§ (1) So much of Sub-section (3) of Section eighty-three of the principal Act as provides that the regulations made under that Sub-section shall require that in the case of a society or branch which has amongst its members persons resident in England, Scotland. Ireland, and Wales, or any two or any three of such parts of the United Kingdom, the members in each such part shall, for the purposes of Part I. of the principal Act relating to valuations, surpluses, deficiencies, and transfers, be treated as if they formed a separate society, is hereby repealed:
§ Provided that where the joint committee are satisfied, on representations made within six months after the passing of this Act, that the members of any such society resident in a part of the United Kingdom other than that in which the registered office of the society is situated desire that they shall be treated as if they formed a 1558 separate society, the members of the society resident in that part shall for the purposes aforesaid continue to be so treated.
§ (2) A society shall not be required to be approved in respect of any part of the United Kingdom other than that in which its registered office is situated by reason of the fact that among its members are persons for the time being resident in that part of the United Kingdom, but a society shall not admit as a member any person resident at the time of admission in any part of the United Kingdom in respect of which the society is not an approved society.
§ (3) A society which has received approval for more than one part of the. United Kingdom may relinquish approval for any part or parts other than that in which its registered office is situate, if it satisfies the joint committee that it fulfils one or other of the following conditions:—
- (i) that none of its members are resident in the parts of the United Kingdom in. respect of which approval is proposed to be relinquished; or
- (ii) that any members who are so resident were at the time when they were admitted to membership of the society resident in a part of the United Kingdom in which the, society will remain an approved society.
§ For the purposes of this provision admission to membership of a society means admission to membership whether for the purposes of Part I. of the principal Act or for any other purposes of the society, and in the case of a society which is a separate section of another society includes admission to membership of that other society.
§ (4) Where any members of a society reside in a part of the United Kingdom in respect of which the society is not an approved society, the provisions of Subsection (2) of Section eighty of the principal Act, which relate to payments into and out of the Scottish National Health Insurance Fund, and the corresponding provisions of the principal Act relating to the Irish and Welsh National Health Insurance Funds, shall apply as if those members resided in the part of the United Kingdom in which the registered office of the society is situated or, in the case of a society with branches in which the registered office of the branch of which they are members is situated.1559
§ This Sub-section shall apply as respects the members of a branch of a society resident in a part of the United Kingdom other than that in which the registered office of the branch is situated, notwithstanding that the society is approved for that part, unless the Joint Committee, on the application of the society, otherwise determine, but no branch to which the said provisions apply shall admit as a member of the branch any person resident at the time of admission in any part of the United Kingdom other than that in which the registered office of the branch is situated.
§ (5) For the purpose of facilitating Adjustments in respect of persons removing from Ireland to Great Britain or from Great Britain to Ireland the transfer values and reserve values of persons resident in Ireland shall be calculated as if they were resident in Great Britain, and where any member of an approved society is at the time of attaining the age of seventy resident in Ireland, the prescribed part of his transfer value shall be carried by the society of which he is a member to a separate account and dealt with in such manner as may be prescribed.
I beg to move, at the beginning of the Clause, to insert the following:—
This, I venture to suggest, is an Amendment of considerable importance, as it alters in a very large way the structure of the present Act. The intention of the Amendment is to reverse the policy of having four Commissions and to convert the present Joint Committee which supervises the work of the four Commissions into a sole Commission, leaving the four Commissions only as delegated bodies or 1561 branch offices of the chief Commission which takes the place of the Joint Committee. The Amendment also amalgamates the insurance funds. There are four now, one for each of the different countries, and they will all be amalgamated into one fund. The reason for this Amendment, which, by the way, is supported by every representative body of approved societies—
- "(1) On the expiration of a period of six months after the passing of this Act the Joint Committee constituted under Section eighty-three of the principal Act shall exercise all the powers and duties of the several bodies of Insurance Commissioners appointed under Part I. of the principal Act, and all the powers and duties of those bodies of Commissioners shall cease and determine except as respects any powers and duties which the Joint Committee by special order (which it is hereby declared the Joint Committee shall have power to make) may from time to time delegate to any one or more of the several bodies of the Insurance Commissioners.
- (2) Upon the coming into operation of the foregoing provisions—
- (a) the Joint Committee shall take over the central office of the Insurance Commissioners established under Section fifty-seven of the principal Act and the provisions of Sub-sections (3), (4), and (5) of that. Section (which relate to the appointment of officers, the authentication of documents, and the conferring of
1560 power on inspectors in relation to approved societies) shall apply to the Joint Committee instead of to the Insurance Commissioners;
- (b) the provisions of Sections eighty, eighty-one, and eighty-two in so far as they relate to the powers of the Scottish, Irish, and Welsh Insurance Commissioners shall be read and take effect subject to the foregoing provisions of this Section;
- (c)the Joint Committee shall be called the National Insurance Commissioners and may sue and be sued, and may for all purposes be described by that name, and shall have an official seal which shall be officially and judicially noticed, and such seal shall be authenticated by any National Insurance Commissioner or the secretary for the National Insurance Commissioners, or some person authorised by the National Insurance Commissioners to act on behalf of the secretary.
- (3) Regulations under Sub-section (2) of Section thirty-five of the principal Act shall fix the limit of the amount which may be carried to the administration account out of contributions under Part I. of the principal Act at a sum not less than four shillings net in respect of each insured person other than those insured under Section forty-six of the principal Act, and any regulation fixing a sum less than four shillings net in respect of each such person shall cease to have effect, and in respect of each insured person who is a seaman, marine, or soldier at a sum not less than one shilling net, and any regulation fixing a less sum shall cease to have effect.
- (4) The regulations shall provide for the payment of any additional sums carried in pursuance of this Section to the administration account being repaid to the, contributions account out of the sums retained by the Insurance Commissioners for discharging their liabilities in respect of reserve values."
The hon. Member dissents, but I would point out that a similar Amendment in the name of one of the hon. Members who represents the Labour party was supported by societies representing seven million insured persons, these societies including different classes of trade unions, the old friendly societies, collecting societies, and the more modern approved industrial societies. If the hon. Gentleman is right, and this is not supported by all, at least it is supported by the great majority of the insured persons. It is necessary in order to remove the confusion and expense which has been caused, more especially to the international societies, which have now to deal with all the four Commissions in a way which has been found to be both clumsy and cumbrous. The International Society is a society which has members both in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, or in two or three of those countries. All the large friendly societies and several of the large trade unions have members in all four countries, and to them the difficulties to which I have referred have been almost overwhelming in the course of the short experience they have had of the Act. To a society like that the expense of the four Commissions, with four separate insurance funds, has entailed the keeping of different sets of books—a separate set in respect of each group of members in each of the different countries, and a separate set for men and for women. Consequently, they have had to keep eight Sets of books and have had to apply separately to the various Commissions for advances or repayments in respect of their benefit and administration account relating to the members in the various separate countries.
They have also had immense difficulty with regard to the transfers of members—transfers which ought not to have been necessary, and would not be necessary if their organisations were not under four 1562 separate societies. If a man originally living in England and consequently belonging to the English section of one of the international societies moved to Scotland, he has had to be transferred from England to Scotland in much the same fashion as if he were leaving the society altogether and joining another society. There have been special difficulties about transfers to and from Ireland. If a member of the society, say, of the engineers in Ireland came to work in England he would require to be transferred from. Ireland to England, but, as in Ireland there is no medical benefit given, his transfer-value and reserve value is different; consequently, great and special difficulties have occurred in connection with the-transfer from Ireland to England. It has been equally difficult to transfer from England to Ireland, for in England the transfer value is higher, and adjustments of a complicated and difficult nature have to be carried out on the occasion of each transfer. It has often happened that a man may be working in England for a few months and in Ireland for a few months, and has returned to England or, perhaps, to Scotland in the course of the same year. He has had to be transferred from one set of books to another, and from one society to another, although all the time he has been a member of one of the large organisations. With regard to societies which are not supposed to be national societies — the societies which are either Welsh or English in origin—great and special difficulty has been found to occur especially along the border counties. A society having members in Wales and approved in Wales finds that its members or some of them do, as the Secretary to the Treasury calls it, stray across the border. When they stray across the border they can no longer remain, if they stay across the border, members of their Welsh society, but have to leave it and go into an English society. Equally, when an English approved society has members who stray across the border into either Wales or Scotland or go to Ireland, unless it is an international society and is approved in all those coutries, it has to lose its members, who are no longer able to remain members of their parent society. On the other hand, if the society were to become approved in that other country in order to keep its strays as members, supposing a Welsh society happened to have four members in London, those four members. 1563 will have to be treated, to all intents and purposes, as if they were members of a separate society. The payments in respect of their benefits and the cost of their administration will have to be claimed against the English Commission, whereas the parent society would be under the jurisdiction of the Welsh Commission.
A still greater difficulty has been facing the international societies, especially those societies which have less than 5,000 members in any one country. For the purposes of valuation, in such a case the members below 5,000 in one of the countries will have to be treated, not as members of the International Society, but as members of a separate society, and will have to be grouped for the purposes of valuation with other societies in that country. I believe there are many societies devoted to special trades or callings which have a relatively large number of members in England, perhaps more than 10,000 members in Scotland, and perhaps only 2,000 or 3,000 members in Ireland. Although for all other purposes — trade purposes and mutual purposes on their voluntary side—these three societies are treated as one, yet under the National Insurance Act they have to be treated as three separate societies, and if they have, say, a few members in Ireland, they are not allowed to group them with their Scottish or English branch, but are forced to group them with other Irish societies with which they have nothing in common. These four Commissions have caused considerable difficulties to those who are managing those societies by pouring out upon them a stream of four different sets of Regulations, mostly similar, but in some particulars differing. and because of their similarity and their slight differences likely to cause increased confusion, because the managers of the societies are not easily able to detect the differences between the various Regulations. When this matter was dealt with in Committee the Secretary to the Treasury had to admit that the objections to the present four Commissions which I have endeavoured to outline again this evening were real points. In referring to them he said:—They are real points which are at present torturing the administration of the approved societies.I do not know whether that summary is not even stronger than the recital of the points of difference. When we have the Secretary to the Treasury who, as Chairman of the Joint Committee, is in a special 1564 position to know the facts, admitting that the organisation of the four Commissions, and some of the consequences of that organisation, are torturing the administration, surely it is time that some real remedy was applied. While admitting that, he promised a remedy, and a new Clause. That Clause is now Clause 15 of the Bill, and I am asking that my Amendment shall be practically treated as a substitute for that Clause. With regard to the Clause in the Bill, the national societies will be helped to some extent. Strays are to be allowed to remain as members, although the difficulty with regard to claims on the two different insurance funds has not been got over, and, even in the national societies, two sets of accounts, or at least two sets of records, will have be kept, in order that claims may be made upon the separate funds, or at least so that information may be given to the Commissioners or the Joint Committee so that the adjustments necessary between the two funds may be carried out. With regard to the international societies, Clause 15 has dealt with some of the points. It deals with the question of grouping for valuation. Probably the method suggested in the Clause will be satisfactory; but if it is satisfactory it is only so at the expense of taking something like one-half of the. Scottish insured population out of the jurisdiction of the Scottish Commission, and putting it within the jurisdiction of the English Commission. I am not quite sure of the exact proportion, but I have been told that nearly one-half of the insured workers in Scotland are members of societies which are approved and have their head offices outside Scotland. I see that is assented to, and I believe it is right. Therefore, the method proposed by the Secretary to the Treasury in Clause 15 is going to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the Scottish Commission one-half of the insured persons now under that jurisdiction.
At any rate, at the present moment it is in the Bill. While removing one difficulty with regard to valuation the Clause also removes whatever justification there ever was for setting up a Scottish Insurance Commission apart from the English Commission. It might have been justifiable possibly, in some form, for 1,500,000 persons, but it is difficult to justify it when one-half of the insured persons are not 1565 coming within that jurisdiction. While the Clause may deal with one of the difficulties, it certainly does not deal altogether with the accounting and book-keeping difficulty. Certainly, four sets of accounts will still have to be kept by every international society. I know the Secretary to the Treasury questions that, and that he denied it in Committee upstairs, but he had to admit, and these are his words, thatsocieties would have to keep a record analysing the cash payments, in order that the four accounts might be adjusted between the Commissions.If they were to keep a record analysing the cash payment, that is enough from my point of view, because it will have to be, an accurate record which may be subjected to audit and to my mind has little or nothing to distinguish it from the four sets of books or accounts which we have found already so clumsy.
Then with regard to the transfer values, which have always been a real difficulty, an ingenious scheme has been added to deal with the difficulty of the difference in the transfer value between England and Ireland. It is that the Irish transfer values are brought up to the same amount as the English transfer values, so that if there is a transfer of an insured person living in Ireland to England, some of the old difficulties will be avoided. But when we were in Committee I asked the Secretary to the Treasury how much that was going to cost, and he was very precise in his reply, that it would not cost a penny. I suggested then that it might be at least £200,000 additional reserve value which was required, and I notice that the Actuaries' Report says that the increase of the Irish reserve value is £196,000, that is an annual value of something like £5,000 a year, so that this is going to cost quite a large sum of money to the existing insured persons. To say that if no other benefit is given for it it comes back as profit at a later period, is not to prove that there is no cost to the present insured people. On the contrary, this present generation which is paying for the redemption of reserve values for the next twenty years or so, is certainly having to pay the cost in the increased reserve value. The position of the House is this. They have two alteratives. They have the alternative of accepting my Amendment, which will amalgamate the separate insurance funds and will get rid of the difficulties due to the four Commissions and the four separate funds, or they can 1566 accept the Clause which the Secretary to the Treasury has added to the Bill as Clause 15, and they can allow these national societies to overrun the national limits, and remain ex-territorial as regards the Scottish Insurance Commissioners. They have got to take one of these courses. It seems to me that it is infinitely better, having now found what the difficulty is, to attack it at its root and remove the cause of the difficulty instead of tinkering with it and trying to get over the difficulties which are created by the four Commissions. I think I can claim the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a supporter to my Amendment. I do not think he ever very willingly adopted these four Commissions. I think he was driven to it against his better judgment. I might even remind him of what he said when this was added in Committee two years ago:—It was not a 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 matter. If the Scotch or Trish Members have come to the conclusion, it is a conclusion I have not come to. I wish to be perfectly frank with the Committee. If they desire a separate Commission, I do not see how I can resist the same demand from 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 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.He anticipated the very difficulty that there would be in one insured person moving from one part of the country to another, and he then:—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.And, of course, the sting was in the tail. That was why the Chancellor of the Exchequer was obliged to give way—a very good reason. There were seventy votes attached to that reason which it was absolutely essential that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should placate. They, of course, recognised that this was the first attempt at Home Rule, and they seized their opportunity to give vent to the national sentiment, and Scotland required also for the same reason their separate Commission and their separate fund, and Ireland did the same, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was the nut between the crackers and he had to give way.
