon. Member to vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. BARNES
I hope this Amendment will not be carried. I think the hon. Member for the Colne Valley (Mr. Leach) argued against the interests of his own constituents. I do not want to widen this new Clause, because if we do 2024 we shall be bringing a great many more into it. When I read it first, I could not very well understand it, but when I did, it seemed to me I should give a consent to it, although reluctantly, because it does exclude some men from the Bill. I am inclined to assent to it as it is drafted and confined to an agricultural district, but supposing it were widened in the sense of the further Amendment, and the constituents of the hon. Member for the Colne Valley were brought into it, what is to prevent the jobbing builder or the engineer in a fairly good business evading the Act by carrying on his business more or less with casual labour. That surely would not be to the advantage of the constituents of the hon. Member, and I think the inevitable result of widening the Clause as he suggests would be to enable that to be done. I do not want it to be done. I assent to the Clause because it seems to me, judging from what has been said by the hon. Member from Ireland, it may be necessary in agricultural districts, but I do not want to widen it.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I agree with the intentions of this Clause, but I am not quite sure about its wording. For instance, what is a district? "Where a workman is employed in a district—"Is the Colne Valley going to be a district, or is a parish in the Colne Valley going to be a district? Then, what is "a principal industry"? Is a principal industry an industry that has a majority of the population in it? We might at any rate just see the difficulties of interpretation so as to get words to carry out our intention. Is a principal industry that which has an absolute majority of the population, or is it the chief of several industries, not necessarily having itself an absolute majority, but compared with other industries having more workmen employed in it? I think it will be necessary to reconsider the Clause in respect of those two points. I am not opposing it. I rather agree with it; but I am afraid if you try to apply it to a good many districts you will find it is quite impossible to apply it.
§ Sir J. SIMON
There are just two or three points which have been made about which I may perhaps be allowed to say a word in reply. Perhaps I may take the points made in their reverse order and deal first with what has just been said by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). I appreciate, and I 2025 think the Committee generally appreciate there is a good deal of force in the reflection that the words used in the Clause raise possible difficulties of definition and boundary which one would gladly see minimised. The hon. Gentleman opposite asked the same question about the word "district," and certainly, if the Committee sees fit to add the Clause to the Bill, I will undertake that the fullest care shall be taken to see whether we can get tighter words, in order that we may minimise the risk of misunderstanding. With regard to the use of the word "district," those who have not tried their hands at drafting can never appreciate how extraordinarily difficult it is, and certainly no one has so much reason to be grateful to the draughtsmen as the lawyer who has to take some part in the Bill. Certainly the draughtsman has taken a good deal of trouble to find the best words. The real difficulty is this: it would be quite easy to use an expression which gives a perfectly defined area; we could use the term, "Local Government area," or "Rural District area," meaning thereby the Rural District Council area; but the real truth is that these divisions do not always represent the true distinction between what is rural and what is urban; and it appeared to us that it was probably better to use an expression such as we have here, so that in a case of difficulty it would be possible to determine it rather than to use the formal language of local government, and as a consequence probably have cases which ought not to be on the side of the line on which we should, technically, find them. My hon. Friend the Member for the Colne Valley made an observation which, I think, is capable of being misunderstood. He said he wanted to know whether the workmen in his constituency were to have the advantages which this Clause gives. With great respect to him, if he takes the view that Part II. of the National Insurance Bill is a good thing, I should have thought that he would desire that workmen in his constituency should come within the Bill, and he would not regard it as an advantage that they should be excluded from it.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I think we all in this Committee know what the "one-in-five" rule means. What would happen in the 2026 case of a man who does not work all his time at an insured trade is that he would only be paying his contribution so long as he is working at such insured trade, and he would get benefits proportionate to his contribution. Therefore I suggest there is nothing in the point that it is to the disadvantage of a man to be outside this Clause. The Clause is not proposed because, as would be imagined, we are conferring a favour on any constituency; it is proposed in order to ease the administration and working of the Bill. It is proposed because in certain districts, in Ireland and Scotland—and it may be in England also—it would be practically absurd in those districts where these insured occupations are not as a rule carried on at all, to say that because a man generally employed in nothing of the sort, is given a few days work, it is therefore necessary to set up the card and stamps, the insurance officers, and the whole machinery of the Bill. Our object was to make a provision of this sort in areas where that sort of work was quite exceptional and abnormal, and not to extend it to such a district as the Black Country—
§ Sir J. SIMON
And I am treating it as an example. It is, I think, a very good example of a district where insured occupations are common. I hope the Committee will be prepared to add this Clause to the Bill. I am by no means blind to the difficulties which have been pointed out by my hon. and learned Friend, and I propose to do my best, with such assistance as I am glad to have, to see if we can make this Clause a tighter Clause. Certainly the Government do not propose to extend its operation.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
The hon. Member for Leicester has raised an important question as to the meaning of the word "district" and of the term "principal industry," and I must confess that, after listening to the explanation of the Solicitor-General, I am not very much the wiser. I do not know whether the Government imagine that the persons who will be responsible for the application and working out of this Bill will be in a better position to define these terms than Members of this Committee. As I presume the object really is to deal with the case of a man who may be employed for one part of the year in agriculture, and for 2027 another part in an insured trade, I would suggest that the end must be secured by leaving out the words "principal industry," and merely stating that a person who is employed one part of the year in agriculture and for another part in some other industry will be without this Clause. It is a very common practice in agricultural districts for a man to be employed in the building trade during one half of the year and for him, during the summer, to go back to his agricultural labours.
§ Mr. BAIRD
I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow that this Clause may be necessary. But at the same time, I do not think it is fair. It is necessary, no doubt, from the Government point of view, but it is not necessary from the point of view of improving the Bill. Having a recollection of the extraordinary lucidity with which the Solicitor-General has explained various Clauses of the Bill, a lucidity which enabled an ordinary human being like myself to understand them, I must admit that the statement he gave us this morning really was a masterpiece. Whether it was because he was confronted with a gentleman of his own cloth, who shook his nerve, or whether it was because of the early start of the proceedings—I cannot say; but I certainly fail to understand why in dealing with a Clause in the Bill which is designed according to this Sub-section to meet the case of agriculture, he should have suggested it was to deal with the case of beaters and fishermen. Beating is no part of the business of agriculture.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The statement of the hon. Gentleman is, perhaps, the best possible proof of the suggestion that I gave a somewhat confused explanation, but if he will read the Clause, he will see that it does not pretend to deal with the case of an individual workman employed in agriculture, but with the case of a man employed in a rural district, and such a man, I conceive, may be employed in a rural district and may be a beater, or a fisherman.