Now that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's anticipations of the difficulties which would occur if this were carried out has really come true, and must have im- 1567 pressed themselves upon all those who are at all interested in the international societies, I hope he will also support the proposal that I am now making. Of course, the Lord Advocate supported the proposition, from the Scotch point of view, of a separate Scotch Commission, and he was anxious for it because he thought there would be a separate Scotch Insurance Fund, and he seemed to think that in some way or other the Scotch were a very hardy, healthy race, and their fund would benefit by their special good health, and I am not sure, from some of the arguments used in Committee, that that feeling does not still exist. But if there is anything at all in the Secretary to the Treasury's Clause, and in his promise to the international societies that there will not have to be four accounts, there will have to be some amalgamation of the fund, at least as regards the international societies. There is an important point in regard to the international societies. Will they in future claim on all the four funds—on each fund—in respect of each group of members within the country, or will there be some amalgamation of these four funds for the purpose of the international societies? For if they are to avoid grouping the small units of the international societies in the various countries, if they are to be grouped with their central office—their office of origin—then clearly there will be a breaking up of the various national funds and there will be no longer a Scotch fund, which seems to be the chief attraction for the Lord Advocate. The Lord Advocate said:—I cannot see what would be the object of separate Commissions unless there was a separate fund, and I should be dead against the setting up of separate Commissioners unless there was a separate fund.It seems to me that there is not going to be a separate, or, at any rate, there will be a separate fund broken into to a very large extent by the proposed arrangements with the international societies. Of course, the Lord Advocate has no sympathy with the point of the hon. Member (Mr. Barnes), that this separate Commission was bound to interfere with the trade unions. I may remind him of what the Lord Advocate said:—There is no donbt if you have a branch trade union in Scotland, with a head office in England, 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 1568 trade unionists—a few, not all—are put to some slight inconvenience and required to bring a particular branch to a certain number or group it with others in the sank district?The Chancellor of the Exchequer accurately forecasted the difficulties of these four Commissioners. Scottish national sentiment, represented by the Lord Advocate, did not care a bit about the difficulties of the international societies, but did care to have a separate Scottish fund. After a year we know what the real position is. This attempt at Home Rule has failed in practice. It cannot be made to succeed in Scotland now without withdrawing at least half the insured persons from the jurisdiction of the Insurance Commission. You have an opportunity now of going back, admitting that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was right and that the Lord Advocate was wrong, and getting rid of the four Commissions. They are an expensive, clumsy, cumbersome way of conducting national insurance. You have had your try at Home Rule. It has not lasted very long. It has got in everybody's way, and now is the opportunity to get rid of it before worse trouble befalls the international societies.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
I beg to second the Amendment.
I have had strong representations front friendly societies in my Division urging me to support the abolition of the four Commissions, and contending that it would greatly simplify the application of the Act and also reduce the expense. The strong point that they urge is that it would be extremely convenient for working men and women and others who remove from one country to the other in order that there might be continuity of the application of the purpose of the Act, They believe, and I think with good reason, that it would greatly militate to the success of working the Act and would be very convenient to insured persons moving from one country to the other.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EX-CHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
The hon. Member (Mr. Worthington-Evans) quoted some words which I used on this question of sub-dividing the administration of the Act into four nationalities. I very reluctantly assented on behalf of the Government to the setting up of four Commissions. I saw some of the difficulties in Germany of that method of administration. In Germany difficulties are introduced, and there they have a good many more than, 1569 four Commissions. No doubt there were some administrative difficulties of a very considerable character which could be foreseen. The hon. Gentleman quoted the last part of my statement which I very frankly laid before the House at the time. However unfavourable I was to come to that conclusion, I found from experience that I could not depend upon the support of the hon. Gentleman if I had opposed the appointment of the four Commissions. He, first of all, tried to get up a quarrel between my Friends and myself on the question, and I cannot doubt that that was with the object of destroying the Bill. It did not last very long, I must say. I do not think it survived the Second Reading Debate, but I saw that I could not depend upon him. That was my position at that time. Now he says that I have changed my mind, and he denounces me as a "nut." At any rate, I have got the kernel. I got the Bill, and I am here to say that I think the Lord Advocate was right and that I was wrong on that question. I will give my reasons for making that statement. There is no doubt at all that there are administrative difficulties under the present arrangement. The moment you begin to split up the United Kingdom for administrative purposes under this Act, necessarily you cannot avoid difficulties. But in a case of that kind it is a choice between two sets of difficulties, and I came to the conclusion that the setting up of four Commissions would, in practice, show that we had chosen the lesser evil.
The difficulties arising from the splitting up into four divisions are quite obvious. I foresaw them, and the prospect has been justified by the facts. It has, no doubt, added a great deal to the difficulties of the international societies. It has added a real element of complication. I never thought that we should not do that when we decided to appoint separate Commissions. It has marred the simplicity of the workmanship of the Act. There is no doubt at all about that, and I am certain that everything I said upon that point was quite right. But there was another set of difficulties which I did not foresee, and which I ought to have foreseen. These were the difficulties which would arise in the working, from Whitehall, of a great and complex Act, in separate nationalities where the conditions and habits of the people, and even their industries, were different over wide areas. I am perfectly certain that no one knows better than the hon. Gentleman what the difficulties in the 1570 administration of this Act must have been even if you had every section and class, and every political party in the country doing their level best to help the administration. Even then it would have been difficult. But when you had a great political party rather adding to the difficulties, stirring up difficulties, and encouraging those who were putting difficulties in our way, then my own opinion is that it would have been almost impossible to work the Act without a postponement, at any rate, for some considerable time. Take, for example, the enormous area of Scotland. I do not remember the number of square miles to which that country extends. There you have an enormous area accustomed, very largely, to deal with Edinburgh in matters of administration. The same remark applies to Ireland. Even in Wales in matters of education and other important subjects, local government, is very largely centred in Cardiff and Swansea. I am sure if we had not had four Commissions we could not possibly have put the Act in operation successfully at the time we did. I am sure that is the opinion not merely of the Government, but of the friendly societies as well. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The friendly societies are good advocates, and they do not want to give away their case. At the same time I have no hesitation in saying that it would have been almost impossible to work the Act without a considerable postponement except by setting up four Commissions.
There is one thing which the Commissions have succeeded in doing, and which I do not think would have been possible if you had had one central Commission—and it is a vital matter in administration—they succeeded in securing local co-operation. I know that better in the case of the Welsh Commission than in the case of the Scottish Commission. I came into closer contact with that Welsh Commission, and I can state that they came into personal communication with employers of labour, leaders of friendly societies, and the local leaders. That would have been impossible but for the setting up of a Commission to administer the Act in Wales. If that is true in regard to the relation between Wales in London, how much more must that be the case when you have to deal with the remote districts of Scotland. I know perfectly well from inquiries I have made that the Scottish Commissioners have worked diligently. I know perfectly well that Mr. Leishman put himself into 1571 communication with all the local authorities in Scotland. He came into personal contact with them, and also with some of the leading employers of labour, leading trade unionists, and leaders even of the doctors there. Had it not been that we had a Commission there dealing direct with all those interests, it would have been impossible under a couple of years to put the Act into operation. I said quite accurately that I did not foresee the other difficulties of a much more serious nature which the creation of the four Commissions got rid of. For my part—and I am speaking on behalf of the Government—I shall take no part at all in supporting any Clause or Amendment that would destroy the power and control of these four Commissions. When the hon. Gentleman says that Clause 15 withdraws half of the insured persons in Scotland out of the jurisdiction of the Commission there, I thoroughly challenge the statement. It does not withdraw a single insured person from the jurisdiction of the Commission. That is an important point. That is the first thing I inquired into, and, in justice and fairness to the Commission, I think it is right to say so. Nor does it remove these people from their control. What is the impression created by the statement of the hon. Gentleman that every member of an international society is withdrawn from the supervision and control of the Commissioners, that is to say, that every member of an international society resident in Scotland is withdrawn from the control of the English Commissioners. Questions relating to medical attendance and other benefits must come before the English Commissioners. I do not want that statement of the hon. Gentleman to go forth unchallenged, and I do not want anyone to vote for or against the Amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman by reason of the statement that half of the insured persons are going to be withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Scottish Commissioners. I say that has nothing whatever to do with Clause 15. It does not mean that. It is quite clear that what the hon. Gentleman wants to do is, first of all, to get the support of the trade unions and the Labour Members, and to abolish these four Commissions. He wants, at the same time, to stir up discontent among the Scottish Members in order to make them dissatisfied with Clause 15.
§ 8.0. p.m.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I agree that my hon. Friends are well able to look after themselves. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman is trying to have it both ways. What I wish to say at this stage as to the abolition of the four Commissions is that, as far as that is concerned, we shall certainly resist the proposal with the full power of the Government. I understand from my right hon. Friend (Mr. Masterman) that Clause 15 was put forward as a compromise to meet the difficulties of the friendly societies and the trade unions. I still think that they could have overcome the difficulties without the Clause, but the compromise was arrived at. I think the perils of the compromise have been very much overestimated by my hon. Friends, but, substantially, the Government feel bound to stand by Clause 15. That does not mean that the Government will not listen to any argument advanced in favour of any Amendment, because that would be equal to saying that we would not take into consideration any argument, however powerful, in support of an Amendment. Substantially, we feel bound to stand by Clause 15 in its essential and fundamental principles. At the present moment the hon. Gentleman seems to think that after this all these great societies will make an alteration in their present system, and henceforth will cease to value separately the Scottish members. I do not believe it. I would ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is prepared to pledge his authority to the prediction that these great societies will henceforth have one international pool and will not have a separate valuation for Scotland? If it is true, and to a great extent it is, that the sickness rate in some parts of Scotland is, at any rate, less than it is in England, undoubtedly a valuation in a case of that kind would be favourable to the Scottish members; but the Scottish members of these various societies are quite alive to that, and if they are deprived of that benefit it will not be an inducement to them to go into those societies. Does the hon. Gentleman imagine that these societies are not aware of that? I should be very much surprised if these societies did any such thing. I can understand that for other reasons, which have no reference to this at all, they attach great importance to the federation of these nationalities 1573 and that they would regard a separate organisation as a peril to them from the labour point of view. That is a different matter. But I should be very much surprised indeed if these great societies, regarding it from a purely business point of view, were not to continue the separate Scotch valuation. Therefore, I say that my hon. Friend's fears are very much exaggerated, and I challenge him to say that he thinks the societies will adopt any such course.
My point was that the societies, unless they are entitled to value as a whole all the four countries in one, will not retain the unity which is what they are fighting for. That is what I understand the Secretary to the Treasury promises them that they should be able to do that, and I asked the question if they do that, what happens to the separate Scotch fund?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. and learned Gentleman has really evaded the challenge which I gave. He said that he believed that these societies would discontinue the present system of separate Scotch valuations, and I asked the hon. Gentleman whether he is prepared to predict that if this Clause in its, present form passes, those societies would take advantage of it and wipe out the separate Scottish valuations merely for the sake of a small book-keeping economy?
It depends upon whether they prefer the solidarity of the society or the possible increase of members in one country or another.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Of course, it depends upon that. It depends upon whether they want to push their business in Scotland. That is what it depends upon entirely. But the hesitation of the hon. Gentleman is the best answer.
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer himself? It is a question of prophecy. I am not a prophet.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have answered it. I have said that my belief is that they would not, and I challenged the hon. Gentleman to say whether he would not agree with me. That shows that this simply has been exaggerated in order to utilise the thing for the purpose of damaging these four Commissions and destroying them. The Government having 1574 had neither hand nor part in the four Commissions have come to the conclusion that they are doing their work effectively and that it is almost impossible for us successfully to carry out the Insurance Act with-cut them, and for that reason we shall resist with all our power the proposition to abolish the four Commissions, and we shall do our best to maintain their effective control over resident insured persons in Scotland or other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. FORSTER
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is such a master of the art of getting out of difficulties that I always listen to him with the keenest possible interest. What has he done to-night? He found himself faced by the awkward Amendment by my hon. Friend in reference to these four Commissions. He has not got a single word to say in favour of the four Commissions, and he sets to work to find some method of dealing with the question which would enable his Friends behind him to cheer and tide over the difficulty in which he stood. He endeavours to excite personal controversy between my hon. Friend and himself. He began by making some rather uncomplimentary remarks concerning my hon. Friend. I think that they were meant in a spirit of banter. He referred to the remarks of my hon. Friend in connection with the Conference while the Insurance Act was still a Bill in the House of Commons, a Conference that did not survive, said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, long after the Second Reading of the Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has surely forgotten the effusive thanks which he offered to my hon. Friend in Debates on our proceedings long subsequent to the Second Reading. In fact, I think that he was complimentary to him. when we came to the end of our discussion on the Bill. Therefore, I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not very serious when he made his remarks. I listened very carefully to see whether or not the Chancellor of the Exchequer really had any solid reasons to give the Committee for the preservation of these four Commissions. I cannot find one. He said that if there had been only one Commission from the start in all probability the Government would have had to postpone the commencement of the operation of the Act. At any rate they have got over the difficulties of launching the Act, and the Act has now been in full operation for twelve months.
1575 I have listened in vain for any reason from the Chancellor of the Exchequer why we should continue a system which he admitted was attended with difficulties and complications. He told us that in the early stages of the Act the mere fact of having these four separate Commissions enabled the Commissioners to come into closer contact with people in Scotland and people in Wales. If they had only had one Commission, instead of four, it still would have been possible for the Commissioners to come into personal contact with people in Scotland and in Wales. The proposal of my hon. Friend is that acting under and with the Commissions there should be branch Commissions, and some of the gentlemen who are doing such good work on the national Commissions would do equally good service as members of branch Commissions. I do not think that there is anything substantial in the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I always took the view that it was a mistake to depart from the original structure of the Bill and establish these four separate Commissions for the different nationalities. I believed it was a mistake then, and I think that it is a mistake now. I think that we should be well advised to simplify our machinery and to simplify the whole object of the procedure in connection with the Insurance Act by reverting to the original plan of the Bill and establishing one Commission with branch Commissions assisting it in the different areas. We shall avoid a great many of the difficulties which those who have to administer the great societies have felt during the past eighteen months if we adopt this course. I hope, therefore, that the House will support the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. THOMAS
My difficulty is as much with the hon. Member who moved this Amendment as it is with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. After the speech of the hon. Member I am not sure whether his real object in moving this Clause is to assist the international societies or merely to attack the principle of Home Rule. I think that those who took part in the discussion upstairs will agree that we were able to prove, not only to the Committee but to the Government as well, that there was a real, solid difficulty with which the societies were faced, and that that difficulty ought to be met. Therefore, I think that it will be much better if we were to 1576 apply ourselves now to see whether those difficulties are met, rather than to divide on the question of Home Rule versus Imperial Government. In this connection I want to make perfectly clear that when we attack the four Commissions we do not do it on what is called the national ground, because we are as well aware of the assistance of our local branches in these particular countries, of the advantage they are to the central organisation, as any Member of this House, but it was because of the duplication of work occasioned by the Commissions that we went into the question at all. I would like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to tell us exactly where we are. I am anxious to oppose this Amendment, for reasons that I will show in a minute, on the ground that Clause 15 does meet the difficulties of the international societies. I believe that I shall also be able to show that our Scottish friends need not have the apprehensions they seem to have with regard to their side of the question. But if we are not going to have Clause 15 in the Act as it is now, then certainly the position of myself and of those for whom I speak is clear, that we will stand for the abolition of the Commissions entirely. That is clearly our position. I think we are justified in that, for this reason. Take the first question of valuation. Every International Society has a much larger membership in England than in any other part of the United Kingdom, either Scotland, Wales, or Ireland. It is so both in trade unions and in friendly societies.
There are few Scottish societies, but, when we speak of the international societies, in the main we mean societies with their central Offices in England, and the difficulty which we have experienced up to to-day is a difficulty that is now being got over. Take my own society, with a membership of 100,000. Of that total there is a membership of 15,000 in Scotland, a smaller number in Wales, and less than 5,000 in Ireland. Our apprehension was that unless an alteration was made we would not be treated for valuation purposes as one unit. That is clearly met under Clause 15 of the Bill by means of which you not only maintain the identity of the society and its solidarity in all parts of the United Kingdom, but you bring together the same class of workers both in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. I believe there is much misconception with regard to the sickness rate in Scotland, especially on this particular point. The 1577 experience of the trade unions shows that the sickness rate is peculiar to a trade itself; that is to say, the railway man in Scotland is just as liable to sickness as is the railway man in England, and there is very little difference in the rate. But there are some trades where, even in Scotland, the rate of sickness is even much higher than it is in England, and that is the experience of international societies. Take the gasworkers—I am now giving the figures supplied to the Commissioners for the quarter ending July of this year—that society has 44,863 members, of which 1,356 are in cotland—the lowest number in that case.
The average sickness per head in England is 15.8, and in Scotland 19.6. Therefore, apart entirely from the question of sickness alone, for the purposes of the International Society, it is absolutely essential that they should be treated as one unit. That has been met in this particular Clause. Then when we come to the question of transfer, here, again, was a difficulty under this particular Clause. The man transferred from England to Scotland or from Scotland to Ireland presents a case just as simple as if he were transferred at the present time from London to Kent. There are the regulations, but, as has been pointed out, the difficulty is to be met in a simpler form, and instead of eight sets of books having to be kept, as is now the case, one set of books would meet the situation. I submit that so far as we are concerned, interested as we are in the international societies, we have in the main been met in a real and practical way; but, if the effort of the Committee upstairs to meet us is to be whittled away to-night, then we have no other alternative than to support the abolition of the four Commissions. But I do ask the House, when they approach the question, to realise that all the objections raised by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Worthington-Evans) were real objections which we agreed with as being, in the main, objections to the Clause. The real position now, however, that our difficulties has been met, and, therefore, so far as we are concerned, if Clause 15 remains intact, we are prepared to vote against the Amendment; but if Clause 15 is to be, whittled away in the manner suggested from various quarters, certainly our position is that we will vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. JAMES HOGGE
The hon. Member for Sevenoaks, when he replied to the 1578 Chancellor of the Exchequer, made the remark that we have hot had a solid reason given for the creation of the separate Commissions by the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the course of his speech. I would be quite willing now to give him fifteen substantial reasons for the creation of the Commission in Scotland, and, if he is not content with the first set of fifteen, I have a second which I can bring into the field. No doubt some other Members on these benches will communicate them to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I do not want to take those, in the first place, because I desire to deal with some other aspects of this question. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) has shaken a ledger in the face of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and declared on behalf of those whom he represents—I wonder if in what he says he represents the three Gentlemen who stand for the Labour party in Scotland; I should be extremely interested to see whether they agree with him in the Division Lobby, and I shall be glad to hear them speak for themselves in this particular Debate—that because they are satisfied on a matter of book-keeping difficulties, they are prepared to support the Government in carrying through Clause 15, which so far as the Scottish Members are concerned, is a Clause which fills them, not only with alarm as to the future of the whole administration of insurance in Scotland, but one to which they object, not only on national grounds, but economic ground. The hon. Member for Colchester, who opened this Debate, said that practically every friendly society was in favour of the abolition of the four separate Commissions. He was challenged by myself in the course of the Debate, and I now propose to submit my evidence, which is confined entirely to Scotland, but which I submit is the only evidence that is worth having, so far as the Commissioners in Scotland are concerned, and I do not propose to speak for any other than they. The members of approved societies in Scotland, on the contrary, are not dissatisfied with the administration of the Insurance Act under the Commissioners—they are amply satisfied. Not a less time ago than July of this year, that is a few weeks ago, the Scottish National Conference of the Affiliated Friendly Societies, which represets a majority of the insured persons in Scotland and numbers within its ranks, the largest section of those who come under the benefit of the Act in 1579 Scotland passed this Resolution unanimously:—That the duly elected representatives of the friendly societies under the auspices of the Scottish National Conference of affiliated societies now constituted under the National Health Insurance Act as approved societies or branches of international societies,Do not forget that,and comprising a considerable majority of the total insured persons in Scotland, do repudiate the desire or the necessity of amalgamating, the four separate Commissions under one, as advocated by certain official interests mainly in England.
§ Mr. HOGGE
If the hon. Gentleman did me the honour of listening carefully, he would know that the title I read was the Scottish National Conference of Affiliated Societies including branches of international societies. They go on to say more:—The difficulty with insured persons who are members of a society or branch registered in a different country from that in which they reside could easily be removed.And they suggest methods of doing so, and they go on to say, and this a point the House ought to bear in mind,That inasmuch as the relations between the Scottish Commissioners and the approved societies are most satisfactory, both from the standpoint of disseminating information anti financial administration of the Act, also between the Commissioners and the local insurance committees whose duties are largely affected by local circumstances, such amalgamation of the Commissions would not, in our opinion, be conducive to the best interests of the insured, nor to the beneficial and harmonious working of the Act.Yet we have the hon. Member for Derby getting up and saying that unless he and his Friends get the Clause as it is set out in fifteen of this Bill, and that if the Government yield one jot or tittle on that particular Clause, they are prepared to throw over, and I presume to vote and go into the lobby against, the most marked of democratic tendencies, namely, that the people of separate nationalities shall look after their own affairs. I beg to remind my Friends—
§ Mr. HOGGE
You can deal with that. I beg to remind my Friends, as far as those of us who represent Scotland are concerned, of the importance of this tendency in our national life to-day. As the House knows, Home Rule for Scotland is bound to follow the operation of certain Bills in this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Question."] You may question it because you may find it uncomfortable if it were so. To my Scottish colleagues that will appeal as 1580 a matter of course, and one of the obvious concomitants of that is that we should not have it suggested by those who represent in Scotland a certain section of opinion, that unless certain technical difficulties can be overcome they will adopt a certain course. We suggest, if the House will look at the bearing of certain Amendments which we put down, alternatives which can perfectly easily meet those difficulties without interfering at all with our wishes in the matter of the Commissions. Let me deal with the subjects raised by the hon. Member for Colchester and the hon. Member for Sevenoaks. Why do we want separate Commissions? What is the reason? I have said that I have to offer a number of substantial reasons why we insist upon this Clause being carried. First of all, it is an enormous convenience to local administrators, to insured persons, and to the public generally. That is the first argument, the question of local convenience. I do not know how far this applies to Ireland or Wales, but, so far as Scotland is concerned, the second reason I am about to give is vital, and that is that Scotland, as a matter of fact, has a different code of laws and has a separate judicature, and a separate system of local Government. Those are three things which I could obviously enlarge upon, if one did not want to take up too great an amount of time, and which are very relevant to any administration in Scotland, and which ought to be borne in mind by our Friends here sitting in front.
You are not dealing with the same country, or with the same laws, or with the same judicature. You have not got the same kind of local government, and, obviously, if you are going to meet those difficulties in a country like that which I and others represent in this House, you must meet our views on a subject of that kind. I would again suggest, if you are going to deal adequately, as everybody wishes you should deal adequately, through the Insurance Act with the public health of the community and with the health authorities, it is absolutely essential that you should secure the co-operation of those authorities in dealing with this particular question. I suggest to the House that a Commission on the spot, in sympathy and in touch and with knowledge of the public health necessities and authorities in Scotland, is much more likely to attend to those interests than if they were attended to from here. If there is 1581 one thing of which the Members of this House have been more cognisant than any other, and one thing in which they agree, it is that Scotland at the present moment suffers and has suffered from Departmental Government too far removed from public opinion in Scotland. While that is so, here you suggest, or it is suggested, that unless you get certain technical things put right, which can be overcome otherwise, you are prepared to oppose the public opinion of Scotland, which wants its affairs dealt with in its own country, within the control of its own public opinion, and that the party in front of me should deny that to Scotsmen who want it by a huge majority passes my comprehension, and is one which I do not credit them with in this difficulty. I bear in mind that since the National Insurance Act came into operation we have had by - elections in Scotland in which there have been Labour candidates, not one of whom would pledge himself to the abolition of the four Commissions, and not one of whom would come before the electors saying he was prepared to abolish the Scottish National Commission.
I do not know any Member in this House who is a Labour man who looks forward with any case to a future occasion in Scotland when he may have to face the electors of that country with a vote to his credit in this House of having attempted to suppress a modern national institution in Scotland, to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself this afternoon gave a testimonial which, I think, was due to the men who are at the head of that particular organisation. I would like to remind the House, further, that local government in Scotland is much more democratic than on this side of the Tweed, and that is a point which is well worth bearing in mind when you propose to set up in its place a body which would be governed by prevailing English ideas. I do not want to make a personal point of this, but. I have been looking at the members of the Joint Committee to whom this administration would be relegated if this proposal were carried. What do I find? That this Joint Committee consists of eleven persons, seven of whom are Englishmen, to which I have no objection; it seems a reasonable number if you take the population as a basis—one is an Irishman, one a Welshman, and two are Scotchmen, which is an unfair proportion on a population basis. What chance would local government in 1582 Scotland have against a body in which one nationality is so prevailingly dominant? That is a point which we are bearing in mind, and which we have shown before we do not like in other forms of administration. If there is one thing detested more than another, it is any form of bureaucracy. The mere fact that the Scottish Commission—and this is probably true of the Irish and Welsh Commissions also—is on the spot, that it is composed of people in whom we have confidence, that it is accessible to the people, that it is in close touch and sympathy with local matters, renders it absolutely impossible for it to become the same kind of bureaucracy as exists here in London with regard to the administration of other Scottish affairs.
I put as another argument the geographical and economic conditions in Scotland. As the House knows, to-night, after we have finished the discussion on this Bill, and have put through the Mental Deficiency Bill for Scotland, we are going to take up the Highlands and Islands (Medical Service) Bill, which also deals with Scotland. That is an insurance question, and one which shows that the geographical and economic conditions in Scotland are different from those in the other parts of the United Kingdom. Is there any Member listening to me now who believes that if we had one Commission dealing with Scottish affairs from London the question of the Highlands and Islands would have been tackled yet It is so remote from London, you only hear about it on occasions when some pictures are put in a picture paper in London, or some startling paragraphs appear in the newspapers about a disaster in the Highlands or Islands of Scotland. The mere fact that we have had a Scottish Commission with its eyes turned towards the condition of these people has resulted in a measure which will probably pass this Session bringing relief. That would never have come if the affairs had been in the hands of one Commission. The very fact that you have to vary the conditions in the separate countries is made easier by having different Commissions. How can a Joint Committee dominated largely by English opinion, to which we do not object as such, vary in accordance with public sentiment and public opinion in Scotland, make regulations to deal with special conditions? The conditions in regard to casual labour in England and Scotland are often very 1583 different. For example, you have not in England to any extent such a casual occupation as the packing girls who follow the herring fleets from port to port and do a piece of work which renders it very difficult to deal with them in the matter of insurance. What can a Joint Committee, largely dominated by Englishmen, know about such a question as that. Their knowledge is probably that which might be obtained from a picture postcard.
If it had not been for the existence of separate Commissions such as you have in Scotland, the Insurance Act could not have been put in operation when it was. Is there anything wrong with the administration of the Act in Scotland? Does the House know that out of every hundred insurable persons in Scotland, 99.5 are insured now? Does the House know that in the matter of dealing with tuberculosis the Scottish Commission have effected far better results than any one of the other three Commissions? If anybody doubts that, let me give one or two figures to show the great advantage of having different Commissions in the different countries. Up to 30th April there were 19,151 persons dealt with in England under the administration of sanatorium benefit. In Scotland there were 2,357, in Ireland, 762, and in Wales and Monmouthshire, 1,263. What is the best test of the treatment of tuberculosis? Obviously the treatment in residential institutions. What do we find in Scotland? Whereas in England they have been able to deal with only 39 per cent. of the people who came under their observation, in Scotland we have dealt with 64 per cent. That has been possible because we have a good Commission in touch with the people, carrying out their wishes, and able to do so because of the better public health conditions and the more democratic government in Scotland. Are my hon. Friends below me prepared to put themselves up against that, in order to secure some little matters which we are prepared to support them in getting, but which we consider to be mere technical difficulties?
§ Mr. HOGGE
It is more important that it should be made easy for a trade union secretary to keep a ledger than that you should tear up the whole national ideals of a country. I want to point out, further, 1584 that the proximity of the Commissioners in Scotland to the conditions with which they are called upon to deal is an enormous advantage in the administration of the Act. We Scottish Members know the activity which the Commission has displayed in Scotland. Every Scotsman, I believe, will agree that the present Commissioners have given the State a great deal more time than they are being paid for in administering this Act. It must be borne in mind that the professions now regard this national question in such a way that they themselves have recognised it in separate institutions. For instance, you have separate medical and pharmaceutical services in Scotland. Why? Because you have absolutely different conditions from those which obtain on this side of the Tweed. You have a perfectly different system of medical service and a perfectly different system of serving out medicines. That has been recognised in these different institutions, and what they have found to fit in with national conditions is likely to make us agree that our Commission in particular should be continued in its beneficent work. That also applies to doctors and chemists, and also to the question of tuberculosis, with which I have dealt. One other point may illustrate the difference between Scotland and this side of the Tweed: We have no Midwives Act in Scotland; therefore you want a closer personal knowledge of the conditions that exist in Scotland than you could otherwise have. Another argument that has been used in the course of this Debate is as to the huge expense of a separate Commission. The hon. Member who moved this Motion put it forward as one of his arguments that an enormous amount of money would be saved if you abolished the Commissions. Let us consider that for a moment. We have got four Commissioners in Scotland. I do not know the numbers and the salaries in the other countries. One of those Commissioners is a member of the Joint Committee. Presumably if the Commissions were abolished he would still remain a member of that Joint Committee. You, therefore, have three Commissioners, requiring to be dealt with left. At the present time their combined salaries are a little over £3,000 per year. But every other officer under the Commission in Scotland would be required to carry out the work of the Joint. Committee and, as my hon. Friends around me point out, as a result of the abolition we should require more.
1585 I was not thinking of that at the moment, but I shall be glad if my hon. Friends will later add that to my argument. I was thinking of the increased expenses made necessary by the movements necessary of persons from Scotland to London to deal with the Joint Committees here on the spot. We know perfectly well now the enormous expense to public bodies in Scotland and deputations here to London in order to meet officials who ought to be in Scotland. That would be added to, even if you did away with the Commissioners and subtracted their salaries. We want those who are in favour of the abolition of the four Commissions to say so. I know perfectly well none of the Scottish Unionists are in favour of abolishing the four Commissions. All the Scottish Unionists in this House are unanimously in favour of a separate Scottish Commission. The leading Unionist newspapers in Scotland are in favour of separate Commissions. If you put this to the vote amongst Scottish Members in this House the result will be seventy-two to nothing. That is an important thing to bear in mind. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself raised one or two points which, I think, ought to be dealt with. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that this proposal, Clause 15, does not withdraw a single person from the administrative control of these Scottish Commissioners. That may be in a somewhat technical sense as your objections to the persistence of the four Commissions are technical reasons. It seems to me that what would happen would be that, instead of having people intimately in touch and in sympathy with the administrative results of insurance in Scotland, you would introduce a system comparable to the erection of a great number of branch offices, of which you would make the Scottish Commission managers. One knows what that means. One knows too much that that is out of touch with the common life of the community.
After all, what does the Chancellor's argument amount to if it is not this: He asked the hon. Member for Colchester to answer his question, and to prophesy whether or not the large industrial societies in Scotland, if this were carried, if Clause 15 were carried in its present form, would not set up separate societies in Scotland? Everybody knows they will. What, then, is Clause 15? It is a Clause that is being offered to you for bad management. [HON. MEMBERS: "No,"] Well 1586 managed societies will turn themselves into separate Scottish societies. They will keep their books, because they want to know where their members are creating financial difficulties for them in the matter of sickness. They want to know where leakages are. They want to deal with that big Clause in the original Act, which, if Clause 15 is passed, will have its value considerably curtailed—that Clause which enables all approved societies to bring the results of their investigations before the local authorities to get reforms in housing and sanitary matters if they are so required. Where are the trade unions going to get their information from on social things, about the conditions of their own people? Where are they going to get their information if they are not going to keep some kind of books? It may be that trade union officials have found a difficulty in keeping books rendered necessary by the officials who are at the head of these organisations. That does not mean surely that it is impossible to get a simplified form of book-keeping! It is one thing to have the whole of national ideals torn up simply because this little difficulty has been created after the operation of the Act for a short time. Everybody recognises that a man who is not trained to bookkeeping finds it difficult to keep books, but no large insurance society has found that.