§ Mr. BAIRD
Take the case of Rugby. There we have some important engineering industries. It is not an agricultural district, but a man may turn up there who is usually employed, not in agriculture, but in walking about the roads looking for a job; he wants to be taken on as a labourer in this trade. A good many come to me and ask me if I cannot help them, and I have done my best to enable them to make a good start in the Colonies; but under this Clause, as it stands, it seems to me that that man will come out of an agricultural area, though he may not have been engaged in agriculture, and apply for work at one of the great factories, and the employer will be able to claim exemption as regards insuring him because he comes out of an agricultural district. The same man may apply for work at a similar kind of works in London, and may have been similarly employed beforehand in walking about the street looking for a job; yet he would be entitled to the benefits which this Bill confers. That is why I say I do not think the Clause is fair. An injustice ought not to be inflicted on England simply to meet an Irish difficulty.
§ Mr. SCANLAN
This Clause is designed to deal with the case of a man living in an agricultural district and going to work in a factory. The provision is that where a workman is employed in a district, the principal industry of which is agriculture, and usually follows in that district some occupation other than an insured trade, he shall be excluded from the operation of the Clause. I think from these words that the Clause contemplates the case of a man who is ordinarily engaged in agriculture in his own district, and goes casually to an insured trade in that district. It seeks to draw a distinction between two cases; one a general case of people in large centres of population, large urban centres, where you have a number of insured trades, and a special case which is by no means confined to Ireland, but which obtains in England and Scotland as well, where you have an agriculturist occasionally turning for temporary purposes from the ordinary work of agriculture, and engaging in building operations. Even those of us who are anxious that this Clause should be passed in the interests of Ireland do not contemplate that in the large centres of population in that country, in 2029 places like Dublin and Belfast, an agriculturist, coming into one of the shipbuilding yards, should be treated differently from the other employés in that yard. If that were so, I think it would destroy a large portion of the Bill. I think that a large majority of the members of this Committee will be in favour of this Clause, which provides that where an employer and workman are agreed, the contributions shall be made payable. In all the circumstances I submit to the Committee that as this Clause is applicable to similar conditions in England and Scotland as in Ireland, it is in the interests of all it should be passed.
§ Mr. HOARE
Who is going to decide the meaning of the word "district," or of the term "principal industries." Is it going to be done by Board of Trade regulations or by Special Order, or by what means? It is obviously a matter of very great complication, and I think we should have the point cleared up, who is to decide, and how the decision is going to be made.
Mr. HAMILTON BENN
The point, to my mind, about this Clause is that it is going to act unfairly, not in one part of Ireland or another, but that it will constitute a tax upon industry. We may here in this Committee, or in the House, agree that that tax upon industry is beneficial to the country as a whole. It is a tax upon industry in itself, in that it levies so much on the trade, or rather on the cost of manufacture. We are going to set up by this Clause a method by which there may be established industries in rural districts because of the possibility that in winter time and at certain other periods of the year, they will be able to get cheap labour, and thus compete to the disadvantage of like industries in towns, which are entirely industrial. I do not think that that is the intention of the Government, but, at any rate, it is the effect of the Clause. I quite understand the point made by the Solicitor-General, that it is desired to save the expense of putting into operation the whole machinery of the Bill in order to collect a few contributions at different times during the year. Undoubtedly it is very desirable that some means should be devised of preventing it having that effect. But the Clause as it stands is going to hamper the town and encourage the setting up of industrial works in rural districts, in the hope of getting labour at 2030 certain times of the year at a cheaper rate than it can be obtained in towns.
§ Mr. INGLEBY
I should like to emphasise what has fallen from the hon. Member for Chelsea. I represent a town situated in an agricultural district, and I naturally want to know how this is going to affect my Constituency and the people in the district surrounding it.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The Committee, I think, will forgive me if I add another word. I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentlemen for raising these points. They appreciate that this has been a difficult Clause to frame, and the discussion has been useful. May I first answer the question put to me by the hon. Member for Chelsea? If he will look back he will see that Clause 67 of the Bill as now amended provides, amongst other things, for regulations to be made for giving the employers and workmen an opportunity of obtaining a decision by the umpire on any question as to whether contribution under any Part of this Act should take place. Hon. Gentlemen will therefore see that the umpire will be the authority in any case of doubt to decide this question, because this Clause is framed to say that under certain circumstances contributions are not payable. That is the answer to that question, I think. Then the hon. Member for Greenwich and the other gentleman who spoke last have raised another point. I feel the importance of the point which they have raised, but I do suggest to them and to the Committee that really the danger which they very properly emphasised is a danger which is substantially avoided by the Clause as we proposed it, and I must say I think it is not a danger to be avoided in the way suggested on the other side, because if you limit this exemption to the cases covered by our Clause, you do not really confer a privilege upon one employer who is competing with another employer who does not enjoy the privilege.
That is one of the reasons why we confine it to the agricultural district. If you take a place where in the ordinary course of events, the occupations are not insured, occupations where, for instance, the building is a mere casual piece of work on which a casual amount of employment is given to persons who do different things, then you are not really effectively conferring a preference, because there is no real competition, but the moment you come to a part of the country where the trades 2031 are the important and organised industries, it would be a very serious thing, I suggest, to say that as long as the employer employed a workman who came from some other branch of industry, he is to be exempt from what I agree is a burden, whereas, if he employed the regular soldiers of that industry he is not to be exempt from the burden.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The difficulty of applying it is not small. It is a perfectly fair criticism to say that it is not a Clause easy to be applied with certainty. I do not at all resent it. I think it is a perfectly just observation to be made about it, but after all, we must do the best we can for the case. I am extremely obliged for the suggestions the Committee has made—and they are useful—but I do suggest we ought to add a Clause with this general object to the Bill.