If the trade unions find a difficulty in that particular the obvious remedy is to get people into employment who can deal with it. You have got to keep six men where before you had to keep two. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Well, are you not in favour of giving men employment or are you in favour of throwing men out of work? If you have got six men employed now and you get this Clause 15 you will get rid of these men, but where will they go to? It is a pathetic spectacle to see the Labour party sending men in their employment to the Labour Exchanges because they want a technical change made which will result in the tearing up of the national scheme in which the people of Scotland are interested. If Clause 15 is maintained in its present form it shall receive a resolute opposition from the men who believe that a separate Commission is the best way to deal with the question as it meets us in Scotland. I do not want to go into that at this moment, because we have on the Order Paper a large number of Amendments which will arise, and which we will 1587 have to address our remarks to from time to time. It will not, therefore, be fair to cover too wide an area now, but I do want to try and express to the Secretary to the Treasury the opinion that on this matter we Scotsmen are quite clearly of opinion that Clause 15 in its present form does not maintain to us the Scottish Commission in the way that we desire it to be maintained. We ask him, we beg of him, to stop and think whether or not it is worth the while of the Government that he represents to persist in putting Clause 15 through this House of Commons in its present form, and outraging the experience and sentiment of everyone who believes in the economically and well-managed affairs of the separate Commission which we now have in Scotland.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I rise in order to express in a few sentences the united opinion of the Welsh Liberal Members with regard to the Amendment now before the House. The question was considered by a meeting the other day when the Bill was under discussion, and we were unanimously of opinion that it was essential in the interests of Wales that there should be a separate Commission. The hon. Member who has just sat down referred to the peculiar position of Scotland, and said that certain parts of Scotland differed economically and geographically. I draw attention to one circumstance in Wales which rather distinguishes it from Scotland, and that is that owing to the generosity of an hon. Member of this House, we in Wales have already before the introduction of the Insurance Bill, attempted to make a national effort to deal with the question of tuberculosis, and that we have in the Welsh National Memorial, already in existence, a scheme for fighting what is now called the White Plague; and because we have that scheme in existence and practically in working order, we feel it is essential that that scheme should not be controlled from Whitehall, but should be under the control of the Welsh Commissioners themselves. In addition to that the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken pointed out what has been done in Scotland with regard to consumption. I think it is only fair to point out that in Wales not only have the Welsh Commissioners, through the National Memorial, dealt with those consumptives who are insured, but they have also dealt with a very large number of consumptives who did not happen to be insured.
1588 The hon. Member for Derby, in opposing this Amendment, said that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer accepted any Amendment of a serious character to the Clause as it now stands, that he and the party with whom he is associated would be bound to vote for the extinction of the four Commissions. I am exceedingly sorry to hear that. No one who knows the part I have taken in this House will accuse me of any hostility to the ideals of the Labour party in whatever matters they brought before the House, and I should be very sorry to think that the Labour party should be so ill-advised as to place itself in matters of this kind against the national sentiments of the Welsh people. What is the position in Wales at the present time? In Wales there are 680,000 insured people. Considering that the number of those people belonging to trade unions is less than 100,000, is it right that hon. Members, not supported by a single Member from Wales, and speaking for less than one-sixth of the insured persons, should advocate something which practically means the abolition of the Welsh Insurance Commissioners. The hon. Member for Derby contended that he is in a position to express the opinion of the society with which he is principally associated, but may I suggest to the hon. Member and to those associated with the trade unions, that the real opposition to the Welsh Insurance Commissioners and the other separate Commissions, is practically an official opposition; that is to say, it is the opposition of the officials of the trade unions and the big societies. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] If hon. Members do not agree with that, let them put their objections in the form of speeches.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
What I am contending is that the opposition made by the trade unions and the friendly societies is exactly the same class of opposition that we had from certain parts of the country when the Bill was under discussion. We had resolutions galore upon this point, and we were assured that we did not represent our constituencies, but when an inquiry was made we found the real opposition came from the officials of the unions rather 1589 than from the men, and I suggest that the real opposition to-night is the opposition of the officials, and that there is something to be said for the suggestion made that it is due to jealousy on the part of the officials in England to the position taken up by the officials in Scotland, Ireland, or Wales, and that these officials fear they will be ultimately ousted. All I say, speaking on the part of my own Constituency, and on the part of the Welsh Liberal Members, is we have heard no ground of complaint; we
§ have had no resolution of complaint as to the action of the Welsh Commissioners; and I beg to say we shall give the most strenuous opposition to the Amendment before the House or to anything calculated to whittle down the power and influence of the Commissioners in Wales.
§ Question put, "That Sub-sections (1). and (2) be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 70; Noes, 232.1591
|Division No. 264.]||AYES.||[9.2 p.m.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Goldsmith, Frank||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Barnston, Harry||Greene, Walter Raymond||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby),|
|Bigland, Alfred||Harris, Henry Percy||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Bird, Alfred||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)||Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Boyton, James||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Stanley, Major Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Horne, E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Swift, Rigby|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Horner, Andrew Long||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Cassel, Felix||Houston, Robert Paterson||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Cator, John||Ingleby, Holcombe||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Lewisham, Viscount||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Mackinder, H. J.||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Fell, Arthur||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Worthington-Evans and Mr. Rawlinson.|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Forster, Henry William||Nield, Herbert|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Glanville, Harold James|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Goldstone, Frank|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Griffith, Ellis Jones|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Cory, Sir Clifford John||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Cotton, William Francis||Gulland, John William|
|Arnold, Sydney||Crumley, Patrick||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Cullinan, John||Hackett, John|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Dalrymple, Viscount||Hall, Frederick (Yorks, Normanton)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Hancock, John George|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)|
|Barnes, George N.||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hardie, J. Keir|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Dawes, James Arthur||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)|
|Bentham, George Jackson||De Forest, Baron||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Delany, William||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Boland, John Pius||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Devlin, Joseph||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Hayward, Evan|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Dillon, John||Hazleton, Richard|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Donelan, Captain A.||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Doris, William||Henry, Sir Charles|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Duffy, William J.||Hewart, Gordon|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Hinds, John|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Hodge, John|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Hogge, James Myles|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Falconer, James||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Ffrench, Peter||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Flavin, Michael Joseph||John, Edward Thomas|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||France, Gerald Ashburner||Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Gill, A. H.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Clough, William||Gilmour, Captain John||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Clynes, John R.||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Nolan, Joseph||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Joyce, Michael||Nuttall, Harry||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Keating, Mathew||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton.)|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Sheehy, David|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Shortt, Edward|
|Kilbride, Denis||O'Doherty, Philip||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|King, Joseph||O'Donnell, Thomas||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||O'Dowd, John||Snowden, Philip|
|Lardner, James C. R.||O'Grady, James||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rid, Cockerm'th)||O'Malley, William||Sutton, John E.|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||O'Shee, James John||Tennant, Harold John|
|Lundon, Thomas||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Thomas, J. H.|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Parker, James (Halifax)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Lynch, A. A.||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|McGhee, Richard||Pointer, Joseph||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Wadsworth, John|
|MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Macpherson, James Ian||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Wardle, George J.|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Pringle, William M. R.||Waring, Walter|
|M'Cailum, Sir John M.||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Webb, H.|
|Manfield, Harry||Reddy, Michael||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Meagher, Michael||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Middlebrook, William||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs, N.)|
|Millar, James Duncan||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Molloy, Michael||Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Mooney, John J.||Roe, Sir Thomas||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Morgan, George Hay||Rowlands, James||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Muldoon, John||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Wedgwood Benn.|
|Murphy, Martin J.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (1) of Clause 15."
I must apologise to the House for having to speak at some length on a technical and somewhat involved subject. Section 83 of the original Act provides, amongst other things, that an International Society with members in more than one part of the United Kingdom shall, for purposes of valuations, surpluses, deficiencies, and transfers be treated as a separate society. The Clause of the Amending Bill with which we are dealing repeals Section 83 so far as I have described it. We Scottish Liberal Members object to the repeal of this Section, because we desire to keep in Scotland the separate valuation of all persons who are insured under the National Insurance Act. We desire to keep our Scottish management in the hands of the Scottish National Commission, and we object to this first Sub-section on national grounds. We desire to maintain unimpaired and uninfringed the full control of the National Commissioners for the administration of the Insurance Act in Scotland. There are many reasons why we desire to do so. The 1592 circumstances in Scotland differ from the circumstances in England. I will not go into detail on that point, but it is sufficient to say that our laws, Law Courts, Poor Law, land laws, agriculture, religion, race, education, and our whole social system in Scotland differ from that of other parts of the United Kingdom. Naturally we desire to have this Act administered in accordance with our different social circumstances, and we think we ought to have the Act modified to suit our peculiar circumstances. We want to have the National Commissions who administer this Act in a Scottish atmosphere. We want to have them specifically engaged in the work of Scottish administration. We want to have their minds thoroughly soaked and permeated by the Scottish point of view. We object from the purely national point of view to the first Sub-section of this Clause, because we think that it undermines the power, the authority, and the prestige of the National Commissioners in each part of the United Kingdom. I may say that we have behind us, I believe without exception, the people of Scotland in this matter. We have the Unionist opinion of Scotland behind us. Is there a more vehement 1593 Unionist paper in the whole of the United Kingdom than "The Scotsman." It is a strong Unionist paper, and a strong anti-Home Rule paper. It is a type of strong vehement Conservatism, if not Toryism, in Scotland. Yet this paper supports us. It supports the Liberal Members for Scotland in the efforts they are making against the first Sub-section of this Clause. I understand also that the Scottish Conservative Members will be with us, and I say with confidence that we have trade union opinion with us. We certainly have not got the officials of trade unions who are in England with us. There has been no time for an expression of opinion in the country, for this new Clause was not in the proposals of the Government when they submitted them to the House; it was suddenly sprung upon us in Committee, and there has been no time for an expression of opinion in the country; but I say that my belief is that if the rank and file of the trade unions in Scotland are consulted, their opinion will be found to be inspired by the national sentiment in this matter.
I do not believe that the friendly societies are against it. Much has been made of a meeting of the Foresters who are just now holding their conference at Manchester. I saw a report in the "Times" yesterday to the effect that the Foresters had sent a telegram to Mr. Lloyd George urging him to stand by this Clause. The extraordinary thing is that this telegram shows that the Foresters have not the slightest idea what the Clause is about. They are under the impression that it is going to relieve them of great administrative difficulties, but with one very small, minute exception—a part to which we do not object—the type of society to which the Foresters belong is not affected. The Foresters are organised in branches, and each of these branches is separately valued under the Act. We do not abolish the separate valuation of each of these branches. Each separate branch in Scotland will be separately valued and treated separately for the purposes of the surplus or deficit. I have had some talk with the advisers of my right hon. Friend on this matter, and I gather they think that I am wrong in one point. They say that the Foresters come under Section 83 of the original Act which says that all the branches, say, in Scotland or England or Ireland shall be treated separately for valuation and for surplus, but that if the branches link together in Scotland for the purpose of 1594 forming an association with a central financial committee they shall be treated as a society with branches. They are are already grouped together in that way, but I believe it is contended that they must be grouped together separately in Scotland and England, and that the Scottish branches must form one group and the English branches another group. I believe it is the contention of the officials that that is the present state of the law, but I defy them to find anything in the original Act to support their view. The original Act says that a society's branches shall be grouped together and shall pool a certain portion of their surplus. It does not say anything about there being national boundaries between the separate branches.
There is not a word in the original Act which lays down a national boundary between any parts of a society which is organised in branches. Section 83 says that a society, and it can only mean a centralised society, which has branches in both parts of the United Kingdom shall be treated separately for the purposes of valuation; but, quite independently of that Section, a society organised in branches has still got to be treated separately in each of its branches for the purpose of valuation. I say, therefore, that this support from great orders like the Foresters which is embodied in this telegram, is based upon an entirely false idea. This Clause relieves them practically of none of the difficulties with which they are at present confronted. Perhaps I am too sweeping. Supposing they had a branch in Berwick and that branch had members on both sides of the border, then it would be affected by Section 83, Sub-section (3), but that is a small thing compared with the society as a whole. We are prepared to meet the grievance of one particular branch or several branches on the border line, but that, as I say, is a small point compared with the society as a whole. I do not expect that there is a branch in the Irish Channel, so that we are simply dealing with the border between England and Wales and England and Scotland. My contention is—and I believe that this will also be disputed—that the powers of the Commissioners in any country are seriously diminished by this Clause. I think I had better explain in what direction they are diminished. They are not diminished so far as valuation is concerned. They never had any powers of valuation. That has always been conducted by the Treasury.
1595 After the valuation has been completed and the surplus or deficit, as the case may be, has been ascertained, then very important powers are reserved by the Act for the Commissioners. I will give three instances where power is taken away from the Commissioners. There is, first of all, the power of dealing with the surplus. The surplus must be expended in providing additional benefits. These additional benefits have to be approved by the Commissioners. I want to appeal to the House with regard to the importance of the power of dealing with these additional benefits. The rest of the Act is hard and fast. The benefits are fixed. These additional benefits are the flexible part of the Act. These are the means by which this Act may be moulded and adapted to the national needs of each separate country, and we regard it as of most vital importance that when these come to be adapted to the needs of each country the decision should be taken by people whose official life is bound up with each particular country, and not with some central authority which is not permeated by the atmosphere and feeling of that country. There is one power—dealing with surpluses. There is a corresponding power for dealing with deficits. There are provisions with regard to levies which have to be approved by the Commission—a very important power indeed. There is a further power. Suppose a levy has been fixed, and some society, disappointed with the position of affairs, refuses to administer the Act. There is power in the National Commissioners to undertake the management of the society—to take over, administer, and run the society. We, in Scotland, do not want an English authority undertaking to administer the affairs of societies in Scotland. In case of shipwreck, we desire that the administration shall be undertaken by purely National Commissioners.
I think I have said enough to show that in very material details powers are taken away. The societies will become international. Their surpluses will not be Scottish surpluses, their deficits will not be Scottish deficits. The body dealing with them will not be local, or even national, but some new body not provided for in this Section will have to be called into existence by administrative action, and it will have to be a Joint Committee, strengthened and reinforced with a new 1596 staff. Our objection to the interference of an International Commission, or of English officials, is not due to any objection to the officials themselves or to any doubt as to their ability. We yield to no one in admiration of the manner in which the English officials have put in force this Act, and administered it in England. We are, too, very proud of our Scottish Commission. We think our Scottish Commissioners have done marvellous work—work of unsurpassed difficulty, and work which only they could have carried out. We are proud, from a national point of view, of what has been accomplished by the Commission in Scotland. We are confident that men of the standing of English Commissioners if they were brought to Scotland and were engaged in Scottish work, immersed in Scottish atmosphere, and brought into sympathy with Scottish conditions, would do the work as well, and would prove as big a success as our present Commission. What we demand is a Commission which shall be engaged in specifically Scottish work.
I have said a great deal about the national point of view, but I do not want it to be thought that that is the only point of view we have in our country. After all, the Commissioners are only the machinery. It is the separate valuation which is the substance. We believe we have much to gain in Scotland by a separate valuation. We believe it is not merely danger to nationality, but danger to our pockets that is involved in this scheme. In this instance the interest of patriotism coincides with the interest of our pockets, and I am sure that hon. Members will recognise what. a powerful combination it is. We expect to have a larger surplus in Scotland than will, on the average, be obtained in other parts of the United Kingdom. We have many reasons for thinking so. We believe that, possibly, our rate of sickness will be lower than in England, and lower especially than in Ireland and Wales. We think the characteristics of our Scottish countrymen have certain advantages in the point of view of insurance. We believe also that the higher type of elementary education in Scotland will give some advantages in the administration of the lower scales of the societies. We may be mistaken in that. I may be challenged about the sickness rate. I have figures that have been taken out by some societies. They give indications both ways I admit, but, on the whole, those I have seen are favourable to the view which I 1597 am advancing. I was challenged the other day about figures, but let me point out that there are no figures available within the first six months which would enable us to form a conclusive opinion on this point. Is not that a good reason for delay? Let us wait until we have had our first valuation. There is no need for haste in taking this more or less irrevocable step.
I would like to call attention to a meeting held recently in London—the National Congress of Industrial Approved Societies, representing, I believe, 5,000,000 of insured people. The chairman of that conference, in his speech, made reference to the new Bill, and he certainly seemed to voice the opinion of the conference. He said that in that Bill they asked that there should be no structural alterations. They did not think that they had had enough experience, and they strongly recommended the Government, before making any structual alterations, to wait until-they had obtained the necessary experience. The Government have taken that line. They have also promised that they will have an inquiry into the whole administration and working of the Act. The inquiry will take place soon. They did not think it necessary to introduce these structural changes in the original Bill. If they were of that opinion then, let them wait another year until they have had actual experience of the working of the Act before they introduce changes of so vital a character as these.
There is another financial reason I would give in favour of the policy of a separate valuation. Some figures I have seen have shown a very heavy sickness rate among women in Belfast. One society which has women members in all parts of the United Kingdom has shown a specially heavy sick rate among the women members of Belfast. The rate was remarkable, and I cannot help thinking it has something to do with social conditions and with the nature of employment there. I am sure, when the figures are seen, they will cause a demand from all parties and all sections for a reform of these social conditions. The working of the Act, with its separate valuation, has been most valuable in revealing this state of affairs, but if all the valuations are to be lumped together; if the valuations in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, are to be put together, these really dangerous conditions which obtain in one particular part of the 1598 United Kingdom will be concealed. They will be covered up and hidden from men's eyes. If they are known at all they will be known only to the officials of that society and to headquarters, who will decide not to reveal them in the place affected, because it will, perhaps, prevent them from getting members. The Act as it stands with a separate valuation is valuable because it reveals in advance the different social conditions and enables not only the officials, but the general public to see an evil at its source. The abolition of the separate valuation will make for the covering up of these evils.
There is one fact which will surprise many hon. Members opposite. They may possibly think we are making a lot of fuss about a small affair, and that only a few persons in Scotland will be affected. The fact is that more than one-half of the insured people in Scotland are affected. I think the proportion is greater in Wales. These people who have joined the societies in Scotland did so upon a statutory assurance that they would be valued separately, and that the societies would be treated as separate societies. Something has been said as to a Statute not being a contract. I quite agree that in the strict interpretation it is not. But the relations of the insured people are not directly with the State, but with a society. They have entered into a contract with their society, and, in many cases, these societies, in sending out their prospectuses inviting new members, have embodied in the prospectus an assurance that the members will be valued separately. You have more than one-half of the people in Scotland who have joined these societies upon a statutory assurance, and in many cases upon the statement in a prospectus that they would be valued separately. Now, without consulting them, without giving them anything more than a vague and shadowy option, you are proposing to tear up the contract, and saying, "We will secure by Statute that all shall be valued together." I do not think that is fair treatment, or that it is playing the game with the insured people in Scotland who have joined on the. understanding to which I referred. I said some thing about an option. It is true that there is in the Sub-section a provision which gives to members of these various societies a kind of option to remain as they are at present, but it is a vague, shadowy and altogether illusory option. May I indicate its nature? I am sure 1599 hon. Members will agree that it is put into the Clause for no purpose whatever, but is a mere piece of window-dressing. To put it briefly, the Clause provides that Sub-section (3) of Section 83 is repealed. Then it provides that where the Joint Committee is satisfied that the members of any society in any country desire to remain as they are they shall remain as they are.
How is the Joint Committee to be satisfied? No machinery is provided. [An HON. MEMBER: "It says 'On representations made.'"] No machinery is provided whereby the members of the society can exercise that option. The Clause says that if the Joint Committee are satisfied on the representations made that the members desire to remain as they are they shall do so. How is the Joint Committee to be satisfied? Is a poll to be taken? Is an inquiry to be held, or is the Committee to do anything at all? There is not a vestige of machinery of any shape or form. Mark this also, that the decision is to be taken at once, if there is any decision. It is not to remain open until the first valuation is made and until the people see how they stand and know whether or not they will be in a better position if they are valued separately. This vague and shadowy option is to be exercised before the first valuation. It is a thing not worth the paper it is written upon or the space it occupies in the Bill. May I add a word to show that we do not adopt an impossible attitude? The trade unions are centralised societies, and they are now under real and substantial grievances. We never doubted that they had those grievances. We are anxious to meet them, and believe they can be met without abolishing the separate valuation. We are willing and ready to meet them, and have put upon the Paper Amendments designed to do so: Perhaps the House will bear with me while I briefly deal with the grievances. I think there are four. First, there is the grievance with regard to strays. That does not apply to international societies, but to national societies. For instance, some members of an English society may migrate to Scotland, and, according to the law as it stands at present, they have to be treated as a separate society, and are valued separately. We think that grievance ought to be removed. It is removed in the Subsections in this Clause other than that to which we object. We are quite willing to 1600 accept any provision in the Clause dealing with strays. There can be no difference of opinion about that.
The next substantial grievance is that concerned with the grouping of societies. The original Act contains a provision requiring that in the case of the smaller societies, that is to say, societies having less than 5,000 members, that they shall be grouped together in association, with a central financial committee, for the purposes of pooling one portion of their surpluses to meet the possible deficit of some of the societies. I take the society with which my hon. Friend (Mr. Hodge) is connected, the Iron and Steel Workers' Society, which has 12,000 members in England and 3,000 in Scotland. Under the present law those Scottish members must form an association with some other society for the purpose of pooling their surpluses, if they have any, therefore they are required to form an association with any society but their own excellent and well-managed society, in which they have not merely the pride due to its being a well-managed insurance society, but to which they have the loyalty of a trade unionist to his own trade union. They do not want to be forced to group with some other alien society in Scotland. They would much rather form a group with the other members of the society in England. It is asked, why cannot they do so? Because the English society has more than 5,000 members in England, and the grouping arrangement is limited to societies which have less than 5,000 members. Therefore their members in Scotland are forced to link up with some other society with less than 5,000 members.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
This Bill has already provided by means of Amendments that these larger societies shall in future be all grouped with smaller ones.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
It does not meet the grievance of the small society, but it enables the larger societies to have other societies in the same country grouped with them.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I think the hon. Member is wrong in his law there. So far as the grouping of societies is concerned my contention is that there is no national frontier. There is nothing in the Act to prevent societies on different sides 1601 of the border from forming a group. All that is required in Section 83 is that members in Scotland shall be treated as a separate society for the purpose of valuation and surplus. The separate societies may then form a group. I know the Treasury desire to prevent it, but they are doing so not under any statutory power, but under some administrative power, and my contention is that if it is desirable that they should be allowed to group on either side they can do so at present, and the Treasury ought to permit it. If it does not do so I have an Amendment on the Paper which will allow grouping between societies irrespective of their numbers, irrespective of the limit of 5,000, and irrespective of any national frontier. There is a second very real and substantial grievance felt by the Labour party which we meet entirely and fully. The next grievance is that of transfer. If there are members of a society both in England and Scotland they are treated separately under Section 83, and if any member leaves and tomes to work in England, owing to the separate valuation he will have a different transfer value in Scotland from what he has in England and the value has to be calculated and transferred to England. We think this can be met easily. We have two alternative suggestions for meeting it. The first is, Why not apply the same principle that is already applied in this Act for dealing with strays? You met the difficulty with regard to strays. Why not apply it to an international society, or, say, something like this, that if a member has joined a society in Scotland, and if he afterwards migrates to England, he may continue to be regarded for the purpose of valuation and surplus as if he were still resident in Scotland? I think the societies would be better advised to get a real and effective transfer for any member who becomes a permanent migrant, but the real difficulty arises when men come for a few months, and they could quite easily escape any difficulty by treating them under this Amendment.
There is another alternative. In what kind of society is it that this difficulty arises most frequently and causes the greatest congestion? It is the society which is limited to one trade, that trade being of a migratory character. In an ordinary society which accept members from all over, the proportion of migrates will be very small, but in a trade union which limits its membership to persons 1602 occupied in one specific trade, and that a migratory trade, the proportion of migrates may be very high. I refer especially to shipwrights, who are constantly moving from Glasgow to the Tyne or Belfast. One Amendment which we suggest would be that this new Clause should be limited to societies whose membership is limited to a specific trade, that trade being a migratory trade. We recognise the difficulty which my hon. Friend feels, and we think that much, practically all, could be done to meet that difficulty without doing away with the separate valuation. Much has been said about bookkeeping, but they will not get the substantial relief that they think they are going to get. I know trade unions feel this difficulty more than any other societies, not because they are less competent, but because this is a kind of thing which they have never been accustomed to do in the past in the same way. Trade unions in the past have never kept separate accounts. They have lumped all their funds into one, and concentrated all their energies on one fund with which to fight the employers. It is a matter of policy and they came to a sound decision when they decided to do that. But here it has been definitely decided that this insurance fund is to be kept separate and separately administered. Whether the Act requires national frontiers or not, if it is an International Society, and if it is going to be well managed, it has got to do far more bookkeeping than the Act requires. It is not merely going to find out how its members are doing in England, and Scotland, and Wales, but how they are doing in Lancashire, in Manchester, and in London. It has got to be able to trace a leakage anywhere. It has got to be able to root out an evil anywhere and find how things are going on. If it is going to secure the best benefits it will have to do that.
We have suggested that we are willing to meet the grievance. We object to this whole scheme, but it is possible that we may be defeated by a combination of Labour Members and Conservatives and Irish, and the Government. If we are defeated we have on the Paper a large number of Amendments. They do not reconcile us, even if every one of them was carried, to the evil which we think is being done by this Clause, but they mitigate the hardship and the attack upon the national Commission. There is a whole series of Amendments dealing with the option to 1603 which I have referred. We suggest a poll of the members. The burden of proof is on those who wish to remain as at present. Why should we not throw the burden of proof on those who wish to change Why not make the Joint Committee satisfy itself by some form of inquiry that the members desire this change? Then we suggest some alteration in the time limit. It is limited to six months. Why should it not be extended to a year or to the first valuation? We have a number of Amendments in regard to that matter. Then, finally, you have to remember that those who are members of these societies joined under the assurance that the societies would be treated as separate societies. If anyone is aggrieved at the change, why not give him the option of transferring into another society—a purely national society? You have induced him to join under the idea that he would be treated separately, and if you make a change you should make that a reasonable excuse for transferring to another society. None of the Amendments will reconcile us to the injury which we believe will be done, but they will, at least, help to mitigate the injury.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I would be very glad to second the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend if the fate of the Amendment depended upon argument; then, I think everyone will agree, that his able and powerful speech would give the Amendment an overwhelming victory in this House. But from what occurred in the previous Debate this evening, it is obvious that argument will have nothing to do with the decision. It is obviously so, because Members of the Labour party agree with me. The origin and development of this Clause show that quite other considerations will determine the decision of the House this evening. What is the origin of the Amendment? When trade unions became approved societies for the first time they had to transact friendly society business on business lines under the supervision of the Insurance Commissioners. They awoke to the fact that it was necessary to keep books and fill up forms. They found out that as the result of the United Kingdom being divided into four parts with separate Commissions and separate funds, a certain number of extra books would require to be kept, and a certain number of extra forms would require to be filled up. Discovering this, they jumped to the remedy. It was 1604 inconvenient to keep books and fill up forms, and they said, "Let us abolish the separate Commissioners." That was the first Amendment proposed in the Committee upstairs—an Amendment very much on the lines of that proposed by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Worthington-Evans) this evening. The Government is endeavouring to meet them. By some means the Government were in a difficult position upstairs. It was necessary to meet the Labour party.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I understand from the hon. Member for Colchester that it was a false alarm and that the Labour party could have been beaten. But the Government were not aware of it. I am giving a true account of what were the apprehensions of the Government, and it was on their apprehensions that Clause 15 was based. An undertaking was given that something would be done. No notice was given of what would be done. On the day this new Clause was moved in the Committee it appeared on the Paper for the first time.
§ Mr. FORSTER
In justice to the Government I ought to say that they did give notice of the new Clause a long time beforehand.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It was not on the Paper, and there was no opportunity of putting Amendments on the Paper.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It was not on the Paper, and there was no opportunity of putting Amendments on the Paper. I think the House will agree that my statement was correct. My statement was that on the day this Clause was moved in the Committee it appeared on the Paper for the first time. I never suggested that some notice of it had not been given. A draft had been circulated, but as to whether that draft was the final form no statement was made. When it appeared for the first time, my hon. Friends in the Committee were taken at a disadvantage. My hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Falconer), who is deeply interested in this question, was unable to 1605 be present to put his views at the service of the Committee. All the hon. Members from Scotland were at a disadvantage in dealing with this matter, for there was really no notice given to those principally concerned in dealing with it. Only a small proportion of those persons in the different countries who are affected have any knowledge of what is being done by the Clause. The House has no right to pass a Clause like this so materially affecting the interests of the people concerned without more adequate notice of the change. Hon. Gentlemen have gone about from platform to platform, throughout the United Kingdom, saying that the Insurance Act was rushed through this House. Was there anything equivalent then to the way in which this Clause is being rushed? Are hon. Gentlemen opposite going to support this Clause? Are they going to stultify all their denunciations with respect to the rushing of the Insurance Act through the House by passing this Clause, which vitally affects all insured persons throughout the United Kingdom, when there was no notice given of the change?
§ Mr. FORSTER
If the hon. Gentleman wants an answer, I will say that this is the one Clause we did have notice of.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It must have been behind the Speaker's Chair. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] The Bill which got a Second Reading in this House did not contain this Clause. It was not until the second last day of the Committee that this Clause was discussed in the Committee. It was discussed under such conditions that it could not be amended. When the draft Clause was circulated with a memorandum, it was marked "Confidential." That was the best kind of notice that could be given. Far more notice was given of the original Insurance Act. An hon. Friend, who was a Member of the Committee, got the confidential draft. Only members of the Committee got the draft. I would point out that it is not only the members of the Committee who are concerned in this matter. The insured people in the country are also concerned in it. They had not this confidential document. The hon. Gentleman who has just interrupted me said that a confidential document is notice to the people of this country whose interests are affected.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The hon. Member apparently knows what is in the Bill before it was introduced into this House.
This Scotch Commission was originally created without notice at all. It was created on a Monday. The Clause was never in the original Bill. It was brought in on Saturday afternoon, and we never saw it until a half-hour before it was moved.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. I had more cognisance of what took place when the original Clause was introduced in the Bill, and there were weeks of negotiations, not confidential at all, because what was going on was in the public Press all over the Kingdom.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It was not in a confidential document, and when it got on to the Order Paper there was plenty of time to move Amendments to it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The hon. Gentleman has a House of Lords at the other end of the passage. We have no House of Lords. Liberal Members from Scotland have no revising chamber. The interruptions to which I have been submitted, of which I do not complain, throw a very interesting though somewhat sinister light, more sinister than I myself would have thrown, upon the history of this Clause. It is a back stairs arrangement. We saw what happened when the Amendment was proposed by the hon. Member for Colchester. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer dealt at some length with this particular Clause in dealing with that Amendment. He said, of course, that the Clause as it stood was a compromise, and although it was a compromise he was quite willing to listen to arguments on the question, but the hon. Member for Derby immediately got up and said, "We have accepted this as a compromise, but we will submit to no alteration in it. If there is to be the slightest alteration then we vote against the separate Commissions." Of course he did not do it. In these circumstances I think I am justified in saying that this is not a question of reason or argument at all, but this is not a ground why my hon. Friend should not have submitted in the very forcible way in which 1607 he did submit the argument against the arrangements that are proposed in this Clause. I think that he has made out an unanswerable case in the first place that the evils which are complained of are exaggerated, that the advantages to be obtained from this arrangement are also exaggerated, and that the disadvantages incident to it are far in excess of any advantages which may accrue to the beneficiaries. I do not intend to enter at length into the main arguments which he has used in this matter, but there are two sets of considerations which appeal to us who are concerned for the fate of the National Insurance Commissions. We are concerned with sentimental and national considerations, and we are concered with the material aspect of the matter also, and the effect of the Section if it is passed. We believe that the motive of those who have brought it forward, is to undermine the position of the National Commission in Scotland. It is very largely for that reason that we are giving it our strenuous opposition.