Let me say to the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Hamilton Benn) that I entirely recognise, and I hope he and his Friends also recognise, that if you find anything to increase the cost of production beyond all doubt you depress the industries of this country, but, on the other hand the real justification for the limitations in our Clause is this, and the reason why we confine it to agricultural districts, is because if you do not you actually put a premium upon the drawing of work-people from agriculture into towns. If you say to an employer in a town, "If you can, get people who do not usually work in your trade," you will be drawing from the rural districts into the towns people who desire to work in the rural districts. We have had a useful discussion and I do not wish to be dogmatic about it, but I suggest we might now add this Clause to the Bill, and I will take every opportunity I have of digesting and I hope applying the valuable comments which have been made.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I must say that I am not in the least satisfied with what the Government has said, and 2032 I think that is a very unfair Clause. I will say that the Government up to date have dealt very fairly, but I do not think they are dealing fairly here, because up to date the distinctions drawn have been between one trade and another, but now it is unfair to discriminate with regard to districts. That is not the proper way to proceed. You should not give a special advantage to one district which you deny to others where the conditions are practically the same. The Solicitor-General admits the administrative difficulties. Then why create them? If you make this Clause universal you get rid of all these difficulties as to interpretation and as to what an agricultural district is. Take the example my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby gave of Rugby, an industrial town in an agricultural district. Then let me take one other point. The Solicitor-General and the hon. Member for Black-friars both said you are putting a premium on a man employing casual labour, and that he would try to draw agricultural labourers in from the agricultural districts to undertake work in electrical shops and engineering shops. Now, does any hon. Member really think that a man engaged in a big engineering business is going to save a few shillings by employing agricultural labourers, and at the same time lose thousands, which he would do because his work will not be so efficiently done?
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
If he did not say so I will withdraw that, of course. But I do say a man knows his own business, and he is not going to save a few shillings by avoiding paying a contribution and possibly losing as many thousands afterwards. Then, I cannot understand why the Government refuses it on account of districts, and I do hope therefore that the Government will give a pledge that if they cannot accept this particular Amendment they will reconsider it before reporting, otherwise I shall feel inclined to vote against the Clause as a whole.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 24; Noes, 16.
|Division No. 10.]||AYES.|
|Barnes, Mr.||Harvey, Mr. Thomas Edmund||Nugent, Sir Walter|
|Brady, Mr.||Jones, Mr. William||Nuttall, Mr.|
|Buxton, Mr. Sydney||Joyce, Mr.||Price, Mr.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin||Leach, Mr.||Robertson, Mr. John|
|Denman, Mr.||Macdonald, Mr. Ramsay||Scanlan, Mr.|
|Goldstone, Mr.||M'Callum, Mr.||Solicitor-General, Mr.|
|Hackett, Mr.||Menzies, Sir Walter||Webb, Mr.|
|Harmsworth, Mr. Cecil||Murray, Captain||Williams, Mr. Penry|
|Baird, Mr.||Goldman, Mr.||Peto, Mr.|
|Baldwin, Mr.||Harris, Mr.||Primrose, Mr.|
|Benn, Mr. Hamilton||Hoare, Mr.||Roch, Mr. Walter|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith-||Ingleby, Mr.||Stewart, Mr. Gershom|
|Davies, Mr. Ellis||Jones, Mr. Haydn||Wilson, Mr. Tyson|
|Dickson, Mr. Scott|
§ Mr. PETO
I have handed in an Amendment which I do not think is consequential—in the proposed new Clause, to leave out the words "and the workman," and to insert instead thereof the word "agrees."
I want to amend the Clause by leaving out the words so that it will read "where the workman agrees the contributions are payable notwithstanding this provision." My object is not to do any injustice to the workmen, or to prevent their having an opportunity of speaking on the matter, but I want to put it to the Committee that if these words are left in I think it will produce almost hopeless confusion in the working of this Clause. There is a good deal of doubt as to what will be agricultural districts, and as to the other definitions of the Clause. Each individual workman cannot possibly be acquainted with what the decisions of the umpire will be on those points. Much more than that, I would point out that two hon. Members, each speaking from a different point of view and for different constituencies, point out that it is not the intention of this Clause that a person, as the hon. Member for Sligo says, who comes in for employment for a short time in a shipbuilding yard, for instance, should necessarily be allowed to leave himself outside what are the advantages of this part of the Act. The hon. Member for Rugby pointed out that in his town there are very large building works and workshops where there is an enormous amount of joiners work of all kinds, and that kind of work done, and that it is not the intention of the Clause that each person going in there as a workman should be able to leave himself out of the provisions of the Act. I am now putting the opposite case, the case to which the Clause is to apply.
2034 We have already had an hon. Member from Ireland who pointed out that it is only the building of a few small cottages which it affected, and that the people employed on these works are not people employed ordinarily in building, but in these cases I think it is exceedingly dangerous for the employer to decide that he is employing purely people who are ordinarily following agriculture and other pursuits, not insured trades, and therefore it is not worth while to set up all this complicated mechanism, as the Solicitor-General called it, of cards and all the rest of it, for these few men. I will give the Committee one other case to make my meaning quite clear in moving the omission of those words. Take a sewage works, or a light railway, or some engineering work of that kind. It goes down into a purely agricultural district, and is carried out in a purely agricultural district, and again very likely the bulk of the men employed on those works, though these works may be of some magnitude, will be people to whom it is not intended that this Clause should apply. In that case the employer has to provide the workmen, and it is not reasonable that in engaging every single hand he or his manager should have to go into all the questions with every individual workman as to whether he wishes to take out a card or not. He will say the works are going to employ people who mainly follow agricultural pursuits, and we are not going to have any cards on these works. I do not think any injustice would be done to anybody, but in the case of some regularly established business in a town—for instance, the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Hamilton Benn) instanced Basingstoke, where electrical firms have started business, and other businesses are being started—I do not think it is in the interest of the workmen themselves that any individual workman who comes on to do some of the lower classes of labour in these 2035 industries should say, "I want to leave myself out." It is not in the interests of the employer. The employer would not want to be bothered with negotiations with all his employees. He will say, "Mine is a shipbuilding yard, an engineering shop, or a factory. Let them take up their cards in the ordinary way, for I do not want to be bothered by saving 2½d. at all." It is in the interests of the workman and of the administration of the Clause that it should be left in the hands of the employer to say—and I think the Committee can leave it safely to him to say, "Mine is a casual piece of work employing merely people it is not the intention of the Bill to insure at all," or else that "Mines is an insured trade, and I do not want to be bothered by three or five per cent. of the workmen as to whether they want to take that course or not."