I know that many hon. Gentlemen opposite who do not share our views or feelings in relation to the national aspect of the question have by experience of the advantages of the administration been convinced of the importance of the National Insurance Commission for the purpose of administering insurance in Scotland. As my hon. Friends have said, there have been numerous advantages not only from the point of view of the organisation of the Act, and of the local bodies who have to administer it, but also of the interests of the individual insured persons in Scotland, owing to the personal attention which could be given by members of the Commission and to the great local knowledge which they had of the peculiar conditions of Scottish industry and Scottish social life. We, therefore, desire naturally to safeguard this national institution. The hon. Member for Sevenoaks, in replying to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that the Chancellor may have established a case for the Commissions for the purpose of bringing the Act into operation, but the Act was now in operation, and there was, therefore, no need for the Commissions for the administration of the Act in future. But the very considerations which have made the Commissions of so great value for bringing the Act into operation are equally operative in regard to its smooth and successful 1608 working in future. This is an Act which, more than any other Act of Parliament passed at any time in this country, affects closely and intimately the private life of all classes of the people, and it is of vital interest to these people that they should have administering this Act a body which is readily accessible to them which knows the conditions under which they live and work, and which has sympathy with their needs and wishes. That is the part which has been played by the National Commissions in reference to the National Insurance Act in the earliest stages of its working, and it is because it will continue to play that part in the future that we regard it as of vital importance that it should continue to operate successfully and efficiently.
Hon. Members have noticed the strange attitude of the Labour party in this matter. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh said that this idea of devolution was a popular, modern, and democratic idea, and this was a statement which was received with cheers by Members of the Labour party. [An HON. MEMBER "Old fashioned."] Old fashioned is democratic, but centralised bureaucracy may be socialistic. This Clause, which commands so much support from the Labour party, may be Socialism, it is not Democracy. It is only through such decentralisation that you can retain democratic control over social legislation and social administration in matters which are now becoming of greater and greater importance every year. Of course, they jeer at the idea of nationalism as having anything to do with the question. I remember that on the question of factory legislation in regard to Home Rule for Ireland, they were quite willing to go into the Lobby and vote for a separate Industrial Court being set up for Ireland. We all understand how it is that they find this inconvenient for bookkeeping purposes. So nationalism and legislation go by the board because contrary to their own interests. It is not only from a national and sentimental point of view that we are arguing this question to-night. When we argued for a National Commission for Scotland at the time the Act was passed, we argued also on grounds of material benefit to the insured people in Scotland. We could only, at that time, base our arguments upon forecast, what we thought a reasonable forecast, based upon the experience of friendly societies in Scotland compared 1609 with the experience of corresponding societies in England. We knew then, in regard to societies which existed before the Act, that in respect of sickness experience and management expenses, Scottish societies had a better record than corresponding English societies. These were undisputed facts. We argued, on the basis of that experience, that it would be to the advantage of insured persons in Scotland to be grouped in Scottish societies, and to have a separate Scottish office for the purpose of valuation, so that when the period of valuation came insured persons in Scotland would have the full benefit of the advantages which we forecasted it would give them. We have had a certain amount of experience in the working of this Act. It is true that it is a short and limited experience; it is true, also, that the experience of some of these societies was one way and of other societies another way. It is true that the experience of the majority of international societies shows that sickness experience in Scotland is superior to the sickness experience in other parts of the United Kingdom.
The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) said that this did not represent the experience of trade unions. I hoped that he would adduce something to back up his assertion, but he only quoted figures relating to one national union, that of the Gas Workers. The figures related to a society with 41,000 members, and 1,600 in Scotland. If we are to have figures, I think it is almost impossible to have figures less useful for the purpose of comparison—41,000 in one country, and 1,600 in the other. It is true that there was a small percentage of sickness in his favour in that case. But in other cases to which I have access, and in which the membership is more on an equality, when we make comparison it is found that the Scottish sickness experience is superior to the English sickness experience, although there has been only six months' experience, and in some instances only three months. I admit, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. MacCallum Scott) admitted, that the experience of six months cannot possibly be conclusive, but in view of the experience of friendly societies which existed before this, we, I think, are justified in believing, and in still maintaining the belief that a separate valuation was going to be for the advantage of insured persons in Scotland. Until the 1610 valuation takes place and disproves this conclusion I think we are justified in adhering to it, and under this new Clause by linking together the Scottish societies with similar societies in other parts of the United Kingdom you may take more than half of the Scottish insured persons outside the valuation. I do not believe that will be the effect, because I believe many of the societies will not avail of the privileges, if they indeed be privileges, which are offered by this Clause. The people who do not like to keep books will avail themselves of it, but well and efficiently managed industrial societies will find it to their advantage to maintain their separate Scottish organisation. Under those circumstances it is probable that there will not be such a large number taken out of the Scottish valuation, but still a certain number, a considerable number, will be so removed. We object to that as affecting the value of that valuation, and we object to it also still more because it is depriving large numbers of insured persons in Scotland of the rights to which they were entitled under the Act as it was first passed. We have had a Debate also in the course of the Report stage upon the rights of insured persons, to the full terms of their contract. We had a Debate as to the rights of voluntary contributors, who had over £160 per year, with the full terms of their contract with respect of medical benefit. On an Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Goulding), the Labour party were so shocked with this attempt to vary the terms of the contract for the benefit of those voluntary insured persons who had more than £160 per year, that they went into the Lobby with the hon. Member for Worcester. But this is only an attempt to vary the contract of poor working men who have not £160 per year, and the Labour party are going to go into the Lobby in favour of it.
That is another example of the democratic views of the Members of the Labour party. This is surely a bureaucratic movement; it is a movement of the officials and not of the members of trade unions. I hope the other Members of the House will not be deceived by this apparent solidarity of the Labour party on this occasion, because we believe it will be proved they have no right to speak for the average members of their own unions. What are they afraid of? The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us what they were afraid of. He said if you had separate societies in different parts, then there 1611 would be separate valuations for each branch of the United Kingdom in which they were situate, and they were afraid if, in any one of those parts of the United Kingdom the valuation was better than in another part, that that would break up the solidarity of their union, or, in other words, that members of the union in that part where they were benefited by superior conditions would form a separate section. It means they are afraid their own members, if they see the value of maintaining separate funds, will take advantake of it and keep separate. Yes, and it has happened. When the Act was going through the House of Commons at first I was interviewed by the secretary of a Scottish trade union which in years gone by had broken off from the trade union in England—that is the slaters. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is a small union."] It is a small union, but still it has as much right to respect as some of the large unions. This is just the kind of sneers and contempt which are poured by Labour Members on people who do not happen to agree with them. There were not many of them. There were not 5,000 in Scotland, and they saw the provision that for valuation purposes a minimum of 5,000 was required under the Act, and this gentleman came to me and said, "Will this mean that our society will be compelled to link up with the English slaters?" I said no, it did not mean anything of the kind, that it was the other way about. He said that he was very much relieved; they did not want to link up with the English slaters, because they were very much worse managed and their benefit fund was in a very bad position; they wanted to link up with another society as well managed as themselves, and so retain the benefit of their better position. That is the sort of thing that will happen in the future. The fears of the trade unions shows their distrust of their own members. They do not desire their own members to sec the value of having separate valuations because, forsooth, it may lead to some temporary breaking-off from their organisations. I think they are mistaken. I think the result will be quite the reverse. If this Clause is passed, we believe that in the long run the majority of the Scottish insured persons will be in the Scottish valuation; that those who are not in the trade unions will be outside that valuation; that those who are in the trade unions will 1612 see that those who have not availed themselves of this section are doing better than those who have availed themselves of it, and that those in societies which have remained distinctively Scottish are getting greater benefits than those who are international societies. If they see that owing to the false leadership of their leaders now they are deprived of these benefits, they are far more likely to be disloyal to them in the future. It is a short-sighted policy, but it is not an uncommon thing to find a short-sighted policy pursued on these benches. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I mean on the benches in front of me.
I have to apologise for detaining the House at such length. I had no idea that the remarks I rose to make would extend over so long a period, but I have been assisted and encouraged by a number of interruptions, for which I thank hon. Gentlemen, as they have been of the greatest value to me. I will conclude as I began. I rest this Amendment upon the arguments and facts which were so powerfully and convincingly marshalled by my hon. Friend (Mr. MacCallum Scott). This Clause is intended to undermine the separate Scottish administration. If fully carried out, it will have that effect. It will also injure the interests of a large number of insured persons in Scotland. It is being carried through the House without any notice to the people affected by it. I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are so opposed to the rushing of legislation through this House, who have denounced the Government time and again for rushing through the Insurance Act, not to give their assistance to the worst piece of rushing which has ever been done, namely, the rushing of Clause 15.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
The House has had an oratorical treat in the speeches to which we have just listened from the hon. Gentlemen. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is that meant sarcastic?"] I never heard the case put with more force than it has been put by these hon. Gentlemen. If ever I should attempt to rival them I certainly should not attempt to rival them on this last occasion. The only criticism that I would make, perhaps, is that I think we must take the matter on a lower level than the level on which they have put it, and deal with this thing as a business proposition, and not as a somewhat vast attempt to smash a people's national sentiment or to create some immense bureaucracy in some 1613 part of the country. Let me just say a ward or two to express my gratitude to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sevenoaks for his intervention in connection with what happened in Committee in connection with this Clause. The necessity for dealing with this subject did not quite arise first in Committee; it was raised on the Second Reading of the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer then promised to see if he could meet the very difficult question of simplifying the accounting arrangements, and dealing with the international societies without impairing the condition of the Scottish, Irish, and Welsh Commissions. When we came to the Bill in Committee we had a long Debate on the proposal of the hon. Member that brought it forward in the House again to-night, advocating the complete abolition of the Scottish Commission. By leave of the Committee I gave an outline of what I thought, without the abolition of the Commission, would meet the special difficulty which was being felt. I think I am right in saying that but for that statement the four Commissions would have been abolished by the Committee. I outlined the compromise.
No one is very proud of compromises, but compromises have to be made in politics. After outlining that compromise I stated I would put a Clause down next day. I was asked by members of the Committee on all sides not to put it down the next day, because if I did so, as a Government Clause it was bound to take precedent of others, and, therefore, it would be rushed through without any time for consideration. I was asked to leave it over till the Monday or Tuesday and to circulate the Clause to the members of the Committee. The Scottish as well as the others all received the Clause and a memorandum explaining the Clause. It was not until the last day that we realised that we had to finish the Committee stage if the Bill was not to be lost. I then put down the Clause as a Government Clause after having given full opportunity to every member of the Committee for a week to consider it in all its bearings. I say this also, that neither in public nor private in connection with this Clause did I receive a word of remonstrance from any of the Scottish Members.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I think the right hon. Gentleman's memory has perhaps just failed him. One day at the end of the proceedings I rose and asked him if he would nut this Clause, which had 1614 been circulated, down on the Order Paper so that I might put Amendments down to it. The right hon. Gentleman said, in reply, "I will put it on the Paper to-morrow." He put it on the Paper to-morrow, and he took it to-morrow; so that I had no opportunity of putting down alternative Amendments. It was no use circulating alternative Amendments or written Amendments, as the Members could not then have appreciated them.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
It was really not my fault; it was the procedure of the Committee. I left it to the last day possible. I should have been very glad to listen during the intervening five or six days to any remonstrance of any Member of the Committee concerning the Clause. Another point was this: Hon. Members specially representing Scotland who have spoken to-night have made some rather violent attacks upon the Labour party. I do not think that is the way in which we should approach the consideration of a question of this sort. After all, what have the Labour party done to-night? The Labour party have voted to save the four Commissions, and to save the Scottish Commissions. Therefore, I think it would be far better if we could not see that some arrangement should be made rather than indulge in mutual recrimination over a non-controversial Bill. Another point I should like to make clear is this: The opposition to this Clause has been largely argued by my two hon. Friends from the point of view that it will lead to the destruction of the National Commissions, or that it will remove from the National Commissioners the bulk of their administrative action. I can assure them from the knowledge at my disposal that the facts are quite different. It is the existence of the present grievance that enables the hon. Member for Colchester to get support for his Motion all over the country for abolishing the separate Commissions, and he would never be able to get any, except for that, and it is solely with the idea of removing this grievance and making it impossible for that support to be given in the future, and in order that the National Commissioners may be maintained that I recommend this Clause to the House. The hon. Member who has just sat down thinks there is something derogatory to the local Commissions in this arrangement, and that it is against the spirit of nationalism, and that every- 1615 one who works for the spirit of nationalism should protest against it. Hon. Members on the Nationalist benches would, I think, be prepared to challenge the hon. Member as being more concerned with the spirit of nationalism than they are themselves. The Irish Commission has accepted this Clause as perfectly fair, and not in the least removing any of their administrative authority and, as far as I know, that opinion is endorsed by the people who have a right to represent Ireland. I say without any hesitation at all, that I agree with the excellent argument advanced by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh in the earlier part of the evening as to the manner in which the National Commissioners have thrown themselves into the adaptation of the National Insurance Act to national needs, and as to the services they rendered, and as to the importance of their continuing full administrative authority over all the insured persons resident within their areas. I support that in every possible way, but I see nothing in this accounting Clause that takes away in the least degree from that authority. If I did I should not be asking the House to support this matter.
The next point is this—and here, I think, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down was a little inconsistent with himself. He first suggested this Clause would operate over the greater part of Scotland, and that half the people of Scotland would be withdrawn as far as accounting arrangements are concerned by this Clause in order to pool with the societies in England, but in the end he prophesied not one would be withdrawn, because he said the feeling was so strong in Scotland in favour of this national arrangement that the societies would find they had to continue the national arrangement, and that the Labour Members were making the greatest mistake of their lives in thinking that the members of their trade unions would assent to the change. If that is so, then I may remind the House that the effects of this Clause are perhaps a little overstated. I want to secure this—and I believe the whole House will agree with me—that every member who is an insured person now who wishes to come under the Scottish system of valuation and take only Scottish risks should be able to do so as under the original Act. On the other hand, I am appealing for freedom, and I do not think we ought to prevent branches 1616 of members who wish to take other risks and who say, "I would rather come in with my own trade union, and not the Scottish national system," from doing so, and I appeal to hon. Members representing Scotland to accept that proposition. All that remains now is, How are we to get at the real and genuine expression of opinion on the matter? An appeal was made to me saying, "Supposing a man goes in under the new arrangement, and ceases to have his valuation made as a Scottish valuation and has his own valuation in other parts of the country, is it not a hard thing for that man, thinking he is going to be valued with Scotsmen, to find himself valued with some other part of England?" That matter is met by the Act, and the interpretation the Scottish Commissioners put on any demand for changing a society. Any member of any society can ask to cease to be a member of that society and join another, and permission cannot be refused except on unreasonable grounds. The decision rests in this particular case with the Scottish Commissioners, and I have no doubt in my own mind that no one would say it was an unreasonable ground because a member desired not to go in with the valuation of his society in England, but wished to pass on to a Scottish society for a Scottish valuation. I can assure hon. Members that that will be accepted as a reasonable ground for transfer in every case, because it is in the Act as it stands.
I know hon. Members opposite realise that there are difficulties in the way, and everyone who has had anything to do with the working of this quadruple system knows that the case cannot really be met by statements that a few more clerks or a little better education would meet the case. The difficulty is much deeper than that, and it means a very great drain on the resources of some societies, and especially those belonging to trade unions. We were unable to provide either through the State or by means of insured persons' contributions any large increase in the administrative account, and I must ask hon. Members to do all they can to see that administrative expenses are reduced as low as possible. I have not the slightest doubt that this arrangement will effect an enormous reduction in those expenses. If the minority leave those societies, and join purely Scottish, Irish, or Welsh societies, and if the expression of opinion is a genuine one as to the change, 1617 I think I ought to be able to carry Scottish Members with me, and say this change ought to be allowed. The sole question then that remains is whether the proviso which the hon. Gentleman who first spoke thought was put in merely as window-dressing, is genuine. I am prepared, in any way, to make it genuine, except that I do not think the time during which this decision has to be made ought to be widely extended, because during the period of waiting no one will be certain what is actually happening. Take a large centralised society like a linked industrial society. I believe that they are willing to continue under the present system, but it is very difficult for them to get a poll one way or the other. I have not the slightest desire, if they wish to remain under the present system, that they should be squeezed into any other system.