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am not quite certain that I have correctly followed the whole of the argument of the hon. Gentleman, but I would ask him to reconsider his view, because it does not seem to me that the proposal he makes would really have the effect which his speech indicates that he desires. The Clause as it stands, and if it is not altered, would provide for the exception where the employer and the workman agree. I understand the hon. Gentleman to suggest that it ought to be except in cases where the employer agrees. It takes two people to make an agreement. You cannot have an employer agreeing unless he has someone to agree with. The particular case which influenced the hon. Gentleman to make his speech is a case which in any event would be provided by the Clause as it stands. An employer is entitled to take advantage of the Clause. He is perfectly at liberty to say if he likes that he will put up a public notice that he is not going to agree with any workman to get out of the benefit of this Clause just in the same way that any man may announce to the public that he never intends to agree to marry, or he may announce that he is not going to agree not to get married. He cannot agree to marry unless there is someone who agrees with him to marry.
§ Mr. ALBERT SMITH
I sincerely trust the Government will not take the course suggested. What does this Amendment propose to do? You may disagree whether an employment scheme shall be contributory or non-contributary, but so long as we have a contributory scheme the men have a right to their side of the bargain, the same as the employer. If the Amendment is carried in its present form it gives an employer the privilege of saying to a man that he will employ him on the understanding that his insurance premium is paid for unemployment benefit. In the course of time if anything turns up distasteful to the employer and causes any number of the men to become unemployed, the employer will be in a position to say that these men have no reason for being out of work at all. If the employer advances the argument notice will be taken of it far more than if the men had contributed their share of the premium, and in a large number of cases it would be certainly a very difficult matter to adjust the relations between them. I think rather than disturb them in any way, it would be better for the hon. Member to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
I hope my hon. Friend will not press this Amendment. It seems to me that the point made by the Solicitor-General that the exception cannot come into operation unless the employer agrees renders the Amendment unnecessary.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause be added to the Bill."
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
I hope the Solicitor-General will consider before the Report stage whether the retention of the word "the" in the phrase "the principal industry of which," could not be modified. I can conceive many cases where you would have the surplus entirely agricultural and yet have a large mining works carried on. It would be very difficult to say it would be purely a rural district, because agriculture would not be in the true sense the principal industry.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am much obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I shall be glad to consider that. I see it raises an important point.
Mr. HAMILTON BENN
I do not feel at all satisfied with the Clause, although I quite understand the difficulty the Government are in about it. If it had been left to the decision of the Board of Trade to exclude certain areas from the operation of this Bill, and if it had been left to their sole decision, I should be satisfied, but by a hard and fast rule to say that certain industrial towns which are in a rural district shall be excluded from this Bill, and that others which are in an industrial district are included, does not seem to me to be right. If the Clause had been so drawn that in rural districts the Board of Trade had the right of excluding certain trades or certain portions of an industry from the operation of the Bill I should be quite satisfied. I do not think that the Clause as drawn meets the case.
§ Question, "That the Clause be added to the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ (Exclusion of Subsidiary Occupations by Special Order.)
§ The Board of Trade may, if in any case they consider that it is desirable, by special order exclude from the occupations which are to be deemed employment in an insured trade for the purpose of this Part of the Act—
- (a) Any occupation which appears to them to be common to insured and uninsured trades alike, and ancillary only to the purposes of an insured trade; or
- (b) Any occupation which appears to them to be an occupation in a business which, though concerned with the making of parts or the preparation of materials for use in connection with an insured trade, is mainly carried on as separate businesses or in connection with trades other than insured trades;
§ Any special order made under this Section may be made so as to cover one or more occupations.
§ The Committee will recollect that when we were discussing Clause 67 the merits 2038 of this new Clause were discussed, hon. Members in various parts of the Committee desiring that this portion of it should come under Special Order. I undertook after the discussion, if the Committee agreed, that that should be so, that the only way of doing it was by way of a new Clause. There is one point upon which I must throw myself on the mercy of the Committee. As Clause 78 stands it is necessary that a Special Order shall lay on the Table of the House for thirty days. The Clause which I am now moving relates to matters which are urgent, and which should be brought into force soon after the Act comes into operation. In consequence of the delay in discussing the Bill the Act cannot come into operation until the 1st July instead of the 1st May. It is obvious that between that date and the hoped-for rising of the House next Session there would not be an opportunity for the Special Order to lay on the Table of the House for thirty days. It would be necessary for the Board of Trade to come to a decision then to have the inquiry, and it is quite clear that would take it more or less into the summer or autumn. In these circumstances I shall have to ask the Committee on Report to exclude from these particular provisions, which are really in some ways of less importance than others coming under the special rules the proposal that the Order should lay on the Table for thirty days. I think the Committee will see that that part of the provision of the Special Orders would be almost fatal to bringing them into operation.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
We recognise that this new Clause is intended to take the place of Clause 67, Sub-section (1), which has been left out.
§ Mr. BUXTON
Not quite. It was intended to take the place of what would have been 67a if my Amendments had been accepted, to which the Committee agreed. Perhaps hon. Members will recollect that we very much curtailed the powers of the Board of Trade in regard to matters generally, and it was agreed that with my Amendments on the Paper, would have been acceptable to the Committee.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
When we were dealing with Clause 67, we felt that the matters dealt with in that Clause ought not to be done by regulation, but by the much longer and more public process of Special Order. What I want to remark is that this new Clause does not 2039 take the place of 67a. My hon. Friend (Mr. Goldman) is going to raise this point by way of an Amendment. The new Clause provides for certain exclusions, and Clause 67a dealt with inclusions.
§ Mr. BUXTON
Yes, that is my point. In the first instance, we were very much curtailing the power of the Board of Trade, and we were not taking power in regard to inclusions, but only exclusions. In consequence of the discussion in the Committee we are prepared to allow the Special Order procedure.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
It seems to me that there is a hiatus because there is nobody to decide what trades really come in. In 67a, you do appear to prescribe what occupations are to be deemed employment in an insured trade, or in other words, for interpreting the Schedules. My hon. Friend near me will move an Amendment dealing with that point, because I think there must be some means of interpretation.
§ Mr. BARNES
I should like to have some information before we pass this Clause. I have looked over the Sixth Schedule, and I cannot see much that will satisfy what I have in my mind. Take an engineer's workshop, that is to say a workshop engaged in the construction of things useful and used in mining, which is outside of the Act, and in building. I do not know whether that would be covered by the words "mechanical engineering" in the Sixth Schedule. I should like to know that if that place would be really covered, although carried on as a separate business. Would it be covered by the Sixth Schedule of the Act?
§ Sir J. SIMON
Our view is quite clearly that the case the hon. Gentleman has raised would be within the Schedule, and we believe that is a fact.
§ Question put and agreed to
§ Mr. GOLDMAN
I beg to move, in the first paragraph, after the word "Order" ["by Special Order exclude "], to insert the words "(1) decide whether an occupation is to be deemed employment in an insured trade for the purpose of this part of this Act, and (2)"
The President of the Board of Trade has pointed out that the object of this particular Clause is to give authority to the Board of Trade by Special Order to exclude certain trades from 2040 coming within the purview of this Act. As the hon. Member for Dudley has pointed out, there is a great link in the authority which should be established to give a decision whether a certain occupation comes within this Schedule or not. You have got the Sixth Schedule and there is no authority for prescribing what occupations are deemed employment within the operation of this Act. It was contemplated that the authority should be invested in the Board of Trade under Clause 67, but hon. Members objected to these wide powers being given to the Board of Trade, and the Government yielded to those desires, and proposed to amend the Clause. They have so amended Clause 67, which I have before me, but if hon. Members will look at the amended Clause, they will find that it only provides for individual persons, and for individual workshops, but it provides in no way in respect of trades the link which is missing for an authority which has to establish which trade is to come within the purview of this Act. That would be established by the Amendment which I intend to move, which will give to the Board of Trade subject to a Special Order, the authority to decide which occupations are to be included as insured trades. I think this is the link that is missing. It is not contained in Clause 67, and I wish to give the Board of Trade power to decide this important matter.
§ Mr. BUXTON
Perhaps I may be allowed to recall to the Committee how the matter stands. The original Clause 67 gave the Board of Trade power to include and exclude. Before that we had come to the conclusion that it was asking rather too much that the Board of Trade by regulations should be able to exclude trades, and when we came to discuss the matter the Committee thought, and we did not dissent from that view, that as regards the power of exclusion, that should not be done by regulation, but by Special Order. In no sense is there a hiatus in the Bill, because that point will come under Clauses 64, 67 and 75, and any question of the inclusion of a trade as to whether it comes under the Schedule or not, will, on appeal, go to the umpire. The umpire will be the official who will decide that question rather than the Board of Trade, and we thought that was the view taken by hon. Members. There is really no hiatus, and the power of the Board of Trade is diminished in this matter, which we understood 2041 was the view of the Committee. I think the hon. Member will find that his difficulty—which I agree may easily have occurred because this Clause has been cut about a good deal—is met by the fact that the umpire will decide instead of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. GOLDMAN
Can the right hon. Gentleman draw attention to any part of the Bill where this is included in Clause 67?
§ Mr. BUXTON
If the hon. Member will look at Clause 67, as amended, he will see the following words in Paragraph (b):—For giving employers and workmen an opportunity of obtaining a decision by the umpire appointed under this part of this Act on any question whether contributions under this part of this Act are payable in respect of any workman or class of workmen.That is the power which he will have of deciding this question.
§ Mr. GOLDMAN
That is not the point I am really discussing. The point I want to discuss is whether a particular trade comes within the provisions of the Act; whether, for instance, construction work, drainage works, sewage works, tramways, come within the Act. I want to give the Board of Trade power to say whether they shall or shall not. There are many cases. Do roads come within the Act? Do private roads come within it? They are all questions of principle as far as the trades and individual persons are concerned.
§ Sir J. SIMON
It is not merely the individual person; the question may either be whether any workman has got to contribute or whether a class of workmen are within the Act. The words "class of workmen" are there put in in order that we may have the sort of test which he proposes. It would not be proper to do this by special order procedure, because it would give the House of Commons or the House of Lords, as the case may be, the opportunity, not of interpreting the Schedule, but of cutting down the Schedule, which is a different matter altogether.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question, "That the Clause be added to the Bill," put, and agreed to.2042
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
I beg to move that the following new Clause (to be inserted after Clause 80) be read a Second Time:—
§ (Voluntary Contributions and Additional Unemployment Benefit.)
§ (1) With a view to securing additional unemployment benefit for any workman insured under this Part of this Act it shall be lawful for an employer to pay on his own account in respect of any such workman and also with the consent of the workman on behalf of the workman additional contributions (hereinafter referred to as "voluntary contributions") beyond the rates specified in Part I. of the Eighth Schedule to this Act, but before commencing the payment of any voluntary contributions the employer shall give not less than one month's notice to the Board of Trade.
§ (2) Voluntary contributions paid by an employer on his own account shall be deemed to be voluntary contributions by the employer, and voluntary contributions paid by an employer on behalf of a workman shall be deemed to be voluntary contributions by the workman and the voluntary contributions by an employer and by a workman may be equal or unequal.
§ (3) In respect of the voluntary contributions paid in respect of a workman, either by the employer or the workman, the workman shall be entitled to receive additional payments (hereinafter referred to as "additional unemployment benefit") beyond the rates specified in the Seventh Schedule of this Act at the following rate, that is to say: In respect of every penny so paid for each week when the workman is employed in an insured trade he shall be entitled to receive payment of a weekly sum equal to three-twentieth parts of the rates specified in the said Seventh Schedule, or of such other rate as may be prescribed under that Schedule, and applicable to such workmen, and so in proportion for any fraction of one penny so paid: Provided that additional unemployment benefit shall only be payable during the same periods, and subject to the same conditions and limitations as apply to the payment of unemployment benefit.