I am willing to assure the hon. Gentleman that the satisfaction of the Joint Committee shall be a genuine satisfaction, tested really by a knowledge of what the members want. If the Scottish members of any trade union, after consideration, declare that they do not want to be pooled with the other members of their trade union, they ought not to be pooled with the other members of their trade union; but, if they do want this change—I believe that this is largely a trade union question, and that in the majority of cases the trade unions will take advantage of it—then everyone ought to agree that it is a change that ought to be given. I am prepared to give any assurances that are necessary. I would accept any form of words, if I could find them, to ensure that this shall be a genuine Clause. I am willing to put in after the word "requirements" the words "by a poll" if necessary. I am willing to put in the word "subject to regulations made by the Commissioners," or I am willing to put in the words "after consultation with the National Commissioners," though, of course, they would always be consulted in such matters. I want the Clause to be a genuine Clause, but the trade unions have the right to make this choice considering the very difficult position they are being put in under the Act. I appeal to hon. Gentlemen, and especially to the Members from Scotland, after the explanation I have given, that we are not to touch the administrative work of the Scottish Commissioners, that this Amendment, so far from making for the destruction of the Scottish Commissioners, will destroy the chief oppo- 1618 sition to the Scottish Commissioners, that when any branch wishes to come into the pool of its own society any individual member will be able to transfer to another society in the national pool, and that the examination whether a branch desires this transference or not shall be a real, and not a sham examination, and that the transference will only take place when the Commissioners are assured that the majority of that branch really need it. I would submit that under those conditions hon. Members might see their way to allow this compromise to go through, which compromise, as a matter of fact, saved the Commissioners from being abolished so far as the Committee stage of this Bill was concerned.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
I agree with the opening remark of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I do not propose to follow the oratorical efforts of the hon. Member who proposed this Amendment, because I recognise that it would be impossible for me to do so. Everybody knows, nobody better than the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. MacCullum Scott) and the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle) that we are engaged in a sham fight. It really has not any substance in it. Everybody knows that the Government will carry their way, and this gives an exact illustration of how legislation, and particularly legislation for Scotland, is now carried on. Reference has been made more than once in the course of these discussions to what happened when Clause 83 was put into the Bill. It was a case of log-rolling: the Radical Members got the Chancellor of the Exchequer to put down his Amendments so that they appeared on the Paper on Saturday and were disposed of on the Monday; no one said a word; there was no time for discussing them. I confess they seemed to me to be a typical example of how Scottish Radicals allow themselves to be jockeyed out of what they think to be the rights of Scotland; and then, if I may borrow a phrase either from the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the First Lord of the Admiralty, squeal when somebody else gets it. To my mind this is a sham fight, and the less time we spend on it the better. Let us get to business at once.
We on this side appreciate the lesson in Home Rule legislation which this affords us. We quite understand that you have had a few months of Home Rule in Scotland. You have found it will not work and so you 1619 transfer the Home Rule view to the trades union view, and you give up national sentiment to trades union bookkeeping. These long benches of convinced Home Rulers do not hesitate to sacrifice Home Rule to the Labour Members. That is quite as it should be so far as the importance of Scottish Home Rule is concerned. It shows the appreciation in which it is held by right hon. Gentlemen and their supporters who profess to be such keen Home Rulers. I join in the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman—let us get to business; let us stop this fooling; let us cease wasting time.
§ Mr. FALCONER
I have taken an active part in connection with the consideration of these questions, and I should like to state my position on this question of insurance. I have always taken the view that it is not a matter of party controversy at all. I have had experience of a society which has 600 different branches spread all over Scotland. It is formed of men of all political sections, and I have never re-regarded its affairs as subjects for party controversy; they have appealed to me purely from the point of view of helping the wage earner when he is laid up with sickness. It is not right to introduce party controversy into these questions. I am not going to enter into the general controversy stated by my hon. Friends on this side. In the formation of that society, which has now 65,000 or 66,000 members in Scotland, gathered probably under the most difficult conditions, with 600 branches, with an average of 100 members in each branch, we have had real experience of all the difficulties in connection with the carrying out of the Act. I endorse entirely what fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer earlier in the evening, that if we had had to appeal to a Commission, whose Chief Commissioners were resident in London, in connection with every difficulty that arose, it would have been absolutely impossible to carry out the Act as has been done in Scotland.
My reason for taking a strong attitude towards the Clause now before the House was that I was afraid that it might be so used as to interfere with the authority and powers of the Scottish Commission over Scottish insured persons. That was my main objection to it. I also thought that if there was to be a change so radical as is proposed with regard to valuation, it should only be brought about if the insured resident in Scotland who were in a 1620 particular society really desired it, and after that fact was carefully ascertained. I am dealing only with Scotland. Other Members will deal in other parts of the United Kingdom. I have also advocated throughout that if any member had his position compusorily changed, it ought to be open to him to transfer to another society, if he so desired. I am bound to say I have great sympathy with the view of members of a particular trade that this should be allowed to stand together upon all matters of this kind, and share their surpluses and bear their deficits generally together. Wherever you have an approved society composed of members of one trade there is a natural feeling of comradeship among them. If I were a member of a trade union that is how I should regard it. I should desire to share the surplus and deficits with other members of the trade, particularly in cases where they move to and from one country to another. It is a legitimate desire on the part of trade unions that they should be allowed to do so. I doubt whether any Member of this. House would argue strongly against that. It is a reasonable demand, and I feel bound to consider it. For that reason, although I share the strong national feeling, I approach this question with the feeling that it is desirable, in the general interests of the insured persons, that the difficulty should be met. Upon that I think we on this side of the House are all agreed. My view of the changes proposed in this Clause is that if the pledges which have been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary to the Treasury are effectively carried out in the Bill, they will legitimately meet the aspirations of the trade unions, without seriously upsetting the general situation in Scotland, because if the societies and the members of trade unions are properly consulted, and effect is given to their views, I do not believe they will adopt the change. Upon that ground I would recommend my hon. Friends—my own view is quite clear and distinct—not to divide upon this Amendment, but to apply themselves to carrying into practical effect the principles which I have suggested and which the Government have indicated they are prepared to adopt, for the purpose of ensuring that members of a society should be properly consulted, and that any member who dissents shall have the choice of going to another society. 1621 A reference was made to the way in which this Clause was brought before the Committee, and my name, I think, was mentioned. It seemed to me rather that when the Committee was sitting we were treated with rather exceptional consideration in having this Clause given to us four or five days before we might have had it. It is true there was no opportunity of putting down Amendments, and it is also true that I was not able to be there. I have no complaint, at any rate, of the manner in which I was treated as a member of the Committee. For the reasons I have given I express my clear opinion that the best way in which to consult the interests of the insured persons is by doing our best to meet the legitimate desire of the trade union people without imperilling the interest of the insured persons throughout Scotland generally.
§ Mr. F. WHYTE
The reply which the Financial Secretary has given us goes a certain distance, but before we strike a bargain with him we should like to have the statement in somewhat clearer terms. I do not see why a moderately satisfactory arrangement could not be made on the lines suggested. At the same time he suggested a way out in his own remarks. He told us this was a trade union question. Why not get rid of the undoubted Scottish discontent to the situation, as it is at this moment, by saying so in your Act? The right hon. Gentleman in recommending the Clause to the Committee said it was the result of negotiations which had been conducted with great care, and in which representatives of approved societies had taken part. Representatives of approved societies in Scotland generally, and especially the insured persons who will come under Clause 15, had not time to consider exactly in what way and how far their vital interests were affected by Clause 15, and though I am not going to enter into a wrangle over the question of the notice which was given across the table to the Committee, the fact remains that whether the notice given to Members of the House on Clause 15 was adequate or not the notice given to the people of Scotland was totally inadequate, and that has been one of the great difficulties which we have laboured under—the difficulty of discovering exactly how matters stood in Scotland. I think the most forcible criticism I have heard put forward against the introduction of the Clause, and one 1622 which abundantly justifies the attitude which was taken up by my two hon. Friends is that the Clause is premature. I think there is a legitimate pre-supposition that Scotland will stand well when we come to the first triennial valuation, and believing, as I do, that that is the case, it seems to me a mistake that we should prejudge that question by allowing this Clause to stand in its present form. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he had the advantage of reading the "Scotsman" newspaper of this week, must have been rather interested to find that he has made a very notable convert, and I am not sure that we shall not see the spectacle of the leading Unionist organ in Scotland, in other questions by no means friendly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, engaged in pulling him out of his own difficulty; and if the right hon. Gentleman had scrutinised the composition of the "No" Lobby on the last Division, he would have been somewhat surprised to find certain Gentlemen who did not adopt his view regarding Scottish National questions when the question was originally before the House in 1911.
Therefore, it seems to me that the question has acquired, ever since it arose a week ago, an added significance every day, because the newspapers in Scotland, and consultations in this House also, have shown that Scotland is practically unanimous on this question, and that while she has no interest whatever of standing in the way of a legitimate part of trade union activity in Scotland, in this matter we believe that a way out of the difficulty can be found which does not prejudice—we think prematurely prejudice—the interests of those members of international societies who are in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said that the Irish Commission had accepted the Clause. He omitted to make any reference to the Scottish Commission. Are the Scottish Commission in favour of the Clause as it stands, and are they prepared to accept it? Do they accept his interpretation of its effect on their activities in the future? I think there is more in the argument put forward by my hon. Friend than the right hon. Gentleman will allow. I think this sets a dangerous precedent for any gentleman not friendly disposed to the Scottish Commission, for you remove from the sphere of the activity of the Scottish Commission so vital a question as the valuation of some- 1623 thing like a majority of Scottish insured persons. Then you most undoubtedly enormously detract from the importance and value of the Scottish Commission, for, after all, though we have discussed important questions on this Bill, I do not think that we have discussed any question more important than the valuation. The valuation will really be the triennial turning point which will govern the whole of the operations of the societies during the subsequent three years. If there is any reason to suppose that Scotland will stand better than England when the valuation is made, surely we may claim that the putting forward of this change now is somewhat premature. I have no desire in what I have said to bring unnecessary acrimony into the Debate, but I repudiate the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Central Division of Glasgow (Mr. Scott Dickson) that this is a sham fight. I wonder why a Unionist should have chosen to take up a purely partisan attitude on this question. I am sure that there is a great deal to be said for the attitude taken up by my two hon. Friends. This is not a sham fight, but a matter of business which affects vitally the interests of many thousands of Scottish insured persons, and I hope the House will continue to treat it as such to-night.
§ Mr. HOGGE
The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Scott Dickson) tried to insinuate, or rather frankly declared, that this is a "sham fight" of the Scottish Liberal Members in regard to the Amendment. Since then he has disappeared. I do not know whether that is a sham flight. If he desires to make it an absolutely real fight, we invite him and his colleagues to go into the Lobby with us. We are going into the Lobby against the Government on this particular Clause, and as many of you as will come with us are cordially invited. We shall have evidence after this discussion whether it is a sham fight or a sham flight. I observe that in this Debate there has been no speech from the Labour Benches. There is a conspiracy of silence. We want to know what arrangement is possible by which Labour Members can get their way of the Government when Scottish Liberal Members cannot get it? There are few Members like those who occupy these benches who can, in face of the strongest national feeling which exists with regard to this matter, get their way from a Government, and a party which has 1624 been maintained for the last quarter of a century by the support of Scottish Liberals. You call this a Coalition Government. What is our share of the coalition? What are we to get? Do you think that we are afraid to go into the Lobby against this Government? I pity the man who is too weak to go into the Lobby against a Government which is prepared to pander to the trade unions against the national sentiment of a people who are in favour of another course. The Secretary of the Treasury says that this is a trade union matter.
§ Mr. HOGGE
If this is a compromise, how many people have been engaged in the compromise? Is it a compromise between the Labour party and the Front Bench or between the Labour party and the Liberals? Whose compromise is it? Were we given any consideration by anyone? What are we offered by the Secretary to the Treasury? Here are the points which he offered in his speech—the only ray of hope held out to the Scottish Liberal Members. We were to get those things after inquiry under regulations by our own Commissioners, and we were to get a poll if necessary, and, forsooth, we are to agree to this Clause standing part of the Bill without any explanation at all as to what those things mean. Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer before the Division let us know if he wants our votes, or if he prefers the votes of other people? Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that great exponent of nationalism in this country, the man who has stood by Scotsmen before, get up and say that there is no way out of this difficulty, when the whole sentiment of the Scottish Members of the House wish for another scheme. The Secretary to the Treasury pointed to the Irishmen and said that in spite of their adherence to the principle of Home Rule they had offered no objection to this. Will the Leader of the Irish party get up and say that it is his suggestion on the part of Irishmen to deny to them, who have supported them in their Home Rule fight, a natural solution of this difficulty? I would like to see the Irishman who is going into the Lobby against the Scottish Liberal Members.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Shall we? I would like to hear what the Leader of the Irish party 1625 has got to say. We have been here for many years supporting what is represented on the Front Bench to-night. What have we been here for otherwise? Let the Government take off their Whips; let the Irishmen act freely, and let us see the result. If we cannot have a sham fight, let us have a free fight. I beg the Government, I beg the Irishmen who depend largely on the support which Scotchmen have given them ungrudgingly, to consider this matter. I do not ask them to take up a position which cannot be receded from. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] In addressing the Irish party why should I not speak in the language of Irishmen? What do I mean by that? I mean this: Surely it is not in the least necessary to proceed with this Clause at this moment in order to get the Bill. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury said this is a trade union difficulty. There is not a Scottish Member who is not willing to meet his trade union colleagues on this particular question. We are prepared to meet the Labour party. If the Labour party wish the members of trade unions in Scotland to be valued separately for their purposes under the Insurance Act we, as Scottish Liberals, would have no difficulty at all in conceding them that. They can have that so far as trade unions are concerned, if we have the rest. If the trade unions want to maintain the solidarity of their organisations let them agree to this Clause applying to them alone, while the other interests of Scotland are represented by us. The Labour party cannot claim to represent any other interests in Ireland than those represented by their three Members on questions of this kind. I am not asking much. I am only asking supporters of the national system to come along with us into the Lobby and support us in that in which we have a great deal of credence, which we believe in, and which we do not want to see destroyed in this Bill. If the Government will not delay proceedings, I beg Irishmen to come into the Lobby with us against the lot of them.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
The whole question which arises in connection with trade unions in Scotland affects only 9.4 per cent. of the total number insured in Scotland. It is a grossly unfair thing to make a bargain with those men and leave all the rest out. Let us take the Labour representatives. The hon. Member for the Black-friars Division is identified with the engineers, who have a society which covers 1626 Scotland, and naturally he is in favour of the proposal. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Wilkie) also represents a society which has members in Scotland and in England, and it is perfectly natural he should take up that position; but we have another hon. Member, the Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson), who does not want this. His union is opposed to it, and he represents the biggest union in Scotland. I say, therefore, it is grossly unfair to make an arrangement which only affects two Labour Members in Scotland and go to them, and come to an understanding and never say a single word to the men who were the strongest supporters of the Government. I say that is unfair, and if the Government expect loyalty by treatment of that kind, all I can say is we shall be in the Lobby against them.
I confess I am profoundly disgusted with the tone which this Debate has taken. I understand that this Clause applies to England and Wales and Ireland as well as Scotland, and it has been treated as a matter for bargaining between the Scottish Members, the Labour party and the Financial Secretary, and not a word about the interests of the rest of the country. We heard appeals made by two of the Scottish Members, one to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who replied by making in auctioneer fashion what he was pleased to call a genuine offer. Then we had the appeal of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) to the three Members of the Labour Party, a huxtering proceeding, and, considering the interests of fourteen millions of people of this country are at stake, is a disgrace, if I may be allowed to say so. Is this the way in which the Liberal and Radical and Labour party treat the interests of the people under the Insurance Act.