§ (4) The provisions of this Part of this Act shall, subject to any necessary modifications apply to and in respect of additional unemployment benefit and voluntary contributions in the like manner in all respects as such provisions apply to and 2043 in respect of unemployment benefit and compulsory contributions subject nevertheless as follows:—
- (a) No contributions out of money provided by Parliament shall be made in respect of voluntary contributions;
- (b) It shall not be lawful for the Board of Trade either by direction of the Treasury or otherwise to make any temporary modifications in or to revise any of the rates of voluntary contributions but under the circumstances and conditions subject to which the Board of Trade may be required by the Treasury to make temporary modifications in any rates of compulsory contributions the Board shall, if the Treasury so direct, make temporary modifications in the rate of additional unemployment benefit, and, under the circumstances and conditions subject to which the Board of Trade are authorised to revise the rates of compulsory contributions, they may in like manner revise the rate of additional unemployment benefit by increasing or decreasing the same;
- (c) An employer shall not be entitled to be refunded any voluntary contributions paid by him on his account or on behalf of any workman;
- (d) Voluntary contributions may be paid in respect of a workman during any period which he is employed in an insured trade, whether he receives remuneration from his employer or not, and if voluntary contributions are so paid the workmen shall for the purpose of determining his right to additional unemployment benefit be deemed to be employed notwithstanding that he receives no remuneration;
§ (5) Any employers desiring to discontinue the payment of any voluntary contributions either in respect of any particular workman or class of workmen shall give not less than one month's (week's) notice in writing to the Board of Trade of such desire, and at the expiration of such notice the employer shall cease to be under any liability to continue the payment of any voluntary contributions in respect of such workman or class of workmen either on his own account or on behalf of such workman or class of workmen.2044
§ (6) In the event of the payment of any voluntary contributions being discontinued in respect of any workman either on account of the workman ceasing to be employed by the employer who has paid the same or otherwise the amount, if any, by which the total amount of voluntary contributions paid in respect of such workman either by the employer or the workman has exceeded the total amount received by the workman as additional unemployment benefit shall be dealt with in such manner as may be prescribed.
§ The point I wish to raise is the question of voluntary contributions and additional unemployment benefit. I have been struck, from the time when I first began to consider the Government proposal with regard to unemployment benefit, with the inadequacy of the amount. When we are dealing with old age pensions, I can understand that 5s. per week is a very useful amount of money to keep an old person when beyond work. What has always been on my mind when thinking of the unemployment question, as we all have for years, is the workman with a wife and family, with perhaps four, five, or six children perhaps earning 30s. or 33s. a week, living in London, and paying 8s., 9s., or 10s. per week rent. I have always been anxious to think what we in Parliament could do for him. Where does that man come in under this Bill? What is the use of 7s. a week to him? He has perhaps got his children at school coming to the age of eleven, twelve, or thirteen, and is desirous that they should continue their education. I want that something more should be done to give that man such a sum of money as will enable him to keep his respectability, to keep his health, to keep his clothes in good order, and to prevent him from deteriorating as a workman. Then I ask myself, how is it to be done? Can I ask that the employer should be made by compulsion to pay more than 2½d.? and I say No; I do not suppose I can ask the Government to compel the employer to pay more. Then I ask myself, can I ask the Government to compel the workman to pay more than 2½d.? I cannot see that I could suggest that now.
§ I do not suppose it would be any use—in fact it would be out of order—if I asked that the State should increase their contribution. Therefore I have no other way of getting this question of a larger amount of benefit for the unemployed than by raising it on the voluntary principle. I 2045 believe there is a large number of working men in this country who would gladly make a voluntary contribution in addition to the compulsory contribution. I belive there is a large number of men who look forward to the time of unemployment when they would like to feel secure for a sufficient number of weeks to maintain their wives and children in a proper position. I believe if we had some provision in the Bill which would enable a workman to put, at any time he pleases, any additional amount to his credit, it would be largely availed of. I may be told, "let him go to the savings bank. He can have another account." But we who know human nature know that it is difficult for a working man to have several accounts going, but if he is one of a saving kind, and he can put on the card, or whatever the machinery may be for collecting the money, any sum that he pleases from time to time, so as to increase the benefit when he is unemployed, I believe he would gladly accept the opportunity. I also believe that in many cases an employer would be very glad to make some addition to the amount.
I quite recognise that under Clauses 79 and 80, there is a provision for a man to increase his benefit when he is unemployed, but does that go far enough? We do not know yet what the extent of the operations of Clause 79 and 80 will be. I hope with all my heart the trade unions will be able to cover the whole ground, but I doubt whether they will cover the whole ground. Even under the scheduled trades, I understand the number of trade unionists is about 400,000 out of two millions, and while we may all be friendly to trade unions, and anxious that they should cover the ground, and anxious to give them full opportunity for covering the ground, yet, at the same time, we ought to have regard here to the whole question, and even if men cannot come within trade unions, we ought to be more certain as to what their opportunities would be as groups of workmen or as individual workmen.
Then we are taking very wide powers in this Bill. We not only have the scheduled trades but we are giving power to the Board of Trade, and I am glad we do, to extend it to other trades, so that the framework of this Bill is broad enough to take in the whole of the working population of this country. If it is big enough for that should it not also be strong and big enough to deal with the voluntary 2046 contributory question, apart from trade unions, or apart from groups of workmen, or associations of workmen? I do not think the Bill is broad enough for all future contingencies to enable workmen to get what I want them to get; that is, a larger amount of unemployed benefit. That is the only thing I am striving for. I know the Government are hostile to it. I have had pourparlers with those in charge of the Bill and I know they have made up their minds that it is absolutely impossible. It is a long Amendment, and it will not have many friends. We all want to get done, and we will soon get it out of the way. I would like to point out to them, if they look years ahead, this Bill opens up a future when all trades are brought in, and I think they will regret it if they do not give an opportunity, and every opportunity, for all workmen to increase their unemployment benefit. It will not be long before we have a great uprising in the country, and when people will say that 7s. or 10s. a week is an inadequate sum for a man when out of employment. It is not sufficient, and when this Bill comes into operation that is what the Board of Trade will find when they are carrying out the measure. I only want it to be so broad as to give every opportunity we can, while we appeal to the workman to do certain things which will encourage him to help himself at the same time, without driving him into the Post Office by saying, "If you want further help you can go to the Post Office." Give him the opportunity of building up his Unemployment Benefit Fund.
I do not think the Committee will say that I have unduly taken up their time. I have tried to put the matter as concisely as possible. I believe it is a big point. I also know how helpless a Member of the Committee is, especially when he is on the Government side, when he raises a question, and I know how anxious other Members are in regard to other Amendments which they have on the Paper. We have all that feeling, but I do feel very strongly that there is a principle here, and I would ask my hon. Friends of the Labour party, who may be against this proposal because they think they see in it some danger to trade unions. to believe that I have no such object. My object in moving the Amendment is to get a larger amount of benefit. It is not the words on the paper that I expect to be accepted. I want the Government, and I want this Committee to help me to induce the Government, to deal 2047 with this question in a more extended way than they have done in Clauses 79 and 80.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. J. M. Robertson)
The hon. Member has certainly supported the very long new Clause in an admirably concise speech, for which we are all grateful. The Clause is, indeed, framed with so much benevolent intention and real public spirit that one is loth to seem to make light of it; but I think the Committee will see that it is really not a workable business proposition. The hon. Member lays stress on the importance of encouraging voluntary insurance, and he admits that in Clauses 79 and 80 we do make some provision. He thinks we do not go far enough. He thinks, for instance, that outside of the sphere of trade unions much may be done, and he thinks his Clause will have the effect of promoting such insurance. I would point out that under Clause 80 there is no limitation to trade unions.
§ Mr. J. M. ROBERTSON
Clause 80 provides for insurance byAny association of persons not trading for profit the rules of which provide for payments to persons whilst unemployed, whether workmen in an insured trade or not.In that case a subsidy is given to encourage such insurance, and we do think that is a real encouragement of voluntary insurance. It is quite true that at the best this Bill does not provide very good maintenance, and it may very well be that the time will come when people will say: "We are not going to rest satisfied with a 7s. provision of this kind." Well and good. When public opinion reaches that point we shall be ready for a new Bill with new provisions. But the insertion of the hon. Member's Clause in this Bill would have no effect whatever in promoting the development of public opinion. Let us see how it would work. It is to be purely voluntary. There is no compulsion. The employer or the workman may contribute if he will. What kind of area or contributions will you have under such a provision? Obviously those who have most fear of unemployment. That is to say, you make a selection of 2048 precisely the worst risks, and those who most fear being thrown idle will be most anxious to come into the voluntary association, while those with least fear of unemployment will not contribute. You have therefore a selection against the interest of the fund. You will find in connection with attempts made in voluntary associations on the Continent that they got the insurance of the least insurable people—people who represented the maximum of risks. That is to say, in so far as you widen the area of insurance under the Bill, you widen it precisely in the most dangerous direction, and put upon the fund a burden in regard to which you cannot make an actuarial calculation.
Where it is a matter of compulsory insurance, you can calculate the number of people who will be affected, but in this case there is no way of testing what will be the number of workmen or masters. All you can reasonably be expected to do as regards the workmen who will make the contribution is to say that they will be those who are most afraid of being unemployed. Actuarially the proposition is inadmissible. I may point out as regards actual experience that every association formed on these lines has been a complete failure. You do have success where you subsidise voluntary associations. That is actually done under Clause 80. The result as regards Ghent, where they do subsidise, was successful, and as regards Cologne, where they had a voluntary scheme at work for twelve or fifteen years in a town of 400,000 inhabitants, you have only 1,500 persons insured. I think that these considerations taken together suffice to show that my hon. Friend's well-meant Amendment cannot usefully be added to the Bill.
§ Mr. BARNES
I should like to say a word or two on this Amendment, as the mover has referred to the Labour party. I have no doubt that the object he has in view is one with which we sympathise, that object being to secure more than 7s. per week for the unemployed man. We all agree that 7s. is too little, but we have this proposition to improve his position brought before us in a manner which cuts into the Bill, and cuts into trade unionism, and therefore is calculated to do more harm than good. There are ways and means within the four corners of the Bill whereby a man can get more than 7s. a week. Under Clause 79 a union can administer the Bill, and that 2049 union can only administer the Bill if it pays one-third of the total money given for unemployment out of its own funds apart from this Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "A quarter."] Very well, a quarter of the amount.
So you see there is a method by which the purpose of my hon. Friend is effected by this Bill, and effected in a much better way than he proposes. We regard this additional benefit which trade unions give over and above the Bill as one of the best things in the Bill. We would not support a Bill which would have given from these funds exactly the same amount as trade unions give, because we want a different scale existing financially as between the position of the trade unionist and the man who is not a trade unionist. After this Bill comes into operation the trade unionist will get his benefit exactly the same as he has hitherto done, and his benefit is more than the benefit under the Bill. The trade unionist covered by this Bill in the insured trade will get 10s. or 12s., as the case may be. The position is always open to the man who is not a member of a trade union to get inside his trade union and get this 10s. or 12s. a week, so there is this inducement for a man to get into a trade union to get the additional benefit.
The object of the Amendment is to effect that result apart altogether from trade unionism in the sense in which I have been speaking of it. We want additional benefits for the man out of work, but we want at the same time to maintain what might be called the solidarity of the working people. This proposal would separate the working people into groups here and there. Take an employer who carries out some scheme of voluntary supplementary unemployed benefit, as proposed, in his workshop. This would tie his particular workmen to his workshop and the scheme would necessarily mean limiting the groups of workmen to a particular employer and thereby setting up a tendency for workmen to remain in those particular shops and therefore separate themselves from their fellows elsewhere. For that reason, as well as for the practical reason, we must oppose this proposal which we think altogether unnecessary because the Bill leaves it open for any man, who wants to do so, to supplement his unemployed benefits by becoming a member of a trade union, thereby identifying himself with his fellows in the general uplifting of his class.
§ Mr. PETO
With regard to what fell from the hon. Member the Secretary to the Board of Trade, whatever decision the Committee may come to it is desirable that we should not come to a decision on what I regard as a wholly false issue. The hon. Member said it was perfectly clear it would be only the worst class of workman, the persons most in dread of unemployment who would take advantage of the provisions of this new Clause. I entirely disagree with him. Another factor comes in, that is one which would affect the best class of workman, those who, as the hon. Member who moved the Clause pointed out, would want to make sure that they had got some better provision than either 7s. or 10s. a week for their wives and families in case they were ever unemployed. I do not think that men who are frequently unemployed and are likely to be so, and consequently whose average rate of earnings would be excessively low would be able to spare from that low average rate of earnings a considerable additional contribution in order to provide for the case of unemployment. Whatever else you may think of this Clause, there is no doubt that it will not apply to the worst class. I believe it will apply to the best class of workmen we have got, and I shall vote in favour of it.
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
I do not think that this is likely to be carried by the Committee. A great deal more might be said in favour of it, but I have raised the point which was my object. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ New Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (Cost of Certificates.)
§ In any regulations for the production of certificates of birth or death provision shall be made for giving effect to The Friendly Societies Act, 1896, Section 97 (1) in respect of payment of fee by an insured person to a registrar of births or deaths."
§ The CHAIRMAN
The next Amendmen, in the name of the hon. Member for Blackfriars, is out of order because there is no marginal note.