The Financial Secretary said two things which brought me to my legs. The first thing was that the abolition of the four Commissions would have been carried in Committee but that he frustrated that by means of a compromise which is Clause 15, a compromise for the purpose of defeating what was the genuine opinion of that Committee, and which, if it had come up on Report, would have been carried tonight, and the four Commissions would have ceased to exist. At the end of his speech he said that the opposition to the four Commissions if it continued would ultimately destroy those four Commissions. 1627 Does he dare to say that that opposition was not based upon genuine grievances and genuine difficulties, and that, therefore, the four Commissions ought to cease to exist. He went on to say this Clause 15, this compromise, was entered into in order to save, if possible, the existence of the four Commissions, which, according to him, the opposition was so strong, ought to cease to exist, and must cease to exist except for this compromise that he made with some Members of the Labour party.
I do not rise really to criticise the details of Clause 15, but I do rise to make a very strong protest, and I hope it will be echoed in the country, against this way of treating great interests of the people in this country under the Insurance Act. Then he made a second observation, to my mind a scandalous observation, and I will tell you what it was. I owe my seat here to the fact that the Insurance Bill was hurried through the House of Commons with indecent haste to the great detriment of insured persons in this country. The Secretary to the Treasury to-night had the assurance to say that Clause 15 was brought in in a hurry, that perhaps it was not properly considered, but it was the best he could do under the circumstances, otherwise this amending Bill would not pass this Session. That is the very evil which underlies the whole failure of the Insurance Act. The interests of 14,000,000 people are sacrificed to the exigencies of the Government, and to the particular day upon which they intend to take their holiday. It is right that the attention of the country should be called to these two statements. In the interests of 14,000,000 people I say that the conduct of the Government is disgraceful.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
The Scottish Liberal Members are extremely anxious, if they can, to find some way by which they will not have to oppose the Government in this matter. Any Member of any party would be anxious to find means by which he could support his party. As far as we have been able to ascertain, the Scottish Liberal Members are perfectly unanimous in resenting what has been done in this Clause. We know that owing to the combination of forces here, owing to the Tory dictatorship, owing to the alliance with the Tories, if we go to a Division we shall be defeated. Therefore I want to ascertain whether the Government can do anything to mitigate 1628 somewhat the harshness of the proposal. The Financial Secretary said that they would give administrative guarantees that any individual member who resented being grouped with members in other countries where he had originally joined on the other understanding would have a right to transfer if he so desired. That assurance we regard as satisfactory. We are also anxious that the option given to any society of remaining as at present should be made somewhat more substantial. The right hon. Gentleman said he was willing that there should be some inquiry. He made an appeal to us. If anything definite were offered us in these directions we should be willing to respond. We have had nothing definite yet, but I think that something might be agreed to on these lines as far as we are concerned. There is one other point I wish to mention: Supposing a society—and there will be many societies—decides that they will remain as at present, and retain their separate organisation in Scotland, are you going to do anything to free that society from the disabilities that are agreed to exist? How about questions of pooling or grouping? That is admitted to be a real grievance. I think we are entitled to ask that if any society remains as at present separately organised in the different countries it should be freed from these difficulties with regard to pooling or grouping. I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that he will take that question into consideration.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have just risen to address myself to the question of my hon. Friend and to another point raised earlier in the Debate by my hon. Friend the Member for one of the divisions of Edinburgh. The latter suggested that we had thrown over our Scottish friends and supporters in this House for the benefit of another section, without taking into consideration at all those who have been so loyal to the Government. That is not so. I think if the hon. Member considers he will find that he has been very unfair. The proposition of the Labour Members was the abolition of the four Commissions. We resisted it strenuously right through, and this is the proposal in which we are now considered to have held the balance even between the Labour Members and those that presented the view which the Scottish Members presented. So far from throwing over the Scottish Members we refused absolutely to support the proposition opposed by them. 1629 I think it right to say that. The main point put to the Government was this: Whether we meant that this inquiry should be a reality and not a sham? It is said that we have not consulted the Scottish Members. That is not true! On the contrary, I myself have had the opportunity of seeing several Scottish Members, and I am perfectly aware of what is in their minds. It is this: that they rather suspect that this proviso will be simply so many lines in an Act of Parliament that will not come into operation: that it is so drafted as to make it impossible for Members themselves to act in such a way as to take advantage of an option. They want to make it a reality. The Scottish Members are certainly entitled to claim that every opportunity shall be given to them to present their case and to make it effective. My right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury intimated that we proposed to introduce words which would have that effect. The words we propose to move at the end of the proviso are as follow:—
"And the Joint Committee for the purpose aforesaid shall in each case consult with the Commissioners for the part of the United Kingdom in question, and hold an inquiry, and where, in their opinion, the wishes of the members cannot otherwise be properly ascertained, they shall cause a poll to be taken in the prescribed manner."
That means—though it cannot be in every case, unless it is impossible to ascertain the opinion of the society without a poll—because a poll is a very expensive thing—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. Member is naturally opposed to anything in the nature of an arrangement being arrived at. In this case the poll will be taken at the expense of the Scottish Commissioners who will take the initiative in the matter; they will have to bear the expense of taking a poll in that case.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I cannot answer that question without having an opportunity of looking into the matter. I can give my immediate impression, but I must not be bound by that impression without having an opportunity of consult- 1630 ing. My impression is that the expenses would have to fall upon the Commissioners who ordered the poll to be taken.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
It does not commit the Commissioners at all. My hon. Friend has asked me what our idea is. That I will have to consider, but these words do not commit the Commissioners. In the absence of any committal it would have to be the society. These are the words I propose to insert, and I think they ought to meet the criticisms that have been directed against the Clause, and not so much against the Clause itself as against the fact that as it stands it will not carry out the intention of the Government, but I think with this guarantee it will.
§ Mr. FORSTER
The right hon. Gentleman I think was singularly unfair to my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester. We have listened in silence to the Debate which has taken place and we admired the ingenuity of the Scottish Members below the Gangway opposite in pressing their case upon the attention of the Government. As far as I can see the Government have carried the matter no further than it stands in the Bill. The Commissioners are to be satisfied under the provisions of the Clause before they can give their assent. They are now to be satisfied possibly by a little more complicated machinery and additional expense entailed by the representations of hon. Members from Scotland. We look at the matter solely from the point of view of the insured people. It is quite true we wish to abolish the four Commissions because we think it would simplify the procedure, but having failed in our object we were prepared to support the compromise reached between the Government and hon. Members opposite. We recognise that as the next best step both in the interests of simplification of machinery and in the interest of the insured persons. We are the last to deny to the insured persons the right to say whether they belong to this society or to that, and if the form of words proposed by the Government give any additional right then I think they are entitled to it.
I confess I do not understand what the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to 1631 add to this Clause which is any sort of safeguard to the approved societies. The Secretary to the Treasury has treated this as if it was a sort of trade union difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has addressed the House upon it and asked the Scottish Members to withdraw their Amendment on the strength of something he will propose presently and I have no doubt the Scottish Members will in due course agree with the Government. But before they do that it would be interesting to know at whose expense the consideration that is to be given to them is being made. I want to know is it to be at the expense of the international societies on whose behalf I have already tried in the course of the evening to simplify the administration by abolishing the four Commissions? I am surprised the Leader of the Labour party did not get up and see that the approved societies were protected. It seems to me now that the Joint Committee are to hold the inquiry, or are to consult the Scottish National Insurance Commissioners and hold an inquiry and if necessary cause a poll to be taken. A poll is to be taken at the expense of the Scottish Commissioners which was the right hon. Gentleman's first answer. I think he rather answered that on the spur of the moment because he had to placate the Labour party at the expense of the approved societies, and he was not sure whether the Labour party would be willing that that consideration should be handed over to the Scottish Members. I would like to know if the poll is to be of Scottish members only, or is it to include their English co-members as well? Why the Scottish members only? Are the Irish members not to share in this advantage?
Who will raise the standard of Wales on this question? This bargain is only for Scotland, and it is to be made simply because four or five Scottish Liberal Members have taken up a couple of hours discussing this question to the inconvenience of the Government. Later on it occurred to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that if the Scottish Commissioners had to pay for this toll the money would have to come from somewhere, because they have no money except that which is provided by Parliament. Is the Leader of the Labour party willing that trade union societies should bear the expense of a poll? This is not a trade union question at all. All the big socie- 1632 ties, including the National Conference of Friendly Societies, the National Union of Deposit Societies, the National Union of Holloway Societies, the National Federation of Dividing Societies, in addition to the General Federation of Trade Unions, have members who will be vitally affected by anything which is done in this matter. The Labour party have no right to accept a bargain of that sort, and they cannot do so without deserting the other societies who have stood by them on this question. They have no right to accept a bribe of that sort. If the Scottish Members are now going to get the consideration which they have been asking for so pitifully out of consideration for the loyal way in which they have supported the Chancellor of the Exchequer on other subjects, they might have saved us this sham fight for the last two hours.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I have been somewhat amazed during the last hour or two as to what all this trouble is about. Upstairs this new Clause was inserted to meet certain objections we raised to the existence of four Commissions and a proviso was put in saying that where the Commissioners are satisfied that the members of any particular societies desire certain things to be done they were to be done. I am bound to confess that upstairs in Committee I assumed that it was an effective proviso. I thought I knew—but apparently if there has been any purpose in all this trouble I was quite wrong—that the opinion of the members of the society was to be ascertained. I have got no objection to offer so far as the machinery for taking the opinion is concerned, but we shall not accept any compromise, or bargain, or suggestion that gives special treatment in this respect to trade unions. I want that to be perfectly clear. It does not, and therefore I have not got to choose. Secondly, we will not accept any proposal which will put the cost of a ballot or poll upon the trade unions or friendly societies. With those two safeguards, I am quite willing to agree to this proposal, because up to about an hour-and-a-half ago I certainly lived under the assumption and belief that all these things were properly provided for in the proviso.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I would like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he undertakes to insert those two provisions before the Amendment is withdrawn?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to add the words "and the Joint Committee for the purposes aforesaid shall in each case consult with the Commissioners for the part of the United Kingdom in question and hold an inquiry, or where, in their opinion, the wishes of members cannot otherwise he ascertained, cause a poll to be taken in the prescribed manner."
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) that there is nothing here which was not within the power of the Joint Committee before. It simply makes it absolutely clear what are the proceedings. Under the proviso all this has been done, but it makes it quite clear, and to that extent it is a very considerable improvement upon the words as they appear. It is the method by which to ascertain the opinions of the members. When the words are inserted there will be nothing in substance which will really involve an alteration of the words as they were before. There is no new question with regard to expense. The expenses will fall on the administration expenses which are already provided for in the Act, and if the funds should prove insufficient I promise that the societies will see that the societies are not damnified by having; to pay the expenses of the poll. They will in fact make the necessary provision.
I have to ask whether this is in order. Under the Clause as printed in the Bill there is permissive power which might, of course, cause the expense to be incurred. Under the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman that power is no longer permissive but mandatory, and the Commissioners are obliged to take steps which necessarily involve incurring an expense. The House has heard the right hon. Gentleman say that the expense is to be paid by the Commissioners, and that of course involves payment out of moneys provided by Parliament. The Commissioners have no other income except moneys provided by Parliament, and if the expense, as the right hon. Gentleman says, falls on the Commissioners, I submit that this is increasing the charge and cannot be moved on Report.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
There is nothing here except an elaboration of 1634 words already contained in the Bill, "Provided that the Joint Committee is satisfied, on representations made within six months after the passing of the Act." Whatever expense may be incurred in order to satisfy the Joint Committee that the Members wish to remain a separate branch for valuation purposes those expenses can be incurred under that proviso. This simply elaborates the methods by which they may be satisfied, and if they think fit they can order a poll. The proviso indicates clearly that they must be satisfied on representations made, and the method of ascertaining is simply indicated here.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
There is power already in the Bill to take a poll—at any rate there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the Commissioners taking one. The Amendment certainly sets out in more definite terms the power of the Commissioners.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
May I venture to suggest that there is no power in the Act to enable the Commissioners to take a poll. No such power exists so far as I know. I may be wrong, and if I am there is nothing more to be said on the point. But if I am right this gives an additional power to the Commissioners to that which they at present possess, and as we have heard the expense of taking a poll may be considerable, the money is to be provided by Parliament. If the Commissioners already have the power of taking a poll that may be an answer, but as far as I know there is no such power in existence under the Act and certainly there is no power to take a poll with reference to this particular question at the expense of the Commissioners. I shall be glad to be referred to any section which gives that power.
May I submit that except for this condition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer although the Joint Committee are to be satisfied—as provided in the Bill—the hon. Gentleman had no power to order a poll. There is no power anywhere in the Act of Parliament or in this Bill, unless this provision by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is added, for the Joint Committee to order a poll. A poll can be taken by the society under the provisions of the Bill, but in 1635 that case it is taken at the expense of the society. There is no power for the Commissioners to order the society to take a poll even at its own expense, much less at the expense of the Commissioners.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Do not the words "are satisfied" cover that? The Joint Committee may require to send out circulars or institute inquiries. Who is to pay the expense of that? Or they may employ persons to go round and canvass. Who is to pay for that? The hon. Member might say there is no distinct Parliamentary power for either of these courses, but surely they are covered by these wide words.
Question, "That those words be there added," put, and agreed to.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the words last inserted, to add the words, "Where a society, not being a society with branches, has amongst its members persons resident in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, or in more than one such part of the United Kingdom, the members of the society in any such parts of the United Kingdom who are treated as if they formed separate societies under Section 83 of the principal Act, may form an association with a central financial committee for the purposes of Section 39 of the principal Act, notwithstanding that the society in any such part of the United Kingdom may have more than five thousand insured persons as members, and notwithstanding any other provision of the principal Act."
I submit to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that as the Clause stands, the injustice which almost every speaker has pointed out remains unremedied in some particular cases. It is conceivable, indeed, we believe it is certain, that a considerable number of societies would prefer not to come under the Clause, but to remain as at present, and that members in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales should be treated as members of a separate society. But if a society remains as at present, it will not escape one of the most serious difficulties and grievances which have been pointed out. Let me take as an illustration the case of a particular society—not because I think it will adopt the method which I am suggesting—the Steel Smelters Society, which has 12,000 members in England and 3,000 in Scotland. 1636 Societies of that kind might possibly desire to remain as at present with their members in England and Scotland. If so they will remain under one of the most serious disabilities in the present state of affairs—the disability with regard to grouping. The 3,000 members in Scotland would be forced to group with some other society with less than 5,000 members in accordance with the original Act which requires that all societies having less than 5,000 members should group together. The natural thing would be for them to group up with their fellow members in England but they are prevented from doing that because there are more than 5,000 members. This grievance has already been remedied for those societies which prefer to consider themselves one unit, but it is left to its full extent upon those societies which prefer to remain national in their organisation. It is not fair to impose this disability on the societies which prefer to remain national. It is handicapping them in their choice. It is, in fact, using the present grievance, which we all admit, to drive the societies out of their national organisation into one united society for the whole of the United Kingdom. We give them the option of remaining national and we have secured to them that that option shall be a real one, but unless we do this we are really depriving them of that option and weighting the scales against them and saying, "If you prefer to remain national you shall remain under this very serious disability of being forced to group with some society other than yours." I think the Labour Members might accept this because it really does not affect what has already been done.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I hope my hon. Friend will see his way to withdraw this Amendment. I think we have met very fairly, as far as we could, the main objections of the Scottish Members in reference to this Clause and I think there is a general feeling that on the whole, although, of course, they would have preferred that it should have gone further, we have met them fairly. The Amendment reopens the controversy. My hon. Friend has done very well with the substantial concessions he has had.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
As the right hon. Gentleman has not said anything at all against the merits of this proposal I take it he admits them. If he will not give it to us it is useless to challenge a Division.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.