§ Mr. BARNES
I have now given in a marginal note. I understand that the Government are going to accept this, and if that is so I need not say any more. I 2051 have told the reason why I have submitted it. I beg to move that the Clause be read a Second time.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I do not propose to accept it in this form, for this reason: this particular provision should apply equally to Part I. as to Part II., and to cover that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has an Amendment down on the Paper to-day on the Third Part, where it would affect both, and which, I think, will meet the view of my hon. Friend, because on payment of sixpence, and not a shilling, he can obtain the birth certificate in question, so that it not only meets my hon. Friend's point, but is a little better than possibly he desires, and it comes much better under Part III.
§ Mr. BARNES
Under those circumstances I withdraw. I put down an Amendment to Part I. as well as to Part II., and was not aware that the Chancellor had met it in this manner.
§ New Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (Remission or Repayment of Contributions.)
§ "The Board of Trade may provide by regulation for the remission or repayment of the whole or part of any contributions made by employers in insured trades in the case of workmen under the age of eighteen attending a course of technical instruction or other continuation classes approved by the local education authority, provided that the hours of labour of such workmen have been reduced to enable them to receive this instruction."
§ I move this Clause because it is a purely permissive Clause. It does not involve necessarily that action will be taken on it at once, but it does hold the door open for a course of action which I think commends itself to all who are interested in the question of industrial education. Both the majority and the minority of the Poor Law Commission call attention to the need for greater training applied to trades where no apprenticeship exists. There is a great number of trades—and it will be specially the case, of course, in trades which will be added later—where there is no form of apprenticeship, and where it is not possible to expect apprenticeship to be introduced. In those trades especially this need for the provision of continuation 2052 classes which is possible during working hours is very great. There may be cases where that is impossible, and where classes must be held in the evening, but in those cases employers can make it easy for young workmen to attend these classes by allowing them to leave their work at an earlier hour. This is a purely permissive Clause, it involves no difficulty, and I hope that the Government will accept it.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I am afraid that I cannot accept this Amendment though I entirely sympathise with the view which my hon. Friend holds. This is not a matter within the actual purview of the Bill. The question of unemployment and the question of technical training are not exactly directly connected, though I admit that in some ways they no doubt have some connection, but it is very difficult in an Act of Parliament to except the case of attending technical instruction as a statutory definition and one which must bring particular juveniles and employers under the operation of this Act. If the Committee agree, I have an Amendment further down in which I suggest a course that I understood was more or less generally accepted that in the case of both the juvenile and his employer the contribution be reduced from 2½d. to 1d. I really do not think there will now be a sufficient inducement one way or another to an employer to prevent a boy from attending these classes. Under those circumstances, the difficulties of statutory definition being very great, I hope that my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment, because, unfortunately, we are not able to accept it.
§ Mr. HOARE
I had hoped that the President of the Board of Trade, having gone so far yesterday, would have gone a little further to-day. The difficulties are not quite so great as he seems to think. I am quite aware that the encouragement of technical education is directly outside the scope of this Bill. At the same time we have already passed a variety of other proposals that will have many indirect results, and which are also outside the scope of the Bill. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman, for instance, of the encouragement given to the decasualisation of labour and a variety of other things, which cannot be said to be technically within the eighty-one Clauses of this Bill. Next, it is by no means a difficult thing to submit some kind of test for this technical instruction. I should have liked my hon. Friend opposite to add 2053 one or two sentences that would have defined the matter in the most explicit manner. He might have added, for instance—and I hope the President of the Board of Trade will see that it is a very easy matter—"attendance at a class of technical instruction approved by the Board of Education for not less than fifty attendances per year." That is a perfectly simple test as to which no difficulty in its application would arise. I am sorry the President of the Board of Trade will not accept this new Clause, but as it is quite evident that there is no chance of getting it through I suppose there can be no object in pressing it. I am very sorry that it is so.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I think the President of the Board of Trade seems to show, or desires to show, that there is no connection between this Bill and educational matters. But already the Bill provides that you may ask a workman to submit himself to the test of a technical institute, and, therefore, it does seem to me that the relation of education to unemployment is within the scope of this Bill, and is already dealt with under the provisions which have secured the approval of the President of the Board of Trade himself. I think it would be but consistent if the light hon. Gentleman went further, and allowed the giving to apprentices of an inducement to further educational equipment, for that would be likely to reduce the amount of unemployment later in life. Therefore the two things are very closely interwoven, and I should have been very glad if the Clause had gone even a stage further, and given extra inducement to any employer to allow his apprentices or workmen to take technical instruction during the hours when they are normally employed, by giving differentiated deduction in that case, as against the deduction in the case of the allowance for attendance at classes only in the evening. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will not throw entirely on one side this proposal, but give it more consideration than at present he seems disposed to extend to it. I do not think the point has been met by the President's speech. We have not yet decided whether it would still be in the power of the Board at a later stage to alter the contributions by Special Order, and this proposal merely reserves power to the Board to make regulations in respect of these provisions.
§ Mr. BUXTON
My real difficulty is really to get anything to put into the Act 2054 of Parliament in regard to this matter, and I think the speech of the hon. Member for Chelsea shows the difficulty which exists. I will certainly consider the point, but I could not undertake to accept the proposal. The real difficulty is a statutory difficulty, and I think at the present time if we reduce the contribution there is not the same need for the Clause as there otherwise would have been.
Mr. EDMUND HARVEY
I would point out that the Committee has not yet decided on the contribution to be made, and the President is thus prejudging the question, and in any case the Board might decide to raise the contribution for other trades not yet included in the Schedule.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I am very sorry my hon. Friend is putting us to the painful necessity of voting against this Clause, and if we do vote against it, it is his own fault, and not ours. The proposal suggested by the hon. Member for Chelsea, for instance, is obviously quite impracticable, because he could not say whether the apprentices had attended these classes until the end of the period. You cannot lay down regulations which come into operation after that period unless you deduct in respect of the coming year for virtues practised in the previous year. This is not the way to deal with the question at all; you cannot deal with it in this way; and it is not that I am against the intention of my hon. Member that I am going to vote against him, and I am very sorry that he should have compelled us to vote against him. I can assure the Committee that it is not the case that we are against his idea, because I wish we could do something to carry out these objects, but this is really not the way to do it.
Mr. E. HARVEY
In view of what has been said, and as it appears that the Committee are averse to accepting the Clause, I ask leave to withdraw it.
§ New Clause, by leave, withdrawn.